Corbridge is an attractive and thriving small town in the Tyne Valley. The church is in the market place surrounded by a small graveyard which contains the C14th Vicar’s pele, lived in during the troubled times along the border. Animals were housed in the ground floor. The living quarters were on the first floor.
A wood church was built here around AD 674 by St Wilfrid of “Hexham Abbey”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/north/northumberland/northumberland_two/hexham/index.html . This was replaced by a stone church in AD 786 with a square west tower and a long arrow nave. The church was badly damaged during Viking raids in the C9th. Repairs were carried out in 1100s when the south door was constructed. Most of the church dates from the 1200s when Corbridge was a very wealthy burgh. The chancel, side aisles and transepts were added. Corbridge suffered repeated raids by the Scots until the end of the C16th. The church was often burnt and the pink staining round the south door and blackened stones round the south door are a memory of these times. Although the church was repaired, there was little money to spend to improve the church. It has retained the C13th ground plan. The upper part of the tower was replaced in 1767 when large bell windows were added and there was a sympathetic Victorian restoration.
The tall square west tower is still the Saxon tower. This was originally the main entrance into the church and the blocked doorway can be seen on the west wall. It now has three small stained glass windows. Above is a single Saxon window. The nave is the original Saxon nave with side aisles, transepts, chancel and Lady Chapel added in the C13th. The chancel is longer and broader than the nave. There is a sundial dated 1694 on a buttress on the south transept.
There is level entry into the church by the south porch which is early C20th and is a stylised Norman doorway with round arches This protects the original Norman doorway with two rows of chevron carvings. The glass door was given to the church in 2008.
At the back of the nave is a tall round topped arch leading into the base of the tower, which was the original porch of the church. This is built from Roman stones taken from the nearby Roman fort of Corstopitum. Through this is the baptistry with a C19th octagonal stone font standing on slender legs.
Arcades with octagonal pillars and pointed arches separate the narrow nave from the side aisles. The original Saxon roof would have been steeply hipped. When the side aisles were added, this was lowered and replaced by a king post wooden roof and small clerestory windows were inserted above the arches. Above the back arch on the north wall is the remains of a Saxon window. Above is a king post roof.
A very tall pointed chancel arch leads into the chancel with a simple altar covered by a brightly coloured modern cloth. Behind is a carved wood reredos dated 1913. In the centre is a carved canopy over the altar cross. On either side are small carved figures of St Andrew holding his saltire cross and St Wilfrid holding a model of Hexham Abbey. On the south wall is a small piscina. The C19th choir stalls have lovely carved fronts.
A carved wood parclose screen separates the chancel from the north or Lady Chapel. This has tiny carved heads below the tracery. The north chapel has a small altar with a wood panelled reredos behind.
The north transept has a tomb arch on the north wall with a carved grave slab. This is Hugo, son of Aslin who was a wealthy burger and probably the principal benefactor of the church. Above it is another grave slab with a cross and crook carved on it. This is thought to be Robert de Morville, the vicar when the north transept was built. In one of the windows on the east wall is a frosted glass millennium window presented by the parish council. It shows a cross rising from the water of chaos.
The Victorian pulpit with carved figures of the four evangelists is by the entrance into the south transept. Next to it is a modern stained glass window representing the good works of Dorcas in caring for the poor.
The south transept was originally the chantry chapel of Thomas A Becket as Robert de Morville’s uncle was one of the four knights who assassinated Thomas.
On the walls are the memorials to the dead of both World Wars. There are two benefice boards and also a splendid memorial to John Winship of Ayden who died in 1863.
Pevsner describes St Andrew’s as the “most important surviving Saxon monument in Northumberland except for Hexham crypt”. The saxon tower and roman archway are magnificent. inside it is a very large but rater plain church.
The church is open daily and gets a lot of visitors. We parked in the market place although we weren’t sure what the status is as a sign on one of the lamp posts indicates it is permit parking only. There is on street parking on the approaches to the market place and a large free car park on the edge of the town.
There are more pictures “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/north/northumberland/northumberland_one/corbridge/index.html