The Battle of Halidon Hill, 1333

Saxton Atlas showing “Hallidon Hill” (c)

Following the humiliation of the English during the Weardale Campaign the young King of England, Edward III was forced to sign the treaty of Edinburgh – Northampton in 1328.  The terms of the treaty were, that in exchange for £100,000 the English crown would recognise that the Kingdom of Scotland was fully independent, that Robert the Bruce and his successors were the rightful rulers of Scotland and that the border of Scotland should be maintained as agreed in the Treaty of York signed between Alexander II of Scotland and Henry III of England in 1237.  The First War of Scottish Independence was over, seemingly with Scotland’s aspirations realised. 

Coronation of Edward III (c)

This did nothing for the young English King’s popularity, which was already laid low due to the malign influence of his mother, Isabella, the “She Wolf of France” and her lover Roger Mortimer.  The treaty was widely referred to in England as the turpis pax or “coward’s peace” and Edward was perceived as weak and ineffectual.  Tensions grew as Edward reached his majority, married and had his first son.  By 1330 Edward had had enough.  He now needed to exert his own influence and power.  With a band of trusted men, he surprised Mortimer at Nottingham Castle, arrested him and sentenced him to death.  He was more lenient with his mother, forcing her in to comfortable “retirement”.  It was from this moment that Edward III’s personal rule began.

A year before Mortimer was executed, in 1329, the Scottish independence movement was dealt a serious blow when the indomitable Robert the Bruce died at the age of 54.  He was succeeded by his son, David II, who was only five years old.  As had been shown in the past and recently in England a minority reign was a dangerous time. It was decided by the Bruce, on his death bed, that during his minority Scotland should be governed in his name by his nephew, Sir Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray.  His stewardship did not last long and three years later on 20th July 1332 Thomas died whilst mustering troops to counter an incursion by Edward Balliol and his supporters.  Some thought he had been poisoned by the English, but it is more likely that a kidney stone was the killer.  The stewardship of the Scottish throne passed to Domhanall II, Earl of Mar after being elected by the Scottish nobles on 2nd August 1332.

Seal of Edward Balliol

The aforementioned incursion of Edward Balliol in the summer of 1332 requires further elaboration.  Balliol, the son of King John I of Scotland (1292 – 1296), had been captured by the English following his father’s resignation of the throne in 1296.  He was initially held in the Tower of London, then in 1299 was handed over to his grandfather, John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey. 

Following the death of Robert the Bruce, and the precarious state of the minority rule in Scotland, a number of Scottish nobles who had not sworn fealty to the Bruce following his victory at the Battle of Bannockburn sort to back Baliol in a plot to take the throne.  Living in exile these nobles, “the Disinherited”, made plans for the invasion of Scotland with English troops.  Edward III was aware of this scheming and although, in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Northampton, he outwardly proclaimed that anyone plotting to break the peace would be arrested, but he tacitly supported the venture behind closed doors.  Whilst he could not condone an incursion of English forces crossing the border he could and did turn a blind eye to an English force departing by sea from ports in Yorkshire. 

Dupplin Moor Campaign

Under the command of Balliol and Henry Beaumont, Earl of Buchanan the Disinherited mustered a small force of some 1,500 men of which around two thirds were longbowmen and made sail for the Fife coast on 31st July.  As mentioned previously, the Scots were well aware of this plot and the Earl of Moray had died on his way to counter the threat.  His successor the Earl of Mar took up the mantle and mustered a large body of men to meet Balliol’s landing.  The invasion force landed near Kinghorn in Fife on 6th August 1332.  They were confronted soon after and a skirmish ensued as they disembarked.  In a prelude to many battles to come the small contingent of English longbowmen, who had gotten ashore first, drove off the attack by the superior numbers of Scots.  The Brut Chronicle describes that the retreat was “full of shame” due to the Scots retreat before a smaller force.  Mar drew back to Perth and rallied the survivors whilst Balliol marched on Dunfermline.

Heading north, the Disinherited reached the River Earn (2 miles to the south of Perth) where the reconstituted Scottish army were waiting for them at Dupplin Moor.  Outnumbering Balliol’s force by as much as ten to one the Scots had broken the only bridge over the Earn and waited on the opposite bank.  So sure, of their impending victory, the Scots spent the night feasting and making merry in to the small hours.  They had forgotten The Bruce’s sage advice that the Scots should never face the English in open battle.  The following morning, although disheartened at the size of the enemy host, Balliol’s army prepared to attack.  As they moved forward the Scottish army began to advance in two huge schiltron’s, one commanded by Mar and the other by Robert the Bruce’s illegitimate son, the Lord of Liddesdale, also named Robert Bruce. 

The English army arrayed itself with dismounted infantry in the centre and archers on the wings.  The Scottish schiltron’s vied with each other to be the first into combat with the result of disorganising their formations.  The battlefield was a valley girded by hills and Scots advance was funnelled into the English centre.  Bruce’s men reached the English first and drove them back but they did not break, all the while under a constant and murderous hail of English arrows.  Mar’s schiltron crashed into the rear of the first and the battle turned into a confused mele all under the constant hail of arrows.  It is likely that more Scots died from being suffocated and trampled by their own men than were slain by the English.  The battle turned into a massacre and by sunset both Scottish commanders had been slain.  The remaining Scots routed and were pursued by the now mounted English infantry well into the night.  Thousands of Scots had died including much of the nobility at the cost of very few English.  Balliol, victorious, marched to Perth and had himself crowned King of Scotland at Scone on 24th September 1332.  In two public letters Balliol declared that he had reclaimed his kingdom with the help of England and that he acknowledged that Scotland had always been a fief of England.  He also promised to hand over border lands, including Berwick upon Tween to Edward III, and that he would serve the English king for the rest of his life.

Sufficed to say Balliol’s declarations incensed the majority of Scots and his reign was immediately challenged by those nobles still loyal to the boy King David II.  On the 7th October 1332 David’s supporters recaptured Perth and destroyed its defences.  Less than three months after his coronation on 16th December Balliol was ambushed by a force lead by Sir Archibald Douglas (the new Guardian of Scotland following the death of the Earl of Mar), John Randolph, 3rd Earl of Moray, Robert Stewart and Simon Frazer.  Known as the Battle of Annan, most of Balliol’s men were killed and Edward himself was put to flight escaping by the skin of his teeth and as legend has it riding, naked to Carlisle.  After finding some suitable attire, presumably, Balliol went directly to Edward III to appeal for his help.  Edward, keen to gain the initiative in Scotland and demonstrate his increasing power recognised Balliol as the legitimate King of Scotland and dropped any pretence of neutrality.  England prepared for war.

Berwick Under Siege

Berwick upon Tweed was the chosen target of the English attack.  Edward hoped to capture the town, which was a populous a wealthy port, and considered to be the “gateway to Scotland”.  Such was its value that he was sure that it would draw the Scots into a pitched battle to recapture it.  His experience of the frustrations of the Weardale Campaign were still fresh in his mind and he wanted to avoid that game of cat and mouse at all costs and defeat the Scots decisively.

Part of 16th Century Map of Berwick showing the medieval fortifications (c)

Berwick was a heavily fortified town with encircling walls (not to be confused with the impressive Elizabethan fortifications you can see today), strong towers and gatehouses.  Berwick Castle was situated in the north-western corner of the town.  Construction of the castle was probably begun by the Scottish King David I early in the 1100’s.  It was an impressively strong fortress with walls up to 50 feet high and 12 feet thick.  It is sat on a rocky outcrop with steep valleys either side where it commanded approaches from the River Tweed.


Berwick Defences (c) English Heritage

Balliol led an expeditionary English force by land and crossed the border on 10th March 1333 arriving at Berwick by the end of that month and laid siege to the town.  Edward had blockaded the port by sea and arrived at Berwick with the main English army on 9th May.  The surrounding lands were ruthlessly pillaged and all supplies to the town were cut off.  The English busied themselves building siege equipment and bombarding the town with two large trebuchets.

At this point it is worth discussing the role of one John Crabbe.  Crabbe was a Flemish merchant, pirate and soldier.  He had spent much time raiding English shipping and based himself for some time in Aberdeen where he received a warm welcome from the Scots.  After achieving considerable notoriety Crabbe eventually came to settle in Berwick where he became a burgess.  He went on to play an important role in the defence of the town during the siege on 1318-19, being given credit for designing a weapon to which dropped stones on to the English who were trying to undermine the castle walls.  During the Dupplin Moor campaign, Crabbe lead a fleet of Flemish ships, but they were decisively defeated by an English fleet in the Firth of Tay.  After that skirmish, Crabbe escaped back to Berwick but was not long after captured by an English soldier called Walter de Manny.  Manny received a ransom of some 4,300 marks from the Scots for Crabbe’s release, however, Edward III would have none of that.  He was kept in chains until he had made restitution for his earlier piratical activities, and it seems he was coerced into assisting the English at the Siege of Berwick in 1333.  The Scot’s, enraged by this apparent betrayal (which is a little unfair to Crabbe since he probably had little choice in the matter), had Crabbe’s son killed and refused to pay any further ransom to get him back.  Edward III would co on to pardon Crabbe for his good service during the siege and made him constable of Somerton Castle in Lincolnshire.

The Scots knew of Edwards plans in advance of their invasion and Sir Archibald Douglas had assembled a large Scottish army to face the threat.  By the end of June the Scottish garrison of Berwick was close to surrender.  The town’s governor, Sir Alexander Seton, requested a truce with Edward on the condition that he would surrender the town if not relieved by 11th July.  Edward demanded that hostages were provided to seal the bargain and Seton dutifully offered his son Thomas along with 11 others. 

Weighing up the considerable risks he was contending with Douglas crossed the border on the day that the truce was due to expire.  With an army numbering as many as 15,000 men (contemporary chronicles have numbers up to 100,000) he advanced to Tweedmouth, which the English were using as their supply port, and burnt it to the ground in sight of the English army.  The English did not rise to this antagonization and held firm in their entrenchments.  On 12th of July a small force of around 200 Scottish cavalry, commanded by Sir William Keith, headed towards Berwick, and with much difficulty made it into the besieged town.  Keith then took on the Seton’s role as governor.  Douglas claimed that, because of this, the town had been relieved, and that Edward should depart threatening to invade England if he did not.  Edward ignored this threat and considered that the town had not been relieved and therefore the truce had been broken.  Despite the entreaties of his wife, Seton and Keith did not surrender and Edward, henceforth, erected a gallows outside the town walls at Tweedmouth (at a spot still known as a “Hangie Dyke Neuk”) and executed Seton’s son Thomas in front of his parents. 

“The trumpets sounded out oure the Tweed

               Wi’ a blast o’ deadly sound;

Auld Seaton and wife gaed up on the wa’s,

               For theyre sonnes to death were bound.”

Extract from the Ballad of Seton’s Sons, or the Beleaguering of Berwicke, from Sheldon’s Minstrelsy of the English Border

A proclamation was made that for every day that the town did not surrender a further two hostages would be hanged.

Following the execution of Thomas Seton, a new truce was agreed on the condition that if the garrison was not relieved by 19th July the town would be surrendered and all inhabitants would be granted safe passage.  This time, what constituted relief of the town was very clearly defined; either the entrance of 200 or more Scottish men-at-arms into the town, the Scottish army forcing its way across a specific stretch of the River Tweed or a defeat of the English army in open battle.

The River Tweed west of Berwick (c) John Morton

On his way north to Scotland Edward had bought his wife, Queen Phillippa with him as far as Bamburgh Castle, where she stayed.  Seeing the opportunity to draw Edward away Douglas marched his army south into Northumberland to attack the queen.  This ruse had been used before.  In 1319, when Edward’s father, Edward II had laid siege to Berwick the Scots had marched south to York where Edward’s mother had been ensconced.  Back then it had resulted in the desired effect and Edward II had lifted the siege to go ensure his wife’s safety (I’m not sure if he regretted that later in life!).  This time, however, Edward III did not take the bait.  Bamburgh was a strong fortress and Edward knew that Douglas did not have the time or resources to storm it.  Douglas laid waste to the surrounding land but still Edward remained steadfastly at Berwick.  All of his subterfuges exhausted Douglas felt his only option was to fight Edward in battle.

The Battle of Halidon Hill

Battlefield Deployments (c) The Battlefield Trust

Edward manoeuvred the bulk of his army of some 10,000 men to Halidon Hill, around 2 miles from Berwick, leaving around 700 men to guard the siege perimeter and prevent a sally from the town.  Halidon Hill was a strong position and offered a superb vantage of the surrounding land.  The Scottish army marched back north from Northumberland, reaching the town of Duns (approximately 12 miles to the west of Berwick) on 19th July.  The following day they advanced on the English position from the northwest.  This put the English army between the Scots to the north and the River Tweed to the south. An English defeat would have been disastrous with no easy route of retreat, and Edward knew it.  He turned his army to face the Scottish advance and formed up in to three blocks of infantry or “battles”, covering a wide arc.  The now feared longbowmen were positioned on the wings of the infantry.  The Scots halted on a nearby hill to the northwest and formed a defensive position.  A lower lying boggy area separated the two hosts.  The Scots expected the English to attack, but they held firm.  The armies were close enough to trade insults and at one point the Scots challenged the English to send forth their champion to engage in single combat.  Robert Benhale of Norfolk dutifully accepted the challenge and fought a Scottish champion called Turnbull and his dog.  Benhale killed them both.

Terrain Plan (c) The Battlefield Trust

The stalemate continued with neither side engaging even though the Scots had numerical superiority.  Perhaps they were waiting for high tide in the Tweed to ensure that retreat for the English would be near impossible.  However, Douglas knew that delay or retreat from battle would ensure that fall of Berwick and ultimately, he was compelled to make the first move.  The Scots needed to advance down hill and across a boggy low lying area before they could climb the slope up to the waiting English. A little afternoon horn and war pipes sounded, and the Scots charged.  Remembering the murderous effect of the English longbow at Dupplin Moor the Scots tried to counter the barrage by running as fast as they could through the “kill zone”.  Hampered by boggy ground, the arrows fell on the tightly packed Scottish schiltrons “as thick as motes in a sun beam”, according to an unnamed chronicler.  The Scots were exhausted by the previous days march and the rapid advance and intense arrow storm coupled with the strength of the English position took out most of the impetuous from the Scottish charge.  The schiltron under the command of the Earl of Mar engaged with Balliol’s battle first, who held their ground.  A second schiltron engaged with the King’s battle in the centre.  The third schiltron clashed with the battle commanded by Henry Beaumont.  Furious close combat ensued all the while the English archers continued to pour arrows into the flanks and midst of the Scottish formations.  The fighting did not last long and the Scots fighting Balliol broke first.  As with an infectious disease the panic spread and before long the Scottish army was in full route. 

Edward was not in a merciful mood and the English pursued the broken Scots for 8 miles.  Few prisoners were taken and around 100 of those who were taken captive were beheaded the next day on 20th July.  This was the day of the expiration of the revised truce and the garrison at Berwick, having borne witness to the battle, duly surrendered the town.

Modern estimates put the Scottish death toll at c.3,000.  As ever the contemporary accounts vary wildly.  However, by any measure, English deaths were comparatively very few, perhaps less than 20.  Edward got the decisive battlefield victory he had wanted.

Balliol was restored to the throne of Scotland and dutifully began redistributing the lands to the disinherited lords who had helped him.  Unfortunately, this dispossessed a new generation of nobles, the sons of those who had fallen in battle, and they were set on continuing the cause of Scottish Independence in the name of David II.

Visiting the Battlefield Today

Battlefield Walk Information Board

A walking route around the battlefield is accessed just off the A6105 (Duns Road).  Post Code TD15 1UD takes you to a small car park and there are information boards which show you the routes of the walk.  On a good day you will be provided with some breath taking views of the border country and will fully appreciate Edward III’s reasoning for choosing this site to give battle.  A concrete triangulation point, and wooden bench mark the summit of Halidon Hill.

Halidon Hill Summit looking North West (c) John Morton

The landscape has changed following the Enclosure Act of the mid-19th Century, but I think you still get a sense from the lay of the land and with a little imagination you can certainly feel closer to the events of 1333.

View of Berwick from Halidon Hill (c) John Morton

The medieval defences of Berwick are largely lost and, in the name of Victorian progress, unfortunately much of what remained of Berwick Castle was demolished in the mid-19th Century to make way for Berwick railway station and the now iconic Royal Border Bridge.  Remains of the eastern ramparts and the White Wall can be seen in some splendour from Coronation Park.  It’s worth a walk through the park and down to the banks of the Tweed where you can inspect the ruins and marvel at what must have been an impressive fortress in 1333.

Berwick Castle today from the West (c) John Morton
Berwick Castle Walls (c) John Morton
The White Wall, Berwick Castle (c) John Morton
Coronation Park, Berwick (c) John Morton

Sources and Further Reading

In writing this blog I have read older and more modern accounts / interpretations of the events as well as referring to some of the source material.  The books I would recommend are:

  • Scalachronica 1272 – 1363, Sir Thomas Gray (Edited and translated by Andy King)
  • Border Battles and Battlefields, James Robson (1897).
  • Borderland Castles and Peles, Robert Hugil.
  • Border Fury – England and Scotland at War 1296 – 1568, John Sadler (2005).
  • English Heritage Battlefield Report: Halidon Hill 1333 (1995).
  • War Cruel and Sharp – English Strategy under Edward III 1327 – 1360, Clifford J. Rogers (2000).
  • Kings in the North – The House of Percy in British History, Alexander Rose (2002).

St. Nicholas’ Cathedral, Newcastle upon Tyne

Sorry it’s been a while!  Hoping to get a little more time to keep these old stories coming.  The following is an account of one of the great Newcastle landmarks.  Published in September 1889 it describes the magnificent St. Nicholas’ Cathedral.  It really is fascinating to read about the history of a place you see so often and maybe take for granted.  You might walk past an old building like this every day, maybe on the way to work and never think to go inside.  It really might be worth taking the time to stop and have an explore!


The Roman Station of Pons Ælii and the Saxon town of Monkchester had both gone down before the arrival in this country of William the Conqueror. When that monarch reached the banks of the Tyne, he found the Roman bridge in ruins and impassable, and provisions for his army could not be found nearer than Tynemouth.

St. Nicholas' 1
St. Nicholas’ Cathedral, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1889


The New Castle upon Tyne fortress and town was founded by his son, Robert Curthose. This was in the year 1080. There is every evidence that the growth of the new town was rapid, and its early prosperity great. The church of St. Nicholas, the earliest ecclesiastical establishment within the walls of Newcastle, is said to have been founded by St. Osmund, Bishop of Salisbury, in 1091. Although no very satisfactory proof of this statement is attainable, it is certain that the town would, soon after its establishment, require a church, and as we know that St. John’s, the second church in Newcastle, was built whilst the twelfth century was still young, there is every reason to believe that the date ascribed to St. Nicholas’ is approximately correct. No part of the church built in those early times exists now. It probably soon became too small for the needs of the inhabitants. The builders were again at work about the year 1250. In the churchyard are three or four stones, moulded in a way which indicates that they have formed part of some structure erected about this time. They had afterwards been used up as old building material, and were taken out of the walls during the restorations of a few years ago. Then we are told that in 1216 the church was consumed by fire. Certainly about that period some rebuilding was carried out. If the reader will go into the nave of the church, and will examine the easternmost pillar on the north side, he will find that an older pillar is encased in the present one. This older pillar is clearly part of a nave, with aisles, built in the early part of the thirteenth century. The walls above the present arches of the nave and below the clerestory windows were built at the same time. The arches themselves are much later, but they have been inserted in the older walls.

St. Nicholas' 2
The Castle Garth, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1889


The nave and transepts were rebuilt in 1359. As I have just mentioned, the older nave walls were partly preserved, the new arches being pierced through them; and this accounts for what is one of the most remarkable features in this church, viz., the great width of the aisles as compared with that of the nave. Ten years later the chancel was in course of re-erection. The old chancel had been taken down, and the new one commenced, without the permission of the Bishop and Prior of Carlisle, who were rectors of the church. They sent a proctor to Newcastle on their behalf. He, on his arrival, found a priest, named Roger de Merley, sitting near the new choir, and “hammering and working on a new stone.” The proctor commanded the workmen to desist, and threw pebbles at the new work, and at what remained of the old, in evidence of his authority.

Another hundred years passed by, and Newcastle numbered amongst its people one Robert de Rodes, a lawyer, a man of wealth, and one who stood high in the esteem of the Bishop and Prior of Durham. To him we are indebted for the glorious steeple of this church. Aloft in the vault of the tower we have his coat of arms, and the legend

“Orate pro anima Roberti be Rodes.”

(Pray for the soul of Robert de Rodes.)

Except to a few conventional architects, this wonderful steeple is an object of universal admiration. There is nothing quite like it anywhere in the world. Scotland has two or three towers crowned in a slightly similar, but much inferior way, and the steeple of St. Dunstan’s-in-the-East, London, built by Sir Christopher Wren, has a very poor imitation of this lantern at Newcastle.*

* Church bells were of service in times of old to guide the belated wayfarer to his home in the night. In Mr. North’s “Church Bells of Leicestershire,” published in 1876, there is mention of grateful bequests to parish churches by testators who had been befriended by the belfry when their road was lost in hours of darkness. The church of St. Nicholas was not only of service in this way, but also as an inland lighthouse. Pennant speaks of the pathless moors of this neighbourhood in the past century; and many a traveller who traversed them hail reason to thank the lantern of St. Nicholas in the nights of old. In the second week of November, 1567, an item of 3s. occurs in the books of the Town Chamberlain, “paid for 4 lbs. of waxe maid in candell for the lanterne of Sancce Nycholas churche, and for the workynge.” So, too, in December next, 1s. 6d. went for “waxe wrought in candell for the lanterne.”

Left: Cover of the Font

Right: Pew Standards, St. Nicholas’ Church, Temp. Charles I.

When we enter the church by its west door, the first object to strike our attention is the font, which is plain and rude in design, but is surmounted by a truly magnificent cover. The basin bears the arms of Rodes, as well as those of an old Durham county family, the Bainbriggs. Robert Rodes, who died in 1474, had no children. A niece, Alice Rodes, was his heiress. She afterwards married one Richard Bainbrigg, said to have been a member of a family of that name settled at Snotterton, in the parish of Staindrop. In right of his wife he acquired the estate of Wheatley Hill, in the parish of Kelloe, and his descendants remained there for several generations. I believe this font was erected by the niece of Robert de Rodes and her husband, as a memorial of the man to whom Newcastle owes its most splendid architectural achievement.

Turning into the south aisle, we find at its west end a remarkable slab, fixed to the wall, which has borne a now almost obliterated representation of the Crucifixion of the Saviour. On the upper part of it is a fragment of an inscription, which, with great difficulty, may be read as follows:

Our lady prest is bon to say,

At the lavatory evy day;

meaning that the priest of a chantry dedicated to the Virgin was required every day to say solemn dirge and mass at the altar for the soul of George Carr, and for his wife’s and children’s souls. The lavatory means the water drain near the altar, usually called the piscine.

Before we leave this part of the edifice we must notice the recesses in the wall of the south aisle, which, doubtless, were intended for the tombs of benefactors to the church.

The chapal in the same aisle was formerly the chantry of St. Margaret, founded in 1394 by Stephen Whitgray, who, more than once, had represented Newcastle in Parliament. It is now known as the Bewick Porch, for here, from 1636 to 1859, the Bewicks, of Close House near Heddon-on-the-Wall, were buried, and here are the monuments of some of them. But into this chapel are gathered the earliest memorials of the departed now existing in the church. Besides several fragments, there are three mediaeval grave stones of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and of beautiful designs; but, as was usual in those days, without any inscriptions. Here, too, is the recumbent effigy of a knight, clad in chain mail, cross-legged, and with his feet resting on a lion. There is every reason to believe that this is the effigy of Peter le Mareshal, who was sword-bearer to Edward I., and who was buried in this church on the 18th September, 1322. Edward II., who was then at Newcastle, paid for a cloth of gold to cover Mareshal’s body on the day of his interment.

We proceed towards the east end of the church, and turn into the south transept. Here, on our right, we have the quaint and singular monument of the Maddisons, adorned with many effigies, representing and recording three generations of the same family. On the opposite side of the transept are two windows, architecturally the best in the church.

We now enter the south aisle of the chancel, and immediately beyond the vestry door we have the monument of thn Halls, a less pretentious, but very similar one to that of the Maddisons. The Halls and the Maddisons were related by intermarriages, and were amongst the wealthy merchants of Newcastle during the first half of the seventeenth century.

Before we proceed further, we may glance at the new features which have been recently introduced into the church the reredos, the stalls, the screens, and the bishop’s throne. These all embody much excellent design, almost faultlessly executed; but they are none the less sadly out of character with the edifice into which they are introduced, and display an entire absence of that modest sense of fitness which almost invariably characterized the work of the architects of the middle ages.

If, now, we pass behind the reredos, we see a large painting by Tintoretto of “Christ washing His Disciples’ Feet.” Then, proceeding along the north aisle of the chancel, we enter the north transept, where we find an interesting monument of Thomas Surtees, the last representative of a family which owned the manor of Gosforth from the time of Henry II. Here we may descend into the crypt, formerly one of the chantry chapels, afterwards a receptacle of human bones, and now occupied by organ-blowing machinery.

Many stirring events have been witnessed in this church. Courts of justice were held here in the reign of Edward I. In 1313, penance was performed by one Nicholas le Porter at the doors of this church, he standing unshod, bareheaded, and clothed only in a linen gown, for having dragged certain persons from sanctuary in the church of the White Friars. Here, too, in 1417, Matilda Burgh and Margaret Usher did penance for having approached the shrine of St. Cuthbcrt at Durham dressed in men’s clothes. Treaties of peace between the commissioners of England and Scotland were solemnly signed and sealed here in 1451 and 1459. Here, in 1550, John Knox, the great Scottish reformer, preached before those who sat in judgment on his heresies, he undertaking to prove that the sacrifice of the mass was idolatrous. Bishop Toby Matthew preached here before James I. Here the famed Alexander Henderson preached to General Lesley and the leaders of the Scottish army the day after the battle of Newburn. And when, during the siege of Newcastle in 1644, the same Lesley threatened to fire his cannons at the steeple unless the town would capitulate, Sir John Marley sent all the Scotch prisoners into the belfry, and told the besiegers they might fire away if they desired their countrymen’s destruction. Charles I., during his imprisonment in the town, attended service here, and was insulted by the Scotch preacher’s choice of a hymn, but the people sympathised with the King, and sung another for which he called*.

*The remarkable incident of 1646 is thus related in Sir William Dugdale’s “Short View of the Late Troubles in England” (1681): “A rigid Presbyterian preacher, besides many rude and uncivil expressions in his sermon before the King, called for the 52nd Psalm to be sung by the congregation, which beginneth thus:

Why dost them, tyrant, boast abroad,

Thy wicked works to praise?

Whereupon his Majesty instantly stood up, and called

for the 56th Psalm, beginning thus:

Have mercy, Lord, on me, I pray,

For man would me devour.”

Afte the battle of Dunbar, the Scotch prisoners were lodged for a single night in this church.

No account of this famous church can be considered complete without some reference to Ben Jonson’s enigma. The poet had come this way in 1618, on the occasion of his Scottish tour. Gray quotes in his “Chorographia” the following lines as having been written by Jonson concerning the steeple of St. Nicholas’: –

My altitude high, my body foure square;

My foot in the grave, my head in the ayre;

My eyes in my sides, five tongues in my wombe:

Thirteen heads upon my body, foure images alone.

I can direct you where the winde doth stay;

And I time God’s precepts thrice a day.

I am seen where I am not, I am heard where I is not.

Tell me now what I am, and see that you misse not.

“If Jonson wrote the riddle,” says Mr. Clephan, “some other pen than his own must subsequently have made the lines to halt. They are of the ‘peculiar measure’ of the obliging rhymer who is said to have gone all lengths to please his friends; they present sundry openings for conjectural revision; and we may venture to suggest that at the close of the last line save one, the words were originally written, not ‘I is not,’ but ‘I wis not.’”