Diocese of

Hexham and Newcastle

Bishop Robert Byrne CO

North East Catholic History Society (NECHS)

Photo Gallery – Excursions:


NECHS Excursions – 2016

NECHS - 2016

A Castle, a Convent and a College.

We enjoyed two successful excursions this year; Auckland Castle and Ushaw College in May and the Bar Convent in June. On both occasions the weather was very kind to us.

Auckland Castle Trust is transforming this 900 year old Bishop’s Palace into a fascinating experience for visitors. Our guide conducted a tour which included the magnificent St Peter’s Chapel and the famous Zurbaran paintings of Jacob and his twelve sons. We heard about the exciting plans for development and would like to arrange another visit in the future.

At Ushaw College we were very keen to see the Treasures which had been the subject of a recent lecture given to Society members. It was very moving to see the artefacts connected to the survival of the Faith in penal times. Our guide also gave us as interesting talk about the history of the Seminary and the life of the students. As with Auckland, we await future developments.

The excursion to the Bar Convent in York merited the full day spent there. Members were inspired by an earlier lecture and also an article in our magazine “Northern Catholic History”. This 17th century Foundation of sisters of the Congregation of Jesus with their work educating girls, in spite of huge opposition, is the subject of a superb exhibition. The lives of Mary Ward, the Foundress, and St. Margaret Clitherow who was martyred in York were well explained and illustrated. There is a beautiful Chapel with a priest’s hole and multiple exits for quick evacuation during services. After lunch, we were able to enjoy the gardens or visit York before leaving for the journey home.

NECHS Excursions – 2015

NECHS 2015


On a gloriously sunny day in May, our visit was to Ampleforth Abbey in North Yorkshire. It was lovely to have Fr. David Milburn celebrate Mass for the Society in the beautiful little Chapel in the Crypt.

Ampleforth is a busy tourist venue with excellent catering facilities and we were served a nice lunch in the pleasant Tea Room.

In the afternoon, we were privileged to have an informative guided tour of the Abbey Church conducted by the Prior, Fr. Terence Richardson. He explained the unusual arrangement of the altars and the fascinating stained glass windows, some of them by former pupils of Ampleforth School. We heard about the history of the site, the Benedictines in Britain, and the daily routine of the 70 Monks.

Time remaining was spent exploring the Visitor Centre, grounds and shop for items including the famous Ampleforth beer and cider!


In June, again on a perfect Summer's day, we headed for Dryburgh Abbey in the Scottish Borders.

This was a Premonstratension Foundation from the 12th century, located on a peaceful site beside the River Tweed.

After a good introductory talk and tour by the Historic Scotland Custodian, we visited the ruins of the Abbey Church now containing the grave of Sir Walter Scott and walked round the remains of other buildings including the Chapter House.

It was relaxing to enjoy our picnics in the neatly maintained gardens before finishing the excursion with a stop in Melrose on the journey home!

NECHS Excursions – 2014

NECHS 2014

We enjoyed two very good excursions this summer and both, wonderfully, in glorious weather.

The May visit was to York to see the developments in the Minster based around the restoration of the medieval Great East Window. After the guided tour, informing us of the history of the Minster, its windows, statuary and monuments, we could visit the undercroft where the Roman origins of the city had been exposed. Some members went to see a fascinating demonstration of the work of the glaziers skilfully conserving each pane of stained glass in the Bedern Glaziers Studio.

There was also the opportunity to visit the Shrine of St Margaret Clitheroe, and before leaving, we were able to hear the Minster choir singing Solemn Choral Evensong.

Our excursion in June was to the Ladyewell Shrine at Fernyhalgh near Preston. Devotion to Our Lady of Fernyhalgh goes back to the 11th century and, since Reformation times, she has been honoured with the title Our Lady Queen of Martyrs because of the many priests associated with the Shrine who were imprisoned and executed.

We were made very welcome, especially by Fr. Tom Hoole, the Director of the Shrine, who concelebrated Mass with Fr. Michael Brown in the delightful Martyrs Chapel near the Ladyewell.

Afterwards, we explored the wooded garden with its Way of the Cross, Rosary Walk and other smaller shrines. We had time for Rosary and Benediction and finally, a visit to the lovely church of St. Mary's in the village. Fernyhalgh was a beautiful secluded place with an atmosphere of peace and holiness. We agreed we were blessed to have had the privilege of visiting this remarkable place of pilgrimage.

NECHS Excursions – 2013

NECHS - 2013

Lindisfarne Gospels’ Exhibition – Durham, September 2013

NECHS members were very fortunate to enjoy a wonderful visit to this much anticipated unique exhibition which explored why the Lindisfarne Gospels was made "in honour of God and St. Cuthbert” around the year 700 and how artistic traditions from Ireland and the Mediterranean came together to produce this masterpiece.

Members were privileged to see the Gospels' Manuscript page with the Portrait of St. John with the eagle symbolizing the second coming of Christ. John is the only Evangelist looking out at the reader.

As well as seeing this remarkably well preserved centrepiece, some of the most precious objects from Anglo Saxon England were on display, telling us the amazing story of St. Cuthbert, his life and what happened to his remains after his death.

After the exhibition, we heard a most informative and entertaining talk by Professor Gameson, who is a leading expert on the manuscript and who has been in charge of the long process of bringing all the exhibits together. In addition we saw the "Chi Rho" page in Professor Gameson's facsimile. It is the beautifully crafted "Chi Rho" monogram at the start of St. Matthew's Gospel.

Such a magnificent collection of artefacts is not likely to be repeated, and we were very aware of the privilege and thrill of being so close to these treasures which continue to inspire us today.

Excursion to Constable Burton and Jervaulx Abbey

Our first excursion of 2013 was to North Yorkshire where we paid an interesting visit to Constable Burton, the 18th century house belonging to the Wyvill family whose ancestor was a knight who fought with William of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings. Mr. Darcy Wyvill made us welcome and showed us round their beautiful home. Then the family's gardener showed us the lovely garden and woodland where the annual tulip festival was at its peak.

Nearby, are the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey of Jervaulx, situated on a stunning site beside the River Ure. The owner of the site, Mr. Ian Burdon guided us round the substantial remains, describing how he has painstakingly restored some of the huge structures, removing over growth of vegetation but encouraging the regrowth of wild flowers and plants. A large model of the abbey showed us how it would have been before the Dissolution. Some of the revenues of the abbey came from the monks producing cheese, especially a blue Wensleydale, Jervaulx Blue.

NECHS Excursions – 2012

NECHS - 2012

In May 2012 the first excursion was to Hulne Park on the outskirts of Alnwick for a fascinating tour of the 13th.century Carmelite Priory. We later travelled north to Ancroft, opposite to Holy Island, where we visited the11th.century church of St. Anne, founded by Benedictines from Holy Island. A major feature there was the grave of some refugee nuns, Poor Clares, from Rouen and the subject of a talk by Olive Trewick, a member who had researched the subject extensively.

In June the excursion was to Stonyhurst College in Lancashire. Here we had a most informative tour by members of staff of the college. We were shown how the building had developed from an Elizabethan mansion, owned by a recusant family, complete with priest's holes and secret tunnels, to the Jesuit boys' school, established from St. Omers in northern France.There was an interesting parallel with Ushaw and its move from Douai due to the persecution in France. One of the highlights of the visit was seeing some of the treasures in the small museum. There were wonderful Books of Hours, some relics of English Martyrs, a beautiful psalm book which bore the insignia of Queen Mary Tudor and had also been used by Mary Queen of Scots – and also a black felt hat belonging to St. Thomas More! There was so much see that it would really repay further visits.

NECHS Excursions – 2011

NECHS - 2011

Visit to Markenfield

Markenfield Hall, Grade 1 Listed Building, is situated between Ripon and Harrogate. It is the most unspoiled surviving early 14th century moated house in England, being in the hands of the Markenfield family through the centuries to the present day.

The Markenfields were a passionately devout Catholic family, greatly distressed by the dissolution of our ancient monasteries, the Reformation, and the persecutions. After the failed Rising of the North in 1569, of which Sir Thomas Markenfield was a leader who was able to flee abroad, so as to avoid execution died in Brussels, the Crown confiscated the Estate. Two hundred years later it was bought back into the family.

We were fortunate to enjoy a most instructive guided tour of this picturesque estate with its fascinating history.