St Nicholas' Church, Durham

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St Nicholas' Church, Durham
St Nic's
St Nicholas' Church Durham Miners' Gala 2007.jpg
The church viewed from the marketplace
54°46′39″N 1°34′31″W / 54.77750°N 1.57528°W / 54.77750; -1.57528Coordinates: 54°46′39″N 1°34′31″W / 54.77750°N 1.57528°W / 54.77750; -1.57528
Location Durham, County Durham
Country England
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship Open Evangelical
Dedication Saint Nicholas
Status Civic church
Functional status Active
Heritage designation Grade II
Architect(s) James Pigott Pritchett
Completed 1858
Parish St Nicholas Durham
Deanery Deanery of Durham
Archdeaconry Archdeaconry of Durham
Diocese Diocese of Durham
Province Province of York
Vicar(s) The Revd Stephen Bellamy
NSM(s) The Revd Prof Peter Johnson
The Revd Colin Patterson
The Revd David V. Day
Minister(s) The Revd Lindsey Goodhew
Reader(s) Jamie Harrison
Andrew Trigger

St Nicholas' Church, commonly known as St Nic's, is a Church of England place of worship located on Durham marketplace and is the city's civic church. The church stands in the open evangelical tradition of the Church of England, emphasising Bible teaching, the atoning death of Christ, and mission.


The current building dates to 1858, and was designed by Darlington architect J. Pritchett. The building was described by the Illustrated London News at the time as "the most beautiful specimen of church architecture in the north of England", but is not now regarded as of particular architectural interest.[citation needed] It is a Grade II listed building.[1]

Old St Nicholas' Church in the 18th century

This building replaced one dating from the early 12th century, whose walls formed part of the city walls and abutted the ancient Clayport Gate (demolished 1791) on one side. Almost all that remains of this church is its font, dating from 1700, and its five bells, dating from 1687 and therefore the oldest ring of bells in the diocese. Though the bells were not rung from the 1970s onwards due to fears for the safety of the tower, ringing resumed in 2000 and the 17th-century bells, along with a sixth added in 1889, are now rung frequently.

George Carey, later Archbishop of Canterbury, was vicar of St Nicholas' from 1975 to 1982. During that time he led a project in which the pews and the majority of the Victorian interior features of the church were removed to allow the church to be used more flexibly for worship and community activities. Carey's book The Church In The Marketplace describes the process and its impact on the life of the parish.[2]

Parish and population[edit]

The church from the back, showing the compact design with the church hall as part of the same structure

The parish is small (covering only the area around the Market Place, Claypath and The Sands) and is bounded by the parishes of Durham's three other ancient city churches - St Giles', St Oswald's and St Margaret's. Historically the parish was densely populated; however, slum clearance in the 1920s (as well as commercial development of previously residential areas) greatly reduced the population of the parish, and though more recent building has increased this a little, the church draws the majority of its congregation from outside its own parish. It has a large student population, and is classified by the Diocese of Durham as its own locality, meaning that its mission is recognised as distinctly different from those of other city centre churches. The church has a long tradition of evangelicalism, and its patronage has been held by the Church Pastoral Aid Society since the mid-19th century.


One notable feature of the reordered church is the Gateway World Shop, which occupies the south-east corner of the church, having its own outside entrance, and sells Fair trade goods. The shop reflects the church's long involvement with the fair trade movement; Richard Adams, founder of Traidcraft, was a member of the church.

St Nics has a long history of supporting overseas mission. The first bishop of Uganda, Alfred Tucker, left his curacy at St Nics to bring Christianity to Uganda. This support is currently expressed by the church's financial support of the Church Mission Society, South American Missionary Society, the Bible Society, Spanish Outreach Ministries and the diocese of Lesotho.

Notable clergy[edit]


External links[edit]