Accumulating history since early Saxon times
THERE has been a church at Bothal, near Morpeth, since early Saxon times, and some stones used in the first building, as well as three stone coffins of the period, can still be seen.
One of these coffins is considered unique, as it is only large enough for a child, and there is little evidence that ordinary Saxon children were buried in the same manner as adults.
An early Norman church at Bothal is believed to have been destroyed by raiding Scots in 1138, and the early English building which replaced it suffered a similar fate at the hands of Scots king William the Lion and his men in 1174.
The present church was built in the early 13th century and, although many additions and alterations have been made to it, the main structure has remained as when first built. Among the interior stone work of the period which remains is a triple sedilia, or chair, which was built on an overturned tombstone and used by the officiating clergy at services at the high altar.
The belfry was added to the church in the 14th century, and one of the bells is dated 1615 and bears the inscription "Gloria Die Soli".
Part of the church was once the chapel of the Ogle family, one of the most pow- erful in the district, and many reminders of the family remain. They include an alabaster monument to Ralph Ogle, who died in 1513, and his wife Margaret.
One of the smallest known hagioscopes, or squints, remains in the south pier of the chancel arch. This was the aperture through which members of the family could see the high altar from their chapel without being watched by the rest of the congregation.
There is an unusual window set at ground level, in the south-west corner of the chancel, and the main altar rails are splendid examples of Jacobean woodwork.
Two pieces of ancient stonework are to be found on the outside of the church, perhaps the most interesting being the sundial mounted on one of the buttresses. The other is a Maypole-stone which now stand by the doorway of the church. This has a hole in the centre in which the Maypole used on the village green was set.
To find the Six Townships Community History Group's website, go to www.sixtownships.org.uk
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