St Peter’s Church

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This is a small stone building with a stone slab roof and small bell cote set in a graveyard surrounded by trees with 18th and 19thC gravestones.

Set on the Chillingham estate, it dates from the same time as the castle, a short distance away. The nave is 12thC but the chancel is probably 13thC. The roof was replaces in 16thC and the bell cote added in 18thC. The porch is 19thC.

Entry is through the south porch which has stone benches along the sides and Norman archway with a round arch. Inside it is a low building with a wood beam ceiling and 19thC box pews. At the back is a small 17thC font. On the north wall is a 17thC stone memorial with a skull and crossbones at the bottom.

There is a low chancel arch and steps lead to the chancel with a modern stone altar with IHS on the base. The huge rectangular plain glass window, part of the 1967 refurbishment, with a cross above looks and feels out of place.

Round arches lead into the transepts. The north transept is very small. The south transept contains the splendid 15thC alabaster tomb of the crusader knight Sir Ralph Grey and his wife Elizabeth. The remains of red and blue paint are still visible and it must have been stunning when first erected.

Lying beside each other in prayer, Sir Ralph has his feet on a lion. The reredos behind them has angel holding a shield with a lamb on it. On either side are demi-angels with helmets with a ram’s head. Above is Royalist motto, a 17thC addition, “De bon vouloir servir le Roy”. Round the base are carvings of bishops, saints and angels set beneath highly carved arches. In the centre of each side are two larger angels holding a heraldic shield.

Sir Ralph Grey was quite a character. He took Roxburgh Castle, at night, with just 81 men at arms. Sir Ralph then held the fort against a furious King of Scotland and his armies. During the Wars of the Roses, he fought on different sides to his only son and condemned his son to death afterwards. He was first ordered to be hung drawn and quartered, but later the sentence was reduced to having his head chopped off.

In the 18thC a small fireplace was added to the east wall of the south transept. Beside it on the wall is a very old grave slab with two crosses.

If visiting Chillingham Castle, the church is worth a quick look for the splendid tomb.

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