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Review: Norham and St Cuthbert’s Church


United Kingdom

A typical Northumbrian village with a nice church and castle

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2310 reviews

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  • Jun 2013
  • Husband

41 people found this review helpful

Norham is a typical Northumbrian green village with old stone houses around the village green with its preaching cross. It has a small Mace shop, bakers and butchers.

St Cuthbert’s Church is a long low stone building set in a large churchyard surrounded by trees and bird song. The first stone church was built in the 9thC but apart from a few carved stones none of this survives. The present building dates from 1165 and was built at the same time as Norham Castle with the same architect.

John Balliol did homage to Edward I here in 1292 when he became king of Scotland. In 1320, Robert the Bruce occupied the church while besieging the castle. The east end of the church was damaged and rebuilt in 1340. After the Battle of Flodden in 1513, it fell out of use and was roofless until 1619 when the parishioners restored the church. The church underwent a major restoration in between 1837-52 when the west tower, aisles and porch were rebuilt. The Norman style was maintained. The tower is narrow and not very tall. The clock was given to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

The nave and chance are long and low. There are beautiful Norman windows with pillars and carved round arches between the buttresses of the nave. The windows of the chancel are larger and Early English. There is a small round topped priests door in the south wall of the chancel and a small stone cross above the east end. The south aisle has Victorian copies of the Norman windows and there are elaborate carved arches above the porch door.

Inside the nave has round Norman pillars with round arches separating the nave and south aisle. The pillars between the nave and north aisle are part of the Victorian restoration and are octagonal but still have round arches. The nave has a flat wooden ceiling with skylights providing extra light. The aisles have wooden ceilings with carved beams. There is a lovely round chancel arch with alternating red and white sandstone blocks.

There is a large 19thC organ in the north aisle. At the end of the south aisle is a simple stone altar. The font at the back of the north aisle is is 19thC but a copy of the Norman style. Near it is a pillar made up of Cetic stones thought to be from the original church found in the churchyard.

There is a dark wood 17thC pulpit and Bishop’s stall brought here from Durham Cathedral by Dr Gilly when he became rector. The arms of the See of Durham are carved on the sides of the chair. There is a large brass eagle lectern.

Steps lead up to the chancel which has a simple stone table altar beneath the 19thC stained glass window. The altar rail dates from the 1950s and has the emblems of St Peter (cross keys), St Cuthbert (eider duck) and St Ceolwulph (crown), a King of Northumbria. The church was originally dedicated to all three.

On the south wall of the chancel set under a beautifully carved canopy is a much eroded effigy of a 14thC crusader knight with sword and shield and crossed legs resting on a lion.On the north wall is a memorial to William Sterne Gilly DD who died in 1855 and is buried in the churchyard. He was a canon at Durham Cathedral before becoming rector here.

There is a round arch at the west end of the church. Above it is an unpainted dark wood carving of the Royal Arms of Charles II. On either side are 19thC stained glass windows with St Aidan and St Cuthbert.

There is an exhibition about the Battle of Flodden Field in the church. When we visited, the church had a flower festival celebrating the 500th anniversary of the battle.

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