Wall, Staffordshire – St John

I had been to Kidderminster on Monday 20 August to talk trams with an expert. On the way home I stopped at the village of Wall in Staffordshire and picked up a walk leaflet in their car park.

The Romans constructed a marching camp here during AD 47-8, and soon a fort was built to defend the highway – this is the Watling Street, London to Chester. There would soon be a posting station, with an official hotel and fresh horses – one is mentioned as being here in the C3 Antonine Itinerary. A thriving settlement, the Vicus, grew up around the fort. We know the Roman name was Letocetum, Wall comes from the early English word Wealla, a wall or rampart. After the Romans left it remained a defended settlement – there is an early Welsh poem called ‘The Lament of Cynddian’ telling of a raid on the town by a C5 or early C6 chieftain called Moriael of Ercall. Then it fell into ruin, became a valuable source of stone for local builders. Trade eventually moved down the road to Lichfield. Details on the English Heritage website.

I walked past the fort and up to the church of St John – SK 098066 – website. It is a Grade II listed building, built in 1837 by Scott and Moffat – Scott being the young George Gilbert who went on to do the Albert Memorial.

There must have been early places of worship here, perhaps a church was built on the site of a Roman shrine. On top of the hill looking down over the fort is a good place to worship. It is a  simple Gothic church, and the knitters have been busy.

The glass on the south side is by Charles Kempe’s firm – rather a nice one of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

The Lectern looks as if it comes from Kempe’s catalogue, and I wonder if the font did too. For an extra few pounds you can have the shields engraved! I find the additional piece of marble under the war memorial rather poignant – I wonder if they could remember buying the original monument, then went back for a matching piece.

I like the pebble pool for prayers. Allestree has a large metal candle stand. It is never used – people don’t carry matches, and we don’t leave any out (for obvious reasons). Should we replace it with something like this? (Or will I just be told how much the stand cost?).

I continued my walk along Green Lane, Wall Lane, under the railway twice, and back into the Village. The leaflet was good and the route well signposted.

The Roman site was good, though it is now unstaffed and the museum is only open 30 days a year – website of the Friends. Once our country was proud of all its heritage, and even the little sites were staffed and cared for. But we can find money for one-off projects like a Milepost to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I had enjoyed my 3 mile walk, and I’m grateful to the village for the Walk Trail, the open church, and their custodianship of the site – but I still ponder the nature of heritage and community in the C21.

 

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Derwent Valley Heritage Way 5, Calton Lees to Rowsley

On Tuesday 14 August I had a date in Sheffield to give platelets, and decided to drive. That was a mistake – Matlock Bath was a traffic jam. I stopped at the Calton Lees car park and did the next little bit of the Heritage Way. Not a walk with stunning views, not a walk with lots of history or things to point out … but a pleasant walk none the less.

Rowsley was a major railway centre – and the stations have two pages on the Disused Stations site – website (lots of excellent history and good photos here). I went under the viaduct which carried the Matlock-Manchester line over the Derwent, through the village centre, and round by the Peak Shopping Centre (which includes the original station).

In the village itself are some good looking pubs on the A6, and a bus stop with direct services to Allestree (which should make it easier for me to bus, walk, and bus).

I returned on the east side of the river – succulent blackberries to eat, past Beeley church (not got time to stop), and back over the river to the car. Only 4 miles, but that’s better than nothing.

 

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London, Brooke Street, EC1 – St Alban the Martyr

A day in London, with breakfast on East Midlands Trains.

For my Crich project on “The Carriage of Parcels and Mail by Tram” I needed a few hours in the Archives of the National Postal Museum – transport of postmen and women on the trams in Glasgow and Portsmouth, mail bags in Mansfield and Kettering, and letter boxes on the trams in Coventry. I then visited their museum – website – and had a ride on Rail Mail. I had visited this when it was still in operation, and was prepared to be a bit sniffy about it as a visitor experience, but I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I also remembered a trip on a Scottish Postbus – what a shame that useful piece of customer service and joined up public sector thinking has now been consigned to history.

It was starting to rain as I left Mail Rail, but I went for a wander, and found the church of St Alban the Martyr on Brooke Street, EC1. They have a website, but it makes no mention of their huge building (so most of the info here is from Wikipedia (you have been warned)). The sign in the porch describes them as a “world famous Anglo Catholic Church” (and modest with it!!). It was open, empty, but felt welcoming. I walked past this statue “Jesus being risen from the dead” by Hans Feibusch, 1985. and into the porch.

The church was founded on land given by William Henry, 2nd Baron Leigh, built with funds from John Hubbard, 1st Baron Addington, and designed by William Butterfield. It was built between 1861 and 1862. The first priest was Alexander Mackonochie who introduced a daily Mass, with Gregorian chant and lots of ritual. It was the first Anglican church to hold the three-hour devotion on Good Friday. Mackonochie and his colleagues no doubt had a deep pastoral ministry, caring for the people of their parish – and they had to cope with opposition from so many parts of the wider Church (nothing changes).

The church was burned out during the Blitz, and was restored 1959-61, by Adrian Gilbert Scott (brother of Giles Gilbert Scott of Cambridge University Library fame). The mural on the east wall are striking – they too are by Hans Feibusch. Even in a dark church, the colours and the people reached out to me. This is a mural that aids my prayers.

Hans Feibusch (1898-1998) was a German painter and sculptor of Jewish heritage who lived and worked in Britain from 1933. He was born in Frankfurt, studied in Munich, Berlin and Paris, then emigrated in 1933 due to the Nazi rise to power. He was confirmed into the Church of England in 1965, and was a regular worshipper in this church. In his latter years he returned to his Jewish faith, and is buried at Golders Green Jewish Cemetery. Much of his work is at Pallant House in Chichester – another place to add to the list. Look at the blog. Most of his murals are in churches in Chichester diocese, the nearest to home in Derby is one in Wellingborough. He also painted the Stations of the Cross – again in the mid 1960s. I didn’t photo them all – meditate on these five.

A very high font, a very high door, some lovely lettering, marble cherub – and the notice I want.

It was a bit too wet to walk much further, so I did some train chasing. Farringdon to Croydon, then a ride on the tram and the Underground, before my evening train to Derby. Never go home the easy way!

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Northernvicarwalks – Nuneaton, George Eliot, and Astley Book Farm

On Saturday 4 August I was a little bit shattered after a long drive yesterday, but Julie decided she wanted a day out. One does not argue with my wife – read her blog. Northernreader said we were going to Nuneaton to see what they have about George Eliot. Her MA consultation is with Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester, so it’s always good to get some ideas. The Museum is well signposted, and we parked nearby – nice park too. Website here. We started in the café, then the George Eliot gallery, then the art upstairs, then the local history gallery. I asked for permission to photo their children’s activities (and snapped the station bench too). Some good ideas, some useful resources – a small community museum, obviously working hard to interest a new audience.

After Nuneaton we drove a few more miles to Astley Book Barn – website. It is a very large second hand bookshop, so J was happy (ecstatic?) here while I had a five mile walk. I enjoyed photoing harvest scenes. They also have an excellent café – so I put back on the calories I had walked off.

 

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Northernvicarwalks – Manchester buses, trams, metro and a signal box

Friday 3 August 2018 – Happy Birthday Me. Having left northernreader with our friend Sue, I caught the train from Northwich into Manchester, and the tram north to Queen’s Road. I walked along to Boyle Street bus depot, and photoed the War Memorial on the front, before going to the Greater Manchester Transport Society Museum at the back – website.

Julie and I are both doing the MA in Public History and Heritage at Derby University –  website – and my Public History Consultation is to put together a paper for the National Tramway Museum at Crich – website – in preparation for an exhibition there next summer on The Carriage of Parcels and Mail by Tram. I had a date with George Turnbull the librarian of the Greater Manchester Transport Museum Society to discuss it, and I am very grateful for his help. They have a tram post box, a Post Tram notice (which went on the front of a tram carrying a letter box),  and a parcels’ trolley.

A Manchester Parcels Booklet was a fascinating read, Rule Books included various stipulations (what to do if there is no Postman waiting for the mail bag you are carrying), and a good collection of photos (these photos have been supplied by David Voice, a prolific writer on trams, including the wonder Last Rides, a history of funeral trams – thank you). I also found a booklet with a 1980s guided walk of Manchester post boxes – northernvicar will bring it to a wider public, I promise.

The mirror was in the changing room – as a bearded person, I would not have been employed. A lovely selection of buses – I enjoyed my visit.

I walked on to Abraham Moss metro (2 miles walked) and headed south to Didsbury Village. I then had a three mile walk to Gatley station. I crossed the River Mersey on Simon’s Bridge and walked past Northenden church.

I wanted to have a look at Northenden Junction signal box – it is rather impressive. Time at Gatley to watch a variety of trains, then back via Piccadilly for a birthday tea.

 

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Derwent Valley Heritage Way 4 – Baslow to Calton Lees

On Thursday 2 August I finished my 55th year with a good walk – the next bit of the Derwent Valley Heritage Way. I parked at Baslow – SK 257722, crossed the Bar Brook, walked passed the thatched cottages and into the Chatsworth Estate – there is mega kissing gate as you enter to allow wheelchairs in.

A blue plaque to Joseph Paxton, and some lovely views of the house. I shouldn’t admit that we’ve been in Derbyshire now for two years and have still not visited – website.

I passed Queen Mary’s Bower. Tradition has it that this was constructed in the 1570s when Mary Queen of Scots was held here. Then over the bridge in front of the house. Three Arch Bridge, was designed by James Paine, started about 1759 and substantially completed by 1761. Apparently “the bridge was carefully angled so as to be seen from the house and orientated in such a way as to provide that last, striking view to the house from the entrance drive.” It was early evening, about 6 pm, so the final people were leaving – it is good to see there are so many service buses (Sheffield, Bakewell and Matlock).

Along the river with a view across to the deer, and up to the road and across Calton Lees car park.

My original plan had been to walk to Rowsley and then back, but I had misjudged how long it would take to drive to Baslow in the first place. So I left the DV walk and headed uphill. Views over Calton Leeds, then quite a steep climb up to Calton Leeds.

Then I cut across through New Piece Wood and into the park. The views were lovely, north across the Peak, and down to Chatsworth itself. Deer were closer this time.

The walk was well signed, and I cut down to Edensor. It is an estate village, and the church dates to the 1860s. I will come and visit properly soon.

Across the road and back across the Park to the bridge, the House looking almost golden in the setting son. I took a photo of the bridge this time, then retraced my steps. 7 miles

 

 

 

 

 

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Dronfield, Derbyshire – St John the Baptist

The parish church of St John the Baptist, Dronfield is at SK 353783. It just above the railway line, not far from the station. The village was mentioned in Domesday, but the first Rector, Oscot, is mentioned in the Pipe Roll of Henry I, and building may have begun under him in about 1135. At that time the living was held by the Brailsford family, then it was sold to Beauchief Abbey, not far away in Sheffield (we are in the very north of Derbyshire and the Diocese). The tower was added in 1360, and it was completed in 1405. It was rebuilt after a lightning strike in 1818 – there are eight bells, the oldest is 1558. I wonder what Oscot would make of the website.

They have a small vestry on the north side, which they built by themselves several decades ago. Sadly it is up steps, and they are now of an age where the steps are difficult. They had a big HLF bid in for a new community room, but that has been turned down. I visited on Wednesday 25 July 2018 as they are now looking how to put a loo and kitchen at ground level, but also want a meeting room in the base of the tower. I did point out that replacing a vestry up steps with a meeting room up steps is hardly progress – but I wasn’t being listened to. I failed to photo the general view of the interior of the  church. I did think the flower pew has a resemblance to the Roman loo at Housesteads (google “Housesteads toilet reconstruction” if you doubt me).

So, let us start with the Chancel, which was built between 1260 and 1405. The East Window would have been glorious when filled with its original glass, but it all fell into disrepair at the Dissolution – apparently it fell out in 1563. (It makes you wonder if we’ll get to the point when they fall into disrepair again). I assume the current glass is Victorian – and I don’t think we’d get Eve’s attire through a C21 DAC.

There is a mix of old glass on the south side of the Chancel – much of this dates to 1360. Enjoy the pictures, and imagine what we must have lost. There is some more modern glass, but it’s not mentioned in the guidebook.

Apparently there re 120 brasses – I just seemed to have photoed two. The bottom picture is the Fanshawe brass, John died 1578, Margaret 1573.

The oldest wood is C15 – and the figures are rather lovely. Note the snail.

The sedilia is lovely, and the Vicars’ list is unique – as brief as possible, except for the chap who is called “Sir”.

The pulpit is 1603, of black oak, covered in Tudor designs. The alabaster tomb is of Sir Robert Barley, 1470.

There is plenty to see in Dronfield.

 

 

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Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire

I visited Newstead Abbey last year when I did a Heritage Bus Tour, and Helen our tutor has mentioned it to Julie as a place she ought to visit as she writes about literary links – Newstead was the home of the poet Byron. We went on Saturday 21 July 2018. It is at SK 542537, and has a website.

The Priory of St Mary was founded by Henry II between 1164 and 1174. It was the Augustinians, the Black Canons. It was dissolved in 1540 and handed to Sir John Byron of Colwick. He dismantled the church and re-used the stone, but his new house followed the layout of the old – the cloister is still the cloister.

The family were on the Royalist side in the Civil War, and later followed Charles II into exile in France – Pepys hints that Eleanor, Lady Byron, was one of the King’s mistresses. The second Lord Byron worked hard to get all the family properties back and rebuild them, the fifth poured his wife’s fortune into the place – they staged full naval battles on the lake (to say nothing of orgies elsewhere). By 1778 everything had been sold to pay his debts, and he spent his final decades living in the kitchen, the only dry room in the house.

George Gordon Byron, 6th Lord, inherited the place as a boy in 1798 – “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. I can’t say I know anything about his poetry. He sold it in 1817 to Thomas Wildman. They had been boyhood friends at Harrow, and Wildman had later gained his fortune from the slave trade. He reclaimed the gardens, and created a series of room interiors inspired by the Age of Chivalry. When he died the house was sold to William Webb, who continued to make improvements. In 1864 the Chapel was redecorated, using designs taken from illuminated manuscripts of Henry II, glass by Hardman of Birmingham.

It eventually came into care of Nottingham Corporation in 1931, and they seem to be continuing with its care in a much better way than most cash-strapped local authorities would manage. There is a step into the shop and ticket office, but we were directed to a ramped access at one side. This bought us to the cloister – you can walk round, but not in.

We had a look at the Chapel. Sadly it isn’t open, so I could only photo through the open door. The guide said they have a regular service, but there was no indication of when this was.

I left Julie exploring the ground floor, while I did a quick circuit around upstairs. Some rather lovely glass and carving. It needs a much slower explore.

We had a good explore of their ground floor exhibition, and watched the video Helen’s group has produced about the slavery links – Colonel Wiseman, who purchased the Hall off Byron, made his money from sugar. The film they have produced is thought-provoking – make time to watch it here.

Interesting guidebook, information about David Livingstone (who visited) and the original seal of the Abbey.

Lots of smashing activities for children, and nice volunteers to chat to.

I went for a walk round the park and the gardens. Julie sat and read a book. Some lovely bits of garden, and the original abbey ruins. Then I took Julie for a spin round too – I walked 5 miles in all today. We had had a good explore – just a shame so much of the house is inaccessible.

 

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Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire – St Mary Magdalene

Various churches have not been written up over the summer (I am typing this on 16 September). Be patient, I’ll get there. On 17 July we spent several hours in the Civil War Centre at Newark – website – which is well worth a visit (it also incorporates the town’s museum). Displays from the Newark Torc, through the Civil War (General Monk’s wheelchair), through to the Suffragettes. It also incorporates the theatre café (and is fully accessible).


Then we went into the church of St Mary Magdalene – SK 799539. It is just off the Market Place, and open most of the time. With the slogan “Your town, your church” and a good website, there is plenty going on. There is a link to an incredible historical resource here.

Newark is a crossing place. The River Trent is crossed by the Old North Road, the Great Northern Railway by the Midland. The first church here was a Saxon one, which stood in the manor of the Earl of Mercia and is wife, Lady Godiva (the other beautiful woman who has set Coventry alight). A new church was built about 1180, when the parish was under the control of the Gilbertine Priory of St Katherine on the south side of Lincoln – the crypt and the four large crossing pillars date to this time. By 1230 the present west tower was began in the Early English style – in 1227 Henry III allowed six oaks from Sherwood Forest for the repair of the church. A 200-year rebuild started in 1310 – can you imagine C21-us having a 200-year vision? – the South Aisle started in 1312. By the time of the Black Death aisle, tower and spire were complete. Nave, north aisle, chancel and choir aisles were finished by the second half of the C15, then the transepts were added. During the Middle Ages there were 16 altars and chapels for the various guilds, most of these were destroyed at the Reformation. The church was also damaged by the Puritans. The places was full of galleries in the C18, then these were cleared during a Victorian restoration. C20 work has maintained the fabric, repainted the ceilings, and cleared some pews for nave worship and coffee. Outside and in – it is a wow church.

The lower part of the font dates from the C15. The bowl from 1660. The monument to the Markham family was placed here from Cotham church – it depicts Anne “daughter of John Warburton of Cheshire, Knight, wife to Robert Markham of Cotham, Esquire” who died on 17 November 1601. She had four daughters and three sons.

There is a lot of Victorian glass in the south aisle, some of it by Kempe, and a lovely selection of memorials to various worthies. The Pieta is by the Newark artist Robert Kiddey.

We continued up the south aisle, passed the Chantry Chapel provided by the will of Robert Markham in 1505. On the outside of the Markham Chapel is the Dance of Death – “as I am today, so you will be tomorrow”.  The Holy Spirit chapel contains C14 and C15 glass, put together properly in 1957. There’s a couple of nice brasses (one is William Phyllypott, who established one of the town’s charities by his will in 1557), and a memorial to Hercules Clay, whose house was destroyed in the Civil War but who escaped with his family as a result of a dream. His story is told in some of the AV in the Civil War Centre, and a sermon is preached annually in his memory.

The Lady Chapel at the east end has thirteen stone seats at its west side, dating from the C15. Above them is a mosaic based on the Van Eyck Altarpiece in Ghent cathedral, depicting Christ as the Sacrificial Lamb. You look down and remember a child, look up an admire the ceiling. Turn around and enjoy the East Window – made by Hardman, in memory of Prince Albert, provided by public subscription in 1864. The crucifixion with Christ in Glory above. Very strong colours.

St George’s chapel was re-furbished as a War Memorial after WW1, and the window shows Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Thomas Mering’s Chantry Chapel – he died 1505.

There are three C17 monuments with busts. Thomas Atkinson (died 1661), Robert Ramsey (“a servant to His Majesty” died 1639), and John Johnson (Alderman and twice Mayor of Newark, died 1659). The Crucifixion is also by Robert Kiddey, 1900-1984 “artist, sculpture, teacher and resident of Newark”. Nice carvings at the top of the pillars.

Another memorial brass on the floor, and a wonderful memorial – I hope the mason was paid by the word. Anne Taylor died 1757. She was the first wife of Dr Robert Taylor, physician to the King – website.

I did not give the chancel the attention it deserved. The parclose screen on the north and south side, and the chancel screen itself, date to 1508. The choir stalls are 152os, and I missed the misericords. The reredos was designed by Ninian Comper, 1937.

We left as the Verger was waiting to lock up – but he gave us all the time we wanted, and then welcomed someone else who wanted to pray. It felt a very special, welcoming church. We then found a second hand bookshop across the road. We like Newark.

 

 

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Apedale Light Railway, Staffordshire – Tracks to the Trenches 3

Sunday 15 July was a Sunday off! Julie went shopping with Sue and Ella, I chased trains with Jeremy and Alex. I apologise we are so predictable.

The Apedale Light Railway – website – is based in Newcastle-under-Lyme, grid reference SJ 823484. They are next to the Country Park, and the Apedale Heritage Centre looks worth a visit too – website. The system is run by the Moseley Railway Trust – website. This is the third ‘Tracks to the Trenches’ gala, and it was superb. I know a little about the role of railways on the Western Front, and have some dvds of  railways at the trenches – there is also fascinating film on youtube (search “World War 1 Railways”). They had produced an excellent book, a 56 page guide to the event – they had obviously worked incredibly hard on getting finance from the HLF and elsewhere, on getting locos and exhibits from across the country, and on bringing together the railway fraternity and the military fraternity.

We started and ended our day on the railway – they have about a mile of line, with a good selection of steam locos. Just two examples to show the range of exhibits they were running this weekend. 1091 was built by Henschel & Sohn, at the Kessel works in Germany, and served on German military light railways on all fronts of the war. 778 is a Baldwin, built in the States and supplied to the British War Department from 1917. 104 was built by Hudswell Clarke in Leeds.

The First World War saw the development of narrow gauge railways – lots of tracks, easily laid, easily moved – and the internal combustion loco. MM 3 is a Ministry of Munitions loco, built by Brush at Loughborough in 1917. It worked at the Explosive Factory in Queensferry, North Wales. I’m not going to write the history of them all – just enjoy them. You can almost smell the fumes!

They had a wonderful selection of other vehicles on site. The Replica Landship, known as “Tommy the Tank”, is a replica – 4/5 the original size (five feet shorter and 18 inches narrower). It weighs a lot less than the original, but is incredibly impressive. The Ambulance is also a replica – in September 1915 Lord Baden Powell borrowed several cars from his rich friends, and had them (no one is quite sure how many) converted. They were driven by Scoutmasters, men too old to serve in the army. St John Ambulance or Red Cross men attended to the sick and wounded in the back. The Battle Bus is original, and is run by the LT Museum – website – and their is a fascinating blog.

We walked through the military camp, and into the  trenches. This is a blazing hot summer, so there was no sense of the mud and hell holes that they must have been. The troops manning them were Russians and, as I talked to them, I realise how little I know about the war on the Eastern Front. There were various military and cavalry displays at various points through the day. None of my photos of them are worth posting, but the dedication and attention to detail of all those taking part was quite incredible.

In the main shed, there were some wonderful models. I apologise to the model makers that I did not write down which photo was which. I stand in awe of their talents.

One chap said he wasn’t quite sure what to do with his WW1 model now. It has been well-exhibited during the last four years, but now we will move on from WW1 Commemorations. It is an interesting question how we, as a nation and (with my Vicar hat on) as a Church, are going to continue the story. Will we remember those who cleared up the mess – how many people died dismantling the railway network, removing the shells, clearing the minefields? Will we commemorate the centenary of the unveiling of our War Memorials? Will we remember those who came home mentally and physically scarred for life? I am a parent who has lost two of my children. I was with them when they died, I know where they are buried. How did you cope as a mother or father when you had lost several children somewhere in the hell of Flanders, when all you had was a letter or card, and probably no grave you could visit. For us, Tracks to the Trenches was a fascinating day – with interesting conversations, photo opportunities, and lots of tea and ice cream. “Oh! What a lovely War.”

The blog ends with memories of another great model maker – the Reverend Teddy Boston of blessed memory. I didn’t know that material from the Cadeby Light Railway had ended up here. Have a look at my Cadeby blog.

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