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The Christian Heritage of the North East

Michael Sadgrove


The Christian Heritage of the North East

Michael Sadgrove With Val Horsler and Kate Tristram Associate editor Sarah Riddell


Dedicated to the memory of John Buchanan Riddell John and Eileen Suddes Isobel Fenwick who loved these landscapes

Michael Sadgrove is the principal author and photographer; all first-person sections are his, along with other parts of the text. Val Horsler and Kate Tristram have written lengthy sections which occur, unattributed, throughout. Other contributors are identified by name against their pieces. Title page: St Cuthbert’s, Corsenside (see page 46).


C ontents Foreword The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury 6 Preface The Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham 8 The North East: a personal perspective 10 part i :

A Sense

of

Place 24

Churches by the sea 33 Churches in the wilderness 41 Cells, shrines and sanctuaries 48 Ruined churches 51 Churches in the townscape 56 Durham: the mystic heart of the North East 61 part ii : T he

Saints

of the

North 66

The coming of the saints 69 Cuthbert’s places 80 Manuscript treasures of the golden age 108

part iii :

Christendom

in the

North East 116

The coming of the monasteries 126 The Counts Palatine 141 Churches and fortifications 155 City and town parishes 161 part iv :

From Past

to

Present 170

Steps to the modern world 177 Catholics, Anglicans and Puritans in the North East 178 Landscapes of dissent 182 Roman Catholic churches 187 Anglican churches in urban and industrial settings 190

Epilogue 198 Bibliography 200 List of Subscribers 202 Index 204 Acknowledgements and Picture Credits 208


F oreword I am delighted to write a foreword to this book. By the time Landscapes of Faith is published, I shall no longer be a bishop in North East England. But in the short year I have been in Durham, I have found my love for this region reawakened. Its landscapes, towns and cities, industrial heritage and above all its wonderful people and communities all play a part in creating the North East’s distinctiveness. When I was appointed to Durham, I was told that the diocese wanted a bishop who, wherever he might be, would always have his heart in the North East. I have, and will always have. In particular, I have found myself profoundly inspired by the life and example of Cuthbert. What other part of England has a saint like him? When I was kneeling at his shrine at a service in Durham Cathedral recently, the Dean who was next to me whispered in my ear, ‘When you go to Canterbury, don’t forget St Cuthbert’. I promised that I would take him with me as an inspiration and

example. He will keep alive for me the rich Christian past that has shaped this region, and its present where the lived Christian faith of local churches and communities continues to bear witness to the gospel and to bring hope to society as Cuthbert and the other saints of the north did in their day. So as I begin a new ministry as Archbishop, I warmly commend this book about Christian heritage in North East England. And because this is a genuinely ecumenical project, I believe that all the other church leaders in the region would want to associate themselves with these thoughts. The visit of the Lindisfarne Gospel Book to the North East this year is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our faith and find new inspiration to fulfil God’s call to the church in our own demanding times.

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The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury The Feast of St Cuthbert, 2013


F o r e wo r d

Justin Welby at his enthronement as Bishop of Durham, November 2011. Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham, stands at the left.

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P reface

T

he publication of this book fulfils a cherished hope. Ever since I first visited North East England more than 40 years ago, and especially since coming to live and work here, I have been fascinated by the rich Christian history of this region. The story of how Christianity arrived in the North East more than 13 centuries ago, and of the saints who populated Saxon Northumbria, continues to inspire many people today. In an era so different from that of their Saxon

forebears, large numbers continue to be drawn to the places most closely associated with this story such as Lindisfarne, Bamburgh, Hexham, Wearmouth, Jarrow and Durham. These places are among many that bear testimony to a Christian vision and faith that date back to a time when even ‘England’ did not yet exist as a nation. But England’s subsequent debt to the North East is incomparable, through both the pioneering journeys of its saints to bring Christian faith to other parts of our island and beyond, and the ‘golden age’ of Northumbrian art, culture and civilisation that spanned the century from the arrival of Aidan to the death of Bede. But the North East’s ‘landscapes of faith’ are not only those of the Saxon period. The Norman Conquest, the high Middle Ages, the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution all marked the region in profound ways; their legacy in buildings, landscapes and townscapes is all around us. To understand Christianity in the North East (as anywhere else) means paying attention to these traces and learning how to ‘read’ them. In my own role as a Christian leader in North East England, where I share responsibility for one of the world’s greatest sacred buildings, to understand the journey that has brought us to where we are is not only endlessly fascinating: it is essential. And this is as true of the more recent decades that

The ruins of Eggleston church.

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P r e fac e

tell of the decline of organised religion in the region as it is of the centuries when it not only flourished but held political as well as spiritual power. It is also as true of churches in the dense, tangled urban townscapes of the region as it is of those in its (to visitors, better known) rural and scenic landscapes. This book is a celebration of the North East’s ‘landscapes of faith’ for those who already know and love them, and a vade mecum, an invitation, to others to discover them. I have been privileged to play a part in both writing for the book and providing some of the photographs. It’s a cliché to talk about a labour of love, but that is what it has been. If Landscapes of Faith helps readers to share this personal passion, and gain insight into who we are as Christian people and communities in the North East and where we have come from, I shall be delighted. The book’s publication has been timed to coincide with the visit of the Lindisfarne Gospel Book to the North East. 2013 is a year for the region to honour its Christian past, to reconnect with it at a deeper level and to ask what it may have to say about the future of Christian mission in this part of England. But its scope is much wider than the ‘classic’ period of North Eastern Saxon Christianity. I wanted this book to try to capture the spirit of the place by taking readers off the beaten track: hunting down some less well known or downright obscure Christian buildings and sites that nevertheless have their own distinctive colour and accent. Sadly, it has not been possible to go everywhere on this journey: some well-known churches and chapels that deserved inclusion have regrettably had to be omitted for reasons of space. If this book were a directory of sites in the region, such omission would be unforgivable. But for a celebration, I hope it is permissible to allow the few to speak for the many and that our selection does justice to the richness of the region and its heritage. The Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham Wolsingham parish church.

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T he N orth E ast :

a personal perspective

W

hen you head north up the eastern side of England with the country’s Pennine backbone to your left, and leave Yorkshire behind to cross the River Tees, you enter another country. Whether it is at Croft Bridge where in the Middle Ages new bishops of Durham were welcomed into their diocese (and still are), or near Darlington where the world’s passenger railways were born, or where the river becomes tidal below the urban sprawl of Stockton and Middlesbrough where the century-old Transporter Bridge looms over the skyline, you are crossing a real threshold. There are no signs by the road to tell you this, nothing to identify the land north of the Tees as a place with distinctive landscapes, culture and history. But this is North East England. It is not Yorkshire and not Scotland; nor is it just generic ‘north’. It is its own place that is defined by its strong character and sense of identity. Its people are fiercely loyal: at home or in exile, they are North Easterners. They are proud of what has gone into making their region what it is: its natural beauty of wild upland and remote seascapes, buildings that speak of a long heritage from both ancient and medieval times, the legacy of industry especially lead mining, railways, coal, steel and shipbuilding; its saints and long Christian history and a spirituality that seems to suffuse its soil; and most of all the warmth, good humour and resilience of its communities.

I am not a native North Easterner. I was brought up in London and my first visit to Durham was as a prospective student at the university. It was a bitterly cold November afternoon, one of those days the North East does so well when a lowering gun-metal sky seemed to glance off the cathedral’s towers. I loved Durham at once, even in those now far-off days when the sandstone buildings were blackened with the coal dust of ages, and the narrow streets with their uneven setts were deserted and dark after sundown and felt a trifle risky, and you realised that this was not some glowing Oxford of the north but a rather different

The cathedral from Durham railway station.

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T h e N o rt h E a s t :

a personal perspective

Durham Cathedral.

kind of place, more withdrawn, more gritty, even dour, a cathedral and university city to be sure but one indissolubly wedded to a working north-eastern town. I did not in the end go to Durham: my parents persuaded me to study at an older university further south. So it was many years before I came back. When I did, it was to live and work in Northumberland as a parish priest. Alnwick, like Durham, is a sandstone town with a medieval church and castle. Again like Durham, Georgian houses front the narrow streets and its eponymous river, the Aln, is not far from emptying itself into

the North Sea. In the 1980s, before the world-famous Alnwick Garden had become one of the North East’s must-see sights, it was a quiet market town serving a wide agricultural hinterland in north Northumberland. We were a young family; one of our children was born there, and she and her siblings quickly adopted the Northumberland patois they learned in the school playground. My wife and I struggled at times to make sense of their lilt; but I was quietly pleased (and maybe a bit envious) that they were becoming indigenised, for we, their parents, were kindly but firmly regarded as off-comers.

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Landscapes

of

Here at the church of St Michael the Archangel the parish gathered Sunday by Sunday, and some would come on weekdays too, to worship and to offer the life of their town to God. I felt keenly tuned in to the cycle of the seasons. In a place where the fortunes of town and parish were inextricably bound up, several calendars flowed into one another. There was liturgical time with its rhythms of feasts and fasts, special and ordinary time: Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, and the long season after Trinity. There was natural time with its focus on the agricultural year like Rogation and harvest. There was civic time when the wider community would come together under the sacred canopy of its parish church for mayoral services and remembrance ceremonies. I learned how even in a secularised age, some sense of connection to the sacred remained deeply embedded in the psyche of rural communities. Perhaps this is strongest the further away you are from the big cities. In those days, Alnwick was about an hour’s drive from Newcastle city centre; they were worlds apart, enough for north Northumberland to feel like a deep, silent, remote country of a kind that is rare anywhere else in England. From Alnwick I would make forays on Sundays to other churches in the neighbourhood: for a while I looked after four altogether. One of these was at a place called Edlingham. I had to learn that in Northumberland the suffix is pronounced softly: ‘Edlinjhum’; moreover I had to listen carefully to distinguish it from Ellingham and Eglingham not far away. This church is just off the road that crosses the high empty moors west of Alnwick. From that road you look across to the unmistakeable profile of the round bare-backed Cheviot Hills, the loneliest hills in England. Cheviot and Hedgehope were high enough for snow to lie on the tops for most of the winter. Down in the valley below the road was the village. In those days there were a handful of houses there (there are more today), together with a ruined castle and a longdisused railway viaduct. I wondered what a tiny Norman church with parts that were plausibly Saxon was doing in such an out of the way place. I would learn later that isolated churches like this are not uncommon in the North East, and that they often mark a

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Faith

Left: St Michael’s, Alnwick. Below: St John the Baptist, Edlingham, with the 16thcentury castle (now cared for by English Heritage) and the now defunct North Eastern Railway viaduct in the background.


P a rt I • A S e n s e

of

P l ac e

Holy Island, viewed from Lindisfarne Castle.

community’s ancient connection with one of the saints, or lands that belonged to a distant monastery, as here. But to me as a young incumbent in the 1980s, it was not only the history that captivated me. It was the sense of place that belonged to this little church in its moorland setting. When the wind was up, as it frequently was, it would surge round the church like a tide, rattling the windows and whistling through the short sturdy tower. In midwinter, when you made the journey across the moor at your peril, the water in the font or the communion cruets could be frozen hard. But these conditions taught me that Christianity in the North East has always been set in a tough, bracing environment. That church connected a tiny worshipping community with saints more than a thousand years ago who had trod rough moorland tracks to preach the gospel, immersed themselves in the sea to recite the psalms throughout the night, sought isolation in caves and on rocky islands in order to give themselves more perfectly to a life of devotion to God. I learned in Northumberland not to romanticise the North East. When I left the region and spent 16 years working in urban cathedrals in other parts of England, the North East continued to exert an irresistible pull. I brought pilgrims regularly to Holy Island and introduced them to the idea that the Christianisation

of most of England was due not to Augustine of Canterbury but to Aidan and his disciples on Lindisfarne: that the Christianity that eventually took permanent hold on England came out of the north, not the south. But I had seen too much of the North East’s underside to fall for the idea that the region was some kind of paradisal idyll with a beguiling lilt. The relationship between holy sites, local culture, landscape and spirituality is precisely what this book will explore, but it is elusive, not easy to put into words. There is a whole industry dedicated to ‘Celtic spirituality’ (so called), with an endless stream of feel-good literature focused on places like Lindisfarne, Jarrow and Durham, but they do not always portray past and present with accuracy. In a different way, the townscapes of Tyneside and the beaches and countryside of the region, beautiful as they are, can also present a very partial perspective on the North East. There is a danger of presenting a rose-hued picture that airbrushes out the shadows, the complexity and the ambivalence. For example: in past centuries this region has been fought over more than any other part of England. It has known violence and bloodshed that left an indelible memory in its citizens over centuries. I began to grasp this when I came back to the region early in the new millennium to work in Durham. The cathedral, so perfect in

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its scale and proportions, is for many people the world’s masterpiece of Romanesque architecture. It has more than once been acclaimed the nation’s favourite building. Yet I had not stopped to consider how this great Norman cathedral would be perceived by those who watched it go up at the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries. They would never have seen building on this colossal scale. And if they were Saxons, it would for ever remind them that there was a new power in the land now, a brutally powerful Norman hegemony. And while the cathedral was undeniably built, in the French manner and under French bishops, for the glory of God and of Cuthbert his saint, it was also an intended symbol of human power, a meaning unambiguously reinforced by William’s great fortress alongside. This merging of different kinds of power and aspiration, divine and human, is true of every church building we visit, but it is not often as conspicuous or as well documented as at Durham. I have come to link this with another aspect of north-eastern life. When I arrived at Durham, a distinguished academic told me that I would never understand the cathedral until I had witnessed what took place there annually on the second Saturday of July. This, as all County Durham people know, is the day of the Big Meeting or Durham Miners’ Gala. On that day, thousands pour into the city from across the county and well beyond. The pit villages proudly process their miners’ banners and colliery bands in a parade that takes several hours to wind through the city’s streets. There is a rally by the riverside, and once upon a time it was required of all aspiring Labour politicians to make sure they were seen there. As part of this grand ceremonial, there has been a service in the cathedral for over a century during which new banners are brought in behind their colliery bands to be blessed. It is striking that so many of those who attend the service are young – too young ever to have worked in the pits or even remember when their fathers did. And for most people, it is a poignant comment on what has happened to a once proud industry of which the North East could boast across the

The Chapel of the Nine Altars in the cathedral.The shrine of St Cuthbert is on the right.


T h e N o rt h E a s t :

a personal perspective

world – a service that holds up a mirror to the ambiguities of power and powerlessness in the working life of the North East. Like the Saxons a millennium ago, who found themselves the bewildered victims of the new sophisticated political and technological era ushered in by the Normans, the gala stands for something that belongs squarely to the distinct geography and history of the region and to its many communities suffering hardship today. The cathedral’s sense of place is not simply its landscape setting on the peninsula above the gorge of the River Wear. It is also that it has come to belong to the people of County Durham. There is much more that could be said about the North East as a place not of romantic fantasy but of truth. Its churches reflect the often tough conditions in which so many have had to live, whether because of the natural environment or the misfortunes of events. There are a few show-piece villages with charming churches, but none that have the self-conscious beauty of the Cotswolds or East Anglia. There are fine monastic ruins, though not on the scale of north Yorkshire. Mostly, the North East’s churches are like its people: honest in character, plain-speaking if you will, not grandiose or showy, frequently modest and unassuming. Even the great landowners did not often build proudly and even in the heyday of mining and heavy industry, the high water mark of the North East’s prosperity, many lived in conditions of abject poverty. Jarrow is a timeless symbol of the Venerable Bede, but it is also indelibly associated with the Jarrow March of 1936 which became legendary in drawing attention to the plight of the Tyneside unemployed. And today once again, it is the part of England that has been worst hit by the economic downturn. This is a region that knows what it is to suffer as well as to celebrate. In some ways ‘North East England’ is an idea, a place of the mind that carries powerful images and associations. It is difficult to put into words what defines a place or how we feel about it; but we recognise it when we see it.

Durham peninsula.

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Landscapes

of

Faith

bathe in this cold sea. In Durham, where coal was king, the low cliffs once overlooked beaches blackened with the spoil of mining, but now the sands are light again as they are reclaimed as a heritage coast. On the west side are high hills: the North Pennines and northwards, the Cheviots. This is wild remote country: not precipitous and craggy but lonely as no other part of England is. Few roads cross from west to east, and they are regularly snow-bound in

The Jarrow March, on its way south to London, 1936.

What

then is the

North East?

Geographically, it is the territory that lies between two rivers. The Tees and the Tweed mark its traditional boundaries even if in Saxon times it included the eastern marches of Scotland, and more recently the local government region strayed southwards to embrace the northern fringes of Yorkshire that look towards industrial Teesside. This book stays, mainly, with the traditional geography; so we are talking about the pre-1974 counties of Durham and Northumberland that now include Tyne and Wear. This is almost a peninsula of England. On the east is the North Sea whose currents sweep down from the Arctic and bring the sea frets that are a well-known feature of the climate. In Northumberland the coastline has brilliant white sands backed by dunes, its beautiful beaches often empty, for only the most stalwart

winter. Bishops of Durham had estates in the Pennine Dales where there was lead to be mined and wealth to be had. The forlorn relics of that industry are dotted all over this whale-backed landscape; now, on those hills and on the grassy hump-shaped Cheviots there are far more sheep than people. Between these ranges of hills is the only low-level crossing point, the Tyne Gap, an ancient east–west route along which marches the line of Hadrian’s Wall, and which is now exploited by the A69 and the Newcastle–Carlisle railway. Between the hills and the sea lies the fertile coastal plain. It is well watered by the North East’s three great rivers: the Tees, Wear and Tyne (the Tweed belongs more to Scotland than to England, and only for a few miles does it define the border). Each river, and its valley, has its own personality. Much of the heavy industry of the North East was concentrated at the large conurbations at their mouths: shipbuilding on Tyneside and Wearside, steel on Teesside. In Durham and the south-eastern corner of Northumberland, coal dominated the landscape, though the mines are gone now. Northumberland north of Tyneside and the coal belt was and is deeply quiet country. Where Durham had pithead wheels, Northumberland had castles and bastions aplenty, reminders of centuries of border wars that raged across this frontier territory. In both counties there is a strong sense of a south–north axis. Millions of travellers rush across it north and south each year along its trunk roads and the East Coast Main Line. The A1 was the low-level Roman road to the north, crossing the Scottish border just north of the Tweed. The A68 or Dere Street was the high-level route over Carter Bar trodden by Roman legions; with its swinging switchbacks and wide vistas this beautiful road offers one of the best drives in England.

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P a rt I • A S e n s e

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At Wearmouth lies Sunderland, a city since 1993. This is an ancient place, but it is not the Wear’s only city, for Durham lies only a few miles upstream. Both are the sites of medieval monasteries where learning flourished, and today both cities are home to universities which, along with the universities of Tyneside, make the North East a flourishing centre of higher education. The Tyne has given birth to the city of Newcastle, a Roman station near the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall. Here, as in South Shields across the river, you can come across impressive Roman remains amid the densely built-over environment of a modern conurbation. Newcastle is a true regional capital whose liveliness is legendary

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both for shoppers and clubbers. Together with Gateshead on the south bank of the river, it has reinvented itself as a vigorous focus for culture and the arts that has attained national significance. Some of England’s best urban architecture is found on Tyneside, from Newcastle’s Grainger Town tumbling steeply down the north bank to the river to the unique procession of the Tyne Bridges that greet passengers arriving from the south by train and, from recent years, the Sage, Gateshead, and the Millennium Bridge. These are what people think of as the icons of the North East, along with the Angel of the North by the A1 at Gateshead, Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland’s castles and bastions, pit villages and the memory

The Roman fort at Corstopitum (Corbridge).

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T h e N o rt h E a s t :

a personal perspective

of coal staithes, the dense urban squalor of ‘Catherine Cookson County’ and sand dunes, sea frets and the grey North Sea. But for many, it is the ancient Christian sites that are indelibly associated with the North East. As we have already seen, there is often a strong sense of place that marries these old churches, chapels, monastic ruins and hermit cells to a landscape that seems not to have changed in centuries – or at least this is how our imagination reads it. We think of the Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, and the name itself is enough to conjure up the image of Lindisfarne, the Insula Sacra or Holy Island off the coast of north Northumberland, connected to the mainland at low tide by its causeway. It was from here that Aidan and his disciples set out to Christianise Oswald’s Northumbrian kingdom. Here too was Cuthbert, whose devotion, humility, love of the natural world and care for the poor and needy became legendary and who, in his quest for solitude, established a hermitage on one of the rocky, inhospitable Farne Islands south of Lindisfarne, where he died in 687. At the same time, a young man who had entered the monastery divided between the two sites at Wearmouth and Jarrow was becoming known as one of Europe’s finest scholars. Bede wrote extensively on subjects as diverse as the Bible, astronomy, poetry and history and it is thanks to him that we

Above left: Roman remains at South Shields (Arbeia). Above: St Nicholas’s Cathedral and All Saints, both in Newcastle, reflected in the glass of the Sage, Gateshead. Below: The causeway linking Holy Island to the mainland.

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Landscapes

know so much about the Saxon church in England, particularly in his native north. When he died in 735, the greatest century of ‘Northumbria’s golden age’ came to an end. Its incomparable achievements in learning, art and culture were already legendary across the known world. But threats loomed on the horizon. Successive waves of Viking invasions led to the momentous decision of the Lindisfarne community to leave their island, taking the body of Cuthbert and their other treasures with them, and find a more secure home inland. In 875 they embarked on the long search, which was to last more than a century. Wherever they stopped with Cuthbert’s relics, churches and chapels were built to commemorate the saint’s resting place. A mantle of holy sites dedicated to the saint wrapped itself around the north of England. We could say that ‘Cuthbert’s places’ came to define the very idea of ‘north’ as we understand it in England. In 995 the Cuthbert community arrived on the peninsula of Dunholm where it established its permanent home and where, about a century later, the Benedictine monks from the re-founded monastery at Jarrow, the site of Bede’s community, began to construct a great new building, the present Romanesque cathedral. Durham Cathedral is thus the last and greatest achievement of a long line of church buildings that honour Cuthbert’s memory and go right back to the saint himself. Durham, Cuthbert’s final resting place, is the place at which this long history is gathered up and symbolised. This chain of sacred sites associated with a single saint is unique in England. And it is this factor that is inextricably bound up with the cultural and

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spiritual identity of the North East. The people of the North East were once known as haliwerfolc, ‘people of the saint’, and this was remembered in the later era of the high Middle Ages when the palatinate bishopric and the cathedral priory who held sway across so much of the region understood themselves as continuing in the succession of St Cuthbert and his community. When the priory, now powerful and prosperous, conducted its business or entered into litigation, it did so to preserve the honour of St Cuthbert. The saint, the land, its communities and its sacred buildings continued to be woven into a foundation myth that was of unique and defining importance for the character and Inset: ‘St Hilda, the Venerable Bede, St Wilfrid, Caedmon and Bishop Colman’, St Hilda’s, Danby. Left: Cuthbert, as depicted in a window at St Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh.


Late afternoon in the cloister at Durham Cathedral.

European world. The church, however, finds ways of reinventing itself, sometimes radically: at its best, church architecture from the past two centuries can be as great as that of any preceding era when it is true to itself and its vision, and does not fall into the

shape of the region up to modern times. This is why Cuthbert is so central to this book. But the story does not stop there. The North East’s cultural and religious patrimony has become richly diverse in succeeding centuries. Its churches, be they in rural or suburban contexts, village, market town or city, show how in every age social change and developments in the understanding of theology, mission and social responsibility have profoundly influenced church architecture and design. This is especially true of the era since the industrial revolution: modernity, industrialisation and secularisation have brought undreamed-of challenges to all the mainstream Christian churches. Ruined churches and chapels testify to the ‘melancholy, long, withdrawing roar’ of Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’, a poem in which the ebbing tide is a metaphor for the decline of organised religion in the contemporary western

trap of building out of nostalgia for the age of faith. But the late 20th century brought with it new uncertainties and questions about the role of church buildings in a postmodern age. The aspiration of leaving a lasting legacy of built heritage does not sit easily with the insight that all institutions, including the church, need to learn how to travel more lightly. Buildings, after all, need be merely functional: four walls and a roof are all that is needed to shelter a community of faith and give it a place for worship and outreach. It is enough, surely, that churches are warm, comfortable and serviceable, inexpensive to build and easy to maintain. Or is it? Is usefulness enough to lift the spirits and draw out of local communities some vision or aspiration that lies beyond their daily horizons? This was what was done for the people of England by the towers and spires of the churches that have populated the landscape for centuries. They are a reminder of the fundamental claim of the Christian faith that it is as concerned with the particularities of human life as with its generalities. In other words, every human community is given value because it matters to God. Investment in maintaining our priceless heritage of church buildings, adapting them intelligently and sensitively for contemporary use and, where necessary, building afresh in ways that celebrate setting, beauty and form and that demonstrate the best of which we are capable – this is a truly spiritual task. In this, the North East offers plenty of precedent. But to do this well, we need to know our history, read our landscapes, understand our communities. We need to sit still in our North East’s sacred spaces and listen to what they have to tell us. This book is offered as a contribution to this all-important conversation with our past, our present and our future.

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Landscapes of Faith: The Christian Heritage of the North East