While there I wanted to check off some castles for my Fifty before Fifty challenge, but there are also two Churches Coservation Trust churches in the area that I wanted to see as part of the same challenge. One is actually in Northumberland and one on the border with Durham.
We thought we’d check them out on our way home and make a day of the journey.
So I checked the website, both were listed as being open daily and off we went.
This is the first one, St Andrew’s at Bywell, Northumberland.
We found it without too much difficulty. It was closed.
I looked on the noticeboards to see if there was any information about a keyholder but there wasn’t.
So we walked around a bit.
This church is old, Saxon in fact and built around 850. It was once part of a thriving market town by the Tyne, though not much remains now.
This is a great example of a Saxon tower though.
Inside St Andrew’s is apparently a ‘glittering reredos’, a mosaic sanctuary floor and some fine Victorian stained glass, but I didn’t get to see any of those.
But what I most wanted to see were the ‘magnificent early Medieval grave slabs’ that the CTC website told me about.
Luckily, some of them were set into the outside walls, although there are, I believe, more inside.
Now St Andrew’s sits next to, and by next to I mean within a few yards of, another Saxon church, the church of St Peter’s. Quite frankly having two Saxon churches in such lovely condition in one village is a little greedy methinks :)
I tried to call the Revd. Bill Rigby whose phone number was further down the sign, to see if he knew who held the keys to St Andrew’s but he was on another call and though ‘the person you are trying to contact knows you are waiting’, he was obviously busy and didn’t answer.
It seemed strange to me that two churches had been built at roughly the same time in such close proximity. A little research told me that St Peter’s was in fact built as the parish church of Bywell and St Andrew’s may originally have been the parish church for the long-since vanished village of Styford.
In between the two churches stands a market cross.
So that was the minor disappointment of our trip – and it didn’t turn out to be that much of a disaster after all. Although I would like to see inside St Andrew’s and I am not sure when I am going to be able to return to Northumberland.
The clock is ticking… only 2.2 years until I’m fifty :)
(The second CTC church of that day will feature in another post all of it’s own)