Chester-le-Street can trace its origins right back to the Romans, as the town was the location for one of their forts called “Concangium”. The excavated Quarter Masters house foundations can still be seen in an area to the rear of the Parish Centre.
Following the exodus of the Roman Legions and after several years of wondering, the Monks who were fleeing the Viking attacks on the island of Lindisfarne with the body of St. Cuthbert arrived here and built an Anglo-Saxon Minster in 883A.D. on the site of the old Roman Fort where a shrine to the saint was housed.
In 995A.D. due to the threat of further raids mainly from Scotland, the body of the Saint was again taken up and transported many miles before finally coming to rest at Durham where St. Cuthbert was eventually laid to rest in the Cathedral.
The present day Church of St. Mary & St. Cuthbert was built in the 11th Century on the same site as the Anglo-Saxon Minster and houses a facsimile copy of the Lindisfarne Gospels, which were purchased through public subscription and the efforts of the Heritage Group. The original Gospels that were brought with the body of St. Cuthbert from Lindisfarne are now held by the British Library in London.
The Church also houses the fourteen Lumley effigies which are lined up along the north wall of the church interior. These were the gentry and later peerage family associated with the nearby Lumley Castle.
Attached to the Church is the interesting little museum called the Anker’s House, which has on display a number of Roman and Anglo-Saxon relics. This was the home of the Anchorites who were religious holy men living a solitary life of prayer and meditation and depended for their survival on the generosity of the local people.
Major employers in the town over the years were the Murray family who manufactured steam engines mainly for the mining industry, Horner’s who were worldwide manufacturers of confectionery, Rodney Dresses a major clothing factory who also had premises at Grange Villa and H. Young Motors Ltd., who had garages in the Front Street, at the old Horner’s factory in Chester-le-Street, Newcastle at St. Mary’s Place, Sunderland in Roker Avenue, Easington and Darlington.
More recently, Chester-le-Street has become the home of the Durham County Cricket Team which boasts one of the best locations in the country, with a magnificent view of Lumley Castle for its backdrop.