The beautiful Chantry Building stands alongside the River Wansbeck in the bustling market town of Morpeth, in the midst of rolling countryside and close to the spectacular Northumbrian Coastline.
The Chantry was built in 1296. It started life as a place for it’s priest to say Mass, it also housed a school as well as serving as a place to pay tolls to cross the Chantry Bridge.. Since then it has had many purposes including at one point being a cholera hospital and later a mineral water factory. It was restored in the 1980s and today it remains multifunctional. On the ground floor it holds a craft centre where a very varied range of local crafts are sold, then there is the tourist information centre. On its first floor there is quite a fascinating Bag pipe museum, promoting the Northumbrian Bag Pipes.
We visited in January, the main reason for the visit was to see the Bagpipe museum, but we were pleased to also see the very interesting craft centre. Entry is free. There is a separate level access entrance for disabled people, although the main entrance has just one small step.
The Main entrance took us straight into the craft shop which was filled with just about every craft from the local area from candles to soaps, needlecrafts, arts, pottery, glass, almost every craft is represented. The Craft shop leads to the Tourist Information Centre where we saw a staircase leading to the first floor bagpipe museum.
The staircase is open between each wooden step, it is dual railed, but it also twists. As I have some mobility issues we decided to take the lift. The spacious lift is very disabled friendly and wheelchair accessible.
The Bagpipe Museum shows around 150 sets of bagpipes from all over the world. English regional variations of pipes are illustrated but the Northumbrian Bagpipes survive as the sole example of English Pipes. The Smaller Northumbrian pipes which are displayed, differ a lot from the more well known larger Highland and Irish Bagpipes. Visitors can listen to recordings through personal headsets.
The museum also tells the history of bagpipes, how they developed from their simple 14th century origins to more so sophisticated instruments. I found it interesting reading the story of the people who played them, such as the early travelling piper, as well as where the bagpipes were played, such as at feasts, or to keep road menders digging, or soldiers in step.
Recorded music and sheet music is available to purchase.
The Museum is open 9.30am until 5pm Monday to Saturday all year round.
After our visit to the Chantry, we crossed the lane to the nearby Chantry Tea Room for a delicious lunch, before walking over the Chantry footbridge, for a leisurely stroll through Carlisle Park which overlooks the River Wansbeck.
The town of Morpeth has excellent shopping facilities, good places to eat, parkland and riverside walks, as well as several historical sites to explore. Morpeth is often known as the gateway to Northumberland.