Kirkharle, Northumberland – St Wilfrid

A couple of days in Newcastle, and on Thursday 11 July we had a drive through Northumberland. One of the churches worth re-blogging is St Wilfrid’s church Kirkharle, just off the main A696 at NZ 012826. I last visited in 2015, moaned about the website, and commented “It is a lovely spot, but it is only used for one service a month. They are talking about an improved heating system, but can that really be justified for a building used so rarely. How can we get the tourism and the visitors going to the shops up to the church – and get them thinking about more than shopping?”

There is a new website for the shops – https://kirkharlecourtyard.co.uk, and it includes this page https://kirkharlecourtyard.co.uk/make-a-day-of-it/the-church/. Capability Brown was baptised here, and the whole site has built on its CB links – it was his anniversary in 2016. We did some “Spirit in Stone” work with these parishes, so I would like to think they built on that. (Have a look at the end of this blog to find out about “Spirit in Stone”.

The website proclaims that in 2018 “with generous grant support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Community Foundation, All churches Trust and Northumberland Historic Churches, essential restoration to the drains and the masonry has been completed, a brand new oil heating system installed and the vestry upgraded to provide basic catering facilities. The £90,200 funding has saved and restored the building’s fabric, and with the new modern heating system it’s hoped that besides regular church services, other events can be held in St Wilfrids, including talks, concerts, exhibitions and weddings bringing the building back to life for the community. Enquiries are welcome.”

Electricians were working in the church when I called in, and it was lovely to see the work they were doing. Also great to see new guide, information boards, and a buzz about the place.


The HLF funds even allowed them to have a new altar frontal in memory of CB. It is inspired by the landscapes he created, and by the botanical paintings of Henrietta Loraine of Kirkharle Hall. Between 1826 and 1829 she painted always daily, a different local wildflower, inscribing on the painting the date, the Latin name of the flower and its location. The 214 paintings are in a private collection, but are one of the earliest surviving record of wild flowers of the area. The charity, Fine Cell Work, was commissioned to undertake the embroidery, designed by Kate Paton-King. It was undertaken by prisoners at HMP Frankland in County Durham. The background painting by Sabina Rose suggests a typical Capability Brown landscape with rolling hills and a serpentine lake.

The font is special, now with a display board, and the eagle is fun.

Spirit in Stone was a 2013 project linked in with the coming of the Lindisfarne Gospels to Durham. A team in Newcastle and Durham diocese produced a gazetteer of 120 churches to visit (copies were widely distributed), and a website – http://www.spiritinstone.co.uk/ .

The website still exists, and thanks to Andrew is still updated – no thanks to either Diocese. A link is hidden in the depths of the Newcastle diocese website, but I can find no mention of it on the Durham one. One of these days the Church of England will realise that heritage and tourism are worth promoting (but I’m not holding my breath). Fortunately there are some people in our parishes who still have this vision – well done Kirkharle.

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