Norham – St Cuthbert

DSC03797A gorgeous sunny day (17 May 2013), so we drove to Berwick for coffee. Then we drove west (could hardly drive east …) and crossed the Tweed at  The Union Bridge, Horncliffe. We visited Chain Bridge Honey Farm – – for a superb lunch in their bus cafe and a look round their excellent displays. Well worth a visit. The bridge itself was built by Captain Samuel Brown in 1820, and has its own blog (their postings are even more erratic than mine!). It is supposedly the oldest suspension bridge in the world still used by road traffic.

Then we drove home the pretty way … following the Tweed. Horncliffe itself has no church – there is The Old Church 5* B&B I went on the Norham Deanery website – – read the Deanery Synod minutes dated 11 March 2013 (yes, I am that sad) which start “The meeting was held at the Horncliffe Church Hall. There were 11 members present and 7 apologies for absence. After Rob Kelsey opened the meeting in prayer, Margaret Waddell (who is an Elder of the Horncliffe URC) explained the close links between the URC and Anglican church in the village. The URC church has been sold off and the services are now held in the church hall, with a mixed Anglican/URC congregation – an unofficial ‘ecumenical partnership’ with the blessing of the Bishop and URC Moderator. Rob Kelsey (Horncliffe is in his Norham parish) and the Berwick URC Minister each lead the services once a month. The congregation is small and elderly, but the village community is a lively one.” So now you know!

First stop, Norham. Past the castle – how can I drive past a castle? Whenever we had family holidays as kids the cry would go up “How do you expect us to see Shrophire (or wherever) if you keep stopping and looking at things?” Through the village, to St Cuthbert’s church – NT896474. It looks impressive.



I like this obelisk gravestone – and there are a few others of this design. I don’t think I’ve seen any anywhere else. The lettering on this one is rather lovely too.


DSC03843Aidan crossed the Tweed here en route from Iona to establish the monastery on Lindisfarne in 635. It is said (by whom?) that when a stone church was built at Lindisfarne the wooden structure was transferred to Norham (“right lads, pick up that roof and carry it over the causeway, then turn right”). A stone church was built in 830. These Celtic crosses are in the church – note too the bier and some rather well-done display boards in the North Aisle.


Cuthbert’s coffin – and the Lindisfarne Gospels – were brought here in 875 when the Vikings turned up. The present building was begun in 1165, probably the same architect as the castle. The Chancel is original – “truly majestic for a parish church” says Pevsner. The sixth (eastern) bay was added in the C14.


DSC03827DSC03847The tower is rather splendid too (1837), and the porch is 1846 by Ignatius Bonomi – we met him at Nenthead. The modern door is rather, not to put too fine a point on it, “naff”. Inside they have done a much better job of a west end kitchen. The royal arms is Charles II. The earlier king who came here was Edward I – it was here that John Balliol came in 1292 to pay him homage. In 1320 Robert Bruce occupied and fortified the church while besieging the castle – the east end was replaced after the damage done. The church was roofless from 1513 (Battle of Flodden) to 1619 when the parishioners restored it. Then we had mid C19 rebuilding, and more work in 1883.

Inside there is a lovely pulpit and stall – gorgeous C17 woodwork (bought from Durham Cathedral in 1840- and some special chairs. The clergyman (in effigy) is Dr Gilly, who died in 1855 – Pevsner describes it (him?) as “rather dull”. The lectern is a copy of the one in Southwell Minster. I did a month’s placement there while at Theological College. If I remember right, their lectern ended up in the lake at Newstead – but I can’t remember why (and as it’s 2237 and I want to finish this blog and go to bed …).


Finally, the memorial tablet to the Piper of Loos – Daniel Laidlaw VC. 25 September 1915 – “During the worst of the bombardment, Piper Laidlaw, seeing that his company was badly shaken from the effects of gas, with absolute coolness and disregard of danger, mounted the parapet, marched up and down and played company out of the trench. The effect of his splendid example was immediate and the company dashed out to the assault. Piper Laidlaw continued playing his pipes until he was wounded.” More information at I was going to write “May he rest in peace” – but that doesn’t seem appropriate for a bagpipe player!


We continued our drive, and drove past the station. If the website is correct, it looks to be a museum (open at Bank Holidays). But there seems to be another Norham station museum near Oxford. Confused? Can any of my readers explain? “Time for Bed”, said Zebedee.

Norham station hit the press in October when it went on sale for £420,000 – including contents. Peter Short was the last Station Master. He remained there after closure 48 years ago and made it into a museum. Now he has died and his daughters have put it on the market, hoping a railway enthusiast will buy it. If anyone wants to help northernvicar find £420,000 please get in touch. Even if you’re not much of a railway enthusiast, the Daily Mail’s report is worth reading – lovely photos.

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