St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

It is known that a church has existed here since AD 737. King Ceowulf of Northumbria gave the village – then “Wercewode” – and the Church of St Lawrence to the monks of Holy Island. Northumbria bore much of the brunt of the early Viking raids. Holy Island itself was reputedly the first victim in AD 793 and this first, almost certainly wooden, church at Warkworth surely perished during that period. The beach near the mouth of the Coquet at Amble is still known as Birling – the Danish for longships.

A stone church replaced it and the altar was underneath today’s chancel arch. There are no visible remains of this church. It was built between 1132 and 1140, at around the probable time of the first motte and bailey castle built here by Henry, son of King David of Scotland in around 1139. There is no certainty in any of this.

The nave and chancel are more or less unchanged since that time. The lower levels of the west tower as far as the belfry were added in around 1200. The belfry and the spire were added in the fourteenth century. It was not until the fifteenth century that the fabric of the Norman church was tampered with through the addition of a perpendicular style south aisle and arcade. A south porch with a parvise room above was added at the same time and, is so often the case, this parvise room became in time the home of the village’s first school. The south aisle had a clerestory that was removed during restoration in 1860 when the original nave and chancel rooflines seem to have been reinstated. The church has needed considerable buttressing over the centuries and one might speculate that the clerestory was removed to reduce the weight of masonry bearing down on the side walls. A pre-restoration etching also shows a perpendicular style window at the south west of the chancel and this has been restored to a Norman profile that matches the original window to the east of it. The east window was also in the gothic style and has been replaced by a Norman style triple lancet arrangement. A circular window was built into the gables of both the chancel and the nave. Thus, rather remarkably, the church now looks more Norman than it did for half a millennium!

The nave is the longest Norman nave in Northumberland. It still has its original windows on the aisle-less north side. The west wall was the original extent of the church prior to the later addition of the tower. It is a fine Norman composition. The chancel arch too is original Norman. Like the rest of the church – indeed, like most Norman work in Northumberland – it is rather austere with none of the riots of chevron mouldings, beakheads and extravagantly carved capitals that adorn many Norman chancel arches elsewhere. There is a course of palmette carvings and and another of pellet moulding. It is the chancel itself, however, that is the gem of this church. The ceiling comprises two separate quadripartite vaults, each with ribs richly adorned by zig-zag moulding.

More details can be found in the Church guide or Great English Churches.

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

St Lawrence Church, Warkworth

6 Comments CherryPie on Oct 25th 2021

6 Responses to “St Lawrence Church – Warkworth”

  1. Hels says:

    The ornate pulpit reached by wrought iron (?) steps is handsome. Was that a Norman custom?

  2. Ayush says:

    it is fairly bright inside, CP. the glasswork came out exquisite, in my opinion. and the warm timber tones (pulpit) are highly appealing.

  3. Such a beautiful church with so much history and many items of interest. The chest tomb looks interesting and the stained glass lovely. Your photos are super.

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