National Gazetteer (1868) - Holy Island


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

"HOLY ISLAND, (or Lindisfarne), a parish in the hundred of Islandshire, county Northumberland, formerly in Durham, 12 miles from Berwick, its post town, 5 from Belford, and 34 from the Beal station on the North-Eastern railway. Besides the principal island, the parish comprises the Earn islands and the hamlets of Fenham and Goswick-on-the-Mainland, which are separated by Fenham Flats. Holy Island is situated in the North Sea, about 1½ mile from the Northumbrian coast, and is about 9 miles in circumference, and 2 from E. to W. across. It is connected with the mainland by a narrow isthmus, which can be traversed by horses and carriages at the ebb of the tide, but at other times is entirely submerged. Lately, strong posts have been sunk along the sands as a safeguard to travellers. It derives its name from an abbey, founded by Oswald, the Saxon king of Northumbria, in 635, which subsequently became the seat of a bishop's see; but after a succession of fourteen prelates, the cathedral was destroyed by the Danes in 893, and the bishopric was removed to Chester-le-Street, and, subsequently, to Durham. After the Norman Conquest, the abbey was rebuilt and converted into a Benedictine cell to Durham Abbey, by William De Carilepho. The island was invaded and plundered in 941 by Malcolm I. of Scotland. In the great civil war it was garrisoned for the parliament, and in 1715 was seized for the Pretender, but was speedily recaptured by a detachment of the king's troops at Berwick. The old castle, situated at the S.E. part of the island, adjoining Hough Hill, stands on a cliff, 108 feet in height; it is now occupied by the coastguard men. There are several springs, producing water of excellent quality; also a lake, covering an area of 6 acres. The rocks on its northern shore are limestone, and are worn by the sea into singular caverns. In this part of the island are a small seam of coal, and a stratum of slate, the latter containing a considerable quantity of iron ore, with which are found the entrochi, or fossils, popularly termed St. Cuthbert's beads. At the south-western corner of the island is situated the village, distinguished for the ruins of the monastery. It is a place of considerable resort for sea-bathing, and as a bar harbour, being a subport to Berwick. In the market-place are a sun-dial and stone cross, 12 feet in height, rebuilt by H. C. Selby, Esq., in 1828. A great portion of the inhabitants are fishermen and pilots. The principal fish caught are cod, ling, haddock, and lobsters, which last are very abundant in the neighbouring seas. The living is a perpetual curacy* in the diocese of Durham,' value £183, in the patronage of the dean and chapter. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is an ancient Stone structure, with a tower containing one bell. The church has the old original roof, also the nave, which is supported by three arches on each side, the S. side having octagonal pillars with pointed arches, while those on the N. are round, with Norman arches. The pulpit is of carved oak, bearing date 1646. The communion table, supposed to have belonged to the original church, is very handsome, and is in a good state of preservation. The font is of stone, and very large; and there are several ancient piscinas in various parts of the church. The S. aisle contains a stained window; and in the N. aisle is a marble tablet to Sir Carnaby Haggerston, Bart. There are also several marble tablets. Near to the church are the ruins of the old cathedral, a stately pile, with Saxon arches and pillars. There are also traces of the priory, with the stump of the cross, or "Pettingstone," which all brides attempt to stride the length of These ruins have recently been restored at a considerable expense. John Strangeways Donaldson Selby is lord of the manor, and chief landowner.

"FENHAM, a township in the parish of Holy Island, hundred of Islandshire, county Northumberland, 3 miles W. of Holy Island, and 5 N.W. of Belford. Between Holy Island and the mainland are Fenham Flats, a tract of sand which may be crossed on foot at low water."

"GOSWICK, a township in the parish of Holy Island, hundred of Islandshire, county Northumberland, 6 miles S.E. of Berwick-upon-Tweed. It is situated on a small creek, immediately opposite Holy Island, and is the property of the Askew family. Until recently it formed part of the county of Durham."

"SKATE-ROAD, an anchorage inside of and in the parish of Holy Island, on the coast of county Northumberland, near Warnham Bar."

"WINDGATE, a shoal off Holy Island and in the parish of Holy Island, county Northumberland."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]