Kirknewton – St Gregory the Great

DSC03934My blog is becoming a useful resource – “have you got a photo of ..?” The Josephine Butler window at Kirknewton. Answer: No. Being a helpful bunny I dropped Julie at work and headed north … a long way north. I had never been left off the A697 and up the B6351 beside the River Glen. It is rather lovely – though the weather was lousy. I drove through the small village, and parked next door to the huge Village Hall – locked – closed school, and open church. NT914302. I walked in through the front of the churchyard and came round the tower to the grave of Josephine Butler. There is a memorial window to her in the porch.DSC03937

DSC03984Josephine Butler was born on 13 April 1828, and baptised on 30 May (the day – today – that the Church remembers her). Her father John Grey was a strong advocate of social reform and a campaigner against the slave trade. Her cousin was Earl Grey the Prime Minister. She married George Butler in 1852. Together they had four children but in 1863, their six year old daughter died. In an attempt to cope with her grief, Butler threw herself into charity work, particularly related to the rights of women. Amongst the issues on which she campaigned was child prostitution. She was part of a group which forced parliament to raise the age of consent from 13 to 16. In 1869 she began her campaign against the Contagious Diseases Acts. These had been introduced in the 1860s in an attempt to reduce venereal disease in the armed forces. Police were permitted to arrest women living in seaports and military towns who they believed were prostitutes and force them to be examined for venereal disease. Butler toured the country making speeches condemning the acts. Many people were shocked that a woman would speak in public about sexual matters. But in 1883 the acts were suspended and repealed three years later. She also took a great interest in women’s education – we have her campaigning to thank for Newnham College in Cambridge, and she is now remembered in Josephine Butler College at Durham. She was a woman of great spirituality, and wrote a biography of Catherine of Siena.  She died on 30 December 1906. A good website is


DSC03942DSC03985The window is by Helen Whittaker, installed for her centenary in 2006. Details at The sculpture in copper comprises nine lilies on seven bars/stems entwined with bindweed. The bars/stems and bindweed symbolise the social constraints and oppression experienced by women that Josephine fought against throughout her life. The bars (and the lilies that spring from them) progress to the light of the window where a short text is printed. It is a beautiful piece of work – worth driving north for.

DSC03951The church itself looks like a C19 one – nave is 1860 by Dobson, tower a little later. Inside it looks C19 too. However the south transept and the chancel are both older (C13/early C14) and rather special. Pevsner says “their barbaric qualities match … perfectly our vision of what the Borders were like.  … Dobson had no feeling for that character; Lutyens or perhaps Oliver Hill would have been equal to it. Dobson simply put up with these barbarities and made a neat and correct building of a good period.” As the architect of Newcastle Central Station, I can forgive him any failures in Kirknewton. I managed a good photo of the Chancel.

DSC03961DSC03957In the south transept there is a stone dated to 1458 – Andrew Burrell and his wife. In the chancel, The Reverend Thomas Order, 1776, by Jopling of Gateshead. Best of all is the C12 Adoration of the Magi – are they wearing kilts? There’s also a wooden Nativity reredos.



A couple of nice windows. One is by Evetts, based on Psalm 104 (look it up). The other, unnamed artist, remembers the armed forces. Outside a line of War Graves brings it home – there was an airfield at Milfield, and several crews lost their lives flying from there. Those from Canada and New Zealand were a very long way from home.



With the map on the passenger seat I drove past Kirknewton station – see – and the station master’s house is on sale  –

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