Effigy of Robert Neville at Brancepeth Church. Died 1319.

Today was characterised by unseasonally low temperatures, rain and a hint of snow in mid-afternoon.

We departed our lodgings in York after breakfast and drove north to the village of Brancepeth in County Durham.Prime purpose of this visit was to connect with the formerly prominent Neville family. We parked close to the huge castle which is still privately owned, not a visitor attraction, and then visited the adjacent Parish Church dedicated to St Brandon.

Brancepeth Castle, England

St Brandon’s Church was a typical Church of England Parish Church, dating back to Saxon times but mainly from 12th-15th centuries.. Unfortunately, the building suffered massive fire damage in 1998 and came within a whisker of total destruction. However, the church was able to be sympathetically rebuilt, at cost of  GBP3.2m, a project which was completed in 2005.

In course of the St Brandon’s restoration a number of early English cross slabs ( early tombstones) were discovered in the clerestory which feature a range of designs including four circles,shears, swords and spears.

St Brandon’s Church, Brancepeth, England

Inside the restored St Brandon’s Church, Brancepeth

Early English decorated cross-slab

Next we continued north to the region of Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. We had lunch at the Twice Brewed Inn but had to forego planned visit to Housesteads Roman Fort due to inclement weather. Instead, we visited nearby Birdoswald Roman Fort which connects directly with the Wall.

Snow-capped hills, viewed looking south from Birdoswald

Hadrian’s Wall at Birdoswald Roman Fort

Excavated remains of Birdoswald Roman Fort, Hadrian’s Wall

The landscape around Hadrian’s Wall was heavily populated with flocks of sheep and young lambs, a feature which provided photo opps.

This evening we checked into our hotel in Haltwhistle, a small town located in the geographic centre of Britain.The hotel structure is very old, dating back to the 1500s and containing elements of both Bastle House and Pele Tower.

Centre of Britain Hotel, Haltwhistle, England

Tomorrow, we continue north with visits to a couple of Northumbrian villages and Rosslyn Chapel.

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