English Churches - Northumberland

St Cuthbert’s Church, Norham


An attractive Norman church


Norham is a typical Northumbrian green village with old stone houses around the village green with its preaching cross.  The church is to the north west of the village, set in a large churchyard surrounded by trees and bird song.

The first stone church was built in the C9th but apart from a few carved stones none of this survives. The present building dates from 1165 and was built at the same time as Norham Castle by the same architect.

The history of the church is linked to the battles between the English and Scottish crowns. John Balliol did homage to Edward I here in 1292 when he became King of Scotland. In 1320, Robert the Bruce occupied the church while besieging the castle. The east end of the church was damaged and rebuilt in 1340. After the Battle of Flodden in 1513, the church fell out of use and was roofless until 1619 when the parishioners restored the church. The church underwent a major restoration in between 1837-52 when the west tower, aisles and porch were rebuilt. The Norman style was maintained. The tower is narrow, not very tall and rather dwarfed by the rest of the church. The clock was given to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

St Cuthbert’s Church, Norham

The nave and chancel are long and low. Beautiful Norman windows with pillars and carved round arches survive between the buttresses of the nave.

St Cuthbert’s Church, Norham

The windows of the chancel are larger and Early English. There is a small round topped priests door in the south wall of the chancel and a small stone cross above the east end. The south aisle has Victorian copies of the Norman windows and there are elaborate carved arches above the porch door.

Inside, round Norman pillars with round arches separating the nave and south aisle. The pillars between the nave and north aisle are part of the Victorian restoration and are octagonal but have round arches. The nave has a flat wooden ceiling with skylights providing extra light.  The aisles have wooden ceilings with carved beams. There is a lovely round chancel arch with alternating red and white sandstone blocks.
St Cuthbert’s Church, Norham

There is a large C19th organ in the north aisle. At the east end of the south aisle is a simple stone altar. The font at the back of the north aisle is C19th but a copy of the Norman style. Near it is a pillar made up of Celtic stones thought to be from the original church found in the churchyard.

St Cuthbert’s Church, Norham

The dark wood C17th pulpit and Bishop’s stall were brought here from Durham Cathedral by Dr Gilly when he became rector. The arms of the See of Durham are carved on the sides of the chair. There is a large brass eagle lectern.

Steps lead up to the chancel which has a simple stone table altar beneath the C19th stained glass window. The altar rail dates from the 1950s and has the emblems of St Peter (cross keys), St Cuthbert (eider duck) and St Ceolwulph (crown), a King of Northumbria. The church was originally dedicated to all three.

St Cuthbert’s Church, Norham

On the south wall of the chancel set under a beautifully carved canopy is a much eroded effigy of a C14th crusader knight with sword and shield and crossed legs resting on a lion. On the north wall is a memorial to William Sterne Gilly DD who died in 1855 and is buried in the churchyard. He was a canon at Durham Cathedral before becoming rector here. 

There is a round arch at the west end of the church. Above it is an unpainted dark wood carving of the Royal Arms of Charles II. On either side are C19th stained glass windows with St Aidan and St Cuthbert.

There is an exhibition about the Battle of Flodden Field in the church.

The church is open daily and there is plenty of parking nearby.

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