Old Bewick, Northumberland – Holy Trinity

Having been to Alnwick (Barter Books) and Eglingham we continued up the road to Old Bewick, and turned down the minor road to Holy Trinity church at NU 068 221. I had heard this one mentioned as a lovely place, and they are right. Tradition has it that the Manor of Bewick was given by Queen Maud to Tynemouth Priory in 1107, in memory of her royal father, Malcolm Canmore. He had snatched the crown of Scotland from Macbeth in 1054, and in 1091 brought an army south across the border, laying waste to much of Northumberland. He had some claim to the English throne as his wife Margaret (Princess and Saint) was a descendent of the Saxon Royal line. In 1093 he was defeated by the Norman king Rufus, and killed near Alnwick (just a few miles south of here). The oldest part of the church is C12, and the church was damaged again by the Scots in one of their (many) invasions in the C13. In those days Old Bewick was a thriving market town, and in 1253 Henry III granted it a charter to hold a weekly market. Now there are a few scattered farms, and the church has one service a month.

You walk in, and look up. It is a lovely place. A wonderful Norman church, though some of the blocks in the lower levels of the north and west walls are Anglo–Saxon. The Chancel arch has capitals decorated with leaves, heads and an abacus, with a frieze of saltire crosses. The heads are very Green Man. I had fun trying to photo them.

The apse is lit by what the leaflet describes as “partly modern Norman windows” – I suppose round here the Norman period is modern! The stars are rather fun – though the astronomer in me wishes they were a reflection of the night sky. The church was re-roofed in Victorian times, thanks to a gentleman called Mr J.C. Langlands – before that it had been derelict for almost a couple of centuries. There had also been a restoration in the C14, perhaps led by the husband of the lady whose effigy lies in the Chancel. This effigy is thought to be the work of sculptors who had a workshop near Alnwick until about 1340. Whether it was him, or her, or a group of people known only unto God, thank you.

Some nice early slabs and interesting font. But it is the atmosphere of this church which is just special. Grade I listed, and feeling holy.

The church is lovely outside too. The porch dates from 1695 and reused older building materials, with some modernisation in 1867. A mental note that if I were ever to apply for the job as Vicar, I would need to loose some weight before I tried to enter through the (Norman) priest door.

Apparently the churchyard is full of snowdrops in February – mental note to have a Barter Books trip in February. Some interesting people buried here too. What a splendid place to rest.

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Eglingham, Northumberland – St Maurice

Eglingham is north of Alnwick – and I think I have always confused it with Edlingham, a church I have visited several times. Today I went in to St Maurice’s church – NU 106 194. The church has a page on the village website – http://www.eglingham.info/st-maurices-church-eglingham – and there is a tourist trail which was produced back in 2013 at https://www.glendalechurchtrail.org.uk/gct_eglingham.html  (the leaflet for this was also in church, and there is an information board too).

It’s a nice walk into the churchyard, past a rather nice lamp, and through into a plain and “much restored, but picturesque” church (to quote Pevsner). The Chancel Arch is the oldest part of this church – dating back to the C12 when the first church was built on this site. We know that Ceolwulf, the Saxon king of Northumbria granted the hamlet to the monastery of Lastingham in North Yorkshire.

The oldest feature in the church is probably the octagonal font. It is thought to be the work of William Butement, is dated 1663, with the initials C.R. (probably referring to Charles II). It bears several masons’ marks and inscriptions – I assume it is a chalice? I wonder how many children it has seen baptised, and how much we’ve lost in recent years now that baptisms are no longer the norm.

There are a good selection of memorials. Some very old ones. Others remember Vicars and their wives who served this village for decades. Some war heroes (including Oswald Carr whose money paid for the spire on the C13 tower). Nice to see that the dissenting minister is remembered here too.

Several of the pews have notices on, telling you who had paid to sit there, and the organ has a notice telling you how dangerous organs can be.

They have made the north transept into a separate room (but given no thought to disabled access) and, of course, one would expect flat access to an altar!

There is some nice Victorian stained glass, and some glass by Leonard Evetts – I miss Evetts windows. (If you’re a new reader of this blog, go back and search for him – he’s even got his own category in the search function on the right of the screen).

Outside is lovely too – one interesting stone (wonder how/if they got permission for that!). A rather nice church – imagine spending your life with just this one, and your library for company.

Posted in Evetts' windows, Northumberland, World War 1 | 2 Comments

A Personal Pause – Harry and Sarah’s Wedding

Back in the North East for Harry and Sarah’s wedding at Newcastle Civic Centre on Saturday 21 September 2019. Here is me wearing a tie (and needing to lose some weight), Julie looking decidedly elf-like, Hannah (the one who works for the National Elf Service), Harry and Sarah. I am now a father-in-law and Julie is a mother-in-law (that’s scary!).

We had the party at Gosforth Civic Theatre, which was a wonderful venue – and the staff could not have been more helpful. https://www.gosforthcivictheatre.co.uk/ After a lovely weekend, we then had a week’s holiday.

Lots of love to them both!

Posted in Newcastle upon Tyne, Personal | 1 Comment

Ashbourne, Derbyshire – St Oswald

I have visited St Oswald’s church in Ashbourne on several occasions, but Tuesday 17 September was a day I managed to get to go round properly with my camera. I had had a meeting in Wirksworth (to which I caught the bus), then had a lovely ride to Ashbourne on a little bus through Hopton, Carsington, Brassington, Bradbourne and Kniveton – Julie would hate some of those roads in the car, I will never get her on the bus! St Oswald’s church is on the south west side of the town, a bit away from the centre, at SK 176 464. The website for the group does not yet have info about the church and its building – http://www.ashbournechurch.org.uk/

There has been a church here since before Norman times. Oswald, as readers to this blog should know, was a C7 King of Mercia – I wonder if the dedication came from a group of monks from the North? The Doomsday Book refers to “a priest and a church with 1 carucate of land taxable”, and in 1093 William Rufus handed the church to the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral. The town has a Market Charter which dates to 1257, and much of the present church dates to this time. The Chancel is the earliest part surviving, and the building of the nave and tower continued through the second half of the thirteenth century. In 1287 Edward I called an assembly, which met in the church, to discuss control of the local lead trade. Early in the C14 they added the spire to the tower, and it is majestic – 212 feet. It is also heavy, about 300 tons – and the foundations were not designed for this. A lot of repairs have had to be done in the last century.

We can imagine how colourful and busy the church would have been before the Reformation – three Chantry Chapels, wall paintings, images – and don’t forget the smell of incense either. The clerestory was added around 1520, so more light in the nave and transepts. After the Reformation it would have been a barer place, but you can imagine it getting a good clean and tidy when Charles I attended divine service here in 1645 (a visit remembered in the vestry).

In 1710 an organ was fitted by Henry Valentine of Leicester. A series of services and recitals took place – the Reverend Nathaniel Boothouse noted that the proceedings ended in September “on the Wednesday night of the following week with a fine concert of Instrumental and Vocall Musick in the great parlour of the Blackamore’s Head”. Handel was one of those who came and played this organ. In 1858 a new organ was installed by William Hill of London. He insisted on his own appointee, Benjamin Parkin, as organist. The man who was ousted, Andrew Loder, did not go quietly – but when he went, went as far as Australia! Parkin continued as organist for 48 years. The choral tradition continues, still with Choral Evensong every Sunday, one of only a handful of Derbyshire churches that manages this. I think it is dreadful I have to write that sentence – though I am well aware that evening congregations have declined, and even in my parishes continue to do so. And the people who complain about the lack of Evensong on the Sundays when we don’t have it, are usually the people who come rarely if at all! Our choirs had joined theirs’ on  Sunday 8 September for a gorgeous service, but only six non-singers bothered to make the journey from Derby. There is a choir vestry under the organ, but the choir has expanded to fill more space (here in the south chapel). A Royal Visit and a bit of a clear out would not be a bad idea!

This is a church where the bell ringers are also visible – the bells are rung in the centre of the church. Like many bell ringers, they disappeared before service started (though I must say that most of my lovely team of ringers in Ponteland were the exception to this rule – I do miss them!).

You enter the church through the south door, but there is flatter access at the west end. They could spend a little bit of money and make the access a great deal better. As you enter, you find a welcome banner for Weddings, a book stall, and a church you can wander round for hours.

I worked my way round into the south aisle, and was struck by this window, the Turnbull Memorial Window. Monica was born in 1878 and Dorothea in 1880, the two daughters of Peveril Turnbull, churchwarden. They died in a fire at their home in 1901, Dorothea’s dress was set alight by an oil lamp. Monica tried to save her, and her dress caught fire too. Monica died on 4 March, Dorothea on 27 April. I hope that this window, installed in 1905, helped in the grief. The artist was Christopher Whall, a leader of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

I liked this angel in the next window, and it was worth looking up to enjoy all the carved figures along the south aisle pillars.

The west window is Victorian and dedicated to the Wise family. It shows a Jesse Tree, Jesus’ family tree stretching up to the Virgin and Child. There are some little memorials as you work up the north side – and I failed to photo the War Memorial.

Then you walk into the North Transept, and see the number of memorials in the Cokayne/Boothby Chapel. They were Lords of the Manors from the C14 to C19. I failed to get a wide photo of the whole area, but here are a couple a bit closer. Please could we have a clear out here too?

Sir Thomas Cokayne died in November 1592. He had taken part in the siege of Leith during the war against Scotland in 1544, was a guard of Mary Queen of Scots during her stay in Derbyshire, a leading founder of Ashbourne Grammar School in 1585. His wife Dorothy, the daughter of Sir Humphrey Ferrars of Tamworth Castle, died in December 1595. They had ten children, Francis, Thomas, Edward, Florence, Dorothy, Talutha, Joan, Joan, Jane and Maud.

Francis Cokayne and his wife Dorothy. He died on 5 August 1538, only a year after his father Thomas died. The brass shows Francis and his wife, plus their three sons and three daughters, but Dorothy remarried after her husband’s death and is buried elsewhere.

This is the tomb of Thomas Cokayne, Francis’ father, who died in April 1537. He was knighted by Henry VIII at the siege of Tournai in 1513, fought in the battle of the Spurs, and was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. His wife Barbara was daughter of John Fitzherbert of Etwell. He was known as “The Magnificent”, and deserves better than this.

Sir John Cokayne died in 1477 and is buried with his wife Margaret Longford. The tomb is made of Derbyshire alabaster, and is the work of the Chellaston firm of Robert Sutton and Thomas Prentys. The collar worn by Sir John denotes his membership of a High Order of Chivalry awarded only to adherents of the House of Lancaster.

Sir John Cokayne died in 1372, having served in several parliaments of Edward III. The monument was altered in 1412 to add the effigy of Edmund Cokayne (right) the eldest son of Sir John. He also represented Derbyshire in Parliament, and was killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. The shields around the tomb bear arms of families with which the Cokaynes were allied.

Sir John Bradbourne died in 1483, and his wife Anne Vernon who died in 1499. She wears a necklace of cockle shells. This is the earliest of the Bradbourne tombs. Sir John and Anne founded a chantry chapel in the South Transept about 1483, and were buried there shortly afterwards. The tomb was moved here in the mid 1800s.

Sir Humphrey Bradbourne who died on 17 April 1581 was great grandson of Sir John and Ann Bradbourne. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Turville of Newhall. Around the sides of the tomb are representatives of their six sons and four daughters, including Jane Sacheverall. Also represented in red chrysons are three children who died in infancy. The tomb is the work of Richard and Gabriel Royley of Burton on Trent. Apparently their tombs were “inexpensive and popular”.

Having written this up so far, I really need to go to Ashbourne and check I’ve got the right names on the right tombs. Here are some others I haven’t much (if any) information for.

Penelope’s Tomb remembers Penelope Boothby. Born in 1785 she was the only child of Sir Brooke and Lady Boothby of Ashbourne Hall. She died in 1791. Although only six, she was said to have knowledge of four languages – English, French, Italian and Latin – and the tomb has inscriptions in all four. She is asleep in a long frock. The sculptor was Thomas Banks RA, and the tomb was exhibited at the Royal Academy before coming here. It is reported to have moved Queen Charlotte to tears, and I can understand why. Sir Boothby did not cope with his grief – he left his wife and Ashbourne, and died in poverty in France in 1824. May the whole family rest in peace.

I walked back under the tower and the bells and into the Chancel. The present appearance of the Chancel owes much to the restoration by Sir Gilbert Scott in 1876. The lower part of the east window is by Kempe and dates from 1896, the upper lights contain medieval glass. The altar reredos was designed by Leslie Moore in 1950 and painted by Donald Towner. The life of Christ is placed in Dovedale and the Manifold Valley.

There is a plaque commemorating the Ashbourne Shrovetide Football match, and last year (2018) when we visited there was an amazing art installation. It was developed for the Ashbourne Festival in partnership with The Clayrooms pottery in Ashbourne. Local ceramicists and teachers, Helen Cammiss and Sarah Heaton, originated the idea. The 5,000 small figures, representing the crowd and players, were created by hundreds of school children, local residents and visitors, and the ball was painted by Shrovetide ball painter Tim Baker. The Ashbourne Festival website is https://ashbournefestival.org. What a stunning piece of work, bringing the community together – well done.

I ambled back to the bus station and joined the school kids waiting for the 1620 bus back to Derby via Hulland Ward, Weston Underwood and Quarndon. This was also a Yourbus, so the £5.00 ranger I’d been sold on the previous one was valid too! I jumped off on Kedleston Road, then waited for an Allestree bus back through the estate. What a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

That evening we got an email from Selwyn College, Cambridge inviting us to the 40th bash next April (is it really 40 years since we started there?). They have lost touch with the chap who my fellow Geographer. A bit of research shows he is Head of Corporate Strategy for one of the Water companies. His salary may be a bit more than mine, but I bet he never gets an afternoon off to ride the bus via Ashbourne.

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Tarporley, Cheshire – St Helen

On Thursday 12 September we had to go to Julia’s funeral – odd for me to sit in the congregation for a funeral, but they did a good job! St Helen’s Tarporley is in the centre of the town at SJ 355 362 and has a website at http://tarporleyparishchurch.org/. You can download a pdf of the church guide. The church is C15, but the Victorians gave it a makeover, the work was done by the firm of Crowthers of Manchester. The churchyard is beautifully kept, and the roses were lovely. I liked the figures by the door, and the children’s work on Joseph brightened up our worship. I only had my mobile, and failed to get a decent photo of the church interior.

Also in eye-line during the funeral was this monument. It is to Sir John Crewe, 1641-1711. He was the son of John Crewe and Mary Done, and the grandson of Sir Randolph Crewe who was Lord Chief Justice, and lived at Utkinton Hall. Towards the end of the reign of Charles II some members of the Whig party formed for the Rye House Plot for Charles’ assassination. When this plot was discovered, orders were given that houses of those who were suspected to be Whigs should be searched and all weapons removed. Sir John Crewe was a prominent Whig, his friend and cousin Sir John Arden a prominent Tory. Arden was ordered to go to Utkinton Hall and to remove all the arms which were found there. Following the raid he wrote and apologised, ending his letter with “Maye wee returne to ye old habitt of friendship. Maye our different sentiments of publikque affaires never swell to ye heate of an argument; & soe burst into a passion wich always leaves us worse than it found us; Yours to love and serve you, Witsoever you thinke of, J. Arderne.”

The Done Monument is thought to be by the sculptor William Stanton (1639-1705). The figures, in white marble, are of Jane Done and Mary Crewe, daughters of Sir John Done, and of Mary Knightley, the granddaughter of Mary Crewe. Mary Crewe was born in 1604 at Utkinton Hall, baptised here, married John Crewe in 1636, and died in 1690. I thought the little notice might give more information, but it turned out to be the heating instructions!

I believe the top two memorials are the Sir John Done monument (1577-1629). This marble half figure of Sir John was probably copied from his portrait, painted by Marcus Gheeraert. On his right side hangs the Delamere Horn and is his left hand he is holding a hunting knife, the symbols of his office as the hereditary Chief Forester of Delamere. He was knighted at his home, Utkinton Hall, by James I in 1617. Next to him is John Crewe, 1803-1670. He was a barrister and MP for Cheshire in the first Protectorate Parliament. I wonder about the stories behind the two plaques and the people they remember.

I can’t photo windows on the phone, but I like the window with Adrian and Edmund – apparently Adrian is the patron saint of soldiers. This window is The Resurrection, it dates to 1869 and is a memorial to Henrietta Arden – the daughter of George and Helen, she died on 17 November 1859, aged nine days. The green altar frontal dates to 1890 and is a memorial to Major William Baines Morris, was designed by Lady Eden, manufactured by Messrs Helbronner and restored in 1954.

Outside I photoed the grave of Mr and Mrs Hope – that’s a message I need today.

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Derwent Valley Heritage Way 8 – Whatstandwell to Belper

It has been a long time since I walked any of the Derwent Valley Mills Trail. Monday 2 September was a lovely day, and I didn’t want to work on a Monday. I caught the Transpeak bus north to Whatstandwell station, and started walking south. Always seems wrong to arrive at a station by bus! The bridge over the canal looks rather fragile, and the lack of boat traffic means there is plenty of weed in place.

It is a pleasant walk along the canal, with the railway next to you. Although sometimes busy with walkers, today I saw nobody.

I came off the canal at Ambergate, down under the railway, across the A6. The church was locked, but the garage sold me lunch. Ambergate was quite a station once – it was triangular.

I crossed the bridge over the Derwent, just south of the confluence with the Amber, and then walked up through the lovely woods, The Birches, then along the minor Whitewells Road. 

We then cut down beside Coppice Wood and along Wyver Lane. We passed the Wyver Lane Firing Range which was built in 1899. There had been a firing range for the Belper Vounteers on Chevin Hill since 1800, but by the end of the century new rifle technology had made the original range inadequate. George Herbert Strutt gave this land and paid for Mr A.F. Hurt’s cottage to be removed from the site (I wonder what Mr Hurt thought). He also gave £250 towards the £900 costs of providing facilities. It was much used in the early stages of World War 1, and was used until the 1970s.

Then on past the Nature Reserve, beside the railway, and into Belper. There’s a nice little garden at the north end of Belper Bridge (does the railway ever work), and the Mill is now advertising a planning application for lots of apartments. Let’s hope this works – it is too nice a building to be derelict. We’ve not really had a good look at the Museum here.

I crossed the road, went past Christ Church, then headed up Long Row. There are some lovely workers’ cottages up here, and I managed to get some photos without cars in the way. I was annoyed at missing a Yellow train as it past underneath.

I shall count this walk as finishing at St Peter’s church – a church which needs to be blogged – and therefore being about 6 miles, although I continued on to see Peter, a lovely member of our choir at St Edmund’s, in a residential home in the town, and then caught the bus home. It had been a lovely day.

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Alvaston, Derby – St Michael and All Angels

Sunday 1 September 2019 and I was invited to an evening service at St Michael and All Angels at Alvaston as All Christians Together in SE Derby were going to sign a Covenant. I drove up to the church – SK 392333 – and the bells were ringing. I never thought I would miss church bells, but I do. Here there are six, all made by Taylors of Loughborough, and being rung very well before the service. Their clock is by Smiths of Derby, installed in 1896, and the tower itself was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1775. I parked in the car park on the north side of the church and had an explore of the churchyard. Some interesting memorials, and personal tragedies.

Some nice figures on the porch, and then a decent ramp into the church itself. There is a pre-Conquest sepulchral slab in the porch. It was found during the 1856 rebuild of the church. The original chapel is mentioned in Doomsday, held by St Michael’s church in Derby. It then passed to William Fitzralph, and then was gifted to Darley Abbey. The list of Vicars goes back to Thomas Hycchynson in 1535, and the Registers to John Edmunds in 1614. Thomas Shipton served for 52 years, dying in 1774, his successor Joseph Smith for 35, then William Spencer for 34,  then Edward Poole for 39. The small chapel had become a building with tower and spire by the C15, we mentioned the tower rebuild after 1775, then the whole church was rebuilt in 1856 – most of what existed before was either taken down, or had already fallen down.

A couple of years ago they had a big project to remove the pews, sort the heating system, and install chairs. They have done a very good job – it has been done as a piece, and looks like it has been planned. They have some extra chairs which were out for the evening’s United service.

I hate TV screens and I kept watching the altar candle – which was quite some flame. I would rather use stained glass to meditate.

The East Window was installed in the 1950s to commemorate the centenary of the rebuilding. In the Chancel we also have Jesus and the fishermen – this one given in memory of Mrs Webb, wife of a previous Vicar. In the nave, by the door we have Jesus with children of all nations. It was given as a memorial to those who died in WW2.

The War Memorial is nearby, as is a memorial to Stanley Birch. I looked up the ship – on 5 February 1944 Khedive Ismail left Mombasa bound for Colombo carrying 1,324 passengers including 996 members of the East African Artillery’s 301st Field Regiment, 271 Royal Navy personnel, 19 WRNS, 53 nursing sisters and their matron, nine members of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and a war correspondent, Kenneth Gandar-Dower. She was part of Convoy KR 8 and it was her fifth convoy on that route. Early in the afternoon of Saturday 12 February, after a week at sea, KR 8 was south-west of the Maldives. After lunch many of the passengers were below watching an ENSA concert, while others sunbathed on deck. At 1430 hrs the Japanese submarine I-27 had taken position off Khedive Ismail‘s port side to attack. A lookout sighted I-27‘s periscope and raised the alarm; Khedive Ismail‘s gunners opened fire on the submarine, and the submarine fired a spread of four torpedoes, two of which hit Khedive Ismail. The troop ship’s stern was engulfed in flame and smoke and she sank in three minutes.  Of 1,511 people aboard Khedive Ismail, only 208 men and 6 women survived the sinking and subsequent battle. 1,220 men and 77 women were killed. The sinking was the third largest loss of life from Allied shipping in World War II and the largest loss of servicewomen in the history of the Commonwealth of Nations. Stanley was an engine room mechanic – and only 19.

Some other memorials that are worth a read, and we have a Screen Header, which dates to 1736 and was made by Robert Bakewell. The screen in Derby Cathedral is a superb example of his work. Michael the Archangel is in charge.

The quality of the tea made up for 1 hour 11 minutes of worship songs – I left church feeling so out of touch with where the Church of England is now. I turned on Classic FM – and filled the car with a real organ and choir. It turned out to be the Nun’s Chorus from Casanova by Strauss – not quite the proper religious music I thought it was!

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Northampton, Northamptonshire – All Saints’

We could have driven back from Milton Keynes straight up the M1, but instead went on the back roads to Northampton. I worked here for a couple of years back in the late 1980s, but don’t think I’ve ever been back. We found a parking space, had a wander, and ended up in All Saints’ church – SP 754 604. They have a website at http://allsaintsnorthampton.co.uk/. You could not get a town centre church much different to Milton Keynes, but it is wonderful that both are open. A notice at All Saints says it is the only town church open during the week.

There was a Norman church on this site, but – with the exception of the tower – it was destroyed in the Great Fire of Northampton in 1675. By 1680 it had been rebuilt with the help of donations from all over England, including 1,000 tons of timber from King Charles II. The Portico is rather wonderful. It was added in 1701, and I failed to photo the statue of Charles which was added in 1712.

The Nave is a wow – its design is attributed to Henry Bell of Kings Lynn whose work was heavily influenced by Christopher Wren. The Nave is basically two concentric squares with the inner square formed by four majestic Ionian columns. The columns are topped with figures of the four evangelists. The plaster ceiling and dome are decorated with acanthus motifs, religious symbols, cherubs and oak leaves. Edward Goudge, one of Wren’s chief plasterers was responsible for this work.

The West gallery houses the recital organ which was presented by the Sunley Trust in 1983 in memory of Mary Sunley. It was made by J.W. Walker & Son of Suffolk, and is linked to the new chancel organ. The clock is an C18 bracket clock, signed Davies, Northampton. The two pictures in the gallery are of Moses and Aaron, and were the C17 reredos.

Going up into the Chancel is quite splendid. The ceiling is magnificent. The oak pulpit dates from 1680, though the base is Victorian. Lectern rather good too. The reredos was erected in 1888. The large painting of the crucifixion is thought to be Italian. I like the cherub under the 10 Commandments. The marble font is 1680.

There is some nice glass in the Lady Chapel, and these two chairs look nice and comfy.

I also liked the selection of monuments. The poet John Clare is remembered too.

The Good Loaf artisan bakery and café is in the portico – not as cheap as High Wycombe, but it is good to see the church open and business being there. It is a wonderful church, a real town centre church serving its community.

At the east end of the building is the Northampton Town and County War Memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Sadly the gate to that was locked.

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Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire – Christ the Cornerstone

Driving home from High Wycombe on Saturday 18 August we stopped in Milton Keynes, and went to the Church of Christ the Cornerstone – SP 850 388. It wasn’t that busy on a Saturday morning – the café wasn’t open – but that part of MK seems to be more offices than anything else. The website is at http://www.cornerstonemk.co.uk/. We looked at buying our first house in MK around 1985 – I remember reading the brochures one lunchtime while I was working in London – and we have visited this church once before. It was described as MK’s Cathedral, but it doesn’t really have a “cathedral feel” when you enter. Looking at its list of services, it doesn’t have that pattern either. However we got a welcome from the chap in the shop, and it was nice to have a wander in, an explore, and a pray.

The ecumenical scene in the 1980s was rather more lively than it is today. Churches nationally were working together, and each County would have a paid ecumenical officer. Nowadays there are probably no County Officers left and, while each denomination is supposed to have an Ecumenical Officer (I am the CE one for Derbyshire), most of us do it on top of the day job, and the powers-that-be seem to have no real interest in what we do. If I remember right, most churches on the estate in the new City of MK were ecumenical (ie several different denominations working together), often with two or three ministers from different churches.  40 years later most of these churches still exist, probably with only one minister. There are now far more churches (in the sense of denominations and groupings) than there were 40 years ago, but getting them together is even harder. When we do work together good things are achieved – and I am grateful for the variety of churches and experience that made me.

It was in 1979 that the Church of England, the Baptist Union, the Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the United Reformed Church came together in a partnership to worship together in the city centre, and this church building was opened in 1992. The Covenant that they signed is at http://www.cornerstonemk.co.uk/who-we-are/our-history/ and I like this line: “Travelling as Pilgrims on a journey that has already started and which will lead we know not where, we are pleased to place our trust in God, in whose hands the future lies, and to be led forward by Him.”

You can tell it is a C20 church – “The architect for the church was Iain Smith of Planning Design Development Ltd, a local Milton Keynes firm. The architect of the flanking office blocks, however, were Conran Roche. The contract for the overall development of Church Square was won by Beazer Developments Ltd. The church itself was built by Marriotts of Rushden, Northants.” No Christopher Wren on this dome!

According to https://www.buckschurches.uk/glass/building.php?buildingid=172 the blue window is by A. Beleschenko and the etched cross behind the altar and pulpit by Diane Radford.

I really wanted to see this memorial window. Fiona lived just down the road from us near Huntingdon and Julie met her when they both did a car maintenance course in the mid-80s. She also took me out in the car on a few occasions when I was learning to drive. She was engaged to Paul, a priest in Birmingham, and we went to their wedding in Hemingford in 1986. We went off to Theological College in Lincoln and didn’t see much of each other – and then, just after I had been ordained and started my curacy (1994), we received the news that Fiona had been taken ill and died.

The window artist was David Peace and the maker was Sally Scott. The quote is from Mahatma Ghandi, “Truth is like a vast tree which yields more and more fruit the more you nurture it. The deeper the search in the mind of truth, the richer the discovery of the gems buried there.”

Finally we went into the little chapel. I ignored the plethora of notices and lit a candle in her memory. You meet some lovely people as you journey through this world.

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Hughenden, Buckinghamshire – St Michael and All Angels

On Friday 17 August 2019 we drove out of High Wycombe and spent the morning at Hughenden, the National Trust property which was the home of Benjamin Disraeli. Julie enjoyed the author links – although neither of us (and most of the visitors) have never read anything by Disraeli. There was a good exhibition upstairs about his life, politics and relationship with Queen Victoria. The best bit was the exhibition about the house in WW2 – bomber command had done all their map work there. The NT didn’t know this until they heard a visitor talking to his grandchild in 2004 about his time working there, then they managed to find out a lot more. I love maps! It was raining by the time we’d done the house, so we had lunch and left the gardens for another day.

The Parish church of St Michael and All Angels, Hughenden, is at the entrance to the Park – SU 864954. The church advertises itself as ’The Church in the Park.’ Very posh website – https://hughendenparishchurch.org.uk/ – on the evangelical end of the church – there must be a PhD in church websites and their relationship with what we used to call ’churchmanship.’ At least this one includes ‘history’ – excellent photos at https://hughendenparishchurch.org.uk/History. They like their advertising, and had a good board full of photos of a lively church. They also had a banner reminding people that the church is not owned by the National Trust. Good leaflets too.

The original church was built by Geoffrey de Clinton between 1100 and 1135. In 1870 it was in a very bad state of repair, and the Vicar Canon Blagden, with the help of his father-in-law James Searight, raised most of the money and rebuilt it. I wonder how much time and energy Disraeli put into it.

It is a very Victorian church. The font is Early English, probably from the original church, found and returned. The key is old too – apparently the ring would stand in if a couple couldn’t afford a wedding ring – that’s not a story I’ve ever heard before.

There is a selection of effigies in the North Chapel. I didn’t work out which one was which  – indeed, I’m not sure anyone is very sure which is which.  It is suggested that they were put there by a local nouveau riche one trying to produce a pedigree. I like that idea!

The Chancel may be the oldest part of the church, but it is the most Victorian. Various items in the church were paid for by the Hughenden Memorial Fund, in memory of Benjamin Disraeli. The mural scheme depicts the Christ Child on Mary’s lap. Look at Joseph’s expression, and that of the camel. The memorial to Disraeli was installed by Queen Victoria – apparently it is the only memorial installed in an English church by a reigning monarch. She also allowed his Garter insignia to be moved here from Windsor too, and allowed him to be buried here rather than in Westminster Abbey. Her Prime Minister was her favourite – he knew how to flatter her!

The pulpit is a memorial to James Searight – lots of angels and archangels – rather delicately done. One nice piece of stained glass too.

We must return to Hughenden when the sun is shining.

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