Medieval Akeld : Chapel
There is abundant documentary evidence for the existence of a chapel at Akeld. This has been summarised by the County History (NCH XI (1922), 237-40). The chapel was probably founded during the first half of 13th century.
Under the heading Carta de Terra Ecclesiae de Akyld (Charter of church land of Akeld), the Kirkham Cartulary records that Robert of Akeld, the lord of the manor, gave to Kirkham Priory two bovates held of land held by one of his tenants, Adam Despenser, and another six acres of land and two of meadow, lying next to the path leading to the mill (Kirkham Cartulary, fol. 84). This donation (which must predate 1242, by which time Robert's son, William, was lord of the manor) probably served as an endowment for the chapel since the priory also gave licence to Robert and his heirs to have a chantry (cantaria) in the chapel of Akeld on condition that they continued to attend the parish church of Kirknewton at Christmas, Easter, Ascension Day and Whitsunday and the other major feast days and festivals, including all the festivals of Our Lady and of the parish's patron saint, St. Gregory. Robert and his heirs were to keep the chapel in repair and provide all necessary books and vestments so long as they wished to have a chapel there and for their part the canons of Kirkham undertook to pay 10s. a year to Robert and his heirs so long as the latter maintained a chapel and chantry there (Kirkham Cartulary, fol. 84).
The County History suggests the chapel may have been dedicated to the Virgin Mary based on the existence of the 'Lady's Close' and 'Lady's Well' in the near vicinity and the obligation to attend the parish church on all the festivals of Our Lady, noted above.
The County History also argues that the chapel may have fallen into disuse by 1386 (NCH XI (1922), 238, citing Cal. Patent Rolls, 1385-1389, 287), based on the observation that 'a messuage (building plot) and 24 acres of land in Akild, which the lady of Akild once gave for a chaplain to celebrate divine service three days a week in the chapel there,' was in that year granted by the king for life to John, son of John Cresswell, in part payment of a debt. Precisely by what means this property came into the possession of the crown is unclear, however, although it may have been forfeited by one of Akeld's manorial lords, such as the Prendergasts, as a result of taking the Scottish side during the wars of the late 13th and early-mid 14th centuries. In 1737 there is reference to 'about 54 acres of land called churchland' at Akeld, in the possession of Samuel Kettilby, which might represent all or part of the original endowment of the chapel.
This chapel apparently stood at NT 95532972, where the modern Akeld - Kirknewton road now runs. In 1828 Archdeacon Singleton noted 'there is a tradition of a parochial chapelyard at Akeld, but it seems now to be alienated and I was told the high road to Wooler passed through it'. The chapel is located at this spot by the 1st edition Ordnance Survey (1860).
The field immediately north of the Kirknewton road and west of the Akeld Burn is known as Chapel Field and is so labelled on an estate map of 1822, the earliest detailed map covering Akeld, whilst the narrow field on the south side of the Kirknewton road is identified as the graveyard on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey. The original sub-circular form of this churchyard is shown bisected by the road on the tithe map and the 1822 estate map (ZAN Bell 51-1).
Evidently the Kirknewton road must originally have followed a different, perhaps more southerly course. In 1889 this graveyard was enclosed on three sides, but was still open to the road (AA 2nd ser. xiii, 66-7), but it is shown enclosed on the 2nd edition Ordnance Survey (c.1896). Kelly's Directory for 1910 indicated it was used as a camping ground by gypsies around that time. Warburton's note suggests the ruins of the chapel were still standing in 1715 (Hodgson 1916, 11).