London Open House 2017 – Queen’s Chapel, St James’s Palace, and Marlborough House

Saturday 16 September was one of the days of Open House London – which happens every year – website. Bertie got organised with tickets for 55 Broadway, so we caught the 0821 from Derby and met them at Waterstone’s Trafalgar Square. We walked along towards Buckingham Palace and came to the Queen’s Chapel. Bertie had not realised you needed to book (free) tickets in advance for this, but the family in front had a spare, so I was allowed to enter.

It gets a bit complicated when you look up “Queen’s Chapel” or “Chapel Royal”. In the earliest days the Chapel Royal was not a building, but an establishment, a body of priests and singers to serve the spiritual needs of the Sovereign. According to the Open House website “Its first choir school was founded by King Sighbert of the East Angles in 635 AD – the East Anglians know how to do things properly. They sang on the battlefields of  Crecy and Agincourt, and in Tudor times would follow the Sovereign around the country – singing at the Tower, Westminster, Greenwich and Eltham Palaces. In Stuart times it came to rest largely a Greenwich, St James’s, Whitehall and Hampton Court Palaces.

Since Whitehall burned down in the late C17 the choral headquarters has been based at St James’s Palace – in two chapels! The Tudor Chapel Royal was consecrated by Henry VIII in 1531 – this is the chapel used for the baptism of Prince George in 2013. The Queen’s Chapel, the one I visited, was begun by King James I for the Spanish Infanta as the intended Catholic bride of his son, later Charles I, but was completed for his eventual French bride! Designed by Inigo Jones and operational by 1626 (“Well Mr Jones, is our chapel operational yet?”) it was used by the Roman Catholic Queen Henrietta Maria until the outbreak of the Civil War. The guide says it was used as a library during the Republic and Commonwealth, another source said Cromwell stabled his horses here (seems as if he did that everywhere!). After the Restoration in 1660 it was refurbished by Christopher Wren for Charles II’s Portuguese Queen, Catharine of Braganza. The Stuart and Braganza Coats of Arms appear over the East Window, adorned with botanic garlands from England and the plams and botany of Tangier, part of the bride’s dowry.

Later it was used by the Duke of York (later James II) and Mary of Modena until 1688.  Then it was given over to reformed church worship. Purcell and Handel were both associated with the building. In later years it has been home to French and German Lutheran members of the Court, and to the Danish Church in London. Although originally designed to be part of a much larger C17 extension to St James Palace, much of the rest of the design was never completed. Marlborough Road was built in front of it in 1856-7, thus separating the Chapel from St James Palace.

It is a beautiful building, and I would have loved the chance to poke around with my camera – sadly photography is not permitted. Apparently it is used for Sunday worship between Easter Day and August , but I haven’t found anything which lists when they are.

I went and found the others next door at Marlborough House. They were having problems with disabled access – part of the problem seems to be Open House only happens once a year and seems to overwhelm them. No photos inside this Commonwealth HQ – website.

The house dates back to Sarah Churchill, first Duchess of Marlborough, who needed a town house. She appointed Wren as her architect, but fell out with him, and completed it herself. She lived her for over 20 years, and died here in 1755. The guidebook says “The actual design was probably drawn up by Sir Christopher Wren’s son, under the supervision of his father.” The poor lad doesn’t even get named – you’ve guessed it, he was Christopher too!

The house is built of red Dutch bricks which where brought back to England as ballast in the troop ships that had carried soldiers for the Duke of Marlborough’s European campaigns. The house was lived in by five Dukes and Duchesses of Marlborough, then the lease on was bought back by the Crown in 1817. It has been lived in by three dowager Queens, three Princes of Wales, the future Kings Edward VII, George V and Edward VIII, and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, before he became King of the Belgians. It has housed the Government School of Design and the Department of Practical Art, and was extended in the C19.

It became the Commonwealth Centre in March 1962, and then the HQ of the Commonwealth Secretariat three years later. Many major conferences and meetings have taken place here, and there are portraits of world leaders you think you vaguely recognise.

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Penrith, Cumbria – St Andrew

St Andrew’s church, Penrith, is in the middle of the town – NY516301. It has a website. I picked up a lovely flyer “A Church for all Seasons – The Wedding Season is all year at St Andrew’s – Begin your married life with God’s blessing – Christ in the heart of Penrith”. 10 out of 10!

We started the day in their coffee shop – very nice scones, fresh out of the oven. Then we were about to visit the church and realised a hearse was pulling round the corner. We did the Brougham churches, and came back. It was a flying visit.

As we know, Christianity came to this area with St Ninian, and there is written evidence of a church here by 1133. The tower dates back to this church, most of it was rebuilt in 1605. Dr Todd became Vicar at the end of the C17. In 1716 he petitioned for the old church to be knocked down and a new one built – questions are still asked whether it was derelict, or he just wanted a new one in the new classic style. The foundation stone was laid on 10 April 1720, the church was consecrated by Bishop Nicolson, the Bishop of Derry, in 1722 – Inverness Cathedral was dedicated by a later Bishop of Derry. There must be a PhD thesis here somewhere. The church cost £2,253 16s 10½d, and the architect is believed to have been Nicholas Hawksmoor, a pupil of Christopher Wren. There is quite a lot about him – website – and an excellent article about the restoration work on one of his London churches here. The two chandeliers were bought with 50 guineas which were given to the town by the Duke of Portland as a thank you for their help in driving Bonnie Prince Charlie back to Scotland after his failed attempt to take the English throne in 1745. Each one holds 24 candles.

There was a restoration in 1863 and another in 1867 – the pews and ceiling date to 1867. More work in 1951 and Stephen Dykes Bower was behind one in 1972. The bowl of the font dates to 1661, the eagle was given to the church by George Gorton of Lancashire in 1845, a Harrison organ of 1870 (rebuilt by Wilkinsons of Kendal 18 years later), and the altar is rather lovely.

The top window is the Richard II window and he has been confirmed as the  chap with the sceptre (it does make you wonder how they know?) Early C15 glass. The second is the Neville Window, with Joan Beaufort, daughter of John of Gaunt, and her husband Ralph Neville of Raby Castle. Much of the rest of the glass is Victorian, although I’m sure the one with the red cross is C20. The Christ Church window commemorates the Reverend William Holme Milner, who died in 1868. He was instrumental in erecting Christ Church in the town – website – and he is pictured with the church.

The East window is a painted window, “one of the finest of the painted windows in any parish church in Cumbria” says the guide – by Herdman and Powell of Birmingham, 1870. These murals were painted in 1845, by a local artist Jacob Thompson. He was only paid 100 guineas for six months work. Apparently all the faces belonged to local people, and the landscape is taken from near Pooley Bridge and shows Ullswater.

There are two very large war memorials, and the town is continuing to remember those from WW1. They have an excellent leaflet “Penrith Remembers 1914-18 – We will remember – The hard road to the end of the First World War”. They have also produced some excellent videos on youtube. Well done!

Outside we visited The Giant’s Grave, the birthplace of Own Caesarius, the King of Cumbria between 920 and 937 AD. The hogback stones are said to represent the wild boards that the king killed, and they all date to the C10.

The final monument is that to Robert Vertue, late superintendent in the company of John Stephenson & Co, who built the Lancaster and Carlisle railway. The church guide describes him as “engineer and supervisor of the construction of the line”. I have googled him, used the NRM website, and looked in my own extensive library. I cannot find him. John Stephenson (1794-1848) is no relation to George. His company built the Sheffield and Rotherham Railway, “then offered James Falshaw the charge of the construction of the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway, the contract for which, as a single line, had been taken by the firm” – website. No mention anywhere of Robert Vertue. At the Ecclesbourne Railway second hand bookshop I found a copy of “Main Line over Shap, the story of the Lancaster-Carlisle Railway” by David Joy  (Dalesman, 1967) and he isn’t mentioned in there either.


Posted in Cumbria, Railway interest, World War 1 | Leave a comment

Brougham, Cumbria – St Wilfrid

We are parked on the north side of the A66 having visited St Ninian’s. We managed to turn right across the A66, and then turned left to go down into the village of Brougham. There is a car park opposite Brougham Hall, and the church is next to it. St Wilfrid’s Brougham – NY527284. The Betjeman Best Churches app – which has, sadly, since died when iOS11 updated my phone – said it was very special. Unfortunately it was severely locked and bolted, no welcome notices at all. However Clare did a bit of research and realised she knew the churchwarden, so we gave her a ring and went to borrow the key. I am very glad we did.

When I read the guidebook I read that in 1977 the parishes of Clifton and Brougham were united. 40 years later it is one of eleven. The website of the North Westmorland group is here – it is under development, so there isn’t any information about the church or the village. I think the church has a monthly service, but it did not feel very loved or cared for – sorry if that sounds rather brutal. Let’s enjoy the church, be amazed, then try to be positive about its future.

Lady Anne Clifford has been at work again. In her diary she wrote “This Summer I caused the Chappell at Brougham to be pulled down and new built upp again larger and stronger than before at my own charge and it was wholly furnished about the latter end of April 1659 for which God be praised”. It was built as a chapel of ease for parishioners living near the Hall. Within 50 years the next owners of the Hall removed the village, probably to Eamont Bridge, thus removing the congregation. For a while it was used as the village school – children were expected to walk 1½ miles in those days.

By the 1830s the estate was owned by Henry Brougham. He was a very successful solicitor who defended Queen Caroline when King George IV tried unsuccessfully to divorce her. He later became Lord Chancellor, and was raised to the peerage as 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux. He inherited Brougham Hall, pulled down most of the medieval and Tudor buildings, and built a magnificent house on the site. He is the one who put the imitation medieval brasses in the sanctuary at Ninekirks (the previous church we visited). His brother William shared the Hall with him, and became interested in Church furnishings. 1843-6 they started rebuilding the church.

Pevsner says “The interior is dark and baffling. Seated college-wise around a sunken centre, it is cram-full of carved woodwork and crusty stained glass. Both Brougham and Cottingham (the architect) were enthusiastic collectors of Continental spolia, but it is too easy to write this off as a purely C19 creation. … Carved panels and stall-ends are incorporated into C19 and older work like a mixed-up jigsaw”. Here we are looking east and west.

Let’s start at the west end and see what we can decipher. The organ case on the West Wall, the centre piece of which is now used as a reredos, is C15. The panel of gilded carvings are Flemish, representing St Martin, St George, the Adoration of the Magi, and probably St Ann and the Virgin.

Pevsner asks “What about the hall pew screen at the W end? This is a mysterious piece. It has closely set uprights, each jazzily carved in three sections with chevrons, spirals, flutes, diamond-shaped flowers, scales and leaves, linked at the top by highly stilted little cusped arches. In the spandrels, on both sides, delightfully inventive faces, figures and animals, all having to tumble or recline in order to fit the space.”

The Stalls and Pulpit have canopies “after those of c.1308 at Winchester Cathedral”. There is late Flemish work, a most wonderful mixture of wood, cherubs and leaves. The following day Clare entered the “photo of leaves” category at the village flower show – she won third prize!

This is the altar piece at the east end. C15 Flemish, I think. The original triptych or reredos is in the north transept of Carlisle Cathedra, it was removed there for safe-keeping – see my blog.

There’s more interesting woodwork – I’m running out of things to say, and given up trying to work out what’s what.

Also at the east end is an aumbry – the resurrection in all its glory.

The glass is slightly older than the wood – apparently.

Pausing to get our breath back we went over the bridge into the main part of the Hall.

The website says “Brougham Hall, just a mile south of Penrith, Cumbria, was built in the 14th century and has a fascinating history. Rescued from dereliction in 1985, today it is one of the largest country house restoration projects in England and is home to an array of arts and craft workshops and businesses.” On the website it says that the Chapel can be opened for special tours or events, but gives no indication that it is anything special. It is not mentioned on the publicity leaflet at all. Why, o why, is an amazing church like this, next to a tourist attraction, always locked, and what can be done about it?

The house has been rescued from dereliction, so can we rescue the church before it becomes derelict? The Church of England is putting all its focus on “mission” and Carlisle diocese has the strapline “Growing disciples”, but when you’ve got what I suspect must be a tiny and tired congregation, how do you do that? (I’m struggling to do that with two large (by Cumbrian standard) congregations). One service a month with a handful of people is hardly going to get the zing back. Can you get a group of eleven churches to care for each other, when there are eleven lovely church buildings that all need TLC, and more than eleven communities that need work? Is it any wonder that so many Christians have given up on their local parish church and drive to something more exciting – often in an industrial unit or a hall that someone else looks after.

So – do we flog the church and its furnishings off? After all, it’s only a building. Or do we hand St Wilfrid’s over to the Churches Conservation Trust like its neighbour down the road? Their website says they need £1.5 million to care for the churches they’ve got already – they’ll need a few more million if we give them all the important churches that communities can no longer care for. Do we ask those who restored the house, and now run it as commercial businesses, to take the church under their wing too? – although it’s unlikely to earn anyone much money.

I think most churches can simply be left open (although I have failed to persuade one of my PCCs of this), but this one can’t. Too much of value inside. So someone needs to hold the key, check those who borrow it, keep an eye on security – a big responsibility, who will take it on? Ideally we’d say the church was open two or three times a week, and have a couple of people on duty. I tried to open one of mine three afternoons a week this summer and, despite a congregation in the 50s, found we were struggling to get volunteers, especially on Sunday afternoons when people would be most likely to visit. Nothing puts visitors off like being told a church is open, then finding it locked.

Could somebody, perhaps working with English Heritage or the Tourist Authority, put together a funding proposal to pay for a couple of summer people, employed full time Easter to September to ensure that, say, five churches could be open at set times through the week? Or could we come up with a scheme – cheap rent on a cottage in the Lakes in return for two or three days a week acting as church custodians? Are there people who would take early retirement and be happy to do that? (Me, me, choose me).

I went on the Carlisle Diocese site and found they have a page on Tourism – here. You have to dig a little to find it – after all, we don’t want our buildings advertised on the home page, do we? It has lots of wonderful church trails – get them out there and inspire people to visit.

I despair at this paragraph:

“The primary function of all churches, whether pre-Norman or present day, is as places of worship; and it is hoped that visitors will spare some time from admiring the structure of the buildings to join the local congregations at their services”.

Yes, it would be lovely if you join the local congregation – the locals will (I hope) be encouraged by your presence, and you will (I hope) find a wonderful friendship. But please remember it is not their service, it is part of the worship of all creation. You are part of that worship, that rhythm of creation, and you can worship God when the building is empty. You can, and will, find God in a holy place. The job of the Church is to ensure you are welcomed in.




Posted in Cumbria | 1 Comment

Brougham, Cumbria – St Ninian

While on holiday in Orkney, Virgin Trains had a seat sale. Thanks to the power of web I organised a day with Clare, and got a single from Crewe to Penrith for £4 for Friday 15 September. We started with coffee, then headed out to Brougham. Brougham Castle is English Heritage – website – and will be saved for another day. We drove a little further east along the A66 to visit St Ninian’s Brougham – NY559299 – a Church’s Conservation Trust church – website. If you are visiting, approach from the Penrith direction, have someone else map reading, and slow the traffic down before you turn left into the parking space. The A66 is a very fast road – be careful. Once parked, it is a lovely walk of about a mile beside the River Eamont.

The original Norman church was completely rebuilt in the C17 by Lady Anne Clifford, who inherited Brougham Castle. The porch dates to 1841, but once you are in, it feels a much older church. Tradition has it that the church was founded by Ninian in the C5, and a horde of coins dating from this time was found in the vicinity. In the porch is a medieval corbel, and the present chapel is mentioned as a chapel of ease in 1393. The medieval chest probably dates to this time.

Under a wooden cover in the chancel is a sandstone grave slab with cross and sword, believed to be that of Odard and Gilbert do Burgham, father and son. Although the brasses are dated from 1570 to 1830, they were installed in 1846 – part of the process of reclaiming the family history.

Lady Anne Clifford’s restoration work is recorded in the plasterwork above the altar, in a wreath with her initials AP (Anne Pembroke; the Earl of Pembroke was her second husband) with the date 1660.

The furnishings date to her restoration, and are wonderful. You can imagine curtains in place, drawn to keep out the cold and the preacher.

In the pulpit is a proper Queen Victoria copy of the Book of Common Prayer. The font is dated 1662 and the poor box 1663.

Up against the south wall of the Chancel is some wonderful Jacobean panelling, probably from a vestment chest. My apologies to Clare that it is not the most flattering photo of her. The carving on the panel is wonderful.

This is a lovely spot, but a very long way from habitation. It is not surprising that the church was replaced by the next one we’ll go and visit. It was worth the walk.



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Bilborough, Nottingham – St Martin of Tours

We drove back into Nottingham, through the estates of Bilborough, and found St Martin of Tours church. To quote the HODs paperwork, “St Martin’s Road is a cul de sac opposite the police station on Strelley Road. The church is at the end of St Martin’s Road.” Grid ref is SK 520418. They have obviously had a lot of money from the HLF for their “Hidden Treasures” project, and have spent some of it on an excellent website, more on a lovely little book, Hidden Treasures: A Labour of Love, edited by Cathy Grindrod, and a colour leaflet – lovely too that church website, facebook and twitter are included. For those of us doing MAs in Public History and Heritage, Grindrod’s book is an excellent case study.

As I walked through the estate to the church I thought “what an ugly extension”. When the Reverend Amanda Cartwright took up her post as priest-in-charge in 2007 she was shown round this church, they were worshipping in this extension, and told that the original medieval church, built in 1356, was out of use. The electrics had been condemned because of the damp, paint was peeling from the walls, the tower had lost its parapet, the roof was leaking, and there had been a lot of vandalism.

The extension had been built in the 1970s, joined to the original church on the north side of the Chancel, the floor of the extension had replaced the original church floor, the east window had been bricked up, boarded and emulsioned. There was a memory of a mural by the artist Evelyn Gibbs (1905-1991), but it was thought it had been destroyed too. Even Pauline Lucas, who had written the  biography of Evelyn Gibbs, thought it had gone. Amanda asked electricians working in church whether they could have a look, and they found the paintings. The full story is here.

There is a page about Evelyn Gibbs here, and the book says she came to Nottingham in 1939. She painted for the War Artists Advisory Committee, and then painted these murals in 1946 for Father Marshall. The Annunciation, Gabriel and Mary, on either side of the East Window, set in the local Bilborough village, with the farmhouse and church between them.

A lady called Hilary Wheat became churchwarden, and they started work. Grant applications in 2009 and 2010, starting to restore the tower, sorting out stonework and lead. In 2011 it was suggested that the medieval church could be restored as the primary place of worship. 2012 saw work begin with the HLF and the development stage of the Hidden Treasures Project was worked up. Work started in May 2014. It was not just a building project, a restoration project, but a writing, art and community project. Thank you. Let us enjoy what they have achieved.

Craftsmen in lead are remembered, and the ceiling is in good condition.

The base of the font is c 1400, the bowl about 1661. The Helwys Memorial commemorates Sir Edmund Helwys, whose son Thomas later founded England’s first Baptist church in London in 1612. History, craft, and the getting people together are obviously a major part of the life of this church – there was plenty of life on display. They are doing more research.

The last line of the leaflet sums up what we all seek to do. “All of us have skills and talents that we could make more of – hidden treasures that are waiting to be discovered. Come and find yours at St Martin’s.”

Posted in Nottinghamshire, Personal | 8 Comments

Strelley, Nottingham – All Saints’

On Sunday 10 September, after a morning’s work, we headed across to Nottingham to visit the church of All Saints, Strelley – SK 506422. It’s on the west side of the city, on a minor road through the village, down to the Hall – there also seem to be lots of nice walks nearby (once you cross the M1). Church website here.

The church was completely rebuilt by Sir Sampson de Strelley in the C14, but the lower part of the tower is C12. The Clerestory was added in the C16 to replace the original steep-pitched roof. I didn’t have much of a look round outside. I did notice that Richard Savin’s vital spark was extinguished.

Inside I got a lovely welcome. Refreshments were provided, and they had a lovely display of wedding dresses and congregational photos.

This is a church with a lot of interest. I’ll try and sort my photos out to make some sort of sense. Let’s start with woodwork. The Chancel screen is a very fine example of C15 workmanship and stands on its original stone plinth. However experts believe it came from somewhere else, perhaps Bilborough church or Dale Abbey, as there are signs it has had to be cut down. It survived the Civil War and Puritan period as the Rector, Abraham Forbes, boarded it up. The rood (the figures of Christ, Mary and John) are Victorian reproductions. The screen is a beautiful piece of work.

The pulpit contains several carved oak panels, four of which are probably C15, while the canopy and back are Jacobean (C17). The choir stalls are C15, but I failed to photo the misericords. Here is the guidebook drawing.

In the Chancel we have some lovely Strelley monuments. In the centre is the monument to Sir Sampson de Strelley (died 1390), who rebuilt the church, and his wife Elizabeth (died 1405). The tomb dates from 1405-10, hence the knights clothes are from a period slightly later than his own (says the guidebook. I can’t say I’d noticed). The couple are holding hands which is rather nice. Apparently the head of the knight rests of the family crest, the head of a strangled Saracen. (I’m just imagining trying to get that past the DAC). His feet are on a lion, her’s on pet dogs. Look at her jewellery – it’s wonderful. The angels hold shields, probably once emblazoned. Like many other tombs I seemed to have photoed recently, it is of alabaster. The best alabaster came from nearby quarries at Chellaston, south of Derby, and from about 1290 Nottingham had a considerable reputation for the carving of alabaster, as did York.

Their grandson Sir Robert (died 1438) is probably buried under the incised slab by the altar. He was one of the lancers at Agincourt. There’s also John, his brother – and I’ve lost track which stone is which.

I think this is another Sir John de Strelley (died 1501) and his wife Sanchia (died 1500). Sir John’s feet rest on a lion, and each foot is supported by a carved figure, called a weeper, sitting on the lion’s back holding a rosary in the left hand.

This is another Sir Robert (died 1487) and his wife Isabel (died 1458) – her brother was John Kemp, Archbishop of Canterbury. There is also a reconstruction drawing of what it would have looked like. The plates were made in Flanders and engraved by workmen in London.

So, lots of lovely memorials – and there’s some rather stunning glass too. We have glass from the C14 and C15, as well as Victorian and early C20. You can work out what comes from which period – and just enjoy them.

The font is C14, though the steps are more recent.

I hope this has given you a taste of this lovely church – there was a lot more I could have photoed. They have a very complete guidebook – so a bit of history to finish with. It was originally a Saxon settlement, established by Domesday. Little is known about the Lords of the Manor until the reign of Henry I (1100-1135). The de Strelley family then owned it until the reign of Charles II, then it was sold to the Edge family – and the last Miss Edge died in 1978. Just two families through so many centuries of English history. Sampson Strelley was one of the knights at Runnymede, persuading John to sign. Another Sampson rebuilt the church in 1350 as an act of gratitude for surviving the Black Death. The population of the village fell from 250 to less than 100. This Sir Sampson’s grandson, Robert, was a lancer at Agincourt (I mentioned him above) and he was knighted on the battlefield. Over the centuries the estate was divided between different family members, and survived on the profits of coal mining. There is a tablet in St Mary’s Nottingham recording Elizabeth Strelley, died 1786, as “the last survivor of that ancient family.”

This was an agricultural community, but coal mining started in the 1500s. In 1604 the furst railway in England, a wooden track with horse-drawn wagons, was constructed to carry coal from Strelley pits to Wollaton. Apparently you can see mounds which are the remains of C16 bell pit workings behind Broad Oak Farm. There are details here  and here. Time to read Michael Lewis’ Early Wooden Railways – he lectured at the WEA when I was at Lincoln Theological College. I know whose lectures I got most out of!

Very nice lunch at the Mulberry Tree Café in the Hall behind the church – website.


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Gedling, Nottinghamshire – All Hallows

We drove across Nottingham to Gedling. I think I came to Gedling colliery on a railtour in the early 1990s, a day exploring colliery lines which started at Newark Castle. All Hallows church is on the main road at SK617426. There is a website here. The church has a collection box by the entrance (I wonder if they’ve ever had anything), and a lot of steps. I left Julie in the car, “I’ll be quick”, I said.

I climbed the steps, admired the font outside, and looked up at the 89 foot tower and 91 foot high spire (Newark is the only one in the county that is higher). The spire was started around 1320. Apparently it has entasis, or bulge – I have to say I didn’t look that closely. The South porch is C15.

The church was buzzing with people. I was offered refreshments, there was a TV with local pictures, there were people researching family history, and I was caught by a very nice chap who knows all about the church and its history. I got the full guided tour.

They have done a good job of re-ordering, but it needs finishing. Note the coffee table on top of a tomb. Not much respect for the dead. The leaflet suggests it might be the tomb of a priest. On its top surface is carved a foliate cross in which is the face of a man and at the foot a pair of feet. It is good to know the clergy are valued. I get the impression they don’t need kneelers any more! They want to reorder this corner, which is the tower entrance, and add some decent loos. As the screen dates to 1540 (although not in this place) they are struggling to get permission. There are several hatchments too – I just photoed one of them.

The West Window has diagonal lines reminiscent of the shape of the hatchments. At the bottom there are medallions depicting scenes  in Gedling at the Millennium – the colliery, the fountain and Gedling House. A stream of life-giving water flows from the fountain. The oak tree represents the passage of time, with leaves shown in the colours of all of the seasons and bare branches for winter. The branches anticipate the Cross. We have the faces of the saints, which echo two medieval stone carved heads nearby. There is a burst of energy at the Resurrection at the centre with the moon and sun on either side. The central figure shows Christ in Glory. The circle in the tracery has glass lenses around it to represent the souls of the saints of the church who have gone before us. In the centre is the Ladder of Perfection, a medieval concept originated by Walter Hilton, a monk of Thurgarton Priory in about 1380. Around the top of the window is a rainbow, and at the very top is the symbolic grey and white wing of a dove. The window was made by Andrew Johnson of Exeter in 2001.

The Chandelier has 24 candles – there used to be a second in church, but the leaflet says it was converted into a lectern – how? The War memorial and Book of Remembrance has a lot of names – more details here. The pulpit is made up of four Elizabethan wooden panels which were the ends of some of the pews replaced in 1871.

The rather impressive organ doesn’t get a mention in the guide, but there are details here. It was originally installed in the north aisle in 1874, then moved to the north side of the chancel, then built into an extension on the north side of the chancel in  1924 – bit of planning might have made life easier. A superb website – I must find out more.

The East Window is a war memorial window – note St Michael, the nurses and the army chaplain. It was installed in 1920, but my superb website doesn’t tell me who designed it.

A little piece of medieval glass was pointed out to me, and the carved grave slab is C13 – was he a priest?

I like the woodwork on the aumbries, and the miner’s light is a lovely sanctuary lamp, though the wiring could be neater.

“Come and see our amazing graffiti” said my guide – and we went up into the tower. Here someone, and I can’t remember what date he said it was, had painted the names of bishops and priests. A very thorough piece of work – but why?

I finished my tour with the C19 font  and lovely angel on the lectern. No idea who carved it. I went back to the car to find a rather annoyed wife – it had been almost an hour. We drove back to Derby in silence, but she cheered up after she’d been fed. Church enthusiasm can be hard work!

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Beeston, Nottinghamshire – St John the Baptist

Friday 8 September and it is Heritage Open Days weekend. I had a funeral visit first thing. Then we drove across to Nottingham and tried to find Beeston Parish Church. We found a parking space, and a main shopping street, and the trams, and then realised that I’d been past the church on the tram the previous day. We crossed the tracks and entered the church of St John the Baptist – SK 527366. They advertised themselves on the HODs website “Come and see your re-furbished Parish Church! A warm welcome awaits you. Refreshment available.” They were right – two lovely ladies put the kettle on for us in their nice kitchen. The church has a good website, but if I purchased a guidebook, I can’t find it now.

The present church is at least the fourth on the site – previous ones being built in the C13, C14 and C15 centuries. The font is lead lined and dates to the C13, probably the oldest thing in the church. How sensible to have it at floor level, and not with a stupid step that everybody falls over. How nice to see beautiful lettering – this is a refurbishment job which has been done not just properly, but superbly.

Before the Dissolution the church was served by priests appointed by Lenton Priory. The nave, tower, south porch and former vicar’s vestry date from 1843-44 and were designed by George Gilbert Scott. The tower is 74 feet high and contains ten bells – it must be quite a noise when they are all being rung. The nave is the late Perpendicular style, and the windows are of Victorian stained glass, including by Kemp. The west window is entitled “The Doom” and was installed in memory of John Watson, the owner of Beeston’s silk mill. Eve is showing quite a lot of flesh!

The new seats – and I was very surprised when I read on the church website that this is refurbishment is almost a decade old – are good quality, and they have kept some older chairs. The statue of Virgin and Child on the Lady Chapel altar is lovely. I lovely the attention to detail – many churches would simply have drilled their power points into the pillar.

The nave altar and platform are excellent. What a sensible idea to change the colour of the carpet where people kneel, much easier than separate kneelers. They have also ramped up to the Chancel – no apologies to the disabled are needed here – and the Chancel looks used, loved and part of it all. The nave altar is by Nicholas Hobbs of Wirksworth, and they had a display of some of their vestments and embroidery. The Chancel dates to the reign of Henry VIII, and was the only part to survive the 1840 restoration. More Victorian glass – the East window shows John the Baptist in the centre, with OT figures on one row, and the Evangelists above.

The main war memorial is in the Chancel, and many of the other memorials have been researched – with the material well presented.

Captain Harold Walton was killed on 13 October 1915, during the 1st/7th Sherwood Foresters “Robin Hoods” battalion involvement in the Battle of Loos. After many near misses, he died as a result of a German bomb in “Little Willie” trench at the Hohenzollen Redoubt. It was only a fortnight previous that he had been awarded the Military Cross in recognition of gallantry and devotion to duty.

Gervase Spendlove was born in Nottingham in 1895 and educated at Oundle School. He joined the motor section of the Legion of Frontiersmen a few months before the outbreak of War. After helping with recruiting work, he started with three others on motor bikes for General HQ in France. They were attached to the Royal Engineers as dispatch riders, with the rank of Corporal. When an appeal came for men with OTC training, he took a Commission and was attached to the 2md South Lancashires, as a 2nd Lieutenant. Three days later, on 17 November 1914, he was killed by a shell near Ypres.

Thomas Bigsby was Vicar 1799-1821, but mainly lived at Arnold. He had “a dignified appearance, with a good complexion and no whiskers, and dressed in a black coat, knee breeches, silk stockings and silver buckles”. He was “good-natured and kind hearted, especially to his poorer neighbours”.

Richard Strey died in 1797. He was the last of the Strey family to live in Beeston Manor House. The octogenarian squire was described as “an easy-going personage, of middle height, ordinarily dressed in a brown coat, and fond of going out coursing on his grey pony.” Madam Strey was spoken of as “somewhat sharp-tempered and penurious to a degree.” On Good Friday they gave buns to all poor boys that came to the house.

The memorials outside have been moved to the side, or used as pavements. I’m never sure that is a good idea, but we mustn’t end with a moan. It is a wonderful church, we had been welcomed, and had had a good explore. The church website says “We aim to be a generous-hearted and inclusive Christian family in the centre of Beeston with a ministry that reaches out from our beautiful Parish Church into the wider community.” Thank you. We also found an Oxfam book shop, so Julie was a happy bunny.



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Cambridge, Cambridgeshire – All Saints’

All Saints’ is in the middle of Cambridge, just across the road from Jesus College – TL 452587 – but, despite living in Cambridge for the first 20 odd years of my life, I can’t recall having visited (though I’m sure mum and dad must have taken me in). It is a Churches’ Conservation Trust church, and was opened and staffed – though they had run out of guidebooks – good website.

The church was built in the 1860s to the plans of the famous nineteenth-century architect G.F. Bodley, and, as the website says  “is a triumph of Victorian art and design. The simple wooden door opens into a dramatic blast of colour and pattern. Light gleams through stained-glass windows, designed by leading Arts and Crafts artists, including William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Ford Madox Brown.” There wasn’t a lot of light gleaming anywhere today.

The first window is one commemorating Women – and there is a commentary which tells you about it. They could do with some more up to date (smaller) technology, but it works. Edith Cavell was a WW1 nurse who was shot by the Germans, there is a good website. She was born in Swardeston in Norfolk, and died by firing squad in Belgium on 12 October 1915. She is buried at Norwich Cathedral.

Josephine Butler was also commemorated – I have told her story when I visited Kirknewton in Northumberland. I don’t know why I didn’t photo her, and the other women.

There is another window that commemorates Cambridge clergy – George Herbert and his church at Bemerton included (I must visit there sometime).

The others are rather nice too – and probably nicer on a better day.

To quote the website “What’s more, almost every surface has painted, stencilled or gilded decoration. Pomegranates burst with seeds; flowers run riot over the walls. There is a glorious painting of Christ, Mary and St John, with throngs of angels.”

Fittings designed by Bodley include the alabaster font, the pulpit and the oak aisle screen.” says the wesbite. I did a bit more research and found this article from Country Life – website – and this page on the Victorian web. Apparently Bodley was involved in the Cathedral at Nagpur. If it is the same Nagpur that the Diocese of Derby is linked with in the Church of North India, I need to find out more before Sunday’s Harvest Festival.

There are some good interpretation panels and display material as well.

Outside a proper Victorian post box.


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northernvicarwalks July and August

My hope was to walk 1,000 miles this year. By the end of June I had walked 355 miles. I planned to make it up while on holiday, and failed. By the end of July I had walked 396 miles. By the end of August I had walked 434 – here are a few August photos which aren’t necessarily walking! My 55th birthday party on the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway, with fish and chips afterwards.

Later in the month I had a Sunday afternoon walk to Duffield, photographing on the line.

David Redfern, one of our organists at St Edmund’s, is a man of great versatility. On Sunday 20 August, 26 of us went up to his home in Belper to enjoy a concert on his Compton organ. This organ was installed at the Plaza Cinema in Crosby, just north of Liverpool, on 2 September 1939. The following day War broke out, so the cinema was opened and closed in just one day! Fortunately it reopened soon after, and the organ remained there until 1974. It then went to Chester, and came to David’s house in Belper in 1988. David told us that Derby Cathedral organ is also a Compton, and would have been in the workshop at the same time. Their organ does not have bells, whistles, cymbals and other percussion instruments. We had an hour’s concert, with a great range of music. “The Whistler and his dog” by Arthur Pryor, told the sad story of the demise of a favourite pet – with all the bells and whistles we needed, and “Coronation Scot” by Vivian Ellis kept me happy. We also had a wonderful medley of songs from “Top Hat” by Irving Berlin.

I did manage a walk on Wednesday 23 August. 4 miles from the Okeover Arms in Mapleton (north of Ashbourne) up the River Dove to Coldwall Bridge and back. Must go back and visit the church (it was locked by this time of the evening). Very nice pub supper afterwards.



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