Haworth, West Yorkshire – St Michael and All Angels

We had arranged to start 2019 by meeting friends at 11.30 for a ride on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway. We overslept. We met our friends off the train at 12.30, then realised the steepness of the hill in Haworth. There is a disabled parking space in the car park by the Parsonage, but no flat access out of the car park unless you push along the road. It wouldn’t be rocket science to get rid of these three steps. We found a café and had a good lunch – Haworth is busy, even in January.

We went into St Michael and All Angels – SE 030373. They have a website at http://www.haworthchurch.co.uk, and strive to have the church open all the time. I did have a smile that the first poster I saw was for a Burns’ Supper – now I’m really getting confused … We got a nice welcome, and had an explore. There’s some good photos at http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/churches/england/yorkshire/west_yorkshire/haworth/index.html

There is written evidence of a C14 church on this site – there may well have been an earlier building. The bottom of the church tower dates to this period.

The church website says “In  1742 William Grimshaw, who was a close friend of John Wesley, became curate at Haworth. He was an enthusiastic and hard working curate, preaching as many as 30 times a week. He was also not averse to leaving his services and driving men out of the many public houses at the top of Haworth to listen to his long sermons. Haworth legend says that he even used a whip in order to encourage people out of the pubs into the church.” I must warn the Red Cow in Allestree that it will be my new technique (the CofE could list it as a “fresh expression”). “In 1755 the church was enlarged to accommodate the many people who wanted to attend” says the website, interesting definition of the word “want”!

Patrick Bronte became priest in 1820 and moved to the Parsonage with his family. His workload was incredible, and he was a conscientious parish priest. To quote the website “he baptised an average of 290 people per year, but due to the high mortality rate and the fact that the average life expectancy was just 22 years of age with 40% of children dying before the age of 6, Bronte also performed over 100 funerals per year.” As I commented in my magazine, I must not moan about my workload. Patrick Bronte died in 1861 at the age of 84, having outlived his entire family. He served the parish for 41 years, the longest serving incumbent they have had. In 1845 Arthur Bell Nicholls had been appointed as a curate. He later married Charlotte Bronte, and due to Patrick’s failing eyesight he soon took over the bulk of the official church duties.

By the 1870s the church was unsafe and unsanitary – water from the huge graveyard was seeping through the floor. It was decided to take down the old church building and build a new one, and there was a national outcry. The church had already become a place of Bronte pilgrimage.

The foundation stone of the present church was laid on Christmas Day 1879 by Michael Merrall, a local mill owner. He contributed £5,000 of the £7,000 needed. A couple of stained glass windows are dedicated to his memory – I think that these two figures in the West Window are members of the Merrall family (but I can’t find the guidebook).

I had a look at the rest of the stained glass as I worked my way round the church. The War Memorial window has Sir Galahad – don’t think I’ve ever seen him on a war memorial before. The East Window has some good glass with the Te Deum.

I liked the Epiphany window, the colours of the angels, a man handing out bread, and Mary serving at table – nice plaits.

Font and pulpit look like a pair, and there is an interesting painting high above the Chancel arch – it needs a proper clean and display. There’s one under the tower too, but I didn’t get a photo of it.

There are some Bronte memorials too. How many words on a memorial tablet? No doubt northernreader – and if you haven’t read my wife’s blog, have a look at https://northernreader.wordpress.com/ – can tell me if his daughters were paid by the word.

I had a good chat with the couple on duty, who turned out to be churchwarden and wife. We talked about the difficulty of staffing the church so it is always open, and the problem of finding a second churchwarden. Asking a parish to staff a major tourist attraction without enough resources to do it … are we ever going to work together to handle our tourism ministry? The Diocese of Leeds, covering one of the most tourist-areas of England, has nothing about “Visiting churches” or “Tourism” on its website.

I walked round the churchyard. Apparently there are estimated to be 42,000 burials in the graveyard. Many of the graves from the time of the Bronte family hold entire families including a number of infants – I cannot imagine the toll that must take on the clergy, and we forget the toll of living in a town like this. It was not a rural idyll.

We walked up past the Old School Room to the Parsonage Museum.

We went into the Parsonage Museum. It is not a Julie-friendly building, but the lovely staff did their best to get Julie into the ground floor. I have to say they could do a bit of work to make it more accessible, though I doubt fully accessible will ever work. You could imagine Patrick doing parish business in one room, the sisters writing in another – and their father telling them not to stay up too late as he walked up the stairs and wound the clock on his way to bed.

It is slightly ironic that normal admission to the Parsonage is £8.50. With that level of income they can afford paid staff and put a lot of money into the “visitor experience” (to use the jargon). Funny how we expect the church to be there, free to enter, but we’ll pay to visit the parsonage.

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Derwent Valley Heritage Way 7 – Matlock to Whatstandwell

On Thursday 13 December I caught the 1259 from Duffield to Matlock to set off and do the next bit of the Derwent Valley Mills Trail. I avoided the railway bookshop at Matlock station, crossed the river, and walked through the park.

A display board reminded me that this was the bottom of the Matlock Cable Tramway – this is an 1891 set of pictures licensed by Commons.wikimedia. It was opened up Matlock Bank in 1893 and lasted until 1927 – there was a continuously moving cable under the road and the trams had a speed of 5 mph. Having walked up Matlock Bank on a previous occasion all I can say is bring back the tram. This is an excellent site – http://www.andrewsgen.com/matlock/tram.htm

There is also a memorial to Arthur Wright, a Police Constable who drowned in the River Derwent on the 27th March 1911 while attempting to rescue a girl who was also drowned. So sad – may they rest in peace.

I walked through Hall Leys Park and found the miniature railway – gauge of 9½ inches, opened in 1948, apparently still running in the summer.

The path runs beside the river, under the railway, and by this stage you realise this is not going to be a flat amble beside a Fenland river.

Up, under the railway again, and up. High Tor pleasure grounds were opened in the 1860s by Peter Arkwright (grandson of Richard, of Cromford Mill fame – we’ll be there later). By this stage both Matlock and Matlock Bath had lots of visitors, and this was an alpine route between the two resorts. I have never walked in the alps – so this is a start. I kept to the footpath as instructed.

I came down to Matlock Bath by the Heights of Abraham cable car – https://www.heightsofabraham.com/. I would love a ride, Julie will hate it. It is closed until the Spring, and they are looking for staff – shall I chuck in the Vicaring and go and run a cable car? Matlock Bath station was opened in 1849, closed in 1967 and re-opened in 1972 – it fits the Swiss notion of the Alps.

I then explored Lovers Walks – a park and paths opened in the mid C18. I’m not sure exactly what path is the Derwent Trail, and the whole complex is not very well signposted – I seem to have walked an interesting route and got back on the A6 not very far from where I had started.

Holy Trinity Matlock Bath has a website with a biblical quote from Zechariah on the front page – that’s where I’ve been going wrong.

I walked passed Masson Mills – https://www.massonmills.co.uk/. I will be honest – it is a World Heritage Site mill that does nothing for me. A shopping outlet centre is not on my list of top places to visit, and I must admit I have never been to the Museum. Now I’ve read the website, I feel I probably should.

Richard Arkwright was involved in the building of a mill in Nottingham, then built mills at Cromford – we’ll walk past that in a couple of miles – using the power of the Bonsall Beck and the Cromford Slough. The first was opened in Cromford in 1771. A paper mill was built here on the Derwent in 1771, and a decade later Arkwright built his cotton mill here at Masson – the Derwent has ten times the power he had had in Cromford. Masson Mills were cotton yarn producing mills from 1783 until 1991, when they were the oldest continuously working mills in the world. I783 Masson Mill was built with a high parapet concealing a low pitch roof. Around 1800 the roof was raised, so that the mill acquired a useable sixth storey. Buildings were added to the north and west of the mill by c.1835, some of which were subsequently demolished. In 1911 the central section with the Masson tower was built, then in 1928 Glen Mill was added to the southern end. In 1998 extensions were added to adapt Masson Mills to their new future as a shopping complex.

The route follows the path beside the A6, then cuts down beside Scarthin Rocks to cut the corner off round to Cromford Mills. Willersley Castle, Arkwright’s home is on the other side of the river. It is now a Christian Guild hotel – https://www.christianguild.co.uk/willersley/history.php. Construction began in 1790, but Arkwright died in 1792, before it was completed. His son Richard moved here in 1796, and the family owned it until the 1920s.

It is a nice view along to St Mary’s church – which I blogged recently – but you don’t get to the Mill complex itself. The mill was built in 1771 and developed for a couple of decades. By 1840 problems with the water supply imposed severe limitations on textile production here and the buildings were put to other uses, including a brewery, laundries and cheese warehousing. From 1922 it was used as a colour works, producing colour pigments for paints and dies. This lasted until 1979, and left the site very contaminated. The Arkwright Society has done a lot of work since then. There is an excellent visitors centre, shops (quilting and antiques are favourites), and café. Good website – https://www.cromfordmills.org.uk/history.

At a meeting in 1788 a canal was proposed to link the southern side of the Peak District to the Erewash canal, north of Nottingham. Arkwright was desperate for good transport links to his mills. William Jessop surveyed the route, and construction started in 1789. It opened in 1794. The Wharf buildings are lovely. The Cromford Canal has a shop and a trip boat, and a very nice café – which was open! I had an excellent scone. Website – http://www.cromfordcanal.info. It was getting dusky by now, so we went back the following day for a few more photos, another scone, and a wander round the Mills.

The route follows the Canal to High Peak Junction, once the terminus of the Cromford and High Peak Railway. This was an amazing route which went up over the top of the Peaks – I have walked bits of it, but must do the whole thing – http://www.peakdistrictinformation.com/visits/highpeaktrail.php. You walk beside the Matlock line, still with proper telegraph poles in place.

The Leawood Pumphouse is owned by Derbyshire CC and is steamed on a regular basis – http://middleton-leawood.org.uk/leawood/history.html. It was built in 1844 to take water from the River Derwent up into the canal – it’s well worth a visit, but not when it’s getting cold, dark, and is under scaffolding. The canal is only open for boats (or to be precise, boat) from Cromford as far as here – it is walkable through to Ambergate, across to Ripley, and to the Erewash Canal. I’ve done some of it.

I walked on through the gathering gloom, and through a tunnel. Past some swans and a nice warm house – I do miss my log burning stove. After 8 miles I arrived at Whatstandwell station and caught the 1647 back to Duffield. There was a group off to paint the town red – I decided I am getting a bit too old for such Christmas excitement.

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Alnwick, Northumberland – St Michael’s (again)

We had a weekend in Northumberland, and on Friday 7 December we drove north to Alnwick. As my wife and Anne settled in for several hours in Barter Books, I went for a walk to St Michael’s church. I did a very brief blog of this church several years ago (I’ve just checked … 2011!,  when the Bailiffgate Singers were singing for a wedding – now was my chance to improve it, and play with the new camera. The church is on the north side of the town, NU 184137. Their website is here, and the Bailiffgate Singers look to be in good voice – website.

Christianity has deep roots in this part of Northumberland, and the first church here must have been Saxon. The first reference to it is in a document of 1147 when the Baron of Alnwick, Eustace Fitz-John, linked the church at Lesbury with chapels at Alnmouth, Houghton and Alnwick, to support the founding of an Abbey at Alnwick. It was the French order of White Canons who were here until 1539 – part of the Norman power structure. They didn’t do a brilliant job of looking after the building, though the Border conflicts made their life difficult, and in 1464 a Charter of Henry VI decreed that the almost ruined building should be rebuilt in its entirety The burgesses of the town were granted £20 per annum for 30 years, much of it coming from tolls on coal exports from Alnmouth. They did a good job of the rebuilding, and it is a beautiful church.

Working your way round the church, the two figures are rather splendid. They were dug up from the foundations during repair work in the C18 – the heads are modern. Probably Henry VI and St Sebastian. Medieval grave slabs – Vxorsimois is probably the wife of Simon of Lucker. An C18 lectern and book.

The font is early C21, made by David Edwick of Hexham using Kilkenny limestone. Since Society has turned it back on the importance of baptism, a process so often aided by the Church, fonts tend to be unused or replaced with something that doesn’t get in the way. Not so here! I love the birds – beautiful.

Some Victorian glass in the North Aisle, and figures on the organ.

St Catherine’s altar, and the High Altar – wonder how long the WW1 decorations will last. Why didn’t I make a note of who this stone commemorated, and why did they run a wire down beside it? Apparently the altar was a table in the castle, until it was bought here in the 1980s. “We need a new altar” said the Vicar. “I’ve got a table you can have” said the Duke.

Look up to the carving on the pillars – the De Vesci/Percy coat of arms, and some wonderful faces. Look down at a C14 knight and lady – she may be Lady Isabella, wife of William de Vesci, the last Baron of Alnwick.

I played with the exposure settings as I tried the windows in the south aisle.

I had enjoyed this visit. Happy memories of singing in Alnwick. I wander back to Barter Books – and the girls had still not finished.


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Coventry Cathedral – a personal pause

My beautiful wife Julie is a Coventry girl, and Monday 3 December 2018 was our 35th wedding anniversary. We drove to Coventry, parked at the west end of the old cathedral and then went in to the new one. We needed a verger to take us down from the nave floor to the basement, and direct us through to the café. After a snack we went back upstairs, and had an explore – the photos were taken on my phone. We also purchased lots of guidebooks to write a full blog next time we come.

The Cathedral was destroyed in an air raid on 14 November 1940, and then rebuilt on the north side, opening in the early 1960s. It was designed by Sir Basil Spence, the stunning tapestry at the “east” end is by Graham Sutherland, some of the windows by John Piper, and there are so many lovely things to photo. When I blog, it will be a very long blog.


The Cathedral crib is rather special too. Its design is contemporary with the Cathedral, and it was commissioned by Spence himself. He approached Alma Ramsey-Hosking, who had already contributed some public art in the city. She trained as a sculptor under Henry Moore in the last 1920s at the Royal College of Art. In October 1940 she was in Southampton, and gave birth to her daughter in the middle of the aerial conflict above. When the child was born, the midwife handed her over saying “Do not put that baby into her cot, but keep her on your hand, where it is safest.” Mary holds her baby on her hand, she is depicted as a young woman, with the delicate neck of girlhood and modelled with looped plaits around her ears. All the figures are constructed from wood and wire armatures, while the figures’ heads and hands and the beasts in their entirety were modelled in bronze powder suspended in a thick resin so when, when hard, it could be burnished. Alma also designed the clothes and, if I’ve read the leaflet correctly, the shepherds become Kings at Epiphany, and Mary moves from being a simple peasant girl to the Queen of heaven. Taking photos was not easy as the Cathedral was full of children so one had to be careful where I pointed the camera. Julie wanted to borrow their Christingle.

We went outside into the Old Cathedral. I searched for the bench dedicated to “Coventry Meat Traders” on which she was sat when I asked her to marry me in 1982. Our marriage has obviously out-lasted the bench. We had a selfie – no one had invented selfies in 1982!

We went into the Herbert Art Gallery and spent a little time there, then walked into town. I spent a while in the café at Waterstones, and tweeted asking how many hours of my married life I have spent waiting in bookshops. We had supper at the Cosy Club, and the staff were lovely. I mentioned it was our 35th anniversary and told the lass that I had fallen for a Coventry girl (“I’m from Birmingham” she said). When the bill came our puddings were free. Thank you! We then went to see Over the Top at the Belgrade Theatre, this year’s alternative pantomime. “The year is 1918 and the troops on the Western Front have had a surprise visit from a fearless group of suffragettes who’ve come to perform a show to life their spirits.” It made us laugh, and made us think. If you are near Coventry this Festive Season go and see it.

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Derwent Valley Heritage Way 6, Rowsley to Matlock

On Friday 16 November I got up early and caught the first Transpeak bus north to Rowsley. Why is it taking me so long to walk this Derwent Valley Mills Trail? It’s only 5.5 miles from Rowsley to Matlock and as it was a damp, grey morning, that would probably be far enough. I cut through the industrial estate on the side of the old station, then headed south on a footpath along the east bank of the river.

Then you come to the northern end of Peak Rail – http://www.peakrail.co.uk/. I haven’t had a ride on the line since I moved to Derbyshire – thirty years ago my brother was teenage volunteer here, trying to build the Buxton end, in the days when there were hopes they could re-open all the way through. It would be wonderful if trains could run from Derby to Manchester again, but I doubt it will happen in my lifetime.

A walk across the fields to Churchtown – not helped by farmers putting fences across rights of way.

St Helen’s church was locked, but they do have coffee every second Saturday which might be an opportunity to get in. Some interesting stone in the porch, an ancient yew tree and war memorials around it.

I crossed the river at Darley Bridge and walked down the west side. As you come into Matlock there are a large derelict site at Cawdor Quarry. In a sensible world we would be building new houses here, rather than on green field sites around Derby.

The Peak Rail bridge north of the town does not look to be in a good state. I stopped and chatted to a lady on a mobility scooter who then offered me a JW leaflet “Suffering – when will it end?” The walk hadn’t been that bad! I ambled to the station and photoed the 1850 Station Master’s house.

On the way north the bus had stopped at the bus station. On the way south the bus does not stop at the bus station. I made it to the stop in Bakewell Road … just!


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Alstonefield, Staffordshire – St Peter

This year our MA course has more mature students, and one of them, Carrie, was handing out flyers for “A Visual and audio exhibition to Commemorate the Centenary of the end of WW1” in Alstonefield – their local history group got some lottery money. I spent the morning of  Saturday 10 November fighting with all the talks needed for tomorrow, and it was later than I had hoped before I got away.

Alstonefield is just across the border into Staffordshire (and Lichfield Diocese) – SK133553 – and it would have been a gorgeous drive if the sun had been shining on the autumn leaves. St Peter’s church wasn’t well signposted in the village,  but as I walked down I saw that each house where a WW1 soldier had lived was labelled – what a good idea. That must really bring it home to the residents. Nice map available too. I also like the “Homemade refreshments” notice – one for our open days? Church website.

The church was buzzing. Refreshment tables down the centre of the Nave, and displays round the side. I took my time and worked my way round. Some general material, and a lot of specific Village information – they had really done their research.

On one of the boards I read the Vicar’s letter, written after the death of his son Ernest on 9 May 1916. Then I read that his older brother, Wilfred, was killed less than two months later. How do you keep your faith, and minister to your people, after two such blows? How did the younger brother, Newland, feel when he is the only one of the three to return from War? Did he get two devastating letters from his parents while he was serving in France?

The display boards in the south aisle were on top of the simple bench seats. The Cotton family pew, repainted in the early C19 was made for the Charles Cotton senior of Beresford Hall. His son, also Charles, was a friend of Izaak Walton – so you can imagine the author of The Compleat Angler sat in this pew (wishing he was fishing??). I wonder what the family men would think of the pew being guarded by Suffragettes?

The problem with displays is they obscure the furniture! I will have to come back to explore the wonderful two-decker pulpit. It was originally three-deck (any photos?) – imagine the power of standing there and proclaiming. There are carved texts to encourage the preacher, and the names of the churchwardens on the front.

The pulpit and pews are all of a piece – you can imagine the upheaval for a few months while they were installed. Were the parishioners impressed with their new pews, or did they now feel contained? Did they understand the liturgical and theological changes which had them all sat in straight rows, looking up to where the Word of God was being proclaimed? Or did they miss their old familiar benches where they had always sat? At the back the Royal Coat of Arms reminds them who is in charge now.

The church was old when these benches went in. There is a record of St Oswald visiting to dedicate the church in 892. The Chancel arch is simple Norman, so that’s one rebuilding, and there was another in 1590. The Victorian restoration of 1870 failed to remove the pews, and I hope they are safe now – the modern addition has been a rather nice kitchen at the back (I recommend the scones!).

The change is theology is also seen in the Creed board. I didn’t have an explore of the history of the rest of the church – this is certainly one I need to come back to.

The font was also a WW1 memorial this weekend (tastefully done), and a memorial at the other end of life – I wonder if Elizabeth stood here watching her children being baptised in this font.

A rather lovely door, and some interesting carving in the porch.

More to look at outside, but it was getting damp and dark. I will come back.


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London – St Edmund, Lombard Street

And finally, London church number 4 was St Edmund King and Martyr, Lombard Street, EC3V 9EA. I can’t find a church website, but the building now houses the London Centre for Spiritual Direction – website – and this ‘about us’ page has a couple of paragraphs on the building. We wandered in, but if you want to visit it might be an idea to check there’s nothing on – or join them on a Wednesday morning for their midweek service.

The original church dated to about 900 AD, which is only 31 years after Edmund was martyred – I wonder when it was first dedicated to him. It was destroyed in the Great Fire and rebuilt by Christopher Wren and his assistant Robert Hooke between 1670 and 79. A new tower was added by Hawksmoor in 1707, and the clock in 1810.

There was a major Victorian restoration. Apparently George Butterfield was congratulated for successfully creating the atmosphere of a gentleman’s dining room! The church was damaged in WW1 by a direct hit at 10 am on 7 July 1917, and then was damaged by the blitz in 1941.

The Sanctuary is certainly eye-catching. The paintings of Moses and Aaron date from 1833. Whoever installed the light and plug under the altar should be taken outside and strangled with the same cord. Gorgeous woodwork – and there is more elsewhere in the church.

The East Window was apparently made in Germany in the 1860s, and was destined for St Paul’s. The story goes that they rejected it because the angels wee in red, not white, so it went to another church. That church was demolished in 1905, and the glass came here – as a memorial to the Duke of Clarence – eldest son of Edward VII. I like the elders with their harps (Revelation 5).

We were trying to work out if Victory is male or female?

Two fascinating memorials. It turns out that Dr Engelbach is also remembered in Mortenhampstead in Devon – website. The Reverend Geoffrey Anketell Studdert-Kennedy is Woodbine Willie, and there is an excellent talk about him here. I had forgotten he had been based here after the War.

Nice woodwork, restored font, and organ case above the main door.

We enjoyed our explore of this church – as we had all four churches. We have a map of the London City Churches and we will be back!


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London – St Michael Cornhill

London church number 3 was St Michael, Cornhill, EC3V 9DS – website. There was a Saxon church on this site. It is recorded in a document of Evesham Abbey in 1055. The tower was rebuilt in 1421, and destroyed in the Great Fire. Rebuilt in 1669-72, with some debate about whether Wren was involved. The tower was rebuilt in 1715-22 in a Gothic style, later added to by Hawksmoor. Sir George Gilbert Scott carried out a major restoration between 1857-60 – so welcome to a Victorianised church.

Over the door, St Michael is disputing the body of Moses with Satan – which is not a legend I’d ever heard about. Apparently it is Jude 9 “But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” Apparently it is not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture – there are various odd websites with some very odd theories.

The War Memorial at the entrance is by R.R. Goulden – Michael the Archangel – and there other War Memorials inside. There must be an essay on how different companies memorialised their dead – would they have invited the widows to the unveiling?

Before we go any further, we must admire the church itself. Sit down, look up, and enjoy the atmosphere. (And ask yourself why the East Window has the light blocked out – I do hope this is only temporary).

There are a lovely selection of memorials. Imagine being in one place as long as Thomas Wrench or Harold Darke. As dad of Gareth who had a heart transplant, I still struggle with “what can I give him … give my heart”, but it is a lovely carol. (I made a total hash of singing Darke’s responses in Derby Cathedral the other week – the ignominy of finishing on one note, and hearing the Director of Music sing the right note! Sorry).

The website says that the earliest surviving reference to an organ here dates from 1459. “The present 63-stop, 3-manual instrument contains many pipes from Renatus Harris’s 2-manual west gallery organ, whose opening recital was given in 1684 jointly by Henry Purcell and John Blow (from Westminster Abbey) and G.B. Draghi (organist to Charles II’s Queen, Catherine)” – imagine being at that recital. “It has been enlarged and enriched by several leading English organ builders including Harris (1704), Green (1790), Robson (1849), Bryceson (1868), Hill (1886/1901), Rushworth and Dreaper (1925/61/75) and Nicholson(2010).” The church makes a lot of their musical tradition – wish I was close enough to go to Choral Evensong on Monday evenings (though I can always have the pleasure of the girls’ choir at Derby Cathedral most Mondays).  The organ tuners were in church today, which meant I could stick my camera through the open door!

I have no idea whether the angels in the roof were enjoying the organ tuning, or the Pelican in her piety above the font.

Finally enjoy the glass – lovely wise men.


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London – St Clement Eastcheap

London church number 2 was St Clement, Eastcheap – it’s in Clement’s Lane, EC4N 7AE. There is a fascinating blog. We found that the building is occupied by the offices of the Amos Trust – website – and Glad’s House – website. Child Rescue Nepal – website – tells me there are 100,000 child slaves in that country. I have to say I don’t think I’d heard of any of those organisations, and they welcomed us into the church and let us explore.

It was an C11 church, dedicated to the third Bishop of Rome. He was martyred by being chucked into the sea with an anchor tied round his neck – so he is the patron saint of sailors. In those days it was known as the church of St Clement Candlewickstrate, the old name for Cannon Street. It was one of the first churches to be destroyed in the Great Fire of London, as Pudding Lane is just round the corner.

Wren rebuilt the church between 1637 and 1687, but London’s City Churches by Stephen Millar (Metro publications, 2013) says it is “not one of his most memorable designs.” It has simple brass plaques that mean there is no need for a guidebook.

William Butterfield did two drastic Victorian restorations in 1872 and 1889. Why two restorations? Wasn’t he happy with number 1?

The pulpit is good fun, and I like the windows above them. The organ was made by Renatus Harris, and Edward Purcell, son of Henry the composer, was organist here. The font seems a bit odd in the middle of an office, but I am glad the building is being well-used.

The reredos was dismantled by Butterfield, and re-assembled by Sir Ninian Comper. The Key of Return is an art work by Deborah Mullins. It is based on the key above the entrance to Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. The names of over 520 Palestinian villages are stencilled, painted, appliqued and embroidered on this piece as a tribue to all those forced from their homes as the state of Israel came into being. 3/4 million people became refugees during that time, a figure which has now swelled to 6 million in the last 70 years. Deborah comments that “For ensuing generations, one of the only tangible objects connecting their past homes to their present lives is the key to their door. There may no longer be a village, a house, a door, or even a keyhole which will fit that key, but the key itself is safely preserved – around the neck, or carefully wrapped and stored.” I don’t pretend to understand the rights and wrongs of the situation, but I shouldn’t ignore it.

A Wren church makes you ponder.



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London – St Mary Abchurch

On Friday 9 November I had a day in London with Claire., and we did four City churches. We started with St Mary Abchurch (Abchurch Lane, EC4N 7BA) which was a very good place to start. The Friends of City Churches have their offices here, and we could get a map. There are 48 churches, and Claire has started ticking them off. (The website is pretty good telling us which churches are open and when). This is the Friends website, and they are on facebook. They also produce a City Events leaflet every month, listing services, talks, organ recitals, etc. I didn’t know that Simon (of Simon’s Suffolk Churches and Simon’s Norfolk Churches) has also done some of the London ones – website.

A church has stood on this site since the C12. The name might come from a benefactor called Abba (Scandinavian presumably), or be the church up the hill. ‘Robert the priest of Habechirce’ is mentioned in the C12, and their first Rector was ‘Luke the Supervisor’ in 1323. The medieval building was described as ‘a fair church’. It burned down in the Great Fire of London in 1666 – all that was left was three pieces of altar plate and the church registers.

In 1674 they erected a temporary church in the ruins – it takes a while for anything to happen in the Church of England – and work begun on the present building in 1681. As you would expect, it was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The ruins of the old church were cleared away, and the dome of the new one is an architectural tour de force – it is over 40 feet across, has no external thrusts, and stands on four plain brick walls without the need of any buttresses. It cost £4,922 2s 4d.

The dome painting was added in 1708 when the church was ‘repaired and beautified’. It was the work of William Snow, citizen and painter stainer, and a parishioner. (Sometimes it is said that the painter was Sir James Thornhill, who painted the dome of St Paul’s – the guide assures me this is wrong). It cost £170. It was very badly damaged in the blitz, but has been skilfully repaired. It depicts the worship of heaven – the Divine Name in Hebrew characters in the centre, surrounded by rays of glory with worshipping figures of angels of cherubs. The seated figures represent the Christian virtues.

Even lovelier is what has been described as “a treasury of C17 art”. The reredos with its limewood carving by Grinling Gibbons is the only authenticated work of his in any city church (excluding St Paul’s). His receipts are in the parish records, now in the Guildhall library. Most of the best craftsmen of the day, gathered together by Wren, worked on this church. The pulpit was made by William Grey, and the door cases, font covers and rails, Royal Arms and Lion and Unicorn were carved by William Emmett. The original high pews remain on the three sides of the church; beneath those on the south side there used to be kennels, supposedly to enable worshippers to bring their dogs!

On the front two pews are wrought iron sword-rests to support the civic sword when the Lord Mayor attends a service in state. They carry the arms of two Lord Mayors who were also parishioners, Samuel Birch (1814) and George Scholey (1812). The font was made by William Kempster, whose brother Christopher was the master mason responsible for all the stonework of the church and for the carved cherubs over the windows outside. I like the donation pot too.

The organ dates to 1822, it was built by J.C. Bishop and later enlarged. It was badly damaged during the war and was replaced by this instrument by N.P. Mander Ltd. The carved oak front of the case dates from 1717 and comes from the church of All Hallow, Bread Street, which was demolished in 1877. There is a lot about the organist Cecil Keith Foyle Wright on this website, including his obituary. “There is no doubt that if his life had been spared he would have made an honourable place and a successful career for himself as an organist.”

There are some other splendid memorials, but I’ll just include one. Sir Patience Ward was Lord Mayor in 1680. When my time comes, I want a weeping cherub.


It’s an intriguing church from outside too – is the square over the fire hydrant a WW2 addition? Bank station is being redeveloped – details here – and the story of the church is told on the hoarding. I’m know that Bank serves 52 million people a year, so £600 million spent is not a lot – but it would be nice if some of that investment came North (it is three times what they spent on Derby this summer).




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