English Churches - Northumberland

St Peter’s Church, Chillingham


The splendid tomb of Sir Ralph and his lady


St Peter’s Church is a small stone building with a stone slab roof and a small bell cote set in a graveyard surrounded by trees with 18th and 19th century gravestones.

St Peter's Church, Chillingham

Set on the Chillingham estate, the church dates from the same time as the castle, a short distance away. The nave is C12th but the chancel is probably C13th. The roof was replaced in the C16th and the bell cote added in C18th. The porch is C19th.

Entry is through the south porch which has stone benches along the sides and a Norman doorway with a round arch. Inside it is a low building with a wood beam ceiling and C19th box pews. At the back is a small C17th font. On the north wall is a C17th stone memorial with a skull and crossbones at the bottom.

There is a low chancel arch and steps lead to the chancel with a modern stone altar with IHS on the base. The huge rectangular plain glass window, part of the 1967 alterations, with a cross above looks and feels out of place. 

Round arches lead into the transepts. The north transept is very small. The south transept contains the splendid C15th alabaster tomb of the crusader knight Sir Ralph Grey and his wife, Elizabeth. The remains of red and blue paint are still visible and it must have been stunning.

St Peter's Church,
                Chillingham

Lying beside each other in prayer, Sir Ralph has his feet on a lion. The reredos behind them has an angel holding a shield with a lamb on it. On either side are demi-angels with helmets with a ram’s head. Above is a Royalist motto, a C17th addition,  “De bon vouloir servir le Roy”.  Round the base are carvings of bishops, saints and angels set beneath highly carved arches.  In the centre of each side are two larger angels holding a heraldic shield.

St Peter's Church,
                Chillingham

Sir Ralph Grey was quite a character. He took Roxburgh Castle, at night, with just 81 men at arms. Sir Ralph then held the fort against a furious King of Scotland and his armies. During the Wars of the Roses, he fought on different sides to his only son and condemned his son to death afterwards. Originally he was to be hung, drawn and quartered, but later the sentence was reduced to having his head chopped off.

In the C18th a small fireplace was added to the east wall of the south transept. Beside it on the wall is a very old grave slab with two crosses.

The church is open daily and there is parking by it.

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