The West Ward’s mystery building

A collection of cut and dressed masonry lies around the central turret of the cross wall between the East and West Wards, on the West Ward side. This little collection has intrigued us since we first saw it, but rather receded in interest as excavation in our trenches got under way. Carol’s theory, based on her archive work and discussed in the ‘The strange story of Bamburgh Castle Chapel‘ below. That a building shown on 19th century photographs was a late 18th century church, brings them back into focus, as it is very likely, that at least some of this material represents the remains of this structure.

The building itself is depicted on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (c. 1870) and appears to be present on the 2nd Edition (c. 1897), but had been demolished by the 3rd edition (c. 1920). The tithe award map of 1846 does appear to show structures against the cross wall, between the two wards, but its far from clear what it is depicting. Cartographic evidence would then date its construction no later than the mid 19th century, but it could of course be much earlier, and date back to the 18th. The structure was not large, being in the order of 20m long, compared to the 30m of the Inner Ward chapel, and seems to have a single pitch roof and be built as a pent against the cross wall.

 

Bamburgh castle, circa 1870

Bamburgh castle, circa 1870

 

Could this be a formerly overlooked chapel? On the positive side of the argument it does have rather Gothic windows along one side, but some other characteristics count against this interpretation, such as the orientation, being north-east to south-west. This factor should not be seen as definitive though, as many late-modern churches display all manner of orientations, so this is not a clearly diagnostic factor for the era. The best evidence for its function comes from the 25 inch to the mile, 1st Edition OS, where it is labelled as a laundry. This is good evidence for its role towards the the end of the 19th century, but of course without knowing when the structure was built we cannot rule out that it had a previous life. And if this leaves some of the early records as a little enigmatic, then is a little mystery really such a bad thing?

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