Old Bewick, Northumberland – Holy Trinity

Having been to Alnwick (Barter Books) and Eglingham we continued up the road to Old Bewick, and turned down the minor road to Holy Trinity church at NU 068 221. I had heard this one mentioned as a lovely place, and they are right. Tradition has it that the Manor of Bewick was given by Queen Maud to Tynemouth Priory in 1107, in memory of her royal father, Malcolm Canmore. He had snatched the crown of Scotland from Macbeth in 1054, and in 1091 brought an army south across the border, laying waste to much of Northumberland. He had some claim to the English throne as his wife Margaret (Princess and Saint) was a descendent of the Saxon Royal line. In 1093 he was defeated by the Norman king Rufus, and killed near Alnwick (just a few miles south of here). The oldest part of the church is C12, and the church was damaged again by the Scots in one of their (many) invasions in the C13. In those days Old Bewick was a thriving market town, and in 1253 Henry III granted it a charter to hold a weekly market. Now there are a few scattered farms, and the church has one service a month.

You walk in, and look up. It is a lovely place. A wonderful Norman church, though some of the blocks in the lower levels of the north and west walls are Anglo–Saxon. The Chancel arch has capitals decorated with leaves, heads and an abacus, with a frieze of saltire crosses. The heads are very Green Man. I had fun trying to photo them.

The apse is lit by what the leaflet describes as “partly modern Norman windows” – I suppose round here the Norman period is modern! The stars are rather fun – though the astronomer in me wishes they were a reflection of the night sky. The church was re-roofed in Victorian times, thanks to a gentleman called Mr J.C. Langlands – before that it had been derelict for almost a couple of centuries. There had also been a restoration in the C14, perhaps led by the husband of the lady whose effigy lies in the Chancel. This effigy is thought to be the work of sculptors who had a workshop near Alnwick until about 1340. Whether it was him, or her, or a group of people known only unto God, thank you.

Some nice early slabs and interesting font. But it is the atmosphere of this church which is just special. Grade I listed, and feeling holy.

The church is lovely outside too. The porch dates from 1695 and reused older building materials, with some modernisation in 1867. A mental note that if I were ever to apply for the job as Vicar, I would need to loose some weight before I tried to enter through the (Norman) priest door.

Apparently the churchyard is full of snowdrops in February – mental note to have a Barter Books trip in February. Some interesting people buried here too. What a splendid place to rest.

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