St Cuthberts Church Elsdon
Religious Place Elsdon Northumberland

St Cuthberts Church Elsdon

Religious Place In Elsdon, Northumberland

A 14-century church and all-round home to saints, tall tales, bones of Border Rievers and men of battle.

The beautifully termed Cathedral of the Rede sits on the green grass of Elsdon, once the largest parish in England, at 120 square miles hugging up from Rothbury to the Border.

St Cuthbert's Church In Elsdon is a 14-century church and all-round home to saints and tall tales and bones of Border Rievers and men of battle. It was probably initially built of oak with a roof of rushes.

In 875 AD a bunch of monks were done with the Danes, and veering away from Viking raids on the holy land of Lindisfarne, so they carried Cuthbert's coffin and rested their tired bones here and dedicated the church in his name.

There is evidence of some architectural features from an earlier building from both 12th and 13th century like the arched narrow windows on the west wall. Both the interior and the exterior of the church are filled with little gargoyles watching you wander past with a judgey eye, keeping a watch on the clientele.

Although they obviously had eyes to the skies during the 1300's when the dead from the Battle of Otterburn were buried like sardines in a mass grave behind the North wall of the church after skirmishes between the English and Scots. Undiscovered until restoration work 1877, the bodies lay there undisturbed until just short of 1000 whole skulls were found and the bodies of 1200 people along with coffin handles and even a little human hair!

At this time, Alnwick architect Frederick Richard Wilson, architect to The Duke of Northumberland literally raised the roof and added beautifully simple glass leaded windows, with a repetition of circles and crosses throughout the astounding five light East window.

There are a multitude of astonishing little facts and findings in this church: medieval grave covers used as lintels above the entrance, which bare the symbol of shears, indicating the grave of a woman. There are scratch marks on the pillars by the entrance which are said to have been the sharpening stone for 16th century Border Reivers, preparing to chop of 'thy olde heeeeds' in local land wars!

There are three horses' skulls, which were unearthed in the restoration of the bell turret in 1877 when the spirelet was pulled down. A strange and alarming find, but it's thought that the skulls, which were placed nose up in triangular form with their mouths facing upwards, were simply to improve the acoustics and resonance of the bells! There is a tombstone dedication from the wife of a Roman officer which outlines her husband's entire career.

Attached to the skull exhibit is a replica of a sword found in the bog of a mass grave!

Many of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown's ancestors lie in unmarked graves in the churchyard and his parents were married here, living not far from the church at Ravenscleugh Farm (now a retirement home for old horses!)

A list of rectors dating back to the 13th century holds the names of some noteworthy men including that of Charles Dodgeson, the Great Grandfather of Lewis Carroll who also holds strong North East connections.

There are three sedilia (priests seats) carved into the chancel's south wall and three medieval windows all dating to the 14th century.

Services were held here during the war in the transept where a part of the church was blacked out. The relics of blackout curtains and a tinplate tea caddy which was used as a makeshift lampshade still remain.

The rectors of Elsdon resided in the pele tower just up the lane. It's now a private residence but a little peep up the path is permitted! It's a Grade I listed building dating from the 15th century and was used as a rectory up until 1960.

The church yard, thought to be one of the finest examples of a historic graveyard in the county, are home to two medieval sarcophagi propped nonchalantly against the west wall. There are many ancient graves baring skull and crossbones typical of the 16th and 17th century which were a warning that death is inevitable and unavoidable. Despite our social standing and that regardless of status, we are all destined to share the same fate!

One small disconsolate gravestone records the death of the daughter of the rector of St Cuthbert's, Moyra H Hills who died aged six or seven. And an imposing grandiose granite headstone celebrates the life of one Ephraim Hall, who was 'accidentally thrown from his horse in 1898 aged 43 years'. I scratched off the common greenshield lichen from the deeply carved white words, so Ephraim's memory still shone.

You can find St Cuthbert's Church in the centre of the village green in Elsdon next to an interesting board about the history, flora and fauna of Redesdale.

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How To Find St Cuthberts Church Elsdon

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55.2336, -2.101518

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55.234031, 55.234031

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There is a little parking area 2 minutes walk from the church.

Contributed by Jos Forester-Melville

Highland loving human. Thalassophile. I love a good smile. Happiest heading for the hills with my pickup filled with kids and dogs! Working four days, we enjoy a Fridate, and usually spend it scouting out new scenery. I love a gated track, a bit of off roading and if it involves a full ford, well, that gets extra points! I go nowhere without a flask and binoculars, and love the small things in life that make it big…Goldcrests, dry stone walls, Deadman’s fingers, blackberries and quality clouds.

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Jos Forester-Melville

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St Cuthberts Church Elsdon was listed in Religious Place // Northumberland // Elsdon