22b. Brinkburn Priory and Longframlington Church
A brief History of one of the finest early Gothic buildings in Northumberland
Brinburn Priory is set on the banks of the River Coquet a few miles east of Rothbury. It was built within a wooded loop of the river and is reached by a steady descent from the car park just off the Rothbury road. This Augustian Priory was founded in the 1130's by a community of cannons and the earliest surviving buildings date from the late 12th century. It was never very wealthy and one of the first monasteries to be closed in the Dissolution of 1536. After the dissolution the priory church was used as a parish church and part of monastic buildings were converted to a manor house. Over the centuries to condition of the buildings deteriorated but what remained was faithfully restored in the 19th century and the site is now under the management of English Heritage who will maintain this wonderful piece of medieval architecture. There is a good car park above the priory and both the admission entrance fee and excellent illustrated guide are not too much and the ticket office is at the bottom right hand side of the track down from the car park - the latter no doubt used by the cannons, priests, visiting dignitaries and local people etc. You can also see signs of quarrying on the left as you head down to the priory through the woodland.
At the end of the track descending through the woods you are 'met' by the sight of the highly decorated north door entrance showing Norman decoration with an Early English style arcade above it. The doorway is a good example of the Transitional style of architecture which characterises much of the stonework of Brinkburn Priory. In the late 12th century/early 13th century the architecture in Britain changed from the round-arched Romanesque style (Norman) to a more delicately pointed style whose first phase is described as Early English, so a combination of both is referred to as a 'Transitional' architectural style.
Details of the north door which would have been the main entrance for local people. There are three recessed semi-circular arches of beakhead ornament of bird and beast heads and the outer two of chevron or zigzag mouldings. The vertical edges of the doorway are carved with dogtooth ornament. (For even better examples see Stillingfleet Church in Yorkshire).
The rebuilt west end of the Priory into which the north door (described above) leads.
The view of the Priory from the south-east and on the left some of the early 18th century additions to the medieval manor house. The cloister was between the two buildings.
On the left the west end of the nave can just be seen, then the south transept jutting out, behind it the squat tower of the crossing and the east end on the right. The ruined area just lower left of centre is all that remains of the chapter house where the day to day running of the priory took place and to hear a chapter of their Rule, and, behind this, with the sloping roof, is the presbytery used by the cannons for their services.
Left: A small statue believed to have been added in the 16th century.
Right: The east nave door showing typical early Norman carvings.
The west end south door and the main body of the nave on whose south wall has as a beautiful pointed and trefoiled wall arcade which was originally supported on shafts detached from the wall.
Some of the fine Victorian stained glass windows added in the late 19th century, these are in the south transept are the work from 1864 onwards of William Wales of Newcastle.
Some of the rib vaulting in the south transept.
The lower east windows above the altar.
Looking west down the nave with the north aisle on the right - it was typical of Augustian Priories to have only one aisle.
The magnificent architecture of the north aisle - the arcades of the nave supporting the triforum gallery of 'double windowed' early Norman Romanesque arches and above them and the clerestory windows above the triforum. Each of these three levels of openings varies in shape.
Looking east and upwards down the nave and the central tower at the crossing is above the two high arches on the right.
The view looking east down the nave with the single north aisle on the left, from ground level at the west end. The nave is used as a spectacular and atmospheric concert hall.
The Manor House
The north front facade of the Manor House, built on in the early 18th century (~1810-1811).
The south side architecture of the early 18th century.
Somewhere within the rebuilding of ~1810-1811 and ~1830-1837 lies the basic structure of the manor house of 1536, which itself was built out of the monastic houses across the cloisters from the main body of the priory.
One of the rooms currently being restored by English Heritage. All of the floor beams are having to be replaced due to rot, but even so, you do get a 16th C feel for these rooms despite all the 18th century facade additions and rebuilding.
Some of the fine stucco delicate plaster work is still visible.
A rather corroded old 19th century cast iron cooking range!
On the way down from the car park you pass some of the quarries from which stone was obtained.
Longframlington Village Church
The village if Longframlington is situated 11 miles North West of Morpeth and five miles South East of Rothbury. It was Walter de Framlington who first built Longframlington Church, St. Mary the Virgin, around 1190. It was originally dedicated to St Mary and St. John the Baptist, but by the time of the Reformation in the 1thC it was solely dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. The finest features of the church is the Norman chancel arch, with three detached pillars on each side. For good architectural reasons it is thought that the builders of the church also built Brinkburn Priory situated two miles away in the loop of the Coquet (described above). In the early 20th century Longframlington was a substantial village with several shops and pubs and a school but children are now bussed into Swarland and Rothbury since the closure of the latter. The villagers were mainly agricultural workers and pitmen but today Longframlington is mainly a residential village for commuters or retired people.
St Mary the Virgin Church, Longframlington.
The carved head inserted over the early Norman 'Romanesque' south door entrance, another notable feature despite the centuries of erosion.
The interior is rather dark but the early Norman 'Romanesque' chancel arch with its supporting pillars can be clearly seen (more detailed picture below).
A more detailed picture of the chancel arch.
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