Ovingham – St Mary – again (inside)

Inside the door their excellent guidebook is on sale for £2 – 36 glossy pages telling the story of the church and village. It was produced 10 years ago, but is still a good read. The church is very high (in height) and was originally very narrow – then aisles were added in the 11th century. All the windows are narrow lancets – in Ponteland in the 14th century our lancets were replaced, but here the political landscape was more difficult, the D’Umfraville family (of Prudhoe Castle who owned this part of the world) were not the Scots’ favourite people!

Added to this were aisled transepts on the north and south – the south is now rather cosy. They have a noticeboard for their choir, and seem to have a huge number of children regularly singing in a proper robed choir – nothing on the www, but I must find out more. On the wall is a copy of Peter Paul Rubens’ “Descent of the Cross” which was painted for Notre Dame in Antwerp between 1612 and 1614. In the left panel is what the guidebook describes as “a homely picture of a very pregnant Mary visiting Elizabeth”.

Moving into the Chancel we have an Evetts’ window. It is entitled “The desert shall bloom like a rose” and commemorates the millennium of the tower (1990).

I didn’t photo the memorials in the Chancel – many members of the Blackett family are buried here. They settled in Wylam in the 17th century, and a century and a bit later they introduced a range of new ideas into their pit – with Stephenson and Hedley on their payroll, of course. The other family were the Bigge family – including Newcastle bankers, and plenty of clergy.

The glass in the East Windows are by William Wailes of Newcastle. Installed in 1845 in the grissaille or grey style – the effect is produced by very fine hatching, which gives a silvery appearance.

Then, in the north wall, is a gorgeous Benedicite Window, by Clayton and Bell of London. I love the fish.

Beside the pulpit is a memorial tablet to Charles James Fuller “who was struck down with paralysis on Easter Day 1873 in the act of preaching a sermon … on a memorable text ‘why seek the living among the dead?'” Bet that put a damper on the celebrations!

Looking west, the organ is absolutely huge:

There is some Wailes stained glass, a hatchment which dates to between 1816 and 1837, the Easter Candle is an Evetts’ design (whoops … missed that), a picture dedicated to the members of the choir who died in the First World War, a tapestry commemorating Thomas Bewick, and a lump of Saxon stone – which Richard says is the most amazing thing in church. In his book “Viking Age Sculpture”, which he wrote in 1980, he looked at how northern English sculptors in the 10th century explored the parallels and contrasts between Viking mythology and Christian teaching. The book included this drawing.

The church guidebook quotes our guide (so I will too): “Many of the Norse sagas told of the great battles between good and evil, which would be followed by a ‘new cleansed world’. Like the great cross at Gosforth, at Cumbria, our fragment records an event from sagas, which is sufficiently similar to Christianity to offer an illustration of a Christian truth. On the right is a man carrying an enormous horn whilst on the left another is holding back a beast whose gaping mouth reaches towards a disc (the sun) at the top of the carving. The scene is of ‘Heimdallr with his horn at the moment the Fenris wolf breaks loose from its bondage at Ragnorok … the first act of its freedom was to devour the sun’. Both the horn and the threat to the sun recall the New Testament visions of the end described in Matthew 24.29-31 and Revelation 6.12-13.”

The sculpture over the porch is an 1987 work by Daniel Oates of Farnham. It is rather fine. Having had another wander round, I walked down to the 18th century pack horse bridge over Whittle Dene and then photoed the red telephone box (a K6 in case you’re wondering). Did Professor Bailey know that? A great afternoon – thanks, Coffee Club.

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