Bearpark Priors House

Has been described as a Certain Palace (Other)

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameBearpark Priors House
Alternative NamesBeaurepaire, Bear Park
Historic CountryDurham
Modern AuthorityDurham
1974 AuthorityCounty Durham
Civil ParishBearpark

The remains of the Prior's House and chapel of Beaurepaire or Bear Park, built by Prior Bertram (1244-58), later destroyed by the Scots and rebuilt, C.1346, by Prior Fosser. Whilst the Prior and Bishop of Durham had to lived at close quarters within the city, the Bishop had his favourite country seat at Bishop Auckland and the Prior his rather nearer home here at Beaurepaire; both houses were the centres of large hunting parks, that at Beaurepaire of 1300 acres. Beau Repaire is French for beautiful retreat and the manor house here was used as a retreat for the priors and monk of Durham Cathedral. It could house up to 40 monks at any one time. It was built in the mid 13th century (1244-58). Beaurepaire seems to have begun as a retirement home built buy Prior Bertram de Middleton (1244-1258), and was considerable extended over the next fifty years or so. It suffered badly during Scottish attacks culminating in the nearby Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346 'Only the shattered and roofless shell of the chapel is now standing, with dilapidated remains of some adjacent buildings'. The building was restored and extended again by Prior Fossour (1341-1374) to develop into a rest home for the monks of Durham, as did Finchale Priory to the north of the city, although the Prior continued to use it (along with his manor house at Pittington) as a favoured country residence until the Dissolution; Prior Hugh de Whitehead, the last Prior, is known to have carried out considerable alterations. The buildings continued in use as an occasional residence of the early deans of Durham, until during the Civil War the Scots inflicted further damage in the 1640s, after which most of them lay in ruin. Fortunately the site attracted antiquarian attention and a series of informative drawings (notably those of Grimm) provides much information on buildings lost to decay and clearance in the 19th century. Old prints chronicle the gradual loss of the ruins

An 1827 print by Davison shows only the south gable of the hall and south wall of the chapel standing, and an 1846 drawing by Billings only the hall gable, shown again in sketches by Blair dated 1891; this finally fell in a storm during the autumn of 1893. The few fragments that survived attracted little attention, until major excavations in the 1980s and consolidation work exposed many lower walls. Inevitably the freely-accessible site is now beginning to suffer from the attentions of vandals. All that survives now are some ruined walls and a number of grass-covered mounds. The site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument protected by law. (Durham HER)

Gatehouse Comments

Technically should not be in the Gatehouse gazetteer, which includes only royal and bishops palaces. Included because comes up as a palace on a search of the Durham HER. Hutchinson writes was part of the possessions of the bishop before being obtained by Prior Bertram, but with no suggestion of it being a residential site. This is a particular interesting example of a large magnates house, with an additional function as a place of retirement for Durham monks.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ248438
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  • Corfe, Tom (ed), 1992, 'The Visible Middle Ages' in An Historical Atlas of County Durham p. 28-9
  • Clack, P.A.G., 1985, 'Excavations at Beaupaire' Universities of Durham and Newcastle Archaeological Reports 1984 (Durham & Newcastle Univs) p. 69-72
  • Clack, P.A.G., 1984, 'Excavations at Beaupaire' Universities of Durham and Newcastle Archaeological Reports 1983 (Durham & Newcastle Univs) p. 81-84
  • Clack, P.A.G., 1983, 'Excavations at Beaupaire' Universities of Durham and Newcastle Archaeological Reports 1982 (Durham & Newcastle Univs) p. 71-74
  • Clack, P.A.G., 1982, 'Excavations at Beaupaire' Universities of Durham and Newcastle Archaeological Reports 1981 (Durham & Newcastle Univs) p. 59-61
  • Clack, P.A.G., 1981, 'Excavations at Beau Repaire (Bearpark)' Universities of Durham and Newcastle Archaeological Reports 1980 (Durham & Newcastle Univs) p. 54-57
  • Hutchinson, Wm, 1787, The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham Vol. 2 p. 427-30 online copy


  • Edwards, L.J., 1985, Council for British Archaeology Group 3: Archaeological newsbulletin no. 4 p. 12-15


  • Historic England, 2016, Heritage at Risk North East Register 2016 (London: Historic England) p. 7 online copy
  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk North East Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 8 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 8 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 8 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 24 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 24 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 16 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 32 online copy