St. Cuthbert's Tour

Photo by Michael Bradley

An overview of St. Cuthbert's Church, Greenhead

St Cuthbert’s Church was built as a Chapel of Ease in 1827 on ground donated by Colonel Coulson. The architect was John Dobson from Newcastle. The original building was no larger than the present-day nave and the tower had no spire. Following substantial restoration in 1880, the building became the parish church in 1892 when Greenhead was designated a separate parish from Haltwhistle. In 1900 the church was extended to include the chancel and the spire. This addition was funded by Colonel Joicey (who by then owned the Blenkinsopp manor) and built in memory of his father Edward Joicey. The original ceiling and roof were removed and replaced with the open timbered roof of today. An oak shingle covered spire was also added to the tower.

The church was first lit by oil lamps and evidence of these remain today.

On the North wall of the Nave there are three stained glass windows with two panels in each and the designs illustrate the following:

  1. FAITH
    The faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matthew 15)
    The charitable Dorcas (Acts 9)
  3. HOPE
    The sick waiting hopefully at the Pool of Siloam (John 9)

On the South wall of the Nave there another three stained glass windows with a modern window dedicated in 1981 in memory of Major John Joicey (given by his wife and daughters). The three stained glass windows depict the main events in the life of our Lord:

  1. a The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane
    b The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke 1)
  2. a The Crucifixion
    b The Nativity or Birth in the stable at Bethlehem (Luke 2)
  3. a The Ascension
    b The Epiphany or Visit of the Three Wise Men (Matthew 2)

On the south side of the Nave there is also the Font and the War Memorial for the 1914-18 war (it is particularly detailed and worth a study). The Second World War Memorial can be found outside the church near the junction in the village. The flag positioned nearby is that of the Greenhead branch of the British Legion.

There are many tablets/brass plaques throughout the church – all worth a look and many dedicated to the memory of local families including one commemorating the sons of the Blenkinsopp Coulsons.

The Chancel and Sanctuary

A brass plaque on the south wall lists the names of the people whose graves were covered by the chancel when it was built in 1900. The marble steps leading up to the Altar are symbolically coloured to represent the three steps of man’s journey to Heaven:

  1. BLACK – represents man’s sinful and fallen condition
  2. RED – represents the blood of Christ shed obtain man’s salvation from sin
  3. WHITE – represents the eventual complete sanctification which man, now freed from sin, has to work out in a life lived for God and his fellow men.

The cupboard (or Aumbry) in the top corner of the sanctuary is where reserved sacrament was kept (this would have been distributed to the sick and house-bound).

The East window above the altar shows Christ ruling in majesty surrounded by well-known saints who served him in Northumbria. These are The Venerable Bede, St. Aidan, St. Cuthbert, St. Columba, King Oswald (and his Queen), St. Wilfred and Benedict Biscop. The window was designed and made by the north east stained-glass maker, William Kempe and his special wheatsheaf can be spotted by the observant visitor with patience.

The beautifully craved oak Reredos behind the altar was a gift from Florence Joicey (widow of Edward Joicey). The two-manual organ was built around 1900 by the Sunderland firm of Vincent.

Although the churchyard was “closed” to further burials in 1880, it remains an interesting insight to distant times and the more affluent residents of nineteenth century Greenhead. Many are very weathered, and some have been resituated (years ago) to the churchyard walls for safety reasons. The churchyard is now maintained by Northumberland County Council.

The old square tower

St. Cuthbert's Spire

The Spire

St Cuthbert's church was originally built as a four bay aisless nave with lancets and a narrow square tower.

The Chapel was extended  in 1900 by Colonel Edward Joicey in memory of his father, also Edward. The Nave was restored, the Chancel built and the tall slender spire added.

In recent years the oak shingles of the spire have been replaced, allowing some magnificent views from the scaffolding.

The Kneelers

The Kneelers

The project we set ourselves was to make three four-foot kneelers for the altar rail in St. Cuthbert’s. Tapestry and feltwork were to be our chosen media which would be worked with wool sourced from a flock of Cheviot sheep raised on a farm in Coanwood; but before the needle point could begin, wool had to be dyed. This was done by the group using natural dyes, creating stunning colours. We involved the children from Greenhead First School in the project, too.

We based the designs on incidents from St. Cuthbert’s life, as written down by the Venerable Bede.