History of St Aidan and his connections with Hartlepool

It has been very remiss of me not to welcome in our columns the new Priest in Charge of Holy Trinity Seaton Carew and St John the Baptist at Greatham.

Friday, 23rd August 2019, 4:00 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd August 2019, 4:19 pm
The interior of St Aidan's Crypt at St Aidan's Church in Bamburgh.
The interior of St Aidan's Crypt at St Aidan's Church in Bamburgh.

So, welcome to Rev Philip Bullock from St Aidan and St Stephen's and St Jude's Church in South Shields. He was installed last month by Sarah, Bishop of Jarrow, and we hope he is setttling in well.

The last vicar called Bullock in Hartlepool is very warmly remembered by his parishioners, so we hope Philip follows in his footsteps.

I must remind you that Monday, the bank holiday, is the date of Daniel Cook’s organ spectacular at 12.30pm in St Hilda’s Church on the Headland, followed by lunch. Tickets are £6.

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St Aidan’s Church will be celebrating the feast of its own saint on August 31, the date of his death in 651 AD. Actually, I think their celebrations are the next day, on the Sunday, but Saturday is the actual date.

St Aidan is one of our local saints, known as the Apostle of Northumbria, the founder and first bishop of the Lindisfarne island monastery. St Aidan is the first inhabitant of Lindisfarne whose name we know. Obviously there were people there long before that. Middle Stone Age Man was here from about 8000 BC and New Stone Age Man from 3000 BC as we know from the rubbish they left behind. People don’t change. There were probably people living here at the time of the Romans, probably Celts.

Aidan was an Irish monk from the monastery St Columba had founded on the island of Iona. The Britons had been Christian before the Irish, since Britain, though not Ireland, was part of the Roman Empire, but after the Romans left, the new wave of invaders, the Angles, were pagans from northern Germany.

When Oswald became King of Northumbria, he invited Aidan to come and teach his people about Christianity.

The royal court was at Bamburgh, and Aidan and 12 monks moved to Lindisfarne where he established an Irish-type monastery of wooden buildings: a small church, small, circular dwelling huts, perhaps one larger building for communal purposes and in time, workshops as needed.

Here the monks lived a life of prayer, study and from here they went out on mission. First they needed to learn the English language and their English king, Oswald, who had learnt Irish in his boyhood in exile, helped them. Then they went out, using Aidan's only method as a missionary, which was to walk the lanes, talk to all the people he met and interest them in the faith if he could.

Perhaps we should be most grateful that he 'discovered' the woman who was to become the most famous Abbess of her day, Hild, who was to be in turn the Abbess of Hartlepool and Whitby. And so we link two of our churches here in Hartlepool.