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Report 2043: Northumberland in the Snow in January

By Eleanor from UK, Winter 2013

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Page 6 of 10: Etal

photo by MAW

Ruins of Etal Castle

Etal is an attractive estate village of white painted houses with thatch, slate or stone roofs. At one end is the elegant 18thC stone manor house with the small chapel of St Mary by the gates. At the other are the remains of Etal Castle.

Etal Castle was built in the 14thC as a defense against cross border raids. There is a massive gateway with two square, flanking towers and curtain wall. In the centre are the ruins of the keep or tower house. The base was used for storage and animal shelter. The first floor served as hall and general living area with the second floor being the private family quarters. Guards used the third floor and access to the roof gave a good view of the surrounding countryside. Again it is shut weekdays in the winter, although there are good views from the outside.

St Mary’s church is a small Victorian building with a central bellcote. Lady Augusta Fitzclarence built the church as a memorial chapel in 1858 to house the memorial to her husband Lt General Lord Frederick Fitzclarence (an illegitimate son of William IV) who died on active service in India.

Inside is a simple nave with a whitewashed ceiling with dark wooden beams. In the chancel, the ceiling beams are painted in bands of deep red and dark green with a flower motif. Above the altar, the ceiling is painted very dark green and has a pattern of eight pointed, gold and blue stars.

A small door beside the organ leads into the south chapel which has the stone memorial to Lord Frederick in the floor of the chancel area. This is a large stone slab with a cross and long sword carved on the top, similar to 13thC tombstones. It is sad the chapel is no longer used, apart from sink and tea urn.

On a snowy January day, Etal was deserted, but fortunately the Lavender Tea Rooms in the Post Office and General Store were open. It serves a range of cheap sandwiches and a selection of excellent cakes (the chocolate flap jack comes highly recommended). It also sells local biscuits, preserves and flours from nearby Heatherslaw Mill.A good place to stock up on small gifts.

In summer Etal heaves with tourists as it is a real honey pot, along with nearby Ford, another estate village of stone built houses. It is easy to spend a full day here, visiting the Lady Waterford Gallery, Heatherslaw Mill, the only working watermill in Northumberland and the Heatherslaw Light Railway.

By now it was beginning to snow, so we decided to give Ford, with its stone built houses, a miss and head for our accommodation for the night.

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