We had a weekend in Northumberland, and on Friday 7 December we drove north to Alnwick. As my wife and Anne settled in for several hours in Barter Books, I went for a walk to St Michael’s church. I did a very brief blog of this church several years ago (I’ve just checked … 2011!, when the Bailiffgate Singers were singing for a wedding – now was my chance to improve it, and play with the new camera. The church is on the north side of the town, NU 184137. Their website is here, and the Bailiffgate Singers look to be in good voice – website.
Christianity has deep roots in this part of Northumberland, and the first church here must have been Saxon. The first reference to it is in a document of 1147 when the Baron of Alnwick, Eustace Fitz-John, linked the church at Lesbury with chapels at Alnmouth, Houghton and Alnwick, to support the founding of an Abbey at Alnwick. It was the French order of White Canons who were here until 1539 – part of the Norman power structure. They didn’t do a brilliant job of looking after the building, though the Border conflicts made their life difficult, and in 1464 a Charter of Henry VI decreed that the almost ruined building should be rebuilt in its entirety The burgesses of the town were granted £20 per annum for 30 years, much of it coming from tolls on coal exports from Alnmouth. They did a good job of the rebuilding, and it is a beautiful church.
Working your way round the church, the two figures are rather splendid. They were dug up from the foundations during repair work in the C18 – the heads are modern. Probably Henry VI and St Sebastian. Medieval grave slabs – Vxorsimois is probably the wife of Simon of Lucker. An C18 lectern and book.
The font is early C21, made by David Edwick of Hexham using Kilkenny limestone. Since Society has turned it back on the importance of baptism, a process so often aided by the Church, fonts tend to be unused or replaced with something that doesn’t get in the way. Not so here! I love the birds – beautiful.
Some Victorian glass in the North Aisle, and figures on the organ.
St Catherine’s altar, and the High Altar – wonder how long the WW1 decorations will last. Why didn’t I make a note of who this stone commemorated, and why did they run a wire down beside it? Apparently the altar was a table in the castle, until it was bought here in the 1980s. “We need a new altar” said the Vicar. “I’ve got a table you can have” said the Duke.
Look up to the carving on the pillars – the De Vesci/Percy coat of arms, and some wonderful faces. Look down at a C14 knight and lady – she may be Lady Isabella, wife of William de Vesci, the last Baron of Alnwick.
I played with the exposure settings as I tried the windows in the south aisle.