About 13th Century Holy Cross Church, Haltwhistle

Holy Cross exterior
Before restoration P7 t

The Church of the Holy Cross is a very fine and original example of early 13th century architecture.

Its importance lies in it being of one style, built in one period, and the restoration carried out by R J Johnson in 1870 shows sympathetic judgement. The plan of the Church is unusual. The nave and aisles are so wide in proportion to their length that they appear to form a square. The chancel is also disproportionately long in comparison with the nave.

In the 18th century sash windows had been injected into the aisles and the roof pitch had been lowered. The original lancet windows were restored and the original roof pitch height recreated during the 1870 restoration.

The first concrete reference to a church at Haltwhistle is contained in the Charter of the Abbey of Arbroath which was founded by King William the Lion of Scotland in 1178. The King granted land in the manor of Haltwhistle to the Abbey in 1180 and this was further confirmed by Robert Bruce in 1199. Shortly after the confirmation the present church was built under the direction of the Abbots of Arbroath and their ‘master builder’.

At the same time a church was being built at Crail in Fifeshire. Like Holy Cross it was part of the gift of William the Lion to the Tyranenses Abbey of Arbroath. It shares with Haltwhistle a likeness in the arcading, the positioning of the clerestory windows, with the form of their arches and the width of splay, together with the large buttresses at the angles of the nave and the chancel outside.

© Holy Cross Church Haltwhistle 2013