It was June 1895 and some workmen employed by James Collingwood of Cornhill House were pulling down an old thatched house near the school. They removed a stone that looked like a mullion of a church or chapel window and four large stones or upstarts – evidently part of a doorway. It was presumed that these belonged to a chapel that is recorded as having been standing at Cornhill in the 14th Century and which was pulled down for the new church in 1752.
For many centuries the governance of the church in Northumberland emanated from Durham. Norham was one of the principle parishes, with Cornhill as a Chapel of Ease. Nevertheless, there has been a church at Cornhill since Saxon times. St. Helen’s Church was enlarged, re-pewed and repaired in 1840 by voluntary contributions from a number of societies and individuals. Local legend has it that the body of an 8ft man was found buried under the nave when this work was carried out.
The Church was re-pewed with open seats during 1869 as well as re-floored, dry rot having seriously affected the joists and flooring. At this time the Harmonium was repaired. The lectern was added in 1870. All these improvements were paid for by voluntary subscriptions.The interested visitor will find a blue folder in the bookcase in the Church. It provides some detail of the history of the building, together with the list of births, marriages and deaths from 1837.
Two church yards are situated near the St. Helen's Church. One surrounds the church, listed in our transcriptions database as St Helen's main churchyard. The other is an annexe, through a gap in the hedge, which we are referring to as St Helen's churchyard 'annexe'. The third churchyard is a new one some 50 metres from the other two and the visitor needs to pass by the village hall. We think this new churchyard was opened in the early 1940s. This is referred to as the 'Hall' churchyard. The headstone transcription survey of the 1990s divided the three churchyards into sections A-F. Here is an explanation as to where these are:-
Section A – as you enter the main gate of the churchyard from the side-road, this section commences on the right-hand side. It has 14 rows and ends just past the halfway stage of the church;
Section B – this starts immediately beyond section A and takes you the rear corner of the right-hand side of the church. In this section there are 9 rows;
Section C – this section starts immediately after Section B and spreads right across the churchyard, immediately behind the church at the east end. There are 7 rows in this section which end at the large hedge separating the 'Main' and 'Annexe' parts of the churchyard;
Section D – the visitor to this section goes to the rear of the 'main' churchyard (the east end) and works their way through 20 rows on the main-road side of the churchyard, past the church and ending at the main gate of the churchyard, on the side road. The visitor will notice therefore that sections A, B and C work in different directions.
Section E – is the 'Annexe' part of the churchyard, behind the large hedge, and containing 7 rows and mounted headstones on the west wall. The rows commence at the east end.
Village Hall Churchyard
Section F – is the newer churchyard, said to have been developed in the early 1940s. The visitor to the 'main' churchyard should exit it's main gate and head left towards the Village Hall and then turn right immediately after the hall. The new churchyard is some 50 metres away. It is bult on an east-facing hillock and is very peaceful. It currently contains 12 rows, commencing at the wall end (west) and working down the way.
These sections may be confusing to the visitor and help is at hand through Gerald Tait (01890-882685) or Trevor Swan (01890-882574).