English Churches - Northumberland

St Andrew’s Church, Corbridge


A Saxon tower with a Roman archway beneath it


Corbridge is an attractive and thriving small town in the Tyne Valley which maintains a good range of shops. St Andrew’s Church is off  the market place and surrounded by a small graveyard with the C14th Vicar’s pele, lived in during the troubled times along the border. Animals were housed in the ground floor. The living quarters were on the first floor.

St Andrew’s Church, Corbridge

Pevsner describes St Andrew’s as the “most important surviving Saxon monument in Northumberland except for Hexham crypt”. A wood church was built here around 674 by St Wilfrid of Hexham Abbey. This was replaced by a stone church in 786 with a square west tower and a long narrow nave.  The church was badly damaged by Viking raids in the C9th. Some repair work was done in the 1100s when the south door was constructed. The rest of the church dates from the 1200s when Corbridge was a very wealthy burgh. Chancel, side aisles and transepts were added. Corbridge suffered repeated raids by the Scots until the end of the C16th. The church was often burnt and the pink staining and blackened stones round the south door are a memory of these times. Although the church was repaired, there was little money to improve the church, which has retained its C13th ground plan. The upper part of the tower was replaced in 1767 when large bell windows were added and there was a later sympathetic Victorian restoration. 

St Andrew’s Church, Corbridge

The tall square west tower is still the Saxon tower. This was originally the main entrance into the church and the blocked doorway can be seen on the west wall. It is now replaced by three small stained glass windows. Above is a single Saxon window. The nave is still the original Saxon nave with side aisles, transepts, chancel and lady chapel added in the C13th with tall thin Early English lancet windows. The chancel is longer and broader than the  nave. There is a sundial dated 1694 on a buttress on the south transept.

St Andrew’s Church, Corbridge

Entry is by the south porch which was built in the early C20th with a stylised Norman doorway with round arches. This protects the original Norman doorway with two rows of chevron carvings. The glass door was given to the church in 2008.

St Andrew’s Church, Corbridge

At the back of the nave is a tall round topped arch leading into the base of the tower, which was the original porch of the church. This is built from Roman stones taken from the nearby Roman fort of Corstopitum. This  is now the baptistry with a C19th octagonal stone font standing on slender legs.

St Andrew’s Church, Corbridge

Arcades with octagonal pillars and pointed arches separate the narrow nave from the side aisles. The original Saxon roof would have been steeply hipped. When the side aisles were added, this was lowered and replaced by a king post roof  and small clerestory windows were inserted above the arches.  Above the back arch on the north wall is the remains of a Saxon window.

St Andrew’s Church, Corbridge

A very tall pointed chancel arch leads into the chancel with a simple altar covered by a brightly coloured modern cloth. Behind is a carved wood reredos dated 1913.

St Andrew’s Church, Corbridge

In the centre is a carved canopy over the altar cross. On either side are small carved figures of St Andrew holding his saltire cross and St Wilfrid holding a model of Hexham Abbey. On the south wall is a small piscina. The C19th choir stalls have lovely carved fronts.

St Andrew’s Church, Corbridge

A carved wood parclose screen separates the chancel from the north or Lady Chapel. This has tiny carved heads below the tracery. The north chapel has a small altar with a wood panelled reredos behind.

The north transept has a tomb arch on the north wall with a carved grave slab. This is Hugo, son of Aslin who was a wealthy burger and probably the principal benefactor of the church. On top of it is another grave slab with a cross and crook carved on it. This is thought to be Robert de Morville, the vicar when the north transept was built. In one of the windows on the east wall is the frosted glass Millennium Window presented by the parish council. It shows a cross rising from the water of chaos. 

The Victorian  pulpit with carved figures of the four evangelists is by the entrance into the south transept. Next to it is a modern stained glass window representing the good works of Dorcas in caring for the poor.

St Andrew’s Church, Corbridge

The south transept was originally the chantry chapel of Thomas a Becket as Robert de Morville’s uncle was one of the four knights who assassinated Thomas. On the walls are the memorials to the dead of both World Wars. There are two benefice boards and also a splendid memorial to John Winship of Ayden who died in 1863.

Before leaving Corbridge, walk round the outside of the churchyard. At the west end is the remains of the King’s oven built around 1300 on the cobbled pavement. This was used to bake bread and meat until 1710. According to the notice on the wall, the small openings in the wall behind led to the stable where the horses pulling the hearse were kept. The heat of the oven helped warm their stable.

The church is open daily and gets a lot of visitors. We parked in the market place although we weren’t sure what the status of this is, as a sign on one of the lamp posts indicates it is permit parking only. There is on street parking on the approaches to the market place and a large free car park on the edge of the town.

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