Religious Place In Morpeth, Northumberland
A Grade I Listed Church in Mitford with a number of interesting architectural features and Grade II Listed tombstones and Lych Gate in the churchyard.
The Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene in Mitford was first constructed in 1135, the same year as Mitford Castle which can be found just over the road, although much of the original construction has been lost over the following years. The main reason for this being the fact that it was burned down in 1216, along with many of the villagers who had taken sanctuary inside, by King John when he sacked Mitford Castle. Recently discovered foundations beneath the existing stone flooring have suggested that there may well have been a church on the site in Saxon times.
The church was rebuilt, incorporating the pillars, corbel, chancel door and foundations from the 12th century building by William de Valence and there are few written references to the church for the following years until 1705 when once again fire ravaged the site and destroyed the roof. The church lay open to the elements for the next century, although it was still used by the locals, who had to sit in the choir stalls to keep dry during services.
In 1877 the then squire of Mitford, Colonel John Philip Osbaldeston Mitford, used £10,000 of his own money to completely rebuild the Church. The work was carried out by R.J. Johnson of Newcastle. There has been further modernisation work over the years to make the building conducive to contemporary use and in 1969 the church was given Grade I Listed status. While the church is Grade I Listed there are a number of tombstones in the churchyard (Charlton tomb, Rowell headstone and Todd headstone), as well as a Lych Gate which are all individually Grade II Listed structures.
The Lych Gate is a roofed gateway that can be found at the entrance to the churchyard, formerly used at burials for sheltering a coffin until the clergyman's arrival. The one at Mitford was built around 1889 and is constructed using ashlar stone, oak timbers and red tiles. The roof has the initials J.P.0.M. on the rafter feet, which relate to the aforementioned squire Colonel John Philip Osbaldeston-Mitford.
The stained glass windows are to be admired as are a number of other architectural features within the church, including a bell that hangs just inside the church door which is one of the oldest bells in the country, cast no later than 1150, but probably the most curious item is the leper squint. A leper squint, or lychnoscope, is a small window built into the outside wall of the church so that lepers and other non-desirables could see the service without coming into contact with the rest of the populace. There are very few churches left with such a strange architectural feature.
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The Church can be found adjacent to the parking area, through the Lych Gate.
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On road parking is possible by Mitford Church or in the vicinity of the pedestrian gate to the Castle.
Contributed by Andrew Gardner
I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.
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