The Parish of Ponteland

History of St Mary

There was a church on this site long before William the Conqueror invaded England. That Anglo-Saxon building has now disappeared but you can still see a gravestone from its cemetery built into the south wall of the tower.

The earliest parts of the present church belong to the Norman period. This is the date of the lower part of the tower, with its fine west door. At that time the building had a north aisle, transepts - and an apsed east end which was revealed by excavations in the early 1980s.

Much of the surviving building, however, represents work of the 13th century. This was when the spacious chancel was built and the north transept assumed its present form. The 'Adam and Eve' carvings on the chancel arch were also first cut at this time. Despite the problems caused by the Scottish wars, the 14th century saw further rebuilding including the south aisle arcade and the great window at the east end. Rare fragments of 14th century glass can still be seen in the chancel windows.

Like many English churches St Mary's had suffered a long period of neglect by the beginning of the Victorian period. Mould, rot and decay were everywhere. So, in the 19th century, a series of restorations took place to improve the building. Much of that work is still visible today: the floors and pews date from 1853/4; the barrel roofs were built in 1879/81; and the chancel given a new roof and raised floor in 1885.

By the early 1970s pressures on space and changes in patterns of worship led to the introduction of a central altar and congregational seating in the chancel; a new organ was also commissioned.

Scattered around the walls are numerous memorials to early parishioners. In the north transept, behind the altar, is a carved slab commemorating Cuthbert Ogle (d. 1655) who built Kirkley Hall; memorials to his seafaring descendants are on the wall alongside.

In the chancel is a moving inscription to Anne Byne (d. 1769) whose tragic family history can be traced in the inscriptions of floor slabs nearby. Set in the floor of the south aisle is a slab recording the founder of the local school, Richard Coates (d. 1719), whilst over the tower arch is a Royal Coat of Arms, dating to 1815-1837, at whose centre is a rare example of the crown of the kingdom of Hanover.

Men and women have been worshipping God here for over a thousand years. You are welcome to join them. The church is open every day, so you are welcome to drop in, light a candle, say a prayer, or just to enjoy the peace. An illustrated guidebook is available. You are also welcome to join the worshipping community - our main service is on Sunday at 10 am.

Photos above from top left corner; Adam and Eve before temptation, A Saxon stone, Adam and Eve after eating the apple, the Font, the Ogle Memorial, the Norman door. At the centre is the altar and interior of the church.

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