History and Heritage

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Searching the Past - Village Life during the Great War

The Bamburgh Heritage Trust is presently researching life in Bamburgh Village to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the First World War. Having now obtained a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund we can go ahead with some more in-depth research. Most of us have seen and indeed many are related to the names on the War Memorial at the foot of the Castle and the plaques and memorials in St Aidan's Church. Information on these men who did not return is becoming more and more readily available on web sites such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Forces War Records and North East War Memorials. One such name is familiar, W. J. Clark.

William Joseph Clark was the son of George and Elizabeth Clark 1, Radcliffe Cottages, who ran the market garden. His obituary in the Berwick advertiser April 1918 says that Private William Joseph Clark, Coldstream Guards, died at the 15th Casualty Clearing Station on 14th April 1918 of wounds received in action. He was admitted to hospital in January suffering from injuries received by he explosion of a shell. He had just been discharged from hospital and had been in action for less than a week when he received his fatal wound. When only 17 this brave lad had endeavoured to enlist, but was refused, so he left his father who he had assisted in the market garden to obtain employment in Clark Chapman's munitions factory in Gateshead. He joined the colours on 26th December 1916. He had a course of training at Windsor and landed in France in Oct 1917. Will was in hospital when he attained his majority in March 1918. He is buried at Ebblingham Military Cemetery, France and is commemorated on the Bellringers' Roll of Honour in St Aidan's Church.

One name that is not on the memorial is Mark Nutman. Mark was born in Bamburgh in 1894 and lived in Radcliffe Cottages. Before the war he worked for Mr Dixon of Wynding House and his stated occupation on his 'war papers' was a farmer. He joined the Royal Field Artillery as a horseman serving on the Somme. Gunner Mark Nutman: RFA 120831 and was presented with the Military Medal for Bravery, inscribed C. 110/BDE.RFA, and was also presented with a further 2 medals. He was demobilised on 13th March 1919 from 'O' Battery 110th Brigade RFA. On arriving home in Bamburgh he was presented with a gold watch inscribed : "Presented by his Bamburgh friends to record his brave and gallant conduct in the European War".

He then worked as a groom in Newcastle then returned to work at Glororum Farm where he looked after the carthorses and worked on the farm. Mark died in 1969. While Bamburgh had rallied to the call and many men volunteered, it is evident that village life carried on, adapting to the needs of the war effort in various ways. Law and order was strictly maintained and the Alnwick Gazette 14th March 1915 reports that at the Belford Petty Sessions: 'The Rule of the Road must be Obeyed,"

"Twelve soldiers, privates in the Northern Cyclists' Battalion, stationed at Bamburgh were each summoned for riding a bicycle without having a light on the highway near to Bamburgh between 24th Feb and 14th March and at different times". The defendants were named and were rebuked by the Chairman that they must observe the rules of the road. The Magistrate would be lenient this time and each was fined 2s 6d......"don't let me see you again" The fines were paid.

The archives at Woodhorn Museum have a wealth of information and with so many communities also looking into their past, the staff are well prepared to help. Trawling through back editions of local papers is an interesting but tedious job, (most are on microfilm) as each page needs to be scrutinised for not only reports of local soldiers but also for gems of information such as was reported in April 1915 that: "Most of the houses in Bamburgh are provided with water closets. Exceptions were Victoria and South Victoria Terrace where the privy ash pit system is out of harmony with the property. Immediate improvement works were recommend." Later reports stated that improvements had still not been implemented.

I hope after nearly 100 years the situation has been remedied!

As we have progressed with research, names are becoming familiar, but it is the memories of families still living here, events in the village, information, anecdotes and photographs that can be used to create a display to commemorate World War 1 and life in Bamburgh at the time. If you can help us in any way:

Please contact: Jude Aldred. 01668 214248. judealdred@hotmail.co.uk

Chris Baldwin. 01668 214 525. chrisbaldwin@mypostoffice.co.uk

Sue Aldred. 01668 214 409. sue@bamburghbutcher.co.uk


The final committal of 110 Anglo-Saxon skeletons into the crypt of St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh took place on Friday 24th June, 2016.


Visitors make their way into St Aidan's Church Canon Brian Hurst leads the committal service The new grille guarding the ossuary

A poignant and moving ceremony to mark the final committal of the Anglo-Saxon Bowl Hole skeletons was held at St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh on Friday.

Encased in individual zinc charnel boxes, the skeletons have been finally laid to rest in the small second crypt beneath the 11th Century chancel.

The specially created ossuary is the culmination of years of work by Bamburgh Heritage Trust and the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership.

The skeletons were excavated between 1998 and 2007 from the sand dunes to the south of Bamburgh Castle by Bamburgh Research Project.

Years of research by Bamburgh Research Project and Durham University in partnership with Bamburgh Castle Estate has resulted in an unrivalled wealth of information about our Anglo-Saxon ancestors who were living in Bamburgh 1,400 years ago.

A beautiful horse drawn antique hearse brought the remaining ten charnel boxes from Bamburgh Castle to the church and the skeletons were accompanied on their final journey by the staff from Bamburgh Castle and archaeologists from Bamburgh Research Project.

The ceremony was led by the Revd Canon Brian Hurst with the Ven Peter Robinson, Archdeacon of Lindisfarne.

Canon Hurst said “It seems very fitting that these individuals have found their final resting place in the crypt of St Adain’s church – they who may have known King Oswald and his gentle bishop, Aidan – they who would have known a church on this site and may have known that here it was that Aidan died.

"It is almost as if the crypt has been waiting for them to come and offer them this peaceful resting space.”
The service included a talk by the author Max Adams about the wider historic importance of Anglo-Saxon Bamburgh and Graeme Young, the director of Bamburgh Research Project, covered the archaeological significance of the site.
A particularly moving element of the service was when Tom Clark read ‘The Seafarer’, an Anglo-Saxon poem, in original Old English – the very language that these people would have spoken and heard.

Jessica Turner of the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership said “It was all incredibly moving and very beautiful.
"We are immensely grateful to all those who helped make today possible.”

The skeletons are now secure in the second crypt behind a stunning grille designed and made by local blacksmith and artist Stephen Lunn.

Stephen’s design is a modern interpretation of the Anglo-Saxon knot with animal heads reflecting the zoomorphic tradition in ancient Celtic art and the three-dimensional knotwork reflecting the Anglo-Saxon – the two artistic traditions that merged in St Oswald's Bamburgh and resulted in the Golden Age of Northumbria.


A short exploration of demographic of the Bowl Hole cemetery through seven skeletons
  • An older Bamburgh woman, aged 65+
  • An older man, aged 60+, originally from Scandinavia
  • A young Irish woman, aged about 25, whose skeletal remains show she was almost certainly a weaver or needle-worker including a wear to the right central incisor from the repeated clasping of an instrument like a needle between her teeth
  • A child of about 9 with both baby and adult teeth present in the skull, the isotopes show the baby teeth (neonatal stage) formed in the southern Mediterranean and then adult teeth formed (early childhood) in France
  • A young man of about 17-20 years with evidence of a sword strike down his left hand side which cut through his left clavicle, scapula, ribs, pelvis and knee
  • A man aged about 25 from the Mediterranean who suffered from gout
  • A Hebridean man of about 45 who was almost certainly a contemporary of St Oswald


A Chronology

635 At the request of King Oswald, Aidan comes to Northumbria from Iona and causes the first church to be built, probably on the site of the present church. Tradition has it that the only relic of this first church is the beam over the font. It serves no structural function and is believed to have supported the awning under which Aidan died. Mention of this beam is made by Bede in his chronicles.

1121 By the grant of Henry I Bamburgh Church and Parish were attached to Nostell near Wakefield in West Yorkshire, where there was a religious establishment of the Augustinian Canons.

1170 to 1230 The greater part of the present day church was built. Few traces of the Norman church remain but several authorities state that these are to be found in the window in the east wall of the north transept, which has a round-headed internal splay the exterior of which has been altered to a lancet.

1190 The first extension of the Norman church was the addition of the north aisle in 1190 and the enlargement of the north transept. The arch into the north aisle was rebuilt to its present style and size, and at the same time those into the chancel and south transept were similarly altered.

1230 Construction of the chancel, built to supersede the previous Norman chancel, when the Augustinian Canons came into full possession of their Bamburgh property. The chancel is unusually long – 60 ft. by 21 ft. – in relation to the nave. Within the chancel today are the recumbent effigy of a knight, reputed to be called Sir Lancelot du Lake, dating from 1320 or later and the helmet, breastplate, sword and gauntlets of Ferdinando Forster who was killed in Newcastle in 1701.

14th century Both transepts were lengthened to provide accommodation for the new altars. The north transept was made into a chantry chapel and for many years was known as the Fowberry Porch; today it is known as St. Oswald’s chapel.

16th century With the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII Bamburgh church and its lands were sold to Sir John Forster and thereafter was neglected. In 1611 it was recorded that “the steeple was only half covered with lead and the other half utterly decayed and open. The church was thatched and indecently kept and defiled with doves. The windows thereof not sufficiently glassed..”

1715 First Jacobite rising. Because of the prominent part he played in it Tom Forster, being unable to inherit the family estates, went bankrupt. The Forster estates, including the church, were purchased by Lord Crewe, Bishop of Durham and whose wife, Dorothy, was Tom Forster’s aunt. This marked the start of the gradual restoration of the Church building.

1757 Thomas Sharpe became curate of Bamburgh. For the rest of this century the Sharpe family played a leading role in the ongoing restoration of the Church. At the west end of the north aisle is a monument given in 1839 by Catherine Sharp to be a memorial to her husband and several members of the Sharp family.

1819 First organ installed in church

1837 In July 1837 the crypt was “rediscovered”. Quite how it had come to be lost is not known. It had been used as a burial chamber both by the Augustinian canons and by the Forster family. The crypt, which is not open to the public, comprises two chambers, the larger of which has a vaulted roof and appears to have been used as a chapel, having and altar, Piscina and aumbry.

1841 – 1852 During this period the box pews were removed. An oil painting by the font shows how the interior of the church looked when the box pews were in situ. Also at this time (1852) a second organ was installed.

1847 The windows in the chancel were glazed with glass from the Netherlands. They depict the twelve Apostles.

1883 Present organ installed in the chancel. Subsequently in 1889 the organ was moved to its present position in the south transept.

1885 The effigy of Grace Darling was placed in the North Aisle. This was originally in the churchyard but following a storm that year when the canopy was blown down the effigy was brought into the church and another one put in its place outside.

1895 – 1900 During this period the roof of the chancel, which for many years had been flat, was restored to its original form thus enabling the lancet windows at the east end of the church to be extended to their original height. The present reredos, carved of Caen stone, was set up being the altar. The 16 carved figures are of Northumbrian and other saints with the two principal figures being Saints Aidan and Oswald respectively. The tower was also raised

1912 Installation of the 7th and Tenor bells completed the peal of eight bells in the tower. Prior to 1885 the church had only two bells and the casting of the new peal took place over a five year period form 1907 to 1912.


Saint Aidan


Aidan was an Irish monk who was part of St Columba’s community on Iona.

When Oswald was exiled from his kingdom, he had contact with this community of Columba – perhaps living on or near Iona and became a Christian. When King Oswald was restored to his kingdom, uniting the sub-kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira, he sent to Iona for monks to establish – or in fact re-establish – Christianity throughout his land.

After a false start led by the monk Corman, Aidan volunteered to come to Oswald of Northumbria and established both a Church at Bamburgh and, with 12 other missionary monks from Iona, a Columban style Community on the island of Lindisfarne. This was in the year 635.

The little that we know of St Aidan’s life is given us by the Venerable Bede. Aidan is remembered as being a gentle, patient and generous shepherd of souls.

Two of the stories that Bede gives us are these:

  • In the beginning Aidan could not speak the language of the people, and so in this partnership between King and Bishop, Oswald himself – who had learned the Irish language whilst in exile – would act as interpreter as Aidan proclaimed the Gospel.
  • Aidan was a great believer in walking the lanes and roads and in this way was able to meet people and engage in conversation with them. On a number of occasions he declined the King’s offer of a horse, preferring to be on the same level as the people he met in the way. However, when Oswin was King, for some reason Aidan eventually accepted the offer of a horse, but quickly realised that he was not comfortable with such a fine gift. When a beggar stopped him on the road looking for a small gift, Aidan gave him the horse. This act of generosity confused and annoyed the King. Aidan simply responded, is the child of a mare of more importance than a child of God? 

What Aidan achieved was the establishment of a centre of learning on Lindisfarne which was to become renowned throughout Europe as the cultural, spiritual and religious hub.

Many such communities already existed and were subsequently created. The difference with Aidan’s community was that it was deliberately established as a place of mission.  From this Community of Lindisfarne founded by Aidan came Eata, Cedd and Chad, Wilfrid, Hilda and Ebba and Cuthbert and the subsequent history of Christianity in this land.

Aidan died in the year 651 at Bamburgh – and the spot where he died, leaning it is said, against the pillar or outside wall of the church, is marked within the present day church building (dedicated to St Aidan) by a simple shrine. His body was taken across to his community on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and there it was laid to rest.

Everlasting God,
you sent the gentle bishop Aidan
to proclaim the gospel in this land:
grant us to live as he taught
in simplicity, humility, and love for the poor;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.


Saint Oswald, King Of Northumbria

St OswaldOswald was the eldest son of Aethelfrith, King of Bernicia and was probably born in the royal palace of Yeavering in the year 605.

After the death of his father, who was killed in battle by Edwin, Oswald and his brothers went into exile. Certainly this was into what we now call Scotland, possibly even onto the island of Iona. During his 16 years exile Oswald certainly came into contact with the Community of Columba and, being influenced by their teaching and life-style, became a Christian.

After the death of Edwin, Oswald returned in 634 from his exile and sought to regain his kingdom through battle with Cadwallon. The night before the Battle of Heavenfield – near to Hexham – Oswald made a wooden cross, erected it and had his army gather around it and pray for victory. 

Oswald’s victory led to the unification of the kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira into the kingdom of Northumbria. He set up his royal palace and court at Bamburgh and called for monks from Iona to establish – or in fact re-establish more firmly – Christianity throughout his land.

Aidan responded to this call from Iona, and he established a church at Bamburgh and a Community, based on Columba’s Community on the island of Lindisfarne. This was to be a place of learning, of culture and of mission.

We know from Bede’s “Ecclesiastical History of the English People” that Oswald and Aidan forged a deep friendship and partnership; the King acted as interpreter for the Bishop, who to begin with only spoke his native Irish language.

Bede also tells this story: One Easter Oswald and Aidan were feasting at the Palace, when a silver dish of food was set before them. Just as they were saying their prayers of blessing a servant, who looked after the needs of the poor, came into the Hall to tell the King that a great crowd of hungry folk were sitting outside the palace begging alms. The king immediately ordered his food to be taken out to them and the silver platter to be broken up and shared among them.  Aidan, impressed by the generosity of the King, raised Oswald’s right hand and prayed, “May this hand never wither with age”.

Oswald met a violent death in the year 642 when he and the Mercian King, Penda clashed in battle. Oswald died on 5th August at Oswestry in Shropshire. His head and arms were severed from his body and stuck onto poles. Legend has it that the right arm of Oswald, which Aidan had raised in prayer, found its way, incorrupt back to Bamburgh and was installed into a silver casket in the church here. Oswald’s head was returned to Lindisfarne and was eventually buried in the coffin of St Cuthbert.

Oswald, who despite living in violent days, is renowned as a diplomat, a unifier, a generous and humble king, who is remembered as a martyr.

Lord God almighty,
who so kindled the faith of King Oswald with your Spirit
that he set up the sign of the cross in his kingdom
and turned his people to the light of Christ:
grant that we, being fired by the same Spirit,
may always bear our cross before the world
and be found faithful servants of the gospel;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.


Robert John Scott Bertram 1871 – 1953 [Stained Glass]

The family wanted Robert to enter the Commercial world and in 1885 he was apprenticed to the German Coal exporting firm of ‘Besallers’ at the Quayside, Newcastle. It was here that he first gained his love of the older Newcastle streets and historic buildings. He attended evening classes and developed his natural talents for drawing and design. He won a scholarship to the Durham College of Science and Art and his exceptional ability with Pencil and Pen were soon realised when in 1893 he did the illustrations for the first volume of the Northumberland County History.

Stained Glass WindowIn 1895 Robert was appointed Part-time assistant at the Art School (now King Edward V11 School of Art, Armstrong College in Durham University) where the professor of Fine Art was Richard George Hatton, a follower of the William Morris
Movement. He worked very closely with Hatton and was now skilled in the techniques of lettering, illustrations, heraldry, painting in oils and watercolours, lithography and etching.

In 1919 Robert was appointed Head of Design at the University.  At the Theatre Royal in Grey Street he painted, with assistants all the drops for the Northumberland Pageant in 1923. He was selected in 1928 to paint a large lunette spanning a gallery in The Laing Art Gallery and chose as his subject ‘the partial destruction of the Tyne Bridge during the 1771 flood’. He was now examiner for Art
in the Universities School Certificate Exam Board,  a member of the Bishop’s advisory committee for the care of churches, later becoming secretary, member of the Pen and Palette Club and the Lit and Phil soc.

Unfortunately no precise record of his work was kept, but his output was amazing. Always busy with commissioned work, his work on committees, his college duties as well as his own interest in landscape painting.

But  here are listed a few documented work  In the 1890’s he illustrate several books including guide books to the East and North Ridings of Yorkshire; in 1905 ‘A Fishers Garland’ by John Harbottle; ‘The Borders’ by William Sitwell; ‘Nortumbrian Decameron’by Howard Pease;’Account of Belsay Castle by Sir Arthur Middleton.In 1908 a large folder of 15 lithographs entitled ‘Old Newcastle’ was published by Mawson Swan and Morgan and in the same ear he has a picture of Warkworth Castle in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Just before the outbreak of war in 1914 his Newcastle upon Tyne Sketchbook was published by A.&C Black but similar books on York and Chester were abandoned. However in 1920 A ‘Durham Sketch Book was published.

"He had three children who all made careers in the Art/Teaching world – Bryan, Neville and Helen Joyce. The design of the window in the South aisle by James Ballantine FSA (Scot) is attributed to RJS Bertram by his family. It is said by them that Helen and Neville were used as models for his figures of St Frideswide and St Cuthbert."

Pete Loud has some pictures of the stained glass windows in St Aidans, on his web site. Go there

Below are some documents that will provide a concise account of the topic.

Get Adbe Reader You will require a copy of Adobe Reader to view or print the Documents below.

A Chronology (download pdf) St Aidan (download pdf) Robert John Scott Bertram (download pdf) St Oswald (download pdf)

The leaflet "Hidden Gems" can be downloaded ...get it here

Another leaflet "Steps of Saints" is available here ...get it here