Welcome to Day 18 of my Mary Stewart Advent Calendar. Today I am looking at Kelloe Church.

Mary’s father, Frederick Albert Rainbow, was vicar of St Helen’s Church in Kelloe, Co Durham, from 1940 until 1960. By 1940, Mary had graduated from Durham University and was trying to make her way as a teacher during World War Two – so, presumably, she never lived in Kelloe. Yet Kelloe is still a significant place for Mary, not only because her parents lived there.

Kelloe is important in the story of Mary’s life because it is here that she was married, by her father the vicar, to Frederick Henry Stewart.

Mary and Frederick, fellow lecturers at the University of Durham, met and were married in 1945. It all happened very quickly: Mary met Fred at a VE Day dance, held in Durham Castle on 9 May, and the couple were married on 24 September. Their engagement announcement appeared in The Durham Chronicle and Chester-le-Street Chronicle on 8 June, 4 weeks after they met! Their marriage lasted 56 years, until Fred died in 2001. With this in mind, the fate-driven tone of the romance and plot in Mary Stewart’s suspense novels seems less fanciful and more like a reflection of the writer’s own experience.

St Helen’s Church is in a remote spot on the very edge of the straggling village of Kelloe, as this (sorry, rather grubby) information board indicates.

Info board near the church in Kelloe

Here is a photograph I took of the church when I visited the village in October:

St Helen’s Church, Kelloe

Finally, I believe this is the vicarage where Mary’s parents lived:

The Old Vicarage, Kelloe