The Old Church of the Holy Cross
Wallsend, Tyne & Wear.


Wallsend is the eastern end of Hadrians wall which stretched across the south of Northumberland and north of Cumbria, England. At the time of the Roman Empire this was the end of the world. To the north were the barbarous Scott and Pictti whose troublesome ways had lead the Emperor Hadrian to move his northern border from a position between the Clyde and Forth to a border between the Tyne and the Solway. The Romans called the place Segedunum.

There has been a church on the Holy Cross site since the time of the Norman conquest. It was an offshoot of the monastery at Tynemouth. The following diagram of the church which was published in 1910 (Knowles W.H.) shows when the various parts of the building were carried out.

Plan of Church

Since the time of its foundation the area in which it stands has changed a great deal. Coal mining and ship building came to dominate the area and the remnants of this industrial past can still be seen all around. A few years ago the local council (North Tyneside MBC.) tided up the site and fenced off the grave yard and church.

The following stories and pictures have been gleaned from a number of sources including my own camera. It would seem that this little church has had an interesting past. Hopefully it will also have an interesting future.

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Wallsend Old Church.
Monthly Chronicle; April 1888.
North-Country Lore and Legend.
The remains of the church of the Holy Cross, of which we give an engraving, are situated at some distance to the north of the village of Wallsend, which of course derives its name from the Roman Wall. The Church and Churchyard occupy a plateau which is really on the general level of the land about it; but deep ravines surround the site on three sides, the assent from which is from 70 to 75 feet. The whole enclosure suggests a Roman station; and, though there is no direct evidence that it was used as such, it seems almost certain that the Romans would place an outpost on the spot to prevent surprise by an assembly of hostile natives in the ravines.

It will be seen from our drawing that little of the sacred edifice remains. The stones of which it was built were evidently brought from the Roman wall; some of them are indisputably Roman. It is supposed that the church was erected about the middle or the close of the twelfth century, and that was contemporaneous with the Norman Keep of Newcastle. The style is between early and late Norman. Whether it was preceded by a Saxon building on the same site cannot be determined. Wallsend was included in the parish of Jarrow, and it is well known that the monastery and church of Jarrow originated in Saxon times.

About ninety years ago the church had become so dilapidated that a gentleman named Clarke, who then owned the Wallsend estate, conceived the idea of repairing it, and for that purpose took the roof off, after which divine service was performed for some time in the school room; but, having soon after disposed of the property, Mr. Clarke abandoned his project, and left the venerable building to go to wreck, which process was accelerated by a quantity of the fallen stones
being taken to assist in rebuilding the barn and stable adjoining the parsonage-house. The parishioners by-and-by procured an act for the building of a new church - the church of St. Peter's near by - which was concentrated in 1809, by the Lord Bishop of St. David's.

The ordinance survey gives the name of the church as that of the "Holy Cross." Ryton Church bears the same name. No other instance of this name occurs in the district.

There is a story afloat that the neighbouring villagers used many of the old gravestones in the construction of ovens, and that ancient Wallsend loaves have born inscriptions as "Sacred to" and "In memory of." But similar tails are current in other places where there are ruined burial grounds.

Of the dozen gravestones which are now to be found in the churchyard all are in a wretched condition. The following are the inscriptions on two of them:

"Here lyeth the body of Edward Henzil, senior, Broad Glassmaker of Houldinpans, who departed this life the 24th. day of January, Anno Domini 1686, aged 64 years:"

"Here lyeth the body of Edward Henzell, Broad Glassmaker of Houdounpands, who departed February ye 19, 1734-5, aged 62 years."

The Henzells were connected with the Tyzacks, and were immigrants from Alsace or Lorraine.

For many of the particulars given above we are indebted to a paper which was read by Mr. Septimus Oswald, at a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries.

Wallsend Old Church: 1887

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The Witches of Wallsend.

A number of articles include stories about the activieties of so called Witches at the Old Church of Wallsend. The following are two such accounts some hundred years apart in their writing.

Witches at Wallsend.
Monthly Chronicle; April 1888.
North-Country Lore and Legend.
Burns made Alloway Kirk eternally famous in his weird tale of "Tam o' Shanter"; but Old Wallsend Church, which is said to have been at least once the scene of a still more strange adventure with witches than heroic Tam's, has not found a bard like the Ayrshire ploughman to celebrate it in verse. We can therefore only give a plain, unvarnished, prosaic account of the affair, as it used to be told, doubtless with much more pith than we can put into it, by that extraordinary humorist and mystery-man, Sir Francis Blake Delaval.

At what definite period the witch adventure took place it is impossible now to tell. Sir Francis died in 1771, and already in his clay it was "once upon a time," and "one of the Lords of Seaton Delaval," without further specification as to when and to whom it occurred. The adventurer, whoever he was, is said to have been returning home from Newcastle after nightfall. When turning, up the road past Wallsend, at the foot of the eminence on which the old church stands, he was surprised to observe the interior of the edifice brilliantly lighted up. Being, of course, curious to know the cause of this untimely illumination, he rode to the gate of the burying-ground, left his horse in charge of a servant, and walked forward to a window, where, like Souter Johnnie's drunken crony "Wow, he saw an unco sicht."

Upon the communion table, at each corner of which was placed an inverted human skull containing some inflammable substance that burned brightly, he saw extended the body of a female, unconfined, and partly unrolled from the winding sheet, while around it, apparently occupied in the preparation of charms, sat a number of withered hags, one of whom was at that instant employed in cutting with a knife the left breast from the corpse. The beldam who operated as dissector, and who, with stubbly beard, ugly buck teeth, red fiery eyes, and withered, wrinkled skin, seemed the likest imaginable counterpart of one of Macbeth's witches, handed the severed breast to one of the other hags, who went off with it in the direction of the belfry, where she was lost to sight. Delaval, who believed he saw before his eyes only a set of detestably wicked old women, fit to be burned at the stake for their dealings with the foul fiend, as well as for their desecration of the consecrated
building, determined that he would make an effort to stop their proceedings. So he applied his strength to the door of the church, burst it open, and rushed in, to the utter consternation of the assembly. Each of the hags endeavoured to save herself by flight. Some climbed up to the roof, and took their departure through the openings in the belfry. Others managed to get out at the door or the windows. But Delaval succeeded in laying fast hold of the beldam in whose hand the knife still gleamed, and managed to tie her hands behind her back with his pocket handkerchief, in spite of her hard struggles and horrid curses.

When Delaval had taken a hasty look at these devilish preparations for love and hate, charms and incantations, he hastened off with his captive, and bound her on horseback behind the servant. He kept her securely until she could be brought to trial, whether at the assizes, the sessions, or the baron's own court tradition sayeth not; but certain it is that she was fully convicted of being a witch, as well as a sacrilegious person, and sentenced to be burnt on the seashore in the vicinity of Seaton Delaval.

And now followed the most marvellous part of the story - so marvellous, indeed, that we must beg our readers to take it, as we ourselves do, with a grain of salt. When the sentence was about to be carried into execution, the witch requested to have the use of two new wooden dishes, which were forthwith procured from the neighbouring hamlet of Seaton Sluice. The wood and combustibles were then heaped on the sands, the culprit was placed thereon, the dishes were given to her, and fire was applied to the pile. As the smoke arose in dense columns around her, she placed a foot in each of the utensils, muttered a spell, cleared herself from the fastenings at the stake, and soared away on the sea-breeze like an eagle escaped from the hands of its captors. But when she had risen to a considerable height, one of the dishes which supported her lost its efficacy from having been, by the young person who procured them, dipped unthinkingly in pure fresh water; and so, after making several gyrations, the deluded follower of Satan fell to the ground. Without affording her another chance of escape, the beholders conveyed her back to the pile, where she perished amidst its flames.

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Adventure with Witches
at Wallsend.
Local Historians Table Book (1951)
M. A. Richardson.

I denied my baptism, and did put the on of my handis to the crowne of my head and the vther to the sole of my foot, and then renuncet all betwixt my two handis, ower to the Divell.
Issobell Gowdies confession.
Though the belief in witchcraft has for the last two hundred years been gradually on the decline, still traces of are found to exist among, the inhabitants of wild and thinly populated places. Many in Northumberland who have not yet passed the stage of Middle life may remember how, every morning on their way to school, they cut from the Rowan-tree [Probably in compliance with the distric: "Rowan-tree and red thread, Puts the witches to their speed."] a piece of one of the branch which had not touched the ground, and pocketed the said bit of wood as a preventative from the influence of all supernatural agency. Indeed, at that period amongst those advanced in years, the dissent from old erroneous opinions had not altogether taken place; and we remember a hard featured tall female, who generally wore a red cloak, and who even attended public worship regularly on Sundays, being reported as not owre cannie! It fell out that the farmer of the land adjoining the spot where her cottage stood, was rather unfortunate in some portion of his stock dying; he, foolishly considering that the poor woman was therein to blame, visited her, and very unfeelingly commenced his admonitory address to her with " 0ad, ton! they say, Tib, tou's a wutch etc." Several instances of this kind might be mentioned; but they come too near our own times be agreeable, and cannot, to greater number of our readers appear otherwise than in "naked deformity." They are seen the greatest advantage at a distance, when the mist and haze time softens down their harsh outlines; and when our imagination is more apt with its profusion to fill up fill deficiencies, than sober judgement to detect and reduce to its just standard whatever is wrong.

As the following adventure is, by tradition, placed in a favourable point of view, we present it without apology to our readers. It has been related in various ways; but in noting it down we have adhered to what appeared to us the most regular mode of telling the story.

Upon a time, one of the lords of Seaton Delaval was returning home from Newcastle after night fall, and his way lying near the old chapel, now in ruins on an eminence near Wallsend, he was surprised to observe the interior of the edifice brilliantly lighted. Riding forward with the undaunted recklessness which in those days characterised many of the Border families, he left his horse in charge of his servant at the gate of the burying ground which surrounded the chapel and proceeded forward to gratify his curiosity.

Upon a table, at each corner of which was placed an inverted human skull containing some inflammable substance that burned brilliantly, lay the body of a female, unconfined and partly unrolled from the winding-cloth. Around it, occupied in the preparation of charms, sat a number of withered hags, one of whom was at that instant employed with a short knife in cutting the left breast from the corpse. The uncouth visages of those who formed the company, considering the purposes for which they were assembled, might well have appalled a stout heart, and we cannot say that when Delaval looked upon them, his blood circulated through his veins with its wonted regularity. He stood, however, still for a time, and could observe the thin grey beards of several of the party as they turned occasionally their sunken eyes to the skulls which were flaming before them. He also perceived that when the bedlam who operated as dissector had severed from the body the left breast already mentioned, it was delivered to an attendant who removed it beyond the range of his view in the direction of the belfry.

Delaval now applied his strength to the door or window at which he stood, burst it open, and entered to the sudden dismay and consternation of the assembly, each of whom endeavoured to provide for safety by flight. He rushed upon her in whose hand the knife still gleaned, wrenched it from her, and his attempt to secure her, in defiance of her curses, was at last successful. Some of the company escaped by the way through which he entered, others ascended to the roof and took their departure through the openings in the belfry. These spaces also served to convey away the smoke from a fire which the workers of iniquity had kindled on the floor; and above it a cauldron or kettle was suspended from a beam, by the rope with which the sexton usually rang the bell. The fire was fed with broken pieces of coffins: the breast which was cut from the body of the female with other filthy ingredients were boiling in the kettle over which fat and froth descended with a fizzing noise, sometimes allaying and again invigorating the flame. When Delaval had witnessed all these unhallowed objects, he hastened off with his captive, and bound her on horseback behind the servant.

He kept her securely, until she was tried for the crime; and whether this was accomplished by virtue of his own authority, or that of a Jury, we cannot now decide: she was, however, sentenced to be burnt on the sea shore in the vicinity of Seaton Delaval. When the order was about to be carried into execution she requested to have the use of two new wooden dishes, which were forthwith procured from a neighbouring village. The wood and combustibles were heaped on the sands, the culprit was placed thereon, the dishes were given to her, and fire was applied to the pile. As the smoke arose in dense columns around her, she placed a foot in each of the utensils, muttered a spell, cleared herself from the fastenings the stake, and soared away on the sea breeze like an eagle escaped from the hands of its captors. When she arose to a considerable height, one of the dishes which supported her lost its efficacy from having been, by the young person who procured them, dipped unthinkingly amongst water; and after making several gyrations, the deluded follower of Satan fell to the ground. Without affording her another chance of escape, the beholders then conveyed her back to the pile, and she perished amidst its flames.
-- R. Whites MSS.

Old Church, Wallsend: 1813

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From the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquities of Newcastle upon Tyne; (1891-92) Vol.5; p156-7.

Mr. S. Oswald said he had no doubt many of the members knew the ruins of the ancient church of Wallsend. They would remember the fine, Norman arch forming the south entrance doorway. Some mischievous people had wilfully pulled down this arch. He stated that he would gladly contribute towards the cost of its reinstatement, if such were possible. He then read the, following paragraph from the Newcastle Daily Chronicle of the 23rd. April, 1892:

‘Canon Henderson, M.A., Rector of Wallsend, is naturally very much annoyed at the destruction, by wanton hands, during the past few days, of the ancient Norman arch which marked the spot where the Church of the Holy Cross - the old parish church of Wallsend - once stood. Canon Henderson has traced the history of the Church of the Holy Cross back to the time of Henry II., a deed in which special reference is made to it bearing the seal of that monarch. The arch which has just been destroyed was built in the Early Norman style of architecture, and is supposed to have formed the porch at the south entrance to the nave of the church. The old churchyard, in the centre of which the church formerly stood, is situated on a breezy eminence lying on the east side of Wallsend, and flanked on the west and south by a deep ravine known as the Burn Closes. An ancient bridle-path follows the windings of the stream, which flows eastward to the Tyne, and from the bank of which access is gained by a series of flights of antique stone stairs to the ruins of the old church on the adjoining heights. No interments have taken place in the old burial ground during the past half century, and since Canon Henderson succeeded to the living at Wallsend he has been instrumental in obtaining powers from the Home Secretary prohibiting the ground from being used as a burial place in the future. The dene and old burying ground are much frequented by the public, and as Wallsend has doubled its population during the past decade, the sheltered valley and grounds referred to are regarded as being a desirable site for a public park, in which case the ancient arch, had it been allowed to remain intact, would have formed an interesting feature.’

A water-colour drawing of the arch and porch, in 1883, was produced, and a photograph of the building as in 1869. [See Proceedings of the Society of Antiquities of Newcastle upon Tyne I (NS) p2]

The state of the remains and of the graveyard around the ruins is simply a disgrace to the authorities of Wallsend. The wall has about disappeared, and there is, consequently, no boundary between the burial around and the surrounding fields, the gravestones, several of them commemorating Henzells, the glass makers, &c., are like the church itself - in a broken disreputable condition.

[On inquiry since the meeting, it appears likely that the arch may be restored. At the last Easter vestry meeting the churchwardens were instructed to restore the arch and to see to the protection of the remains in future.]

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Wallsend Old Church
Proceedings of the Society of Antiquities of Newcastle upon Tyne (1909-10)
Vol. IV Ser. 3. pp162-3

Mr. W.H. Knowles then read his paper on the discoveries made during the recent reparations by churchwardens of St. Peter's church, under his direction. The paper was illustrated by plans and sections and by photographs. It will probably be printed in Arch. Ael.,3 ser. VI. [NB: This paper follows this section.]

Mr Knowles, in the course of his remarks, stated that the size and form of the little chapel was unusual in the district, the only other instances he could call to mind being at Gosforth and Jesmond.

The chairman remarked that there were the remains of similar chapels at Tuggal, Lilburn, Chewgreen, etc. Some remarkable discoveries were made at Chewgreen a few years ago by Mr. Hodges, who would perhaps say a word about them, as they had not yet been placed on record.

Mr. Hodges stated that in 1883 he was engaged by the late Mr. R. Carr-Ellison to conduct excavations on the site of the Roman camps at the head of the river Coquet, with a view of finding Roman antiquities. In this, however, he failed, but he found instead the remains of a chapel of about the same size and period - the Norman - as that at Wallsend. Amongst the sculptured stones unearthed were several having the dental moulding, probably part of the south doorway. In the following year he made a plan of the building, of which little stonework remained, as doubtless being in poor and stoneless country the people thinly scattered about the neighbourhood had taken the stones away for their own purposes. The walls of Norman churches are almost invaluably three feet thick, while those of Saxon buildings are not so thick, being two feet seven inches only.

Thanks were voted to Mr. Knowles by acclamation on the motion of the chairman, seconded by Mr. Dendy, who pointed out that the authenticity of the two early charters quoted by Mr. Knowles in his paper were doubtful.

In connection with Wallsend, Mr. R. Blair read a letter he had received from Mr. John T. Greener, now of Hull, but a native of Wallsend, the following are extracts from it:-

‘Seeing the mention in the Weekly Chronicle concerning the Old church (Holy Cross) and churchyard at Wallsend, I cannot refrain from mentioning to you an incident that I have never forgotten, though I have not seen the dear old spot for nearly forty years. Born at Wallsend in 1837, I well remember my mother taking me to witness the last burial that took place in that old churchyard, which was in the summer of 1842. She took me on to the wagonway bridge, so that we could get a good view while they were carrying the corpse up the old stone steps, and then we proceeded towards the grave. The deceased was an elderly lady named Cavers, who died in a self-contained house adjoining the old 'Red Lion Inn' at Willington Quay, at the time kept by Mrs. D. Scott, mother of the late Mr. John O. Scott. There were then two portions fenced off by iron palisadings close to the south entrance to the burial ground, and the deceased was interred in the first enclosure. I believe that portion was claimed by the Henzell family, whether the deceased had been a relative, I could not say. Now at the time, and a good many years after, there still remained the church door, and that was at the south side of the porch, although it was partly off its hinges, it was too heavy for us boys to move, the four walls of the porch were still extant, a little higher than the door, but in deplapidated state, and the foundations of the walls were still visible. Among the many gravestones (and there were a great many) there was one I think very few of the whole parish ever went into the ground without visiting it, it stood right at the east side of the ground, and on it was a verse we all had off by heart, it was thus:-

'Remember Man, as thou pass by
As thou at now, so once was I
As I am now, so must thou be;
Prepare thyself to follow me.'
Since that time certain officious persons in the village fenced the old place in to keep horses, cows, etc., in, and tried to prevent the public from using it. Then the place soon went to wreck and ruin. It was the prettiest spot for the scenery at that time between Newcastle and Shields.'

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by W. H. Knowles, F.S.A.
Archaeologis Aeliana 3rd. Ser. VI. (1910)
[Read 23rd. February, 1910.]

To-day the importance of Wallsend is consequent upon the Quality of its coals, and the universal reputation of its ship-builders to construct the largest ships afloat. Almost two thousand years ago it was known to the Romans, as its name implies, as the eastern extremity of the great Wall and the site of the station of SEGEDUNUM. A thousand years later the Normans had established themselves at Newcastle, Tynemouth and elsewhere, and within a quarter of a century of Williams conquest, reformed the monastery on the site of the Saxon foundation at Jarrow. Thereafter the church at Wallsend was dependent on and associated with the monastery.

The site of the church is to the east of, and at some distance from, the modern town. It is perched on an eminence, surrounded on the south and west sides by a deep ravine, known as the Burn-closes, through which the Wallsend burn flows eastward on its way to the Tyne which it enters at Willington, almost a mile distant. The little church must have been a conspicuous object at the time of its foundation, and the prospect from it to the south an extensive one, consisting of broad grassy slopes, with vistas of the river Tyne in the middle distance and the tower of Jarrow church beyond.

Mrs. Montague, the ‘blue stocking’ who hired Carville hall in 1758, while Denton hall was being repaired, says that she ‘had a very good land as well as water prospect. We see from our windows the place where once lived the Venerable Bede.’

In 1770 the attractions of Wallsend are further remarked in the Autobiography of Rev. Dr. Alexander Carlyle, who was on a visit to his brother-in-law, John Erasmus Blackett, then living in Pilgrim street, opposite the house of his relative, Sir Walter Blackett. Carlyle writes 'We arrived at Wallsend, a very delightful village about four miles below Newcastle, on the road to Shields, where Mr. Blackett had a very agreeable house for the summer. There were other two gentlemen's houses of good fortune in the village, with a church and a parsonage house. Next day, the 1st of May, was so very warm that I with difficulty was able to walk down to the church in the bottom of the village, not more than two hundred yards distant.' Even to-day the village green is a pleasant contrast to the din and turmoil of the shipyards.

The earliest references to the site of the church at Wallsend are contained in two charters, one of them a grant of Walcher, bishop of Durham, of 1074, and the other of bishop William de St. Carilef of 1082. In the former, bishop Walcher, when lie Saw that the monks of Jarrow (after the Danish invasions) wished to restore their destroyed habitations, granted to Aldwin1 the vill of Jarrow with its appendages, viz., Preston,2 Monkton, Heworth, Hebburn, Westoe, and Harton, that they Might be able to complete their work and live without want. In the latter charter bishop St. Carilef granted to the Benedictine monks, whom he had settled at Durham two vills on the further side of the Tyne, namely, Willington and Wallsend,3 and, in addition, confirmed to them whatever bishop Walcher, his predecessor, gave to them, namely the vills of Jarrow, Preston,4 Monkton, Heworth, Hebburn, Westoe, and Harton. As Wallsend is not mentioned in Walcher's grant, it is apparent that it formed part of the original possessions of the congregation of St. Cuthbert of Durham, and that Carilef, when he turned the congregation out of Durham in 1082, replaced the seculars by the Benedictines previously settled at Jarrow, afterwards proceeding to divide between himself and the Jarrow monks the old. endowments of the congregation of St. Cuthbert amongst which Wallsend is numbered.

As bearing on the date of the erection of the church, and proving its existence in the middle of the twelfth century,. an undated charter of Henry the second5 (1154-89) may be remarked. In it, reference is made by the monks at Durham to Wallsend and its chapel (cum capella sua) and Willington with its appurtenances. Several charters also of bishop Pursey could be cited about 1155 in which, as a witness, the name occurs of Alan, priest of Wallsend. Among these charters is the grant made to Durham by Ralph de Gaugy of the church at Ellingham. The frequency of the name suggests that Alan may have been of the bishop's council. A bull, c. 1180, from pope Urban to Germanus, prior of Durham, confirms to him inter alia the church of Wallsend.6

In the Jarrow account rolls,7 are several entries relating to Wallsend, including one of 1347 wherein the master of the house at Jarrow accounts for 4l. received from William de Tynemouth, chaplain, for the fine of the chapel of Wallsend, leased to him for ten years. In 1369 and for several years thereafter,8 the monks of Jarrow were in receipt of 13s 4d from the chapel of Wallsend. An entry in 1408,9 contains the statement that ‘Nothing is received from the altarge [offerings to the altar, Easter oblations, etc.] and profits of the chapel of Wallsend, because the chaplain has received the whole profit there in place of his stipend'; and in the roll for 143210 it is set out that nothing is received from the fisheries on the north side of the water of Tyne, nor from the small tithes and oblations of the chaplaincy of Wallsend, because they are assigned to the maintenance of the chaplain thereof. Presumably the cell of Jarrow had the great titles and leased out the small tittles instead of paying a stipend, the chaplain at Wallsend receiving the minor fees or dues in return for a fixed annual rent of one mark.

The Halmote Rolls11 record an order made in 1379 wherein 'it is enjoined on all tenants of the vill on the one part, and on William the chaplain, that none gainsay another for the future, under pain of payment of a mark.' The cause of the order is not indicated, but it is sufficiently clear that the chaplain and his neighbours possibly encountered each other on commercial affairs after the manner of the prior of Tynemouth and the good people of North Shields.12 In the rental roll of the bursar at Durham is iii entry dated 1539, from the chaplain at Wallsend, 'for a cottage and garden nil because they are waste.13

The church continued to be used until 1797, when Mr. William Clark conceived the idea of repairing it, but selling the estate to Mr. Anthony Hood, he relinquished the relinquished the project;14 dilapidation followed, and the ruins gradually diminished.15 There extent in 1843 is shewn by the late G. B. Richardson in a drawing in the possession of the society. In 1869 only the porch and the west gable existed as depicted by a photograph in our Proceedings,16 and at the time of the reparation recently undertaken, the porch alone was visible.17

In the autumn in of 1909, the churchwardens and overseers determined to restore the fragment remaining, to excavate the site of the church, to collect the gravestones lying about in the open space and to provide for their reception and preservation within an enclosed area. The execution of this work has resulted in the recovery of the plan of the church, and of other interesting discoveries which are recorded below.

From Wallsend the approach to the churchyard is by a series of flights of steep stone steps. The church is a simple parallelogram, and measures externally 52 feet by 22 feet 6 inches. It comprised an aisleless nave and chancel with a south door, which, fortunately, still exists. The details of this door sufficiently indicate that the building was erected about the middle of the twelfth century, and is confirmatory of the documentary evidence which proves its existence to 1155. (See the plan.)

The side walls incline to the east, the width of the chancel being 15 feet. 5 inches, and of the nave at the west end 17 feet 5 inches. The length of the chancel is 11 feet 10 inches and of the nave 30 feet 8 inches. Excepting about the south door, the walls are not more than two or three feet above floor level, and possess no architectural features: nor did careful search over the area of the furnish foundations of a previous structure, or eastern termination of different width or form. The chancel walls are of varying thickness, that on the north being greater than the adjoining nave wall. The wall containing the chancel arch is 2 feet 8 inches in thickness, and the width between the jambs of the arch 5 feet 7 inches.

FIG. 2. Doorway and angle.Dooway & West Angle.

The walling enclosing the south nave door remains to a height of 14 feet. The door is semicircular in form, of two orders, the inner one is unmoulded and continues to the floor without impost or base. The outer order is moulded with an angle roll, and double-quirked flat hollow on the face. The arch springs from a chamfered and quirked abacus or impost, carried on a detached angle shaft, of which the capitals only remain. The latter are worked on a long stone with a double scallop to the south and interior faces. An incised line follows the semi-circular faces of the scallops, the cones of which are divided by a rude leaf. The shafts and their bases have long since been destroyed. The rear-arch is without mouldings. In the west jamb (fig. 2) there ire several stones larger than the rest, one of which is holed and may previously have served another purpose. They appear to be re-used Roman material similar to stones which occur in the churches at Corbridge and Chollerton, which, like Wallsend, are near to Roman stations. In the north nave wall are the chamfered jambs of a built-up door opening and at the east end of the same wall the straight joints of an opening of which there is no indication on the exterior. Fragments of plaster cover the faces of all the walls, including the opening just mentioned. The circular paved platform on which the font stood was uncovered, and in the north-west angle of the nave (see floor plan, fig 1) are four holed post stones, possibly intended to secure the framework of a light screen to enclose a vestry space. Some flagged pavement occupies the area between the north and south doors, the central nave aisle and the chancel. The three grave covers indicated on the plan also discovered and are described below.

FIG.3.-THE SOUTH DOORWAY. The South Doorway.

In the fourteenth century the west gable was strengthened by the erection of diagonal buttresses, the lower course of which now remain, including two plain weathered offsets (fig. 2). The square buttress on the north nave will is of later date, and is not bonded into the walling.

The projecting porch was added in the seventeenth century; a flat chamfered arch spans the opening and springs from a moulded impost. In one of the drawings by the late G. B. Richardson a panel is shewn above the arch, but this has Long since disappeared.

The shape of the nave, a double cube on plan, the indications of the great height of the walls as conspired with the of the nave, and the narrow opening of the chancel arch are all characteristic features of the striking and impressive work of the early Norman period. The church, which would in Norman times be lighted with small round headed windows, placed high in the walls, seems to have been of the severely plain type, suited to the exposed position which it occupied. If any architectural feature of value adorned the fabric it is strange that no fragment, excepting a few pieces of double chamfered mullions of late date, have survived. The distant and detached position of the site has not availed against local depredation. The masonry generally is of squared stones, roughly coursed, that on the west gable being the best of the early work. The diagonal buttresses and the south elevation of the added porch are of ashlar courses. In the south wall of both nave and Chancel the stones are somewhat smaller and the wall bears the appearance of having been more or less rebuilt.

Remains of contemporary churches of the like extent to that of Holy Cross are not uncommon. One of similar dimensions once existed at North Gosforth.18 Another with a nave of equal width and possibly area, is St. Mary's Jesmond,19 and a third example in the little Norman chapel at Seaton Delaval.

the Font. The bowl of the font now at St. Peter's church, Wallsend (fig. 4), was obtained in 1891 from Carville hall. It is said, with great probability, to have belonged to the church of the Holy Cross. It is octagonal shaped on plan, with curved sides moulded on the top edge, and measures 2 feet 6 inches in diameter. And 1 foot 9½ inches in height.

In the graveyard are quite a number of eighteenth century memorials;20 several of them represent descendants of the persecuted Huguenots who were constrained to leave Lorraine, and engaged in glass making from 1620 on the banks of the Tyne. Among the traditional gravestones recently brought to light, are three in the chancel, shewn on the plan (fig.1). That marked 1. is to George Hewbanke,21 who lived at Carville hall, the inscription is surmounted by a shield with arms: Three chevrons interlaced, on a chief three annulets, and crest: In a wreath a dragons head; 2. The inscription within a border is to Francis George Rains, ‘cumtime’ minister;22 3. Is to Richard Hindmarsh, and others.23 Another stone with a coat of arms: A lion pasant between two escallops, one in chief and one in base, and crest: a hand grasping a dagger, records the burial place of Joseph Bonner24 a merchant adventurer, who died in 1757, aged 62 years, from whom was descended the wife of Cuthbert Ellison of Hebburn, grandfather of the present Lord Northbourne.

Communion Plate. Two pieces of seventeenth century communion plate of silver are in use at the modern St. Peter's church, one a cup, possibly of Newcastle make, and the salver, most likely of foreign manufacture (fig. 5). The salver, probably made for secular purposes, is 11 inches in diameter. It has two hall marks: (i) a castle and (ii) the maker's initials, I. H., with a star over. Its wide border of admirable repoussé work is decorated with flowers and foliage, amid which are four panels with figure subjects representing the seasons.25

During the excavations six coins were found: (1) A sixpence of Edward VI, with m.m. a tun, in very bid condition; (2) a turner of James VI of Scotland, 2nd coinage, 1623; (3) small copper coin of 1642, with 3 lilies on reverse, probably French; (4) a 'cart wheel ' penny (1797) of George III; (5) a Nuremberg jetton or abbey piece, with ship on one side and a shield on other; and (6) an indecipherable copper coin.

Notes from within the text.

  1. Symeon. Dunel. (Rolls Edit.) I, 110
  2. Now Simonside. - Ed.
  3. Feodarium Prior. Dunelm. (58 Surt. Soc. pipl.) p xli
  4. Ibid.
  5. Feodrium Prior. Dunel. (58 Surt. Soc. publ.) p lxxxiv
  6. Hist. Dunel. Serip. Tres (9 Surt. Soc. pibl.), lvii
  7. 29 Surt. Soc. publ. 31.
  8. ibid. 51, 56, 59.
  9. Ibid. 83.
  10. Ibid 98.
  11. Durham Halmote Rolls, I (82 Surtees Soc. publ.), 155
  12. New History of Northumberland, Vol. VIII, 289.
  13. Feod. prior. Dunel., 306
  14. Mackenzie, History of Northumberland, II, 464
  15. Services were conducted in a schoolroom after this for a number of years, until, indeed, the bishop of Durham threatened to excommunicate the church-wardens; the parishioners thereupon procured an act of parliament for the erection of the present church near Willington. The foundation stone of this edifice was laid 10th. November, 1807, and it was dedicated on 27th. April, 1809.
  16. Proc. Soc. Antiq. Newc., 2 ser. I, 22.
  17. According to tradition the church was the scene of a thrilling adventure by one of the lords of Delaval, who was returning home after nightfall and observed the church brilliantly lighted. Riding recklessly forward to satisfy his curiosity he say a number of hags occupied in the preparation of charms about a corpse. How Lord Deleval bravely burst in upon the assembly and dispersed the company and after result is set out in Richardson's Table Book, Legendary Divisions, I, 395.
  18. Arch. Ael., 2nd. ser. IX, 20
  19. Arch. Ael. 3rd. ser. I, 144.
  20. Copies of the epitaphs and the positions of the stones have been carefully recorded on a plan now with the churchwardens of St. Peter's.
  21. The burial Place of George Hewbanke, Master & Mariner, & Elizabeth, his wife. She departed this life, september ye 24th, 1710, in the 57th year of her age. He had issue by her 7 children, three whereof survived her (zis.) John, George and Sarah. In Papworth, arms are given for Ewbank, and are emblazoned: Sable three chevrons interlaced gold, in a chief gold three annulets sable. Burke gives a similar shield for Ewbank, Co. Durham, with sable roundels on the chief in place of the annulets. He gives the crest in the coronet gules a dragon's head gold.
  22. Francis George Raine, clarke, and cumtime Minister of this church with . . . wife Margaret and . . . . September, 1625. . . . ther daughter Departed the 25 of July, 1626,' his wife was daughter to Richard Stotte, merchant.
  23. Richard Hindmarsh dyed ye 12 day of November 1667. Elizabeth his wife dyed ye 6 day of January 1675. Elizabeth ye wife of John Hindmarsh who departed this life 16 aprill; anno dni 1702. John Hindmarsh He dyed ye 1st November 1707 aged ninetie years. Richard Hindmarsh Esq. who departed this life ye 15 of Aprill: Anno Dni. 1703 aged 58 years.
  24. In memory of Joseph Bonner who died Febry. the 12th 1757 aged 62 years. Also Elizabeth his wife who died August the 4th 1762 aged 60 years. Also Elizabeth their daughter who died June the 5th 1740 aged 19 years. And likewise is Interred here the Remains of Isabella Swan Grand-Daughter of the above Joseph Bonner who Departed this life the 22nd of June 1780 aged 15 years.
    In 1907, Mr. J. C. Hodgson, F.S.A., contributed some 'Epitaphs in Wallsend Old Churchyard to the Society's Proceedings (3rd ser. iii, 58). Additions to this list are the three described above and the following: -
    1. The burial place of John [Hails]on and M[arv] his wife. Mich[al] their Son, died January 19th, 1786, aged 30 years. Margaret, their daughter, died 28 of March, 1781, aged 38 years. Also [the above] named John [Hails]on departed [January 16th.] 1791, aged [60 years].'
    2. ................E
    3. 'In memory of William Parker, late Tide [Surveyor of] Howdon Dock, who [departed th]is Life, July 17th, 1793, aged 67.'
    4. 'In memory of William [Young], late of Wal[lsend], who died D[eceinber 18th, 1802, aged 81].'
    5. . . . Elizabeth Mann of Wallsend, . . . . Farmer, John Mann, son of the above, died May 9th, 1782, aged 11 years, Elizabeth Mann, wife of the above John Mann, died July 13th, 1783, aged 38 years. The above John Mann died Oct. 15th, 1789, aged 58 years. Elizabeth Mann, daughter of the above, John and Elizabeth Mann, died Feb. 7th, 1790, aged 21 years, Also Two of their children die 1. The burial place of John [Hails]on and M[arv] his wife. Mich[al] their Son, died January 19th, 1786, aged 30 years. Margaret, their daughter, died 28 of March, 1781, aged 38 years. Also [the above] named John [Hails]on departed [January 16th.] 1791, aged [60 years].'
    6. 'In memory of Mary, wife of John Robinson, Shipwright of Howdon pans, Also of their children, viz., Joseph and Willm., who both died in infancy in 1791, and John, who died in infancy in 1793. The above named Mary Robinson departed this life May 10th, 1797, Aged 28 years. Alice Robinson, died March 15th, aged [4 Years]. Also the above John Robinson, died at Norfolk, in Virginia, Sepr. 12th, 1801: aged 33 years, also John Robinson, son of the above John Robinson, died Septr. 12th, 1803, aged 4 years.'
    7. 'Here lyeth ye body of Ambrose Bunn, who depted this Life, May ye 12th, 1689.'
    8. '[Here lieth] the body of R. T. Watson [Husband of] Dorothy Watson [who died] November [1st, 1778, aged 57] years. [Also the above Dorothy, who died 19 November 1768, aged 74 years.]'
  25. For description of communion plate see Proc., 2 ser. III, 244.

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The Present Situation.

The Church of the Holy Cross is still there on its prominance. Although the corner of a housing estate has come close to the church and surounding park it is still an oacis of calm in the post industrial landscape of modern Wallsend. The site was tidied up in 1992 and is now a scedualed monument. The following are photgraphs taken in May 2000. I have tried to cover the whole site and have included one of the gravestones that should have a coat of arms upon it but the North-east climit has taken its tole on the relativly soft sandstone that was commonly used.

View from north
View from the North.
View from south
View from the south.
Porch from inside
The Porch from inside the church.
The Chancel.
The Nave showing the site of the font.
Last remaining Coat of Arms
The last remaining Coat of Arms in the Church Yard. They belong to the Bonner family.
Last remaining coat of arms.
Arms: Gules (Red), a lion passant between two escollops.
Crest: A hand holding a sword.

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This page was last updated October 2000.