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One of the main features of the Green is the Church  of St.Peter Ad Vincula.


The origin of the church of St. Peter is not definitely known although the present building is thought to be Norman and dating from the 11th or 12th centuries. It might possibly have been built on the site of a Saxon cell.

In his "History of Cleveland" (1808) Graves states that it was dependant on the church of Stainton (a small village a few miles to the south of Thornaby) with which it was granted to the Priory of Gisborough by Robert de Brus, a Norman baron, in 1129.
This is confirmed by Burton's "Monasticon  Eboracense" published in 1785. In this book, which is a long catalogue of Priory possessions, we find : - "Thornaby - This chapel was given to the Priory".
Arthur Mee in his book about the North Riding (1941) says the church was re-fashioned in the 14th century.


Records show that the church was originally dedicated in honour of St. Mary Magdalene in 1495. (Surtees Society IV,110)
They also show that in 1546 one cottage at Stainton and two acres of land at Thornaby were given to find five lamps for the chapel at Thornaby.


This is said to be the origin of the name of the Thornaby landmark known as the Five Lamps to this day. For the period between the 16th century and the 19th century there are no records.
The church appears to have fallen into ruin and the chancel completely disappeared in the 18th century. Some archaeologists say the church might have been rebuilt in this period using the same stones. This is quite possible. The church, which was described as a Chapel of ease in 1846, was not certified to the Governor of Queen Anne's Bounty (when money was given to help poor churches) and so received no monetary help at that time. It does not enjoy any parochial rights and is therefore not allowed to be used for marriages, Baptisms etc. Stainton church was probably used for this purpose up until 1844 when Thornaby became a parish.


In 1858 with the opening of the new Parish Church (St. Pauls), St. Peters was closed, but in 1907 it was thought  to be a good idea to re-instate. In 1908 work began to restoreĀ  the church to its original state. The three-decker pulpit was removed as also were the high box pews to seat 70 people,  which were probably installed about 1820, as Lawton notes the issue in 1818 of a facility to re-seat the church, also at the time of the restoration of the church, the old limewash was removed  from the walls and chancel arch. The church was eventually re-opened in June 1908.


It appears that the name St. Peter ad Vincula did not come into use until 1908, after the restoration of the church, as both Graves, who wrote the "History of Cleveland" (1808) and W.F.Watson, who wrote an article in 1892, failed to find the Dedication. Although some sources state that it was called St. Peters in honour of an Italian Protestant Reformer called Pietro Martine ("Peter the Martyr") who lived 1500-1559.
Up until 1869 when the present cemetary was opened, St Peter's church was the only burial site in Thornaby but due to because of overcrowding, burials at the church were stopped by council in 1870, although several stones were inscribed after that date, it was about this time that the hedge was planted and a fence erected.


On Monday 12th January 1970 excavations began by Teesside Council to alter the surroundings of the church. The hedge and gate were removed and all the gravestones, except the Ambrose Walker Memorial, were moved from their original positions and placed in the corner of the original graveyard in rows. All the trees have been left.


Click here for old and new views of the church and Thornaby Green..



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