A RECENT SURVEY OF THE FLOOR AREA OF ST.PAUL’S SAXON CHANCEL HAS REVEALED THE EXISTENCE OF AN UNDERGROUND CRYPT WHICH IS NOT LISTED IN ANY RECORDS. THE SURVEY WAS CARRIED OUT USING GROUND PENETRATING RADAR (GPR) WHICH LOCATES AND IDENTIFIES STONE BUILT WALLS, FLOORS AND OTHER ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES. THE INITIAL SURVEY SHOWS THE SIZE AND SHAPE OF THE UNDERGROUND CAVITY TO BE SIMILAR TO OTHER SUB-TERRANIAN CRYPTS IN ANGLO-SAXON AND OTHER CONTINENTAL CHURCHES. FURTHER INVESTIGATIONS ARE TO BE UNDERTAKEN TO ESTABLISH MORE INFORMATION REGARDING THE SHAPE, FORM AND DEPTH OF THIS BURIAL CHAMBER.
THE INITIAL SURVEY SHOWS THE JARROW CRYPT TO BE OF SIMILAR SIZE AND STRUCTURE TO THE CRYPT AT NEARBY HEXHAM ABBEY ( SEE ABOVE PHOTOGRAPH ) .
6th. OCTOBER, 2011.
WITH THE AID OF FUNDING BY ENGLISH HERITAGE, INVESTIGATIONS ARE TO TAKE PLACE ON 11th. AND 12th. OF OCTOBER TO FURTHER EXTEND THE STUDY OF THE CRYPT, AGAIN USING RADAR DEVICES. THESE INVESTIGATIONS ARE BEING CARRIED OUT BY DR. SAM TURNER OF NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY, WHO SPECIALISES IN ARCHAEOLOGICAL LANDSCAPES OF BRITAIN AND EUROPE SINCE THE ROMAN PERIOD.
AT A FUTURE DATE, YET TO BE ARRANGED, A SMALL BORE HOLE IS TO BE DRILLED INTO THE CHANCEL FLOOR AND A FIBRE-OPTIC LENS INSERTED TO EXAMINE THE INTERIOR OF THE CRYPT CAVITY IN CLOSER DETAIL. THIS PROCESS WILL ENABLE INVESTIGATIONS TO TAKE PLACE WITHOUT DISTURBANCE TO THE FABRIC OF THE SAXON CHANCEL.
OVER A TWO DAY PERIOD, 11th. AND 12 th. OCTOBER, AN EXTENSIVE AND MORE DETAILED EXAMINATION HAS BEEN MADE OF THE CHANCEL FLOOR, AGAIN USING RADAR, BUT TAKING A GREATER NUMBER OF SCANS. THIS IS TO CLARIFY THE AREA WHERE THE UNDERGROUND CHAMBER LIES, AND TO ASCERTAIN THE BEST LOCATION TO INSERT A CAMERA AT SOME FUTURE DATE. AT THE MOMENT IT IS KNOWN TO BE A LONG BUT NARROW CHAMBER WITH AN ARCHED ROOF.
THE COMPLETE FINDINGS, AFTER ALL INFORMATION HAS BEEN COLLATED AND EXAMINED ( INCLUDING THE USE OF ROMAN STONEWORK ) SHOULD BE AVAILABLE FOR PUBLICATION IN LATE SPRING OR EARLY SUMMER OF NEXT YEAR.
1st. SEPTEMBER, 2012.
A FURTHER COMMUNICATION FROM DR. TURNER HAS BEEN RECEIVED TO SAY THAT THEY HAVE SOME VERY INTERESTING RESULTS FROM THE SURVEY, WHICH ARE CURRENTLY UNDERGOING PEER-REVIEW BY REFEREES BEFORE BEING PUBLISHED. SPECIFIC DETAILS CANNOT BE GIVEN UNTIL THE RESULTS ARE PUBLISHED AT WHICH TIME WE WILL ALSO BE GIVEN IMAGES TO INCLUDE.
4th. APRIL, 2013.
THE FINAL DRAFT OF THE BOOK CONTAINING THE FINDINGS WITH ILLUSTRATIONS HAS BEEN SUBMITTED FOR PUBLISHING, WHICH SHOULD TAKE PLACE, HOPEFULLY IN THE SUMMER, AND FURTHER INFORMATION WILL BE MADE AVAILABLE TO US WHEN THIS HAPPENS. DR. TURNER AND HIS TEAM ARE KEEN TO ENSURE THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION THAT GOES OUT AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME.
14th. JUNE, 2015.
WE ARE EAGERLY AWAITING THE FINDINGS OF THE GROUND PENETRATING RADAR SCANS CARRIED OUT BY DR. SAM TURNER AND HIS TEAM FROM NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY ARCHAEOLOGY DEPARTMENT. THE INFORMATION AND NEWS RELATING TO THEIR RESEARCH HAS BEEN A SLOW AND DRAWN OUT PROCESS. SINCE THEIR INITIAL SCAN FOUR YEARS AGO DR. TURNER HAS BEEN BUSY WITH THE PRODUCTION OF HIS BOOK ” WEARMOUTH AND JARROW : NORTHUMBRIAN MONASTERIES IN AN HISTORIC LANDSCAPE ” WHICH HAS NOW BEEN PUBLISHED AND AVAILABLE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC.
INFORMATION FROM THE BOOK REGARDING THE FINDINGS SO FAR REVEAL THE FOLLOWING DISCLOSURES :-
FROM THE SCAN THEY WERE ABLE TO PRODUCE THE 3D PICTURE OF THE SUB-SURFACE FEATURES ( SEE ILLUSTRATION AT TOP OF PAGE )
THIS INDICATES A SINGLE VOID EXTENDING WESTWARD PAST THE ALTAR STEPS AND TERMINATING HALFWAY DOWN THE CHANCEL ( A DISTANCE OF APPROX. 10 METRES ) AND TO A DEPTH OF 2.25 METRES.
UNDERNEATH THE DIAGRAM OF ST. PAUL’S ARE THE SCANNED IMAGES OF THE CRYPTS AT HEXHAM, RIPON AND REPTON TO ILLUSTRATE THEIR COMPARISONS. THE DISCOVERY OF A SUBTERRANEAN CHAMBER AT JARROW USING GPR UNDERLINES THE SITE’S DISTINCTIVENESS AND ITS FORM SUGGESTS SOMETHING SIMILAR IN SIZE AND SHAPE TO THOSE AT HEXHAM AND RIPON.
AN ORIGINAL SURVEY OF THE CHURCH FABRIC BY PROF. ROSEMARY CRAMP IN 2005 REVEALED TWO UPRIGHT STONES VISIBLE EXTERNALLY AT THE EAST END OF THE CHANCEL. PROF. CRAMP NOTED THAT THESE TWO MONOLITHS COULD HAVE BEEN THE JAMBS OF AN OPENING IN THE EAST WALL. SUCH AN OPENING MIGHT HAVE PROVIDED PILGRIMS AND OTHERS WITH A CHANCE TO VIEW A TOMB SET BELOW THE HIGH ALTAR.
EARLIER THIS YEAR, SINCE THE PRODUCTION OF HIS BOOK DR. TURNER HAS COMPLETED FURTHER SCANS AT JARROW USING MORE SOPHISTICATED EQUIPMENT AND WE ARE AWAITING FURTHER INFORMATION REGARDING THIS.
History of Jarrow monastic site
St. Paul’s Church and Monastery was built on land given by King Ecgfrith of Northumbria in AD 681.
At the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII, St Paul’s remained in use for worship as the Parish Church of Jarrow.
The Monastery ruins which we see today at St. Paul’s are to the south side of the church building. Some of the ruins which remain are of Saxon origin, although most are from the Norman restoration of Aldwin’s time, constructed between 1071 and 1080, upon the remains of the old Saxon fabric.
Photo produced courtesy of Roger Spence.
VIKING RAIDS AT JARROW
The Monastery had suffered great damage after attacks by the Danes in 794 and 833. Then in 866, a large horde of Danes under Hinguar and Hubba, destroyed the monasteries of Jarrow, Wearmouth and Tynemouth. Jarrow monastery remained semi-derelict for over 200 years, then in 1070, it suffered further damage when the army of William the Conquerer destroyed the buildings and the place was consumed by fire. This occurred shortly after the body of St. Cuthbert had rested at St. Paul’s.
It was after these visitations of destruction that Aldwin took up his restoration of the buildings and the existing ruins are largely the remains of his handiwork.
To the east of the site stood the Chapter House and to the west was the Dormitory building. To the south of these buildings stood the Refectory and the Kitchens, so that the buildings surrounded a central court around which were the Cloisters. In the centre of what was the Cloister Garth there stands the Monastery Well. ( see top photograph)
After Aldwin’s restoration the Dormitory was entered by the beautiful Norman doorway which we see today. This passed into a low vaulted chamber or crypt. In the west side of the Dormitory wall we see the holes which supported the beams for the first storey level of the Dormitory.
Dormitory wall showing joist-holes.
Towards the south end of the wall can be seen the Saxon doorway with its arch formed by stones resting at right angles. The Saxon doorway opened into the Refectory which was a long, narrow chamber of which only the south wall now remains. In this wall can be seen the remains of a large and beautiful fireplace with imposts on which has been worked the square billet moulding. The Kitchens lay to the south of this wall, and from the base of the remaining walls you can trace the dimensions.
The Chapter House which was at the east end of the Cloisters has long since disappeared, and in its place stood a schoolroom , Jarrow’s first school ( built from the remaining stones of the Chapter House ). This building has now also been demolished.
THE KNOWN HISTORY OF JARROW begins with the life of its founder Benedict Biscop. He was a Northumbrian of noble birth who had given up a military career to become a monk. Biscop had visited Rome in 653 at the age of 25yrs. and was so greatly impressed by the stately churches with their elaborate decoration, the services with their impressive ritual, and all the treasures that these churches contained, that he longed to enrich his own native land with some of this art and beauty.
He took monastic vows at Lerins, an island off the south coast of Gaul. He had visited Rome three times when King Ecgfrith of Northumbria gave him some 15 square miles of land on the north bank of the river Wear at Wearmouth, and here he established a monastery and built a church dedicated to St. Peter. Part of the original church still stands and today the church is known as St. Peter’s church, Monkwearmouth.
In the year 681, King Ecgfrith, being so pleased with the success of the foundation at Wearmouth, gave Benedict Biscop a grant of land, some 9 square miles in area, at Jarrow, where the rivers Don and Tyne meet, ( about 8 miles away from St. Peter’s ) and here another monastery and church were built. It was dedicated in honour of St. Paul on 23rd. April 685. and the original dedication stone still stands inside the church. ~ Although a separate site from Wearmouth, St. Paul’s, together with St. Peter’s were regarded as twin churches ( one monastery in two places )
King Ecgfrith took great interest in the building of St. Paul’s and chose the exact spot where the high altar was to stand. It is very likely that the King was also present at the monastery’s dedication ceremony, but less than a month later he was slain in the battle of Nechtansmere at Dunnichen Moss, near Forfar in Scotland , whilst fighting against the Picts.
Benedict Biscop himself was not present for the church dedication as he was once again in Rome, collecting books, relics, and pictures for the new church. Because of his frequent absences in Rome, Biscop appointed his friend and kinsman, Ceolfrith, to be abbot of the Jarrow monastery and it is Ceolfrith’s name that appears on the dedication stone.
Among those present at the dedication ceremony was a boy of eleven years of age who was destined to become the most famous of them all, Bede.
More photographs of Monastic Site.
Above 6 photos courtesy of Roger Spence