northernvicar walks – April 2017

I started the month with an 8 mile circuit of Carsington Water on Saturday 1 April. Then started the 14th week of the year with a walk at Kedleston. We had a day in Buxton – I bought a new pair of walking boots, then climbed up to Solomon’s Temple – website. I did a few miles later in the week delivering Easter cards round Allestree, and we had a coffee at the National Stone Centre while I did another walk – 23 miles that week.

14 miles in Holy Week – one has to do some work! On Palm Sunday afternoon we went to Nottingham. Julie was happy in a huge Waterstone’s while I had a walk to the Great Northern Station and then along the canal as far as the Gregory Street tram stop. Happy Julie, happy Peter. The Nottingham and Beeston Canal has this website.

At the end of the week I had a day on the Talyllyn Railway, and a walk up to the incline in the woods above Nant Gwernol. The Talyllyn is one of my favourite lines – here is their website.

Week 16 started on Easter Sunday. On Easter Monday I got up early and caught the bus to Ambergate. I then walked the Cromford Canal in an easterly direction. Here is the Friends of Cromford Canal website. Sadly this section is derelict, but it was fascinating following the route. Bluebells in the woods by the National Grid site. Over the railway and road, where Bullbridge Aqueduct used to stand – this engraving was done for Francis Thompson, the architect of the North Midland line. The whole thing was demolished in 1968 as the arch over the road was a little narrow.

Through Buckland Hollow Tunnel, and through to Hartshay. Two main roads are built over the line of the canal, and the Butterley Tunnel is closed. The original tunnel was 2966 yards long, and about 9 feet wide and 8 feet high (from water level). At the time of building it was the third longest in the world.

The walk goes past the Midland Railway Centre, which I haven’t visited for years, then I cut down into Ripley and caught the bus home from outside the Hippodrome cinema. That was 8 miles.

Later in the week I had a walk from Breadsall round through Little Eaton. The blossom is lovely this year.

As well as two churches Jess and I walked a good few miles in London – we also said “hello” to John Henry Greathead. His statue is on Cornhill, by the Royal Exchange in the City. There is an excellent blog about him here. That was 25 miles in the week.

Week 17 was 22 miles. The 2nd of my Derwent Walks, some lovely walks through the Bluebell Woods through Allestree Park and Quarndon, and a trot along the Monsal Trail.

Then I finished the month with 5 miles on Sunday 30 April from Wirksworth station, up to the Cromford and High Peak, up to Middleton Top, and back through the quarries.

At end of March I had done 173 miles (I should have done 247, so I was 74 miles in debt). In April I did 97 (I should have done 82). So, in the first four months of the year I have done 270 miles (I should have done 329). I am now 59 miles in debt.


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Derwent Valley Walk 2 – Hathersage to Grindleford

I walked the first 5 miles of the Derwent Valley Heritage Way on Monday 1 August 2016 – if you want to find it on northernvicar, click on Derwent Walk on the right hand side of this screen. 8 months later I walk the next 3 miles. I will make no comment. On Tuesday 25 April 2017 we had been to Sheffield. I gave platelets, Julie had coffee with Harry. As we drove over the hills into the Peak District it started sleeting.

We parked at the Plough Inn, on the B6001 at SK234804 – website – and it was blue sky there. They got a ramp out so we could get the wheelchair in, but they don’t have a wheelchair accessible loo. I left Julie with a white wine and big sandwich, and went for a walk.

I crossed the Derwent at Leadmill Bridge, originally an C18 packhorse bridge, and turned right along the north side of the river. Apparently the rather exotic pieces of stone come from a large steel plant in South Yorkshire. There is a sewerage plant here, but it doesn’t intrude. It is a very well signposted trail.

After the cottages at Harper Lees you walk across the meadow – and a lovely meadow it is too.  The clouds were going grey.

I entered the National Trust Longshaw Estate, Coppice Wood – the estate has a website. I was very glad to enter the woods as the heavens decided to sleet. Later I looked it up. According to the Met Office “Sleet is a type of solid precipitation that occurs during winter weather. Sleet has no internationally agreed definition but is reported in meteorological observations as a combination or mix of rain and snow. Essentially, it is frozen precipitation that partially melts as it falls and has begun the melting process before it reaches the ground.” I have decided we should stop worrying about Brexit and commit to finding an internationally agreed definition of sleet. There are the remains of several weirs across the river, an indication of its historic importance for fishing (or so the book says).

I reached the B6521, only about 2 miles from the Plough. I debated moving on and then bussing back, but decided a circle would be easier. It’s a nice notice from the Sir William Hotel – unfortunately when I wanted to leave Julie there on another day and do the next stretch of the walk we found their toilets are accessible to all … as long as you’re not in a wheelchair. St Helen’s Grindleford is 1910, but I didn’t view it today, nor visit the Community Shop.

I walked past the Maynard Hotel, then down to the station and café. I love the way the accent has been added to café. It was closed. The station dates to 1894. They started boring the three mile long Totley Tunnel in September 1888. It was a very wet tunnel, and they didn’t finish it until 1892. There is a photo of it being dug here.

I walked along the footpath on the north side of the track, past Brunt’s Barn (a Peak Park Volunteers’ Centre – website) and a nature park for schools. Padley Chapel is a Grade I building, Former gatehouse and chapel, now a Roman Catholic chapel. C14 and C15, with later alterations, formerly part of a quadrangular house, the foundations of which survive to the north east. Sadly it was locked, but there are decent photos here. According to the Hallam Diocese website the Chapel is open on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons, or perhaps we could take a group from church here as part of our Reformation commemorations.

I crossed the line and looked back to Grindleford Signal Box. I will walk and get a closer photo at some point, but in the meantime look at this chap’s flickr site.

Then down to the river and back along the valley. I must have done about 6 miles by the time I got back, but I’d managed to turn Strava off. I had an excellent suet pudding in the Plough – not the cheapest pub, but the food is gorgeous. It had been a lovely afternoon.



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Guild Church of St Margaret Pattens, London

We walked from the Temple down to the Thames, had a boat ride to North Greenwich, then crossed the Thames on the cable car. A ride to Canary Wharf and an explore there. Back to the City, and we walked past the Guild Church of St Margaret Pattens is in Rood Lane, just off Eastcheap, with its lead-covered spire reflected in the nearby buildings. The church is dedicated to St Margaret of Antioch. She died in the Diocletian persecutions of the fourth century – I wondered if she is commemorated here because someone returned from the Crusades. The fourth church on this site was destroyed by the Great Fire, and this replacement is by Christopher Wren between 1684-87 (interesting that it was twenty years after the fire before it was rebuilt). It was damaged during WW2 and restored in 1955-6. The tower and spire were built and finished by means of the tax on coal entering the Port of London, and is the only lead-covered spire left.

Entering the church there are two substantial church warden pews, and the Royal Stuart coat of arms, probably that of James II. The organ dates to 1749 and was originally the work of Thomas Griffen Esq. It is still housed in its fine C18 case, and has a Grade 1 Historical Organs Certificate awarded by the British Institute of Organ Studies (hope you’re impressed!). It is a lovely open church, which feels typically Wren, and I love the chandelier.

The windows reflect the two Livery Companies – basket makers are self explanatory, pattens are the wooden undershoes which were made nearby. Both the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers and the Worshipful Company of Basket Makers have been attached to this church since the C15. The last patten maker in London retired in the C19, there is a display about them in church.

The altar and wooden surroundings are rather nice. The reredos contains a painting by the Italian painter Carlo Maratta (1625-1713) depicting Christ with the ministering angels in Gethsemane.  My photo is lousy, so have a look at the church website to see much better photos (of this and all the other things I missed. Enjoy the virtual tour). I like the top painting of the meal at Emmaus – Luke tells us it was Cleopas and his companion. I have always thought it was Cleopas and Mrs Cleopas – and it looks as if this painter (name not mentioned in the leaflet) agrees with me. Good solid altar rails too.

The font is nice too, but that’s not mentioned in the guide either. I need to go back and have a better explore.



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Temple Church, London – St Mary

On Friday 21 April I had a day in London with Jess. We met at Euston and walked down past Persephone Books – website. They are a lovely publisher who have kept my wife happy for many years – a reminder you can read Julie’s blog here. We crossed Fleet Street and entered the Temple. I was settling down to write up this blog while watching Diarmaid MacCulloch’s A History of Christianity dvd – and he starts talking about this church. His books are excellent, and this dvd well worth watching. I don’t know why I haven’t visited this church before. I have enjoyed Elizabeth Chadwick’s series of books about William Marshall (one of them is called The Greatest Knight) and read Thomas Asbridge’s biography with the same title – and William is buried here.

The church has a full programme of services and events, see their excellent website, with a good history section – here. There is also a music website. There is a charge of £5 to enter the church, well worth it – and it would be lovely to go to services as well, some time I would like to spend a year in the vicinity of London and do a lot of these things.

The church was built by the Knights Templar, an order of knights who took monastic vows. They were founded in 1118 to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land, and became one of the most powerful orders in Christendom. The Round Church was consecrated in 1185. It was modelled on the circular Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the site where Christ was buried. The chancel was buried when, in the 1230s, King Henry III and his Queen said they would buried here – in the end they went to Westminster Abbey. The West Door is quite splendid. It is C12.

In through the south door, a quick photo facing east, then we started on the original circular church. The guidebook reminds us that the Round Church recalls Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, and also recalls our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. Let’s start by looking up. This window is lovely, but I failed to make a note who it is by.

There are some very good displays round the wall, and the figures are fun (though most of them are Victorian).

The effigies in the Round include the figures of William Marshall, 1st Earl of Pembroke (died 1219) – he won the favour of Richard (later Lionheart), mediator between John and the barons, and Regent for the child King Henry III) – there are also copies of Magna Cartas on display. One story says that knights with crossed legs went on crusade, another that it simply makes them look as if they are moving. MacCulloch notes they are all in their mid-30s, the age at which Christ died. They are not in their original positions, though you can understand why they would want to be buried at the centre of the sepulchre, and were damaged in 1941 when the roof collapsed in the Blitz.








We went up and enjoyed the view down. The tiles were rather lovely too.

There was an exhibition “A Year in the Life of a London priest” which had some interesting photos – you can read an article about it here. Nice window too.

On Friday 13 October 1307 every Templar in France was arrested on the orders of King Philip the Fair and accused of blasphemy and heresy. He was probably after their money. The other kings of Europe acted more slowly, but the Order was in decline. In the C14 the Temple Church passed to the Knights Hospitaller, at the Reformation it reverted to the Crown. Richard Hooker became Master in 1585 – I like this quote. “It were dangerous for the feeble brain of man to wade far into the doings of the Most High. Although to know him be life, and joy to make mention of his name, yet our soundest knowledge is to know that we do not know him as indeed he is, either can know him; and our safest eloquence concerning him is our silence, when we confess without confession that his glory is inexplicable, his greatness above our capacity and reach. He is above, and we upon earth; therefore it behoves our words to be wary and few.”

There are some lovely medieval monuments too. Richard Mason (left) died 1608. He was “a very handsome man, a graceful speaker, facetious and well-loved,” arranged riotous parties in the Middle Temple, and took 15 years to qualify as a barrister. He became Recorder of London. Sir Edward Plowden (right) died 1584, was Treasurer of Middle Temple. He was a Roman Catholic when Catholics were under deep suspicion, but was buried (at his own request) in the Temple (Anglican) church. His epitaph was “I have lived in a dangerous channel. I die in harbour.”

In 1608 James I granted all the Templars’ former land to the societies of the Inner and Middle Temple. Richard Hooker again – “Law’s seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world: all things in heaven and earth do her homage, the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power. Both angels and men and creatures of whatever condition, though each in different sort and manner, yet all with uniform consent, admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy.”

In the Chancel was an excellent exhibition about the First World War. One panel told the story of the War, the next the stories of members of the Temple. Very moving. They had produced a little book about it, which I managed to leave on a train later in the day.

In the Second World War incendiary bombs landed on the church roof on 10 May 1941. The river was at low ebb, and water pressure was weak. The fire burned all night. It was 17 years before the church was fully repaired. The East Window, designed and made by Carl Edwards, was a gift from the Glaziers Company. It shows St Paul’s and the Temple Church with the pepper-pot roof on the Round which was destroyed in the raid. The altarpiece was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, sold in the 1840s and bought back after WW2.

This organ was installed after WW2, and made by Harrison and Harrison.

In 1927 the Temple chorister Ernest Lough recorded Mendelssohn’s “Hear my Prayer”, “O for the wings of a dove”. More than 5 million copies of this have been sold, and you can listen here. We are currently practising this with the Derventio Choir – website – for concerts in the summer. I am not the soloist and we will never sell 5 million copies of our rendition! The director of music was George Thalben-Ball. I love his “Elegy”, which you can listen to here. When I make my final journey, I hope the organist will play me out with this.








Wednesday 3 May, and I am reading a book about Darley Abbey (one of my parishes in Derby). It tells me that Alfred Ainger is buried near the graves of the Evans family, and that Ainger was Reader of the Temple Church 1866-92 and Master of the Temple in 1894. He was a friend of Walter Evans II and preached many a sermon from St Matthew’s pulpit. At his funeral a special train was run from London, and Henry Walford Davies (Temple organist) played the organ. Ainger wrote the hymn “God is working his purpose out” and this is his portrait

by Sir Leslie Ward, chromolithograph, published in Vanity Fair 13 February 1892



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northernvicar walks – March 2017

I started March with walks round the parish. On Saturday 4 March we had a day in Stoke on Trent – the Potteries Museum is excellent. I had a walk beside the Caldon Canal. That was 9 miles in 4 days.

20 miles in the first full week. Darley Park, a trip to the hospital and back, church and school, and a guided walk round Belper. That was part of a Derwent Valley Heritage day – we met some smashing people and it is an interesting town.

Next week was even better – 29. 18 of those were around Derby, then we had four days up north. I had the pleasure of a walk by Alnwick Castle (on a rather grey day), another in Hexham, lovely gardens at Wallington, and Birdoswald and the Wall.

22 miles the following week. I started in Liverpool. We had a lovely visit to the Walker Art Gallery on Sunday, then I left Julie in the library while I walked to the Pierhead. I had a day in Sheffield to give platelets and had a walk beside the canal. On Friday 24 I was in London – walked Euston to Victoria, Tower to St Paul’s via London Bridge, then St Paul’s back to Euston.

I stayed in Derbyshire the next week. One afternoon I left Julie in the Bookshop at Brierlow Barn and walked beside the railway (the freight line to the quarry south of Buxton), and on another did the Cromford Canal from Ambergate to Cromford. 18 miles.

So that is 98 miles in March – 13 more than was required. At the end of last month I said “I should have done 162 miles, I have done 75.” Now I should have done 247 and have done 173. I am closing the gap! I have some churches to write up – but have currently misplaced my Derby Cathedral guidebook.

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northernvicar walks – February 2017

My idea was to walk 1,000 miles in 2017 (after Harry ran 1,000 in 2016). I managed 11 miles in London on 3 February, and got a useful sermon for the Queen’s Accession out of it – there are a lot of royal connections between Euston and the V&A. I also spotted these two plaques on the wall of the Norwegian Embassy and are made of Coade Stone. Coade Stone is an artificial stone and we had the most northerly piece of it in St Mary’s, Ponteland (or so I was once told). This National Trust website will answer every question you ever had about it.

The next day I managed a 7 mile walk down the Derwent from the City Centre by the Silk Mill to Alvaston Park, along the Derby Canal, and back past the owl on the statue of Florence Nightingale which stood outside the old London Road hospital.

4 miles through Markeaton Park to the centre of Derby and back on 8 February. This is the remains of the narrow gauge railway which ran round the Park until last summer. How could they close it just before I arrived?

On Saturday 11 February I was on the first train of the season from Duffield to Wirksworth on the Ecclesbourne Valley Line – website – their dmus bring back my childhood chasing trains round East Anglia. Then I walked up to the Cromford and High Peak Trail – website – and down to High Peak Junction. Then bus back to Duffield. A fun three hours, but only 4 miles of walking.

Add 2 miles past Friargate on Monday 13, and 4 miles to Chapter at the University on 16th. 3 in Sheffield on 24th, plus another 6 – so that makes a monthly total of 41. Slightly more than in January (when I did 34), but I’m still 36 miles down this month on where I should be if aiming for 1,000 miles. I should have done 162 miles, I have done 75. At this rate I won’t even be a Proclaimer. Still, the days are getting longer.


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Claymills Victorian Pumping Station

After we went to Repton we continued on to Burton on Trent – I think it is fair to say that Repton and Burton are miles apart! Leaving the town the I spotted a sign telling us that Claymills Victorian Pumping Station would be in steam the following Sunday (26 February). Here is their website. It is on the north side of the town at SK 263258, so just a short run down the A38 from home, then left over the railway, and easy parking. It is a Victorian sewerage pumping station – Julie was so excited. There was a lot of Burton sewerage to pump, including a lot of brewery waste. Some of the buildings date back to 1885.

There are four large beam engines (1885 by Gimson of Leicester), and three of them were in steam (one of them for the first time for many years). They were last all in use in 1969, just before the station was closed down, then they were all left to deteriorate – the archive photos show that the whole thing was in an awful state.








The boilers are quite amazing too – I bet the team keeping them fired lost a few lbs today (and more in the summer).

There were also other engines and models in steam, some old vehicles, a forge and wood turners, and a second hand book shed. Julie managed with all the site, though the disabled loo was not very accessible. They were very welcoming, and there was a good age range of people – lots of youngsters having a great time. Where better to spend a Sunday afternoon?


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Repton, Derbyshire – St Wystan

Outside Derbyshire, Repton is simply the name of the tune to “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”. It is also home to a public school – the school where “Good bye Mr Chips” was filmed (1939 Robert Donat and Greer Garson). The chippy in the village is called “Good buy Mr Chips”.

St Wystan’s church stands in the centre of the village and school at SK 303271 – website. This is a very full website – lots of history, lots of things going on, and a superb index. We parked outside the church, and Julie came in too – disability access was good. A full, very academic guidebook by Dr H.M. Taylor and lots of more accessible leaflets on sale. Ten out of ten in having a “Welcome to Worship” leaflet and one which advertises the other churches in the benefice, inviting us to visit them. “Three Beautiful Churches – One faith, one life, one love.” This blog could take a while!

I photoed the lych gate, but why didn’t I move the black bin? Fastened to it are panels painted by the school to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. The lych gate is dedicated to the memory of the Reverend A.F.E. Forman, we’ll come across him again inside the church. They had done a leaflet explaining the panel design, and I’m sure I picked one up … I think they are reflecting on the fact that nothing lasts forever.

The spire rises to 212 feet, and it is generally accepted that the tower and spire date to the C15. The oldest bell was cast by Roger Brasyer of Norwich, who died in 1513. Was it cast in Norwich and transported here, presumably by water, round the Norfolk coast and up the Trent, or was it cast here?

The porch is late C14. The upper room was originally reached by a curving staircase in the church. The Saxon columns were removed from the Nave in 1854.  I can’t find out what the stone is in the left photo.

The Nave is high, this is one of those “wow” churches. It was rebuilt in the C14 and contains some Anglo-Saxon work. The font is lovely, but I can’t find any details.

I decided to start at the very beginning, and descended to the crypt in the north east corner. We’ve done crypts at Hexham and Ripon, and here we are in another ancient centre. From the C7 to C9 Repton was the principal residence of the Royal family of Mercia. Christianity came to  Repton and the Midlands in 653 when Paeda, son of King Penda of Mercia, married Elfreda, daughter of the King of Northumbria. Elfreda brought with her four monks from Lindisfarne, including Diurna who became the first Bishop of Mercia in 656. An Abbey was founded here about four years later. 656 was also the year when Penda was murdered. I am enjoying the stories by Edoard Albert – all about the Royal families of this time – website.

This crypt was built in the early C8 over a spring and may originally have been a baptistery. It was later converted into a mausoleum, perhaps to receive the body of King Aethelbald. He reigned Mercia from 716 and in a charter of 736 he described as “King of England”. He was murdered and then buried here in 757. We know King Wiglaf (died 840) and his grandson Wystan, murdered 849, were buried here. Between 827 and 840 Wiglaf had been in charge of a major re-build of the Chancel and the crypt. After his murder, Wystan was venerated as a saint – and the crypt became a place of pilgrimage. It had a very special feel – I lit candles for Theo and Gareth.

The walls of the chancel are much as they were when the Vikings arrived in 873. Wystan’s relics were taken away by the monks. They were returned a few years later, then moved to Evesham by King Cnut. The modern door leads to an upper chamber. There is a wide opening to a rood-loft where relics might have been kept and from where they would have been displayed on feast days. One could spend a very, very long time working it all out – I will come back with the guidebook (although I realise how many times I wrote that while I was in Northumberland!). I didn’t take decent photos of the stained glass either – another excuse to return.

The organ was added in 1998 and made by Peter Collins. The organ case was inspired by the oldest known in Britain, the sixteenth century case at Old Radnor in Wales. This incised alabaster slab records the burial of Gilbert Thacker who died in 1563. His father  obtained the priory at the Dissolution and left it to Gilbert who was responsible for the destruction of the priory church and most of the monastic buildings.

This is Frances Thacker, of Lincoln’s Inn, a later member of the family, who died in 1710.

This alabaster figure of a knight in armour was formerly at the east end of the north aisle. It is probably Sir Robert Frances of Foremark, who settled there at the end of the C14.

The final memorial in the church (on this visit) is the man we met at the Lych Gate. Arthur Forman – “a true English gentleman”. Let’s also have a couple of “Good Bye Mr Chips” posters.






In the churchyard there is the grave of C.B. Fry. One of those people I’ve vaguely heard of, a great cricketer and sportsman, so I read an article about him here, and a page here.

At the end of the churchyard are 16 Commonwealth War Graves. Actually 15 CWGs and one privately installed tomb (which seems really out of place). They are all WW2 graves, many of airman killed in training accidents while based at Burnaston Airfield, a couple of miles away, where Toyota is now. 10,000 glider pilots passed through the airfield, some of them going on to fly gliders at D-Day and at Arnhem. Snowdrops always remind me of my Theo, who died at snowdrop time – on this occasion they can also stand for young men flying gliders.







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Willington, Derbyshire – St Michael

Tuesday 21 February, and a morning’s drive to explore a couple of villages south of Derby – just a few minutes away down the A38. Willington is a busy village, on the Trent and Mersey Canal – website. One of these days I will chuck it all in and buy a narrow boat. Presumably we could have a butty boat for all Julie’s books. The canal was built in 1770 – I wonder what’s being planned for the 250th anniversary. A search shows me there were celebrations last year for James Brindley’s 300th anniversary.

The railway station was opened in 1839 – one of the earliest stations, on the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway. The name has changed several occasions – Willington and Repton, or vice versa. It closed in 1968, and re-opened as Willington in 1994. As it only has a couple of bus shelters, I didn’t go and photo it. The village once had a power station – here is a website. Forget churches, I’ll blog power stations …

The church of St Michael is in the centre of the village at SK 295282, and men were working on the porch. Did they get a faculty for the “Welcome” sign? Pevsner describes the tower as “pretty, modest” and dates it to 1824. The south door is Norman, but I couldn’t get a close photo of it. The tower cost £80, and the C19 rebuild also destroyed a Norman chancel arch. I like the interior view.

The font is C18 and the pulpit 1820. The Commandment boards have been built into the woodwork at the east end – presumably this wasn’t their original position. The incised slab is C17. I like the altar frontal, but could they please put the white cable somewhere more discrete?







They have done an excellent job of adding a kitchen and a disabled loo, and a discrete projector screen.

I can’t find any details of the hatchment – it is rather good. There is a nice tapestry which commemorates the centenary of the freeing of the bridge over the Trent from tolls. It is a Grade II listed bridge – I like the way the Historic England website says it “extends into the parish of Repton”. It was built in 1839, and the engineer was James Trubshaw (1777-1853), a Staffordshire man who was an engineer to the Trent & Mersey, and to several churches. There is a biography of him available. I will go and explore the bridge at some point.

There is a church website – though it doesn’t seem to have been updated recently. This is a good moment to publicise a new church website for one of my churches, St Matthew’s Darley Abbey – click here. Thanks Ross.




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Guards’ Chapel, London

A day in London on Friday 3 February saw me having a good walk. I walked from Euston to the V&A then back through Chelsea and past Buckingham Palace to the Guards’ Chapel on Birdcage Walk.

In my youth I was an oboeist, and my teacher was Ron Hoare. He and his wife Pat lived in Barton and were friends of my mum and dad – to me they were Uncle Ron and Auntie Pat. His real name was Eric Denzil Hoare – apparently a conductor had said “where’s that oboeist who looks like Ronald Coleman?” and the name stuck. I think he had played in the BBC Symphony Orchestra

Ron died quite a few years ago, and I met Auntie Pat again at my dad’s Memorial Service three years ago. We then called in to see her and she had this (or a similar picture) on her wall.

“Is that Coventry?” I asked, because I remembered Ron had told me about being sent to Coventry after the blitz. “No” said Pat, “it’s the Guards’ Chapel in London.” She reminded me that Ron had been in the band of the Coldstream Guards playing for the Morning Service when a flying bomb hit on 18 June 1944. He survived, the clarinettist next to him did not. There is much more about the attack at this website.

I did a google on his name and found Ron listed on this website as Eric A. Hoare (24). He was one of the Coldstream Band who played at the New York World Fair in 1939 and returned on the Aquitania. His name has been copied from a faded passenger list (hence the fact his middle initial is wrong).

The Guards’ Chapel is on Birdcage Walk, just a short walk from Buckingham Palace, and still has a weekly service of Mattins accompanied by a military band. You can find more details at these two websites – this one and this one. I think its real name is The Royal Military Chapel, Wellington Barracks.

The chapel was being used for a recording session, so I had to be careful with wires and microphones. I was (very nicely) asked to leave before they started recording again, so this was just a quick visit.

The Barracks was completed in 1834, and the Chapel opened in 1838 after a long campaign by Dr William Dakins, the Precentor of Westminster Abbey. At the time it was described as “plain”, another description is “bare and ugly”. Thirty years later the interior was restored under the direction of the architect George Edmund Street. He prepared plans for the construction of an apse to form a chancel and redesign the interior in the Lombardo Byzantine style. Over the next 60 years more and more embellishments were added as memorials. To quote the guidebook “The Chapel was justly famed for the beauty and richness of its decoration, every piece of which was a memorial to a member of the Brigade.”

To quite the Guide: “On Sunday 18th June 1944 at 11.10 a.m. during the morning service the chapel was hit by a flying bomb which entered at the western end and exploded. It almost completely destroyed the chapel, only the apse being undamaged. 121 people, soldiers and civilians, were killed and many other injured. The six silver candlesticks and the cross still used for the normal services were in use at the time but were unmoved by the explosion, and the candles remained burning after the chapel had crashed in ruins.” And Ron survived.

A temporary chapel was built, and lasted until 1962. A cloister was added, which houses all the memorial books – seven regimental Rolls of Honour are needed to show the names of all those who died whilst serving in the Household Brigade during WW2.

The new chapel was designed by Bruce George, and embodies the original apse, links with the memorial corridor, includes stained glass recovered, and is built on the foundation of the original building. No attempt was made to replace the memorials or embellishments from the old chapel, instead the chapel stands on 2,000 original memorials. Sadly, more memorials have had to be added from conflicts since.

I was pleased that I had called in, and lit a candle in memory of Ron. I got a lot of pleasure from my oboe playing, even going to Heidelberg with the Cambridge Youth Orchestra on two occasions. Thank you.

I continued my walk through Whitehall, across to the South Bank, then up to meet my daughter at the BMA. An hour in the pub, and the train home. I had walked 11 miles.




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