Ancroft Church, Northumberland

The church of St. Anne is Ancroft (presumably once Anne’s Croft) could only have been built in the borderlands between England and Scotland.

It started out life at the tail end of the 11th Century when the Normans first arrived in this area, but remained a Chapel of Ease until the 12th Century when the nave was added and it became a church.

This part of the country was famously controlled by the notorious Border Reivers – a bunch of scurrilous ne’er-do-wells who terrorised the area with their cattle thieving, stealing, pillaging and generally lawless behaviour. Because of that there is a massive concentration of peel towers along both sides of the Scotland-England border, pele towers being effectively tiny family castles.

Late in the 13th Century a defensible tower was added to St. Anne’s Church which turned it into an unusual religious pele tower. The ground floor, as was usual with these structures, became a place of storage or somewhere for the cattle to overwinter, whilst the upstairs was only accessible via a spiral staircase (in most pele towers access to the upper storeys was by ladder).

The tower blocked off the west entrance to the church, so a doorway was added at the east end. The current door only dates to the 19th Century when the church was heavily restored.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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