History of St.Marys Church

Short History of the Church

It would be about 1,300 years since the original Anglian settlement at Lesbury was established, the name of the place as we know it today having been derived from the Old English LAECES BYRIG or BURGH which meant the fortified place or dwelling of the leech or physician. We are left to conjecture on the significance of these words but it is easy to see how the Old English gradually changed, through 'Leech's Burgh' to the present day name of our village.
Some time about the end of the 9th century many country villages like ours acquired their own church which was really a private church, built and endowed by the local thane for the benefit of the settlement.

It can be said with reasonable certainty that the original Norman church consisted of a nave and chancel with a tower added later. The main part of this building was up early in the 12th century and no part of this existing church can be attributed to an earlier date. However, a recent dowsing survey does suggest that there was a small Anglo-Saxon church with a nave and an aspidal sanctuary over the foundations of which the present day nave was built.
The Norman building followed the same plan of the present church and the first addition to the original structure was the north aisle with an arcade of arches cut through the original north wall and chancel. At the beginning ot the 13th century a new chancel was built to replace the older and smaller one and later was again extended to the east and we are left with a chancel unusually long compared with the nave.

The east window behind the altar was inserted in about the middle of the 14th century. The chancel roof dates from about the middle of the 15th century and the little embossed carvings on the main beams are worthy of note while the straining strip between the beams is unusual. In the two western angles of the chancel are stone brackets set across the corners for the support of a rood beam.

The Baptistry

The hatchment attached to the west wall of the baptistry was originally fixed above the chancel arch, in full view of the congregation. It depicts the coat of arms of George III and it may have been fixed there by the first Duke of Northumberland in gratitude for the favour he enjoyed of this monarch. On the other hand it may have been fixed here to ensure that at all times the people should understand that the king - and no one else - was the true Defender of the Faith. Who knows?

The origin and date of the four wooden hand-inscribed panels on the nave and baptistry walls are not known. They set out the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed and the Commandments divided into those relative to duty to God on the one hand and the duty to one's neighbour on the other. The spelling mistake in the second use of the word "believe" in the Creed adds a human touch which is revealed throughout the study of the church's history.

The Medival Font

The font is medival and is one of the few in Northumberland to escape destruction in 1640 at the hands of extreme Puritans. Local tradition has it that its preservation was due to the devotion of the parishioners who took the font out bodily and buried it for safekeeping. In the process the original plinth upon which it stood was lost and the font, when it was returned to the church, was placed standing on the stump of its column just inside the entrance to the church on the left side. It was removed to its present position in 1950 when a new splinth was provided for it. Round the rim of the font are symbols of the Percy family.

The west window in the baptistry is a memorial to the Rev.George Bray who was vicar of Lesbury from 1908 to 1934 and it is rare in that it was designed by a woman. The little emblem in the
bottom right hand corner has the lady's initials, E.F., together with her trade mark'-a bee.

An explanation of the three memorial windows in the south wall of the nave may be seen in a frame hanging near the baptistry. The modern stained glass window in the chancel was presented to the church by the members of the local branch of the Mothers' Union who felt it desirable that our Patron Saint should be thus represented and a window of plain glass was available for this purpose.

The church is not wealthy in material possessions but perhaps it is worth relating how a large silver chalice was stolen some years ago and it was found in two pieces a year or two later in a canal in Leeds. It was repaired and is in use again today.
The church records go back to 1689 but the earlier volumes are in a very tattered state and all are housed with the County Archivist. They are full of fascinating details, particularly the accounts and general notes and records for the years 1818 to 1895.

Welcome to Lesbury (Home Page)
Short History of Lesbury
Welcome to St. Mary's Church
Leisure Facilities in Lesbury
The Photo Gallery
More Photos
Visit the new Bridge Construction Site
Historical moment of Lesbury's bridge
Phase 2 - Fitting of Bridge Spans
Phase 3 - Bridge nearing completion
Official Opening of Bridge.
History and photos of the old mill
Church Service Times
Some old photos of Lesbury