northernvicarwalks – Etwall to Burton (William Stanley Way 2)

Tuesday 4 February. I have a free day, so I’ll leave Caroline to run the office and Julie to go to the Old People’s Lunch. I drove to Etwall, parked by the church and started walking. I have decided to call it the William Stanley Way – he was Earl of Derby and has been suggested as one of the authors of Shakespeare. You would think you would be able to reach the old railway path by walking through the grounds of Etwall Leisure Centre, but there is a fence to separate walkers from squash players. Better to access the railway path via Old Station Close. I had the path to myself as I headed south. It was in a good condition, with little litter. Under the A50 and down to Egginton Junction. The original station here was opened in 1849, on the North Staffs line from Derby to Stoke. The line I have been walking down (the Great Northern line) was opened in 1878 and a new station was built for the junction. The chimney is of an old dairy, freight ran from a siding here until the mid-60s.

I joined the road and headed north, I should have walked south and photoed the signal box. In an ideal world the railway to Burton would have been kept as a walk route. If I head south via Egginton I will struggle to cross the A38 to reach the canal, so I need to curve round and cross the Dove further west. The path through this part of Hilton passes huge car parks by the various industrial units, then I walked through anonymous modern estates. There must be hundreds of new houses and flats, I wonder if there is any community. I ended up on the perimeter road, and photoed Marston church as I crossed Hilton Brook. A nice walk across the fields into the Hamlet.

I liked the notice at the end of the road through to Hatton, and walked down to St Mary’s church, Marston on Dove (SK 232 295). It’s a Grade 1 listed church, C13 early C14 (including the tower), restored in the C19  The Lych Gate is a War Memorial, with a lot of WW1 names and one from the Falkland’s. Sadly the church was locked, and their website gives no indication as to when it might be open –

A walk through the field back to the road, then south over the level crossing. Too cold to wait for a train. Over the Dove and into Staffordshire – I said Hello to the swans. There was an information board and a nature reserve on one of the old meanders of the river, but the map didn’t make it clear whether the path round the lake had any exit by Rolleston village, so I stayed on the road instead.

On the north side of Rolleston on Dove there are two footpaths. I decided not to take the one that goes towards the parish church – thinking it would probably be locked. (Checking later, their website hasn’t been updated since 2018 – I came into the village by the stream and found a derelict Brook House. They have a lovely website, it must have been a beautiful hotel – but their website hasn’t been updated for five years. It’s an C18 Grade II listed building – I wondered if it was a mill, but apparently not.

I could have walked straight through the village in the Burton direction, but a bit of googling had discovered the Rolleston station site –  – and found that the railway line here is a nature trail and public path. (Another website said that there was Millennium funding to link this with the line I had started on, but the project never came to fruition). This piece of line was originally the Burton branch of the North Staffs, linking Tutbury to Burton, and opened in 1848. Later an east curve was opened by the Great Northern. They have done a superb job of making a decent path, including the community, and remembering the railway heritage – thank you. Staying on the railway meant I missed Stretton church and the shops in the village centre.

The railway becomes a road, then I walked under the A38 Burton bypass and down onto the Trent and Mersey Canal. This was one of the earliest canals in England, authorised by Act of Parliament in 1766 and completed in 1777. It runs from the River Trent at Derwent Mouth just east of Derby (Shardlow) to Preston Brook in Cheshire, where it joins the Bridgewater Canal, thus giving access to the Mersey. The first cross-country canal – and a huge part of the industrial development of the country. Brewing had been part of the life of Burton since the Benedictine Monastery was founded around 1000 AD, and the Trent itself had been made navigable in 1712. That enabled beer and textiles to leave Burton more easily than when the only exit was on a poor road. The Canal was easier than the River, and of course continued on past the town itself. The canal engineer, James Brindley, designed the canal from the Trent with wide locks, but Dallow lock (the only one passed as I walked this stretch) and everything to the south and west of the town is narrow. The railway arrived in the town in 1839, and Burton became the brewing capital of the world. There was a network of railway sidings – search youtube for “Burton on Trent brewery railways” – and a branch from the line I’ve just walked curved round to Dallow Lock.

The Kingfisher Project have done a lot of work on the canal and its environment – – and there is more information at Like all these projects it seems far easier to get money for capital works and lovely art, than it is for on-going maintenance and litter-picking. The main problem with this stretch of the canal is that it parallels the A38 and is noisy. However it was fun looking at the boats, including one called Zephyranthes, which I find is a group of plants in the Amaryllis family. I did about a mile and a half down the canal, past Horninglow Basin, then headed towards the railway station at the Shobnall Fields footbridge.

The middle of Burton is not a particularly attractive part of town. The Midland Grain Warehouse opposite the station dated to 1890 and is Grade 2 listed. It is now the Travelodge – I wonder how much of the original features they have kept. I arrived at 1319 a minute before the bus was due to leave for Etwall. It is quite a long ride to Etwall, and I needed the loo first. I caught the next bus at 1349! The original railway station was opened in 1839 by the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway. There was a major rebuilding in 1883 and another in 1970. It is not a beautiful building, but it does have a loo (for this relief, much thanks).

It is a 40 minute ride on the Trent Barton Villager, for much of the route paralleling my walk. The War Memorial and Church at Stretton look worth a better photo, and Rolleston looks worth a wander round. The bus diverts via Tutbury (Castle and church) and Hatton where there is a stop by the station and signalbox, opposite the Coffee Factory. According to  in 2018 they were producing 35,000 tonnes of coffee a year. It takes an interesting route through the modern estates of Hilton, and then dropped me off by my car. I’d walked 10 miles in about 3 hours, and only had to stop once to get a funeral booked.

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northernvicarwalks – January 2020 (everything else)

I started the year with a 7 mile walk – into town via Chester Green and back via Markeaton Brook – and on 3rd I did 5 miles which included a wander past Darley Abbey Mill. A bit more over the next few days. On Saturday 11 I followed some of the paths opposite the University which I had not done before.

The following day I had the afternoon off and went to Rotherham to visit the South Yorkshire Transport Museum. They run a connecting bus from the station, but I missed it and therefore had a walk along the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation. Not the most beautiful walk, rather too much litter and dereliction, but then you come on a flock of swans and have a chat with two friendly fishermen.

The Museum is in a large industrial unit, and they had a welcoming tea room. An hour was a long enough visit, but I enjoyed my explore. Buses, trams and an interesting collection of vehicles, posters, tickets, signs, even milk bottles. Our first car was a mini – I had forgotten how small the original minis were.

Then a ride on a 1961 coach back to Interchange – there was one point when the driver “stuck his flipping hand out and jammed on all the brakes”. A Pacer back to Sheffield – Pacers will not be around for much longer, so it could be my final ride.

A bit more the following week, then a walk to Etwall (blogged elsewhere). On Thursday 23 January East Midlands Railway offered a £15 return to London – it would have been rude to say ‘No’.

I went on from St Pancras to Blackfriars, then had a walk along the South Bank, across Westminster Bridge, and a circle along the Victoria Embankment, through the gardens looking at some of the interesting monuments.

The Battle of Britain memorial was unveiled in 2005. It was built round a original steam outlet for the District line trains running underneath. The sculptor was Paul Day, and there is a lot of info at the website – Lovely figures, showing not just the Battle, but Wartime life in general. Very tactile, really alive.

The Iraq and Afghanistan memorial, in the gardens on the north side of the road, is also by Paul Day, and was unveiled in 2017. Two blocks of Portland stone with a bronze medallion in the centre.

The Memorial to the Imperial Camel Corp dates to 1921 and was the work of A.B. Burton and Major Cecil Brown. It commemorates 346 people who died in the First World War in Egypt, Sinai and Palestine.

Then I went on a Brunel Walk. It started with a boat trip down river to Masthouse Terrace Pier at the bottom of the Isle of Dogs, and then we walked along past the construction site of the Great Eastern. We went into Island Gardens, enjoyed the view across to Greenwich, and then caught the DLR up through the Isle of Dogs and back to Shadwell.

Then the East London Line (now the Overground) to Rotherhithe, through Brunel’s Thames Tunnel. I last did this trip with the St Edmundsbury Cathedral Railway Club, probably about 15 years ago. In those days they would turn the tunnel lights on and run the trains slowly. We talked on the platform, then went to the museum – Well worth a visit.

Whenever I travel through London I go the pretty way. I got to St Pancras an hour before the train home, so I had a wander through the Goods’ Yard, beside the canal, and through the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church. Thomas Hardy was involved in the clearing of this graveyard, and it will be worth another visit. 5 miles walked in three different places.

We spent the final week of the month in Northumberland. A gorgeous day at Wallington National Trust property and Julie borrowed a tramper. We did 6 miles round the Estate.

I had a train ride from Morpeth to Hexham – a lovely ride along the Tyne. I then did a 3 mile walk, up the hill to the wonderful Cogito Bookshop (J had a book to be collected!), a nice chat with them. Then down through the park, and on to the river. I like Hexham.

The month ended with a couple of miles round the National Trust Cragside estate. 60 miles during the month, which isn’t bad.

Posted in 1,000 mile walking, Derbyshire, London, Northumberland, Railway interest, Trams, World War 1, Yorkshire | Leave a comment

northernvicarwalks – January 2020 and the start of a Pilgrimage (to Etwall) – William Stanley Way 1

In 2017 I said I would try and walk 1,000 miles. I failed. In 2018 I said I would try and walk 1,000 miles. I failed again. In 2019 I kept quiet – then had to have a minor op in the autumn which meant I wasn’t in a fit state to do much walking. I did some academic work on pilgrimage to Lindisfarne, but lack of exercise meant my weight and my blood pressure increased. I signed up to try Nordic Walking, and enjoyed it. I purchased some poles for Christmas, and we’ll see how far we get in 2020.

2020 is a year of Pilgrimage with lots of routes already on line at Julie and I have a fortnight in Orkney in the summer, so the St Magnus Way looks possible. Last year in the Hospice Shop in Stratford I purchased the guide of the Shakespeare Way which runs from his Birthplace to The Globe, and I would love to walk that. Then I wondered whether I should walk from Derby to Stratford – I thought one of Gerard Hoffnung’s advice to Foreign Tourists included “you could get a train to Stratford, but it’s not far to walk” (it’s not one of his, probably one of Dr Jeffrey Barham).

Any Walk needs a name. I obviously can’t call it the Hoffnung Way. A google tells me that William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby, is one of those who might have written Shakespeare’s plays. So if I want to name my Walk from Derby to Stratford, I’ll name it after him. Might do some more research as I go.

On Saturday 18 January, after a wettish week, it dawned bright and frosty. I had been given details of an exhibition at Etwall church, so decided I would walk to Etwall. If I was going to walk to Stratford, heading south towards Burton on Trent would be a good start, and that takes me via Etwall.

It was a bit icy under foot, and I was glad I had my two Nordic poles. Through Allestree Recreation ground, down past Park Farm shops, and across into Markeaton Park – -and-open-spaces/markeaton-park/. The Mundy family had this estate from 1516 – several of the Mundys are memorialised in St Edmund’s – and gave it to the Council early in the C20. Usually on a Saturday morning it is packed for a park run, but that had been called off today. Just a few runners, most of whom were pleasant to a slower walker. I smiled at the swans – they are able to break your arm (or is it your leg?). Round past the Orangery and beside the gardens, then south towards the main road.

I walked up through Mackworth, passed Birds and Gregg’s (be impressed), passed the Catholic and Anglican churches, then I should have turned left down Merton Drive, then
Richmond Park Road and the footpath towards the trail along the railway. I made the mistake of getting onto the footpath which leads due east alongside the Sports Centre. That added a bit to my walk – it is a shame that signposting is not seen as important. Down to the Great Northern pub, and onto the Sustrans path along the old Great Northern Railway (there was a clue in the name of the pub).

They started building the line in 1875 to link the Nottinghamshire coal field across through Derby to Egginton Junction – where they could join the North Staffs down to Burton and across to Crewe. It crossed the River Derwent at the south of my parish of Darley Abbey, then entered Friargate station. Across past the huge goods’ warehouse which (like so much of Derby’s heritage) lies derelict, and then continued west through the 464 yard long Mickelover tunnel. Mickelover station was opened in 1878. At the Grouping it became part of the LNER (everything else around here was LMS), and passenger services were discontinued west of Derby in 1939. Excursion traffic continued to 1968, freight lasted until 1968, then British Rail Research Department took over the line until 1990. Note some of the signs of its history as we walk along. has some interesting photos (including the original prototype of the Advanced Passenger Train).

It is a lovely walk. A few joggers, and one young lady who (without the aid of Nordic walking poles) managed to overtake me! Nice views in both directions, and it was a gorgeous morning. Under the A516 (at least they built a bridge when they built this road), up onto the old road from Etwall to Sutton, and into Etwall village. Some nice houses – the Rectory was huge (a walk through rural England will be a picture of the decline of the influence of the Church of England).

I have already blogged St Helen’s, Etwall – etwall-derbyshire-st-heen/ – when I had a visit in 2018. I arrived today to a buzzing church. They were having a day to tell the village about the discovery of a vault in the churchyard. First I needed tea and cake – and very nice it was too. I had walked 9 miles.

Last May two workmen arrived from South Derbyshire District Council to repair the steps into the churchyard at the west end of the church. They revealed two arched openings, the ends of two large vaults in which lay nine coffins, three in the north vault and six in the south. They were allowed to insert a camera – personally I would have thought it would have made sense for someone to go in and check the roof before they bricked it up again. The news report is at burton/bodies-found-etwall-crypt-derbyshire2899429.

They knew there was a vault somewhere – indeed a memorial tablet on the north wall of the Chancel mentions it – but written records have been lost, and it had faded from the corporate memory. Research suggests it was built by the Cotton family who lived at Etwall Hall. They have managed to identify six people who are buried there (Joseph Green 1810, The Reverend W.T. Beer 1821, Rebecca Beer 1829, William Beer 1831, The Reverend Charles Evelyn Cotton 1857 and Agnes Sneyd 1862), and another five who could be there (but there are only nine coffins in all). The last one died in 1868 – so everything has been forgotten in less than 150 years. The Hall itself was demolished in the 1950s.

They had done a nice exhibition, and Geoff Lightbown had written a report and gave us an illustrated talk. I had to leave before it was concluded to catch the bus back to Derby, but I went and photoed the steps first.

The Villager bus runs from Burton via Tatton and Etwall (so, if I continue my walk towards Stratford, I will end up on it again) and stops not too far from Kingsway. I met Julie and returned to real life with a trip to TK Maxx and Pets at Home. If I call my walk a ‘Pilgrimage’ surely I can avoid such excitement!

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Tadcaster, North Yorkshire – St Mary

Hannah (our daughter) now has a house in South Milford, North Yorkshire. As the bank of mum and dad have helped, I think that owning property in Yorkshire makes me a Yorkshireman! Anyway, we have new churches to investigate. St Mary’s Tadcaster is on the north side of the town, next to the River Wharfe – SE 485435. It looked lovely in the afternoon sunshine on Friday 10 January 2020. The benefice website is . On 27 January they are still advertising the Christmas services, but at least they have a church guide page at Once again it has the “church is not a museum” line – as I have said before, I wish our churches had as much life as some of the museums I know!

It was worth an explore, and we only gave it a quick visit. Nice flat access – Julie had a very determined look. The first stone church was built by the Percy family, Lords of the Manor, about 1150, but was burned down in a Scottish raid in 1318. More rebuilding, and the church we see today is C15. Flooding has always been a problem, and the foundations were so damaged that in 1875 the entire building (excepting the tower) was taken down, rebuilt on new foundations, and the floor raised by six feet.

There was a major reordering inside, so it has a Victorian feel. Various fragments of older buildings and part of a C10 Saxon cross are gathered together near the main door, but I failed to photo them. On Boxing Day 2015 it was flooded to the depth of a metre.

The font is made of Caen stone and was presented by John Ramsden in 1877, in memory of his father Henry, a Captain in the 7th Lancers. Nowadays they use a wooden one – I can see all the practical reasons, front of the church, middle of the congregation – but there is something special about the old font by the door. Interesting picture, but no mention of the artist.

The Potter memorial is rather fun – lots of words. John and Ann Potter (died in the 1760s), their son John and his wife Ann. Their sons Thomas who moved to Manchester in 1802 and was its first Mayor, and Richard who was MP for Wigan. It also commemorates Thomas’s son John, also Mayor and MP for Manchester, and was erected by his son Thomas. (Julie did some work with Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester last year – be interesting to see if the Potters were every welcomed by the Gaskell family). I wonder what they would make of the elephants.

The War Memorial has 108 names from the First World War – there is a website which is currently being updated. Interesting that another website suggests the main War Memorial in the town has 107. I think there’s a Brother Cadfael novel where the number of the dead doesn’t add up – so perhaps there is a story here. I wonder what the population of the town was in 1914 – the town was a major brewing centre even then. I wonder how many employees of John Smith Brewery died. (For most people, Tadcaster is primarily a brewery town – for me it is Helen of Tadcaster, a character in The Beiderbeck Affair of 1985. (If it is a TV series you don’t remember, you are missing something wonderful).

One of the other local industries was linen weaving, and St Catherine was their patron – this is one of the oldest pieces of glass in the church. There is lots of Victorian glass – and some of it is rather good. I like the one which shows the three ages of womanhood (spinsterhood, motherhood and widowhood – Proverbs 31). It was made in 1879 by Adam and Small of Glasgow to a design by W.H. Constable of Cambridge. Interesting patterns on their dresses. In another we have John the Baptist, Jesus the good shepherd, and Philip preaching to the Ethiopian eunuch. The Good Samaritan, Transfiguration and the raising of Lazarus. Burial and Ascension of Christ, and the women at the tomb.

I missed some interesting woodwork – including a frieze of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (but it’s still an excuse to use the story about the preacher who thundered from the pulpit “I ask you, do you wish to stay awake with the wise virgins, or sleep with the foolish ones”). The East Window was made by William Morris & Co, and given in memory of Anne Elizabeth Harris who died in 1876. It is said that most of the glass was designed by Burne-Jones, though apparently the two panels depicting angels with censers in the top tier are by William Morris himself. Worth looking down at the kneelers too.

On the south side I enjoyed the Emmaus window and the Epiphany window – a bald king with an excellent beard.

I liked the south chapel, fun carving, and Boer War Memorial.

We went outside, enjoyed the afternoon light, and will have another explore of the town and the church.

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Norwich, Norfolk – St Gregory

I only managed two churches on these few days in Norfolk. There are lots of churches in Norwich, and after a few hours in the Castle Museum we ended up in St Gregory’s, which is now an antiques centre. They used to say that Norwich had a pub for every day of the year and a church for every week of the year – so what do you do with the churches we no longer need? Norwich Historic Churches Trust has a collection of such churches, and this one is on their website – There is a short film where one of the traders talks about how the church is special for her. The website has a 10 minute film about a gorgeous painted screen which is now in store in Norfolk Museums, and the same site has a link to a pdf guide leaflet – there was nothing available in the church. Simon Knott visited the church a while ago –

It is suggested that St Gregory’s is one of the earliest parishes in Norwich. Although there is no documentary evidence before the C13, its parish boundaries seem to be earlier than some of the other churches nearby – the leaflet says its parish “intrudes” onto areas that other parishes might have been expected to have had if their churches were built first. The nave design is abut 1380, payment for the chancel was made in 1394, and the high altar dedicated in 1401. It was closely linked to the Priory at the Cathedral, and the church’s income paid for the infirmary. It is suggested that the design can be attributed to Robert Wodehirst (Wadherst), who was ‘master’ at the cathedral cloister in 1385-86. Apparently, though I didn’t check, the altar is so high as a roadway ran underneath it. There is no chancel arch, but plenty of steps.

St Gregory’s is now an antiques centre, and they had an interesting selection of stuff. I assume it is Joseph and Jesus happily next to Buddha, the altar has an interesting selection of clothes and pictures, and I could have spent lots of money on model trains.

The roof is rather lovely, and there are some nice carvings and angels looking down on it all.

The vault of the western tower, which has an octagonal central opening in it to facilitate hoisting bells up to the top stage, is clearly based on the octagon at Ely. Apparently this can also be used to bolster the suggestion that the mason Robert Wodehirst was involved in the design as he is recorded working at Ely between 1387 and 1393. It would be fascinating to research the lives of some of these Master Masons – one day!

There are also some fascinating memorials, but there are also some worrying signs that all is not well with the structure of the building.

I wonder when the organ was last played. Interesting wall painting at the west end.

I went down into a sort of crypt, with some angelic glass (and more stuff to buy).

The font is hidden behind a selection of stalls and screens. Is it really wise to have such a plethora of extension leads – if we did this in a working church, the architect and Archdeacon would not be happy. I left thinking that, while an Antiques Centre is a perfectly good use for a redundant church, is the money ever going to be found for the upkeep and maintenance that is obviously needed?

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Acle, Norfolk – St Edmund

We are having a few days in Norfolk to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary. Friends Rob and Anne drove up for the day and we walked down into the village. The girls took up residence in the tea room while the boys went and explored St Edmund’s church – TG 641203. There is a website at – Acle and Bure to Yare benefice, lots of churches to visit. It is also worth mentioning Simon Knott’s site – 

The church is on the corner in the middle of the village. Nice view from the south side, and a welcoming notice – but easiest access was through the North Porch. In the C12 there would have been a rectangular Norman nave and a round west tower, then the octagonal section was added in the C13. In the C14 the chancel was added, then the Norman nave was demolished and the present wider, higher nave constructed. The southern porch is C15, the north porch was added sometime later. We know that the tower battlements were added in 1472, a reeve called Robert Reynes records his father and two others adding them for £16. The figures at the top have been replaced over time – one of them is Edmund.

The roof will need re-thatching soon – a problem St Edmund’s Allestree hasn’t got. I didn’t photo the South Porch. In his will of 1487 Robert Bataly requested burial by the north door of the church and left 20 marks (£13) for construction of the porch. Apparently there is an image of them in the porch which I missed. It was also worth looking down – rather a nice memorial.

The church doesn’t look particularly stunning when you walk in, but it’s worth an explore. A small tapestry, and you can only be the organist if you are thin and agile. Two War memorials are rather special.

There is a rather nice Nativity Window on the north side – it dates from 1939, so the light in the darkness might have seemed particularly appropriate.

The East Window is a lovely Victorian Ascension window. It was given in memory of W.R. Last who died in 1867. I love the garden, the city and the angels. The saints on the riddle posts behind the altar are Edmund and George – I photoed Edmund. Another Edmund picture too.

The rood screen is C15. The original colour and gilt decoration, including the monogram of St Edmund, was painted over at the Reformation, and recovered in 1912. The rood itself is 1939 addition – interesting adding the image of the crucifixion as the world descended into War. The eagle is 1889 and the nave altar is possibly Stuart.

In the chancel is a charcoal inscription on the medieval plaster of the north wall. It dates from the time of the Black Death in 1549, and was discovered in 1912. The inscription is undated, but the accepted translation is:

“O lamentable Death, how many dost thou cast into the pit, Anon the infants fade away, and of the aged death makes an end. Now these, now those thou ravagest, O Death on every side, These that wear horn [headdresses] or veils, fate spareth not, Therefore while in the world the brute beast plague rages hour by hour, With prayer and with remembrance deplore death’s deadliness.”

Below it is a brass to Thomas Stones, long-standing Rector from 1583. He was also Rector of Wickmeare (15 miles away) and parson of East Dereham (25 miles) – makes you wonder how much he paid a curate! I also liked the memorial to the Victorian Rector, Robert Kennion, who was here for 36 years. I can’t say that I have “no greater joy than to hear of [my] people walking in the truth”, and I hope I’ll be able to retire before I am 79.

The font is stunning – I have left the best to last. The inscription on the plinth dates it to 1410. There are woodwoses (wild men) on the stem, the decoration around the bowl includes a pieta (Mary holding the body of Christ) and a representation of the Trinity. God the Father holding a crucifix, together with a dove symbolising the Spirit. Protestant reformers opposed such imagery, and in the reign of Elizabeth I there is a record that Rychard Dey was paid 5d for the font’s defacement. We also have symbols of the crucifixion, and the four Gospel writer (lion, eagle, ox, winged man). It also contains traces of the original pigments – we forget how colourful these buildings would have been. Just enjoy!

What a wonderful Edmund church. Well worth coming to Acle for. But we came for something else – Acle Station Cottage is a holiday cottage – One large step to get inside, but flat once in – two bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, lounge. There are regular trains to Norwich and to Yarmouth and the new Greater Anglia local trains have flat access – the only problem for us is that the flat access to the Norwich platform is a very long walk and not particularly flat. They are in the middle of a re-signalling project as well.

Train run every half an hour, but you get used to them. The last one was 2345 to Norwich (so that was on the opposite platform). One night there was a train in ‘our’ platform about 0015. I leapt out of bed to see what it was – a track tamper. I took rather too much of the duvet with me, which was almost the end of our marriage. However I am glad to report that my beloved wife has agreed we can return for our 37th wedding anniversary.

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A personal pause – another (two) MAs

My wife Julie is the clever clogs of the family. MA (Cantab), PGCE, MA (Open University). I have an MA (Cantab) and a BTh Hons (Nottingham). Once I could put ALA after my name, until I stopped being an Associate of the Library Association. Apparently it is now called CILIP which I guess is Chartered Institute of Library and Information Practitioners (slightly ironically their website doesn’t spell it out!).

After a year or so in Derby we decided we needed to stretch our brains. Derby University were starting an MA in Public History and Heritage, and launched it at Kedleston Hall. The cake alone was enough to make us want to sign up. The course started in September 2017. There were about a dozen of us on the course – half youngsters in their 20s, fresh out of a History degree, doing it full time; the other half oldies like us, usually taking 2 years. We have made some friendships that will last.

My BTh degree from Nottingham was my theology while training at Lincoln Theological College. Nottingham was the first university going on to Semesters. I said then (1993) that that was a stupid idea, and I haven’t changed my opinion. Wasting several weeks in January/February is just daft. Anyway in the first we studied Heritage management, funding and marketing and Curation and conservation in a digital world. In Heritage management Julie did some work on Alice Wheeldon (a Derby supporter of Women’s Suffrage), I looked at our Lusitania memorial in St Matthew’s churchyard (Darley Abbey), and we got that renovated. We will draw a veil over being digital, not an experience either of us got much out of!

Next was Audiences and audience development and a Public History consultancy. Elvaston Castle was a place where Julie got stuck in the mud, certainly not a local attraction we are desperate to get back to. I enjoyed Crich trams (and my research is the basis of their Mail exhibition last summer and next summer – I’m very pleased with what they did with it), Julie enjoyed Elizabeth Gaskell House in Manchester.

This year was Politics of history in the first semester. I did a paper on War memorials which you can read at . Julie did more on the Suffragettes. In the second it was Current debates in global heritage, with a presentation on the Darjeeling line from me and one on Eva Peron from Julie. We also wrote longer dissertations – Lindisfarne for me, Writer’s Houses for Julie (just a shame so much work is read by only two people!). Here is Adrian Shooter’s Darjeeling loco.

Thanks to our lecturers (though I haven’t forgiven Kathleen for commenting that she wasn’t born when I first visited Crich), and we enjoyed using the library and Blackwell’s. Derby Theatre is part of the Uni, so gives discount and free wifi in the cafe – Julie calls it my creche, she leaves me there while shopping in the INTU centre. Thanks too to Derby Diocese for some funding and to the Trustees of Lichfield Theological College for some more. We paid for the bulk of my course and all of Julie’s – I remember the days when Uni education was free. If you want to know more about the course have a look at

We graduated on Thursday 21 November. Hannah had arrived last night. I had to do a funeral visit in the morning and J had to go to Toddlers, then I went to the station to collect Harry. We then drove to the Arena and managed to blag our way through the crowds to get in – bacon sandwiches were what was required. There was, as always at these things, a lot of hanging around, but eventually the kids were seated. We robed – the chap from Ede & Ravenscroft tried to tell me how to wear a hood – and had our photo taken for the Derby Telegraph. Robe hire is expensive (£51 each), but it was good to see “Graduation services Cambridge” on our bank statement. I ended up on row K with Rebecca, Ruby, Claire and Mollie, and Julie was sat on the front row. It was long – lots of young ladies in unsuitable outfits wobbling across the stage. Then they awarded an Hon Degree to someone I’d never heard of, then there were more degrees.

Eventually it was our turn. Everyone had to climb the steps onto the stage, walk across, shaking two hands, then down the other side. Except Julie. They had a lift on one side. She had to go up, wheel across, shake hands, turn round, wheel back (avoiding me), and down on the lift – not falling off the stage while she did it. Then a few more. The chap from Chatsworth then gave a speech, and Claire (one of our colleagues) gave the vote of thanks – she was superb. She’s the clever-clogs who got a distinction, but she worked rather harder than we did (probably harder than we both did put together!).

It took a while to get out, and even longer to drive through Pride Park. We had to throw Harry out for him to run for his train. I was supposed to be singing Evensong at the Cathedral, but had to phone en route. We had fish and chips from George’s, then Hannah drove home. I am glad we did it – a bit of maths says I’ve been to 14 family graduations (2 x dad, 3 x me, 4 x Julie, 3 x Hannah, 1 x Gareth, 1 x Harry).

The press office at the University were keen to tell the world about us. We ended up in the Derby Telegraph – and on BBC Radio Derby (twice). The Diocesan press office were not interested. Our churches were very enthusiastic – we could not have done it without their support (or without the office photocopier!!).

What now? Change my letter head to “MA (Cantab), MA (Derby), BThHons (Nottm)”. Finish paying for it. Catch up on all that reading I haven’t done (Julie is always reading – have a look at her blog Find some interesting short courses. Mention in a Ministry Development Review that I have done this MA, wait for the promotion and the pay rise (sorry, I forgot, I work for the Church of England).

You might like to look at the lettering on the mugs …

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Melbourne, Derbyshire – St Michael and St Mary

“A little drive” out on Saturday 2 November (and writing it up on 4 November). Melbourne is a small town but, like most small towns, parking seems to be at a premium. We eventually found a space outside the Hall, and I wandered into the church – SK 389250. (Nice to see welcoming notices on both north and south side – south side entrance is flat, but there’s nothing to tell you that). It is rather a wow church when you walk in –

A church is listed in the Domesday Book, and it may – like Repton and Breedon – have been a substantial structure. It was rebuilt into the form we see now in the C12. When Henry I founded the diocese of Carlisle in 1133 he presented the church at Melbourne to Adelulf, it first bishop. It has long been assumed that Adelulf used this church as his base since Carlisle was a bit dangerous (and Virgin Trains are so bad), but there is no evidence of this, he seems to have stayed up north. The manor was a Royal manor, so had Henry I built himself a substantial church – at the west end we can see a gallery, could this have been a royal pew?

The Norman arches and their carving are rather wonderful – it has the feel of a special, Royal, important church. A statement of power is being made. Not quite as much as a statement as Durham, but certainly the same idea.

I liked the window under the gallery – one leaflet says it’s 1953, but nothing says who made it.

The font is C13, and the flower arrangers go for quiet and subtle! (I hope they check the lists of baptisms planned before doing quite such a big display!). There is also a fascinating notice about their solar panels – in November 2011 they installed a 9.84kW array of 48 photovoltaic solar panels on the roof. So far the feed-in-tariff has earned them £28,000 – the aim is that they pay for themselves within 25 years. The weblink is, which does not work – hardly fills you full of confidence (and certainly doesn’t enthuse me to push sceptical PCCs in this direction).

I made my way up the north aisle. The hatchments and flags tell the story of the occupants of Hall and Town. Sir Penistone Lamb was created the first Viscount Melbourne in 1781. His second son William inherited the title in 1828 – he was Home Secretary before becoming Prime Minister in 1835. As Australia developed, one province was named after his Queen, and its capital after him. His is the second hatchment on display, theirs’ is the flag.

One imposing bishop, an Agnus Dei, and a C13 chest.

The North Transept ends with an altar, once it would have ended with a semi-circular apse and the altar would have been further east. I like the glass and the altar frontal, but I missed the squint into the chancel. Look at the carvings as we move round to the Chancel arch. Did you spot the cat on one side, and the dog straining at the lease on the other?

Worth looking at to the bell frame as well, and west to enjoy the Nave. The top of the tower is C17 and the original four bells dated between 1610 and 1732. They were recast and rehung in 1882 (with two bells added), and another two were added in 1887 (Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee). The organ dates to 1860, and was rebuilt in 1981. This is a church with a good choir – Julie had been here for an RSCM day.

A very proud eagle, and the wall painting behind is a wonderful relic (it was hidden behind a plaque). There would have been a great scene of hell and damnation, now we have the demon Tutivillus hovering over two women – wonder what they did wrong!

In the Chancel we have some space. The side walls are Norman, the east is part of the late medieval rebuilding. It is a high chancel, and there may have been a second storey – once again, you are reminded that this is a major church. The hatchments are those of the first and the third Lord Melbourne. The east window glass is by Hardman.

At the east end of the south aisle I liked the painting, The Red Cup by Michael Cook, and lit candles on this All Souls’ Day for my lovely lads. I looked Michael Cook up and found him at  – he currently has work in display at Derby Cathedral. Better go and have a look!

I want for a wander out of the south door and round the outside. The church is surrounded by buildings, including a tithe barn at the west, so you can’t get a good overall view. But look at the details.

We went next door to the craft shops and tea room at Melbourne Hall – Tea room has flat access for the wheelchair (and did a very nice ham omelette), but we’re not sure whether there is a disabled loo. The gardens look worth a visit, and the Hall is open occasionally. If I’m doing the gardens I might come on the bus!

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Birmingham – Hall of Memory

On Saturday 19 October I was allowed an escape day. I started with my flu jab, then caught the train from Duffield to Derby and on (on a packed Cross Country train) to Birmingham. I eventually managed to escape from New Street (how could they make such a mess of a station rebuild?) and walked to the Library of Birmingham. Why does Birmingham have a stunning library when in Derby they closed a beautiful Victorian library and handed everything else over to community control?

The Library is hosting an exhibition called “Watt in the World, the life and legacy of James Watt 2019.” I did a little bit of research on him many years ago while looking at ‘Finding God in technology’ for a St Edmundsbury Lent Address, and one of the sadnesses of 2019 is that I haven’t had opportunity to do more Watt stuff – there’s been quite a lot at Soho House, Handsworth, and elsewhere in the Midlands (and in Glasgow). There was some fascinating material in this exhibition, but I was most intrigued by a print entitled “Engraving of the Liverpool to Birmingham Railway in 1825” (ie dated several years before the line opened). Never seen it before, can’t find it on the web, and there’s no decent (affordable) exhibition catalogue to tell me more about it. Here’s part of it.

Outside is a building site for the Birmingham Westside Metro extension. It will be wireless, interesting to see how battery power works. I had a wander and then realised there was what looked to be a fascinating building open.

The Hall of Memory was built to commemorate the 12,320 Birmingham citizens who died and the 35,000 who were wounded in the First World War. The foundation stone was laid on 12 June 1923 by The Prince of Wales. He said that the building would stand to “symbolise to generations to come that Birmingham stood for, during  period of great national crisis – work of every kind unflinchingly given, compassion to the sick and wounded, courage and resource in adversity, and, above all, self-sacrifice in the face of death.” It was opened two years later by HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught, is built of Portland Stone, and cost £60,000, and was constructed mainly by Birmingham craftsmen. It was designed by S.N. Cooke and W. Norman Twist, built by James Barnsley and Sons, and John Bowen and Sons. Website at

In the centre of the Hall is a sarcophagus-shaped dais of Siena marble, and in the display case are two books, one for each of the World Wars. There is a third book, as Wars never end.

Having been to the Island of Barra, I wondered why they sent a wreath – it’s the Birmingham Air Raids Remembrance Association – It is good that they remember something that could so easily be forgotten.

Looking up, the glass is rather lovely. The main one was designed by R.J. Stubington. He studied, and then taught, at Birmingham School of Art.

There are four Art Deco Bas-relief plaques depicting scenes from the First World War. Here are two of them. 35,000 came home disabled – that might be something to think about this Remembrance Sunday. How Society looks after the people who need looking after – I can see that annoying a few!

These seats do not look the most comfortable to sit and meditate on. It was a shame that there wasn’t anywhere you felt welcome to sit and think. The one chap on duty sat in a side office on the phone, not making eye contact with any visitors. There was just an A4 sheet with information, and nothing to help people remember. It would be a fascinating project to see what you could produce in such a multi-racial City.

Outside there are four bronze statues by Albert Toft, another local man – They represent Air Force, Army, Navy, and the Women’s Services. Rather stunning.

I wandered back to New Street and travelled home via Rugeley Trent Valley and Tamworth (the way one does). I was home at 3, having had a good day out. Today (1 November) I have got my blog totally up to date (which it hasn’t been for a while). I now need another day out!

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Binchester, County Durham – Roman fort

We drove on about four miles to Binchester Roman Fort. We last came here in 2010 on a warm May Saturday when there was a bunch of re-enactors on site and the place was buzzing. Rather different to a very wet Friday in September when the only people on site are us and the lady from Durham County Council – who came and found us later in our visit to lend us an umbrella. Although there is no café and the loos are portaloos, everywhere in the main buildings are wheelchair accessible (as is a portaloo). More details at Durham CC have a superb archaeological section, and are to be congratulated for so much good work.

Dere Street is the main Roman road from York to Corbridge – I have blogged Corbridge and the settlement at Piercebridge (the one south of Binchester, Vinovia). There has recently been a lot of archaeological exploration along the line of the new A1(M) south of Scotch Corner – have a look at This road was probably laid out while Petilius Cerialis was governor of Britain between 71 to 74 AD, and the first fort was built here circa 75 AD. It covered about 7 hectares, and was one of the largest in the North. Around 90 AD it was reduced in size, and may have been abandoned completely when Hadrian’s Wall was  built in the 120s. A new and smaller fort was built circa 160. It continued to function as a military base until the end of the Empire in 410 AD.

Later the stone was used to build Escomb church and Auckland Castle, but John Leland and William Camden, writing in the C16, described walls and buildings still standing. In 1815 the ground collapsed under a horse and cart, and a hypocaust was found and preserved. In 1833 Bishop Van Mildert, the owner of the site, allowed the sculptured and inscribed stones collected over previous centuries to be broken up and used as building material in a new coal mine – never lets bishops anywhere near anything historic! The first excavations took place in 1878-80, directed by the Reverend Robert Hooppell, a nearby Vicar (Vicars always being more use than Bishops). More recent work included a visit by Time Team in 2007 (is that really 12 years ago?) and work continues every summer. The old people’s home that has covered much of the site is now closed, and there are plans to investigate more – we will be back (when it’s not raining quite so hard).

In the dry we visited the Bath House. It is easy enough to work out the layout, and imagine the progression from cold to hot. You can also imagine the hard work of the slaves in keeping the fires stoked and the furnaces blazing. Several years (decades?) ago they built a replica bathhouse at Segedunum Fort at Wallsend. A lot of money was poured into it, and I’m I sure I remember you could book it for parties (perhaps I’m just fantasising …). Then it was drained, and I remember visiting when there were barriers everywhere to stop you falling in to an empty bath. Now (again I think for several years) it has been closed “until further notice”. Time for a campaign to re-open it?

I then braved the rain to look at the Dere Street and the Commander’s House beside it. I did wonder whether the Commander would really want to live bang in the middle of the town with all the traffic going past his front door. 

Then I walked across the field into a huge tent which cover the excavations made this last summer (at least, I think they are. There are reports at  and at but I can’t quite square those with what I saw. Here we seem to have Regimental Baths, obviously a larger complex than those we’ve been in, and probably of earlier construction. Just admire the workmanship, and imagine the noise and bustle.

This is obviously a site with a lot more to find. There seems to be a real buzz about history in Bishop Auckland – I picked up a leaflet for their History and Heritage Festival 13-28 September. Escomb Church, Binchester, Auckland Castle, Weardale Railway, and preparations for the Bicentenary of the Stockton-Darlington Railway in 2025. Wonderful to see how history is being used to regenerate a town that has not had an easy few decades – we need to pay a proper visit, and not just call in while en route down the A68.

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