St Andrew's Church, Bywell, Northumberland

Bywell, Stocksfield, Northumberland, NE43 7AD
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The church of an ancient market town

Bywell was once a thriving market town beside the Tyne, though little now remains except the castle, a medieval market cross, the Hall, and two churches dating from Saxon times.

The tall tower of St Andrew's is a magnificent example of a late Anglo-Saxon building. Dating from about 850, it has massive walls 5 metres thick, clearly intended for defence; but it is much more than a defensive structure. It is built from a lovely mixture of cream, yellow, brown and even red sandstone and has the small rounded windows characteristic of the time.

The main body of the church dates from the thirteenth century and was considerably enlarged and restored in 1871. Most of the interior dates from this Victorian restoration, including the mosaic floor of the sanctuary and the glittering reredos. There is very fine Victorian stained glass, some by the notable designer William Wailes, who is buried at St. Peter's, Bywell's second church. Set into the walls, both inside and outside, are magnificent early Medieval grave slabs. They have bold carvings with emblems denoting the status of the person they commemorate - swords, shields, a hunting horn, shears and a book.