Shilbottle, Northumberland – St James


I have driven up and down the A1 many times, but have never turned off into Shilbottle village. This was a mining village between 1728 and 1981, which is very hard to believe in this day and age – there are some good photos of the mine and the railway network at this flickr site (but do they really need to have “copyright” printed all over them?). A DAC visit to St James church, on a rather dull afternoon. The former vicarage is Peel House, next door – I want one. The medieval tower was added to in 1863 by F.R. Wilson.


Some nice graves – but I do wonder if the square one turns on its axis at Halloween … . There is a footpath through the churchyard, which has recently been resurfaced, and they are working to remove some of the vegetation.


There are records of a chaplain in the village from 1228, and the small Norman church lasted until 1884. There is a drawing of it, and more information, here. In 1882 it was declared as unfit for the requirements of the parish, and it was rebuilt between 1882 and 1884 at a cost of £4,000. It was designed by William Searle Hicks. He was born in 1849 and was a great nephew of Sir Charles Barry. In 1866 he was articled to the Newcastle architects Thomas Austin and Robert James Johnson who had bought John Dobson’s practice in the previous year. Hicks died at Gosforth on 21 November 1902. He was architect to the diocese of Newcastle and president of the Northern Architectural Association in 1891-92. This church is Grade II*, and is at grid reference NU195087.

DSC08946Outside is rather special – I like the rain water goods (not a line I often write) and the way the position of the altar is marked.



It was a dark evening so I failed to get decent photos of the windows. There is lovely woodwork at the west end of the church, and font is fascinating. Pevsner describes it as “a successful piece of free imitation Norman”, whatever that means.


There is some lovely woodwork in the crossing, both on the pulpit, stalls and up in the roof. I think they said the organ is decent as well, but I failed to photo it. Although the woodwork is lovely, we were told that the choir pews are not comfortable (are they ever?).


The woodwork in the Chancel is a War Memorial, and there was a selection of WW1 photos in the South Transept. Here are three of the brave men of Shilbottle – we will remember them.


I drove home in the winter darkness, thinking how much the world has changed.



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2 Responses to Shilbottle, Northumberland – St James

  1. Paul Bell says:

    Dear Northern Vicar
    I am a structural engineer interested in 19th century laminated timber roofs. The earliest that I have found are those by John and Benjamin Green at Cambo (1840) and Horsley (1844) in Northumberland. The Greens were also pioneer builders of laminated timber railway viaducts, now long gone. It is difficult to find these roofs because their significance is not usually appreciated. If you area aware of any, I would be very pleased to hear about them.

    • Christopher Teasdale says:

      Hi Paul,

      From memory, St Cuthbert’s Church, Blyth has a similar chancel crossing ceiling. The church is by the the same architect, W. S. Hicks of Newcastle, and is very similar in date and design.

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