West Lilburn chapel and burial ground


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014922

Date first listed: 23-Aug-1935

Date of most recent amendment: 27-Aug-1996


Ordnance survey map of West Lilburn chapel and burial ground
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Lilburn

National Grid Reference: NU 02235 24188


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

A medieval chapel is a building, usually rectangular, containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate for Christian worship in the pre- Reformation period. Chapels were designed for congregational worship and were generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provided accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which was the main domain of the priest and contained the principal altar. Around 4000 parochial chapels were built between the 12th and 17th centuries as subsidiary places of worship built for the convenience of parishioners who lived at a distance from the main parish church. Other chapels were built as private places of worship by manorial lords and lie near or within manor houses, castles or other high-status residences. Chantry chapels were built and maintained by endowment and were established for the singing of masses for the soul of the founder. Some chapels possessed burial grounds. Unlike parish churches, the majority of which remain in ecclesiastical use, chapels were often abandoned as their communities and supporting finances declined or disappeared. Many chantry chapels disappeared after the dissolution of their supporting communities in the 1540s. Chapels, like parish churches, have always been major features of the landscape. A significant number of surviving examples are identified as being nationally important. The sites of abandoned chapels, where positively identified, are particularly worthy of statutory protection as they were often left largely undisturbed and thus retain important information about the nature and date of their use up to their abandonment.

The post-Conquest chapel and burial ground at West Lilburn are well preserved and will contain significant archaeological deposits. It is one of a small group of chapels which have above ground remains and are known by more than just documentary evidence and will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of their use.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the remains of a post-Conquest medieval chapel and part of its burial ground. The chapel is situated in a hollow above the Lilburn Burn and below the ruins of old Lilburn Tower to the south west. The chapel survives as a ruined stone building comprising chancel, nave and south chapel. On the south side are a number of medieval grave slabs as well as more recent headstones. The graveyard is still in use and a sample only has been included in the scheduling. The chapel was partly excavated by Mr E F Collingwood in 1933 and the upper part of the west wall reconstructed with reused stone. The nave and chancel measure externally 17.3m east-west by 6.2m north-south with walls 0.84m wide and standing to a maximum height of 5m. The external ground level is c.0.8m above the floor level inside the chapel. The nave, in its present form 12th century in date, is rectangular in plan with two openings in the south wall. First is the chapel entrance, which measures 1.75m wide, with four uneven steps - the threshold having been raised to keep pace with the rising level of the graveyard and a 13th century grave cover now acts as a doorstep. Second is the opening into the south chapel which measures 2.6m wide. In the east wall is the opening of the chancel arch which measures 2.45m wide; many of the voussoirs of the arch were found during excavation. Within the nave is the bowl of a medieval font also found during excavation and a decorated medieval grave slab, probably in its original position on the north side. The slab is decorated in carved relief with an irregular wheel cross on a stepped base, a sword and three small figures. At the west end of the nave is a pile of loose stones and architectural fragments. At the east end of the north wall there are traces of render on its internal face. The chancel is set out very irregularly but is roughly square in plan and thought to be a late 12th or early 13th century addition to the nave. There are traces of three window openings in the north, east and south walls. Within the walls are four rectangular recesses whose function is uncertain but the southern recess has been used as an aumbry or cupboard for sacred vessels. Within the chancel is a 17th century gravecover for Henry Revely and two 20th century slabs. The south chapel, added c.1220, is rectangular in plan and projects from the south wall of the nave; it measures 5.75m east-west by 6.6m north-south with walls 0.73m wide. The south chapel was originally lit by three windows, no traces of which now remain. In the south wall is a piscina and in the east wall the sill of another aumbry. In the north west corner are two tomb slabs which may originally have lain in the nave. The north one bears the name `Alexander' carved in relief, with the defaced head and shoulders of a man, a shield, the head of a dog, a spear and sword, an incised fish and bird; stylistically it is no later than the first quarter of the 12th century. The southern stone bears a Latin cross in low relief, the arms joined by a wide circle; it is thought to be of a similar date to its neighbour. In the burial ground are several medieval grave slabs located to the east and west of the south chapel as well as post-medieval gravestones. The sample area of the burial ground included in the scheduling incorporates seven medieval grave slabs. The chapel at West Lilburn was one of five or six chapels in the parish of Eglingham, in the manor of Bewick and in the barony of Wark. The building dates to the 12th century and the earliest documentary reference is in 1174 when it was decided to rebuild the chancel. The south chapel was built by the Lilburn family c.1220 because the chancel belonged to the monks of Tynemouth and could not be used as their private chapel. An inventory of chantry goods made in 1552 indicates a chantry was founded in connection with the south chapel. After the Reformation the south chapel was separated from the nave by a stone wall but it continued in use as a mausoleum. The south chapel was allowed to fall into ruin by the Collingwood family who appropriated the chancel. Documentary evidence shows that the chapel was still in use in 1650 but by 1734 it was described along with the other Eglingham chapels as ruinous and only used for burials. The chapel is a Listed Building Grade II.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 24657

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Dodds, M H, A History of Northumberland, (1935), 381-388
Honeyman, H L, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in West Lilburn Chapel, , Vol. 10, (1933), 210-223
Department of the Environment, List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, Borough of Berwick upon Tweed, Lilburn parish, (1985)

End of official listing