Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Chibburn Preceptory and St Andrews Chuch Hartburn, Northumberland.

Chibburn Preceptory  are the ruins of a Medieval/Post-Medieval Hospitaller preceptory. It was first recorded as a preceptory in 1313, and it was abolished in 1553 with the dissolution of the monasteries when all its lands were passed to the Crown and later the Widdrington family. The location of the Preceptory is on the pilgrims’ route to Lindisfarne. Low Chibburn had several uses, ranging from a hospital to a dowager house before being razed by the French naval hero, Jean Bart, who in 1691 landed at Druridge Bay, pillaging Widdrington village, castle and burning Chibburn.

The Knights Hospitallers of the Order of St John arose as a group of individuals who had founded a hospital in Jerusalem around 1023 to provide care for the poor, sick or injured pilgrims to the Holy Land. After the Western Christian, conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the first crusade the organisation became a religious and military order and it was charged with the care and defence of the Holy Land. To finance their exploits in the Holy Land the Knights Hospitallers received many gifts of land and estates in England to be worked to generate revenue. It was one of several military orders of which The Knights Templar are another. This order was disbanded in 1312. On the suppression of the Templars in 1308, efforts were made by the Hospitallers to get themselves declared heirs to the Templar possessions, their claim being supported by the pope. Chibburn Preceptory was, it would appear, an original possession of the Hospitallers.

The Preceptory of the Knights of St John was defended by a moat enclosing an area circa 100 yards diameter. The buildings formed a parallelogram having a courtyard in the middle, a dwelling house on the west, a chapel occupying the entire south side and various offices on the north and east sides. In the chapel; human bones have been found and a grave slab forms the threshold of the door leading from courtyard into a stable. The upper portion of a stone coffin is in one of the windows. The walls of the chapel are of excellent workmanship, and represent the sole remains of the Preceptory of the Knights of St John. The chapel was used as a pillbox during the Second World War.
St Andrews Church, Hartburn

The church shelters near to the east end of the small village of Hartburn.  At one time, the church belonged to the Tynemouth Abbey, later transferring to St Albans and after the dissolution of the Monasteries; it passed to ‘lay rectors’.  One such rector was the Earl of Derwentwater until his execution after the 1715 Jacobite rebellion.

The tower is mainly late 12th / early 13th Century with traces of its Saxon heritage.  Into the east, side of its doorway there has been a Maltese cross and two daggers incised into the stonework giving rise to speculation that the Knights Hospitaller or Knights Templar passed this way.

 The chancel is 13th Century with decorative pillars.  The pillar nearest to the pulpit shows a fish.  The fish is an ancient Christian symbol, predating the cross as a sign used by early Christians.  It is believed it was a secret symbol adopted by the early Christians, which would not draw attention to them at a time when the church was suffering persecution.


As you enter the church, you are faced with a money chest that Oliver Cromwell is said to have used to transport his wealth.  There are two substantial 13th Century coffins and a 12th Century baptismal font.  There is a plaque in the memory of the Revd John Hodgson, a famous historian of Northumberland who was vicar of Hartburn from 1833 to 1845.



  1. I have been to both the places mentioned and found a lot of Templar symbols at hartburn , gravestones are marked with the skull and crossbones with no names on them ,I have been researching the knights Templars for 35 years

  2. I called here today with my family asking for directions to hartburn grotto. Spoke with a lovely gentleman and he let us have a look round the church as well as the directions he gave us he also told us about the church and it's history. Beautiful place and a such a nice man. Highly recommend poping in if your passing!

  3. Unknown - thanks for the comments. I was back at Hartburn a couple of weeks ago taking images of the 'older' gravestones. I see each one as an individual window in time. For more images look at my website: www.johnbarnesphotography.co.uk

  4. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.