Our main objective for 2020 is to to raise sufficient funds to purchase and install a security system and PV (solar) cell. This will help protect the church from vandalism, theft and anti-social behaviour. All donations made through this website will go towards this campaign.
WHAT WE DO
We are small group of volunteers who work closely with The Churches Conservation Trust and members of the local community to maintain and support the redundant church of St Andrew's and the Hopper Mausoleum. We organise a variety of services and events throughout the year.
Our community is made up of volunteers, residents and the parishioners of St John's, our sister church in Snod's Edge. Any help is greatly received so please feel free to volunteer.
ST ANDREW'S CHURCH
The redundant church of St Andrew's stands isolated upon Greymare Hill, 293 metres above sea level, with stunning views in every direction. In 1165, the abbey of Blanchland was endowed by Walter de Bolbec with the church of St Andrew's, Bywell and its three chapels of Shotley, Styford and Apperley. Of Shotley's medieval chapel, there remains a single bell capital, now preserved off-site.
In 1680, the churchwardens stated the chapel was "all our of repair, our bells broken; a font of stone we have, but broken; we have no sentences of scripture; an almes box we want, and a chest with three locks; wee have neither a reading not letany deske; we have no pulpit-cloth nor cushion; we have no book of cannons nor homilies, nor register for christning, marrying, or burying, nor tables of the degrees of marriage prohibited." Although some of the above issues were addressed, just two years later, in 1682, they complained "we want a Bible, a register booke, a bier, and a black cloth; our churchyard walls are much out of repaire; the house belonging to our parson was burnt down in the late incumbent's days, and as yet unrebuilt."
By 1746, the chapel, which measured "in length about sixteen yards, to four or five yards in breadth within the walls, the chancel being one foot or more narrower than the body of the chapell", was becoming too small for the number of parishioners attending. It was also showing signs of subsidence owing to coal mining. Humphrey Hopper, "a freeholder and constant inhabitant within the said chapelry", prevailed upon the Trustees of Lord Crewe to make a grant of £20 to defray the charges of an enlargement. He worried, "in a very Littell time we will have the Church about our Ears with out help befor Mayday next I fear."
While carrying out the building of the North transept, Hopper came into conflict with Dr Christopher Hunter, the antiquary and owner of the estate of Unthank. Dr Hunter complained, "In promoting this work, the said Mr Hopper has destroyed no small parts of my tenants' cropps of standing corn by his loaded draughts in bringing timber, stones, lime, mortar, and water, whereby my freehold is visibly injured, there being no other passage or road through the same except for necessary repairs of the said chappell and to divine service in the same. All this the said Hopper has arbitrarily acted without any pretence of lawful authority, or the consent of the parishioners legally assembled, despising admonitions offered to make him sensible of his irregular proceedings."
In 1769, a simple cruciform church was erected with a central arched roof, but by 1836 it was partly collapsed owing to pit workings, and a new church was built in Snod's Edge. This church, dedicated to St John, was consecrated in 1837.
A drawing by Robert Blair in 1882 shows the ruined church of St Andrew's with gaping holes in its roof. It was restored in 1892 for use as a chapel of ease.
The church was declared redundant in 1973 when it was taken into the care of The Churches Conservation Trust.
THE HOPPER MAUSOLEUM
In contrast to the simplicity of the church, the Grade I listed Hopper mausoleum is a grand, elaborate structure unlike any other in the country. It was erected by Humphrey Hopper of Black Hedley in the year 1752 for his beloved wife, Jane.
The upper part of the mausoleum is embellished with obelisks, scrollwork, shields and statues standing in shell-headed niches. Of the two niched mitred figures on the south face, one, holding a scroll and book, is thought to commemorate the martyred Bishop Hooper. To the front, low stone walls, piers and iron railings enclose a paved stone floor. Here, under a sheltered arch lie the weather-worn stone effigies of Humphrey Hopper and his wife, Jane Hodgson. High on the south face, are their combined arms: three roses seeded impaling a chevron between three martlets. The top of the mausoleum is crowned with a large lantern.
As previously stated, while overseeing the enlargement of the church, Hopper came into conflict with Dr Christopher Hunter who inferred that everything he had done was without the parishioners consent and therefore illegal. In 2004, Teresa Sladen, of The Mausolea and Monuments Trust wrote, "It is easy to read too much into accounts of this kind but, if Humfrey was overseeing the extension of the chapel and also, as seems likely, supplying the materials for the building, his motive in pursuing the development may have been mercenary rather than altruistic. And if at the same time, he used the opportunity this work provided to build a grandiose memorial for himself and his wife then it is easy to see why a man with such pretensions might annoy his neighbour."
In 1828 St Andrew's was visited by Archdeacon Singleton. Of the Hopper mausoleum he wrote, "There is an immense structure in the churchyard, more conspicuous than the church itself - a monument of the Hopper family, built in the year 1752, something in the the taste, though far worse, than the gate of Burleigh and one of the gates of Caius College.
In the second half of the 19th century, a plaque was added inscribed "Erected by Humfrey Hopper of Black Hedley, in memory of his wife Jane Hodgson, who died 29th February, 1752, aged 77. Humfrey Hopper, died ... 1760, aged 83. John, his son, died December 16th, 1776, aged 76. Joseph, his son, died October 18th, 1795, aged 86. Mary Walton, wife of Joseph Hopper, died ... Humfrey, captain 32nd Regiment Foot, died at St. Vincent, August 10th, 1765, aged 43. Nicholas, son of Joseph Hopper, died February 2nd, 1807. George son of Joseph Hopper, died January 24th 1818. Joseph Hopper, captain of the ship Formosa ..."
By the mid 20th century, the mausoleum was in a state of partial collapse owing to pit workings, but after being taken into the care of The Churches Conservation Trust in 1973, it has been repaired and its piers and railings re-instated.
Unfortunately, the mausoleum has been the subject of recurring theft and vandalism over the years, and two of its statues are missing.
The churchyard at St Andrew's is an oasis of peace and tranquillity. All are welcome to wander around, read the fascinating gravestones and, if very lucky, listen to a circle of serenading skylarks. It is a natural environment which can sometimes look a little unkempt, but we are in the process of undergoing a biodiversity survey and exploring ways of encouraging and protecting wildlife. Some of our headstones are no longer visible having become overgrown and neglected. We are slowly beginning to uncover these lost headstones making them visible to the public once more.
St Andrew's lies within a dark skies area of Northumberland, making it an ideal location for stargazers, astronomers and photographers. Both the milky way and the Northern Lights can often be seen. Soon, we hope to have a stargazing pod available for hire in an unused part of the churchyard.
In addition to the Hopper Mausoleum, the churchyard has 49 headstones, the oldest of which dates back to 1699.
The burial ground contains three of the early works of the renowned local sculptor, John Graham Lough. All Grade II listed, his first was the headstone for Chatt, the second for Gibson, and the third for Thompson. Lough was born at Greenhead on 8th January 1798, the third son of William Lough, a blacksmith, and his wife Barbara, nee Clemitson. He grew up within sight of Black Hedley Port, the western entrance to Humphrey Hopper's Black Hedley estate. This arched 'port' was surmounted with military figures which may have inspired Lough to make figures out of clay. Having come to the notice of Mr Silvertop of Ministeracres, he was apprenticed to a stonemason at Shotleyfield before making his way to London to study the Elgin Marbles. In 1836, having become famous for his sculpture of Milo of Croton he received a provisional commission to carve four granite lions for London's Trafalgar Square but turned it down as he was reluctant to work within the constraints set by the architect. His memorial to George Stephenson, engineer, inventor and ‘Father of the Railways’, which stands near to Newcastle Central Station, is considered to be one of his best works.
The headstone of John Hunter, a local blacksmith from Black Hedley Woodhouse, is a must-see. The face is decorated with the implements of his trade while the back is inscribed with the following poem:
My anvil and hammer lies declined,
My bellows have quite lost their wind,
My fire's extinct, my forge decay'd,
My vice in the dust all laid.
My coals is spent, my iron gone,
My nails are drove, my work is done;
My mortal part rests nigh this stone,
My soul to heaven I hope is gone.
In the corner of the churchyard stands a Grade II listed, mid-18th-century hearse house. The south facing cart entrance has been blocked up and new north-facing doors installed. In recent years the building has been used by a local farmer to house his animals.