Berwick Holy Trinity Parish Church

Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, exterior, south side, 1

Summary description

Rebuilt in 1650-52, possibly a little to the north of the medieval building.

Historical outline

Dedication: The Holy Trinity

Despite being in English hands almost continuously from 1333, it was only from 1482 that the parish of Berwick was effectively disjoined from St Andrews and incorporated into the English diocese of Durham.  Although it is not specifically named, it is likely that Holy Trinity was one of the two churches in Berwick that were confirmed in the possession of the monks of Durham by Bishop Richard of St Andrews (1163-78), and whose revenues were assigned by the monks for the support of their cell at Coldingham.(1)  The next notice of the church survives from 1242, when it was noted on 15 April in the Pontifical Offices of St Andrews that Bishop David de Bernham had reconciled the church after the shedding of blood within the consecrated space.(2)

It was only in 1368 that a vicarage settlement took place.(3) In 1424 John Erth was provided to the perpetual vicarage (value 40 marks), which was then void by the translation of Robert Penven to the church of Southdean (Glasgow diocese). A further supplication in the same year describes it as a ‘perpetual vicarage, according to some pensionaria, which a certain lord detains unlawfully’.(4)  To secure its possession of the church, in 1444 papal confirmation of the grant of Berwick – and its other Scottish properties - to Durham by various past Scottish kings and earls of Dunbar was sought and secured.(5

Across this period, it seems that the parsonage revenues were collected by either Coldingham or Durham, depending upon whether the burgh was in Scottish or English hands at any given time, until 1482 whereafter they remained with Durham.(6)  The problems of this shifting control were illustrated in a supplication to Rome made by the vicar on 28 May 1466.  In it, he declared that since earliest times the parish church of the Holy Trinity in Berwick had been united to Coldingham Priory and that a fitting portion of £20 sterling had been reserved for a perpetual vicar.  While both Coldingham and Berwick were in English hands the portion was paid in pounds sterling, but ‘for the past five or six years’ both had been in Scottish hands, and Patrick Home, commendator of Coldingham, had paid the vicar ‘according to the value of money in the kingdom of Scotland, which is only a third, or thereabouts, of the value of the pristine pound…’.(7)

Despite the permanent loss of Berwick to the English after 1482, the church in Scotland continued to regard the parish as falling within its sphere and at the Reformation it was noted that the parsonage by right lay with Coldingham but ‘thair is na landis nor teyndis of the said kirk in Scotismanis handis except the tendis of the four landis Edrington.’(8) The same records note the existence of a chaplainry at the altar of St Mungo in the church of Berwick.(9)

Coldingham seems otherwise to have discharged its duties responsibly as ‘parson’ towards the maintenance of the church. In Brother Walter de Skarisbrek’s accounts for 1352, mention is made of repairs to the chancel of the church of Berwick.  Further work is recorded in 1365-6 on the revestry and in 1368-9 iron, salt and fuel was bought for making a new window in the choir at a cost of £18 21d.(10)

Notes

1. J Raine, The History and Antiquities of North Durham (London, 1852), Appendix, no.cccclvi; The Correspondence, Inventories, Account Rolls and Law Proceedings of the Priory of Coldingham, ed J Raine (Surtees Society, 1841), cxii [hereafter Coldingham Correspondence].

2. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (London, 1922), 521 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

3. I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 17.

4. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, ii, 1423-1428, ed A I Dunlop (Scottish History Society, 1956), 57; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iii, 1428-1432, eds A I Dunlop and I B Cowan (Scottish History Society, 1970), 274; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, vii, 1417-1431, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1906), 351.

5. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1433-1446, eds A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1983), no.1111.

6. Cowan, Parishes, 17.

7. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.1124.

8. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 199, 208.

9. Kirk (ed), Books of Assumption, 553.

10. Coldingham Correspondence, Appendix, xxiv, xlix, lviii.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Scottish until 1482; confirmed to Durham 1163x78 and pertaining to Coldingham. Vicarage settlement in 1368, parsonage revenues went to either Durham or Coldingham depending on who occupied the town..(1)

1424 John Erth provided to perpetual vicarage (value 40 marks), void by the translation of Robert Penven (he followed a certain William Wardell) to Southoden (Glasgow). A further charter in the same year describes it as a ‘perpetual vicarage, according to some pensionaria, which a certain lord detains unlawfully’.(2)

1444 Confirmation of gifts to Durham by various kings of Scots and the earls of Dunbar, including the church of Berwick.(3)

1466 Issue over vicars pay: ‘since earliest times…. The parish church of the Holy Trinity…Berwick, has been united to the monastery of Coldingham, a fitting portion of £20 being reserved for a perpetual vicar to be presented by Coldingham… But since the monastery and parish were then in the domain of the king of England, the aforesaid portion was always paid in pounds sterling. But for the past 5 or 6 years the… have been in the domain of the king of Scots, and a certain Patrick Hume (commendator of Coldingham) pays the portion in Scots money (20 marks)’. Supplication by John Chalmers (vicar in succession to William Capel) the present vicar, for a commission to investigate and to compel Hume to pay him in English money.(4)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage with Coldingham but ‘thair is na landis nor teyndis of the said kirk in Scotismanis handis except the tendis of the four landis Edrington’.(5)

Alters and chaplainries

Chaplainry of St Mungo’s altar [only half an entry; no value mentioned].(6)

#1650 (22 Mar) The guild contracted with a London mason, John Young of Blackfriars, to complete the mason work before 11 November, 651 for £1, 460.(7)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 17.

2. CSSR, ii, 57, CSSR, iii, 274, CPL, vii, 351.

3. CSSR, iv, no. 1111

4. CSSR, v, nos. 1124 & 1139.

5. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 199, 208. 

6. Ibid, 553.

7. Hicks, Parish church of the Holy Trinity, Berwick upon Tweed, p. 11.

Bibliography

Calendar of entries in the Papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal letters, 1893-, ed. W.H. Bliss, London.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1423-28, 1956, ed. A.I. Dunlop, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1428-32, 1970, ed. A.I. Dunlop; and I.B. Cowan, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1433-47, 1983, ed. A.I. Dunlop and D MacLauchlan, Glasgow.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1447-71, 1997, ed. J. Kirk, R.J. Tanner and A.I. Dunlop, Edinburgh.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

Hicks, W. B., 1953, Parish church of the Holy Trinity, Berwick upon Tweed, Berwick.

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford.

Architectural description

Berwick-upon-Tweed was Scotland’s most prosperous trading burgh until it was captured by English forces in 1296. It then changed hands on several occasions until it was finally taken and retained by the English in 1482.

The first reference that is thought to relate to the parish church of the Holy Trinity is on 15 April 1242, when Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews carried out a reconciliation following an effusion of blood.(1) Nevertheless, it is likely that it was one of the churches in Berwick that had been confirmed to Durham Cathedral Priory by Bishop Richard (1163-78), with the revenues allocated to its daughter house at Coldingham Priory. In 1368 a vicarage settlement was set in place, by which time the parsonage revenues probably included those of the St Mary’s Church in Berwick and St Laurence’s Church in Bondington.(2)

Very little is known of the architecture of the medieval church. There are records of repairs to its chancel and vestry in the 1350s and 60s, on behalf of Coldingham Priory, which included the cutting of a new window.(3) The church is depicted at minute scale on plans drawn up to show the successive stages of the planning of Sir Richard Lee’s bastioned defences of the burgh, of about 1558 and 1570. From these it appears it was an elongated building, possibly with a separate chancel, a western tower and a southern offshoot that could have been a porch, though the scale is too small and the detailing too summary to permit more than speculation.(4)

There were complaints about the inadequacy of the medieval building in the seventeenth century, and it is said that the demolition of St Mary’s Church in 1558, in order to make way for the construction of Lee’s defences, was one reason that a larger church had come to be required.(5) The medieval church was eventually replaced by a completely new building, which was constructed and probably designed by John Young of Blackfriars in London, in 1650-52,(6) at the behest of the Governor of Berwick, Colonel George Fenwick. As such is an extremely rare example of a church built under the Commonwealth.(7)

It is thought that the new church was located a little to the north of its medieval predecessor. The masonry of that predecessor, together with stonework and timber from the castle that had been rendered largely redundant through the construction of the Elizabethan defences, were recycled in the process.

The new church was set out as a rectangle of five bays. There is a tradition that there had been an initial intention to build a west tower, and that this was omitted on the orders of Cromwell when travelling through Berwick in 1650, on his way to Scotland and the battle of Dunbar. In the absence of a west tower, octagonal pepper-pot turrets give some emphasis to the outer angles of its west front. There are handsome entrance doors in the west front and at the centre of the south front.

The church is flanked by an aisle along each side, and there is a northern two-bay outer aisle against the second and third bays from the east; that outer aisle is separated from the inner north aisle by a single wide three-centred arch. By the later eighteenth century the western bay was treated as a vestibule, and this may always have been the case, since it means that the north outer aisle has a symmetrical relationship with the main body of the church.

Much of the detailing is essentially classical, as seen in the Tuscan columns that carry the round-arched arcades, and the tripartiate windows of Serlian form that light the aisles. But there were also medieval details, including the crenellated parapets over the aisle wall heads, and the large traceried windows that used to be in the east and west walls. In its architectural detailing it therefore bears a striking resemblance to the London Church of St Katherine Cree, built in 1628-31, which was presumably well-known to John Young.

It has been suggested, however, that the aisle windows could date to modifications carried out to the walls and roof by John Etty in 1688, works that were approved by Sir Christopher Wren.(8) But there is perhaps no overwhelming reason to reject Young’s authorship of them.

Internally there were galleries at the west and east ends and within the north aisle, all looking towards a pulpit on the south side. There may also have been a smaller gallery within part of the south aisle.

Major changes were made in 1855, when a small chancel was added at the east end, together with a vestry in the re-entrant angle between the north aisle and the west end of the north outer aisle. At the same time there was an attempt to create a greater sense of architectural homogeneity by replacing the arched window of the clearstorey and the traceried west window by windows more like those of tripartite design along the aisles. A Serlian window was also provided at the east end of the chancel.

As part of this realignment of the liturgical axis, a uniform arrangement of galleries was created in the two aisles and at the west end. It may have been at the same time that the octagonal turrets at the outer angles of the west front were rebuilt to rise from square bases, and were provided with arches to each face. In a further stage of works in 1905 the galleries were removed from the aisles and an organ chamber was built against the north side of the chancel.

Notes

1. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, p. 521.

2. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 17; Eric Cambridge, Tim Gates and Alan Williams, ‘Berwick and Beyond: Medieval religious Establishments on the North Western Margin of Berwick-Upon-Tweed – Problems of Identity and Context’, Archaeologia Aeliana, ser. 5, vol. 29, 2001, pp. 75-6.

3. The Correspondence, Inventories, Account Rolls and Law Proceedings of the Priory of Coldingham, ed. J.Raine (Surtees Society), 1841, Appendix, p. xxiv, xlix, lviii.

4. Hatfield House, CPM 1. 22, 23, 25 and 27; British Library, Cotton, MS, Augustus I.ii.14.

5. Cambridge, Gates and Williams, 2001, p. 76.

6. Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, New Haven and London, 2008, p. 1205, citing Berwick-on-Tweed Guild-books.

7. Discussions of the building will be found in Nikolaus Pevsner and Ian A. Richmond, The Buildings of England, Northumberland, Harmondsworth, 1957, pp. 89-90; Terry Friedman, The Eighteenth-Century Church in Britain, New Haven and London, 2012, p. 299.

8. Friedman, 2012, p. 299.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, exterior, south side, 1

  • 2. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, exterior, south side, 2

  • 3. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, exterior, south side, 3

  • 4. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, exterior, south side, 4

  • 5. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, exterior from south west, Thomas Sword Good, c. 1817

  • 6. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, exterior, north side, 1

  • 7. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, exterior, north side, 2

  • 8. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, exterior, south door and window

  • 9. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, exterior, west front, 1

  • 10. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, exterior, west front, 2

  • 11. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, exterior, west front, 3

  • 12. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, interior post-1855, looking east

  • 13. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, interior post-1855, looking west

  • 14. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, interior pre-1855, looking east

  • 15. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, interior, from south west

  • 16. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, interior, looking into outer north aisle

  • 17. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, interior, looking west

  • 18. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, interior, north arcade

  • 19. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, interior, screen detail

  • 20. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, plan post-1855

  • 21. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, plan pre-1855

  • 22. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Trinity Church, proposal for fortification by Sir Richard Lee, c. 1558, detail of church