Corbridge – St Andrew

St Andrew’s church at Corbridge is in the middle of the village – NY987644. I like the church, have worshipped there, regularly lunch with David the Vicar, and they have an excellent website http:// www.corbridgechurch.org.uk/. You may enjoy their Chamber Music Festival in August – website – though I wish they would have an evening Choral service that I could get to. Julie and I like to stop in the village, but there is not a lot of disabled parking. We found a space on Wednesday 20 May – then I went round the church, and Julie went to Forum Books.

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You enter the churchyard off the Market Place through the Lych Gate Memorial. It was erected in 1919 with the names of the 109 villagers who gave their lives in WW1. The church website contains some WW1 memories. It’s a shame there is Perspex over the names.

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In the churchyard is the Vicar’s Pele – built around 1300 as a fortified residence for the vicar after the burning of an earlier property in 1296. I should have got better pictures – it is a three storey tower, 30 feet high with walls 4 feet thick, using lots of Roman-worked stone from the fort of Cortstopitum just down the road. It gets a write up on here – apparently inside you can see the angled stone on which the Vicar laid his Latin bible (or his Railway Magazine). I must find out if the interior is ever open, and should have a proper look round the churchyard.

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Going back to earliest days, the Romans abandoned the settlement around AD400 and its buildings, monuments and adjacent river bridge fell into disuse. The village, which is about half a mile to the east of the Roman fort, was above the level of flooding and there was a fordable crossing of the River Tyne. (I find it odd that the bridge was allowed to fall into disuse, you would think that was worth keeping up). The church was established here by St Wilfrid – the date given is 674. The Anglo-Saxon church, dedicated to St Andrew, is similar to those at Hexham and Bywell. It has a rectangular shape, with a west porch and a chancel.

The nave was twice as high as it is wide, which suggests that there were a couple of storeys – so the priests and monks (it is assumed this is a monastic foundation) could have slept. In 786 it is recorded that Adulf, Bishop of Mayo in Ireland, was consecrated here – the question that begs is “why?” A quick search tells me that Mayo Abbey was founded from Lindisfarne, so that makes some vague sense. Sounds like an excuse for a town-twin (and lots of Guinness). The C10 saw several Danish raids – presumably they sailed up the Tyne – and a raid of 923 destroyed any possible monastery, leaving only the stone church. The tower probably dates to the early C11, though other scholars suggest it is late C11.
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The porch dates to 1919, and the glass door was presented in 2008 by the Atkinson family, including Rowan (aka Blackadder), as a memorial to their mother Ella Mary, who died in 1998. With WW1 in mind, there is a very interesting article about the relationship between Blackadder and WW1 history here. Baldrick (Tony Robinson) has spoken about it, it would be fascinating to know  Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson’s) thoughts on it all. You can see the Norman arch – which stands in a wall which dates to the C13. The window is in memory of Mary Edwards and shows Faith, Hope and Charity.

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I do find it somewhat depressing that we have to have food bank boxes in full view, along with a Christian Aid collection point and the paperwork for Time and Talents.

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The font dates from 1864 and was donated by Lucy Gipps, the Vicar’s sister. Apparently the original, which was probably about 1,000 years old, was destroyed. Looking up is a Roman Arch – 16 feet high and 8 feet wide. Tradition has it that it was a gateway to the Corstopitum fort. If I had looked more closely I could have seen Roman cramp slots (do they mean clamp slots?) and lewis holes for lifting heavy stones into place.

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Walking up the Nave there is a nice modern altar, dedicated 2007. It was designed by Colin Williams Design and made by Treske Lrd of Thirsk. It was given to the church by the Roman Catholic community of the village “to the glory of God and in thanksgiving for the shared use of this ancient church”. This is the All Seasons frontal on the High Altar – made, along with the liturgical banners, by Polly Meynell – website. They are stunning.

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This is a Saxon cross – once outside, now on a window ledge. Some evidence of good work with children. By this stage I realised I had left Julie in Forum Books for long enough. I will return, with my guidebook in hand, and take my time.

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