This is one of the loveliest ecclesiastical heritage sites in the North of England and has a very special place in the history of the Schola. Every year since 1995 an annual Latin Mass has been celebrated at the priory with music led by the Schola. The priory is set on the banks of the River Coquet, in the midst of beautiful Northumberland countryside and is a place of intense peace and tranquillity.
The priory church is the only complete surviving building of a monastery founded as a house for Augustinian canons in the twelfth century. Its original dedication was to St Peter, later modified to include St Paul. The house was never a large one and by the fourteenth century numbered only some twelve canons. In 1536 the monastery was dissolved and its buildings fell into ruin. Careful restoration work in the nineteenth century, instigated by Brinkburn's then owner Cadogan Hodgson Cadogan, restored the church building. This work involved the rebuilding of collapsed walls, the replacement of the roof and floor tiles and even the insertion of stained glass windows and an organ. Unlike some 'restorations' of the Victorian period the work at Brinkburn was carried out in a sensitive and restrained manner.
The building as it now stands is very close in layout to the church as it would have been when completed in the early 1200s. Later changes were minor and most of those were additions rather than rebuilding. The church is considered a fine example of northern transitional architecture and incorporates elements of both Norman and Early English styles.
One of the many remarkable qualities of the building is its wonderful acoustic. This was noted by Paul McCreesh, Director of the Gabrieli Consort. He has used the priory for recording some of his liturgical reconstructions and in 1993 he founded the Brinkburn Music Festival which has brought musicians of international standing to Brinkburn.
It was following an invitation to the Schola Gregoriana of Northumbria to sing at the first of those festivals that the idea was conceived by the singers of the Schola, along with a diocesan priest interested in traditional liturgy, of using Brinkburn for an annual Traditional LatinMass. Permission was obtained from the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle and from English Heritage (who now look after the priory) and that annual Mass continues, more than ten years on.
It has been a great privilege to be able to fill this beautifully restored piece of history once again with the prayers and music of the Church. The Schola has led the music at every Brinkburn Mass, always singing the Proper of the Mass and sometimes a Chant Ordinary as well. On other occasions we have been joined by a polyphonic choir. Cappella Novocastriensis, Antiphon and the Rudgate Singers have all joined us to sing Mass settings by Palestrina, Victoria and Josquin.