Matfen – Holy Trinity

Matfen church is in the next benefice and I took a service there a couple of years ago. We drive through the village quite regularly, and there is a village shop and cafe we have patronised – so why haven’t I blogged the church? Sorry my blogging has slowed – it has been a pretty difficult few months, and the weather has been horrendous. Add in a lot of busyness – 26 weddings in 2012 means that quite a few Saturdays get used up. I’ve also started a distance learning “Certificate in Railway Studies” from the University of York – I should be writing an essay about J.C. Bourne and his lithographs …


Matfen Hall (which is now a hotel I can’t afford) dates from the 1830s, the village is an estate village of the mid Nineteenth Century, and the Church is 1841-2, spire 1853-4 – Pevsner says it was “by Sir Edward Blackett for himself”. (He probably thought he was building to the glory of God). The church guidebook says he had discovered a Methodist chapel was being erected in the village! The church building was consecrated in 1844 and Matfen was constituted as a separate parish in 1846.

There’s a fascinating piece in the Hexham Courant about the Dower House in Matfen, which tells us a bit about Sir Edward. “[He] was something of a wonder himself. Apart from his architectural abilities, he was also a cavalry officer with the 1st Regiment of Life Guards, a Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff. [His] “reign” at Matfen, from 1816 to 1885, was an incredibly colourful period when the quiet village made Newcastle Chronicle headlines many times. … On July 5 1852, “ice fell on Matfen in large masses”, during a storm which killed several people across Northumberland. There was a different alarm in October 1855, when “the inhabitants of the quiet and retired village of Matfen were thrown into excitement and alarm by the discovery of a horrible local murder!” This brutal strangling of wealthy widow Dorothy Bewicke was declared “without parallel for atrocity” since the murder of Warden’s “Joe the Quilter!” announced The Chronicle.

Then in September 1863, the Blacketts themselves made headlines. “Fatal accident at Matfen Hall” read the billboards after Mrs Blackett, aged 30, mother-of-seven and wife of Captain Blackett of Wylam, was killed in a riding accident while visiting her Matfen relatives. In 1865, the village was again agitated but for a happy reason: the youngest daughter of “the worthy baronet of Matfen” was united with the noble Capt Egerton, “an alliance every way worthy of her heart and hand”.

Meanwhile, Sir Edward himself managed to fit in four marriages from 1830 to 1880. He claimed his final bride – Althea Rianette Scott – when he was 77 and she was in the uncomfortable position of being recently jilted by Sir Edward’s own son! Lady Althea found a few consolations as the wife of a doting older man – she had plenty of time to take photographs, paint and write. This turned out lucky for posterity because, a century later, Lady Althea’s journals became the basis of a book on that most adventurous and colourful family she had married into, entitled: The Ship That Came Home. Maybe Lady Althea wrote some of her memoirs at the dower house, after Sir Edward died in 1885.”

The book is available through Amazon –

DSC02583DSC02555We were parked outside the cafe, where Julie remained to enjoy a pot of coffee. The phone box has no phone, but is full of tourist leaflets. The church (NZ031718) was open. Nice and simple inside – Early English style. Nice pictures of things going on.






















The eagle is by Signor Bulletti, 1881, one of the craftsman who worked on Alnwick Castle. There are also four small C17 (or C16) alabaster reliefs – Flemish apparently. The visit of the shepherds, the Magi, the circumcision, and the presentation in the temple.





DSC02573Outside there are some nice gravestones – I thank this man as I drive round his roads. It is quite a splendid spire.


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One Response to Matfen – Holy Trinity

  1. Keith Atkinson says:

    I have just come across your wonderful texts and photographs via Matfen Holy Trinity. Please keep up this excellent contribution to Northumberland history (and good luck with your railway studies too). I knew Matfen well in the immediate post-War decades when my grandfather was alive. My father grew up there and he was a pupil teacher at Matfen school from 1914 -18. The Vicar of Matfen, V. R. Hill, first asked me to read a Lesson at Evening Prayer when I was about nine (in 1947). Living in Oxfordshire, visits have been rare but memories are strong.

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