Astley, Warwickshire – St Mary the Virgin

On Bank Holiday Monday 7 May 2018 we drove south to Astley Book Farm, just outside Nuneaton. It was Julie-friendly, and had a good café – website.

Then we stopped at St Mary the Virgin, Astley, and went for an explore – SP 311894. There is a good description and lots of photos at the Nuneaton and North Warwickshire Family History Society site. I have found the church’s facebook page – but not a website for them.

When we parked I saw a sign to the castle and wandered there before visiting the church. I found Landmark Trust holiday cottage (“cottage” is not the best word) and it looked fascinating. Searching the web later – here is the site for the cottage itself, and here is a discussion on the BBC about the rebuilding. The castle dates back to Saxon times, and was owned by the Grey family from 1420 to 1600. Elizabeth Woodville owned the castle with her husband Sir John Grey. He died fighting for the Lancastrians in the War of the Roses. She married Edward IV. Their daughter, Elizabeth of York, became Astley’s second queen through her marriage to Henry VII. Their great-granddaughter, Lady Jane Grey, was the third queen – for just nine days. The castle burned down in 1978, and, a couple of decades later, the Landmark Trust built a new house in the ruins. It look rather wonderful!

Having not disturbed the people on holiday, I walked across to the church – with a gorgeous cherry tree in full bloom. Before Domesday a great noble, whose name was Alsi, held the hamlet of Easteua and the forest around it. The church was certainly here by 1285, because a priest was appointed in that year. In 1343 Sir Thomas Astley built the church we see. He called it “my fair and beautiful Collegiate church”. The central tower had a lead covered spire, and a light was maintained here – ‘The Lantern of Arden’ to guide travellers through the thick forest (if the forest was that thick, would the light have been seen?). The spire fell in 1600, the nave was shortened, monumental chapels went – but Sir Richard Chamberlayne, owner of the castle at the time, started the process of rebuilding. I wandered round the outside, said Hello to Joseph Bond of this parish, admired the carving, and entered under a lamp that would not be out of place on a British Rail station of the 1970s.

There was a nice welcome inside. One chap was cleaning the brass and welcoming visitors. I found a Norman octagonal font, and alabaster figures of Sir Edward Grey, Lord Ferres of Groby, died 1457; his daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Talbot, wife of Sir Edward Grey who became Lord Lisle, died 1483; and Cecily Bonville, daughter of Lord Bonneville Harrington, 2nd wife of Thomas Grey, the first Marquess of Dorset, died 1529. They were originally in the Nave, but placed in their present position at the end of the C19. We should also mention that also in the C19, Robert Evans married his second wife Christiana. Their third child, Mary Ann, is the author George Eliot – her Scenes from Clerical Life has Astley as the fictional village of Knebley.

Looking west, you can see the height of the tower. Walking along the Nave you can enjoy nine early C17, post-Reformation, wall paintings. We’ve sometimes found pre-Reformation wall paintings which have survived under whitewash for several centuries, but we rarely see post-Reformation ones – seven biblical passages, plus the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.

Also fascinating are the choir stalls – 18 of the original 24 which used to be at the west end of the Collegiate Quire (chancel). They may well date to the second half of the C14. The lower section with wonderful misericords are probably a little earlier than the canopy with its carving. The painted figures represent the Apostles on the north side, and the Prophets on the south. The scrolls were painted in 1624.

Moving into the Chancel, the Chancel arch is worth looking up at, as are the ceilings – while the black and white floor tiles were mentioned by George Eliot. The woodwork is rather nice, the altar table was probably adapted from the C17 draw leaf table, and the Triptych is C17 Flemish, the artist is unknown. You can see Mary Magdalene with her box of ointment, and Joseph of Arimathea holding the crown of thorns. Golgotha, and the garden tomb. It was presented to the church by Sir Francis Newdegate in 1905. I was a little confused, as sometimes the guidebook calls him Newdigate, sometimes Newdegate – both are right. Have a read of – he sounds fascinating!  He also presented the Venetia lamps, yes, they are State Gondola Lanterns, engraved with the lion of St Mark. (I am imagining the conversation on the DAC – “Petition: to install two Venetian gondola lamps”).

This is a fascinating church – and one I found by chance. Thanks so much for polishing the brass and being open. Let’s end with some of the memorials, and the huge tower.



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Northernvicar walks – January, February, March and April 2018

I had planned to walk 1,000 miles in 2017, but only managed to be a Proclaimer. I won’t manage 1,000 miles in 2018 either, but I’ll let you know how I do. In January I managed 25 miles. On 2 January Alex and I went to Hull – we walked from Cottingham station to the Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull for a splendid exhibition of the works of Terence Cuneo. You could get up really close to the paintings, no one minded me taking photos (so I hope no one will mind if I post a couple), and there is a small permanent gallery there too with some lovely work. These two paintings are “Departure of HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh from the Corporation Pier, Kingston upon Hull, for the State Visit to Denmark, 1957.” They were en route to the Britannia. The picture is owned by Hull City Council. “Track Laying by Night, 1950” was sketched at Wandsworth Common, and was described by Cuneo as “the most chaotic” of his railway commissions.

I started February with a day in London. I walked four miles from Euston to Victoria, past the wonderful Oxford Circus Underground station, met Claire and we went to St Paul’s. You can’t photo inside – so you didn’t get a blog – but we enjoyed the views. We then did another 9 miles across the Millennium Bridge and all the way along the river back to Victoria.

I managed five miles in Nottingham on Saturday 10 February while Julie enjoyed Waterstone’s – I decided they fly the flag on Nottingham Castle when Maid Marion is in residence. On Sunday 11 we went to the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway, and enjoyed their new wheelchair lift – well done them! (Thanks to Kevin for the photo)

We went to the Church Times Bloxham Book Festival for a weekend in February. We had a Friday at Baddesley Clinton and Packwood House en route – two lovely NT properties (I blogged the church at Baddesley last time I visited). Baddesley has an excellent second hand bookshop – they had a 1660ish Prayer Book from Ashchurch – as that’s another NT property, I suggested they should pass it on. I had a five mile walk along the canal from Packwood.#

Between some excellent talks, I did another five miles from Bloxham on Saturday (I blogged that church two years ago), and then seven miles along the Oxford Canal on Sunday. Superb advert on a roundabout in Banbury.

On Saturday 24 February I walked down to Duffield, then had a train ride up the Ecclesbourne line to Wirksworth (Iris is a lovely unit) – so that as 69 miles in February.

I only managed 10 miles in March, so we’ll draw a veil over that. We did manage a trip to Nottingham Castle where they have some beautiful alabasters (let’s hope they display them better after the forthcoming refurbishment).

April was 62 miles. Most were local, some have been vaguely blogged along with their churches. One needs a mention of its own – on Thursday 12 I walked a few miles along Manchester canals, had a ride on the new Ordsall Curve, then a walk under the Dinting Viaduct.  It was first opened in 1844 by the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester – on their Woodhead route over the Pennines. Originally it had laminated timber arches – presumably like the ones Carmichael painted in the North East. In 1859 wrought iron girders were installed. The brick pillars were added 1918-20, more work was carried out in the 1950s when the line was electrified, then another £6 million was spent in 2012.

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London – Lambeth Palace

Monday 30 April 2018, and the Bishop had asked me to attend a meeting of Diocesan European Link Officers at Lambeth Palace. We had been promised an opportunity to enjoy the gardens – but the weather was appalling. The conference was depressing. I won’t write what I think about Brexit. As someone said, you wouldn’t change a Golf Club Constitution when only 48% voted in favour.

The Palace, which is the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has a good website. You enter through Morton’s Tower – built in 1490 by Cardinal John Morton (I wonder how much building he did …). A red brick Tudor gatehouse, with welcoming custodians. “You’re a bit wet” they said – I had walked the four miles from Euston. The church next door is St Mary’s at Lambeth – which is now the lovely Garden Museum – website. I haven’t been here for a few years, when I go back, I will blog it.

The Great Hall was C13, rebuilt in 1660, and rebuilt again after it was destroyed in WW2. We didn’t go in – apparently it houses some of the Library collections. I visited the library for an exhibition about the Prayer Book (or was it the Authorised Version?) a few years ago – must go back. Here is the library website.

We met in the Guard Room – apparently where the Archbishop’s army would store their weapons. If we are the Archbishop’s army … . Impressive portraits, and an impressive corridor.

We had a lunchtime service in the Chapel, and I went back afterwards to take some photos. It was a good service, and an excellent lunch. It was badly damaged inWW2 and the windows and roof were replaced afterwards. The ceiling is by Leonard Henry Rosoman in 1988. It is entitled “From darkness to light” – as one of my colleagues commented “the Sistine Chapel it ain’t”. There is a bit about his other work here. The panels depict Pope Gregory the Great commissioning Saint Augustine to visit England in AD 597. St. Thomas à Becket is shown as a young man hunting, in a reference to the image that can be found alongside a depiction of his murder in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. The central panels show the enthronement of Archbishop Parker and scenes from the first Lambeth Conference. The last image above the altar shows Christ in Glory.

The stained glass also dates to the late 1950s restoration, inserted into the window frames that remained. The glass is by Carl Edwards and Hugh Powell. If you are really interested there is a 113 page guide to the windows here. Nice altar frontal – I like it more than the roof paintings.

The woodwork is rather nice, and each seat is marked with a symbol from the one of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion. The focus on my camera is not working properly, so only the tiger is worth putting in this blog. The Anglican Communion website is very comprehensive – here – whatever the politicians decide, we will still be in communion with Europe and countries across the world.





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Llandudno, Conwy – St Tudno on the Great Orme

Friday 27 April 2018 was a day chasing trains in North Wales – a ride on the loco hauled set from Chester to Holyhead. Nice signals on the platform, and signal box too. There are still several proper ‘boxes across Angelsey – we need to go back.

Back to Llandudno Junction, then to Llandudon where they have more signals, a ‘box, and some lovely buffers.

We walked through the town to Victoria station to have a ride on the Great Orme Tramway – website. The line opened on 30 July 1902, having been constructed by Thomas and John Owen, a Llandudno firm. The gauge is 3 foot 6 inches, and the track is in two halves. The bottom end is a street tramway, then there is a winding house half way, and the top section is a tracked tram. Propulsion is by cable – in a conduit at the bottom, between pulley wheels on the top. The winding machinery is at the centre – original boiler by Robey of Lincoln, replaced by electricity in 1957. The trolley poles are not poles which once gathered the power from a catenary – the communication system used to use overhead cables. Now communication between driver and man in the winding-house is all done by radio, but the poles remain. At Halfway you walk past the machinery and a small display – apparently they used to use the line to carry coffins to St Tudno’s chapel. I read the book by Keith Turner – he does not have any photos of that, which is a shame. There is a small exhibition at the top, then we slowly walked downhill taking photos.

We walked down to St Tudno’s church – SH 767839. Their leaflet points me to their website – I love websites which include paragraphs like this: “The parish is an exclave of the Diocese of Bangor comprising the Great Orme peninsula and the part of the town of Llandudno to the north and west of a line running from the West Shore, along the railway tracks, through the railway station, and along Vaughan Street to the Promenade. To the south and east of this line is the former Parish of Rhos-Cystennin, now part of the Aberconwy Mission Area, which is in the Diocese of St. Asaph.” You can find out why in the history of the parish (if you really want to!). I see that their new Minister is Mr Sully, and the new Associate Minister is his wife – who is also the Archdeacon of Bangor. (I wonder if they will live in her Archdeaconry or the one next door). It is a website that has a lot about the churches, our faith, and you can read it in Welsh if you so wish. The photos of the church on this blog were taken by Jeremy – my camera had died.


The church is surrounded by a very large graveyard – if you want to see how large look at this photo – here. They have excellent leaflets – one for adults, one for children, and a WW1 leaflet. I’d like to come back and work round the graveyard slowly. The earliest grave is 1705, there are Boer War, World War graves The children’s leaflet has some very good activities, and asks the question “Find the huge pink grave. Who is buried here?” Jeremy photoed me, but not the inscription – so I have no idea who is buried here! I want one like this.

St Tudno was a C6 Celtic monk who brought the message of Christianity to the people of the Great Orme. His original church would have been a small, wooden building with a few dwellings nearby, all surrounded by an enclosure. The present church was built in stone in the C12, and enlarged in the C15. A severe storm destroyed part of the roof in 1839, and was saved from ruin by William Henry Reece of Birmingham. He paid for the restoration as a thank offering for his daughter, Marianna, recovering her health while staying in Llandudno. There was further restoration in 1906, and a new roof in 2012.

The stone coffin lids are C13 with Celtic carvings. The font has a C12 sandstone bowl with Celtic carvings.

It is a lovely space, with a lovely sense of peace. I’m not sure what date the roof timbers are, but apparently I missed a dragon carving. The screen is 1888, the altar, communion rails, and boards 1855.

A rather lovely plaque, and one of the Victorian stained glass windows. Trains, trams, and a lovely church. It was a good day.


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King’s Lynn, Norfolk – Railway Station

I have been in King’s Lynn on a day trip with brother David, nephew Michael and friend Rad. We were there on a 1957 diesel electric multiple unit. If you would like to find out more about this fascinating unit, have a look at their website. Our thanks to them for maintaining this wonderful train, and for their welcome.

The railway to King’s Lynn opened in 1846, but wasn’t actually connected to Ely until 1848. A line to Narborough opened on the same day (27 October 1846), eventually opening across to Swaffham – now that line is only open as far as Middleton Towers for gravel. After we’d been to Lynn we had a ride down that freight line.

The current station dates to 1871 – Great Eastern Railway. I highly recommend the Great Eastern Railway Society – website. The station was restored in 2013, to roughly 1949 state, with British Railways branding. They did an excellent job.

The GER benches are apparently replicas – if I can’t get a North Eastern Railway bench (see my blog) – I want one of these.

The art work in the loo is interesting – church spotting in the Gents’.

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King’s Lynn, Norfolk – Greyfriars

I am in King’s Lynn for the day – on a historic diesel unit (photos on the next blog … can you contain your excitement?). Greyfriars garden is just a few minutes walk from the Minster – TF 621197 – and I remember going here as a child. On one occasion I dropped a thermos flask – I can still remember the wrath of my mother.

The Franciscan monastery in Lynn was founded in 1235 – and there were 38 friars here 90 years later. Elsewhere in the town were the Blackfriars (the Dominicans), the Whitefriars (Carmelites), and the Austin Friars (the Augustinians). Henry VIII got rid of the lot! The 93 feet high bell tower was constructed in the C15, and survived the dissolution – it was a useful marker for shipping. The other two Greyfriar towers in England are in Coventry and Richmond – we tend to forget just how completely the monasteries were swept away.

A Grade I listed building, it was given a major restoration at the turn of the millennium. The gardens were originally laid out in 1911 to celebrate the coronation of George V, the library dates to 1905 (if Lynn is anything like Derby, that will be the next thing to get swept away), and the war memorial in 1921. 569 died in WW1, only 19 in WW2.

The ugly metal box contains lights that were used for Lynn Lumière in 2015 – will it be used again, or left to spoil the view? The project was funded by the EU – wonder how many folk who enjoyed the lights in 2015 voted to leave in 2016? It puts a whole new meaning to “the lights are going out all over Europe.”


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King’s Lynn, Norfolk – Minster, St Margaret

King’s Lynn Minster or, to give it its full name, The Priory and Parish Church of St Margaret, is run by “The PCC of St Margaret with St Nicholas and St Edmund” – presumably there were other nearby parishes now amalgamated (I did have a smile that anyone has managed to amalgamate an Edmund!). They are currently in the throws of an £845,000 restoration appeal. Good that this will give better disabled access, typical that the meeting room will not be accessible (why would  disabled person ever want to go to a meeting?).

The website is here, and the church is located just up from the Quay – TF 617196. Lynn is a very historic town, and I had arrived on an historic diesel unit, but more of that in the next but one blog. There is a website about the town – here. The Diocese of Norfolk has a website, and produces a free guide to all the historic churches. They are pushing an Open Churches Fortnight (27 July to 12 August). Why can’t all dioceses (including my own) get their act together for the tourist market? – the Derbyshire church visiting website is not as up to date as it needs to be.

Herbert de Losinga was educated at the Benedictine Abbey of Fécamp, became a monk, became Abbot of Ramsey in 1088 (I used to preach at Ramsey Methodist church many years ago). Then he made it known that if he was appointed to the Bishopric of Norwich he would pay a considerable sum into the King’s Treasury. William Rufus became rich, Pope Paschall II summoned Herbert to Rome to explain himself, he became bishop, and funded Norwich Cathedral and this church before his death in 1119. The guidebook describes him as “resolute, possessing political craftiness and guile and immense energy.” In return for Lynn Minster and Norwich Cathedral, I can forgive!

Most of Lynn was built on land owned by the church. Losinga developed it, and town became known as Lynn Episcopi. Henry VIII changed it to Lynn Regis in 1537. Norwich Cathedral was consecrated in 1101, then work began on Lynn church – it was originally dedicated to “St Margaret of Antioch, St Mary Magdalene and all the Virgin Saints”! The oldest part of the church are the west towers, as the rest of it was rebuilt in the C13. By the C16 it was huge, serving both priory and parish. “Over the years since, it has suffered the effects of storm, battle and road widening.” The NW tower needed rebuilding in the C15, and a spire on the SW tower blew down in 1741 destroying the nave – rebuilding was led by Matthew Brettingham, at that time rebuilding Holkham Hall, and both Robert Walpole and George II gave money for repair (repaying what the Exchequer had received from Herbert?).

On the south tower is a tide clock, presented by Thomas Tue in 1683 – you can imagine the merchants and ship owners looking up to check. The lettering reads “Lynn High Tide”, the letters replacing a clock’s normal numbers. Obviously it shows the phases of the moon, and it moves on 48 minutes every day, since lunar time is different to clock time. There are fascinating leaflets available in church, one about this clock, another a general one on clockmaking in King’s Lynn and the Minster church. Apparently mechanical clocks were invented around 1280, and there is a record of a striking clock in Lynn in a Guildhall meeting of 1373. Four years later any townsman summoned by the common sergeant had to appear before the Mayor “before 9 struck by the clokke of St Margaret’s under a penalty of 4 pence.” Thomas Tue was born in November 1613, trained as a gunsmith, and used his skills to start making clocks. Several of his domestic clocks, lantern clocks, survive. He purchased the freedom of Lynn in 1661/2, and was churchwarden of St Margaret’s in 1674 and again in 1681 – in 1681 he gave the clock to St Margaret’s, and this tide clock to St Margaret’s, and a clock at St James Chapel. While the other two have gone, this one survives. The leaflet is insistent the original was not a “tide clock”, but a moon clock – it was rebuilt after the 1741 storm. The leaflet suggests that Tue must have been a competent mathematician as well as a clock maker. His wife died in 1689 at the age of 79 – he survived until 1710, dying at the age of 98.

As you enter the church there are markings of flood levels – the 2013 surge tide was higher than that of 1978 but the defences are higher. The view down the Nave is long, 80 yards to the Rose Window. The Edmund Chapel in the south tower has a Peace Globe made by William Cordaroy of East Ruston.

The Great West Window is worth looking up at. C15 stone work, 1927 window, commissioner by Col Thomas Johnson Seppings, a member of a local brewing family. A the top are the emblems of the Passion, then various coats of arms relating to church and town. Our Lord is in the centre, surround by angels and saints – Edmund, Nicholas, John, Mary, George and Margaret. Scene from the history of Lynn across the bottom, with some wonderful angels. The chest was made in Gdansk in Poland, and was here by 1454.

The present pulpit was the top part of the Georgian 3-decker pulpit mounted on a new plinth. I bet it would have been very impressive when it was that tall. The wood carving and marquetry is exceptional.

This memorial is to Sir William Hoste, who joined Nelson’s navy in 1793, climbed through the ranks, and married Lady Harriet Walpole in 1817. Apparently he encouraged his men to play cricket when they were not fighting the French, and there is still a “Hoste” cricket club in the island of Viz, off the Croatian coast.

The King John Sword is carried before the Mayor or the Queen’s representative at all Civic services, and then rests of this stand. The tradition goes back to “1446 Aug. 5th. Ordered ye same day, yt the sword of ye Mayor shall be carried before him point upward or erect.”

The Nave altar is a gift from the RAF Association showing the town’s close links with RAF Marham. It dates to the 1960s (you can tell). A simple table of aluminium, it “stands in a sanctuary of blue brick set out to represent a Lancaster bomber.” Am I the only one who finds that symbolism sits uneasily with celebrating the sacrifice of the Prince of Peace? Moving quickly on –  the Easter Garden under the altar works very well.

As you can see, the Chancel has the builders in. We will come back when they have finished!  The organ is by Snetzler (1754), the East Window 1866, the reredos 1899, and there are misericords. We are planning a Norfolk holiday in July – might be a little soon!

There are some large brasses in the south aisle of the Chancel – the light was in the wrong place, the work made life difficult. Add those to the list for the summer as well.

Another view down the Nave, and out into the churchyard. Nice rows of gravestones, but no where to sit and eat lunch. A church to come back to.


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Selby, Yorkshire – Selby Abbey, St Mary & St Germain

Selby Abbey, the parish church of St Mary the Virgin and St Germain is at the centre of this little Yorkshire town – SE 615324. It has a good website. We met our friends Jean and Adrian there on 20 April, and found disabled access is on the south side, clearly signposted.

In the north transept is a little shop and café – where else do you start? A very nice, full colour, Jarrold guidebook – a Pilgrim’s Guide (a simple A4 sheet with a little about each section and an appropriate prayer), a “What Christians believe” sheet, a children’s guide, and a sheet pointing out that Simon Jenkins England’s Thousand Best Churches  says “Selby’s glory is that of a stately old lady, retired to the country with her dignity and memories intact.” Please could someone make an app of these churches? Selby was a station on the East Coast Railway Line until a diversion was built in the early 1980s as they started excavating the huge coalfield – excavation that last less than 20 years and produced a quarter of the coal it was going to. Let’s have a railway poster.

We spent several years living in the middle of a Benedictine Abbey (Bury St Edmunds) – this was a similar sized one. It would have been an amazing place. Shortly after the Norman Conquest a monk called Benedict experienced a vision in Auxerre Abbey and received instructions from St Germain to go to Selby and build an Abbey. Germain was a French nobleman and soldier, born about 378 AD, who became a Christian in 418, then Bishop of Auxerre, and visited England twice. When Benedict came, there was a small Anglo-Viking settlement here, the area was not willing to bend to Norman rule (despite the fact that Henry, William the Conqueror’s youngest son was born here in 1068 (his mother was Queen Matilda)). William had founded the abbey at Battle, so to found an abbey in Selby would be a sensible move. This window in the North Transept is a St Germain window, showing lots of the stories of his life. It is an early C20 window, and there are close up photos here.

The original church was wooden, a stone one was built by Abbot Hugh in the early C12. The stone came from Monk Fryston, about 8 miles away. Apparently the first thing they did was build a canal – that would be an interesting research project.

Abbot Hugh got the church built at speed – by the time of his death only the Nave needed finishing. Can you imagine starting a building project today, knowing that it wouldn’t be finished in your lifetime? Let’s start with an exploration of the east end – I walked slowly along the north aisle. There’s a fascinating leper squint, but that is not easy to photo. An interesting selection of War Memorials – David Wilkerson was a Wing Commander, DFC, and a member of the congregation here. The details are here. Above is a fascinating WW1 window, with some interesting images. The crucified Christ is almost the same as the one at Slaley – see this blog – and I’m sure I’ve seen the Chaplain image somewhere before.

I failed to photo a window which has the original stars, as in stars and stripes – have a look here. I enjoyed these lovely carvings – how do you carve so beautifully, and how do you carve inside a carving? There was a major fire in 1906. To quote the guidebook “The central tower looked like a huge chimney as smoke poured out, bells came crashing down and molten lead poured like streams of silver. … The choir lay open to the sky, charred beams were all that was left of the roof of the nave. The choir screen, like most of the ancient previously carved timber, lay in ashes.” Thank goodness that they had the vision to rebuild. I think the mason was Tom Strudwick, obviously an incredibly talented man.

This is a charred roof boss from the fire. The Chapel of the Resurrection, at the east end of the North Aisle, has a fine French C17 altar cloth.

The East Window is a Jesse Window – to quote the website – “The Jesse Window at Selby Abbey is generally thought to be the second finest window in England (the West Window of York Minster being the first).” I am watching TV as I type this and we have the adverts – “99% of 159 women believe …”. Whether it is the second finest window or not may be debateable, but it is certainly a gorgeous window, sadly not easy to photograph. It dates to 1340 – what an incredible achievement. How did they make it, how did they produce the glass, how did they build it? I need to find a History of Art course that covers the history of stained glass – any recommendations? Jesse sleeps at the bottom, and the whole of Jesus’ family tree reaches up from him. King David with his harp, right up to Mary at the top.

They had produced some excellent displays with an Easter theme – never a bad idea to remind us that there are not just historic buildings, but we are there to tell the story of Christ, the story of faith. Simple ideas – must do something similar next year.

Going back to the history of this lovely church – the rest of the church was finished by the early C13. Some of the arches are good solid Norman, later ones are more complex and elegant Early English. The Abbey was rich – wealthy benefactors, rents, tolls to cross the Ouse, wool, markets and fairs. Henry VIII wanted this wealth – the first Act to close the monasteries dates to 1535, and many of the smaller ones succumbed. On 8 December 139 five of Henry’s commissioners were staying in Selby and wrote: “we have dissolved the houses of Hampole, Fountaunce, Sancte Maries in Yowrke, Nonappleton and Selby”. Land was confiscated, valuables seized, buildings demolished, but the church survived as the town’s parish church. However the financial resources were no longer there, and maintaining the structure was impossible. During the Civil War, the Royalist army used the Church to barrack troops and stable horses – that line in the guidebook surprises me; we often hear of Cromwellian troops stabling in church, I would not have expected that of Royalist troops. In 1690 the upper part of the central tower collapsed, it was repaired, but for many years services were held in the quire while the nave was used as a store for the market stalls.

In 1871 George Gilbert Scott was appointed to start the restoration of the Nave, John Oldrid Scott (his son, and brother of the other George Gilbert Scott) supervised work on the quire in 1890. Then there was the 1906 fire, and John Oldrid Scott led the work to rebuild after that. Work has continued, and now there is another appeal – click here.

The quire (I was always told that a choir is what sings and a quire is where they sing) is rather dominated by the High Altar – a replacement for the one destroyed in 1906, by John Oldrid Scott and Peter Rendl – must admit, I would prefer to see the East Window. All the woodwork is post-1906 as well. Lovely carvings high in the roof.

A wooden chair, and a window dedicated to Victoria and Albert. At the bottom of the left side panel is a steam engine – and my camera failed to focus on it.  Here is a cropped version of the main window. We have spotted train windows at Byrness, Chesterfield, Cadeby – I feel a PhD coming on. My current plan for an MA dissertation is something to do with the rise of the railways, church tourism, and guidebooks – and Selby Abbey has a collection of previous guides on display.

Making our way down into the Nave, enjoy this lovely memorial tablet – Brian digs the ashes holes at St Edmund’s and Pete the graves at St Matthew’s, they both deserve memorials when their time comes. Look up at the Nave, enjoy the shapes, and wonder at the workmen who built it all.

They have a good Easter Garden, and what a brilliant idea to use previous Paschal Candles in a display. You usually end up with a large, half burned candle – no one dares throw it away, so it gets dumped in a cupboard to gather dust. When we were at the Cathedral a young Gareth had a candle making phase. The Vergers gave him a whole pile of half used candles and he melted them down to re-use. One of his candles was our 9/11 candle. That is a long time ago!

Various other tombs and memorials. Abbot Barwick (abbot 1522-26),  Abbot Lawrence Selby and Abbot John de Shireburn (same picture, I think),  Hugh de Pickworth on one side of the nave and his wife Margery on the other, and Lord Darcy, High Steward of Selby Abbey who was executed for opposing Henry VIII during the Reformation. One hopes the Paschal Candles shine for him.

Let’s finish this lovely church with a Green Man, high in the roof.


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Rushton, Northamptonshire – Rushton Triangular Lodge

Rushton Triangular Lodge is an English Heritage property in Northamptonshire just north of the A14 – website. It is at grid ref  SP 830830, and on the OS map it is most definitely a triangle. There were 360 degree views on this BBC site – here – but this has not been kept up to date. (Our MA course goes on about the importance of “digital” – but so much digital stuff has died (the Betjeman Best Churches app and pages on the BBC website, to name but two) I find myself being somewhat sceptical).

I had been in Ely overnight and needed a break from a hideous Friday afternoon drive home – shame they don’t have a coffee machine in the custodian’s hut. You can see the Lodge from the Midland Main Line, on your left as you head north from Kettering station. Let’s start with a photo that shows how triangular it is (that’s a stupid comment, but you know what I mean), then each of the three sides (South-East, North and South-West), and one of the hut and the railway taken from inside.

The Lodge was built between 1594 and 1596 by Sir Thomas Tresham (1543/4-1605). He was a Catholic, living in Protestant England. Elizabeth I’s government regarded people like him with great suspicion, and he spent 12 years away from home – imprisoned or detained for his faith. He was allowed to return home in 1593 and built this Lodge as an assertion of his faith. It expresses the mystery of the Holy Trinity – One in Three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As the guidebook says “the Lodge is a stone hymn to the number three.” What also appealed was the fact that his family’s coat of arms included a group of trefoils, another pun on the family name. More important, I’m sure, was his belief in a miraculous event – when he was in prison in Ely in 1590, he and his servants were reading a treatise on the proofs of the existence of God. Suddenly, he noted, “there was, upon a wainscot table at that instance three loud knocks (as if it had been with an iron hammer) given, to the great amazing of me and my two servants”.

Let’s start with the South-East front. Above the entrance are the numbers 5555 and the inscription “Tres testimonium dant”. 55 could be a cryptogram for ‘Jesus Maria’, and the other 55 for ‘Salus Mundi’ (Saviour of the World). Or it could be a date – it was believed that 3962 BC was the date the world was created. Add 5555 and you get 1593. 15 is on this front, 93 on the next. The inscription above the first floor windows spells “Mentes” – as you follow all three sides you get ‘Mentes Tuorum Visita’, ‘Visit the minds of thy people”, which is the second line of the hymn ‘Veni Creator Spiritus”. The inscription in the frieze below the gables reads “Aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem”, ‘Let the earth open and bring forth a saviour’ (Isaiah 45.8). Enjoy the shapes and the carvings as well.

On the North Front the inscription is “Quis separabit nos a charitate Christi”, you can probably translate this yourself – if not, look up Romans 8.35.

On the South-West Front the TT stands for Thomas Tresham, and “Consideravi opera tua Domine et expavi”, ‘I have considered thy works, Lord, and been afraid’ (Hab 3.2). We also have a dove on the head of a serpent coiled around a globe (top left) and a hand issuing from the sun and touching the earth (top right). The dove was released from the ark by Noah, and was later a symbol of Mary. Her Son crushed the serpent’s head.

Inside is fascinating too – well worth a poke round.

You can read the full Listing here. You can also read the BBC Countryfile site here, but the photo is not the Triangular Lodge (another triumph of digital accuracy). Yet there is so much that could be done to take all the text and symbolism to explain it and expand it – I could do something with these photos for Trinity Sunday, and add in various pieces of contemporary art. I shall add it to the list of wonderful things I can do when I retire. My brother says he has seen an image of the Lodge with the railway and an overhead ropeway for gravel working. I searched online for “Rushton + Railway” and got Willie Rushton reading Rev Awdry’s railway stories. Anyone got any ideas?

There is a leaflet about a Tresham Trail around several other buildings in the area – this is an area I need to explore. Many years ago Dad followed the Fosse Way from Lincoln to Exeter, perhaps I should follow the A14. Googlemaps (a useful piece of digital) told me the M1 was jammed too, so I had a lovely country drive north to Nottingham and home for a wedding rehearsal.




Posted in National Trust, Northamptonshire | Leave a comment

Baslow, Derbyshire – St Anne

On Easter Monday (2 April 2018) we had been to Sheffield so I could give platelets. It was a rather grotty day, but we drove back via the Peak District. St Anne’s church Baslow is in the middle of a popular Derbyshire village SK252722, on the River Derwent. When I eventually get back to the Derwent Valley Way I will walk through it. I could also do the Peak Pilgrimage – website – and visit it. So why is there no church guidebook? There have all the information on the church website so print it off, and charge a couple of quid for it! They had an art/poster exhibition around the village entitled “One Friday”, getting people to think about Good Friday – it wasn’t the weather to explore, but I picked up the booklet about it. A 72 page church magazine, excellently produced.The original church is C13, and the bridge is the old packhorse bridge (I should have taken a closer look). The website reminds us the church is dedicated to Jesus’s grandmother – I like the idea of granny’s church! The tower and spire are at the west end of the north aisle, which is unusual – the north aisle was probably the original nave, and the current nave is C15.

There is a C13 grave slab in the porch which I failed to photo, and a nice lead memorial with feet that I did. Nice Easter garden too, and a dog whip just inside the door. Apparently his job was “to whip the dogs, which had followed their masters, out of the church, and generally to look after the orderly behaviour of both bipeds and quadrupeds during Divine Service.”  I’ve only ever had guide dogs in churches, and they are always well-behaved.

A Victorian restoration – it looks a very Victorian pulpit. Older font with nice Easter flowers, and I like the streamlined microphone – so many church PA systems have technology that looks like it comes from the ark.

The chancel was rebuilt in 1911 to celebrate the coronation of George V – much of it made by Mr Advent Hunstone of Tideswell. I like the altar frontal, wood and window. Nice making of a room to the north side of it.

A rather feminine St Martin in a window, and the WW1 Memorials are nearby. Has anyone researched the history of these men? Interesting thought – how do we make sure the research that has been done in the last few years is not lost? I know that in Darley Abbey there are articles in previous church magazines, but who will look at them in 50 years time?

Moving outside, it is a rather nice porch. Why is one headstone back to front compared to the next one?

The clock is by Smiths of Derby, and dates to 1897. One dial comes from an earlier clock, so has an earlier date, the other is a Royalist celebration.

I must come back when the weather is better and enjoy the village.



Posted in Derbyshire, World War 1 | Leave a comment