Newbiggin By The Sea Church of St Bartholomew

Has been described as a Questionable Pele Tower, and also as a Questionable Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameNewbiggin By The Sea Church of St Bartholomew
Alternative Names
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishNewbiggin By The Sea

Parish church. Pre-C13 fabric may survive in the nave walls; 4 eastern bays of arcades early C13, 2 western bays and west tower late C13; chancel rebuilt c.1300; spire C14. Aisles demolished and chancel a roofless ruin in C18; 1845 restoration of nave and chancel, further restoration with new chancel arch and organ chamber 1898 by W.S. Hicks; north aisle rebuilt 1912. Squared stone, rough-faced in C19 and early C20 parts; roof of mixed purple and green slate.

South wall of nave 6 bays; porch near west end is probably C19, with boarded double doors under double-chamfered arch and coped gable with moulded kneelers; small lancets in porch returns are probably re-set medieval work. 1845 nave windows each of 2 pointed lights with quatrefoil over. East gable coped with moulded kneelers and cross finial. North aisle has chamfered plinth, stepped buttresses and hollow-chamfered cornice below moulded parapet; 2-light windows on north and 3-light west window, with cinquefoil-headed lights in C15 style. Unbuttressed west tower has small C19 west door within larger blocked opening, with blocked trefoil-headed window and trefoiled round window over; north and south walls each have trefoiled spheric triangle light with lancet over. String course below belfry; belfry opening of 2 lights with quatrefoil in spandrel. Octagonal stone spire with small slatted openings, weathercock finial.

Chancel has two 3-light windows on south, western of lancet lights and eastern with intersecting tracery; east window of 5 stepped lancets under one arch. Lancet on north (re-sited from west end of wall in 1898) and blocked doorway. Coped east gable with moulded kneelers. Organ chamber with boarded door and two 2-light windows.

Interior: Arcades of double-chamfered pointed arches with broach stops to chamfers and head stops to hoodmoulds, on octagonal piers with moulded capitals and bases; western arches broader and differing in detail

South wall of-nave built outside arcade; in length of medieval wall at east end of arcade is blocked lancet with square-headed piscina below. Blocked pointed arch to tower with set-back and blocked doorway above. Nave roof has arch-braced principal-rafter trusses with collars, north aisle flat panelled ceiling.

Tall double-chamfered chancel arch; 1845 chancel arch, with grotesque head stops, re-set as organ chamber arch. Chancel has piscina with moulded bowl and sill of adjacent window lowered to form sedile; blocked doorways at west end of south wall and to east of 1912 vestry door on north. C12 carved capital re-set as corbel on south of east window.

Interior of tower, now boiler house, shows inserted segmental barrel vault with newel stair, cutting across tower arch.

Fittings and furnishings largely C20, except for C18 Pater, Creed and Commandment boards in nave. Important collection of C12 and C13 cross slab grave covers include 8 complete examples re-set in walls of north aisle.

The dramatic headland site, away from the village; suggests early origins. The unusual length of the nave (even allowing for its 1845 extension into the old chancel) and the apparent insertion of the C13 tower arch in an earlier west wall may point to the survival of Pre-Conquest fabric; re-used C12 architectural fragments indicate a predecessor to the present building. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Suggested as a fortified church by Brooke. The tower was built in late C13 and the spire was added in C14. He suggests a stone vault was inserted into the tower making it a defensible space, possibly a priest pele tower. However, as with some other churches suggested as defensible by Brooke, the 'vault' in the tower appears to be a structural strengthening of the tower (to support the spire in this case?). Spires are relatively uncommon in Northumberland churches but this church, on a coastal headland, must have been a navigation marker and the spire may have served to aid this aspect of the church's function.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ17880
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Calculate Print


  • Brooke, C.J., 2000, Safe Sanctuaries (Edinburgh; John Donald) p. 160-2

Guide Books

  • Briggs, G.W.D., 1998, An Architectural Account of the Church of St Bartholomew Newbiggin-by-the-Sea (Newbiggin: Newbiggin PCC)