St Peter's Church Bywell


Summary of History

A church building has probably existed in this place for a least 1200 years. The original saxon building is only known from its foundations which slightly overlap the existing building. However, the area that this building covered suggests a building of great importance. As its floor space was considerably greater than that suggested by the saxon remains at St Andrew's church, one can make a reasonable assumption that this was this site, rather than St Andrew's, where a bishop was ordained in 803. Records tell us that Egbert was consecrated Bishop of Lindisfarne in Bywell by the Bishops of York, Hexham and Candida Casa (Whithorn).

In saxon times of course there was no such thing as a parish and churches did not have towers (these were often added to existing church buildings by the Normans). Based on its size and similarities to Monkwearmouth church, the saxon St Peter's was almost certainly a church serving a monastery. Where was that monastery? Probably the foundations are under one of the fields around the church, awaiting discovery!

Norman and Early English workmanship is beautifully preserved and the church has a fine collection of Victorian stained glass windows. altar v2Much of the present building is late 13th century. In the Middle Ages the church of St Peter had close links with Durham cathedral and Hexham Abbey and is thought to have been a Benedictine foundation. Monks of this order wore black robes, hence St Peter's was known as the 'Black Church'.

St Andrew's church, lying only 100 metres north of St Peter's, is believed to have been built in the ninth century. Later, this church was served by Premonstratensian monks based in Blanchland and they wore white robes. Hence St Andrew's was known as the 'White Church'.


For a more detailed history of St Peter's church and information about the other ancient buildings in Bywell, please click here.


St Peters in snow 

St Peter's Bywell in the snow

Friends of St Peter's Bywell

The Friends of St Peter’s Church, Bywell is a registered charity inviting members to make an annual donation towards the upkeep of the church and essential building maintenance. Membership rates are individual, family and corporate with suggested annual donations of £20, £30 and £50 respectively.

As a Friend, you can play a part in supporting this interesting and historic landmark in our village and your membership will be valuable in maintaining the fabric of our beautiful and ancient church.

St Peters

The initiative has been developed by a group of parishioners led by Ralph Marrison. “We need to do something.” says Ralph Marrison, “In common with many rural parish churches, the regular congregation attending services at St Peter’s is too small to generate sufficient income, yet this church still serves the wider community. We feel it must be kept open, not just for the regular congregation but also for the christenings, weddings and funerals of local people.”

“There is also a growing trend in heritage tourism.” Ralph states, “This is particularly strong in Northumberland where the history of Bywell is linked to Lindisfarne and the Northern Saints. St Peter’s church has many interesting historical and architectural features with some fascinating stories attached. We are seeing an increasing number of visitors in the summer months, and we hope that some of them, along with people in our local community, will be persuaded to become a Friend of St Peter’s and make a small annual donation. If a few hundred people take this relatively small step, it will make a world of difference to the future of this beautiful and ancient church.”

Download an application form to become a friend here.




Friends of St P

Friends of St. Peter’s Bywell Committee: From left to right: Tim Astbury, Michael Allan, Clare Daltry, Rita Marrison, Jim Davidson, Ralph Marrison.


Where is St Peter's Church?

St Peter's Church is at the far end of Bywell village, near Stocksfield. The postcode is NE43 7AD. The church is usually open (weather permitting) between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm (until 2 pm in winter). If you would like to visit outside these hours please contact us.

 distant St Peters3

St Peter's Bywell