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Page last updated at 10:26 GMT, Monday, 10 August 2009 11:26 UK
Hidden history on your doorstep

Ruins of North Gosforth Chapel in Melton Park
The chapel dates from the 12th Century

After living in Chapel Close in Gosforth for 30 years, Brian Hutchins has become used to seeing passers-by stop at the collection of old stones opposite his house, looking puzzled.

Now when he spots someone through the window he often nips outside to explain to them what it is they are looking at - the remains of a medieval chapel.

"People are surprised to see the stones here and they don't know what it is," he said.

"I suppose you might guess that's a gravestone but it's not very easy to ascertain."

Burial ground

The ruins of North Gosforth Chapel lie on the small green between Chapel Close, Bellgreen Avenue and Kingsley Avenue in Melton Park and is a scheduled ancient monument.

"The chapel was built probably in the late 1100s and was built as one of two or three chapels from [the site of] St Nicholas Cathedral in Newcastle at four or five mile intervals going north," Brian explained.

It's quite nice to have a sort of 800-year ruined chapel on your front doorstep.
Brian Hutchins

"The earliest written record of the place is 1256, where it's recorded that someone used it as a place of refuge... and it would certainly have been used for worship."

Marks on the stones indicate the chapel was probably destroyed by fire in the late 1600s.

It was never rebuilt and now all that is visible is the outline of the building's walls, though they are no more than a couple of stones high all round.

A number of memorial stones and coffin lids have also survived and it is thought the grassy area around the chapel may once have been used as a burial ground.

Hidden history

When Brian first arrived on the estate the green opposite his new house was completely overgrown.

Ruins of North Gosforth Chapel in Melton Park
It is thought this may have been part of the font

Luckily, however, some of his neighbours knew what lay underneath the grass and managed to persuade the builders not to construct anything on it.

Over the years the vegetation has been cut and the stones repositioned, but even though the ruins are now clearly visible from the road the chapel still isn't very well known outside the estate.

So, four years ago, a group of neighbours formed the Friends of North Gosforth Chapel with the aims of protecting and enhancing the site and bringing it to wider audience.

Since then they have planted bulbs and trees in the grounds and put up bird and bat boxes to encourage wildlife. There has also been a Christmas carol concert on the site for the last three years.

Place of interest

In May 2009, the friends installed a new interpretation board at the site that should put paid to some of those puzzled looks.

On it there is a picture of what the chapel might have looked like when it was first built and information about its history.

People unveiling interpretation board by North Gosforth Chapel
There was a short ceremony to unveil the interpretation board

Brian said he had already seen a lot of people looking at it and that he hoped it would make the chapel a real "place of interest" for people to visit.

A scheduled ancient monument is perhaps the last thing you'd expect to find in the middle of a 1960s housing estate but Brian clearly enjoys the view out of his window.

"It's certainly been quite good for bringing neighbours together," he says.

"It's quite nice to have a sort of 800-year ruined chapel on your front doorstep!"




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