Day coach tour to Northumberland

Saturday 11th June 2022

Visiting Shepherds Law Hermitage
Biddlestone Chapel and Callaly Castle

Interior views of the chapel at Shepherds Law, Biddlestone Chapel ans Callaly Castle

The chapel at Shepherds Law - Biddlestone Chapel - Callaly Castle

We visited three remarkable sites where new works have been grafted onto existing (sometimes ruinous) older structures.

The Hermitage at Shepherds Law has been developed over the last fifty years by Brother Harold Palmer, with Ralph Pattisson as his principal architect. Set within the ruins of what seems to have been an agricultural compound with curious architectural pretensions, the new work includes a range of hermits' cells with arcaded frontage intended to form one side of a future cloister, and a splendid chapel (pictured) in a timeless Anglo-Romanesque style combining Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican Christian traditions. The project won an RICS Renaissance award in 2007 and an Art+Christianity Enquiry/RIBA award in 2015.

At Biddlestone the Catholic chapel (listed grade II*) sits atop, and incorporates the structure of, a pele tower or bastle house (Scheduled Ancient Monument) with vaulted ground floor. Originally attached to the very plain barrack-like Biddlestone Hall (erected c. 1796, demolished 1957) this was the private chapel of the Selby family but shared with the local Catholic community, the latter continuing to use it until 1992. It is now owned by the Historic Chapels Trust. Sometimes attributed to John Dobson, who is known to have worked on the Hall in the 1820s, the chapel as we now see it seems more likely to be the work of the catholic architect A.M. Dunn (of Dunn & Hansom who completed St. Mary's R.C. cathedral in Newcastle) in the 1860s. The stained glass in the east window dated 1862 is attributed to William Wailes of Gateshead.

Callaly Castle also incorporates the structure of a Pele or Bastle - maybe even two - and shows several layers of historic development. The exterior of the South Wing was remodelled in 1676 (very probably by Robert Trollope) whilst its drawing room displays a tour de force of decorative plasterwork dating from 1757 by Italian Stuccatori (members may recall the splendid lecture on these craftsmen by Christine Casey last May1). Elsewhere, much of the present exterior of the castle dates from a substantial enlargement in the 1890s to designs following Trollope's style by James Stevenson of Berwick.

Booking form and detailed itinerary
More detailed architectural/historical information was handed round on the coach.


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