So this weekend we decided to go and have a look.
St Mary’s Gosforth Cumbria
There has been some form of religious building at Gosforth since the 8th century. The current church of St Mary is a Victorian building incorporating pieces from a 12th century Norman church.
The “potting” Shed is now a listed building as it was built with the original old bricks.
The Bell and Clock tower.
The old potting shed
Just inside the entrance porch are some old grave coverings, probably viking.
The church consists of a nave with north aisle, chancel, and a pasir of north vestries. Norman stonework can be found in the south wall of the nave. There is no tower, but a very nice bell turret at the west gable houses a ring of three bells.
The real treasure of Gosforth, however, stands in the churchyard. This is the so-called Gosforth Cross, a beautifully carved Viking cross dating from the late 10th or early 11th century. The cross is made of red sandstone, and stands 14 feet high. It is round at the base, rising to a square top with a cross head.
The lower, rounded section is carved with a representation of the Ash, known to the Vikings as the Tree of Life, with interlaced branches creating a wonderfully Scandanavian pattern. The square upper section has a wealth of carving detail, including images of a horseman, dragons, serpents, human figures, and geometric design. Only the east face has anything vaguely Christian; here you will find a carving of Christ standing above figures thought to be Mary Magdalene and Longinus. The cross has traditionally been interpreted as representing the triumph of Christianity over the old Norse pagan religion, but when you look at the carving you have to wonder just how complete that victory was at the time it was carved!
The carving is truly amazing, and the Gosforth Cross must be reckoned one of the finest pre-Conquest treasures in England, right up there with the Bewcastle Cross near Carlisle. Its actually a bit of a shame that it is still standing out in the British weather, mind you, where it will undoubtedly continue to suffer the effects of advancing years.
But, there's more to see within the church. At the east end of the north aisle are a pair of beautifully carved hogback tombstones, discovered during repairs to the church foundations in 1896. These were meant to act as houses of the dead, and mark the graves of local Norse chiefs. They are carved with lovely geometric patterns and battle scenes.
The capitals of the chancel arch are Norman work. The south capital is carved with three faces, and the north capital shows a Green Man symbol on one side, and two detached arms. There are further ancient fragments of stonework including a section of a carved cross.
There is a Chinese iron bell on the western window sill along with a pair of cannon balls.
When the bell came to Gosforth a local blacksmith made a clapper for it and it was then hung in the bell tower. However Chinese bells are meant to be struck from the outside so at the first ringing with the clapper, the bell cracked and was taken down a little later during some restoration work.
The cannon balls came from the Dardanelles during the Crimean war.
Below, the Norse fishing stone.
There is the beautiful Victorian organ and some stunning stained glass.
And on the wall of the bell tower is a Coat of Arms showing the Lion and Unicorn with the Motto Dieu et Mon Droit. God and my Right.
This is the Motto on the coat of arms of England and the British Monarchy. I am not 100% sure why it is here or the age of it, unless it’s depicting allegiance to the Monarch. (I will find out in due course and make an amendment to the post)
In the Church yard stands an old Cork Tree which was planted in 1833. This is said to be the most northerly living Cork Tree.
Many of the headstones are huge and ornately carved. This one below shows the Grand United Order of Oddfellows. The date shows 1874.
The crocus sunbathing in the church yard
Although St Mary's may be a Victorian church, the history and artefacts that date back from the 10th century are certainly worth a visit if you are ever in the area.
(some information was gathered from Express Britian)