The snow is almost gone, but we’re all getting fed up of grotty weather. I spent an hour and a half singing carols at Waitrose in the morning and was climbing the walls by late afternoon. I needed out! We drove to the neighbouring village of Stamfordham. It has a population of about 1,000, a school, two churches, two pubs, a nice village green with lock-up, even a bus depot – but no shop or post office. St Mary’s church (NZ076720) has a website http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/stamfmatfenchurches/ and is open at 3 pm on a dark December Saturday. Please don’t expect brilliant photography.
The church stands on a ridge of high ground north of the River Pont and the low ground by the river was already flooded from the melting snow. The name “Stamfordham” means ‘the place of the Stoney Ford’, the ford being down the hill from the church on the footpath to Hawkwell (we’ll save that for a sunny day!).
An Anglo-Saxon place name implies an Anglo-Saxon church, the tower dates to about 1150, and everything else was reconstructed in 1848/49. Hexham Abbey was the original Patron, but then, in the early fourteenth century, King Edward I claimed the right, and so HM the Queen is Patron today. It is a good, solid, tower.
A lady’s face on the stonework by the door – apparently she is a twelfth century carving.
In the porch the lion rampant – part of the arms of the Heaton family.
On entering the church, I was hit by the temperature of the building – and it was very dark inside. My camera has a good flash. Firm wooden, rather second-rate Victorian pews, fill the Nave.
I hope that any stone tomb I’d paid for wouldn’t end up as an umbrella stand.
In the north west corner is this rather stunning memorial to John Swinburne of Black Heddon who died in 1623 and his wife Marie. They lived in the hamlet of Black Heddon – which I must visit at some point – and he came from the family which held the Lordship of the Manor. It’s a little incongruous that it’s surrounded by the children’s toys – I wonder how many children John and Marie had.
There are a couple of banners hanging in church. The one above is that of Arthur Bigge. His father, John was Vicar from 1847, and Arthur became Private Secretary to Queen Victoria and King George V. He later became 1st Baron Stamfordham. He was a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath and this banner hung above his stall in Westminster Abbey. His grandson, Michael Edward Adeane, was Private Secretary to Queen Elizabeth II from 1953 to 1972 – he too was a Knight etc etc, and his banner etc etc …
The guidebook tells me there is a reredos of 1330 hidden beside the organ, and there are a few other things I’ve missed, so I ought to go back in the daylight. I did notice the marble tablet commemorating all the clergy – it must be rather expensive to update it every time a new cleric comes. Perhaps anyone appointed to the parish has to commit to spend at least a decade there (or pay for the engraving!).