Sometimes, a door can let you enter the past. As you cross its threshold you can imagine all of the historical figures who have made that same step. The doors I have chosen for the WordPress Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge belong to two of Newcastle upon Tyne’s medieval buildings. Ever since the 14th century, people have been entering and leaving through these doorways – from medieval kings to modern day visitors.
Historic churches are very much part of the fabric of North East England. To find some fine examples for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week on the theme of Churches or other religious buildings, I’ve taken a look through my photo archives.
My header image above is of St Mary’s, Gateshead. Much of the current building is Victorian but it retains some medieval features. This church is no longer used for worship and is now Gateshead’s Heritage Centre. Not only does this church building enjoy an impressive view of the River Tyne and the city of Newcastle but it also has the award-winning international music venue, Sage Gateshead as its more recent next-door neighbour. You can’t see it on this photo, but to the right hand side of St Mary’s is Gateshead’s Hilton Hotel. It may be keeping good company nowadays, but back in its medieval history, St Mary’s was the scene of the grisly massacre of William Walcher, Bishop of Durham and his entourage. The church and its land was also commandeered by the Scots Covenanters during the Siege of Newcastle in 1644, part of the English Civil Wars.
The lantern spire of the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas is one of Newcastle’s famous landmarks. This medieval church building is mainly 14th and 15th century, so it too has seen its share of the historical conflicts that affected North East England. One story tells that during the 1644 Siege of Newcastle, the mayor, Sir John Marley, held the Scots prisoners in the church, right underneath the lantern spire, to deter the Scots army from aiming their cannons at the church from their position across the River Tyne at St Mary’s, Gateshead.
Hexham Abbey is the oldest of the churches I have chosen for this challenge, with Wilfred’s original church on this site dating back over 1300 years to the 7th century when Hexham was part of the Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria. The town of Hexham lies only a few miles from Hadrian’s Wall so it is not surprising that the original church was built mainly from stone salvaged from nearby Roman ruins. The Saxon abbey in turn was ruined by Viking invaders in the year 875 and the church was subsequently replaced by an Augustinian Priory around the end of the 12th century. The current building of Hexham Abbey largely dates from the 12th century priory. Only the crypt beneath the abbey was part of the original Saxon building.
Hexham Abbey’s other remaining relic from the Saxon era is a special stone throne called the Frith Stool. Whenever I think of Hexham Abbey I always recall a moment of acute embarrassment on a family visit to the Abbey some years ago when my then toddler son decided it would be fun to jump up and down on this ancient stone relic! I am glad to say that despite the aged caretaker’s look of absolute horror, the Frith Stool survived that invasion just as it had stood up to the Danes in the 9th century 😉
Please do take a look at the Churches and religious buildings that others have found for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.