Croome, Worcestershire – Hall and St Mary Magdalene

Croome is a National Trust property not far south from Pershore, so we headed there on Sunday 26 May. The car park was filling up as we arrived, and there were queues to get in. However they soon sorted us, and the chap went to get the wheelchair accessible buggy. He drove us down – quite a way through the Park. When we got to the House we were introduced to the stair climber. It worked.

The landscape and the house are the product of the vision (and money) of George William, 6th Earl of Coventry (1722-1809). He employed Capability Brown to the do the landscape and Robert Adam to do the house. Adam has returned from Italy two years before he started designing Croome in 1760. The old house was used as a template, and was altered and extended in the Palladian style. My NT guidebook tells me this is “named after the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, whose work aspired to the symmetry of classical temple architecture.”

Once inside we found a house which was empty, but they had done some interesting things with it. The Main Hall and Billiard Room are welcoming spaces, full of bustle and nice volunteers, then into the Long Gallery. The fact that there is not lots of ‘stuff’ means you appreciate the ceilings and fireplaces.

In the Saloon they had Croome Court, Worcestershire by Richard Wilson, circa 1758, and the current view by Anthony Bridge (and a display of other works by him). A fascinating display.

The next room had painted plasterwork, and Garniture by Amy Jayne Hughes, a display of ceramic work as a response to the porcelain collection in the next room. The golden box was an interesting display – enough to be interesting, but not overwhelming.

There was a tapestry by Grayston Perry, with a message about the class divide, the haves and have nots. I did wonder what it says about privilege that it costs £33.40 for a family to come and see it.

Sadly Julie couldn’t get upstairs to see the Worcester Embroiderers’ Guild exhibition, which she would have loved. Will we ever get to stage where, when taking buildings on and spending money on them, we will include the installation of properly lifts. They did it at Kew Palace, so it can be done.

Even more annoyingly, she couldn’t get downstairs to the café. We used the stair climber to exit the property and walked round the back. I went up to the Rotunda, but the paths were not really Julie-friendly, and the weather wasn’t brilliant. We buggied back to Reception.

After a sandwich for lunch, I walked down to the Church – SO 886450. Although the property is in the hands of the NT – – the church is cared for the by the Churches Conservation Trust – I’ve just found the church page on the NT website – – which is great.

The original church was destroyed by the 6th Earl when he rebuilt the house, and this new one was designed as an ‘eye catcher’ by Capability Brown. There is something typical about moving the convenient church further away just so it looks better!

Robert Adam designed the interior – as the website says: “the church is a perfect fantasy of the period, with elegant Gothick windows and plasterwork, pulpit, communion rails, commandments and creed boards.”

Some of the monuments were transferred from the old church, but it is difficult to work out which Baron Coventry was this. The first one is John, 4th Baron, 1654-87. I like the way his hand is reaching up to a the bosom of the lady.

This is Mary Craven, who married Thomas, the 2nd Baron, in 1627 and died in 1634. He lies nearby, looking like he needs a pillow. He died in 1661. Then I did the maths and realise that she died after they’d been married for only 7 years, and he was younger than me when he expired.

I think this is the first Baron, died 1639 or thereabouts.

I have to say that this was not up to the normal standard of CCT presentation. There was no guidebook, no cared-for displays, and no real interpretation. But the church was buzzing. It is the a convenient stop on the long walk from the NT Reception down into the Park, and practically everyone stops, wanders in, wanders round, and wanders out. I suspect that someone from the NT unlocks and locks – and that’s about it. There should be a proper display about the church, this is an ideal to location to advertise other CCT churches nearby – not just with a pile of leaflets, but with a proper display. Surely there could be a link with the Diocese of Worcester to advertise other nearby churches worth visiting. Is it too much to hope that there could be something which explains the faith that meant this church was built?

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White Ladies Aston, Worcestershire – St John the Baptist

We went on and turned off the main road to see St John the Baptist, White Ladies Aston – SO 922527. A small hamlet, a little village church, no website that I can find, but an excellent guidebook. A well kept churchyard with some ancient yews. The White Ladies are the Cistercian nuns of Worcester, who held part of the manor. The tower timbers date to circa 1545, the time of the ‘Mary Rose’ says the guide, the North Aisle is 1861, and the porch 1864.

It always seems odd to find bell ropes hanging down into the congregation, and there is an interesting ladder up the back (which I didn’t photo and didn’t try to climb!). The font is “of uncertain date” but has twelve well-cut sides. Interesting Lord’s Prayer plaque.

They had a WW1 at the back of the church – I bet I’ll be visiting churches in ten years time and still find WW1 displays untouched since 2018 – and three Sherwood memorials by the pulpit. The Reverend Henry Martin Sherwood was Vicar here for 70 years. He would have led the restoration of 1861, and died in 1912. His wife, Mary Emma, who died two years earlier is also remembered. You can imagine the work the pair of them must have done – and the changes that they saw.

In the Chancel are two memorials to military men of the C19. Major General John Montresor Pilcher (there’s a name to conjure with) died aged 90 in 1873. He was a member of the Royal Marine Infantry and helped for nine months looking after Napoleon at St Helena. Major General Richard Goodall Elrington died in 1845. He wins the prize for the number of words you can get on a memorial. On a quick read, I thought his wife Louisa only got the four lines at the bottom. Then I realised Louisa is one of his daughters, and “his wife Hannah” is simply recorded in the penultimate two lines. Did she travel with him as he conquered the world, or remain in Worcester waiting for him to return for his “brief intervals of repose.” That would be a fascinating bit of research.

In the East Window is a picture of Christ holding the bread and wine of Holy Communion. This is a 1938 window, designed by Donald B. Taunton, installed by Hardman’s of Birmingham.

Just a village church that most people would have driven past! I’m glad we stopped.

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Spetchley, Worcestershire – All Saints’

After time in Worcester on Saturday 25 May we headed out of town on the Evesham road and stopped so I could visit the Churches Conservation Trust church of All Saints, Spetchley – SO 895540. It is on the right as you drive along the A44, and there is a laybye just past it on the left. Spetchley Park Gardens look worth a visit –  – and you could park there. The church is one of the Churches Conservation Trust portfolio –

In the C9 it was recorded that Coenwolf, King of Mercia, “upheld the law of Christ over the common people” at this place – Spetchley means a glade where moots or local assemblies were held. A century later it is recorded that the monks of Worcester held land here, Richard de Beverborne is recorded as first Rector in 1230. The estate was owned by the Lyttletons, then the Sheldons, and the Berkeley family acquired it in 1606. In April 1987 the church came into the CCT’s care.

The nave and chancel date from the early C14, and the tower was added in the C17. 

Rather a lovely porch, but you walk inside and wonder why it was saved. There’s a C13 chest just inside the door, and a later one in the Chancel. The pulpit is C19, and rather a striking blue – I wonder if anyone agreed to that colour, or the Lord of the Manor just gave them a pot of paint and told them to get on with it.

Then you get up to the Chancel, and look to your right. Then you know why the CCT took this church on.

This is the tomb of Sir Rowland Berkeley (1548-1611) and his wife Katharine Haywood. They settled in a house in Worcester’s Cornmarket in 1574 and he set up a business as a wool merchant and clothier. He was appointed as the first Master of the Honourable Company of Clothiers in the city and in 1584 opened a bank. He became a Magistrate, a Commissioner of the Peace, and then an MP in London at the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. They had seven sons and nine daughters – his marriage and their baptisms took place at St Martin’s church in the Cornmarket, where he was churchwarden. Another church to visit!

This is the memorial to Sir Robert Berkeley (1584-1656), their father. He was an eminent lawyer and one of the judges of the Court of the King’s Bench, and he married Elizabeth Conyer by whom he had two sons and three daughters. He added this chapel, and erected the tomb to his father and mother in 1614.

This is his son Thomas Berkeley (1630-1693). At the age of 21 he fought at the Battle of Worcester. On the defeat of the Royalist cause he escaped to the Low Countries. There he married Ann Darrell, a Catholic, and was reconciled to the Catholic church. He was disinherited by his father Sir Robert, but allowed to live here and then at Ravenhill.

Robert (1650-1694) was Thomas’ brother, and succeeded his father while still a minor, his brother having been disinherited. He went on to be Deputy Lieutenant of the County and twice Sheriff of Worcester. He was a keen gardener, lived modestly and gave a large proportion of his wealth to charity. He married Elizabeth Blake.

It is fascinating to wonder about the lives of these people. Did Robert get as much pleasure from gardening as I do? What did he feel about his big brother’s religion – did he like his sister in law? What did their dad think about it all? It would be fascinating to know.

Some other brasses, memorials and Victorian glass.

I went outside and photoed the outside chapel – let’s put the family crest on that too.

I pondered two notices. In the church is this memorial to John Watson, churchwarden for 51 years. On the road outside is a sign to the Soul Sanctuary and Yoga Studio. If the church had had a few more like John Watson, perhaps it would still be in use. Perhaps if as a country we had not turned our backs on the faith of our forefathers, we might cherish these holy places and still use them for worship.

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Worcester – The Commandery

We spent Saturday 25 May in Worcester, and went to the Commandery, a Civil War museum that we hadn’t been to for many years. They had events on for Oak Apple Day, but the place was not exactly buzzing. They could do with having a trip to the Civil War centre in Newark and getting some new ideas how to liven the place up. Two things lifted the place for me – (1) an excellent café, (2) the painted chamber.

Before we look at those, here is the funeral pall that is supposed to have covered the coffin of Prince Arthur, first husband of Katharine of Aragon and brother of Prince Henry (later Henry VIII). He died in Ludlow in 1502, and is buried in the Cathedral here in Worcester.

The Painted Chamber is in the wing of The Commadery which was originally built as the infirmary to the Hospital of St Wulfstan. People in medieval times relied on prayer and the good will of God for their spiritual well being and their physical health. You can imagine people being carried to this room to pray for healing and forgiveness as their lives drew to an end. They would have recognised all the saints, and would have prayed for their intercession. The work came to an end at the Reformation, and the wall paintings were hidden with whitewash and the building sold to a private owner. They were re-discovered in 1935 – and I hope their colours will last now they are on view.

The first picture depicts the martyrdom of St Erasmus. He is lying on a trestle table with his hands tied behind his back, wearing only a bishop’s mitre. His intestines are being wound onto a windlass (apparatus for moving heavy weights) Four onlookers stand behind Erasmus, the third bears a sceptre and could be Emperor Diocletian. Erasmus was the Bishop of Formiae, Campagna, Italy and was martyred in 303 – he’s also known as St Elmo (as in fire). The patron saint of sailors (he continued preaching after a thunderbolt landed beside him, so protects sailors out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a storm), and he’s good for prayers when you’ve got abdominal problems. I think it is Peter with his keys next to it.

The martyrdom of Thomas a Becket is next to him. I shall never forget a wonderful candlelit tour of Canterbury Cathedral on an evening of the Precentors’ Conference, with members of the Cathedral choir, and an opportunity to pray by the place of his martyrdom. I didn’t make a note of who the next picture shows.

Next is St Michael weighing human souls, and the Blessed Virgin Mary next to him is adding her prayers, her rosary, to the scales to save a soul. Imagine lying here, waiting for your End, knowing that judgement follows in the next few hours.

Then we have images of Christ.

St Etheldreda is pictured wearing a crown, carrying a crozier, and with a book in her right hand. She was daughter of King Anna of East Anglia, eventually became a nun and founded the monastery at Ely. She died from a tumour on her neck – no doubt others did likewise in this room.

Finally, St Gudwal was a C7 ecclesiastic from Brittany – so he is dressed as an archbishop wearing a mitre, and carrying a staff capped with a patriarchal cross (with two horizontal bars). St Dunstan, Bishop of Worcester 957-960, brought his relics to Worcester from the monastery in Ghent where they had been taken for safe-keeping during Viking raids on Brittany.

In a world where we are obsessed with Brexit,  ignoring the millions living in poverty and relying on food banks, you do wonder if we’ve learned anything. Henry VIII got rid of the monasteries without replacing them with anything to care for the poor and destitute. We wouldn’t be that stupid, would we?

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Hanbury, Worcestershire – St Mary the Virgin

Friday 24 May and we are en route for a few days in Worcestershire. Hanbury Hall NT property is on our way – The Vernon family moved to the estate in the 1570s, and Thomas Vernon started work on this house in about 1706. He had married Mary in 1680, became an MP, and wanted a Country Estate. The house was designed by provincial architects and craftsmen, but the interior decoration is by James Thornhill. He worked at Hampton Court, Greenwich Hospital, St Paul’s, and did this work in about 1710. The story is of Achilles, but there is a political theme – Achilles is Sarah Churchill, and Queen Anne could be the lady in green.

We could wander anywhere in the house, and they had a tablet for the things upstairs Julie couldn’t get to see. Lovely ceilings, furniture, and volunteers who would talk and explain. The family lived here until after the War, then the NT took it on (mainly because of the paintings).

I also had a wander round the garden – this is rather lovely.

We drove a mile or south to the village church of St Mary the Virgin, Hanbury. They have a good website – – although I can’t see a history page. The church stands on top of the hill, at grid ref SO 954644. There is a car park, steps up into the church, but once inside you find second hand books for sale, and a kettle to make yourself a drink. That’s known as the importance of welcome – and there’s a video on their website which says why welcome matters. Thank you.

The church tower was rebuilt in 1793, the nave is C13 and the north aisle C14. Both aisles were rebuilt in the C18. The box pews were installed in 1872.

The Chancel dates to 1860 and is by G.E. Street. Nice Victorian glass. The reredos is in alabaster – interesting portrayal of Judas.

There are various family memorials. This is to Richard Vernon, who died in 1627. Both he and his brother were curates in the area. I assume the second figure is his wife, but she doesn’t seem to be named anywhere.

There are lots of Thomas Vernons – you could work out which is which … There is a huge memorial on the south side which is the Thomas Vernon who commissioned Mr Thornhill to do the painting. His memorial is attributed to Edward Stanton and Christopher Horsemaile. The light was in the wrong place, and the camera had run out of battery power (why did I buy a camera that needs old-fashioned batteries?), so it was back to the mobile.

On the final memorial I photoed is a chap trying to read his book. I want one like this!

I liked the War Memorial window, with a nice image of St Martin. They have done some work on researching their war dead.

The font is C19.

In the north aisle is an exhibition which tells me this is the Archers’ Church. For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s a long-running Radio 4 serial. More information on the church website – I used to be a regular listener. I started when it was on at 6.45 pm, and if I sat quietly I could stay up until it finished. I remember the Ambridge Mail Van Robbery of 1967 – so I was 5. I also remember (a few years later) when one of Shula’s boyfriends said he’d always wanted to make love in a cornfield. She said “there’s a blanket in the car”. Cue the music, Dum-de-dum-de-diddle-diddle-pom. (I was shocked!). There is a superb CD from Colin Walsh on the Lincoln Cathedral organ which includes Barwick Green, the Archers signature tune.

I went outside and enjoyed the view – it would have been a good day for a walk, but I’m still not feeling very fit and I am having to take life a bit more slowly. And we had a holiday cottage to get to!

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Wirksworth, Derbyshire – St Mary the Virgin

Wirksworth is a nearby town, but it is not very Julie-friendly (too many slopes and cobbles). On Tuesday 21 May I caught the yellow bus there (the lovely TrentBarton Sixes that run up and down the A6) and had an explore.

St Mary the Virgin is in the middle of the village at SK287539. It is now part of a 10 church team – I still need to blog Alderwasley, Bonsall, Brassington, Idridgehay and Middleton – and there is a website at At last I have found a church website which welcomes tourists:

We care for the historic church buildings in the communities we serve, and aim to facilitate their use for purposes in keeping with their heritage as sacred spaces. Most of our churches are open each day, certainly in the summer, and for many people visiting and exploring, the “space” that a church can provide is an opportunity to connect with their spiritual “heart”. … If you are visiting the area as a tourist, then you are very welcome to call in. While you are in the Derbyshire Dales then you might like to explore some of the other churches in the area. Details of all of them can be found on the Derbyshire Churches link at the bottom of this page.

They have a decent guidebook, though it’s showing its age, a treasure trail for children, and a Spiritual Journey leaflet, which aims to get you to sit and pray. Well done! They also have an excellent noticeboard. The church was accessible through the north door, and there is a straightforward permanent ramp.

There was a huge amount to photo and enjoy in this church. The Romans mined lead in these hills, and the first illustration to use is the lead miner himself in the South Transept. Known as T’owd man he isn’t Roman, but he’s pretty old. He’s carrying his pick and his kibble (bucket), and was originally in Bonsall, before being moved here in the 1870s. There’s some other ancient stonework in this area.

The oldest piece of stonework is probably this stone lid in the North Aisle. It is dated between 700 and 900 AD, and is thought to be the lid of the tomb of Betti. In the mid-600s Wirksworth was part of the kingdom of Mercia under its pagan king Penda. We came across him as the enemy of Paulinus in Lincoln and murderer of Oswald. His son Peada married Elchfrida, daughter of King Oswui of Northumbria – and it was agreed she could continue to practise her Christian faith. In 653 she came south with four monks, Adda, Betti, Diuma and Cedd. Cedd ended up in Lastingham in Yorkshire (must visit there again), Diuma at Repton –  – Adda doesn’t seem to appear on google, and Betti apparently founded the church here. It would be lovely to think this is Betti’s coffin lid. It was found two feet below the surface, with the carving downwards, when the pavement in front of the altar was being removed in 1820. It was over a stone-built vault containing a large human skeleton. These days they could have dated it, and probably worked out if it came from Up North.

At the top left you have Christ washing the disciples’ feet, and then the Crucifixion (note the lamb and the four symbols of the Evangelists). Apparently this lamb, as opposed to what the leaflet describes as ‘the lively Agnus Dei of later times’, was banned by the Council of Constantinople in 692 – does that help date the stone? The next scene is the Blessed Virgin Mary being borne out for burial, which apparently has the posh name of koimesis. St John leads carrying the sacred palm, the other apostles carry her body on a stretcher, and the High Priest who seized hold of the bier is being dragged underneath. The leaflet tells me this is the earliest known portrayal of this story in Western Art (and who am I to argue?). On the right of the top row we have the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Luke 2). The Hand of God points down from above.

Apparently (according to the C5 Book of the Resurrection of Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle) Cain, Herod and Judas Iscariot are past redemption (and are seen burning in a brazier). Then we have the Ascension of Christ, the Annunciation, and Mission – Peter in a boat (signifying the church), Mary holding the Christ child, who is holding a scroll and pointing to Peter. The idea being that the word of God is transmitted to the Gentiles through Peter and the church – or you might think of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise: “Have you got the scrolls?” “No, I always walk like this.”

These figures are in the North Transept, and this font is C13.

The church is huge. The work of the Early English period (1250-70) includes the bottom of the tower. The rest of the tower is later, from the Decorated period, then there’s various Perpendicular period, and then the Victorians did quite a lot of work. You can imagine what it would have been like before the Reformation, full of colour and incense.

Let’s start at the East end. We have altars, tiles, memorials and a wonderful chair.

There are various lovely monuments, and I’ve tried to work out which is which. I think this is the tomb chest of Anthony Lowe, who died in 1555. He was Lord of the Manor of Ashleyhay and Alderwasley, Gentleman of the Bed-chamber and Standard Bearer to Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary. On the wall behind are the Royal Arms of Henry VIII.

In the North Choir Aisle we have two chest tombs. The left hand one is Ralph Gell who died in 1564. It is an alabaster tomb, and it shows Ralph with his first wife Godith Ashby and his second Emma Beresford. Note the long gown with square-cut sleeves, the circular caps of the women, and the dresses with bows. On the north side are three sons and five daughters, on the south five daughters and one son. Were all 14 his? The right hand one is his son Anthony who died in 1583. He was a lawyer in the Inner Temple in London, and founded the Free School and the Almhouses in Wirksworth.

On the north wall of the Sanctuary is a tablet to John Lowe of Alderwasley, who died in 1690. I can’t read the name on my second photo, and I can’t find out more about those commemorated in the brasses.

There are long memorials from both World Wars. You can imagine how many men marched away from this little town, and never came back.

There is a lot of Victorian glass – some by George Gilbert Scott, others by the School of Edward Burne Jones. Just enjoy the pictures – it includes Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter, the Resurrection, a window with Nativity and Resurrection, and the Good Shepherd.

There are two modern Te Deum windows, early 1960s. The sun was in the wrong place, and the small images are rather nice. I like swallows on telegraph wires, and how many bicycles are there on stained glass windows?

The final three photos give an idea of the size of this church. It was rather lovely to have it to ourselves. There is plenty to see, and I could have given you a lot more photos.


I walked down to the station – the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway – had an ice cream and sat in the sun – then decided I would catch the dmu down to Duffield rather than the bus. First class comfort, and a seat in the cab. A chance to chat to the driver, and to Scott from my congregation who is in training. A delay in getting the bus south from Duffield due to the influx of school kids, so someone else had to sing Evensong at Derby Cathedral.

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Binsey, Oxfordshire – St Margaret of Antioch

After Deb and I had coffee in Oxford we drove to Binsey, a hamlet just outside the city. There are a few buildings beside the Thames, and the church is about 1/2 mile to the west (within sound of the A34 Oxford bypass) – grid reference SP 485 080. Apparently crop marks show that there were houses between the two. The benefice has a website at, but there is little about the church’s history on it. In the church there is a laminated A4 sheet, and that’s it. Surely there is someone in Oxford who could help them produce a booklet which would give us visitors the information we want, and earn the church some money.

St Margaret of Antioch is a C12 church, rebuilt a century later. The South Porch was also added in the C13. Before we enter the church, let’s have a look at St Margaret’s well, which is dedicated to St Frideswide. We have met Frideswide before, have a read about her life at

Tradition says she fled to Binsey to avoid a Mercian Prince who wanted her. He was struck blind at the gates of Oxford, but she healed him with water from this spring. The spring was made into a well, and became a centre of pilgrimage. Louis Carroll wrote about a Treacle Well – Wikipedia tells me that the medieval sense of the word ‘treacle’ is ‘healing ungent’. I can’t say I’m an expert on Louis Carroll, perhaps I’ll find time when this MA is over to sit in the sun and read Alice in Wonderland.

A nice carved door arch, and a simple church when you got inside. Worth looking up into the roof.

Some nice glass at both west and east ends, and an interesting altar.  Lovely Annunciation.

The Piscina has a drain down the front, which is a bit unusual, and Deb decided to have an investigate of the font. The Royal Arms is of the reign on Queen Anne, and there was one memorial on which they got their monies worth – plenty of names!

I liked the harmonium. When I was at Offord (back in the mid-1980s) Don used to play the harmonium at our little chapel. He would go into overdrive for “earthquake, wind and fire”, and then reign it in for “still small voice of calm”. That is a very long time ago! Nice that some friendships go back that far.

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Darjeeling via Oxford

On Wednesday 5 June I am giving a paper at our MA Conference in Derby. My title is ‘The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway – Toy Train, Relic of the Raj, World Heritage Site’. I am excited, Laura is excited (she wants a trip to Darjeeling), everyone else manages to look interested!! It should be a fascinating day. Julie is speaking about Eva Peron. (One of our early dates was a trip to London in January 1981 to see Evita. It is a little depressing that most of our fellow students were not born in 1981). Details of the Conference are here – – all are welcome, and it’s free.

Adrian Shooter, the former Managing Director of Chiltern Railways, has a house called “The Beeches” in Steeple Aston. It has a circle of 2 foot gauge track and a Darjeeling Railway locomotive. He is about to move, so this was the last time his railway was open, and people were invited to visit. I am a member of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society so got a ticket – thank you!

I drove from Derby to Leamington, then caught the train to Oxford. I met Deb, who we first met when she came up to Newnham, Cambridge, in 1981. (She later defected to the dark (blue) side). We walked in to the centre and she showed me the pavement of flags outside New Road Baptist Church – a (very) inclusive church, here showing their support of Oxford Pride. I hope I lead an inclusive church, but I must admit that I did not know there were quite so many variations of how people identify their gender and sexuality.  After coffee we went and collected the car and drove to Binsey, a hamlet just outside the city (and I’ll blog that church next).

Deb dropped me off at Oxford station. They had a signal failure, so it was all rather chaotic. I had time to photo an Azuma – today is the last day of HST working on the GWR. I caught the local train north, and that was delayed as well.

When we arrived at Heywood one of the other chaps in the carriage had organised a lift to The Beeches, and I went too. It was a laid back welcome and it was great to be in the presence of a Darjeeling loco.

I had a ride, then enjoyed the BBQ. They tried to get the railcar to work.

Then there were opportunities to take some photos as the train ran round the loop.

I also had an explore of the sheds – including a set of Rail Mail trucks from the Post Office Railway.

My final photos were taken as the train ran round the garden. I was a good visit!

I walked back down to Heyford station, which is in rather a beautiful spot beside the canal. Quickest to go south to Oxford, then north again.

I was back in Derby in time to do an evening at St Matthew’s as part of our Bicentenary celebrations. 200 years of Railways – starting with the Mansfield and Pinxton in 1819, and ending with the demise of the HSTs. More details of Bicentenary celebrations at

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Langley Mill, Derbyshire – St Andrew

On Tuesday 7 May I went over to St Andrew’s Langley Mill where a new Pioneer Minister was being licensed. Langley Mill is a local ecumenical project, and I am the Diocesan Ecumenical Officer. Archdeacon Chris led it, and he was the only person properly addressed – shall we just say it’s not that sort of church! I mustn’t criticise too much – they are working in a church, in a community, where I could never cope. I’ve just read the noticesheet (on their website) and wonder what happens at the “Local preacher straining morning at Marehay”.

Chris preached a lovely sermon about Julian of Norwich, and linked it in with the gifts a pioneer minister needs (though I’m still not sure what a pioneer minister does). Then we had a dance meditation – “interpret the Archdeacon’s sermon through the medium of dance”.  I was asked to be one of those who welcomed – which was nice. I got some photos at the end.

The church is listed Grade II, and is at SK448469, not far from the station (which I should have visited) – it is on the Historic England site at That gives a date of 1911, but doesn’t tell me who the architect was. The church website contains the parish profile when they were looking for a new Vicar in 2015, and that tells me that the building was constructed in 1912, but that’s it.

Time to get Pevsner out – the architect was J.S. Brocklesby, and Pevsner describes it as “a powerful, primitive-looking design in free Romanesque style, with a crossing tower, and an exciting interior.” He also says that “rounded buttresses break through the eaves”, and I like the phrase “vaulted crossing with squinches”.

I must go back and work out what on earth that looks like! He doesn’t make any comment on the altar and reredos, nor on the font and its designs.

There are some interesting memorials – here are two from the First World War, and a lady who worked for the Bible Society (but her name is not an easy one to search for).

The glass is by the firm of Pope and Parr from the mid C20. Pevsner says “a bit weedy and not suited to the architecture.” The firm still exists in Nottingham – website. I quite like it, and my photos don’t do it justice. It was getting a bit dark (and I only had my mobile phone) – and should have photoed the mine from inside.

What I missed was the “good ironwork  including wavy strap hinges and memorable door-handles with horse-head thumb-pieces and plates treated as primitive faces.” Readers of my blog will share my annoyance – I will go back!

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Middleton, Leeds – Railway, Park and St Mary’s (outside)

Our daughter Hannah was doing a morning’s on-call at her surgery, which isn’t far from the Middleton Railway in Leeds. We drove up the M1 and met her there about 1 – then she and Julie went off shopping leaving me to have a train ride. It is several years since I last went – Theo (my son) and I had a day here, so that must be 15 years ago. They have an excellent museum, and it was a good train ride –

The line was built to transport coal into Leeds. William Grammary, Lord of Middleton, was described as a “coal owner” in 1202. In 1697 Ralph Brandling, a member of a coal-mining family in Newcastle, married Anne Legh, heiress to the Middleton Estate. By 1728 he had two coal-loading staithes on the River Aire, and in 1758 an Act of Parliament was passed to build a waggon way. The rails were originally of wood, but it was relayed with iron rails in the early 1800s.

By this stage the mine owner was Charles Brandling – a Newcastle based man, see His son, Charles John Brandling, expanded the coal mines in the area. In 1808 John Blenkinsopp arrived at Middleton. He was born in Felling, County Durham, and was apprenticed to the overseer of the colliery there before he was brought south. He surveyed the pits, and made plans for a new wagonway. He also designed a locomotive with a rack and pinion mechanism – this meant a lighter loco could pull the load required (a heavier loco would break the track). Matthew Murray, originally from Tyneside, had a workshop at Holbeck, and the loco Salamanca was completed in 1812. The world’s first commercially successful steam locomotive. This is an 1814 aquatint by Robert Havell, called The Collier.

The museum has a good collection of locos – I liked Harry and the NER tank, and the rather fun notices asking you not to climb on board.

The weather was on-and-off – sunshine and hail. I was having a soup in the café, and heard the radio say “Guard here, we’ve got 100 people on this train. It’s started to hail, so they’ll all be on their way for tea.” The volunteers handled it very well – let’s celebrate the volunteers!. Fascinating steam crane and I liked the bench too.

I had a ride up, under the motorway, to the terminus at the Park. I then watched the loco run round and the train depart.


I thought I would walk through the park and find St Mary’s church – first I found a stunning array of bluebells. How many bluebell photos do you want?

I walked passed the Visitors’ Centre and down to St Mary’s church – sadly it was locked. It has a website at and elsewhere I found out the church was built in 1845, on land given by R.H. Brandling. The Incorporated Society for promoting the Enlargement, Building and Repairing of Churches and Chapels made a grant of £350 towards the cost of building the church, on condition that all the seats were declared free, and public subscriptions raised more than £1,000. There is a tradition that Middleton
miners gave either a week’s wages or a week’s work towards the cost of the building. The church was built in the Early English style to designs by R. D. Chantrell, who also designed Leeds Parish Church, in 1846. The church was consecrated on 22 September 1846 by Bishop Longley of Ripon. Inside is some glass by William Wailes of Newcastle.

Leeds has been in the Diocese of Ripon for years. Then there was a reorganisation and Ripon, Wakefield and Bradford came together as the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales. Then it got renamed again – now it’s the Diocese of  Leeds. They have very palatial City centre offices in Leeds, and you can see where the money has been invested. Wouldn’t it have been lovely if a Diocesan re-branding had included noticeboards that make it look as if we still cared for our parish churches? One assumes the diocese has graveyard regulations too (but they obviously haven’t been enforced for decades, and I know how difficult it is to do that). I decided I was happier with the bluebells and steam trains.

I walked back to the Visitors’ Centre, had a tea, and picked up some leaflets. There are some interesting walks round the park, so I must come back and have a proper explore. I walked back to the station, photoed the train coming in, then rode back. I photoed the Balm Road branch, which is the rarely used link from the main line down to British Rail. Theo and I did that on our visit – my son may have died before his second birthday, but he had coloured some rare lines in on his Rail Atlas during his short life! Back to Roundhay – and I washed up for my favourite daughter (she had cooked for us).

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