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St Nicholas' church, Durham

Grimm gives us a truly historic view here; not a single building in this drawing survives unaltered today.

The narrow Claygate at the corner of the market place was part of the city walls, but in 1791 the gate was demolished to improve access. The new entrance was then widened still further by cutting back the east end of the church, reducing the chancel to just three main windows. In the early part of the 19th century, its south front was covered by a market piazza.

In the mid 1850s, St Nicholas was completely demolished and replaced by a new church of similar plan. This was completed in 1858 by Darlington architect, JB Pritchett, and was described by the Illustrated London News of the time as "the most beautiful specimen of church architecture in the north of England".

The present church has a spire rather than a tower and Grimm’s drawing is therefore a valuable record of a medieval church about which relatively little is known. The shops and houses on the right of the drawing appear to be 17th-century. They too are now gone, although some of the new elevations are strikingly similar.

You can see a photograph of St Nicholas as it is today and find out much more about other churches in Durham in our virtual exhibition, Durham: Echoes of Power.

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