Last time I came here building work was in progress and the church was locked – today (7 January 2014) it was open. The church is at NZ090860, standing high above the Hart Burn (“which gives the little town its name” (I always thought that was a Peter Sellers quote, but google denies it)) – there is a car park just opposite the church as you come round the bend from Morpeth.
It is a magnificent tower. The leaflet says it was built in 1080 and is this strong to store the tithes due to the priory at Tynemouth. The Nave is Norman too – and at some point the arch between the two had to be filled in as the tower was moving. More recent building has been a ramp and a loo – all very swish. Some nice furniture at the back – the box is Cromwell’s money box, used by him to carry bullion (yes, of course it was).
They now have a nave altar, and it’s a shame the work done didn’t include more comfy chairs. Nave altars are lovely, but they beg the question “what do you do with the chancel?” In Ponteland our chancel suffers from a surfeit of chairs. Several times a year we need the 40 chairs in the chancel and we need them to face the altar, but most of the time you sit in the nave, look at the altar, and your eye is drawn to rows of empty chairs behind you. I try and turn them so the rows run east-west and your eye is drawn to the high altar but then someone moans because, in a few weeks time, they’ll need to be north-south (i.e. facing the altar) and will need turning. Some churches have moved worship in to the chancel every Sunday, but what do you do with the nave (“use it as a village hall” was the buzz a few years ago, but most villages have a hall already)? Others have blocked off the chancel, but then what do you look at behind the altar? Answers on a postcard please. In Hartburn it is an empty space, until you look more closely.
The colours were apparently used in the Napoleonic Wars. Two rather stunning marble tombs, but I made no note of the names of the deceased. A Good Shepherd by Evetts. Andrew and James in one window, Peter and Paul in another. When you get outside you realise the size of the chancel, the size of the whole church – and can admire these reminders of mortality.