Biddlestone Chapel is one of the North East’s smaller architectural treasures and is HCT’s most remotely sited chapel. It was built in 1820 on top of the remains of a 14th-century pele, or fortified tower, high up in the Cheviot foothills.
The pele was one of many along the English-Scottish border from which signal fires were lit. The chapel is listed Grade II* and, because of its pele tower foundations, is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
A local volunteer committee supports HCT in its efforts to make the chapel accessible for events, weddings and services. A National Park footpath runs right beside the chapel.
Most remotely sited of HCT’s chapels, Biddlestone stands in the beautiful southern slopes of the Cheviot Hills within Northumberland National Park. It was once a private chapel adjoining Biddlestone Hall, the demolished home of the Selby family. The Selbys established themselves at Biddlestone and as staunch recusants, refusing to become members of the Church of England after the Reformation. They were supporters of the Jacobite cause – a dangerous affiliation that risked charges of treason. The Selbys maintained a Catholic chaplaincy at their own expense; for many years the chaplaincy was clandestine. Scars on the west wall of the chapel indicate the site of the demolished Hall where the chapel was attached.
The chapel was built was on top of the remains of a medieval pele tower, that almost certainly dates from the late 14th century. Medieval rubble-stone survives to eaves height on the north side and there is a thick-walled, barrel-vaulted undercroft below. It is listed Grade II* and, because of its ancient foundations, is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
In about 1820 when the Selbys were rebuilding Biddlestone Hall they repaired the remains of the tower and constructed the chapel over the undercroft. The chapel is furnished in mid-Victorian Gothic Revival manner, with a three-light east window containing stained glass, which dates from 1862. In the gallery is stained glass displaying Selby heraldry. A corrugated iron bomb shelter in the undercroft, of WWII vintage, completes the story of this fascinating little building.
You can download a short guide to Biddlestone Chapel here.
Since ownership of the chapel passed to the Historic Chapels Trust in 2008 a programme of repairs and upgrading was completed to enable public access.
A local volunteer committee supports HCT in its efforts to make the chapel accessible, puts on events and there are Open Days in summer. HCT’s volunteers can show round groups of visitors by prior arrangement.
HCT’s work at Biddlestone is informed by a Conservation Statement which can be downloaded free here.
You can download a short guide to Biddlestone Chapelhere.
OS Grid reference: NT955084
The chapel is on high ground NE of Biddlestone Village. There is a sign for the chapel on the road through the village. Unless the gate is open, please park near this sign and walk from there – past the eponymous Biddle Stones of unclear date and origin – to the chapel (6 minutes).
Northumberland National Park Public footpath 139/006 passes directly beside the chapel and runs from Biddlestone village to Biddlestone Home Farm. Please beware of the steep drop just north of the chapel, above the waterfalls.
Alnmouth rail station is 20 miles away. There is no bus service nearby.
In the area
Many of Biddlestone’s visitors are walkers enjoying the Northumberland National Park, public footpath 139/006, which passes beside the chapel. You can find walking maps on the National Park’s website or you can opt for guided walks. There are also long distance cycleways across the park as well as watersports, climbing and plenty of historic sites to visit.
The Chapel has to be kept locked so to visit contact the volunteer keyholders: (01665) 574420 and (01669) 630270 or use the form to contact us.
The annual candle-lit Advent Carol Service (there is no electricity) sees the chapel full of adventurous people who make their way through the mountain darkness to attend.
The chapel seats about 50 and can be used as a venue for intimate concerts, as well as blessings and memorial services.
The chapel is registered for Roman Catholic weddings and is a most romantic place to be married. If you would like more information please contact us using the contact form opposite.