St John Lee – St John of Beverley

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The DAC tour bus powered down the A69, then turned up a very minor road. St John’ church is in the middle of nowhere – NY933656 – though the noise from the A69 disturbs the spot. There is a huge graveyard on the north side of the road, and the church sits surrounded by another graveyard with lots of mature trees. There is a lot of work to do, and some wonderful stones.

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There has obviously been a church here for many centuries – right back to the C10 century. Their website claims that “The church appears to have been built on the site of the oratory dedicated to St Michael referred to by the Venerable Bede in his ‘History of the English Church and People’. Our neighbouring parish of Warden also lays claim to this – but Warden did not belong to Hexham until the 12th century whereas the ville and oratory to which John of Beverley resorted during his time as Bishop of Hexham (692 – 705) were on the lands of the Bishopric – it was the property of the Priors of Hexham. Prior Richard in 1130 says that Earneshow – or Eagles Mount a former name for the promontory on which the current church stands – belonged to Hexham. This friendly rivalry continues!”

The current church dates to 1818 – designed by John Dobson. It was remodelled and the Chancel added in 1886 by W.S. Hicks. This lovely roof dates from 1886.

DSC05105DSC05104A lively set of noticeboards at the west end. Rather hidden are what Pevsner describes as “a few medieval fragments under the tower”. A handwritten notice refers to The Oakwood Stone. “This stone, which was probably the cap-stone of a prehistoric grave, was discovered in the shadow of the beech trees that line the road to Oakwood and Anick. Many years ago it must have been dragged out of the field during ploughing and dumped. The chain and plough marks are very clear. The ‘cup and ring’ design on it is characteristic of the Neolithic/early Bronze Age carvings that are found throughout Northumberland. The patterns are made by a hard stone pick – always on sandstone in this county. The date – around 2,000 BC. It is appropriate that this stone should come to rest here, as it was of religious significance to its makers. There have been burial mounds along this ridge – the round barrows that contained crouched burials or cremations. This stone may have come from one.” There is also an uninscribed Roman altar, later converted to a sundial.

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This memorial is to Simon William Richmond Newburn, killed in action ?1906 (I photoed it from a bad angle to get the date). The Chancel floor is marble, the East Window not very spectacular.

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I don’t know who the glass is by. One window is a War Memorial – I like George’s dragon. Another has Benedict, John of Beverley and Bede. A third has Northumbrian saints Oswald, Oswin and Edwin.

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Outside is a most wonderful Rectory – Hicks, 1886. Trouble is, if I tried to depose Jeremy and come here, Julie would never cope with the roads! The church website is worth an explore – http://www.sjlwn.org – you can listen to his sermons (you can only read mine at http://www.pontelandstmary.co.uk). They have some good things going on.

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