Ponteland, Northumberland – St Mary the Virgin

july b 240Time to blog my other church. We are in the middle of the town at grid reference NZ165729, and our church website is here. Tina and I have done our best to put a good selection of photos and news on the web – see “News” and “Archive”. Some of the photos on this blog were taken on 10 April 2016 and the snowdrops were earlier this Spring. I have added some others that are special from previous years. This sheet is the one produced for the schools about the history of the church. sheet for coates year 5

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I have often said to the kids that I would like to believe a Roman soldier was the first Christian in Ponteland. Perhaps he sat and said his prayers as he marched up the road north of the Wall. Then maybe Cuthbert or Oswald stood next to the little river and preached to the inhabitants of the small hamlet. Inside the tower is this stone – a Saxon stone that must have come from the original church and been used in the Norman tower. In 2013 we celebrated the Lindisfarne Gospels. At a Songs of Praise we read the Greek and Latin versions of John 1 “In the beginning was the Word”. Then I asked Richard to read it is the Anglo Saxon English (the same as the gloss added to the Gospels at Chester-le-Street). “This is what it would have sounded like on the first Christmas Day in the original church that stood where I am standing” he said. Wonderful!


The tower dates to 1160-90, paid for by Roger Bertram. It has a lovely Norman arch. The first Vicar on the list is Robert of Eland in 1154.


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Although Henry III of England and Alexander of Scotland met at the Castle (now the Blackbird) in 1244 and agreed the border between our two countries, it was rarely a peaceful place to live. The tower walls are very thick. “Imagine sheltering for safety here” I said to the children. “Who were the attackers?” “The Nazis?” said one child. Their history teacher gave up and went home.

The side aisles and bigger windows would have been added in the C14 when life was a little safer. A few years ago we hosted the Northumbrian Police Carol Service. They had a piper welcoming us into church. I told the Chief Constable it was her job to keep them out rather than invite them in. Adam and Eve were also added at the base of the Chancel Arch – slightly retouched by the Victorians, but lovely pieces of carving.


There is a lovely piscina in the Chancel, and some memorial tablets. One of them is made of Coade Stone – an artificial stone. There is a good piece about it at this wonderfully named website and even a Shire Guide to it (amazon). Apparently ours’ is the most Northerly piece of Coade Stone in England.



september d 042In 1719 Richard Coates died. He was a Newcastle ship builder who married a Ponteland girl and, when he died, left money to found a school. Richard Coates CEVAM School is a smashing school – I am very proud to be a Governor.


After 1778 there was no resident Vicar in Ponteland. In 1810 the north aisle collapsed and John Furness the Curate reported that there were only 40 communicants. The Ogle family at Kirkley Hall were one of the big local families, and some of them were important in naval and American history.


The picture is of the Royal Arms which hangs on the tower wall. It comes from the reign of George III (King of Great Britain and Ireland 1760- 1820), but dates to the last six years of his reign. He was also Prince-Elector of Hanover and Royal Arms show a bonnet under the lion in the centre. In 1814 he became King of Hanover, and the bonnet becomes a crown.


William Weallens was one of Robert Stephenson’s engineers. There is a little about him here and his obituary here. There is a family obelisk in the churchyard.


Also buried in the churchyard is John Donkin. Richard told us about him as part of last year’s Stewardship Campaign. “He was a local builder, and churchwarden here in the 1860s. It was a difficult time here in Ponteland, a small village hit by an agricultural recession, and this church of that impoverished community was in a bad state. The whole of the north wall had fallen down twice, and now the pillars were collapsing. John Donkin, against all the odds, rebuilt it all – those are his arcade pillars [the ones on the right in this harvest photo].”

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“Donkin wasn’t to know that the church he saved would be a source of comfort and refuge for the families of men who would die half a century later in the Great War – including members of his own family.” Here is the War Memorial – 42 names from our small village. We have been marking the centenaries of their deaths “We will remember them.”


Ponteland has vastly increased in size through the C20 – it has also vastly increased in wealth. There was a major re-ordering about 40 years ago when the Nave altar was installed. It works well. More recently the font was better placed, moved out from under the tower.


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We only have a little stained glass, but it is attractive stained glass, including an Evetts WW2 Memorial Window and Mary on the donkey in the Lady Chapel.

DSC00536DSC00526DSC00525There is much to give thanks for in 1,000 years of history, and much to give thanks for in the last eight. The building has also been a place of comfort at the worst moments of my life – and I am forever grateful to it.

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6 Responses to Ponteland, Northumberland – St Mary the Virgin

  1. John Hewett says:

    I have volunteered to record the gravestones of St Mary’s and Holy Saviour churches. Spent the best part of this afternoon at St Mary’s and started photographing. Realised what a job I had volunteered to do! However it will be worthwhile as some of the stones are deteriorating.
    What really needs doing is a concerted effort by some volunteers to tidy up the graveyard as there are a lot of graves that have become overgrown with moss, ivy, shrubs etc.

    • admin says:

      I assume you have talked to Maureen in the Church Office. I know that there is a plan and list of Milbourne’s graves, and various people have worked on listing St Mary’s in the past. I spent 7 years trying to get volunteers – and we did a good tidy up every few months. Ponteland’s graveyards are no longer my problem!

      • John Hewett says:

        I spoke to a lady at the church office to ask permission and to explain what I was going to do. There was no mention of a plan of the graveyard. Ponteland Local History Society did a gravestone list in the 80s and I am in the process of chasing this up.

  2. David Butler says:

    Hi John, I saw your entries in Peter’s blog and wondered how far you’ve got with your record. I’m church warden of the church and have access to some of the recorded records, so if you’d like to get in touch, maybe we could meet up to discuss things. My tel.no. is 07779 169395

  3. John Hewett says:

    Hello David
    I’ve tried the number you provided but there must be a digit missing as it was not recognised.

    • admin says:

      It looks the right length number. Leave a message for him with Maureen in the church office 01661 824470 (I don’t have David’s details any more)

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