Some believe that these ruins gave their name to the nearby pit village of Bearpark. The belief is the name is a corruption of the French term “Beau Repaire” the name given to the Priory.
Beaurepaire Priory was originally built by the Prior of Durham in charge of the Priory and Convent of Durham, Bertram de Middleton, in 1258 to be a country seat and his home in his retirement. It was visited by royalty on numerous occasions between 1296 and 1335, with visits by Kings Edward I, Edward II, and Edward III.
Over the centuries the priory was expanded several times. It took on a role similar to that of nearby Finchale Priory and acted as a retreat for the monks of Durham. The retreat was popular because, at just three miles from Durham City, it allowed the monks to attend daily mass easily.
The priory was heavily damaged following the nearby Battle of Neville’s Cross and subsequently rebuilt and repaired by Prior Fossour. It suffered further during the British Civil War when the Priory was largely destroyed by the attacking Scots, with large assaults in 1640 and again four years later.
The park surrounding the priory supplied it with wood, coal, and building materials. It was also used as a stud for the prior’s horses.
Most of what is left of Beaurepaire ranges from ankle-high to waist-high ruined walls. However, there are a few sections that tower over visitors and with imagination it is possible to conceive that this was a once magnificent building.
Know Before You Go
The path to Beaurepaire from the River Browney is steep, uneven, and narrow. In wet weather it can become muddy and slippery so be prepared.