Warkworth hermitage, Northumberland
Price: £3.60 or get in on your castle ticket! Would be silly not to
Notable features: Possible ghost
This little beauty of a hermitage was built around 1400, probably by the 1st Earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy (father of Henry Hotspur). Everyone was called Henry in the Percy family, don’t worry about it.
“Henry!” Elizabeth would say. “Shall I put your tunic on with my white wash?”
“Oh cheers love, nice one”, Henry, 1st Earl would reply.
“Not you, you bellend” Elizabeth would shout back, “I meant Henry Hotspur.”
The hermitage sits on the riverbank and has been cut into the natural rock. Conversely, it probably wasn’t a hermitage but rather a private chapel, where a priest would perform services for the Percy family. Our particular interest in the site lay partly in the fact that we’ve been reading a historical romance novel by author Carol Wensby Scott.* It’s surprisingly fruity and describes in great detail the relationship between our 1st Earl and his first wife Margaret Neville. In the novel, (*spoiler alert*) the Earl buries Margaret (after she’s died, obviously) at this very hermitage.
Sadly, we don’t think Margaret is actually buried there, but we were intrigued nonetheless. The hermitage lies across the River Coquet, so we had to wait for the official Warkworth boatman to row us there. What a thrill! Mick the boatman took us onto his grand vessel and we sailed the 8 yards across to the other side. As this would ordinarily take about 20 seconds, Mick drifted around the river a bit to give us the full boating experience, for which we were very grateful.
By the time we reached the other side, we were such good mates that Mick called us into his office (a shed). He claimed to have a very interesting photograph to show us. This was when the day took an ominous turn. No, it wasn’t picture of his grandson or his new kitchen. Something much more ominous. It was a photograph taken from inside the very dark hermitage, which we were about to enter… All very dark and ordinary, except in the top right hand corner, we could just make out a little white face! Ghost!
Could it be the ghost of Margeret? Perhaps Hal himself? Gender was hard to distinguish but what we did know was that it made us keen as a pair of badgers to look inside the hermitage.
Filled with enthusiasm, we climbed the set of stairs into the hermitage, which was comprised of a chapel and other small chambers. One of these chambers may have been where the Earl would have sat to view the services. It was peaceful, although a little eerie, particularly after what Mick had shown us.There was an altar with what looked like a carving of a lady (Margaret?) and another carving of a Nativity scene, though this was tricky to distinguish. All was calm and quiet.
Tragically, this peace was broken by the arrival of an older lady called Margaret and her Church group, who had apparently been given the job of preparing a PowerPoint presentation on the hermitage for the benefit of the congregation. We know this because Margaret shouted about it loudly. We scurried away quickly but not before getting a few shots inside the hermitage and a couple of selfies.
Back down by the riverbank and flicking through the photos we’d taken, we discovered some rather unsettling white spots on one particular photograph of the altar. Had the ghost had made another appearance? Decide for yourselves.
*If anyone has any info on Carol Wensby Scott, please let us know. Or if you are Carol Wensby Scott, let us know. We’re trying to get in touch.