Hexhamshire Burial Ground

St Helen’s Burial Ground

When you imagine a country churchyard, St Helen’s probably comes close to the ideal: ancient headstones dotted amongst trees and wildflowers, paths meandering over the hillside, birdsong, views over the countryside where the people now buried once lived and worked.


When studying the stones, the history of the Shire is all there – generations of the same family, many of whose descendants still live here; familiar names of farms and homes, as well as some which have disappeared (eg Earthly Mires, Wagtail, Heckley  House, Riddlehamhope).

Earthly Mires gravestone

All walks of life are here too: from Charles Waddilove, Admiral of the Royal Navy who died in 1896, aged 68, to John Hodgson: ‘a poor travelling man who died at Peacock House’ in 1770.  (Note that this is not the current Peacock House but a former dwelling, long gone, situated nearer to Rennies Barn).

The churchyard ground was established in 1752 but the churchyard itself was only consecrated on 6th July 1764, although burials were taking place long before that.  It was extended firstly in 1946 and then again in the early 21st century, into the former school garden.

The oldest recorded burial is that of Sarah Brown, infant, who died in March 1699.  One of the earliest burials after the consecration, was on 30th November 1764 for Elizabeth Dixon from Mollersteads; Anne Clemison from Chapelhouse was buried on 19th October 1765 while the oldest gravestone is for William Armstrong of Park House, who died aged 40, in December 1768.

oldest gravestone

William Armstrong died 1768


gravestone from 1770

William & Robert Reed d 1770 & 1772 both aged 16


Some fascinating headstones stand in the churchyard,  one of which is the headstone for The Reverend Abraham Brown, over 60 years Minister of Whitley Chapel, who died November 8th 1812 aged 92 years.


Gravestone of Rev Abraham Brown   

His successor, The Reverend William Sisson, is buried nearby; he was the vicar of the parish for 52 years and died aged 90 years on July 17th 1906. These headstones stand near the east end of the church.

It is estimated that there are around 2500 people buried here but the majority have no markers or headstones.


The burial ground is funded entirely by donations, and in 2003 The Friends of Hexhamshire Burial Ground Charitable Trust was established to manage and oversee this.  Annual maintenance includes mowing the grass, trimming hedges and clearing bramble growth, while extra tasks such as repairing stone walls, restoration of any leaning or fallen stones, drainage problems and tree maintenance, takes place on an ad hoc basis, employing local contractors wherever possible.  The gates were replaced in 2022, to the same design as the originals which were beyond repair, and were made by local man Will Chalmers from Langley Furniture Works.

Obviously this all costs money, and the Trustees would be most grateful if you would consider sending a contribution towards the costs.  If you are a tax payer, please also consider making your donation in the form of Gift Aid, which will enable us to recover a further 25% at no extra cost to you.  Cheques can be made payable to Friends of Hexhamshire Parish Burial Ground, and sent to the Trust c/o Mire Meadows, Steel, Hexham NE47 0HA: if applicable please include the Charity Gift Aid Declaration attached by clicking here.   Bank transfers can be made to The Friends of Hexhamshire Burial Ground: please phone 07836 580902 for the details.

And finally, if you’re interested in finding out more about the history of St Helen’s and the burial ground, a brief summary can be found at https://www.hexhamshire.org.uk/st-helens-church/st-helens-church-the-history/.  Alternatively Hilary Kristensen’s wonderful histories of Hexhamshire: Old Hexhamshire, and Whitley St Helen’s Churchyard – a list of all known burials, are available from www.wagtailpress.uk

Gill Whatmough

The Friends of Hexhamshire Burial Ground





















Charity Gift Aid Declaration
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