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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Blickling, Norfolk – St Andrew

Blickling Hall is one of my favourite National Trust properties – website. The parish church of St Andrew is on the right of this top photo, right at the entrance of the Hall – grid reference TG 178285. There is a sign outside it, and another lovely welcome as you enter – but it is rather hidden from the main NT entrance, courtyard and café (and the biggest second-hand bookshop in the country). The first task is to sit down with the Property Team and see if there can be some better signposting – a greater percentage of visitors need to be encouraged to walk up to, and enter, the church. A mention of the church on the NT website wouldn’t go amiss either. (Please don’t think I am the expert on publicity – I need to remember to tweet the church telling them I’ve blogged them).

Inside the church is a nice leaflet “An architectural delight in a beautiful rural parish”, and they have a good website. There was also a leaflet for the Norfolk Scrapbox – website – a way of recycling art material, a charity called Art Alive in Churches – website – which looks worth an explore, a Diocese of Norwich initiative called Inspired Classrooms – website – have I got time to look at all these websites? There’s an Escape Game, called The Queenmaker run in the church by a company – website. There is a superbly produced leaflet for The 12 Towers Festival through the summer – the twelve towers presumably being the Aylsham Team Ministry – website. It is wonderful to find a Festival leaflet which lists acts of worship as normal parts of the Festival, which has church events, community events, everything in together. I wish I lived nearer. Two things are missing from the church – (1) the booklet listing all the Norfolk churches, (2) a simple map and trail suggesting other nearby churches worth visiting. Use the tourist hot spots like Blickling to inform the tourists where they can visit.

Let’s start with the font – and, again, what excellent, simple cards to help explain what it is. The guidebook links the font with the CE website, something I’ve never thought of doing; what a brilliant idea. The font dates to the C15, with later colouring – I love the cuddly lions. (“I’m a very friendly lion called Parsley”). It’s a C20 cover, in memory of Alice Graves who died in 1936, with a striking pelican finial.

At the east end of the South Aisle is the largest of several brasses in the church. Sir Nicolas Dagworth, died 1401, built the first house at Blickling Manor. He was a soldier, diplomat and important aid to Edward III. I like the military curtains over the north door.

Looking along the church from the font, it is a building dating back to the C13, but with a lot of Victorian work. William Butterfield (1814-1900) and George Edmund Street (1824-81) both had a hand in it – the porch (which you can look at as we leave) was added by Street in 1876, but  he kept the C13 south doorway with its single order of colonnettes flanking the door and supporting a fine pointed arch. The most eye-catching piece of Victoriana in church is the memorial to William Kerr, 8th Marquess of Lothian (1832-70). The memorial dates to 1878 and is by George Frederic Watts. An identical version of the tomb, but without the angels, is in Jedburgh Abbey in Scotland, where the Marquess is buried.

There is a notice apologising for the mess, as the church is home to a colony of bats. The guidebook states that “Blackling Parish Church is privileged to be the home to a colony of bats.” The church runs Bat nights (come and discover the poo), and I salute them for coping with what seems to be such good humour – Ponteland has bats, and I wasn’t always good humoured while wiping down the altar before an 8 am celebration on a Sunday morning. My fear is how much their poo (and everything else) is damaging the monument (and everything else).

As a bearded priest, I am impressed with the quality of Blicking beards!

This memorial in Chancel is to Elizabeth Gurdon, died 1582 – she died of a cold while visiting Sir Edward Clere.  Sir Edward (1536-1606) is buried in the tomb-chest – he inherited the Blickling Estate from his great uncle, Sir James Boleyn in 1561, was knighted by Elizabeth I in 1580, but squandered his fortune and died a bankrupt. He now supports the Prayer Tree!

I didn’t make a note of these different tombs and memorials – but I do think the carving on the War Memorial is especially fine. (I can’t find out who carved it).

A couple of nice stained glass windows, and the Lady Chapel altar is very useful for Prayer requests – that is what we’re open for! I lit a candle. Thank you, good people of Blickling, for welcoming us.

I went outside and admired the flint work, before going back to see if my wife had finished exploring the National Trust’s biggest second-hand bookshop (no, she hadn’t).

Eventually I dragged her away and we explored the garden.



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Grimston, Norfolk – St Botolph

The church of St Botolph in Grimston is at TF 723 218. It is part of a ten church benefice, with this website, and there is a good church history here. There is also a village site, with a church page here. Apparently St Botolph visited the village in the C8. I know that Colchester Town station was called “St Botolph” when I was a lad – Botolph and his brother Adolph were young Saxon nobles living in the C7. They were educated at a Benedictine Abbey in France, Adolph rose to be a Dutch bishop, whilst Botolph came back to his native East Anglia. King Anna gave him land to build a monastery, probably at Iken, near Aldeburgh in Suffolk. He died in 680.  I did a 7 mile circular walk from our cottage in Gayton – the worst bit was the bends coming up to the church.

It may be that the original church was Saxon, probably on the site of a Roman temple. There are some Roman bricks in the outside wall. The small church was rebuilt and enlarged in the C13 – the South Aisle is in the Early English style, dating between 1220 and 1240. There is a painted consecration cross inside the church. The chancel, transept and porch are C15. In the porch was a poster with Michael Green, their link missionary – his grandmother was my organist at Felsham in Suffolk, when I was first a Vicar. A real blast from the past!


The church records date back to 1552, and one history notes that “Under Cromwell’s disestablishment of the Church, weddings took place [in the porch] from 1653-1660, conducted by Justices of the Peace. Our register shows that John Harvie and Thomasine Ives were the first couple to be married under the new system on St Valentine’s Day 1653. But the reforms emanated from faraway London, and there was a bit of a muddle to begin with, so the couple had to come back and be married again a month later. It appears the Banns were not called properly the first time.”

The church is high, and I should probably have looked more closely at the architecture than I did. I did enjoy the colours of the ceiling.

The colours of the C15 rood screen are still vibrant.

I enjoyed the bench ends and the misericords – C15 again. They are rather lovely. There are lots of excellent photos here.

I enjoyed the tracery of the East window – from inside and out. One figure, and one grave. Worth visiting.

In the old school next door is an Art Centre and café – website. There was a gorgeous exhibition of work by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Carter – website – and I got a good welcome (despite the fact it was almost 4 pm and closing time when I turned up). It was a good afternoon walk – and we had a pub supper to celebrate.


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North Elmham, Norfolk – Chapel and Church of St Mary

Wednesday 11 July. A trip on the Mid Norfolk Railway from Dereham to Wymondham. Please note the wonderful Great Eastern Railway bench.

Then we drove north to North Elmham for a wander round the old Cathedral and the parish church – TF 987216. North Elmham Chapel is a Norman chapel, built on the site of an earlier timber church, which was probably the Saxon Cathedral for East Anglia. In 1071 the Norman conquerors instructed that the bishop’s seat should be moved to Thetford. Bishop Herfast installed himself there, intending to move himself to nearby Bury St Edmunds with its wealthy monastery. The abbot had other ideas – he needed his independence. (900 years later us Canons of Bury St Edmunds were very pleased that our bishops (lovely though they were) lived in Ipswich). In 1094 Bishop Herbert de Losinga moved his seat to Norwich. He retained a palace and a large estate at Elmham, and his chapel consists of a massive western tower with projecting stair turret, a nave without aisles, a transept with flanking towers, and an apse. The great ditches which surround the chapel were excavated when Bishop Henry Despencer turned the chapel into a castle during the C14. This also explains the walls across the Nave.

The parish church of St Mary is a grade 1 listed building, just south of the church. The Village Sign is rather impressive. There is a flickr album of them all here, and various websites all about them.

The Diocese of Norwich has a page about each of its churches – this is the relevant one – with a link to the Benefice website. It was lovely to find one guidebook for the 13 churches in the benefice. That’s twelve more to visit!

Before I looked up at the stunning tower, let us enjoy some gravestones. Give thanks for those who have cared for these places over the centuries, and the work being done today.

You enter the church through the C15 porch. There are some lovely figures (has one got toothache?) and a massive door – but who on earth allowed them to paint said door? The door under the tower is this colour too – a churchwarden once had a job lot of blue paint? Apparently I missed a carved salamander (that’s not a line I’ve ever written before). While we’re doing doors and carving – here are some more.

As you enter you look up and long the Nave. The original Norman part of the church, built by Herbert de Losinga, is the Chancel, but the Nave is not much later – or, at least, the Nave pillars are not much later. This was  Norman aisled church, and there aren’t many of them around. Note the different shaped pillars. A new roof was added in the C13, so the tops of the pillars are different, then the Clerestory level was added in the C15. It is a lovely, light church. You can also look up into the C15 tower. While looking up, don’t forget to look down at the War Memorial, and the little line drawings on it.

The pew ends are C15. Here are just a few of them.

The wall painting dates to 1400, and then was painted over at the Reformation in about 1540 – covered with the Apostles’ Creed. It was rediscovered in 2010. The pulpit is dated 1626. It celebrates the uniting of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland with roses, thistles, etc. A standard design, or a one-off commission?

The rood screen is also C15. It survived destruction from the Puritans by being turned downwards as the standing for pews, to be rediscovered by the Victorians. I tried to work out which saint was which – and I’m a bit surprised there isn’t an Edmund. Brother Dave commented on how many women there are.

Interesting wooden cover for the font, hatchment, Victorian stained glass, memorials – and a table with tea, coffee, milk, water and a kettle. “Please help yourself” – what a lovely welcome.


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Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk – Chapel of St Margaret and our Lady

Tuesday 10 July, a day at Oxburgh Hall. This is one of my favourite NT properties. We came here as children, came with our children, came just the two of us to see an open air performance of Macbeth – heads being thrown around in front of the gateway. It was the set for one of my favourite TV series, the 1994 BBC adaptation of John Hadfield’s 1959 novel Love on a branch line. It had this wonderful hall (though some interior shots were filmed elsewhere), beautiful women, jazz, traction engines, and a steam loco (filmed on the North Norfolk Railway. The grid reference of the Hall is TF 744014, I love the fact it is in the village of Oxborough, and this is the website.

The Hall was completed in 1482 for Sir Edmund Bedingfield, and his family have lived here ever since. (For those unable to get up the stairs Henry, the current resident, shows you round on a dvd). The licence to crenellate was granted by Edward VI, though he wasn’t too impressed with the choice of brick (a building material not often used by anyone except the King). Another Sir Edmund, the third son, inherited the house in 1540. He was Steward of Catherine of Aragon’s household, was charged with keeping her under virtual house arrest at Kimbolton, and then organising her funeral procession. Sir Henry (I assume his son) served Queen Mary, and was Elizabeth’s gaoler for a while. When Elizabeth became Queen he retired to Oxburgh, and managed to hold on to his Catholic faith.

I didn’t photo much of the inside of the House, but here are some of the Marian Needlework. They were produced round about 1570 by Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury (Bess of Hardwick), produced at the early stages of Mary’s imprisonment. They are beautiful. I also liked the carved fish and the stained glass in the King’s Room (note the windmill). I didn’t climb into the Priest’s Hole.

Sir Henry’s son, Sir Henry, managed to get on the right side of Charles I. He and his sons fought on the King’s side at Marston Moor, he spent time in the Tower, and for much of this period the house was almost abandoned. During the 1680s, the 2nd Baronet, “Great Sir Harry” started the rebuilding. He was OK under Charles II and James II, but under William and Mary he was fined, not allowed to travel more than five miles from Oxburgh, and his sons were educated in Flanders. So it went on.

Major work was done on the Hall from 1830, there is a collection of wallpaper dating to 1859. Like all these families, the C20 was not easy – and Sir Edmund Bedingfield put the Hall onto the market in 1950. It came to the National Trust in 1952. In 2016 a window suddenly dropped into the Courtyard – hence the miles of scaffolding and several million pound now being spent. You can support the roof appeal here. We went out onto the roof, which is always very special. The grass is not usually as parched as this.

Just round the corner is the Chapel. Obviously a Catholic family needed their own chapel. It has been attributed to Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-52) and was completed in 1838.

The most stunning thing is what the guidebook describes as “the C17 Flemish altar and reredos”. The altar table depicts three scenes from the Passion of Christ, these being the Mocking of Christ, the Deposition and the Flagellation. The semi-octagonal tabernacle is flanked by images of the Conversion (left) and Execution (right) of St Barbara. The triptych which was imported by the 7th Baronet in the 1870s was carved in Antwerp circa 1520-1530 (according to the website – which makes it C16). The elaborate painting and gilded carvings depict scenes from the Passion of Christ. The artwork on the wings is attributed to Pieter Coeke van Aelst the Elder (1502-1550) and when open shows scenes from the Passion and the Life of St James of Compostella. When closed the wings show the four fathers of the church, Saints Augustine, Ambrose, Gregory and Jerome. The triptych was acquired by the National Trust in 1982. There are better photos here.

There’s some nice stained glass – though I’m annoyed my camera refused to focus on the archer, and the woodwork at the back is rather good.

The “elegant recumbent effigy” is of the 6th Baronet – the one we have to thank for the Victorian work.

A War memorial too.

The parterre and garden are gorgeous.





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Cambridge – Selwyn College

In Cambridge for the day. I left northernreader in Heffers bookshop and walked across to Selwyn College. Some of my earliest memories are of staying with Granny and Granddad – Joan and Len Hoskison  – who kept 23 Grange Road as a College hostel. I remember the noise as undergrads returned from hall. You can read more about those days in my mum’s book – Backstairs Cambridge, by Jane Barham (long out of print, but copies are available). Here is 23 Grange Road.15 years later I started at Selwyn, and my room was I15. A few weeks later I met a beautiful young lady who lived on H staircase – and the rest, as they say, is history. Cripp’s Court has been refurbished since then – it’s in better condition that I am.

I crossed the road and entered through the Porters’ Lodge. The Greek over the gate is 1 Corinthians 16.13b “Quit ye like men, be strong” in the Authorised Version – “play the man, be strong”. Julie came to College in the third or fourth year after women had been admitted – she often muses on the fact it was 1 woman to 6 men in Cambridge in those days, so why did she end up with me?

The College was founded in memory of Bishop George August Selwyn, first bishop of New Zealand, later Bishop of Lichfield. He died in 1878 and the first buildings were ready for the first undergraduates in 1882 – imagine how long it would take these days! Julie and I were present for the Centenary Garden Party in 1982. The foundation charter specified that the college should “make provision for those who intend to serve as missionaries overseas and… educate the sons of clergymen”. The chapel was built in 1895 before the dining hall (in 1909), and Chapel attendance was compulsory for students from the College’s foundation until 1935. I was a Baptist when I went to Cambridge, and it was here I learned to appreciate Anglican services, especially Choral Evensong. The choir was good in our day (too good for me to sing with), now it is excellent – have a look at the college website for their recordings (and much more information).

Julie and I graduated in 1983, and haven’t been back very much since then. They were very generous with financial help when I was training for the Anglican priesthood, and I will never forget being invited to preach one Sunday evening, a good 15 years ago now. With the Reverend Professor Owen Chadwick, and Canon John Sweet – both now of blessed memory – in the congregation, I did wonder whether I had anything useful to say! We also made our mark on College history when my dad went to do his MPhil (and then PhD) in the mid 80s. It was the first time a father had followed his son through the college and when Hannah was born she was the first child of two Selwynites, whose grandfather was a current member of the College (that will take a lot of beating).

The grass of Old Court is looking parched. I walked across to the Hall, and explained to a young lady in the cafeteria that I had been in College in the past (actually long before she was even born). Old Court was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield, best Gothic Revival style. I seem to remember I was one of those fined when sprouts were thrown at a Christmas Dinner and the portrait of George Augustus Selwyn had to be cleaned. There is also a lovely portrait of Owen Chadwick, Master in our day – an amazing man, wonderful scholar, and a man for whom people mattered. At our MA ceremonies, Owen was acting as Vice Chancellor, conferring degrees. As his procession left the Senate House he caught sight of my granddad in the gallery. He stopped and doffed his hat. Whenever he bumped into one of my parents in Cambridge, he would always ask after us.

I walked past the Master’s Lodge and went into Chapel. It does not feel as if anything has changed. The posters are of a better quality than we could manage in 1980 (I was one of the technical ones – I had a typewriter), but there are still gowns hanging by the door.

The Chapel was consecrated on St Etheldreda’s Day in 1895. Apparently “by then the stalls were completed as seats, and included the impish carved heads of Lord Morley, Lord Salisbury, Sir William Harcourt, and other politicians prominent in the general election of 1895” – website – can’t say I’ve ever noticed. We used to call the eagle “Horace”.

There is an Upper Chapel at the North East corner where weekday services used to take place. I remember looking down on the statues. The east end was intended to have a reredos.  Nikolaus Pevsner suggested that the altar and Kempe’s window be linked by an ascending Christ, with black floating figures on the white wall. He recommended a Swedish artist, Karin Jonzen, for the work – obituary. The figures were dedicated by the Bishop of Ely on the eve of Ascension Day 1958.


There was a plan to fit stained glass in all the windows, but the money ran out. The ones that were installed are rather nice.

Lots of memories – gratitude to Chapel, and to Richard Hunt, our Chaplain in 1980. He actually introduced me to Julie – so I have a lot to thank (blame) him for!

There is a new sundial in Old Court, on D staircase, but I do wonder about a sundial so complicated it needs detailed instructions.

I had a wander round the gardens. I don’t remember them being this lovely in our day. They’ll be even lovelier once it rains.


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Wighton, Norfolk – All Saints’

We went for a ride on the Wells and Walsingham Railway. It was built in 1982 by Lt Cmd Roy Francis, a veteran of the Arctic convoys. It is 10¼ inch gauge, and runs about 4 miles. We hadn’t visited since the children were young, and had a good ride today. However it feels as it needs a lot of work on the track, and it is all looking a bit shabby. They were friendly, but I hope it has someone dynamic who can find new sources of finance and give the line the renovation and new lease of life that it needs.

One of the churches I photoed from the train was All Saints church Wighton – TF 941399 – so we drove home that way.

The Diocese of Norwich has a dedicated web address for church visiting, which redirects you here. Unless you know this visiting page exists you won’t easily find it if you look at the Diocese’s website. The section “Who we are” says “Throughout the Diocese are hundreds of stunning, historic church buildings – around 650 in all – which are actively used for worship.  We provide support to those caring for them and creating welcoming spaces, and preserving each one for future generations.” If you click on “publications” you will find “Exploring Norfolk Churches: Your free guide” and various church trail leaflets – but would you think to look at “publications”? I have emailed the Communications department to suggest a link to “visiting” would be a good idea – and they have replied agreeing with me. (They also have a new website under construction).

I have now found a Wighton church website which says the church is closed for renovation. It opened in May, it’s now July. You can find the church here on Simon’s church site. He visited in 2005.

The church has a lovely guidebook, and reminds us that these are not just small Norfolk villages. In Domesday Wighton was a wealthy manor which had been seized by William the Conqueror, bringing him revenues from rents sand other assets of £24 a year. For the next 300 years it was the centre of the local hundred, an area of 18 villages, and was led out to a series of noble families. The locals seem to have prospered. In summer 1349 it was hit by the Black Death and 40% of the population died. In the early C15 the villagers decided to rebuild the church. As the guide says, this was “scarcely necessary” as the existing church must have been more than big enough. The villagers paid for the nave, and they persuaded Norwich cathedral priory to rebuild the chancel. We know the names of some of the village families, most of whom were probably donors, and the Lord of the Manor from 1397 until his death at the end of 1414 was John Winter, Henry VI’s Receiver General and controller of his household.

The porch is rather splendid –  I wonder if we will ever get back to the time when someone lives in the room above it. I rather fancy retiring to a Vicar’s flat above the porch (and Julie can fill the inside of the church with books).

The interior of the church is so spacious – so much space they have filled the side aisles with old farm equipment (but it would be sensible to have some labels explaining what is there) and a coffin trolley.

They have done some research into the Masons’ Marks – there are 200 examples of 14 different devices. We know that two teams of masons worked (one on the north side, one on the south), and that many of the masons also worked on nearby churches. There are matching marks at St Nicholas Chapel, King’s Lynn, which was one of the most high profile building projects in Europe at the time – that’s another church to visit. More research says Wighton was under construction from about 1417. The building of the Chancel appears in the accounts of Norwich Cathedral – it cost £20 to demolish the old one in 1440, the new roof cost £16 in 1449, and the glazing of chancel windows (1455) cost £4 10s 0d. The project was overseen by James Woderove, head mason at the Cathedral, and one of the elite mason-architects of C15 England. He was later recruited by Henry VI to work on the chapel at Eton. Work was still continuing on the porch between 1494 and 1497.

The octagonal font also dates from the C15. Among the heraldic devices chiselled into it, are the instruments of the cross – the nails, ladder, hammer, spear and sponge. Most of the rest, and lots of other images, were lost in the Reformation. You can imagine a huge rood screen.

There is a little medieval glass. Apparently John Wighton, the glassmaker who was also known as John Harrowe, was born in the village in the 1380s. His workshop in Norwich produced some of the most important stained glass of the C15 including “the spectacular east window at East Harling”, so that’s another one to visit.

There are tombs and graves of the Bacon and Bedingfield families, the resident village gentry at the time. The coat of arms is that of George IV (reigned 1820-30), painted on board and signed by R. Goodman (I like the idea of “Goodman – painter, decorator and illustrator of Royal Arms”).

At the height of a storm in November 1965 the tower collapsed. No one was hurt, but there was no money to rebuild. In the 1970s a Canadian businessman, Leeds Richardson, visited Wighton while researching his family tree. He offered to pay for it – and rebuilding was completed during the long hot summer of 1976. Our thanks to him. The external tower door remained in situ, and five of the heraldic shields which had fallen from the crenelations were reset above it.

They have now finished repairing and restoring the nave roof – so the building is probably in better state now than it has been for most of its 600 years. It is used for worship about once a fortnight – I doubt they ever fill the church (and that probably doesn’t matter), but I hope there is enough of a worshipping community to keep the church alive for another 600 years.







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Appleton, Norfolk – St Mary

We are in Norfolk – staying at Gayton. There are lots of churches in Norfolk, so I could blog to my heart’s content. I’ll start with a derelict one! On Sunday 8 July Julie wanted to visit the Lavender Farm at Heacham. Julie likes lavender. Peter knows when he is beaten. We drove north towards Sandringham, and saw a ruined church just off the B1440 on the right – grid ref TF 706273. It is next to Appleton Farm, and there were no display boards or information. I looked it up later. For any Norfolk or Suffolk churches you start with the work of Simon Knott – website. There were only 25 residents by the middle of the C18, and the church was in ruins long before that. The manor house had burned down in 1707. It is a round-towered church, and that probably dates to around 1000 AD, so early Saxon. Three graves – including one for Agnes Paston. I know there’s some Paston letters, and there’s details of this part of Norfolk history here.  How Agnes fits in, I have no idea. It felt a very peaceful place on a beautiful Sunday morning. (I liked the Lavender Farm too, but that’s another story).


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Heckington, Lincolnshire – Mill

Having been to the stunning church, we went to Heckington windmill – a unique eight-sail windmill beside the station, signal box and level crossing (though I still think the new H&S-complaint signal is hideous). The ‘box is 1876 Great Northern Railway, and Grade II listed – photos here.

We had visited the mill in the early 90s – while at Lincoln Theological College we purchased a Lincoln Mills Passport and visited them all. I believe my family were the first to get their silver Dusty Miller badge. I can’t find a photo of it, and I must have lost the original – apparently Sussex had one too. Gareth aged about 4, knew more about mills than most people – and I think it was here that he told the miller how his mill worked. The mill’s website is here.

The mill was originally built in 1830 by Edward Ingledew of Gainsborough as a five-sailed mill. A severe thunderstorm blew off the cap and sails, and it was restored in 1892 by John Pocklington using a cap and eight sails from a windmill in Boston. It would be fascinating to know how they moved everything. The bricks from the Boston mill were used to build the mill house here – now a lovely safe. It worked until 1946, and was purchased by the County Council in 1953 and made safe. It was restored in 1986 and worked for 13 years – during which time we visited. There were major repairs in 2004, and more were needed by 2010. In 2013 they got a £1.4 million HLF grant, and have done major work. Just a shame that high winds in June this year mean more work is needed on the sails before she can work properly again.

What they have done is superb. A good car park with gravel surface, but with the plastic grid that keeps the stones in one place and means you can push a wheelchair. Accessible loo. Accessible brewery – hence the accessible loo. Accessible tea room in Miller’s House (with another accessible loo). Accessible welcome area and shop, disabled lift to the exhibition, and access to the ground floor of the mill. Julie thinks it is the first time she has got into the ground floor of a mill in her wheelchair – Esmé also thinks it is the first time she has been onto the ground floor of the mill. We did wonder, the good ladies at reception and myself, whether we could utilise the sack hoist and get her to the top … .

I had a climb and a photo – just a shame I couldn’t get out the top. A good welcome – HLF money very well spent.



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Heckington, Lincolnshire – St Andrew (again)

Last time we visited Heckington church was 4 years ago – read my blog. When we called in then there was a good bookstall, so my wife was happy. This time (Saturday 7 July 2018) Julie stayed in the car while I went to check – but they were preparing for a concert, so the books were packed away. I had a quick visit round the church – didn’t spend too long (one should not leave pets (or wives) in hot cars).

Last I time I commented they needed a new guidebook – they have a new guidebook. Rather than a tatty piece of A4 paper, they also have a colour A4 leaflet – I must do a new one for Allestree this summer. It felt like a church with a new lease of life – nice prayer corner in the North Transept, but who made the statue?

My only complaint is that the tatty leaflet told me there was a polar bear in the East Window – the new guide doesn’t. I found the polar bear! Top left of the Alpha and Omega, and note the Whale below him.

The window shows the Te Deum – “We praise thee, O God : we acknowledge thee to be the Lord. All the earth doth worship thee : the Father everlasting” – and the Benedicite – “O all ye Works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.” In case you are wondering where polar bears and whales come in:

O ye Ice and Snow, bless ye the Lord …

O ye Whales, and all that move in the Waters, bless ye the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever.

Lots of lovely settings can be listened to on youtube. James Thomas’ Benedicite has been recorded by St Edmundsbury Cathedral choir on their CD This Holy Temple – details here.

Here are details from two other windows – The War Memorial Window, and the window in the South Transept which depicts the building of the church (you can see the complete windows on the previous blog). One job for this summer is to get Rob to teach me how to photo stained glass windows properly.

The church builders include Richard de Potesgrave (in purple robes). He was court cleric and Confessor to Kings Edward II and III, and came here as Rector in 1308. He probably built the chancel and sacristy at his own expense. He is explaining his plans to Henry Lord Beaumont (the gent with the Edwardian moustache), who was Lord of the Manor, and Henry’s sister Isabella de Vesei has the yellow headdress. Henry and Isabella were cousins of Edward II, she had been a Lady in Waiting to Queen Eleanor of Castile and Queen Isabella. The three of them were involved in building some of the nave and south transept. Edward III visited in 1330 – and would have seen something very similar to the church we see now.

I won’t describe the church again – but feast your eyes on the South Porch and the Easter Sepulchre – note the sleeping soldiers.

Now get ready for a trip to a disabled-accessible windmill. Julie, still reading in the car, did not realise the excitement in store.




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