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THE CHURCH OF HALTWHISTLE.
XII.—THE CHURCH OF HALTWHISTLE.
BY THE Rev. C. E. ADAMSON.
[Read on the 31st day of May, 1893.] The church of Halt whistle is a good and thoroughly characteristic work of the early part of the thirteenth century. Unfortunately it has been very badly treated at rarious times, but, indeed, considering its proximity to the Border, it is wonderful that it has come down to us with so little serious injury. At the beginning of this century (as the picture in Hodgson's Northumberland shows) the aisles had eighteenth century sash windows and the roof was of a very low pitch, but sufficient traces remained to enable the late R. J. Johnson, in 1870, to restore the original lancets and the original pitch of the roof. The plan of the church is peculiar. The nave and aisles are so wide in proportion to their length that they appear to form a square, while the long chancel seems almost as long as the nave. The actual dimensions of the nave and aisles are, however, 64 feet by 44 feet, and of the chancel 46 feet by 19 feet.
A Haltwhistle gentleman lately visiting at Crail, in Fifeshire, noticed that the church there was very like the church at Haltwhistle, and when the minister of Crail afterwards paid a visit to Haltwhistle and inspected that church, the two gentlemen agreed that the two churches were as nearly similar as could be. The abbey of Arbroath, to which Haltwhistle belonged, had property in ‘Karale,' and thus it would appear that both churches were built from the same or a similar set of plans; and at Haltwhistle there are details about the mouldings, etc., which, in the opinion of Mr. W. S. Hicks," speak of a Scottish origin.
The nave has lofty and dignified arcades of four arches, and doors, north and south, opposite to each other. The bases of the pillars, as existing before the restoration, showed that the floor line must have been, where they stand, about one foot higher than the floor where the responds, east and west, stand. These responds have fillets of an apparently later date than the general appearance of the building would indicate. The label moulding of the nave arcade has a dog tooth ornamentation. The capitals of the pillars have attracted some notice. The bell of the capital, which is circular at its base, gradually changes into a very irregular octagon. The abacus follows the shape of the bell and the members of the arch seem to spring from the edge of this curious irregular octagon. The west end of the church was rebuilt in 1870.
'I visited the church with the vicar, the Rev, Canon Lowe, and Mr. W. 8. Hicks, the architect. Canon Lowe carefully watched all the work done during the restoration in 1870, and I am therefore greatly indebted to him as well as to the technical knowledge of Mr. Hicks in my description of the building.
The chancel contains several objects of interest. The east window consists of three lofty lancets of great beauty, with richly-moulded trefoil inner arches and delicate shafts. It is now filled with excellent glass by Morris. The reredos is a representation of the Visit of the Magi. The piscina is said to be an exact reproduction of the original work. The sedilia have been very beautiful, though there is a very curious admixture of bold and delicate work in the mouldings. In the south wall is a fifteenth century low side window of two lights, square-headed, now blocked up, and at the restoration traces were seen of a former window in nearly, but not quite the same position. There are four ancient grave-covers within the altar rail, two bearing the arms of Blenkinsop, two those of Thirlwall. On one of the former lies a recumbent effigy, possibly that of Thomas de Blenkinsop, who died in 1388. The shield, which is very small in proportion, with the arms containing the three well-known garbs, is fastened to the knight's left arm, and therefore, as the effigy lies, it is almost out of sight. The other grave-cover bears, besides the arms, a beautifully flowered and traceried cross, a sword, a staff, and a scrip. These two stones are probably in situ. The other two were found buried under the eastern arch of the south arcade of the nave. During the restoration, marks were found indicating that an altar had been attached to the east wall of the south aisle, and there is a broken piscina with a drain on the south side of the aisle. It seems not unlikely, therefore, that this was a chantry of the Thirlwalls. The grave-covers have each floriated crosses of a similar character to that on the Blenkinsop stone, and the arms within a bordure a chevron between three boars' heads. On the south side of the chancel is the tombstone of John Ridley of Walltown, TOMBSTONE OF JOHN RIDLEY.
brother-in-law of Dr. Nicholas Ridley, bishop of London. It formerly stood on two dwarf pillars in the middle of the chancel. Under two coats of arms placed side by side one showing a wall with three turrets, the other a chevron between three falcons with jesses and bells, is the following inscription (in capital letters and lines as shown) :
In the soffit of the chancel arch are two square holes evidently for the rood beam, and above are hooks for the chains or rods which supported the arms of the croes. On either side of the arch are small brackets for figures.
The font which stands at the west end of the church is very remarkable. The bowl only is ancient, the pedestal having been renewed at the restoration when it replaced one of similar form, which itself was comparatively modern. The exterior of the bowl is altogether of the rudest character and uneven in form. The shape is hexagonal. On one side is a representation of a face surrounded by rays which is evidently intended for our Lord; next to it an intricate knot is carved; on the third side is a group of thistle heads; the fourth has a Maltese cross; the fifth a fleur de lys with the letters IS; while the sixth has another knot. At some period it has had a fixed cover as the holes made in the rim for its support clearly indicate.
Near the upper edge, the following has been incised : ‘R.P. July the 27th 1676. R.P. are no doubt the initials of Robert Priestman who was the vicar at that date. The interior of the bowl, however, and the moulding round the top are carefully and accurately worked, and moreover show signs of considerable wear and tear, while the outside is as sharp as if it had been recently cut. Can it be that the old font was recut in 1676 by some unskilful mason who incised upon its new sides imperfect copies of ornamentation which he had seen elsewhere ?
There is in the churchyard what appears to be a holy water stoup. It consists of a very roughly cut semi-circular bowl fixed upon a short round pillar, and looks as if it had originally stood against a wall.
The following inscription on a tombstone in the churchyard deserves mention on account of the pathos which it expresses:
D. 0. M.
Quiescit in Domino
Nov 22 M'. Robert Tweddell Gent" of Monkhazleton in the County of Durham. He was no doubt connected with the family of that name at Unthank.
The exterior of the church is severely plain but very dignified, and it is beautifully situated to the south of the town. The chief entrance in former days would appear to have been the very richly moulded door on the north side now covered by the modern vestry.
To the south-east of the older portion of the churchyard stands the picturesque old vicarage house against whose northern walls the soil