St Mary’s – a building for everyone!
St Mary’s Church was not just a place for public worship. Until the mid-19th century, it served as town hall, playhouse and fire station when Sir Henry Vane of Raby Castle gifted a fire engine to the town in 1748: it was stored in the church for over 100 years!
The Durham Militia, too, who had garrisoned in Barnard Castle since 1759, found a home at St Mary’s, laying up their Colours here, and gathering for commemorations right up to the present-day Remembrance Sunday parades.
Across the 19th century St Mary’s church remodelled itself both inside and out to serve a growing community, with new gas-lighting and flooring, new stained glass and seating, and a new clock tower. St Mary’s established a new Parish Hall in 1957, in which an overflow of children from the nearby primary school were educated, and which enabled a multitude of community activities, social, religious, charitable and educational, which are still offered today.
St Mary’s today
A 21st century re-ordering at St Mary’s has enabled new forms of worship, community spaces and activities, which incorporate music-making, drama and education, photography and heritage for townspeople and visitors alike. Whilst it continues to serve the community with baptisms, weddings and funerals, as well as in regular public worship, St Mary’s has also created one of the only indoor labyrinths in the country, offering a unique space for prayer and mindfulness.
Retaining its place at the heart of the busy local community it has served for nearly 900 years, St Mary’s provides a living home to unique monuments connected to Richard III, a stunning collection of Victorian stained-glass, war memorials, and Colours of the Durham Militia and Light Infantry from 1759. St Mary’s is open to visitors, tourists, and pilgrims every day of the week.