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
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
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
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
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)
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing