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Eglingham church.St. Johns the Baptist.

Whether you travel along the A697 or the A1 you can be sure to see signs for Edlingham. We approached the village from the road out of Alnwick signposted for Rothbury.

In reality the village is just a cluster of houses but looks are deceptive for this is a land where people have settled and lived for many thousands of years. When we first came on the church we didn't realise what it was. A rugged , squat, plain building with a massive 14th century tower it is not your usual church.

To quote from the pamlet available inside the church

"People have chosen to live in this area since the earliest times, there being a prehistoric rock shelter and " cup and ring" marked stones on the hills above.To the west lies the Devil's Causeway, which can still be traced running across the rig and furrow fields of later date".

Anyway the salient facts are as follows

The tower has no belfy openings, only narrow slit windows.

The current stone building began in 1050, although there would have been earlier structures.

During the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth 1st the area was reputed to be a hiding place for Jesuits. 

Edlingham church

 

 

Edlingham church - picture

 

Inside Edlingham church

 

Edlingham church

This comes from the small guide available within the church. 

When  George Mark wrote about Edlingham in his "Survey of Northumberland" in 1730, he was obviously not impressed by what he saw."The situation and other circumstances of the town make it the most unagreeable to the traveller of any i know in this country,having nothing to recommend it,if we except the church,which is in tolerable order as to appearance". He then goes on to complain about the "intolerable roads", the frightful moors and the lack of good spring water. Today this little hamlet is considered a jewel in our heritage crown, encapsulating medieval power, social history and architecture in the church and castle.

People have chosen to live in this area since the earliest times,there being a prehistoric rock shelter and a "cup and ring" mark on the hills above. To the west lies the Roman road known as the Devils causeway, which can still be traced running across the rig and furrow fields of a later date.

The name Edlingham is Anglo Saxon for the homestead of the Eadwulf family. It is 1st mentioned in 737 AD as being one of several villages given to the monks of Lindisfarne by King Ceowulf of Northumbria when he resigned his throne to become a monk on Holy Island. It has been suggested that there was a wooden church of this period.If this existed it was replaced by another Anglo Saxon church said to have been consecrated in 840 AD by Bishop Egred.

Dowsing suggests that a former church,with nave and apsidal sanctuary, probably Anglo Saxon, lies below the present church. This could be the foundations of the stone building begun about 1050 AD , some of which still exists in the west wall of the nave. About this time the Gospatric name appears to record as holding the serjeanty ( barony) of Beanley,which included Edlingham. This family held the village through 5 generations and played a major role in its history.They were responsible for the building of the church and the hall house which became the castle.

In 1130 the chuch was granted to the monastery of St Albans, through the daughter house of St Oswain at Tynemouth by Gospatric II.His son Edgar confirmed the grant in 1170 and this charter, complete with seal, is in the treasury at Durham cathedral. Four years later, on 12th November 1174,it was transferred to the Prior and convent of Durham who obtained a confirmation charter from Patric,son of Edgar.This too, is held at Durham.The great house of Gospatric came to an end in 1296 and the lands and lordship were conveyed to William de Felton.

The church is dedicated to St john the Baptist, first mentioned as such in the will of Sir William de Felton,and dated September 1358.In his will he requests that his body be buried within Edlingham church.It is interesting to note that a charter,dated 1200, mentions a church at Edlingham dedicated to St Helen. During the latter half of the reign of Elizabeth 1st,Edlingham was reputed to be a hiding place for Jesuits, referred to as "pestiferous traitors and inciters of the people".

The Estates eventually passed to Swinburned ( 1519) who, remaining Roman Catholic after the reformation,thankfully did not spend a great deal of money on refurbishing the church.This left the predominantly Norman structure in place.

The church registers date from 1658 and talk about the employment,epidemics and who were non Anglicans or Dissenters. The church also possess a copy of a terrier ( inventory of land) dated 15th December 1663. From this we can catch a glimpse of the decay into which the parish had slipped during the years of the Puritanical Commonwealth of Oliver Cromwell.

The last Presbyterian minister was John Murray, who was ejected in July 1662  for refusing to accept the act of Uniformity introduced by Charles II after his restoration.John Murray then became a preacher in Edinburgh.

In 1984 the Parish of Edlingham with Bolton chapel became a united beniface with St Bartholomew,Whittingham.

Over the years thieves had stripped the lead from the roof causing water damage. In 1988 a major restoration was carried out.

The Building itself.

The approach reveals a rugged squat and plain building with a massive 14th century west tower which has no belfry openings - only narrow slit windows,indicating a building used for defence and a place of security for the Priest and the villagers during the days of Scottish raids.

The Church is entered through a barrel vaulted south porch,lined with stone benches.The exterior has a round arch entrance above which is a square opening flanked by 2 medieval carved head corbels.

This porch protects the 12th century Norman doorway which had previously been eroded by the weather.The doorway has an arched head with decorated moulding,supported on circular columns.Within the arch is a 17th century vertical panelled door with stone surround.A 14th century grave cover,incised with sword and shears,forms the threshold. Internally are barholes indicating that the church could be secured against raiders.

Inside the church to the left is the oldest stonework dating to 1050, including the west wall of the nave.Most of this wall was enclosed within the tower during the 14th century and retains the original west doorway into the church.The doorway is in good condition having been protected within the tower against the weather and any raiders. It consists of a plain lintel with a semi ncircular arch above the area between these two points and is called the tympanum. The supports are large,plain hewn stones with barholes,indicating that the tower too could be strongly secured when necessary.Above the doorway is a narrow 11th century circular headed window now filled with glass and carved stonework. To the right stands the medieval font inscribed with the date 1701. The font bowl is octagonal,symbolising the resurrection of Christ.It stands on a circular stepped base reputedly older than the font.

The north wall of the Norman nave was removed in 1190 and an aisle with an arcade of 4 bays added. The round arches are supported on plain circular piers, the quare capitals above these being decorated bands of nail head mouldings.This ornamentation is repeated on the pier bases. The north wall was rebuilt in the 15th century and has a blocked up doorway positioned where the Spewers memorial tablet is listed. The doorway is more easily seen from outside and it has a pointed arch formed from 2 stones and probably dates back to the 12th century.

Above the vestry door is a round headed window of the 12th century, the lower portion of which had to be removed in about 1839, to make way for the door.In the east wall is a square headed window of about 1760, containing some fine leaded glass dated about 1960.Two of the south windows have a similar design.

The simple rounded Chancel Arch , stepped towards the nave, is supported on plain hewn blocks and dates from the late 11th or early 12th century.It is a good example of typical Norman structures.

Below the arch, and of a much later date, are the remains of a low screen with a central opening. A metal pivot on the north side suggests that there may have been a gate or a door here. The early 12th century chancel is probably a larger versiobn of the original Norman chancel and its massive oak roof timbers appear to be the only remaining parts of the medieval flat roof.

The pointed window in the south wall was placed in position of the original Priest's Door, the remains of which can be clearly seen outside. On the south wall within the sanctuary is a piscina with painted head and roll moulding.This was discovered and reopened in 1901.The east window was installed in 1864 as a memorial to Lewis de Crespigny Buckle who perished at sea while sailing in S.S. Nemesis. His father was vicar of the parish for 52 years.

notes on the SS Nemesis. See here. This suggests that he must have literally fallen off the ship as the ship lasted a lot longer than 1864.

To the right of this window is a stone coat of arms or funeral hatchment depicting three moles, the symbol of the Mitford family who were buried within the sanctuary. The Rev Mitford served the parish for 45 years.

The balustraded communion rails are from 1726.

The south wall of the Nave incorporates a arched tomb recess thought to have been intended for an effigy of William de Felton, Lord of Edlingham castle who dies in 1358. His shield is set above the recess and was probably at one time painted with silver lions and border on a red background. Above the shield is a 14th century window and along the length of the south wall are several old windows altered and reshaped throughout the years, some iwth wood tracery inserted in the 20th C, The tie-beam roof over the Nave and most of the furnishings are 20th C.

The Church plate consists of a silver cup and cover from 1612; which is still used as a chalice and paten; a pewter flagon dated 1738, a silver paten made in Newcastle, the thank-offering of the Rev.james Manisty, vicar from 1808 - 1839.Displayed in the church are a number of artifacts found within the area, or related to the history of the church.

Other notable features on the exterior are the weather moulding on the east side of the tower,indicating the original opening below the apex, the purpose of which is obscure, though perhaps used to observe the altar during services.

 

( note see similar holes at Nine Dargues Bastle house)

  

You can see the Church on Google maps here..


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 See also

Edlingham Castle and Bewick Old Church.