About this church
To appreciate the rarity and wonder of the church and cross you have to embark on an expedition of sorts, for Bewcastle lies in the debatable lands of NE Cumbria, where Cumbria, Northumberland and Scotland meet. Bewcastle is perhaps England’s last true wilderness.
Yet there has been a community here since prehistoric times. Bronze Age hut circles preceded Roman occupation; they built a fort to safeguard their northern flank beyond Hadrian’s Wall. That a Saxon settlement followed is clearly evidenced by the finest cross of that period anywhere in Britain. A Norman castle was built within the ruined Roman fort, forming yet another bastion against the unpredictable Scottish neighbours.
The church is rather simpler and certainly younger, parts of it dating from 1277, although mostly it is the Victorian alterations that endure. Simple though it is, visitors feel the peaceful and calming atmosphere of the church. The church is Grade II* listed. It, the cross and castle lie within the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.
The history of this church begins with an enigma. Why was Britain’s finest Anglo Saxon cross placed here in the 7th century? Scholars have fought over the true meaning, though recent knowledge suggests that this was an evangelical symbol to mark the extent of Christian influence at that time. Geophysical surveys within the old Roman fort suggest a Saxon settlement, not uncommon where defence was still necessary, and the earliest religious building might have been a Saxon Church, or possibly even a monastic settlement.
Nikolaus Pevsner wrote in his introduction to his Guide to the Buildings of Cumberland and Westmorland ‘Art in Cumberland started its course through history at its climax. It never reached higher than with the Bewcastle Cross.’
‘And it is this ancient, precious and powerful place that we offer to all as a place of pilgrimage, renewal and hope.’ Philip Greenhalgh, Rector of Bewcastle.
Come and experience this for yourself.