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Holy Cross Church

Case study: Chatton, Northumberland NE66 5PY (North East)

List entry number: 1415535

Holy Cross Church building at risk showing the saddleback roof
The saddleback roof to the west tower of the church is an unusual feature in the North East of England

Background and history

The earliest known church on this site dates back to the 12th century. The site was given to the monks of Alnwick by William de Vesci, Baron of Alnwick possibly as a retreat from abbey life. This early church was destroyed in the 13th century. Its replacement was also destroyed in the 13th century by flood and fire. It lay in ruins for many years before rebuilding began again in the 18th century. The present church was built between 1763 and 1770.

Situated in a quiet corner of Chatton, this early Gothic Revival church has a relatively simple exterior. However, the interior has seen many alterations and additions since the 18th century. Most notably, Anthony Salvin, architect to the Duke of Northumberland, added the north aisle in 1846. There is also important work by local artist William Wailes. He decorated the east window and south chancel windows with stained glass in 1851.

Further work took place in 1897. This included a new saddleback roof to the tower (pitched roof over the tower). Part of the north aisle was enclosed to form a baptistery. The vestry and the clock were both added later.

From the 18th century the church is associated with the Culley family. They contributed the intricately carved reredos designed by Arthur Moore. The Culleys were resident at the nearby Fowberry Tower. Several members of the family are commemorated in memorials and stained glass windows around the church.

Holy Cross Church building at risk under scaffolding
The current programme of repairs underway with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Historic England provides the HLF with expert advice to help them assess applications to ensure that repair proposals are appropriate.

Is it at risk?

Yes. The church was added to the Register in 2014 because it was suffering from a lack of regular maintenance. Tasks like replacing broken, slipped or missing roof slates had not been tackled. Poorly designed roof detailing has allowed rainwater to get in. Rainwater goods are in poor condition. Many are choked with vegetation and debris. There are open joints in some areas of high-level stonework. Cracks are appearing in a number of areas. There is evident structural movement at the north-west corner of the church. This will require further investigation to establish what has caused the failure to occur.

What's the current situation?

Holy Cross Church has received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Grants for Place of Worship scheme. The much needed repairs at high level and to the north-west corner of the church are now underway and are almost complete. These repairs should result in the removal of the church from the Historic England Heritage at Risk Register.

Historic England provided the HLF with expert advice. This helped the HLF to assess the application to ensure that the repair proposals were appropriate. The HLF grant also includes the provision of a ramp to facilitate access into the churchyard.

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