St Cuthbert's Church, Elsdon

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St Cuthbert's Church, Elsdon

St Cuthbert's Church is located in Elsdon, Alnwick, northeast England. The church was one of the resting places of St. Cuthbert's body in the wanderings of the monks.[1] It is one of the many dedicated to his memory. St Cuthbert's Church is a Grade I listed building in Northumberland.

Geography[edit]

St. Cuthbert's is situated within Elsdon's 7.5 acres (3.0 ha) village green. Larger in size than many Northumbrian churches, it is situated close to the fortified vicarage. It is 21 miles (34 km) west-northwest from Morpeth.[2] The village and church are located along St. Cuthbert's Way.

Architecture and fittings[edit]

The church shows evidence of extensive later medieval rebuilding. The cause may have been damage at the time of the 1388 Battle of Otterburn. The ceiling over the nave and the transept aisles forms quadrants, and slabs exist across the structure.[3] Of the present church, there are two transepts, one called Anderson's porch, and the other Hedley's porch.[4] The building had a leper window.[5] There are several deep cuts on one of the pillars of the arcade of the south aisle, which are of a different character from masons' marks, and considered likely to have been made by the sharpening of weapons upon them.[6]

In some country parishes in large sparsely-inhabited districts, it was expedient to build hearse-houses against the churches for the convenience of keeping a hearse for the use of the parishioners; one was built against the shady north side of the chancel of Elsdon's church.[7] The rectory house is an old tower with a circular staircase at one corner. Its lowest story is spanned with one large arch. On its front arch are the arms of the Hunfranvilles, with an inscription beneath.[2]

History[edit]

The first church at Elsdon was probably constructed of oak, with a roof made of rushes. A subsequent church has few remains still in existence: Norman pilasters, and two small Norman windows in the west gable, circa 1100 or earlier.[4] Most of the current construction is 14th century.[8] St John the Evangelist's Church in Otterburn is a chapel-of-ease to St. Cuthbert's.[9]

The monks of Lindisfarne during their flight from the Danes, halted for a while with the relics of St. Cuthbert on what is now the site of Elsdon Church.[10]

1877

During of the 1877 church restoration, it was necessary to change the levels of the church flooring. The flooring was damp; the bases of the pillars were nearly covered and out of sight because of soil accumulation. The reduction of soil levels in the nave, transepts and chancel lead to the discovery of an immense collection of skeletons. The labourers reported that 996 whole skulls were re-interred, as well as a large number that were mutilated in the course of their removal. The remains of nearly 1200 of the former chief inhabitants of the district were disturbed and removed from their resting place, while approximately 300 or 400 were left where found. The skeletons appeared to have been disturbed by the interment of those more recently buried. No doubt the intra-mural interments had taken place during hundreds of years, the last having occurred in the late 18th century. The bones of the earlier deceased had frequently been moved to make room for their successors. Skulls were frequently found lying together in groups of three or four in one spot. No remains other than bones were found, with the exception of a very few coffin handles, with a little decayed wood, and in one instance a small quantity of hair.[5] It is possible that some bodies had been buried here after the Battle of Otterburn.[11]

Also in 1877, it was necessary to pull down the small spire, which terminated at the bell turret surmounting the church's western gable. In the spire, immediately over the bell, a small chamber was discovered, without any opening, and in it, nearly filling the cavity, were three horse skulls. When found, the three skulls were standing on their bases in a triangular form, mouths upwards, and leaning against each other at the top; the cavity seemed to have been purposely prepared for them. There were two large skulls and one smaller; two were well preserved, while one was decayed. The heads appeared to be two of draught horses, and one of a cob.[5] The reason for placing skulls in the bell turret may have been to increase the resonance.[12]

References[edit]

  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: British Archaeological Association Central Committee's "The archaeological journal" (1885)
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: J. Dugdale's "The new British traveller; or, Modern panorama of England and Wales; exhibiting, at one comprehensive view, an ample, accurate, and popular account, historical, topographical, and statistical, of this most important portion of the British empire descriptive of its several counties, cities, towns, and other subdivisions; their situation, extent, climate, soil, and productions, natural and artificial: improvement and present state of the arts, sciences, manufactures, agriculture, commerce, population, and society. Forming a complete survey of South britain; comprising authentic information on every subject of a local or general nature and interspersed with biographical particulars of eminent and remarkable persons" (1819)
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Berwickshire Naturalists' Club's "History of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Club, instituted September 22, 1831" (1882)
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: E. Littell & R. Littell's "The living age" (1893)
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: W. Chambers & R. Chamber's "Chambers's journal" (1890)
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: G. M. Trevelyan's "The recreations of an historian" (1919)
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cassell's "Cassell's gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland: being a complete topographical dictionary of the United Kingdom; with numerous illustrations and sixty maps" (1900)
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Oxford University Press' "Horses' Skulls at Elsdon Church, Northumberland" (1880)
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Edward Walford, John Charles Cox, George Latimer Apperson's "The Antiquary, Volume 18" (1888)
  1. ^ Gregory, John V. (1885). "Dedication Names of Ancient Churches in the Counties of Durham and Northumberland". The Archaeological Journal. 42. Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. pp. 379–. 
  2. ^ a b Dugdale, James (1819). The new British traveller; or, Modern panorama of England and Wales; exhibiting, at one comprehensive view, an ample, accurate, and popular account, historical, topographical, and statistical, of this most important portion of the British empire descriptive of its several counties, cities, towns, and other subdivisions; their situation, extent, climate, soil, and productions, natural and artificial: improvement and present state of the arts, sciences, manufactures, agriculture, commerce, population, and society. Forming a complete survey of South britain; comprising authentic information on every subject of a local or general nature and interspersed with biographical particulars of eminent and remarkable persons. (Public Domain ed.). J. Robins and co. pp. 726–. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  3. ^ "Medieval Cross Slab Grave Covers in St Cuthbert's Church, Elsdon". Northumberland National Park Authority. Retrieved 21 October 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Walford, Edward; Cox, John Charles; Apperson, George Latimer (1888). The Antiquary. Elliot Stock. pp. 82–. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c Berwickshire Naturalists' Club (Scotland). (1882). History of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Club, instituted September 22, 1831 (Public Domain ed.). The Club. pp. 510–. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  6. ^ Littell, Eliakim; Littell, Robert S. (1893). The living age (Public Domain ed.). Littell, Son and Co. pp. 127–. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  7. ^ Chambers, William; Chambers, Robert (1890). Chambers's journal (Public Domain ed.). W. & R. Chambers. pp. 11–. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  8. ^ Automobile Association (November 1996). Village Walks in Britain. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 191–. ISBN 978-0-393-31502-8. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  9. ^ Cassell and Co. ltd (1900). Cassell's gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland: being a complete topographical dictionary of the United Kingdom; with numerous illustrations and sixty maps (Public Domain ed.). Cassell. pp. 82–. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  10. ^ Trevelyan, George Macaulay (1919). The recreations of an historian (Public Domain ed.). T. Nelson. pp. 174–. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  11. ^ Ridley, Nancy (1966). Portrait of Northumberland. London: Robert Hale. 
  12. ^ Oxford University Press (1880). "Horses' Skulls at Elsdon Church, Northumberland". Notes and queries (Public Domain ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 424. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Robertson, Edward C. (1882), On a discovery of horse-heads in the belfry of Elsdon church. On the skeletons exhumed at Elsdon, and their probable connection with the Battle of Otterburn : papers read at the meeting of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Club at Otterburn, 27 July 1881

Coordinates: 55°14′00″N 2°06′04″W / 55.233417°N 2.101231°W / 55.233417; -2.101231 (St Cuthbert's Church, Elsdon)