A small wooden panel with a drawing pasted to it has been donated to Alston Moor Historical Society by Mr. Colin McEwen of the Old Forge, Townhead in Alston. 

Mr. McEwen bought the panel some years ago at a car boot sale at Corbridge in Northumberland.

The drawing is hand-drawn in ink on thick, now-brittle, paper pasted to a purpose-made hardwood panel 10.2” x 9” with a hole for hanging; it is an interpretive key to the features, listing the figures depicted, of the reredos screen behind the altar in St. Augustine’s Church in Alston. From the handwriting it would appear that the drawing was made by the designer of the reredos, architect J.H. Martindale.

From the unpublished ‘History of Alston Parish Church from 1154’, written some time after 1940 by James A. Clues, J.P., Churchwarden of Alston Parish Church, we learn about the reredos:

‘On the 19th October 1899 a Faculty was granted to complete the Reredos which was given by Miss Horrocks in memory of Miss Hodgson of Salkeld Hall. The inscription on the Reredos reads as follows:-

“To the Glory of God, and in memory of Ellen Hodgson of Salkeld Hall, by her niece Mary Ellen Horrocks, 1900.”

In 1900 five beautifully painted Panels were added to the Reredos by Miss Horrocks.

A Special Service of Dedication was held on St. Matthew’s Day, when a sermon was preached by the Rev. P.T. Lee, Vicar of Birtley. (Percy T. Lee was curate of nearby St. John’s Church in Garrigill from 1888 to 1895.)

The Reredos consists of five panels, upon the centre panel is depicted the “Adoration of the Lamb”.

The Lamb of God in Glory upon a Throne or Altar forms the central object. Within the panels of the Altar are seen the symbols of the four Evangelists. From beneath the Throne issue the streams of Living Water forming the River of God refreshing the green pastures. Round about the Throne are the four and twenty Elders, typical of the Old and New Testaments (the twelve Patriarchs and the twelve Apostles) also Angels. These all offer their crowns and incense. In prominent positions before the Altar are the kneeling figures of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Augustine (of Canterbury) to whom the Parish Church is dedicated.’

The questions crying out to be answered are, “Why was the panel removed from the church, by whom and how long ago?” “Where has it been for the best part of 125 years?” “How did it end up in a car boot sale in Corbridge?” “Are there drawings yet to be found of the other four panels?”

Perhaps we’ll never know; we’re only glad that this panel was rescued by someone who recognised its historical and local significance and that it’s now in a safe place in the Society’s Archives at Alston Town Hall where it can be displayed and seen by residents and visitors alike.