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Newbiggin

St Bartholomew's Church, Newbiggin

Last Updated:

24 May 2024

Newbiggin

This is a

Church, Place of Worship

55.185483, -1.502456

Founded in 

13th century

Current status is

Extant

Designer (if known):

William Searle Hicks

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Listed Grade I

This is the beautiful St Bartholomew's, a headland church which dominates the surrounding landscape.

The site has origins that date before this structure, with hints throughout that there was a much older church here than what we see today. Fragments of masonry and reused stone suggest something happened to an earlier iteration. The earliest reference to a chapel here is in 1174 alongside Widdrington and Horton through documents between Tynemouth and St Albans.

Either way, the current structure has a long and illustrious heritage. The most visibly old part is the tower (minus the spire), which is 13th century and fits in with the mould of other early English church towers. It was befitting of a town developing as a decent sized port with at least a few hundred people occupying the village.

Much of the church has been rebuilt and restored over the years, which i've tried to comprehend in a little diagram. Despite this, it fell into serious ruin by the 18th century. Only the basic structure survived with no roof and crumbling masonry. It was then a thorough rebuild took place with the chancel and nave rebuilt and extended. WS Hick undertook the second restoration in 1898 and reopened Christmas that year. Hick was a well known ecclesiastical architect in Newcastle and designed a number of churches in the area - St Cuthbert's at Blyth, St James at Shilbottle, St Helen's at Carlin How and St Cuthbert's at Ormesby among some.

This church was also only the Chapel of Ease in the parish, and was subsidiary to St Mary's at Woodhorn in the mid 19th century. I'm not sure if this is still the case however.

Listing Description (if available)

Parish church. Pre-C13 fabric may survive in the nave walls; 4 eastern bays of arcades early C13, 2 western bays and west tower late C13; chancel rebuilt c.1300; spire C14. Aisles demolished and chancel a roofless ruin in C18; 1845 restoration of nave and chancel, further restoration with new chancel arch and organ chamber 1898 by W.S. Hicks; north aisle rebuilt 1912. Squared stone, rough-faced in C19 and early C20 parts; roof of mixed purple and green slate. South wall of nave 6 bays; porch near west end is probably C19, with boarded double doors under double-chamfered arch and coped gable with moulded kneelers; small lancets in porch returns are probably re-set medieval work. 1845 nave windows each of 2 pointed lights with quatrefoil over. East gable coped with moulded kneelers and cross finial. North aisle has chamfered plinth, stepped buttresses and hollow-chamfered cornice below moulded parapet; 2-light windows on north and 3-light west window, with cinquefoil-headed lights in C15 style. Unbuttressed west tower has small C19 west door within larger blocked opening, with blocked trefoil-headed window and trefoiled round window over; north and south walls each have trefoiled spheric triangle light with lancet over. String course below belfry; belfry opening of 2 lights with quatrefoil in spandrel. Octagonal stone spire with small slatted openings, weathercock finial. Chancel has two 3-light windows on south, western of lancet lights and eastern with intersecting tracery; east window of 5 stepped lancets under one arch. Lancet on north (re-sited from west end of wall in 1898) and blocked doorway. Coped east gable with moulded kneelers. Organ chamber with boarded door and two 2-light windows. Interior: Arcades of double-chamfered pointed arches with broach stops to chamfers and head stops to hoodmoulds, on octagonal piers with moulded capitals and bases; western arches broader and differing in detail. South wall of-nave built outside arcade; in length of medieval wall at east end of arcade is blocked lancet with square-headed piscina below. Blocked pointed arch to tower with set-back and blocked doorway above. Nave roof has arch-braced principal-rafter trusses with collars, north aisle flat panelled ceiling. Tall double-chamfered chancel arch; 1845 chancel arch, with grotesque head stops, re-set as organ chamber arch. Chancel has piscina with moulded bowl and sill of adjacent window lowered to form sedile; blocked doorways at west end of south wall and to east of 1912 vestry door on north. C12 carved capital re-set as corbel on south of east window. Interior of tower, now boiler house, shows inserted segmental barrel vault with newel stair, cutting across tower arch. Fittings and furnishings largely C20, except for C18 Pater, Creed and Commandment boards in nave. Important collection of C12 and C13 cross slab grave covers include 8 complete examples re-set in walls of north aisle. The dramatic headland site, away from the village; suggests early origins. The unusual length of the nave (even allowing for its 1845 extension into the old chancel) and the apparent insertion of the C13 tower arch in an earlier west wall may point to the survival of Pre-Conquest fabric; re-used C12 architectural fragments indicate a predecessor to the present building.

Both these Ordnance Surveys highlight St Bartholomew's standing isolated on the headland.

The village had changed very little in the latter half of the 19th century. The east of Newbiggin had already developed, with Prospect Place being the only recent development given its composition against the rest of the area. An infant school was built between these maps as wider education became more usual. The west of Newbiggin is where further housing was developed given the appearance of the railway station, which shifted the focal point of the settlement.

The Ordnance Survey of 1922 really does show significant changes now. More contemporary terraces of housing encroached the old Downie's Buildings and primary school, and the old Wesleyan church was converted into Salvation Army barracks. Picture theatres, halls, hotels and banks all cropped up too making it almost a micro-resort for local families. In fact, todays boundaries aren't dissimilar.

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St Bartholomew's in 2024

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A very similar viewpoint from 1910, which clearly highlights the different eras through the fabric of the building. Source: Northumberland Communities

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An illustration of the ruined church in the 1830s. Source: St Bartholomew’s Church, Newbiggin An Archaeological Assessment by Peter Ryder, https://d3hgrlq6yacptf.cloudfront.net/5fbc2ba5a8086/content/pages/documents/1607453998.pdf

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