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Norham, Northumberland

St Cuthbert's Church, Norham

Last Updated:

16 Apr 2024

Norham, Northumberland

This is a

Church, Place of Worship

55.719993, -2.165768

Founded in 


Current status is


Designer (if known):

Ignatius Bonomi


Listed Grade I

St Cuthberts at Norham may be one of the most special churches i've visited. It was built in the 1160s, with St Cuthbert's body was reputedly brought here by Lindisfarne Monks when fleeing from the Vikings. Even earlier than that, there was supposedly a timber church brought from Holy Island, with that replaced in 830 by a stone construction overseen by Ecgred of Lindisfarne.

St Aidan crossed here to establish the Lindisfarne monastery in the first place, around 635AD. He was travelling from Iona, that fabled Hebridean island where he was, by consensus, a young monk. It was around a century after when St Ceolwulf, the King of Northumbria, died on Holy Island and had his bones buried here.

If this church had a voice it would tell us stories as long as it is old. John Balliol, the King of the Scots in the 1290s, paid homage to Edward I of England. This effectively made Scotland a vassal of their southerly neighbours. Some 30 years later, Robert the Bruce occupied St Cuthbert's, making it his holiday home while besieging Norham Castle for a year or so.

Border raids caused issues with the church throughout its early life. Raids around the time of the Battle of Flodden left it roofless for a century. Further damage was obtained by Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads, who used it as target practice. The scars of their musket balls can still be seen on the eastern extension of the early 14th century. There are more, but these are the most visually striking and can be seen when walking along the walls through the churchyard. They are under the larger window furthest to the right as shown on the photograph from 1920 below.

The interior is, as you would expect, absolute stunning. Plenty of what you see here is the original 12th century construction, though the generations of build can be deciphered in the changes of stone along the fabric.

If you want another delicious north east connection, the porch and south aisle were designed by none other than Ignatius Bonomi. He was the man who designed the Skerne Bridge below, the Lambton Park estate, St Anne’s Convent in Newcastle and Blagdon Hall.

Listing Description (if available)

NORHAM CHURCH LANE NT 8947 12/82 Church of 22.12.69 St. Cuthbert GV I Parish church. Later C12, probably by Richard of Wolviston for Bishop Puiset. East bay of chancel added early C14. Tower 1837, south porch and aisle 1846, by I. Bonomi. North aisle and transept 1852, by D. Gray. Old parts squared stone, later parts dressed stone with ashlar dressings. Aisles have Welsh slate roofs, other roofs not visible. West tower, nave with aisle and south porch, north transept, chancel with north vestry. Broad rectangular west tower with large 2-light round-headed bell openings divided by colonnettes with waterleaf capitals. 6-bay nave. To left gabled south porch with Romanesque-style doorway: 2 orders of columns with waterleaf capitals, chevron-moulded arch. Windows have similar detail. 6-bay chancel. Bays one to fiveare genuine Romanesque of the highest quality. Finely-moulded plinth, the bays -divided by very flat buttresses; Plain round- headed priest's door in 3rd bay. Above, set high in the wall, 5 round-headed windows, shafted with waterleaf capitals. The arches are elaborately moulded with enriched chevrons set at right-angles to the wall, and an outer flat chevron frieze which continues across the buttresses. Corbel table with moulded corbels. Right bay has renewed Decorated 2-light window. Plain parapet. Renewed 5-light Decorated east window. North wall of chancel has 5 plainer Romanesque windows. On north aisle wall 2 plaques recording dates of restorations, architects, church wardens etc. Interior: 5-bay south arcade (a painting of before the tower was built shows 7 bays); round pierswith octagonal abaci, waterleaf capitals and finely- moulded arches, a chevron frieze above. The north arcade is of 1852 but one of the bases and the semicircular east respond are original. Splendid chancel arch with 3 orders of columns, waterleaf capitals and roll-moulded arches. In the chancel a large Decorated tomb recess with open-traceried gable, containing the effigy of a knight. C14 piscina. Chancel north wall has large recumbent effigy of Rev. Gilly in a Romanesque-style recess, 1855 by J.G. Lough. Wall tablets to William Alder, 1800, and Mary Ord, 1810, both by J. Jobling. Reading desk and pulpit brought from Durham Cathedral in 1840 by the Rev. Gilly. They are mid-C17 in the Cosin style with combined Gothic and Renaissance motifs. Two flower stands of similar style and period, acquired mid C20: Also 2 clergy stalls in the chancel re-made in the C19 but incorporating earlier C17 carving. In the tower arch an C18 organ case. In the tower a large and very fine carved wood Royal Arms of Charles II. In the north aisle a composite pillar made up of many Anglo-Saxon cross fragments. South aisle, wall monument to Jane, Lady Blake, 1827, a figure weeping on a sarcophagus. Source: North Durham: Raines: London, 1852.

Both Ordnance Survey maps shown illustrate the village of Norham between the 1860s and 1890s. The village has very little changed, even until now. The cross was erected in the same location as today, featuring a very similar landscape apart from the Salmon Inn which has since closed. The fountain, the terraces on the front street and public hall are still used. The Free School, still in situ next to the church, can be seen in use adjacent to the churchyard, as well as the Vicarage now in private hands.

A Glebe is located next to the church also. This was a plot of land owned by the church to yield revenue for its upkeep and maintenance.

The 1926 also shows little transition. By this time there was only one Presbyterian Church. The churches split off into separate congregations with one utilising the "north" chapel on South Lane and one opposite Galagate farm. The south chapel lasted much longer as the villages Presbyterian place of worship. A war memorial was also added after WWI next to St Cuthbert's. By this time the Glebe fell out of use as well as the Free School.


St Cuthbert's in 2024. An annotated version of this photo can be seen here:


The church, undated. Original source unknown.


The interior of St Cuthbert's in 2024

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