This small, rural village is approximately 4 miles from Barnard Castle and is situated on the fringe of the Pennines, to the south of the A66 dual carriage way. The Church is located towards the centre of the village and has very close links with Bowes Hutchinson’s Church of England Aided School.
Bowes has a strong historical past, housing the remains of an ancient roman fort. The church has a similar historical origin, with evidence of 13th century carvings. There is a strong Charles Dickens connection, as he immortalized Shaw’s Academy, Dotheboy’s Hall in his novel Nicholas Nickleby.
AN ANCIENT PLACE
Guardians of the pass
St. Giles is built in the East side of the Roman Fort - Lavatris. The Northern Boundary roughly followed the graveyard wall. The fort itself was probably built to guard Stainmore Pass, a cross Pennine route used since time immemorial.
RAVAGED BY BORDER WARS
Sitting next to an early medieval Norman castle the military importance of the pass saw the community become a target during the Scottish border wars. The castle was destroyed by the Scots who also pillaged the church with the smashed Saxon font to the right of the main door being a reminder of those violent times.
ROMAN REMAINS IN THE CHURCH
There are several pieces of Roman stonework in the church, the most impressive of which can be found in the north transept. Here lies a large slab with a detailed inscription (translated above). A second Roman stone sits next to the vestry door.
DICKENS TRAGEDY NEVER FAR AWAY
Bowes Academy was a private school for 200 boys run by William Shaw. It was visited by Charles Dickens on February 2nd, 1838. Outraged by its disgraceful conditions Dickens, in his novel Nicholas Nickleby, exposed the Academy and its principal (as Wackford Squeers). This caused a public outcry that forced many such schools, including the Bowes Academy, to close down. William Shaw (the actual headteacher) is buried in the Church graveyard along with a number of pitiful children's graves belonging to boys who died in the school (above).