St Michael & All Angels

In the tiny village of Alnham and set on the edge of the Northumbrian National Park, close to the source of the River Aln and somewhat off the beaten track.

About this church

The earliest written records of a church on this site are in 1135 when William de Vesty gave the church to the monks of Alnwick Abbey. It might well be that the church yard is older than the church, whilst in relative terms the lychgate in modern there are three ancient socketted bases for crosses standing close to it.

Being close to the Scottish Border, Alnham has seen some troubled times. It is believed that the original church was built on the site of a small Roman camp, which most probably was used as a centurion’s guard to protect their herds of cattle when grazing during the summer in the rich pastures on the bank of the river Aln above Whittingham.

Further evidence of a turbulent past is the Pele House (pronounced peel) next door on the west side of the church. Built in the 14th century during the reign of Edward III it was described as the 'little tower' in documents of 1541. It was built as protection from the raiding Scots and also against local outlaws.

Alnham church has connections to the gunpowder plot of 1605. In part of a formal written document of 1597, Henry, ninth Earl of Northumberland writes to his cousin, Thomas Percy, one of the leaders of the plot to blow up the King and Parliament. It says:

'The very true and undoubted patrone of the parishe and church of Alnehame sending greetings in the Lord God Everlasting, grantes by his writing to my beloved Cosyn Thomas Percy, his executors, and assignees, the first and next advowsone, donation, nomination, presentation and free disposition of the Rectory and Parsonage of the Parish Church of Alneham'

Inside the church, there is a font dated 1664 and placed inside at the time of the English Civil War. It is said that Cromwell visited Little Ryle on the parish boundary. The coat of arms and heraldic inscriptions on the font connect with the Percy Family of Alnwick Castle whilst the monuments to the west of the font are rather interesting. At the back of the church is the gravestone George Adder, the son Robert Adder who then resided at Prendwick. He  perished whilst trying to cross the River Tweed in 1611 at Henderside ford at Kelso. His body was recovered further down stream at Sharpit Law.

The fireplace on the north wall of the church opposite the south door was added in the 19th century.

The sanctuary was refurbished in 1938 when the east stained glass window, alter panelling communion rail where given in memory of Adam Scott by his wife; his mother donating the clergy desks in memory of the same. Adam Scott died in 1925 after breaking his neck after falling from his horse at Kelso races. He is buried in the church yard at the east end of the church in his racing colours.

After World War Two local parishioners raised sufficient funds (£800) to restore the chancel which had fallen into disrepair and day light could be seen through the roof. In the chancel there are four medieval  tombs; the two to the north marked his, an inscription of a sword or maybe a spade, and hers, an inscription of a pair of scissors.

In 1953 the remainder of the church was restored at the expense of a single local benefactor, Gustav Renwick from Holystone Grange. Behind the door in the church there is a photograph of the reopening of the church following this refurbishment, amongst other things it shows that fifty years ago the beech trees at the end of the church path were not pressed up against the lychgate as they are now! 

More recently, the church was the starting point for the dedication of a Cairn erected on the hill out toward Ewartly Shank to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the death of two shepherds, Jock Scott and Willey Micklemass who froze to death in a blizzard in 1962. Their deaths led to the establishment on the Northumbrian National Park Mountain Rescue Service.

As for the last 900 years and more, the church today is a witness to Christ and a symbol of faith in the magnificent Northumbrian hills. 

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Magnificent memorials
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Fascinating churchyard
  • Wildlife haven
  • Social heritage stories
  • National heritage here

Visitors information

  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike

Other nearby churches

St Andrew

St Andrew's church, situated on the west side of the village of Glanton, was built in 1783 and was originally a Presbyterian church and is now the only church in the village.

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