Alnwick Church of St Mary and St Michael

Has been described as a Possible Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameAlnwick Church of St Mary and St Michael
Alternative Names
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishAlnwick

A Parish church of 1464 built under Henry VI, incorporating fragments of a Norman chapel, extended in the C14. It is perpendicular in style and a rare example of church building in Northumberland at a time when conditions allowed little church building in the county. It notably incorporates a defensive tower. Later C18 Gothicisation was reversed by Anthony Salvin in 1863.

St Michael's Parish Church was rebuilt under Henry VI who granted the burgesses of Alnwick tolls on exports from the Port of Alnmouth to 'make and repair their church' in c.1464. This was part of a bid for the support of the Percy family, Earls of Northumberland, during the Wars of the Roses. Reports of a Saxon church on the same site are unconfirmed although the presence of a Norman chapel has been confirmed; this chapel was itself extended in the C14, and fragments of the early chapel and parts of the C14 north and west walls are incorporated into the present church. Turbulent conditions on the English border during the C14 and C15 centuries meant that this was not a time of peace and prosperity for Northumberland and little church work took place in the county. Such work was generally confined to what were considered the safer areas in the south of the county and close to the coast, leading to an absence of newly built decorated and perpendicular work. St Michael's Alnwick is a rare example of the perpendicular style and owes its existence to the relationship between the Monarch and the Earls of Northumberland.

The long embattled south aisle is lit by three-light perpendicular windows, separated by pinnacled buttresses. There is a simple priest's door into the south chapel and adjacent to this, a projecting polygonal turret with a corbelled-out top and chamber, rise above the chancel roof. This appears to have had a defensive function as its upper levels carry embrasures

At the west end of the church, there is a wide gabled porch with carved stone cross and double wooden doors with hood mould and carved stops. The embattled tower has angle buttresses with twelve set-offs ending in pinnacles; the ground floor has a segmental headed window with perpendicular tracery, the second stage has paired narrow openings, and the third stage has a perpendicular slatted window. The east end has three perpendicular windows, separated by stepped buttresses surmounted by pinnacles; that lighting the south aisle has five lights and that to the north aisle has four lights, both with complex tracery; the east end of the chancel including its five-light window date from the C19 restoration. The west end has a three-light window (a C19 replacement for a decorated original) and a small trefoil lancet window of c. 1300, incorporated into the later church from its predecessor and indicating the presence of a formerly narrower nave. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Church is said to have a defensible west tower and defensible stair turret granting access to former chamber over chancel. Medieval church architecture had a strong martial element, demonstrating the Churches dominion, and the local architectural style would emphasis this so it arguable how 'defensible' this church really was. However, churches did contain valuable items and documents so an element of security and a possible strong room may well have been part of the building. The church was outside the line of the town wall.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNU183137
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  • Brooke, C.J., 2000, Safe Sanctuaries (Edinburgh; John Donald) p. 100-3
  • Tomlinson, W.W., 1888, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 374-6
  • Wilson, F.R., 1870, Survey of Churches in the Archdeaconry of Lindisfarne (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: M. and M.W. Lambert)

Guide Books

  • Graham, F. 1973, Alnwick, A Short History and Guide (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)


  • Northumberland County Council, 2009, 'Alnwick' Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey doi:10.5284/1000177 [download copy >]