St. Michael’s and All Angels Church
The present church is Grade 11 listed and is the oldest in the parish and the one with the greatest history. It was built by High Pudsey, Bishop of Durham in the middle of the 12th century, the previous one being destroyed in 1069 by William the Conqueror. Local folklore suggests that it was the intention for it to be built at Percy Trough, thought to be a hill near Thornton le Moor where a stone cross had previous stood. The folklore continues to say that “the work of the day was undone by the Devil and his imps who carried the stones to the site where the church stands today.
The area was donated to Robert de Brus, from France and is mentioned in the Doomsday book.
In the 19th century the tower and spire were added and in 1874, during major restoration work, the discovery of a stone coffin revealed a number of skulls and Saxon swords. Sword marks can be found in the porch where soldiers sharpened their swords. The church contains remains of Saxon crosses and a wall monument by William Gilbert, attributed to the Arts and Crafts Movement. There is also an ancient mass dial on the front of the porch.
In 1880 a human skeleton was discovered in a gravel pit and was thought to be of a pre-historic origin leading to the belief that the area was once an ancient burial ground. In 1970 another skeleton was discovered in the garden of one of the nearby houses but this turned out to be a burial of only eight months when the lady of the house was murdered by her lodger.
For many centuries St. Michael’s was the “mother church” of the area and two corpse roads still exist from nearby Thornton le Beans and Thornton le Moor.
Damage occurred in 1593 when a glass window was blown in and damaged the pulpit and in 1772 when a hurricane struck, removing lead from the roof. In 1941 the church was nearly destroyed when a bomber from nearby RAF Leeming failed to gain height and crash landed in the field next to the church.
In 1950’s an offer was made to the church to buy St. Michael’s to turn it into a grain store. This was strongly opposed and in 1972, St. Michael’s was placed on the list of “Places of Special Interest” by the government of the day. In 1964 the parish of North Otterington joined with the parish of South Otterington