Cromarty, Highland – East Church

After a morning (Friday 7 July) in Inverness we drove over the Kessock Bridge and on to the Black Isle to visit the little town of Cromarty. Coffee in the bookshop, then I parked by the sea and went for a 2 mile walk. The town looks slightly more prosperous than it has – there are some lovely houses. We first came we came here was when the kids were little, and we came on the bus from Inverness – then went across to Dingwall (or it could have been vice versa). Buses still terminate by the shore. There is a three car ferry across to Nigg – website.

Cromarty Courthouse – website – was a favourite place (you could dress up) and Hugh Miller’s cottage – website – is a lovely National Trust for Scotland property.

I don’t recall ever visiting the East Church, Cromarty – grid reference NH 792673. It has a website and a sixty page full colour guidebook. It is somewhat ironic when redundant churches have so much more resources than open churches.

This church is on the site of the medieval church – we know that James IV lodged with the parish priest in March 1499 on one of his pilgrimages to St Duthac at Tain (if I remember rightly he also had a mistress in a village nearby). Cromarty was a royal burgh and a flourishing town before then.

This C15 grave slab was excavated when the church was restored. The long swords signify that it is for a man of some importance, and the open book suggest he was also a man of learning. The three Calvary steps at the bottom were a common shorthand for the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. They instruct the viewer that the way to heaven – shown as a lively sunburst – was by following his example.

The Reformation of 1560 meant a church that was governed by its members, rather than bishops, through a series of church courts. At the parish level the governing body was the Kirk Session, and it was a long and painful progress to move the church on. The focus of the worship moved from the altar to the pulpit – and the pulpit is decidedly central. It was 1582 before the first Presbyterian minister was appointed to the church, his name was Robert Williamson. Gilbert Anderson was next, then his son Hugh – Hugh managed to cling on during the Episcopalian church rule under Charles II. And so it went on – very lively these Scots!

I missed the memorial to Sir Thomas Urquhart (1611-c60). He was Laird of the Cromarty estate from 1642. He fought in the Civil War on the Royalist side, was at the Battle of Worcester which Charles lost to the Parliamentarians, and is said to have died laughing when he heard that the king had been restored in 1660. Recounting an argument with the parish minister, Gilbert Anderson, he writes that he “did rail against [me and my] family in the pulpit at several times … more like a scolding, tripe seller’s wife than good minister, squirting the poison of detraction and abominable falsehood … in the ears of [my] tenancy”.

In 1684 the Cromarty estate passed to the George Mackenzie of Tarbat and then to his son Kenneth in 1695. Fragments of painted armorial panels survive – Sir Kenneth’s is dated 1702. Originally these would have been at least three metres high and over a metre wide. They may have once formed ceiling panels in the church, or they may have originally been in Cromarty castle. They were later used as pew back in the east loft, perhaps when the east loft was built in 1756. They are now displayed in the west loft.

The North Loft was added in 1739 – the population of the town was growing as the port and Burgh were prosperous. Money to build it came from the Poor Fund. It was an investment – once they had built the loft, they rented out the space, and people built their own pews. I didn’t look closely enough, but apparently you can see the individual style and wealth of the occupants by reflecting on the variation of pew size and differences in latches and hinges (I feel a PhD thesis coming on).

There are several interesting memorial tablets. The middle one is to Hugh Rose Ross, who died in Afghanistan. We forgot how many wars have taken place there, and how many we have been behind.

Cromarty’s fortunes declined in the C19, and economic decline was matched by increasing discontent in the church. At the Disruption in 1843 one third of Church of Scotland ministers left to form the Free Church of Scotland, where congregations had the right to appoint their own ministers, free from the influence of the lairds. Hugh Miller was one of the leaders of the movement to create the Free Church, but he felt the pain – “I do begrudge [the Church of Scotland] our snug, comfortable churches. I begrudge them my father’s pew. It bears date 1741, and was held by my family through times of poverty and depression, a sort of memorial of better days, when we could afford getting a pew in the front gallery.” The congregation of this church was greatly reduced. It was modernised at the end of Victoria’s reign – so, in fact, the pulpit only dates to 1901.

The town was busy during the First World War. The guidebook contains the memories of Mrs Newell (born in the town in 1908). She remembered Handel’s “Comfort ye” sung at a Christmas service, and a very talented organist, soon to be sent to France, sitting and staring at his hands in fear that they would be injured on the battlefield.” Cromarty lost 45 of its sons during the War.

Through the C20 the population of the town continued to decline, and by 1971 it had dropped to 484. As early as 1936 there was a plan to close the East Church, but it was not until 1998 that it was finally declared surplus to requirements. A huge amount of restoration work was done between 2008-11 and now “the church is open daily for all to visit and is once again being used by the community. Its fine acoustics and intimate elegance provide the ideal setting for events, concerts, occasional services and weddings.”


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Inverness, Highlands – St Andrew’s Cathedral

Inverness Cathedral, Serving the Highlands – says the tag line. Grid ref – BB123456 – website. Interesting that the guidebook gives their social media links, not the website. It is the Episcopal Cathedral, as the Church of Scotland doesn’t do things like bishops and Cathedrals (“they haven’t got bishops to show them the way” Michael Flanders and Donald Swann A Song of Patriotic Prejudice) – The Provost of the Cathedral is also the Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness.

The Cathedral stands west of the river in an imposing position, and doesn’t align to the usual east/west position. Built of pink sandstone from Conon near Dingwall, with a roof of Westmorland slate.

In 1851 Robert Eden was elected bishop. He was a parish priest in Essex, and had to learn very quickly that the Episcopal Church in Scotland was a very different beast from the Church of England. The Reformation in Scotland was a far greater upheaval than that in England. John Knox lit the fire in 1559, and in 1560 the Scots Parliament abolished Papal authority, forbade the Latin Mass, and adopted a reformed Confession of Faith. For more than a century Episcopalian and Presbyterian factions struggled for dominance. In 1688 James VII/II fled to France, and most Episcopalians were unable to swear allegiance to his daughter Mary, and her husband, William of Orange. The Established Church adopted a Presbyterian Order, and the Scottish Episcopal Church came into separate existence. After the 1715 Jacobite Rising, more stringent laws were enacted against Episcopalian clergy, and after the failure of the 1745 rebellion, the government sought to wipe it out. By the time Eden was elected a century later, the vote was taken by 7 clergy.

Eden was a powerful preacher, and by 1866 there was enough to energy to start to build a Cathedral. The architect was a young man from the congregation, Alexander Ross, but his original plans had to be cut back due to limited funds. The foundation stone was laid on 17 October 1866 by Dr Charles Longley, Archbishop of Canterbury, the first official act in Scotland by an English Primate since the establishment of Presbyterianism. It was opened on 1 September 1869 and the inaugural sermon was preached by the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce – the one who is remembered for his debate with Charles Darwin. It cost £15,106, and on opening there was a debt still owing of £6,835. A building cannot be consecrated while there is a debt, so it was 1874 before it was consecrated – in the presence of the Bishop of Derry (William Alexander, the husband of Mrs C.F. Alexander “All things bright and beautiful”) and the Bishop of Bombay. There must be a tale to tell about the Bishop of Bombay’s journeying from Bombay to Inverness! This plaque remembers the Architect.

We entered the cathedral through the side door with the disabled ramp, and were greeted with the stark reality of life in the C21.

On a more cheerful note we were also greeted with a banner celebrating the churches of the huge diocese.

We walked down to the “west” end, and said hello to the Angel font. This was gift, in 1871, of Colonel and Mrs Learmouth of Dean (near Edinburgh). It was copied by James Redfern from Thorvaldsen’s kneeling angel font in Copenhagen, which Bishop Eden saw on his journey to Russia in 1866. There is one significant difference – this font has the face of Mrs Learmouth.

The view from the west end is quite impressive, we continued up the north aisle, past some candle stations with Russian icons. Some of these date to the Bishop’s visit in 1866 – he wet to visit the Anglican communion in St Petersburg, and make links with the Russian Orthodox church. There were a lot of visitors in the Cathedral today, and the prayer stations were being well used.

We moved into the Lady Chapel, with this memorial tablet to Bishop William Hay, the last established Bishop of Moray. He was deprived of his living of St Giles, Elgin, for refusing to read out the proclamation of William and Mary as joint sovereigns, and he retired to Inverness.

The altar is by Angus Ross of Aberfeldy, and I like this Christ – no mention of his maker, and I do think the position of the CCTV is interesting (Jesus is watching you).

The pulpit is of Caen stone and Irish marble, was carved by local sculptors, and shows St Andrew, the Good Shepherd, and John the Baptist.

The High Altar is wonderfully Victorian, and if you look west through the screen and over the Nave altar, the “west” window shows Christ in Majesty. It is a very colourful windows and works well – because of the alignment of the Cathedral it never receives direct sunlight.

Most of the stained glass is by John Hardman and Co of Birmingham, and forms a complete scheme. Here are some examples – note the “pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons” in the Candlemas window.

There is some lovely embroidery work in this Cathedral – I loved the otters.

A reminder that real people sit in our pews – and we ended our visit in the café in the Church Hall, being looked after by lovely members of the congregation. Thank you!


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Fortingall, Perthshire – Kirk

I first came to Fortingall in the summer of 1982. Richard Hunt, Chaplain of Selwyn College Cambridge, used to organise long-distance walks, and that summer’s was from Dundee to Iona. I had to leave before we got to Oban as I needed to be back in Cambridge for an orchestra course – I remember that there was a rail strike and I hitch-hiked home. One lift from Oban to Edinburgh, another to Doncaster, and one ten minutes later to the M11 two miles from home. A few days earlier we had arrived in Fortingall, and then made our way west along Glen Lyon, to Bridge of Balgie, and then over the Pass and down to Tyndrum. I seem to recall using the Post Bus for some of that journey – and will explore my archives to see if I have any photos of that journey. [Yes, it was Monday 5 July 1982, and I caught the Aberfeldy to Glen Lyon post bus at 0950 from outside Fortingall Post Office. We got off at Glen Lyon PO, then walked up and camped by the Glen Lawers NTS Visitor Centre. Joyce now lives in Singapore].


Fortingall Kirk, we are in Church of Scotland territory, is in the village next to the hotel, at NN742471 – website.

This part of the world has been settled for at least 5,000 years – and we have a 5,000 year old yew tree. This must surely be one of the oldest living things in the world, and must have been regarded as venerable, holy, for many, many centuries – long before Christianity. The wall was erected in 1785 to protect it, and there is a clever time line as you walk to it.


There is a legend that Pontius Pilate was born here, following a visit by his father to the Caledonians as an emissary from the Emperor Augustus. There is no evidence of any Roman contact with this part of Scotland until AD 80. (But I shall index this blog under “Roman” just in case!)

It is believed that Christians were in this area from the late 600s. They walked in the opposite direction to the Hunt walk – coming from Iona, the west coast, over the top, and down the valley towards the east. St Adamnan (Abbot from 679) was active in the valley. Apparently he was also at the Northumbrian meetings between the Celtic and Roman church. There seems to have been a large monastic site here through to the C10. Inside the church we have various Pictish cross fragments, dating around 800 AD, of stone which is not local, but which may have carved by the same person.

By the time the monastery closed, a network of parish churches had been established in the valley. Following the 1560 Reformation, Scottish kirks tended to be simple, austere buildings. In 1585 the parishes of Glenlyon, Kinloch Ranoch and Fortingall were combined – they covered an area of 300 square miles (and Allestree moan that they are combined with Darley Abbey a mile away!). Now it is Fortingall, Glenlyon, Kenmore and Lawers.

A belfry was added to the church in 1768, and this is preserved in the churchyard. The grave of the Reverend Duncan Macara, minister of the church from 1754 to 1804, is beisde the Yew tree. Following the turbulence of the Jacobite uprisings, he brought tranquility and education to the area. The Rotterdam bell dates to 1765 – I failed to photograph a C7 handbell (excuse for a trip back).

In 1885 the estate and village were purchased by Sir Donald Currie (1825-1909). He had made his money in shipping – starting as a clerk in Greenock he rose to become head of the Union Castle line. He engaged James Marjoribanks MacLaren (1853-90), a promising young architect, to build him an estate village. He sort to merge Scottish medieval buildings with the English Arts and Crafts movement. After his early death, the work was continued by William Dunn and Robert Watson, and they produced plans for a new church in 1899. It was paid for by Sir Donald, built by John McNaughton of Aberfeldy, and opened in September 1902. The interior is sandstone, with lovely oak pews and ceiling.

The screen was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer and installed in 1913 as a memorial to Sir Donald – sad that the guide records the designer, but not the craftsman who made it. The font is an Arts and Crafts interpretation of an ancient Celtic font.

I wonder what the stories are behind the war memorials. A lovely church.

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Grandtully, Perthshire – St Mary’s

We are en route to Orkney. On Friday 6 July we are heading up the A9, and following a prefab house on a lorry – worse than a caravan. A few miles north of Dunkeld we turned left onto the B898, and then the A827. St Mary’s church, Grandtully is an Historic Scotland property (unstaffed, free access) and is sign posted off the main road at NN 887556. Plenty of parking, and a short walk to the church.

This is one of those churches where you open the door and go wow.

A church here is first mentioned in papal letters to the bishops of Moray around 1250 – you can imagine a Vatican diplomat wondering where this place was. The church as we see it today dates to 1533 when Alexander Stewart, of nearby Grandtully Castle, granted lands to St Andrew’s Cathedral in exchange for a priest to take charge here. I wonder how much land equals one priest. In about 1636 Sir William Stewart and his wife Dame Agnes Moncrieffe modified the building. The church was extended to the west and the ceiling was installed. There does not seem to be a record of who the painter was – I assume it is only one painter – nor whether it was painted in situ, or painted and then put up. There is only one other surviving ceiling from this time, at Largs. A new parish church was built in 1806, and this one went out of use in 1892. Thank goodness it was saved and is cared for.

The central panel depicts the Last Judgement. “Framed by a classical doorway, a dying man is lying on his canopied bed; beside him, his grieving wife is in attendance while the skeleton figure of Death aims his dart. On clouds above the deathbed, two angels are blowing their trumpets summoning the corpses to the Resurrection; this we see taking place on the right hand side of the panel as they rise from their graves up into the heavens.”

There are 28 panels, but I am not going to try and list them all. Here are the four Evangelists, Matthew (21), Mark (22), Luke (11) and John (12).

There are various heraldic devices – including the Duke of Lennox, the Earl of Atholl, Sir William Stewart and Dame Agnes Moncrieff.

This one (panel 26 in case you’re wondering) could be Humility – she has a couple of books, “Learn of me for I am lovely and humble”, and this one (2) could be “Hope”.

Around it all, are wonderful flowers etc.

The views are rather smashing too. If you are driving North, whether you are following a prefab or not, go and see this church.




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Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire – St Michael

The church of St Michael, Baddesley Clinton – website, grid reference SP 203713 – is a short walk from the entrance to the Hall. A welcoming notice, and traditional Book of Common Prayer every Sunday (always a good idea to play to your strengths!). Apparently the churchyard is  carpet of bluebells in Spring.

There is no mention of the church in Domesday. In 1305 James de Clinton was Patron, and the priest was Magister Will’mus le Archer. Two early priests are mentioned – “Simone persona” and Magister Johannes Horgilun r’tore de Baddisle. A plaque in church dated 1634 refers to this as the church of St James, the church was probably rededicated after restoration in the C19.

The thick walls of the Nave date no later than the C13. The height of the Nave was raised and the clerestory windows inserted between 1496 and 1509 by Nicholas Brome. Apparently this was to expiate his crimes in murdering a naughty priest (see my last blog). The Chancel was rebuilt and extended in 1634. There was restoration work in 1872 and the 1960s.

A lovely old oak chest by the door, and plenty to read. The hatchments relate to members of the Ferrers family.


The organ is inscribed “Sarah Green, Organ Builders to their Majesties, Isleworth 1797”. Apparently her husband Samuel was an organ builder of some renown. When he died in 1796 she took the business over. It is a unique organ, and they use it regularly for recitals.

The altar tomb in the Chancel is that of Sir Edward Ferrers (1465-1535) and his wife Constance. She was the daughter of Nicholas Brome.

The East Window is lovely. Christ with St John and Mary Magdalene. St George and St Catherine. Nicholas Brome on the left of St John, Sir Edward and Lady Constance to the right of St Catherine. Sir Edward and Lady Constance in the separate lights with their families.




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Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire – The Hall

Here is the Vicar’s letter for the August magazines …

Thank you everyone who came and supported the talks Julie and I gave on the Reformation. It was lovely seeing people from both churches, plus from the other churches in Allestree, plus other friends. We enjoyed putting the talks together, and now want an American lecture tour. 

If you want to read what we wrote, have a look at St Matthew’s website.

The study of our past must never be an academic exercise. Listening to the choir sing a Tallis motet takes us back to a composer who had to walk a careful line between religious and political survival. Singing a Psalm set to a hymn tune (“The King of love my shepherd is”) reminds us that the Reformers wanted people to take God’s word into their (our) very selves. Walking round a monastery taken apart brick by brick at the Dissolution, reminds us that our faith must be a faith in Jesus Christ, not just a faith in buildings.

We met some friends at Baddesley Clinton – a National Trust property between Birmingham and Warwick. A gorgeous, moated property, with garden, dahlia bed, café, and a second hand bookshop (that was expensive).

In the first room was a timeline – with mention of Nicholas Brome, an owner in the fifteenth century, who “slew ye minister of Baddesley Church finding him in his plor [parlour] chockinge his wife under ye chinne [flirting with her].” Not a good example of the priesthood.

The house then went into the Ferrers family, and they were a family that kept their Catholic faith at the Reformation. Under the Act of Uniformity of 1587 it was a treasonable offence to be or to harbour in your house a Roman Catholic priest. Baddesley Clinton was used as a base for missionary work by the English Jesuits. If they had been caught, the punishment would have been death. A priest hole was built under the floor. The only way to access it was via the shaft of the garderobe, or privy.

In October 1581 Father John Gerard wrote this account: “It was about five o’clock the following morning. I was making my meditation, Father Southwell was beginning Mass and the rest were at prayer, when suddenly I head a great uproar outside the main door. Then I heard a voice shouting and swearing at a servant who was refusing them entrance … . But a faithful servant held them back, otherwise we would all have been caught. Father Southwell heard the din. He … stripped off his vestments and stripped the altar bare. … [We had] enough time to stow ourselves in a very cleverly built sort of cave. At least the leopards were let in. They tore madly through the whole house, searched everywhere, pried with candles into the darkest corners. They took four hours over the work but fortunately chanced on nothing.”

Next time I don’t want to get up for an 8 o’clock communion, next time you think “I can’t be bothered to fit church in today”, we would all do well to remember their example and their faith.

This is the reason we have days out, to give our magazine and blog readers something to read.

I am not going to blog the history of the house – it goes back to the Norman Conquest. Just enjoy it! If you want more, here is the National Trust website. The Hall’s grid reference is SP 200715.

The Chapel as it is now only dates to 1940. It was re-created by Thomas Ferrers-Walker, having been out of use for 17 years. Before then it was re-consecrated in 1875. Lady Chatterton had been received into the Catholic faith by Carinal Newman. The family debated building a new chapel, but Edward Dering wrote “It would have been an act of Faith written in stone; but the restoration of the old chapel leaves a deeper mark. It is founded in the history of the past, hallowed by the former presence of martyrs and confessors, and it bridges the continuity of the Holy Sacrifice in an ancient Catholic house that never had an apostate owner.” It is in the oldest part of the house, and has an access via the garderobe to the priest hole.

The room next door is more atmospheric – a simple vestry. You can imagine Father Southwell celebrating Mass here.

Just outside the vestry is this lovely painting on glass. It is a Dutch church interior, painted by Thomas Jervais in the 1700s. Later it was broken into many different pieces, and was restored (beautifully) about ten years ago.

The gardens are beautiful, the scarecrows are fun. The dahlia bed will be stunning later in the year – no doubt we’ll see it when we come back for the book sale in August.



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Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria – St Lawrence

Monday 26 June is a day to escape on a Northern Rail rover ticket. I ended up in Appleby-in-Westmorland, meeting my friend Clare for lunch. We found a second hand bookshop – if you are having a day out with a beautiful young lady, always a good idea to purchase books for your wife.

St Lawrence’s church, Appleby-in-Westmorland, is beautifully situated in the middle of the town,  grid reference NY683205 – website

A simple leaflet and a fuller guide book – both very well illustrated with good photos. It has suffered from flooding twice in recent years, 2004 and 2016, and bears some of the scars. They are keeping going – good leaflet for “Thy Kingdom Come”, the Archbishops’ prayer initiative (probably worth ‘borrowing’ for next year). They obviously have a busy funeral ministry too. Do they have another set of cones labelled “Wedding”?

The oldest part of the church is the lower part of the tower. This dates to the C12 when Ranulf le Meschin developed New Appleby. It soon became a prosperous market town run by merchants, a prize to be fought over by Scots and by English. The Border Wars meant destruction, so there was C14 rebuilding, restoration in C17, C18 and C19. Nice porch, useful sundial, and a practical welcome.

There is a cupboard under the tower for chained books – this one is designed for three volumes of “Foxe’s Acts and Monuments of the Martyrs” dated 1631. The books are away being restored, and I doubt it will ever be wise to have them back in church – chained or not. Worth considering what books we would wish to chain away, or using it as a focus for education work in making books and information available in regimes where they are banned?

Nice light church, and I like the slender light fittings. I wonder how well they illuminate on a dark day (not that we ever have dark days in Cumbria).

The organ belongs to the town not the church – I bet that causes interesting legal debates when it needs tuning or when a faculty has to be applied for. It was a gift to the town of Appleby from Carlisle Cathedral in 1683 (“Well Mr Dean” said the Director of Music, “who can we give our old organ to?”). The leaflet says “It was at one time thought to be the oldest still-working English organ in the country, having originated at the Restoration (ie  1661-2)”. Which makes me ask (1), where is the oldest still-working English organ? (2) why did Carlisle Cathedral want to get rid of it only 20 years later? I like the angel faces on the organ, and the carvings on the pillar.

The Corporation Pew before the pulpit dates from about 1720 and is still used by the Mayor and Councillors on civic occasions. The carving is C17. I failed to photo the sword rest – apparently, by 1264 the Town Mayor served as King’s representative in the Royal Borough, which gives him the right to have a sword or mace carried before him. The fact the guidebook (and much else) proclaim we are in Westmorland, forty years after Cumbria was formed, suggests we take these things very seriously, and so we should. General Synod has spent time this week getting rid of ancient legislation to “free us up for mission” – insert rude noise here. One day we will remember that mission involves being part of the community around us, and if we can use swords and processions and history to bring people together, thank God for them. End of Rant.

The Chancel is nothing special, but in the North Chapel we have two smashing tombs. This black marble monument is that of Lady Anne Clifford (1590-1676). She was born in Skipton Castle and was the daughter and sole heir of George Clifford, the third Earl of Cumberland. When he died in 1605 she was deprived of her inheritance as King James I judged in favour of her uncle Francis and his heirs. In 1643 she finally inherited all the Clifford estates – 90,000 acres in the North, including most of Appleby. Even then, because of the Civil War, she had to wait another six years before she could travel north. The royal court, where she had enjoyed favour, had gone – so she settled in the wild and lawless north. She was incredibly wealthy and her own mistress – so she took over her new estates with a great zeal. After many decades of absentee landlords, her presence bought stability. She was a devout Anglicans, and many churches were repaired and endowed. To quote the leaflet “It has been said that 1649-1662 was her most creative period. She was a patron of art, architecture, and sculpture; of calligraphy, and manuscript illumination; a family and social historian and an antiquarian. Much of this stemmed from her pride in her Clifford ancestry, detailed for all to see on [this] memorial … which she designed for herself.”


This picture of Lady Anne is from this website.

Opposite her is the grave of her mother, Lady Margaret, Countess of Cumberland, who died in 1616. Lady Anne had left her mother’s house a decade earlier when she was 16 – she was off to marry the Earl of Dorset – and never saw her again. Forty years later the daughter commissioned this tomb for her mother. It was sculptured by Maximilian Colte, and is similar to the one he made for Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey.

Lady Anne repaired St Lawrence’s in 1655, building a new Lady Chapel as part of it. She also built a vault. Her diary states “About 10 Oct 1655, while at Appleby Castle, did I cause a great part of Applebie Church to be taken downe (it being very ruinous and in danger of falling of itselfe) and so I caused a Banke to be made in the NE Corner of the Church for myselfe to be buried in, (if I pleaseth God). And the repairinge of the said Church cost me about some 6 or 700 pounds, being finished the year following.” Lady Anne is buried underneath. She also wrote in her diary, quoting Psalm 16 – “The Lot is fallen unto me in a pleasant place. I have a fair heritage.”

We should also remember  a previous Vicar – “Here Gabriel Smallwood M.A. has laid down his mortal remains and his outer covering of flesh. He was vicar of this church, much missed, who daily bestowed his goods on the poor, and at the last gave back the only thing he had left to give, his soul to God and his body to the earth, on the 7th March, A.D. 1698, at the age of 48.” May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Mr Yates does not sound as friendly, though perhaps I am being unfair to him. I don’t remember any of the Masters (or Mistresses) of Cambridge Grammar School for Boys giving me an accurate knowledge of Roman literature, or any of the above – but I remember some of them with affection (even if Mr Giles called me “the stupidest boy in all Cambridgeshire” when I broke the second hacksaw blade of his woodwork lesson). I hope Mr Williams, my history teacher, and Messrs Scoble, Branscombe and Bye, my geography teachers, and Mr Wadham, Religious Studied, would be impressed with my blog.

We had a walk round outside, then spent the rest of the day driving over the hills, picking my Godson up from school, and generally putting the world to rights.


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Pentrich, Derbyshire – St Matthew

A few miles down the road is the village of Pentrich, site of England’s last revolution. My wife is an expert on this revolution as she went to a day conference about it. I know nothing (I come from Barcelona). There is a website here. It tells me that “The men of the Derbyshire village of Pentrich formed themselves into an armed force in 1817 and marched towards Nottingham expecting to be part of a national uprising to overthrow the government. The main reason for their action was anger and despair at the lack of work, lack of food and the apparent indifference of the government and local authorities to their ever more desperate plight.”

Interestingly, the revolution is not mentioned in the church leaflet – which perhaps says something about the divide between the Established Church and the working class. The church is St Matthew’s, at SK390635, has a website – and the church is also here. They do have a little leaflet, a children’s trail, a meditation as you walk round church, and a prayer diary – much of the material would be worth “borrowing”.

The church is not mentioned in Domesday, but a charter of c1155 confirms the gift of the church to the canons of Darley Abbey. I feel that I should, as Vicar, claim I am the descendent of these canons. The base of the tower dates from then, although it was heightened in the late part of the C14.

The guide refers to a scratch dial, or mass clock. It is supposed to be immediately east of the priest’s door, so I assume it is the hole – which would have held a peg – and the scratch marks. Apparently when the shadow crosses the radical scratch below the style-hole t would be 12 noon, when crossing the second radial scratch, 30 degrees west of the noon line, would register 10 am. If dad was still alive he would no doubt be happy to explain it.  I like the modern statue of St Matthew over the door.


The inside pillars are late Norman, and a new C14 chancel reused some of the original work. The aisles are C14.

The font is a couple of bits knocked together. The stump is dated 1662. The top could be Norman, it looks Norman, but Norman fonts are usually cylindrical. Mr Cox, writing in 1879, says that it was removed from church for several centuries, during which time it was used as a receptacle for salted beef. When it came back to church it was re-dressed and re-shaped. Pevsner is not so sure it is Norman.

Above it is a painting of Jesus calling Matthew. It was painted by the Vicar, William Jelliorse Ledward, who was here from 1874-1912. It needs conserving.

One or two impressive monuments, and one tapestry work which mentions the Revolution – “Don’t mention the Revolution. I mentioned it once and think I got away with it.”

There is some interesting Victorian glass, though none of it is mentioned in the leaflets. The East window is an Ascension window.

Mary and Martha are two attractive young ladies, while Dorcas seems to have been made in Brussels – I will not start researching foreign glass makers.

This window is by C.W. Whall, and was given in 1916 by Mr and Mrs F.N. Smith of Wingfield Park in memory of their son Captain Bernard Ridley Winthrop Smith, 1st Scots Guards, who fell in action at Ypres in November 1914, at the age of 31. St Michael is in the centre, using no weapon but pointing to the banner of the Cross. The sun behind is a symbol of the Kingdom and the Will of God, in whose hands are the issues of peace and war, of life and death; and is a type of the re-ordering of the world according to God’s will after the present distress. In the side lights are St George and St Louis, the warrior saints of England and France. They stand against dark backgrounds, typifying the time of mourning through which both countries are passing. St Louis was Louis IX of France, who was apparently the reconstructor of Europe and the Saviour of its civilization after the failure of the Crusades. The text “He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me” (Psalm 4.18) refers to those who have attained the reward of the Happy Warrior in the great cause, and the hope we have for the cause itself which, in 1916, was still hanging in the balance.

Fascinating what you find in a village church. A revolution which is practically ignored, a medieval mass dial, and a window installed in the middle of a dreadful War.



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Heage, Derbyshire – St Luke

We had the afternoon of Sunday 25 June off, and went across to Hardwick Hall. We went via Belper as I wanted to collect some train tickets. As we went through Heage we saw this notice – so stopped to visit St Luke’s church – SK370506 – website.


The original church dates to 1661 (at least, that is my educated guess), and the porch is 1752.

Then they added a wider extension at the west end – which means that the church now has two altars. They use the original one when they use the old chapel for Evensong, and the newer one for the more informal morning service. They would like to get rid of the pews in the new bit and replace them with something better. I can see why.

It is stepped access to the main church, but flat access into the old one – they opened the door for us – we walked through the display.

Coffee and scones were served, and we enjoyed the displays. It seems a lot of work for a weekend. They were having a Songs of Praise this evening.

I liked this Good Samaritan window, and the expressions of the priest and Levite, and Jesus with the woman at the well is rather nice too.


They had done a colourful display on the font, and the roof was worth looking up at.

Outside an interesting churchyard to have a poke around.

There’s also a windmill in this village – something else to visit – website.


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Hucknall, Nottinghamshire – St Mary Magdalene

We called in at Rufford, and then the final stop on our bus tour was Hucknall. I have been to Hucknall before – I have been through on the railway line, and I have travelled the tram north from Nottingham, but it is not on the tourist trail. Once Hucknall was a thriving town with textiles, mining  and engineering, surrounded by good farming land. Then the town stopped thriving. In order to make it thrive again, a lot of money has obviously been poured in, We were handed a glossy brochure A Snapshot of Hucknall in the 21st century produced by the Hucknall Tourism and Regeneration Group – website. There is a town tour, 91 places to visit – you would think they could have found another nine – a driving tour, a walking tour, and a Byron Festival.

St Mary Magdalene, described on the leaflets as “The Parish Church in the heart of the town” stands at the top of the High Street, by the Market – SK 533494. They have a website and can do clever things with QR codes. They have obviously had a lot of money to reorder and tell their history, and are using it to proclaim that “the church is a place for Christian worship and has opportunities for people of all ages and experiences.”

I picked up five leaflets – Pilgrimage, an interactive tour; Kempe pilgrimage; Byron pilgrimage; Ada Lovelace; Ben Gaunt. There are lots of other displays – inside and out. I had a good chat with the churchwarden, and he suggested I bring my lot over for an afternoon. There is certainly plenty to see.

The tower is the oldest part of the church, dating back to the C11, as does the Nave. The north aisle is thirteenth century, and there was a major extension 1887/8.

Inside is a medieval coffin lid. This is one of the symbols of the Four Evangelists.

This angel, on the last pillar on the south aisle, was installed at the extension of 1872/3. It was commissioned by Canon John Godber, the wealthy Victorian benefactor.

He also paid for the huge number of Kempe windows. Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907) and his studio produced windows for many churches, and the pilgrimage leaflet takes you round all of them in this church. My photos of windows are never very good – I need a proper lesson. I was under a little time pressure today, so my apologies.

When Canon Godber ran out of windows to be filled, he used James Powell and Sons, Whitefriars Glass, to produce these angels and other panels. The process is known as Opus Sectile, pieces of coloured glass turned into tiles.  We have the return of the Prodigal Son. The company also produced early light bulbs.

At the East End is a Victorian reredos. It is closed for Advent and Lent  (and the leaflet explains what those seasons are).

Byron is buried in a vault beneath the chancel. I have to say I know hardly anything about Lord Byron – except that he kept a bear while at Cambridge. The leaflet tries to make something vaguely spiritual – “Poet and icon of the Romantic age [he] found rest here … . It had been a short life but a long pilgrimage of self discovery. He had wandered across Europe in self-imposed exile and explored the boundaries of socially acceptable behaviour on a spiritual quest, searching for meaning to his life. He finally found it in the struggle to liberate his beloved Greece, sacrificing his life to that cause before his body returned home to the Byron family vault.”

One of the others in the vault is Ada Lovelace (1815-1852). She was Byron’s only legitimate daughter, but never knew her father. Her mother, Annabella Millbanke, steered her away from poetry towards more logical and scientific pursuits. She discovered a natural flair for mathematics, and this ability impressed Charles Babbage, the designer of the first mechanical computer. He asked her to work on some mathematical problems which could be run through the engine. The algorithm she produced to calculate a number sequence called Bernouilli numbers is widely considered to be the first computer programme. Later she was the first to suggest that a machine might mimic human creativity.

I liked this Madonna and Child – indeed, I liked this church, and there is a lot more I could have blogged.

Let us go outside, enjoy the garden – and end with a notice that shows Rectorial Power. I want one!

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