Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Little Miracle That Is Still Enchanting; Environment Editor Tony Henderson Finds an Enchanting Chapel in the Trees. My Country

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Little Miracle That Is Still Enchanting; Environment Editor Tony Henderson Finds an Enchanting Chapel in the Trees. My Country

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson

BIDDLESTONE, hidden away in Northumberland's Upper Coquetdale, seems to have the power to enchant.

That appears to have been the case with novelist Walter Scott, who is said to have stayed at the 17th Century Biddlestone Manor House, which was the home of the Selby family.

Scott's book Rob Roy was published in 1818, and its Osbaldistone Hall is believed to have been modelled on Biddlestone.

More than 170 years later, Biddlestone against cast its spell - this time on company director Tony Henfrey as he was out walking.

The result of that encounter is that today, visitors to this remote spot can walk up what used to be the drive to Biddlestone Hall, turn a corner, and come across a Roman Catholic chapel built on top of the vaulted basement of a medieval tower, surrounded by woodland.

Talk about surprises.

The Selbys had been granted land in the Borders in 1272 and established themselves at Biddlestone for 600 years, based originally in their 14th Century tower.

After the passing of the Act of Supremacy and Uniformity in 1559, it was required of people that they belonged to the Church of England.

But in the county, a number of families, such as the Selbys, kept to the old Roman Catholic religion. The Selbys maintained a catholic chaplaincy at Biddlestone at their own expense.

By the 17th Century the tower had become part of a manor house, which by the early 19th Century had been rebuilt as a Georgian residence.

Walter Selby constructed a chapel on top of the remains of the old tower, with its barrel vault. There was room for about 50 worshippers, with an upper gallery for the Selbys.

The estate was sold in 1914 and 50 acres around the chapel eventually went to the Forestry Commission. The hall was the home of brewer Farquhar Deuchar from 1925 and during the Second World War it was used by the military. The remains of what is believed to have been an Anderson air raid shelter are still in the basement of the chapel.

Biddlestone Hall was demolished in 1957 and the only traces today are slabs of tiled flooring near the chapel, which has survived to become a Grade II* listed building. Tony Henfre y, who lives in a wing of Callaly Castle, about 10 miles away, had his first sight of Biddlestone Chapel in its woodland clearing in 1992.

He said: "It was in private ownership. The chapel had no doors. Miraculously, because of its isolation, all the fittings were still there. If the chapel had been anywhere else, the vandals would have stripped it from top to bottom. It was a piece of history which had been forgotten about, and was falling to pieces.

"I was amazed by what I saw. Biddlestone Hall would originally have enjoyed spectacular views down Coquetdale and up to the moors. But it was the conifers, planted in 1960, which saved the chapel. …

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