Wylam, Northumberland – St Oswin

A rather greyer Saturday (9 October 2010), but as everyone else is off shopping I decided to go for an explore. Wylam seemed a good idea. In the past I have been to Tom and Joe’s Garden Centre, the Village Shop/Cafe, walked to George Stephenson’s Cottage – website – and we took Theo for a pub lunch in The Boathouse Inn next to the station. I have not been to the Railway Museum (in the library), or to St Oswin’s church, grid reference NZ114648.

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A modern porch, which is shortly to be glazed, and a notice saying that the church is open. My first impression was of a dark interior, a tidy bookshelf, and a very green carpet. Nice kneelers, though none of local interest – in Bury St Edmunds we had the Darsham level crossing gates on one kneeler, you would expect that Wylam would have one train kneeler. Every pew has a bible and a laminated A5 notice telling you where the fire exits are – does the Holy Spirit regularly come down on Wylam in tongues of fire?

The church is late Victorian – before 1886 inhabitants had to go to Ovingham. George and William Hedley financed the building of the church, in memory of their parents William and Frances (William the railway engineer – Wylam Dilly  and Puffing Billy). There is a brass memorial to them both at the west end of the church (so I photographed my reflection in it!). The architect was Robert James Johnson (again – he did Stannington).

I walked up into the Chancel and photoed the screen looking back into the Nave. Oak throughout – and the screen was carved by Ralph Hedley “the accomplished Newcastle carver and artist” to quote the leaflet.

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The guide leaflet said that the Chancel ceiling was well-decorated. When I flashed the camera and looked at what I’d captured, I agreed with the guide!

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A rather nice “Te Deum” in the East Window.

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And the Last Judgement in the West.

Presumably I have more luck photographing stained glass when the day is overcast. Does that mean I need to visit each church twice? Overcast for the windows, sunny for the exterior.

In the Nave is a Leonard Evetts window, installed in 1991 in memory of Dr Edmund Sprigss and his wife Sheila. Having come across Evetts work in Whitley Chapel, and seen that he lived in Woolsington, I mentioned him to one of my Ponteland congregation and asked if they had known him. “Speak to Ian and Sue” I was told. Ian was Leonard’s Best Man, and worked – with others – on a catalogue of his work after his death. I am now the proud possessor of the Evetts book – many, many thanks. We have an Evetts window in Ponteland too. This Wylam window is lovely:

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The church comes across as well heeled, and the building is certainly well cared for. There are no graves, just a Memorial garden. The magazine tells me they have about 50 communicants a Sunday – services at 8 and 9.45 am (nothing in the evening). They also have extension plans – I await them with interest.

St Oswin was King of Deira (which was roughly the area of East Yorkshire, from the Humber to the Tees and inland as far as the western edge of the Vale of York). Around 644 he succeeded Oswald as King of Northumbria. Oswiu thought he should have been King, and declared War. Oswin refused to fight, retreated to Gillian, was betrayed and murdered (20 August 651). Gilling is not far from Laton, and is also the Headquarters of the Ryedale Society of Model Engineers – website – who have a large railway I have often meant to visit. His body was taken to Tynemouth, which later became a centre of pilgrimage. A Twelfth Century writer refers to Wylam as “the village of St Oswin” – the Prior of Tynemouth was the lord of the manor of Wylam.

I drove down through the village and across the River Tyne. The website of Northumberland archives has a good selection of photos and maps. The first edition Ordnance Survey 25 inches to the mile map dated shows the Wylam waggonway running from the pit east to Newcastle, on the north bank of the Tyne. This was Hedley’s waggonway, on which Stephenson worked. Later this was used as the route of the North Wylam branch of the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway, and North Wylam station was opened in 1876. This website gives far more detail, and a lot of photos. The line closed to passengers in 1968 and freight in 1972, and the station site is now a car park. The 1860 map shows the Wylam Iron Works and the plateways which served it – including one which shared the bridge across the Tyne to Wylam station.

This plaque, commemorating Benjamin Thompson, is on the wall of Wylam station. Construction of this line began in 1830, and the Station Master’s house is built at ground level – the story is because the line was so early that no one had worked out that platforms were a jolly good idea. The station opened on 10 March 1835. It is all Grade II listed – so why have Network Rail been allowed to use containers to hold signalling equipment? They are ghastly. The signal box is magnificent – this site gave more details in 2010, but seems to have gone by 2015. www.northumbrian-railways.co.uk/index.php?page=wylam

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The Northumberland boundary runs to the south of the Tyne, and I followed the route to try and photo the bridge by West Wylam Junction where the two lines joined. Before I had succeeded, I was called to collect the shoppers from Newcastle. Just time for a final shot – of the village sign.

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This blog was retyped and re-posted on 29 August 2015 after it was lost in the change over. Thus I can record that on Thursday 18 June 2015 I did a radio interview here with Jo of BBC Radio Newcastle as we commemorated the anniversary of Thomas the Tank Engine.

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1 Response to Wylam, Northumberland – St Oswin

  1. Sue Armstrong says:

    We visited 22.6.17 and loved the window too, but did find the Puffing Billy kneeler!

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