St Cuthbert's Final Journey

Following 9th century monks as they flee from invading vikings with the body of St Cuthbert and the Lindisfarne Gospels – and undertake a momentous journey that helps shape England

The Route…

The route Richard W Hardwick and Paul Alexander Knox will travel in April 2013 is via the map advised by The Northumbrian Association. The Community of St Cuthbert took seven years to complete their initial journey, visiting many places in what was then the kingdom of Northumbria, before finally settling in Chester-le-Street. After 113 years, further threat led them to move once again, until they settled once more at Durham.

As stated on the Northumbrian Association website, this route cannot be factually verified. Simeon, a Durham monk writing in the 11th and 12th centuries, mentions only four places: the mouth of the Derwent, Whithorn, Crayke and Chester-le-Street. The other locations were chosen because churches there were named after St Cuthbert and claimed they were built because his body rested there. The list of these Cuthbert churches was placed on the wall of the choir door in Durham Priory by Prior Wessington, whose family were the ancestors of George Washington, the First American President.

To view a list of the locations, please click on View Larger Map below…

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7 comments on “The Route…

  1. Dr Keith Hamnett
    June 3, 2013

    Hi. My name is Dr Keith Hamnett. A few years ago I delivered a paper on the journey of St Cuthbert to the Teesdale Record Society Seminar at Bowes Museum. I am really interested in your work and would love to be kept informed. I am surprised St Cuthbert North Meols is not on your list. It’s in Southport a few miles from Halsall and would have been a logical stopping place between Lytham andHalsall. Maybe you mistook it for Mellor near Blackburn, which wouldn’t make as much sense. Love to ear your comment. Regards

    keith hamnett

    • richardwhardwick2013
      June 9, 2013

      Hello there Keith, and thanks for your comment and feedback, I do appreciate it.
      There will be much more writing on this website in the next few months as the gospels come back to Durham and other artists celebrate in their own ways. Paul and I are showing an exhibition of our work from June 28th in the centre of Durham and then, there’s the small matter of writing a book with beautiful photography to accompany it. If you would like to be kept informed the best way is to follow the blog by clicking on ‘follow blog.’ You get the choice to follow via e-mail which means you get an e-mail every time I post an article. On average, I’m guessing that will be about one a fortnight for the next few months.

      I’m very interested in your suggestion of St Cuthbert North Meols and I’m disappointed we were so close to there without noticing. In truth, much of our journey was a race to different locations, driving or walking, punctured by beautiful isolated nights away from everyone, usually on top of the moors and dales. We ended up driving 1,600 miles in 16 days, walking a great deal and also getting lost on occasion.

      Mellor was on our list (taken from the Northumbrian Association’s website) and there are a few historical records suggesting that Cuthbert’s body stopped there, although much of the route is conjecture as you’ll know from your own research. Here’s a link to one suggestion of Mellor…..

      However, it was a missed opportunity and we would certainly have gone there if we’d known. It’s not on the road map I used and that was much more of a driving day because of the distances we needed to cover so we didn’t use ordnance survey maps there. Still, if I’m back down there I’ll be sure to visit
      it.

      Take care and many thanks – Richard

  2. Pingback: Prologue | Revealing Words

  3. Dave Vero
    August 11, 2013

    In the summer of 1976, when a student at Durham University, myself and 3 other students walked a total of 365 miles ‘retracing’ the route of the monks to raise money for the student charity in Durham [Focus]. We stayed overnight in village halls, tents, floor space in church halls and took 3 weeks to complete the walk raising over £1000 in the process. It was the very hot summer of ’76 and we often used to get up at 4a.m. to walk before it got too hot. I remember climbing over the walls at Fountains Abbey to look around at 6 in the morning before any visitors arrived. For part of the walk we carried a replica coffin! Great fun and very satisfying.

    • richardwhardwick2013
      August 11, 2013

      Brilliant Dave! Thanks for sharing. That was some walk and a memorable time for you…

  4. NICHOLAS J STAINFORTH
    November 13, 2013

    On behalf of Kendal Museum I am researching into the reason why the Church at Kentmere is dedicated to St Cuthbert.

    In 875, nearly 200 years after his burial at Lindisfame, his revered and sanctified remains were taken off by monks to escape Viking desecration and carried around the north until they were finally re-interred in Durham in 987. For over 100 years they roamed through Northern England and the Borders, westward and then northward, sometimes staying in 875, nearly 200 years after his burial at Lindisfame, to escape Viking desecration and carried around the north until they were finally re-interred in Durham in 987.

    For over 100 years they roamed through Northern England and the Borders, westward and then northward, sometimes staying in a place a few days, sometimes settling for a few years, always keeping just ahead of the Danes.

    Legend has it that everywhere the saint’s body rested the monks raised a cross or built a church dedicated in his name. Many “St Cuthbert” churches claimed to have been established where the remains rested during this time, and this has been said to be true of Kentmere. Was the establishment of a church in Kentmere at some time between 875 and 987 ?

    I have read that It is not known whether this church in Kentmere was built around that time and given a popular dedication, the building’s site, in the middle of a circular walled burial ground next to a yew tree, which is thought to be around a 1000 years old. Very early Christian sites are circular.

    Also Kentmere was settled long before the time of Cuthbert with evidence of Neolithic, Celtic and Norse settlements have been found in the valley the church lay near to the crossing of two important routes. In addition to The Romam High Street other very early tracks include to the west the Garburn Pass to Troutbeck and beyond and to the east over Green Quarter Fell via Stile End into Longsleddale. The route to the north went over Nan Bield Pass towards Shap and Penrith, where it would have linkedup with other old Roman roads.

    There is plenty of indicators for the monks stopping at Kentmere. Also 100 years spent wondering about is a long time to fill.

    Have you any reason why I cannot put forward for kendal Museum to use my theory explaining how Kentmere Church became dedicated to St Cuthbert for the purpose of informing the museum’s visitors?

    • richardwhardwick2013
      November 28, 2013

      Hello Nicholas and thanks for your comment on the site.

      The route Paul and I took was the one nailed to the door of Durham Cathedral by Prior Wessington in the 15th century. This route, which has been doubted by some historians, is one of conjecture, as indeed are all the routes suggested. He simply included the eight or so locations written about by Symeon in the 11th century and then added others because they had a Church of St Cuthbert and claimed the church was built because the body of the saint rested there on the journey. It makes sense that this would have happened but of course it is also great PR for a church to claim this, and we will never know the truth.

      I’ve seen four different journey’s suggested and the vast majority of the places we visited are on these journey’s too. I have never come across Kendal as a place suggested and it was not on any of these other lists, but I have not researched Kendal at all. They were certainly in that area and your evidence of life at those times suggests it was a possibility and circular sites are indeed said to be the earliest as they were built on earlier circular pagan sites.

      The journey was said to be seven years rather than a hundred as you mention above, still a long time to travel though. The community settled at Chester-le-Street for 112 years after their seven year journey.

      Although I have found no evidence of Kendal as a possibility, I think its fine to look at our route and suggestions, and perhaps even check the Northumbrian Association website and look at theirs (very similar), notice the places nearby that are mentioned and simply suggest it was possible they passed through and were given refuge there. It’s all conjecture but it’s an amazing story and journey that saved the body of a saint and the Lindisfarne Gospels.

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