Holy Cross Church and graveyard, Wallsend


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Tyneside (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NZ 30535 67190

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.

Holy Cross Church is a well preserved example of a medieval parochial chapel. The church and its associated graveyard have not been disturbed and will preserve deposits pertaining to the construction and use of the monument.


The monument includes the remains of Holy Cross Church, situated on the top of a spur, which is bounded to the north, west and south by a deep ravine through which the Wallsend Burn flows. The visible remains of the church, which is Listed Grade I, include a chancel, nave, porch and associated graveyard. The chancel and nave form a tapering rectilinear structure approximately 16m in length and 7.2m wide at the western end of the nave, tapering to 6.5m wide at the eastern end of the chancel. Internally the chancel measures 3.6m by 4.7m and the nave measures 9.3m by 5.3m. Within the nave is a font base. In the north wall of the nave are two doorways, one blocked and one open. The walls of the nave and chancel stand to only three to five courses high (1m- 1.5m). However, the south wall of the nave around the south doorway is preserved to a height of 4m. The southern doorway is a semi-circular Norman arch and is considered to include re-used Roman material. To the exterior of the nave are three buttresses: two diagonal buttresses on the north west and south west corners of the nave and a square buttress on the north wall. The porch was added, in the 17th century, onto the south doorway of the nave. The side walls of the porch stand to a height of approximately 1.5m. A stone seat runs against each side wall. The south wall of the porch stands to approximately 2.5m. The associated graveyard as depicted on first edition Ordnance Survey maps filled the spur that the church resides on. The boundary bank and hedge can still be detected on some of the south and east side. The bank can be seen on the east side, where it is 0.25m high and 2m wide, and is occasionally surmounted by a hedge of hawthorn. To the south the boundary is obscured by scrub growth, but portions of the hawthorn hedge can still be seen above this growth. To the west and north the line of the boundary is not visible but followed the top of the steep slope on these sides. The remaining gravestones of the graveyard were moved into a iron railing fenced area surrounding the church in 1909. The first reference to a church at Wallsend is in the late 12th century in a bull from Pope Urban to Germanus, prior of Durham confirming to him the church of Wallsend. Numerous tithe records are contained within the Jarrow account rolls for the 14th and 15th century. The church continued in use until 1797. The last burial occurred in 1842. In 1909 the interior of the church was cleared of accumulated debris, the walls consolidated and an iron railing fence erected enclosing the majority of visible gravestones. Although normally referred to as a church, the ecclesiastical status of the site was a parochial chapel. Associated with the church were two access routeways. One, a paved churchway, led from Wallsend village to the foot of a series of steps leading up the side of the ravine to the south of the church. The original steps were removed in 1845. The other was a hearse road from Willington village, which began at West Farm, led down to and followed the north side of the Wallsend Burn before leading up to the church on the west side of the hill. The iron railing fence is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Richardson, W, History of the Parish of Wallsend, (1923), 110-122
Blair, R, 'Proceedings of the Society of Antiquities, Newcastle on Tyne' in Wallsend Old Church, , Vol. 3, IV, (1909), 162-163
Knowles, W H, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Church of the Holy Cross, Wallsend, Northumberland, , Vol. 3, VI, (1910), 191-203
Contained in Tyne and Wear SMR, Wallsend Local History Society, Holy Cross Church, Wallsend,


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

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