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Lindisfarne, Northumberland

Historical Description

Holy Island or Lindisfarne, an island, a township, and a parish in Northumberland. The township stands on the SW shore of the island, 4 miles ESE of Beal station on the N.E.E., and 13 SE of Berwick-upon-Tweed; was formerly much larger than now, consists chiefly of thatched and whitewashed cottages, is visited by artists and tourists, and possesses a fine bathing-beach and other advantages which might well fit it to be a summer watering-place. It has a post and money order and telegraph office under Beal (R.S.O.), four inns, and carries on a very considerable herring fishery. Its port, or landing-place, is a little cove engirt by yellow rocks, enlivened during the fishing seasoa by the presence of many French herring-boats, and displays in the autumn a busy scene of sorting and packing herrings for exportation. The passage from the mainland to the island, and therefore to the village, is dry sands at low water, and about 1½ mile in length. The sands are firm enough t— be traversed by horses and carriages, and posts are placed on them, in the proper route, with directions affixed for the guidance of strangers. Yet pedestrians are in danger of being overtaken by the tide and drowned, and both they and equestrians are in risk of encountering quicksands, so that all strangers who intend to cross the sands ought to acquaint themselves well, at Beal railway station or Beal village, with the proper time and manner of crossing. The island measures 3 miles from E to W, and 1½ mile from N to S, and comprises upwards of 1000 acres. Its name of Lindisfame was taken from the rivulet Lindis or Lind, which enters the sea from the opposite shore, and from the Celtic worifahrertf which signifies " a recess;" and its name of Holy Island was of later origin, and arose from the presence on it of a famous ancient religious establishment, which was founded in 635,. and from a long-continued resort to it of multitudes of pilgrims. Oswald, king of Northumbria, who then bore sway from the Forth to the Hnmber, had become a convert to Christianity, while living in exile among the Culdean Picts and Scots, and he invited a body of missionaries from Iona— and gave them a settlement in Lindisfame, with the view of diffusing the Christian faith through his kingdom. They amounted to twelve or thirteen, and they appear to have laboured zealously, both on the spot and by distant journeys, to fulfil their mission. Aidan, the president of them, is said to have baptized 15, 000 converts in seven days. Eata, one-of them, evangelized the tribes of Tweedside and Tweeddale, and founded the original ecclesiastical establishment of Mel~ rose, and others are believed to have made missionary tours, and sown the seeds of churches throughout great part of England. Their sucaessors also prolonged their zeal. Cuth-bert, the fifth president or bishop after Aidan, equalled Aidan himself in success and celebrity, and has left traces of bis name to this day from end to end of ancient Northumbria, and far beyond it. But at length the spirit of Culdeeism died away, and the Holy Island shrank into little else than a resort of pilgrims, and the historical source of the see of Durham. So long as it remained. Culdean it shone on the Saxon land much as lona shone on the land of Caledonia, and might be called like that island, " a luminary whence savage clans and roving barbarians derived the benefits of knowledge and the blessings of religion." The remains of St Aidan and St Oswald were buried in the cemetery of the .abbey, between the abbot's house and the abbey. The island, or as much of it as belonged to its monks, was given at the Eeformation to the Dean and Chapter of Durham, but the greater part of it belongs now to the Crossman family, while the ruins on it belong to the Crown. About one-half of it is under cultivation, producing more than enough of grain for the consumption of its inhabitants, and the rest is sandy waste, forming a large rabbit warren. The entire surface is bleak, looks almost desert as seen from the mainland, and has scarcely a single tree or stump. A lake on it covers about 6 acres; a rocky elevation, called the Hengh, is near the village; a large tract, called the Links, heaves with rounded sand-hills, and a part of the coast is rocky cliff, pierced with several caves. Limestone and ironstone occur, and coal has been found, but is not worth working. A valuable oyster bed, belonging to the Earl of Tanker-ville, lies between it and the Fern Isles, and in one winter was so laid bare by unusual lowness of the tide as to be destroyed by frost, but was replanted in the following year by oysters from the Forth. A small fort, called the Castle, crowns a curious, conical, trap-rock hill near the village port, is accessible only by a narrow winding pass, was built about 1500 by Prior Castell for defence of the island, was garrisoned in 1646 by the Parliament, who considered it "a place of consequence to the northern parts," and was the scene of a small military affair in the Civil War of 1715, but presents now no feature of real interest, and is used as a coastguard station and by a few soldiers. A fine view is obtained from its platform over the island to St Abb's Head, Bamborough Castle, and the Cheviots. A famous stone cross of the Culdean times, at the village, was early removed to Durham, and a copy of it, on the original pedestal, was erected by the late Mr J. S. Selby. The pedestal is called " the Petting Stone," and, according to a popular superstition, requires to be overstridden by every newly-married woman in order to secure the happiness of her married state. The parish church was opened about 1100, within one year of the abbey whose ruins are now seen. It is mainly Early English, underwent restoration in 1861-62, was then cleared of centuries of whitewash, and found to possess architectural features of rare excellence and beauty; shows in some parts an alternation of white and red stones, and has circular columns on the N side of its nave, octagonal ones on the S side, while the arches on the two sides respectively differ also in construction, size, and feature. In 1894 the chancel was fitted up with oak stalls. There is an old Saxon tombstone, about 6 inches high by 4 broad, of a bishop or monk, going back to St Aidan's time, preserved in the church porch. The original Culdean church was probably a plain wooden structure; a succeeding church, or cathedral, was a stone edifice, and was pillaged or damaged, at two different periods, by the Danes; and the eventual priory or abbey-church, connected with a Benedictine monastery, was a reconstruction of the cathedral in 1093, modified by subsequent alterations. The ruins of the monastery have been carefully excavated, and nearly the whole of the building can now be traced. The church stood perfect till the Reformation, wants now its roof, its tower, and one side of its nave, is cruciform, and not quite 140 feet long, and may be pronounced a beautiful and perfect model of Durham Cathedral. In the Snook end, NW of the island, once stood a gallows where prisoners were executed. There is a Presbyterian chapel, erected in 1892. The parish includes also the hamlet of Goswick. Acreage, 1041 of land and 3415 of water and foreshore; population of civil parish, 440; of the ecclesiastical, 674. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Newcastle - on - Tyne; gross value, £400. Patron, the Bishop of Newcastle.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Northumberland is available to browse.


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Newspapers and Periodicals

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