|The Chollerton Benefice||
Thockrington St Aidan
St Aidan's on a warm summer day
Thockrington Church is often claimed (falsely!) to be the oldest parish church in Northumberland.
It has, however, stood here since AD1100.
It is built on an outcrop of the Whin Sill, about a mile to the north of the Hexham to Alnmouth 'Corn Road' (B6342) between Colwell and Little Bavington, and some 700 feet above sea level. Despite its remoteness the church is visited by many who value its tranquillity and its landscape.
Thockrington Church, latterly attributed to St. Aidan as patron saint, was built by the Norman family of Umfraville in AD1100. It remained in their possession, with adjoining lands, until 1226, when they were forfeited to the Archbishop of York as compensation for disturbances to the peace of the Prior of Hexham and damage done to the Archbishop's lands by Robert Umfraville. The Archbishop assigned the church and its revenues as an endowment for a prebend in his cathedral in York. This arrangement lasted 625 years, until the death of the last prebend in 1851, when it was merged into the diocese of Durham. However, the association continues; there is still the Tockrington stall in York Minster, and the succession of Prebendaries continues. In September 2013 seven of us witnessed the Admission and Installation of the Rev'd Canon Michael Smith, the latest Prebend of T(h)ockrington. We shall be welcoming him to our Patronal Festival on Sunday August 31st 2014 at 10.30am.
Documentary evidence of the population of the settlement at Thockrington dates back at least to the 1296 Lay Subsidy Roll, when 18 tax payers are recorded, through to the early nineteenth century when 25-30 cottages existed. In 1847 a returning sailor reputedly brought cholera, and the village was wiped out, the houses being burnt. Apart from some foundations pressing through the turf, a single farmstead and the church are all that remain.
Rarely is there anything less than a significant wind here and rain falls horizontally on most occasions. Access is across a rough pasture with usually sheep or cattle grazing. Visitors are asked to ensure all gates are left closed.
Only about 50 people live in this large parish, it is the only public building. Our last wedding was held in September 2013, before then it was September 2010.
We have one small bell which is rung to call people to worship God.
It is a Grade 2* listed building and in the churchyard the Saxon Cross base is Grade 2.
Ordnance Survey map location: NY 958 789
UK Post Code: NE48 4DHGrid Reference: 55deg06’17.63”N 2deg04’06.86”W
There is no nearby bus service.
Worship takes place every other Sunday at 9.00am. Services last about 45 minutes. We pride ourselves with our welcome.
Our services are Church of England Rite One Holy Communion on one Sunday and Holy Communion from the Book of Common Prayer on the other, with three hymns from Hymns Ancient and Modern New Standard.
Our worship here has a timeless, unhurried feel about it. The views from the church across an empty landscape are awe inspiring.
If you normally receive communion (bread and wine) when you go to church you are welcome to receive it here too and that applies to people of all ages. We do not prepare children for communion before confirmation here but respect the needs and expectations of those children who have been prepared. For children who simply come for a blessing the Vicar offers a chocolate button to each.
We have three hymns accompanied on a harmonium, a sermon of about 10 minutes duration and a time of prayer.
Children and families are positively welcome at our services, however there is not room for a creche.
Access to our church is across a private field of rough pasture. Stock will normally be found in the field, either sheep or cows. The pasture can be very wet at times and appropriate footwear is essential. The ground is often slippery. It is not possible for people in wheelchairs to come to church without considerable help and without an appropriate wheelchair suitable for crossing rough and soft ground.
We do not have a sound system because the church is small, but anyway the Vicar has a strong voice!
Dogs with well-behaved owners are positively welcome to our services. However dogs MUST be kept on a leash at all times. No vehicles are permitted in the field without written confirmation from the Vicar. There is a small parking area by the road, or park on the verge leaving all gateways and the road clear. Please do not block entrances to the farm buildings nearby.
This may seem like a lot of do's and don'ts, but be assured: the journey, which many see as a pilgrimage, is worth it.