Farne Islands, Northumberland Family History Guide

Farne Islands is an extra-parochial place.

Alternative names:

  • Farn Islands
  • Fern Islands
  • Fern Isles
  • Staples

Parish church:

Parish registers begin:

  • Parish registers:
  • Bishop’s Transcripts:

Nonconformists include:

Adjacent Parishes

No adjacent parishes.

Parish History

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

FERN ISLANDS, Farne Islands, or Staples, an extra-parochial group of islets and rocks in Belford district, Northumberland; from 2 to 10 miles E and ENE of Bambrough. Pop., 23. Houses, 5. The islets are seventeen in number; are small and precipitous; are farmed by persons on the mainland; are frequented by enormous numbers of sea-fowl; and are notable for the intricacy of the navigation through the channels which separate them, and for the numbers of shipwrecks which have happened on the shores; and have two lighthouses, maintained at a cost of about £600 a year, for guiding the navigation. One of the most disastrous of the shipwrecks was that of the “Forfarshire” steamer, in September 1838. See Bambrough Castle. House Island, lying nearest the mainland, was the place where St. Cuthbert spent the last two years of his life; was afterwards made the site of a Benedictine priory, subordinate to Durham; and still has some parts of the buildings, including a square tower and the remains of the church. The interior of the church was refitted in 1848, and is occasionally used for the lighthouse-men; but the building is rude and small. A deep chasm is on the north end of this isle, from top to bottom of the cliff; and receives the billows in a storm in such a manner as to throw up a jet d’eau 60 feet high. The Pinnacles, at the outer extremity of the group, is an island named from vast columnar rocks at its southern end. Chief places among the islets are a channel between the Megstone and the Oxscar, and a channel between the Ploughseat and the Goldstone, also the Wide Opens, the Scare Crows, the Bush Reefs, the Elbow, the Glororum Shad, and the Iselstone rocks.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

A Topographical Dictionary of England 1848

FARN-ISLANDS, a cluster of seventeen small islands, in the parish of Holy-Island, union of Berwick, in Islandshire, county of Northumberland; extending about 7 miles (S. E.) from Holy-Island, and containing 15 inhabitants. The largest of these isles, anciently Farne, and now called House Island, lies nearly two miles to the east of Bambrough Castle, and is remarkable as the spot where St. Cuthbert passed a few of the later years of his life, and where a priory subordinate to Durham was subsequently founded for Benedictine monks, whose revenue at the Dissolution was £12. 17. 8. Ethelwold, St. Bartholomew, and Thomas, prior of Durham, among other celebrated devotees, since the time of St. Cuthbert, sequestered themselves in the place. A square tower, the ruins of a church, and other buildings, are still remaining; also a stone coffin, wherein it is said the body of St. Cuthbert was first laid. At the northern end of the isle is a deep chasm, through which, in stormy weather, the sea forces its way with such violence as to form a fine jet d’eau sixty feet high, called the Churn.

Source: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis 1848


  • County: Northumberland
  • Civil Registration District: Belford
  • Probate Court: Search the courts of the surrounding parishes
  • Diocese: Not Applicable
  • Rural Deanery: Not Applicable
  • Poor Law Union: Belford
  • Hundred: Islandshire
  • Province: York