Ault Hucknall, Derbyshire – St John the Baptist

We headed out on Sunday afternoon 11 September 2016 to do a couple of Heritage Open Days properties – and this is the afternoon of the guidebook. Our first church has two, one about the church, the other about every single house in the parish! St John the Baptist, Ault Hucknall, is on a minor road with few houses nearby but just a few miles from the M1 – SK467653. It is open on Summer Saturday afternoons and this weekend. The kettle was on! There are pictures of the church at this website. One of the other people there (and at my next church) was Mike Critchlow. He puts some of his lovely photos on twitter and flickr


Ault is thought to be a corruption of the French “haute”, so it could mean Hucca’s High Valley. It is suggested that the church was on a prehistoric site, and this wonderful tree is pretty ancient. We will come to the Saxon tympanum later, and the church is mentioned in Doomsday. There are steps to the church, but there is disabled access via a long ramp to the north side – it wasn’t well signposted, and Julie took one look at the steps and went back to the car.


Inside the Norman Chancel Arch is quite amazing, and bears comparison with the figures in Allestree. My photos are dreadful – this is the only one that is any good. I am annoyed with myself, should have done better. Need to go back with a tripod. With the eye of faith you can see Creation, the Fall, the Flood and Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. Rahab the dragon and a serpent can also be seen – perhaps this was a visual aid in preaching and teaching.


This narrow arch is further east, and the altar is rather hidden.


The Nave roof dates to the C14 and there are rather nice figures – again, it should have been a better photo. The chest is another lovely piece of woodwork.


There are some good memorials – including this moving one to a 21 year old chorister – I wonder if another name was going to be added below.



At the east end of the south aisle we have this window, tomb and stone. The Cavendish Chapel was erected in the Perpendicular period of architecture in the C15 – before the Reformation an altar would have stood here. The Cavendish family are at Hardwick Hall, just down the road.

The East Window, the Savage Window, dates from 1527. We have Lady Elizabeth Savage and her daughter in the bottom corner – “Pray for the welfare of John Savage, Knight and Elizabeth his wife, who had me made in the 1527 of our Lord.” Over Christ’s head can be seen the sun, which has an eye in the centre, representing the glory of God. Christ’s naval is also an eye, which is interesting – there must be a theological reason for that.


The tomb is that of Ann, 1st Countess of Derbyshire. “In this tomb, under the figures of Modesty, Prudence, Love, Obedience, and Piety and of the subsidiary and guardian virtues, are placed and preserved the ashes of a most excellent woman, Ann Keighley, daughter and heiress of Henry of Keighley, in the Count of York, Knight. She married the exalted nobleman, William Cavendish, Knight of Cavendish, (afterwards raised to the Earldom of Devonshire) and bore him three sons, Gilbert, William and James, and as many daughters, Mary, Elizabeth and Frances. James, the youngster sleeps beside his mother. William, Earl of Devonshire and Lord of Hardwick, the heir and now the only survivor, who wishes to preserve at the same time the memory of his dearest mother and brothers and sisters, had this monument made.” William is buried at Edensor, just down the road from Chatsworth.


In front of Ann is a black marble slab “Here are buried the bones of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, who for many years, served the two Earls of Devonshire, father and son. A sound man and well known at home and abroad for the renown of his learning. He died in the Year of our Lord 1679 on the 4th day of the month of December in the Ninety first year of his age.” He may be one of England’s greatest philosophers, but I am ignorant – so read He was born in 1588, started school at 4, and by 6 was learning Greek and Latin. He graduated from Oxford in 1608 and was recommended to William Cavendish, Baron Hardwick, as a suitable secretary and tutor. He worked there until he died in 1679 at Hardwick, and was laid to rest here.

thomas-hobbesdsc04119Outside there are some nice headstones, but I missed the table tomb which used to bear the sad inscription

Rebecca, I, the fever caught

Through washing clothes from Sheffield bought.

No-one could assistance lend

To save me from this untimely end.”


This figure might cheer us up.


dsc04171On the west end of the church we have some wonderful carvings. A large tympanum and a lintel are set into the wall. The carving dates to the C12, and (according to the guidebook) the  lintel portrays the combat between St George and the dragon, or it might be St Michael. The notice outsides says that it is neither, but Christ. The figure is shown wielding a butcher’s knife. This is a reference to the last part of Gregory the Great’s commentary, the Moralia, in the Book of Job. Gregory explains that the knife will be used to cut up the flesh of Leviathan for the merchants of Jerusalem (Job 4). The scene depicts the combat between Incarnate Christ and Leviathan (Death). The shackle in which Leviathan had hoped to detain Christ has been uprooted and is falling sideways. Yes, of course, you all said. Here is a picture from 1795.



We ought to have a look at the tympanum in Hoveringham church in Nottinghamshire; we have already seen the one in Southwell Minster – see my blog. This is a fascinating church, and I must go back next summer.



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Chesterfield, Derbyshire – Holy Trinity

This weekend is Heritage Open Days, but Thursday and Friday were both too busy to get out. We started Saturday 10 September with a visit to the Allestree Autumn Fair, then went for a drive to Chesterfield. Holy Trinity church – SK383716 – has the grave of George Stephenson, so this was the obvious place to go (the church with the funny steeple will have to wait). The church has a website. As you can see, we parked right outside, and got a lovely welcome. They have a very comfy vestibule, the kettle was on and the cakes were delicious.



dsc04103George was being well commemorated – display boards from the museum, some models, and a collection of books (though not the excellent 2010 biography by David Ross which I have just finished). I liked this one, which was given as a Scripture Prize by the Vicar in 1886 (that’s my sort of Vicar).



Let’s pause for a moment, and record the history of the church. By the 1830s the parish church was nowhere near big enough for the population. A meeting was held, and by the end of it the money had been pledged. The Duke of Devonshire gave the land, and the foundation stone was laid on Wednesday 17 May 1837. “The cheerful pealing of the bells of the parish church was in harmony with the general feeling”. The Duke arrived at 11 am and was escorted to the Angel Inn for a “public breakfast”. The press recorded that there was “a profusion of viands, adapted to the most capricious taste.” 9,000 people went in procession to the church. The band played Psalm 100, His Grace was presented with a silver trowel and the foundation stone laid. “God Save the King” was sung – Victoria came to the throne on 20 June.

The guide doesn’t mention the architect or the opening date. A new book I have just found – Anglican Churches of Derbyshire, L.A.H. Combes, Landmark Publishing, 2004 – says the architect was Thomas Johnson. It was refurbished in 1889 when Cllr Rollinson was Warden – large plaque in his memory.dsc04100

In 1938 a new choir vestry was added, and the church was refurbished in 1994. This means that the stained glass window to the Reverend A. Poole, the first Rector, is now in the kitchen.


Let us go back to George. There is a memorial tablet just behind the altar, and he is buried nearer the wall. His wife Elizabeth is mentioned on a plaque on the wall.

dsc04096dsc04089dsc04073dsc04074As all my readers ought to know, he was born in Wylam, Northumberland, worked at Killingworth, then was involved in so many different railways. He moved to the Midlands and made even more money exploiting the coal seams of Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire. He bought Tapton House, which is now part of Chesterfield College (I can’t see any mention of it ever being open to the curious).


I like this story, which was recorded by Samuel Smiles:

“One Sunday, when the party had just returned from church, they were standing together on the terrace near the Hall, and observed in the direction a railway-train flashing along, tossing behind its long white plume of steam. ‘Now Buckland,’ said Stephenson, ‘I have a poser for you. Can you tell me what is the power that is driving that train?’ ‘Well,’ says the other, ‘I suppose it is one of your big engines.’ ‘But what drives the engine?’ ‘Oh, very likely a canny Newcastle driver.’ ‘What do you say to the light of the sun?’ ‘How can that be?’ asked the doctor. ‘It is nothing else,’ said the engineer, ‘it is light bottled up in the earth for tens of thousands of years, light, absorbed by plants and vegetables, being necessary for the condensation of carbon during the process of their growth, if it be not carbon in another form, and now, after being buried in the earth for long ages in fields of coal, that latent light is again brought forth and liberated, made to work as in that locomotive, for great human purposes.’ ”


Back in 2008 I gave a Lent Address in St Edmundsbury Cathedral on “Finding God in Invention” and looked at George’s life and faith (or lack of it). If anyone would like me to give the talk again, I’d be happy to do so. In that talk I said “I would love to be able to link George’s inventive genius with his Christian faith. To be able to say that here was a man who realised the gifts that God had given him, but George Stephenson was not a man for whom church going and organised religion was important. In politics and religion he had a sceptical and open mind. Towards the end of his life, his friend and fellow-engineer Thomas Summerside, a devout non-conformist, had several exchanges with him about his lack of faith. “I wish you were a Christian of the real sort”, said Summerside one day. “I am a Christian, Summerside”, Stephenson retorted. “No, Sir, you are not”, declared Summerside boldly. “I am a far better Christian than many of those priests”, retorted Stephenson hotly (Rolt, page 297).

One of those at his funeral in this church was Edward Pease. Now aged 81, he had been the Quaker financier behind the Stockton and Darlington. He made the journey from Darlington to Chesterfield – by train – to be present. Edward would not have found an Anglican funeral service to his liking, and he was worried by George’s lack of faith. To quote from his diary (Rolt, page 298): “His end was one that one seemed painfully to feel no ground, almost, for hope. I fear he died an unbeliever – the attendance at his funeral appeared to me to be a right step due to my association with him and his son. I do not feel condemned in doing so, yet gloomy and unconsolatory was the day. In the church I sat a spectacle with my hat on, and not comforted by the funeral service.”stamp


Let’s be more positive. One obituary of George said: “He was too truly great to be ashamed of the beginning out of which he sprung … He seemed the impersonation of the moving, active spirit of the age … take him for all in all, we shall not look upon his like again. Nay, we cannot, for in his sphere of invention and discovery, there cannot again be a beginning.”


The East Window was paid for by Robert Stephenson, in memory of his father. I liked the wooden screen behind the altar, and there is some lovely woodwork in the Chancel chairs – but no mention who made them.


Of course, George Stephenson is not the only person in this church who matters. They had a small display of WW1 along with their War Memorials.


They have some nice banners, a photo of previous clerics, and a photo of today’s people. Thank you for a lovely church.



Outside there is a Memorial to George Stevenson, with his wife Elizabeth who died young. Do read the poem. The guide comments that many people assume this is THE George Stephenson, so they have a plaque saying it isn’t. It would be lovely if the guide told us what George Stevenson did with his life.


A nice welcome and a church doing their best to keep it open and alive. They could do with clearing their gutters!


Outside the station is this statue. It was installed in 2005 and the artist was Stephen Hickling.


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Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway – St Michael

dsc03891On Wednesday 31 August I had a look at St Michael’s parish church in Dumfries – grid reference NX 975756. They have a website with this wonderful address – it is still advertising 2015 Christmas. The church was open and I got a good welcome – thanks for the guided tour, much appreciated. They have united three congregations in the one building – I wonder how that has worked. There is evidence suggesting that Ninian (circa 390 AD) stopped here en route to Whithorn – at least he didn’t have a wife who got no further than the Book Capital. There was a church around 700, and written records go back to 1190. The church is an A listed building, as is the cemetery – the trouble is that the church is built of local red sandstone, which is not a very durable material. A stunning steeple, but it only has one bell (having moved from Ponteland with its 6 bells to Allestree with 0, I am missing bells).


A typical Scottish chapel, reminding me of the Non Conformist chapels of my youth, with some good glass. I started in the gallery, and like the clock (I want one). Apparently they were very popular as they were not subject to tax, whereas Grandfather clocks were. The church guide tells me it keeps good time.


The stained glass in the gallery is lovely, but what is frustrating is that one of them has a shelf in front and a radiator underneath – I like Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.


The Good Shepherd window (which I assume is by the same person as the one above) is the only one to have an attribution – William Wilson, 1958. He was born in 1905 and studied at both the Edinburgh College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London. He founded his own studio in 1937, and he died in 1972. There is a book about his work as a print maker at this website, and some of his work is exhibited in that gallery. There is another of his windows in St Teresa’s church in Dumfries, and others in Canterbury Cathedral, Liverpool Cathedral and St Andrew’s University. Not sure how realistic his donkey is.


The Melchizedek Window is rather lovely, but quite difficult to photo, and I have no idea who made it.


There is other glass – much of it Victorian – downstairs.


The one of Jesus walking on the Water is dedicated to Margaret Milligan, Lady Anderson. Her husband, James Anderson, was the captain of the Great Eastern Steamship at the time that it successfully laid the first Atlantic Cable. My artist John Wilson Carmichael painted the ship as she was being built at Millwall. There is a website all about Atlantic submarine cables – here – and this picture is 1866.




The pulpit and its sounding board are the original and was built of Scotch fir at a cost of £15/10 shillings in 1746. I wonder if they could get a slightly less visual microphone wire. The organ is a Willis organ dating to 1890 – you can imagine the controversy.

dsc03909dsc03935dsc03908There are memorials to those who died in WW1 (some from other churches as well), and a commemoration of the Norwegians who were stationed here in WW2.


I liked the display of the old fashioned collection boxes, a display of Communion tokens, and the instruments used for making them.


The poet Robbie Burns was a regular member of the congregation and there is a plaque where he always sat. I love it when people who always sit in the same pew get their own plaque. The white marble bust of the poet was installed in 2009, on the 250th anniversary of his birth.  There is quite a lot more I missed, but more to come in the churchyard.


There are many wonderful memorials. They have done a trail of “Friends of Burns” and it would be fascinating to work round all of them.


In the corner is the Burns’ Mausoleum, erected by public subscription 18 years after his death – they moved his remains from the original grave, which is apparently still marked in the NE corner of the cemetery. Robbie and his wife Jean are at rest, along with five of their nine children.


My wife had been waiting for me for quite a while – I wonder if Jean had to wait while her husband wrote? He wrote a poem about her – this is the first verse

There was a lass, and she was fair,
At kirk or market to be seen;
When a’ our fairest maids were met,
The fairest maid was bonie Jean.

It’s a shame “bonie Julie” doesn’t quite scan – let’s make it English “fair Julie”. You can read the whole of Burns’ poem here. Thank you patient wife.


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Ruthwell and its Cross – Dumfries & Galloway

DSC03801Ruthwell Church is just north of the village – NY101682. What the OS map does not tell you, even with its “Selected places of tourist interest”, is that it contains the Ruthwell Cross. We parked and I entered the church. Other visitors gave me the key (if the church is locked the key lives outside the Manse). Having seen the cross I got Julie to come and see it too. The guidebook on sale is a book about the Cross by the Reverend John L. Dinwiddie. He was minister of the parish for 45 years from 1890 – apparently there were 113 applicants for the post! This is the 2014 10th edition of his book.

ruthwell cross

The cross is in the care of Historic Scotland – website – which suggests you need an appointment to view it. You don’t. This website has some good images.

The Cross dates to the early C8 and many scholars link it to the Northumbrian Church – you can see links with Bewcastle – see my blog. The guide suggests links with Eastern Mediterranean craftsmen – perhaps from Syria.


On the south face we have (top to bottom) the Archer, the Visitation, Mary Magdalene washing Jesus’ feet, Healing the Man born blind, The Annunciation, and the Crucifixion (much damaged).DSC03767


On the north face two Evangelists, John the Baptist with the Agnus Dei, Christ Glorified, Breaking bread in the desert, The flight into Egypt.



The runes down the side of the cross are the Dream of the Rood – a very old poem which tells the story of the crucifixion from the perspective of the cross. Here is one translation:

God almighty stripped himself,
when he wished to climb the Cross
bold before all men.
to bow (I dare not,
but had to stand firm.)

I held high the great King,
heaven’s Lord. I dare not bend.
Men mocked us both together.

I was slick with blood
sprung from the Man’s side…)

Christ was on the Cross.
But then quick ones came from afar,
nobles, all together. I beheld it all.
I bowed (to warrior hands.)

Wounded with spears,

they laid him, limb weary.

At his body’s head they stood.
They that looked to (heaven’s Lord…)


The Cross has had an interesting life. It was presumably erected as a preaching cross, a place where the faithful gathered, and where they learned the story through the illustrations. Its exact site is not known.

In 1560 the Church of Scotland broke away from the Catholic Church, and in 1640 – as part of their return to their Scriptural roots – passed an “Act anent the demolishing of Idolatrous Monuments”. One assumes that this was not aimed at a Saxon Cross, and the Reverend Gavin Young, Ruthwell’s minister at the time, ignored it for a couple of years, but was then ordered to remove the Cross. Rather than have it destroyed by people with more zeal than himself, he took it down and buried it carefully. A trench was dug and what is now the west side of the cross (the narrow side) was lowered in. It was safe. Having become minister here in 1617 Young survived until 1671 – we owe him a great debt.

The church was refloored in 1780 and the Cross placed outside. The Reverend Henry Duncan had become minister the previous year, and he was fascinated by it. He collected the pieces together, had a new cross-head carved to replaced that which was now missing (he based it on other Cross-heads which were in the custody of Durham Cathedral), and in 1823 re-erected it in the garden of the Manse. In 1887 the Reverend James McFarlan returned it to the church. The church was rebuilt with a carved apse, and the stone was sunk into the ground. They debated raising the roof, but the bottom carvings are quite badly decayed, so sinking it down was a reasonable compromise. It looks very good.


Behind the Cross are three stained glass windows, installed in 1906 in memory of Mr McFarlan. Aidan, Cuthbert and Hilda, with some lines from the Dream of the Rood.


Another rather lovely window is in the main aisle – Nicodemus coming to Jesus by night. Early C20 I assume, no mention in the guidebook.


The font is C13 and came from Mouswald church just down the road when that closed in 2011. The coat of arms is that of Sir David de Torthorwald who was killed in battle in 1296. Nice chair too.


Outside we have some lovely gravestones. The Memorial Wall is to the Duncan family. Henry Duncan, the minister here, was the founder of the first Savings Bank in 1810. There is a Savings Bank Museum in the village, which we should have visited. It was established to encourage the habit of thrift among the ordinary man – and paid interest at 5%. Will we ever get back to trusting banks again? They seem to have far less stature than a solid stone cross.



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Eastriggs, Gretna and Quintinshill, Dumfries and Galloway

A week’s holiday near Dumfries – lovely Sykes Cottage. I won’t blog the whole holiday, but there’s a couple of churches to come. I will blog a museum, a Church Hall, and a railway accident – a day exploring on Monday 29 August 2016.


The Devil’s Porridge Museum at Eastriggs remembers all those who worked in the WW1 ammunition factories that stretched across from here, through Gretna, to Longtown – a distance of about 9 miles.

DSC03743We knew quite a lot about them from the play Timbertown Girls which we saw in Carlisle last summer – see my blog. The museum is excellent – very good displays and AV. We took our time, working through a lot of the material on the computers, and having coffee in the middle of our visit. Very good volunteers, some excellent chats. Highly recommended. Their website is here.


The whole complex was built within a year, in 1915, after press coverage attacking the government when early battles of WW1 revealed a distinct lack of shells and bullets. At the height of production HM Factory Gretna employed 30,000 workers manufacturing RDB Cordite, a new type of munitions propellant. By 1917 it was producing 1,100 tons of cordite per week. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle paid a visit in 1916 and wrote “There the nitroglycerine on the one side and gun cotton on the other are kneaded together into a sort of Devil’s Porridge … this is where the danger comes in. The least generation of heat may cause an explosion. Those smiling khaki-clad girls who are swirling the stuff round in their hands would be blown to atoms in an instant if certain very small changes occurred.”


There was also a display about the railway disaster at Quintinshill – more on that in a moment. The fireless loco is parked outside – there were 125 miles of railway in the complex. Some is still there (spot the buffers).



I picked up a leaflet about the village, and went for a walk. It is well laid out, and you can see where the original buildings have been adapted, and it is good to see that some of the buildings from WW1 are still in use. Some lovely gardens too. Sadly the Episcopal church was locked. It was a lovely walk.


We drove to Gretna and, now we know that it was also a munitions estate village, you can see the type. We drove into Gretna Green, which is the community on the old main road, and found the Church of Scotland were doing teas in the Church Hall. Two rolls, drinks and cake for £5.50 – thank you!

We drove up the minor road beside the Blacksmith Shop to the bridge where the road crosses the railway, and the dead of Quintinshill are remembered (grid reference NY 316696) – this is at the north end of the loops.

DSC03762DSC03760There was loop on both the up and down side of the main line between Carlisle and Lockerbie. On the morning of 22 May 1915 there was a coal train in each loop. At about 6.30 am the slow passenger from Carlisle to Beattock was diverted back into the Up main line to let two down expresses past. Travelling on this train was the relief signalman, James Tinsley. He should have relieved signalman George Meakin, who had been on duty all night, at 6 am, but the two of them had an arrangement. George would write all train movements after 6 on a separate piece of paper, and James would copy them into the Register when he arrived, so his late arrival would not be noticed – although other sources have suggested that the local inspector know and was keeping a blind eye on the situation.



The first Down express went through. Then, at 6.42, an Up troop train was offered and accepted – James had forgotten the train he had got off, George had forgotten the train he had signalled onto the Up Main. Neither had warned the box at Kirkpatrick (to the north) to tell them the line was blocked, nor placed the warning collar on the lever. At 6.50 the troop train crashed into the local, and – less than a minute later – the second Down express hit the wreckage. The troop train caught fire – it was made of wood and lit by gas.


216 Royal Scots died, and at least 12 others – the driver and fireman of the troop train, two Naval officers, three Army officers, a sleeping car attendant, two civilians, plus a mother and baby from the local train. There has been speculation that there were four children, but bodies were never claimed. The soldiers were members of the 1st/7th (Leith) Battalion, The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment) en route from Larbert (where there is a memorial at the station) to board a troop ship at Liverpool. Only 83 of the bodies were identifiable – the remaining 133 could not be identified, or had literally been cremated. 101 bodies were buried in Rosebank Cemetery Leith on 24 May. My friend Jeremy has been and visited – thanks for the photos.



This rifle, in the museum, was caught in the flames.


Seven Officers and 55 Other Rank were all that were uninjured. They were sent on to Carlisle, then joined a train at 2 am on the morning of 23 May on to Liverpool. Eventually someone in authority decided to end them back to Edinburgh. After two weeks leave they were sent to Gallipoli. Who knows how many of the 62 who survived the crash perished in that conflict.

Both signalmen were convicted of culpable homicide and served time in prison. Both were re-employed by the Railway. Everything was kept very quiet – I am reading the Great Eastern Railway Magazine which was the staff magazine of the GER. I can find no mention of “Quintinshill” anywhere. You would think they might have used it as a warning as to what happens if the Rules are bent. Simple mistakes, and so many people died.

There are lots of fascinating websites about the crash – there are a couple. National Archive. Timbertown girls production.


It was a day with lots of food for thought.

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Alsop en le Dale, Derbyshire – St Michael

Wednesday 24 August was a beautiful day. After a morning service we drove to Ashbourne and parked in the centre. It is not the most Julie-wheelchair-friendly town, but Costa is accessible and there is a very good Oxfam bookshop. Those of you who know my wife will know that was expensive. Then we drove north and went to Alsop en le Dale – I last looked down on this village from my balloon.

DSC03484-01St Michael’s church is at SK160551, park of the Peak Five group. The house opposite is quite special too. A welcoming notice telling me the church is open, and the noticeboard inside is busy.



The church has an early Norman foundation, and a rather splendid Norman doorway. There are foundation charters from 1240 and 1290, when it was a dependency of the mother church in Ashbourne. The registers date back to 1701.


The church was restored in 1883, much of it paid for by Sir Henry Allsopp. Apparently the Allsopps still come together in the village on a June Sunday every year. Perhaps I should start a custom of Barhams coming together at one of our three villages (Huntingdon, Suffolk and Kent). A tower was built, a new floor with Minton tiles, and the oak pulpit was apparently “removed” from an Ashbourne church. Rather a good pulpit. The architect was Mr F.J. Robinson of Derby.


The Millennium window is by Henry Haig, and was installed in July 2001. Its design is based on Revelation 21 and 22 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth”. The river of life flows up the centre of the window, arising out of the throne of God. It is also suggestive of the cross of Christ – an empty cross, symbolising the resurrection. The reddish fruits of the trees of life can be seen, and the shapes of alpha and omega symbolizing the fact that Christ is the beginning and end of all things. The green reflects the connection made with the landscapes of Derbyshire and the glory and splendour of God’s creation. The yellow represents the light of the glory of God, and you can see the descending Holy Spirit. Lovely!


DSC03610DSC03612Outside are some lovely tombs. Ralph Johnson and his wife Grace, Mary and Francis, are remembered on the side of the church. Two sad slate graves are Naomi (aged 7), her baby sister Rachel, and her mother Rachel (aged 44, the year after Naomi died).  My heart goes out to Joseph, husband and dad.


We drove back into Tissington, had an ice cream in the café opposite the church, and then drove to the car park on the Tissington trail, at the old station. I left Julie with one of the many books she had bought, and went for a 3 mile walk to Alsop station, and 3 miles back. A good walk, nice views, but nothing at Alsop when I got there. There is a photo of the station just after closure at this website. You can just see the churchyard from the station.



We drove back the pretty way, a wonderful ford, Bradbourne (a Thankful village), Hognaston, Hulland and Kedleston. Lots of churches to discover and blog – you lucky people!



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Tissington, Derbyshire – St Mary

When I left Ponteland, the lovely staff of Richard Coates School gave me a balloon flight as a leaving present – jokes about Vicars and Hot Air. I flew from Tissington on Monday 15 August with Virgin balloons – website. I had to be there at 6 am, so parked by the Hall and Church, and walked up to the launch field.

DSC03390Being one of the first there, Graham the pilot, Chris his sidekick, and me got the hot air blowing into the balloon, and I hung on to various ropes and did what I was told. 16 of us in the basket plus the pilot – a little cosy.


We flew north from the village, with views over the Hall and the church, then roughly up the line of the old railway. We decided the trees look like those on a model railway layout.


Dovedale down below us, a mile or two to the west, and then we flew over Alsop en le Dale. That will be another church to blog. It was fascinating looking down and working out the various features we could see, wondering why the fields were that shape, and just enjoying the silence when the burner was turned off. You do feel as if you are simply floating.


After about an hour we were looking for a place to land, and a recently harvested field did the job.

DSC03516We were warned to sit down in the basket, to brace ourselves against the backrest, hold the rope, and not to stand up until we were told to. In fact it was a gentle bump, a short drag, and we came to rest.

DSC03522We climbed out, got the air out of our balloon and packed it away. We had a trailer ride to the nearest road, then a minibus back to Tissington. We all said farewell, though we could have done with a cooked breakfast. The café in Tissington was not open yet – it was still before 10 am – so I had a walk to explore the church.


St Mary’s church Tissington stands in the middle of a beautiful village – SK176522. To quote Pevsner “From the triangular green one enjoys a picture of exquisite beauty”. Across the road is Tissington Hall, built in 1609 and still lived in by the FitzHerbert family – website.  Nice to see the church has a page and a link to the parish website. Rather unbelievably for a church in a tourist hotspot, there was no guidebook on sale. I eventually found a Tissington book at the Tourist Office in Ashbourne which has a couple of pages about the church.

There are some lovely yew trees in the churchyard, and the sun was bright. It is obviously a Norman church, look at the solidity of the tower – though much of the “Norman” work on the Nave is Victorian. Inside the porch is a wonderful tympanum, early Norman. Pevsner puts it beautifully: “The doorway is Norman too; one order of colonnettes with one scallop and one primitive volute capital, billet frieze in the label, and a tympanum with two little standing figures to the left and right, a double diaper frieze between them, and the main field with a plain chequerboard pattern and a cross distinguished by diapers in its five chequerboard fields.” If you wonder what “diaper” is – this is a useful website. I wonder if anyone gave permission for that cable attached just below it.


Inside is a church with some amazing things. Let’s start with a Norman font. See what images you can make from these photos. Quite a magnificent organ for a village church.


DSC03543The Chancel Arch is lovely – but the C18 pulpit on the right and huge monument on the left rather take away from it. The monument is to Francis and Sir John FitzHerbert – father and son – and their wives. Francis died in 1619 and Sir John in 1642. Francis was married to Elizabeth Bullock, Sir John to an Elizabeth FitzHerbert (I wonder what the connection was). The monument is beautifully executed and the costumes are wonderful – amazing robes and ruffs.


DSC03554DSC03552DSC03555DSC03553Another lovely memorial is Mary FitzHerbert, died 1677 – lovely putti at the top. This one is good too, and there are others around the church.


The Communion rail dates to 1570-80, apparently made by Roileys of Burton. Their work is also in Gayton, Northamptonshire, and Somerton, Oxfordshire. Be interesting to know more about them.

DSC03556DSC03563Finally, enjoy Noah’s Ark in this undated window.


A dominant war memorial in the churchyard, plus some interesting tombs.


The Hall looks worth a visit, and wells to dress – a Derbyshire custom I will learn more about.


I stopped in Ashbourne for a late breakfast – scrambled eggs and Derbyshire oat cakes. An excellent way to start the week.


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Glasgow – St Andrew’s Catholic Cathedral

DSC03277There was a cheap deal on Virgin Trains, and a day return from Crewe to Glasgow for £14 is not to be sniffed at. On time into Glasgow, and time for a walk. I had never been down to the Clyde, so walked down the side of the station to the river. It is not the most beautiful river, but there is a bridge leaflet here. The piers are those of the first Caledonian Railway Bridge, built in 1878 and demolished in 1966. The current railway bridge is the 1905 Caledonian Railway Company’s ‘New Clyde Viaduct’. Before opening it was load tested with 19 locomotives.” Imagine being the chap driving loco nineteen. The road bridge on the right of the top photo the George the Fifth Bridge opened in 1928.  The statue is called La Pasionaria, and is by Arthur Dooley. It commemorates those who fought in the Spanish Civil War. More details here.

DSC03293DSC03286DSC03289I had walked this way to come and visit one of the Betjeman Best Churches, St Andrew’s Catholic Cathedral – congratulations on a superb website and domain name . DSC03295DSC03296The foundation stone was laid in 1814 as a church was needed to serve the growing numbers of Catholics in the City.  Many of these were labourers, who had come from the Catholic districts of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and across from Ireland. Their parish priest was Andrew Scott, and this church is a result of amazing work by a poor community. The architect was James Gillespie Graham. It was one of the first buildings in Scotland of the Neo-Gothic revival, as influenced by Pugin (a good friend of Graham’s). In 1878 it became the seat of the Archbishop of Glasgow and (officially) the Cathedral. It was restored between 2009 and 2011. The guidebook (an excellent publication) says “the 2011 restoration brought light, colour and fresh décor to the Cathedral.” The door was open so I walked in to a beautiful space.


In the porch we have a mosaic from 2011, designed by Netta Ewing and crafted by the studio of Hani Mourad in Bethlehem. St Andrew and St Mungo were painted by Brendan Barry in 2010. In background of the first painting, St Rule is seen handing over a casket with St Andrew’s relics to a monk waiting on the shore below the cliffs at St Andrews. St Mungo is portrayed standing on a wooded hillside above the Clyde Valley.


The font is very special, and the white marble leads from door to font to altar.


The font was sculpted by Tim Pomeroy in 2011 from a four tonne block of Carrara marble, from the same quarry Michelangelo used for his masterpieces. The water springs up from the bases – a direct link to John 4.14 “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst … it will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Lovely carving when you get down and look.


Also worth looking up  – though I didn’t quite get the ceiling boss in focus.


The High Altar and Sanctuary are rather special, with the words of St Andrew and St Peter engraved on the altar. The glass dates to 1859, but they have no record of the artist. The decoration was all renewed at the restoration, and adds just the right amount of colour and sparkle to the church.


On the north side is the Blessed Sacrament Aisle and Chapel. The painting is of Saint John Ogilvie, and is by Peter Howson 2010. The guide says that he is “illuminated by a column of light and radiating peace to the onlooker”. I have to disagree – a picture of a man about to be hanged does not radiate peace to me. He was martyred in 1615 at Glasgow Cross – part of our country’s history that should sadden us. I hope he accepted his death and found peace, I hope that the many who are martyred this day find peace as they accept death – but I’m not sure that I should find peace as I watch. Perhaps my unease is because I am part of the Established Church, the Church that caused him to be killed.



DSC03302On the south side is the Lady Aisle. The traditional statue, from the C19 altar, now surmounts the new sacristy door. The angels either side, and the figures of the door, were designed by Jack Sloan and worked in steel by Hector McGarva. On the doors we have Saints Ninian, Brigid, Andrew, Mungo, Margaret of Scotland and Columba, each identified by the symbols proper to them. Lots of candle lighting opportunities too!


Outside is an Italian Cloister Garden, which would have been lovelier if the rain hadn’t started. It was designed by the Roman architect Giulia Chiarini. A 200 year old olive tree, gifted by the people of Tuscany, has been planted, and a fountain and stream traverse the central space. There are plaques telling the sotry of the Cathedral, sculptured Coats of Arms from the medieval past, and a memorial to the Arandora Star, torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Ireland on 2 July 1940. 805 lives were lost, many of them Italian. There are two websites with details – here and here.

DSC03329DSC03330DSC03331On the other side, the Cathedral is reflected in the modern building – the two go very well together. I had really enjoyed my visit here.

DSC03336After lunch I went to Central Station for a guided tour – their website has excellent photos. The original station is 1879, with a major rebuild at the turn of the century. Paul was our guide, and we went down under the platforms. Coal and grain were stored here, you can see where the horses were tied, gas mantles and lots of rivets. We were told many stories, including about the War dead when they were still bought back from France in 1914. The bodies would be taken off the train, and laid out in the vault below. Wives, mothers, girlfriends and sisters would come to see if they could identify their loved ones – imagine the state of the corpses. If they found them, then they had the responsibility of getting his body home (the army’s responsibility finished when they arrived in Glasgow). Upstairs to find a couple of men hanging round the station, and hope they would carry for you if you paid them a couple of shillings. Can you imagine their pain? Paul is hoping to get a memorial – the painted boards were part of a temporary display – he also has plans to clean and restore some of the deepest parts of the station, perhaps to get a coach in the platform. It will be worth going back. A fascinating afternoon – highly recommended.


I amaze myself how much I can pack into one day!


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Lincoln, Lincolnshire – St Benedict

St Benedict’s church is the Mothers’ Union church in the centre of Lincoln – SK974711. It is run by the Lincoln Mothers’ Union, and they have a website, but it doesn’t tell me when the church is open. On Wednesday 10 August we had had lunch in the nice Italian – Bar Unico – across the road, then Julie went shopping and I explored with my camera. They had a welcoming poster outside, and rather lovely flowers inside.


The church is just a bit of a church. There was a probably a Saxon church on the site, but the first written record is in 1170. Robert Dalderby, one time Mayor of Lincoln, probably founded a chantry at the altar of St Mary’s in this church. Apparently, in return for a lump sum of 300 pounds of silver, two chaplains would be paid a yearly rent of ten pounds of silver for their ministry. In 1378 Roger de Tateshall (Tatershall) built and endowed a chapelry. The church was the headquarters of the Guild of Our Lady and the Fishers’ Guild.


In the C16 the parishes of Lincoln were reorganized. The number was apparently reduced from 49 to 9. The guidebook says this was a number “which still far exceeded the needs of the population. Most of the churches were small and mean and in disrepair, and, indeed, several had fallen victims of the Civil War. St Botolph had collapsed, and the tower and nave of St Benedict were so much damaged that they were taken down, the tower rebuilt across the Chancel arch.” So what we have left is a C13 chancel, an early C14 chapel, and the replacement of a collapsed Saxon tower.


There are some interesting faces on the south side immediately under the eaves, and you can see by the door where different bits of the building once existed.

DSC03222DSC03221In the C18 there was only a monthly service in the church, this became monthly, and the church closed in 1854. By 1928 the fabric was in a dangerous condition. It was restored and reopened by 1932. In 1969 it became the MU centre. I got a nice welcome, some lovely flowers and MU displays – all linked. The lock is rather special , made of oak it is 400 years old.



A nice altar with gorgeous Perpendicular Gothic window.  Was the niche for books and vessels?


The font is C18. The statuette dates to the C15, probably from Antwerp, given to the church in 1932. Mary with a jar of ointment.


DSC03231A Coat of Arms (George I), good memorial and some nice glass.



This brass, difficult to photo because of the reflection, was at St Peter’s at Arches until the church was demolished in 1932. It represents John Becke, who founded a noble citizen family. He was a draper and Alderman of the City, and ultimately Mayor of Lincoln. He, his wife Maria, and ten children, are depicted kneeling. Father and seven sons, wife and three daughters. Two of the children, Augustine and Marie, are holding skulls, indicating that they died before their parents. The guidebook does not give the date, but her costume dates to the time of the Puritans.


The City’s War Memorial stands in a small garden outside the church. The details are at this website – it was installed in 1922. I noticed the stone to one to Bill Fowler, who died on HMS Barham when she was sunk in 1941. He was one of 841 men who died in the Mediterranean that day.

DSC03217DSC03251hms barham

The HMS Barham association have a site here. They have an Annual Memorial at Evensong in Westminster Abbey every November – Gareth and I went in 2011, when they commemorated the 70th anniversary. It was the last occasion when survivors processed the standard down the Nave to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. Bearing in mind that those men were in their late 80s, early 90s, it was extremely moving – you could have heard a pin drop.


In this centenary year of the Battle of Jutland we ought to record that she also played a part in that conflict – details here. We visited the Naval Graveyard on the Island of Hoy in Orkney a few years ago where the survivors are buried. I want an Orkney holiday next year – you can wait for the blog.

I also spotted an Arthur Barham, Sergeant 53638, Royal Garrison Artillery. He died in WW1. I wondered if he was any relation to us.


We went up the hill, and walked along to the Castle to visit “Wave” from the installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’. Poppies and original concept by artist Paul Cummins, installation designed by Tom Piper. It was made by Paul Cummins Ceramics Limited in conjunction with Historic Royal Palaces. They were originally at HM Tower of London in 2014. It was actually a bit disappointing, partly because the sun was in the wrong direction to get a decent photo – but it feels a bit mean to moan when it marks the sacrifice of so many.



Later Cathedral Evensong was sung by an American choir – not bad at all – and we had soup at a nice café. Back to the Cathedral for the Mystery Plays – wonderful. Rain started falling at the interval, and by the end of the play we were both thinking “come on, resurrect”. It was very special, and (despite the weather) we were glad we went.



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Belper, Derbyshire – Christ Church

Belper is a town we regularly visit – a manageable branch of Morrisons. On Monday 8 August we went to explore the town. The main road is not the easiest to wheel along, so I left Julie in Belper library while I went to visit the church. An excellent library – we must not loose them. They have some excellent reading lists, but I can’t find them on line – libraries website. Something to think about at the library door.


Christ Church, Belper, is at the high end of the Church of England. One recent priest is now a Greek Orthodox Priest, another is a Catholic Priest. Father Jonathan is currently in charge – he was on the interview panel which gave me this new job (thank you!). I like the Welcoming banner for Derbyshire Churches, and the Welcoming notice on the door. I hadn’t found the website but it looks worth an explore. I need to update our church information. The What’s On page looks interesting – several flower festivals – but it raises the question, how does one get an event on to it? I will make enquiries. The church has an excellent website.


The church stands on the triangle, where the roads from Derby, Matlock and Ashbourne meet. Originally the little hamlet of Beaurepaire looked to the parish church in Duffield, and a chapel of ease was established in the C13. It served until the early C19 but, by then, the rapid rise in population, resulting from the establishment of the Strutt Mill in 1776, meant the chapel was far too small. The church of St Peter’s was built, but that wasn’t big enough either. In 1845 the Strutt family provided the impetus for this church to be built. First the new Ecclesiastical District of Bridge Hill was created, a priest in charge appointed, and church services were then held in the Club Room of the nearby Talbot Public House. An appeal was launched for a new church and, in 1847, a plot of land was purchased at 8s 6d per square yard. The Appeals committee must have done an excellent job – donations came from “a servant, Brighton”, “Henley on Thames Cricket Club” and Her Majesty, Adelaide, the Queen Dowager. By the time the foundation stone was laid, two thirds of the money had been raised, and the rest was supplied by grants. The church was consecrated on Tuesday 30 July 1950.


The church was designed by H.I. Stevens. It reflects the Early English style of architecture, harkening back to a simplicity of design and an early Christian style of architecture. The altar is prominent, the centrality of the Mass, and everything faces it. Medieval Catholic tradition, with plenty of symbols. You can decide on the symbolism of the butterfly – we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar at our Theo’s funeral.


At the west end, the font and a Lady Chapel is up a very high step. They have some redevelopment plans which seems to replace one big step with two smaller steps. Could we manage a wheelchair ramp? The font has a drum stem, with eight engaged shafts. Eight is a number formed of one circle leading out of another – a symbol of re-birth. Back to caterpillars and butterflies …


The War Memorial in church is a First World War memorial. The Second World War memorial is on the outside of the church. The War Memorial window is, as so often, St George. There is some nice Victorian stained glass – much of it by Kempe. The sun was very strong, and in the wrong direction.


There is a huge amount of research I could do about the Strutt family and the history of Belper. It will be a pleasure. This looks a good place to start – website – and this website covers the North Mill.


Several of the windows were installed in memory of previous Vicars, and to Mothers Superior of the Community of St Laurence in Field Lane. In 1876 the Reverend Edward Hillyard came to Belper from Norwich, and the nuns of the Community of St Laurence came too. This Laurence stood in the community until, after 120 years, the remaining nuns moved to Southwell. The last two sisters went into care homes in 2012 – one aged 87, the other 101.


The tiles in the Chancel floor tell the story of Melchizedek (Genesis 14) – I’m sure I have commented before that his ministry was in the windows of the Theological College Chapel in Lincoln. The reredos shows the 12 apostles, and is based on the medieval screen at Ranworth in Norfolk – I need a holiday doing Norfolk churches sometime. It was designed by Henry Temple Moore and installed in 1909. It cost £7 a panel, so that is £84 in total. Restoration in the 1990s cost £2,600. The church guidebook gives a very useful potted biography of each apostle.


There is a lot more in this church I could have photoed – worth another visit sometime. The town has some fascinating architecture. The Mill, the Penny Bank, the Lion Hotel and Sweet Memories. Splendid flowers too.



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