Bolam Church of St Andrew

Has been described as a Questionable Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are major building remains

NameBolam Church of St Andrew
Alternative Names
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishBelsay

The oldest part of the church of St Andrew at Bolam is the tower, which takes to the Late Saxon period. It differs from others in the Tyne valley in its simplicity, and the fact that the belfry window is not on the top floor, but the one below. The rest of the church is Norman or later. There are a number of C10 or C11 gravemarkers kept in the church. One of the windows contains stained glass which commemorates a bomb which landed in the church without exploding in World War II (1939-45). (Keys to the Past)

Parish church. Late Saxon tower and nave west wall with quoins. C12, C13 and C14 with some C18 windows. Squared stone,with stone slate, Welsh slate and lead roofs.

West tower, nave and south aisle, south porch, north vestry, south chapel and chancel.

Tower: ground floor has C18 lancets on south and west sides, with heads of original windows above (cf. interior). Small original windows on 1st floor and 2-light openings with baluster mullions on second floor. C12 window above and renewed parapet.

3-bay nave has porch and lancets renewed in C18 on south side; on north side the vestry, a 2-light C16 window, with segmental heads to lights, and a large Victorian Geometric window.

South chapel has one south window with Y-tracery, a C12 east window and a C14 vesica above.

Chancel has Y-tracery window on south side and on north side one similar window and one pair of lancets.

Interior: deeply-splayed heads of Saxon ground-floor windows in the tower. Tower arch, perhaps C12, unmoulded arch with plain responds, the east side apparently carved in situ,with colonettes and foliage capitals, slightly later. Circa 1200 south arcade with quatrefoil keeled piers and stepped round arches. Chancel arch has round triple responds with cushion capitals carved on north side with faces at the corners; the arch has 2 rolls and an outer billet moulding

In chancel the responds of the former apse arch, removed when chancel was lengthened in C13, are round with cushion capitals. Above them, reset in the wall, the former voussoirs with saltire crosses. C14 sedilia, with octagonal shafts, and C14 piscina. South chapel has trefoiled niche and on the north wall a low-relief carving of shield and inscription. Early C13 south door has colonettes and 2 rows of dogtooth.

Monuments: C14 effigy of a knight in south chapel, perhaps Robert de Reynes of Shortflatt; in the chancel John Horsley, 1770, a standing monument with vermiculate rusticated base and swan-neck pediment holding coat of arms. Three medieval grave covers in south chapel; fragments of others built into south porch, also a fragment of a hogback.

Octagonal medieval font. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Brooke writes tower arch was blocked, making tower defensible. Gatehouse is unable to confirm this but it was normal for medieval nave arches to be 'blocked' by a rood screen. The Saxon tower is solid and has small windows, as is normal for Saxon masonry work and it was quite usual for local people to use churches as refuges in times of trouble but the interpretation of this as a 'fortified' church seems weak.

- 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
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ092826
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  • Brooke, C.J., 2000, Safe Sanctuaries (Edinburgh; John Donald) p. 141-2
  • Tomlinson, W.W., 1897, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 268


  • Briggs, G.W.D., 1982, 'The Church of St Andrew, Bolam' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser5) Vol. 10 p. 125-141