Regular readers may remember from a previous post about All Saints church in Newcastle, that a medieval font was rescued from being destroyed by the marauding, pesky Scots, and ended up in St.Wilfreds Church up in Kirkharle. Sophie and decided to hunt it down on a mixed weather day on our last outing for 2019. First, as always, get your ☕️ and 🍪 at the ready, we’ll do
The History Bit.
Kirkharle is a hamlet in Northumberland. First recorded back in days of yore (1177) it was called Herle back then and comes from even yorier Old English words for a place of worship such as “Herela’s Grove” or “herg-leah” which means “temple-grove”, for pre-christian Angles. The origin of the church dates back to 1165 when Walter de Bolbec founded Blanchland Abbey, and linked the Herle church to it. Most of the church that stands today was built in 1336 by Sir William de Herle who founded a chantry for priests to pray for his soul, especially after his death in 1347. Not much to say about Wills, he was a British justice, appointed as an attorney to the Common Bench (a common law court dealing with common pleas that didn’t involve the King) and there’s little information on him or his family. His wiki page doesn’t mention his involvement at Kirkharle but he is mentioned in A History of Northumberland by John Hodgson published in 1827, “1240 – Little Harle Tower – ‘This mansion in the capitol seat of the manor of Little Harle, otherwise called East Harle, which in 1240, was beholden of the baron of Prudhoe by Hugh de Herle.’ 1284 – ‘Sir William de Herle, knt., was one of the great lights and worthies of Northd.’ He or his son Wm. was made ‘LORD CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS’ in 1317.” His father Sir Hugh de Herle is mentioned on the People of Medieval Scotland and People of Medieval Northern England sites as both a juror in land disputes between Scotland and England and as a plaintiff and defendant in other land deeds disputes. Anyhoo I digress.
In the 14th century the Kirkharle manor was passed into the Loraine family who came over from France not long after the Norman Conquest where Robert Loraine served under William the Conqueror. By this time the Tower, Manor, village and 1900 acres of arable land was in the hands of William del Strother, and passed to William
Golddigger Loraine when he married the daughter Joanna Del Strother as it was her (very substantial!) dowry, and it stayed in the Lorain family for 400 years.
In 1664 a Baronetcy was created for Thomas Loraine, High Sherrif of Northumberland. Another William Loraine, the 2nd Baronet, built a new manor house to his own design between 1718 and 1738, replacing Harle Tower as the family home. His Grandson the 4th Baronet also called William (sigh) (1749-1809) added a couple of wings and replaced the roof. This sketch shows how it looked after Willy 4’s alterations.
Will 4 also had the original gardens removed which were attributed to Capability Brown. (More on him to come!)
The 6th Willy Baronet (1801-1849) like a lot of local landowners, went to the assistance of the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne banks which were suffering from the cost of the Napoleonic wars, and when the North Tyne Bank collapsed Willy 6 had to sell the Hall due to the declining wealth of the family. In 1836 Major Thomas Anderson, who lived in Little Harle Tower, bought the Hall, but as he didn’t need two houses promptly and exasperatingly demolished most of it except one section which he renamed Kirkharle Farmhouse. By way of compensation to posterity for this vandalism, he designed and built major extensions to Littleharle Tower, which were carried out in 1860-61. The Anderson family are still in posession of the estate.
There’s a handy carpark when you get there, and we were happy to see there was a cafe and some artisan shops using the farmhouse, but first wanted to walk up to the church. The first thing we came across was a stone monument. This was erected to commemorate Robert Loraine, a border reiver who was murdered in 1483. Robert was, according to a Loraine Family History of 1738, ‘a zealous prosecutor of Robbers, Thieves and Moss-Troopers’. (Actually Moss-Troopers didn’t exist back in 1483 but were brigands of the mid 1700’s who operated between the borders of Scotland and England, but as the book history was written in 1738 I presume it’s their word for persons of unscrupulous morals and the like. Much like the reivers!)
Robert lived at Harle Tower, (which we didn’t visit as it’s in private ownership), where he kept ‘a number of Horses and Arms, always ready…suitable for his estate to pursue the Scots Excursions and Depradations into Northumberland.
He had a terrible death, having been waylaid between his house and the church by a party of men. Sir Lambton Loraine the 11th Baronet was interviewed by a journalist of The New York Times in 1874, and said the killers “determined to strike terror into the hearts of his allies, the Fenwicks,Wallingtons, Shaftoes, by the brutality of the murder”. Robert’s body was cut up “small as flesh for the pot”, then placed in the saddlebags of his horse, which was then left to make it’s way home.
We had a wander around the outside of the church
St Wilfred (633 – 709 or 710) started out a Northumbrian Nobleman, did his training at Lindisfarne, then in Gaul and Rome, returning to Northumberland in 660 where he became the abbot of a newly founded monastery at Ripon. He became famous for a speech he gave at the Synod of Whitby, advocating that the Roman method for calculating the date of Easter should be adopted. He was successful and the King’s son Alhfrith had him promoted to Bishop of Northumberland.
Wilfred went off to Gaul to be consecrated and in the meantime Alhfrith seems to have led an unsuccessful revolt against his father, Oswiu (who you may remember in this post) and before Wilfred returned, Oswiu had put another chap, Ceadda, in the Bishopric, so Wilf went back to Ripon.
In 668 Theodore of Tarsus became the Archbishop of Canterbury and deposed Ceaddur, restoring Wilf to the Bishopric, where for the next 9 years he worked hard establishing new churches, founding monasteries, and improving the liturgy, but Theodore wanted to break up large diocese like Wilf’s, and make them smaller. Luckily for Theo, Wilf had a barney with Ecgfrith, the King of Northumberland, who expelled him, so Theo got to implement his reforms and Wilf went off to Rome to see the Pope, Agatho, who ruled in Wilf’s favour. But old Ecgfrith wasn’t having it, and on Wilf’s return banged him up in prison, then exiled him.
Wilf went off to Selsey, a town by the sea in West Sussex, where he converted the pagans to Christianity, poor sods, and founded an episcopal see (a bishops eccleiastical jurisdiction). Theo and Wilf kissed and made up, and Wilf was brought back to Northumberland where a new King Aldfrith was head honcho, but in 691 Wilf was expelled by him too after quarelling over land acquisition. This time Wilf went off to Mercia where he was bishop to the Mercian King Æthelred. Yet again Wilf petitioned the Pope about his expulsion and the Pope ordered that an English council should be held to decide the issue.
The council meeting didn’t go well for Wilf as the members decided to confiscate all Wilf’s possessions and so Wilfrid hot footed it to Rome to appeal against the decision. His opponents in Northumbria excommunicated him, but the papacy upheld Wilfrid’s side, and he regained possession of both Ripon and Hexam Monasteries. Wilfrid died in 709 or 710 and after his death, he was venerated as a saint.
Well now, we English are bonkers for our gardens, and the most famous English gardener was a chap called Lancelot Brown (1715/6 – 1783). Known as Capability Brown because he would tell his clients that their property had “capability” for improvement. He designed over 170 parks, many of which still endure. Lancelot was born in Kirkharle, his parents both working at the manor. He worked as the head gardener’s apprentice in Sir William Loraine’s kitchen garden until he was 23, when he toodled off down south, first to Lincolnshire, then Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, working for head gardeners for Lords and Ladies, and getting his own commissions to landscape gardens for the landed gentry. He ended up as King George III’s Master Gardener at Hampton Court Palace.
Apart from being born in Kirkharle, he was baptised in the Church but from the age of 23 never had anything more to do with the place, but he’s mentioned so much in all the history bits around the place you’d think he’d lived worked and died there! No wonder everyone else of import is reduced to a few lines! However, before he left he designed plans for a lake and stunning parkland at Kirkharle Hall, which never came to fruition. So the plans have now been updated and and his lake and associated planting were completed in 2010. It will take ages and ages for it all to grow into a fully fledged beautiful garden, but here are some photo’s of what there is so far.
Can’t say we were overly impressed, but it’ll probably look great in 50 years time!
Stay tooned for next time when we’ll look inside the Church.
refs:-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirkharle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirkharle_Hall https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilfrid https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moss-trooper https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capability_Brown https://www.poms.ac.uk/record/person/9957/# http://www.pone.ac.uk/record/person/785/ https://landedfamilies.blogspot.com/2014/07/130-anderson-of-newcastle-and-little.html