Book reviews

BIDDLESTONE CHAPEL, NORTHUMBERLAND: A HISTORY AND GUIDE, by Dr John Martin Robinson. Published by and available from the Historic Chapels Trust, 55 Alie Street, London E1 8EB (tel: 020-7481 0533). £10. softback.

PERCHED above the ravine of the Biddle Burn in Upper Coquetdale, 10 miles north of Rothbury, Biddlestone chapel is now an isolated structure. Until 50 years ago it was attached to a large, square, Georgian country house, the former seat of the Selby family, who had owned the property since the reign of Edward II in the early 14th century.
Constructed in the 19th century, this Victorian Gothic Revival chapel, built within the thick, stone shell of a 14th century pele tower, represents a continuous Catholic tradition from the Middle Ages. The Selby family did not conform to the established church after the 16th century Reformation but continued to worship secretly in this remote spot, maintaining priests at Biddlestone for themselves and the local community.
The hall and chapel were sold by Walter Arthur Selby in 1918 after six centuries in the family’s ownership and the hall was demolished in 1957. A listed Grade II* building for its architectural and historical significance, also a scheduled Ancient Monument, the chapel underwent some repairs in 1991-2 with grant aid from Northumberland National Park, and was taken into care in 1996 following a fundraising campaign by the Historic Chapels Trust.
A repair and upgrading programme was completed in 2008 under the supervision of architect, Christopher Downs, to provide public access to the chapel gallery and improvements to the stairway, chapel entrance and undercroft. Visits can be arranged through the trust’s office.

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