view of South Bailey

About this site

This website contains information on the streets which fall within the parish of St Mary the Less; the houses, use of the land, and the people who lived and worked there.

There are records of births and marriages in the church of St Mary the Less dating from 1559. Baptisms continue until the present time, through the church's role as chapel to St Johns College.

The present houses of the North and South Bailey date mostly from the early Georgian period. This street has seen a change in use from originally serving the Cathedral and Castle to an influx of gentry families who built the street as it stands; including the Bowes Family of Bowes House, 7 South Bailey, Madame Poison, a refugee from the French Revolution and Henry Vane, who married Frances Tempest in 1768.

The Parish of St Mary the Less

central South Bailey

South Bailey

The Parish of St Mary the Less is one of the smallest parishes in England. It served an area of just four acres, most of which covers the Prebends bridge area of Durham. The church was founded 1140 by a Bulmer, Lord of Brancepeth. The church was probably originally for the soldiers of the garrison who manned the city walls, within which the Bailey nestles. By 1901 the population had fallen to 133, and in 1919 the church was attached to St Johns College.

The list of incumbent vicars at St Mary the Less includes many interesting personages from Durham's history: Canons of the Cathedral, lecturers and local eccentrics such as Canon William Greenwell.

Famous Residents

A boxer, John Gully lived at number 7 South Bailey with his family of 24 children. Johnathan Swift's sister was for some time a resident in North Bailey. Captain Boulby, fought at Waterloo but lived and died at number 24 North Bailey.

Interesting Sites:

HMS Manxman History Photographs life on Board