Cotheridge, Worcestershire – St Leonard – and The Firs, Elgar’s birthplace

Friday 31 May, the last day of the holiday – but we live life to the full! We were out of the flat nice and quickly, and headed towards Elgar’s birthplace. We were there so early we went and had an explore. St Leonard’s, Cotheridge church – SO 787547 – is now part of the Lower Teme Valley parish, in the Worcester West Rural Team – https://wwrt.churchinsight.com/Groups/305347/Lower_Teme_Valley.aspx. No guidebook, just a laminated sheet, and nothing about the building on the website, but at least it was open. Reading the sheet, they’ve done a good job of putting it in context. It is one thing to tell me it’s an early C12 church, but when they say “Henry I, 50 years before the murder of Thomas a Becket” I can have a bit idea of when that actually is. Then the church was altered in the C15, and restored in 1684 for Rowland Berkeley (I love the way we know who it was restored in 1684). British Listed Buildings tells me that at the time of surveying (June 1984) the south tower and nave were out of use due to  their deteriorating condition – so well done to all those who have got it back into a good, and open, condition.

I headed round to the north side, and found flat access into a kitchen (mugs and a kettle provided if I wished to make coffee) and a disabled loo (for this relief, much thanks). The Chancel has a C15 east window and I like the altar rail. I missed the “interesting glazed floor tiles of the C14 and C15” on the Chancel floor. I should know by now to look down at the floor as well us up to the window.

The Chancel Arch is not just some wooden screen or metal bird cage, this is a proper Norman arch.

Reading the sheet, the Nave itself had a roof which collapsed in 1947, and was rebuilt by 1961, then another major rebuild in the late 1980s – my admiration for them increases again. I like the welcome too – there are many open churches, but not many open organs.

The South Window dates from the time of Magna Carta, and the pulpit is C17. The North Chapel (now the vestry) was added then.

I enjoyed the machine which told me some of the church stories – it seems a robust contraption (though the trailing wire could do with sorting), and I assume it was grant funded. I know there’s a lot more work being done now with clever apps (though I take some convincing that the technology is up to it in the middle of nowhere). It was also nice to see that they had done some walk leaflets – they may no longer have a service every Sunday, but they are seeking to serve in different ways – well done to them. How about producing a combined leaflet for all the churches of the benefice, and persuading the National Trust and other tourist magnets in the area to stock them?).

In the South Porch we have some material on display. The timber bell tower, built with large oak beams, was added early C16. The weatherboards were added in the reign of Queen Anne. Just one bell in the tower now – there were four, but one is safer!

Neither font is mentioned anywhere – I like the skull as a reminder of mortality.

This is a church that would benefit from an exploration with Pevsner in hand. What are all the buttresses and odd bits of wall? Answers on a postcard please.

On to The Firs, and it was well worth a visit – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-firs. It’s been run by the Elgar Birthplace Trust for many years, but now the National Trust are in charge. They have built an excellent Visitors’ Centre – I liked the way the speed bump had been removed to facilitate wheelchair access. A very good film about Elgar, and a small museum. They had based their display on “All you need to write a symphony”
· Mark making tools, paper, and a steady hand,
· A pipe and tobacco (or a cigar), glue and scissors,
· A partner who cares for you, a ruler, and a rostrum (which is the five pointed ink pen to draw the lines of a stave)
· A metronome, a patriotic feeling and a manly moustache,
· The love of friends, a bicycle and some wealthy patrons.

There was plenty of music, some good art, and an excellent tea room (with superb scones).

Julie, please note …

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