Q Can you tell me anything about the village of Blanchland? - Bill Hutchinson, Chester-le-Street.

A Blanchland, situated in the Derwent valley, is said to take its name from the French word for white and that blanch refers to the white habits worn by Premonstratensian monks who once inhabited the abbey at Blanchland, which was founded in 1165.

Blanchland had one major disadvantage in that it was located in an area which was constantly ravaged by the Scots. On one occasion it is said that the Scots lost their way during an attempted raid in heavy fog. Unfortunately the rejoicing monks tolled the abbey bells in celebration and led the Scots straight to their prey.

In 1539 Henry VIII brought the monastery's life to an end in the Dissolution of the Monasteries. For a time Blanchland passed into the hands of the Radcliffe family and then it became the property of another Northumbrian family called the Forsters, of Bamburgh. Over time the monastery developed into a village. It was a later descendant of the Bamburgh family, Dorothy Forster, who married Lord Crewe, Bishop of Durham from 1674-1722 , who bought the estates of Bamburgh and Blanchland from the Forsters.

Crewe's nephew was Tom Forster the leader of the ill-fated Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, a Catholic plot to install James Stuart, the Old Pretender, as King of England instead of the Hanoverian, George I. Tom Forster was eventually captured at Preston in Lancashire and he was imprisoned at Newgate in London.

By this time the old abbey of Blanchland had fallen into ruin, although parts of the building had been converted into homes. The Blanchland abbots' lodging, guesthouse and kitchen had become Blanchland Manor House and today it is the Lord Crewe Arms.

Crewe set up a trust for the protection of the village and during the 18th century his trustees set about the redevelopment of the village. The result is a wonderful mixture of medieval masonry and Georgian development.

In Sir Nicholas Pevsner's Northumberland volume of the Buildings of England, Blanchland is described as a metamorphosis rather than a full scale rebuilding of monastic buildings. One of the most notable aspects of the village is the church of St Mary. It was originally the abbey church and parts date from the early 13th century.

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