In the community of Northumberland in the United Kingdom, a small, community-based archaeology group announced the discovery of a 700-year-old Christian chapel located near a medieval manor known as Aldensheles in January.
The Coquetdale Community Archaeology (CCA) group, with a membership of about 100 people chaired by David Jones, told The Northumberland Gazette, “To date, we have worked on a 14th-century building that was probably a farmhouse, a grain-drying kiln and a set of much-damaged medieval remains that had been repurposed in the 17th century, probably for stock management.”
He added, “Every year we found items that did not belong in an upland farming community. Typically these were blocks of decorated stone that were almost certainly ecclesiastical in origin. Some of them were too large to have come far. In 2022 we found a fragment of coloured glass (known as flashed ruby) that had almost certainly been imported from mainland Europe – quite possibly Normandy.”
It was at this point the group began pursuing leads on the location of a chapel. “Through lots of archive research we discovered that the site we were studying had been on a medieval manor called Aldensheles, and that there had been a chapel on that manor in the early 14th century.”
Coquetdale Community Archaeology has won the prestigious National Parks Volunteer Project of the Year Award 2018, an accolade which recognises and celebrates the contribution of outstanding volunteers working across the 15 National Parks in the UK. https://t.co/mFyP7AxZBx pic.twitter.com/JoYePCsPdL
— Fusion PR (UK) (@FusionPR_UK) November 20, 2018
The use of LiDAR (Light Direction and Ranging) data led the team to theorize the location of the chapel and obtain permission from Historic England to investigate the site according to the Gazette. Sure enough, they located the chapel.
The group posted to Facebook regarding the chapel’s fate writing, “We think it was built in the 13th century, then strengthened and narrowed to make it more stable before being sacked by the Scots, possibly in 1318 when they took Harbottle Castle. It was never rebuilt.”
“The two things coming together have been really very, very rewarding,” David told the outlet. “We hope to go back to the site this summer if we get permission because there are still questions to answer.”
The group also discovered a letter in the UK National Archives that made mention of the chapel composed in Latin and learned that the chapel was dedicated to St. Nicholas.
In a post to Facebook, the group explained,
“We have found a document in Latin that mentions the medieval chapel we discovered last summer! It was in the depths of the National Archives in London and it concerns a transfer of land from Richard de Horsley, the tenant of the manor of Aldenscheles (now the modern farm of Quickening Cote and part of Linbriggs), to the Church. As part of the deal they strike, a chaplain has to say daily mass in the chapel of St. Nicholas on the manor of Aldenscheles for the soul of Richard and all of the faithful departed. So now we know who the chapel was dedicated to and when it was in use: the enquiry into the land transfer was in Newcastle ‘on the morrow of the feast of the exaltation of the Holy Cross in the 11th year of the reign of king Edward son of king Edward’, which turns out to be 15th September 1317.”
Reportedly the letter was an inquiry into a land dispute concerning the manor. The dispute allegedly resulted in the landowner or tenant having to pay a fine and arrange for a chaplain to say Mass daily at the chapel for his soul and the soul of all Christians.