The village of Longhoughton is known for its active community groups and connection to RAF Boulmer, less than a mile away. Its identity, however, is much more ancient than these reputations would imply.
The first dwellings are thought to pre-date the Anglo-Saxon period, and the village likely played its part in a tumult of medieval disturbances and violent exchanges between competing families, tribes and faiths.
Its church is originally Saxon, but was so ‘improved’ in 1080 that this can only be distinguished in a little of its stonework. During these modernisations a military tower was added, which speaks volumes for the state of affairs at the time.
It brought security to the village until the 17th century when the military purpose of the tower was relinquished.
Today the village boasts a mix of old properties, 20th century RAF and non-RAF homes, and is seeing another wave of expansion.
And while this duality between old and new is hardly unusual, the village holds an icon that expresses it perfectly.
Anyone who regularly drives through the village will have noticed the stone sculpture opposite the church. Many walkers will have rested on the bench, and visitors will have parked in the spaces surrounding it.
While I’d never given it much thought, I had recognised the stonework’s design as ‘old’. I suppose I’d imagined that experts had salvaged an ancient piece of masonry. I certainly hadn’t expected the piece to date from 2004, as I discovered when I read the plaque.
The School Green Sculpture is intended to conjure the past, emanating classic Celtic patterns which connect nature and spirituality. Gilbert Ward created it from red Doddington sandstone to look like a cross with a broken shaft. It marks the spot of an ancient cross on the pilgrim route between Holy Island and Durham.
Through the commission of Ward’s sculpture we are taken back to an ancient past where faith and security overlapped in time and place.
This reminds us that the two concepts have never been far from one another, something epitomised in the Church of St Peter and St Paul, which serves the village community and the staff of RAF Boulmer to this day.