Thursday, April 11, 2013

Kirkhaugh Church

Today's Guardian Country Diary describes a visit to the unique Kirkhaugh church in the tiny Northumbrian hamlet of Ayle. It's unusual for two reasons: firstly because it is the only church in England dedicated to the Holy Paraclete (the Holy Spirit, symbolised by a dove) rather than to a saint; secondly it has a very unusual needle-sharp spire, the work of the first vicar, who was also the architect of the church. He was Rev. Octavius James, who rebuilt the church on the site of a Mediaeval ruin in 1869, incorporating some of the earlier church's remains but adding a spire like a tooth pick, said to have been inspired by something similar that he saw on his travels in Germany.

Octavius James died in 1889 in a fire in Clarghyll Hall near Alston, another of his architectural enterprises that was a converted 16th. century bastle house.

The interior of the church contains this rather fine marble memorial to a former Lord of the manor, Albany Featherstonehaugh, 'whose line became extinct in 1639'.

The churchyard outside contains this rather melancholy memorial.....

..... with a fine encrustation of lichens, while over against the churchyard wall ....

....... this headstone, whose inscription has been worn away by the Northumbrian weather, has been split in two by the trunk of a horse chestnut that must have been planted as a sapling too close to the grave, perhaps a century ago.

The horse chestnut, which seems to be perfectly healthy, is gradually engulfing the headstone.

Many of the old headstones are well worn and barely decipherable, but host a range of lichens that would probably keep a lichenologist amused for quite some time..

The most delightful inscription in the graveyard is this one, on the back of a headstone whose main inscription has been erased by weather and lichens. The epitaph describes the grave's anonymous occupant as:

A loyal Subject in his Life
A Good Husband to his Wife
A Father to his Children Dear
A Good Neighbour Lieth Here


  1. I enjoy churches and their grave stones. It reminds me of my own mortality....not that I need much reminding.

  2. I saw a church almost like that in Sweden. Those stones are so expressive with the mosses, a lot of character!

  3. The headstones make compulsive reading, don't they Adrian? I was looking at some in Blanchland cemetery a while ago and was amazed ho many there were from the 19th. century for people who had lived to 80+............

  4. I find the stone masons' letter carving skill wonderful too, Andrea