The Grade II listed Parish Church of St Philip and St James is situated on a grassy bank above the village green in the centre of Witton le Wear. It is part of the Escomb Group of five Parishes. Sunday services alternate with the Methodist Church and are always held on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month in the Church. The service commences at 10.30am and celebrates Holy Communion. If you are unable to attend and wish to have Communion at home,please contact Tim Atkins 01388 488626.
On the 4th Sunday, there is a special service called EARLY BIRDS ALL AGE FAMILY WORSHIP starting at 9.15am and lasting for about half an hour. This form of informal and relaxed worship caters for the younger members and includes modern music with more activities.
If there is a 5th Sunday in the month, the five churches come together to meet for morning worship in one of the five churches.
In 2013, the back of the Church was updated removing static wood pews and replacing them with tables and chairs to provide a comfortable meeting area near the christening font. A kitchen area and disabled toilet was also added to improve amenities.
History of St Philip and St James Church
There has been a church on the current site since Saxon times.The Norman Church was built at the beginning of the12th Century as a Chapel of Ease for St Andrew’s in Bishop Auckland. In 1200, Henry II sold the manor of Witton to Henry de Pudsey, the then Bishop of Durham. The church survived the stormy Civil War period and continued as a place of worship over the centuries. Registers of baptisms and marriages can be found in the Durham County Record Office from 16th century and there are burials in the grave yard from the early 17th century.
Unfortunately by the end of the 19th century the church was in a ruinous state, but not enough to stop worship. In 1900, the architect C Hodgson Fowler was commissioned to draw plans to restore and enlarge the church. This was carried out and the church was rebuilt and reconsecrated by Dr Moule, the Bishop of Durham in 1902.
At some point in its history a very rare 15th century sallet or funerary helmet was given to the church. It was made in Milan, Italy between 1470 and 1480. A replica is displayed in the church and the original helmet can be seen at The Royal Armouries in Leeds.
There are many interesting memorial tablets, leger stones and stained glass windows in the church reflecting many aspects of Witton le Wear life over the centuries