northernvicarwalks October 2020

Harvest Festival without “We plough”, weddings with 15 people, baptisms with 6, and more time at home. i was a speaker on WW1 Great Eastern Women at a Zoom conference on “Women in Transport” that should have been at Swindon. (I was looking forward to a day in Swindon). Someone else spoke on “Gender in Intercity advertising”, remembering the days of Monica.

A day at Crich to show Julie my “Mail by Tram” exhibition before it closed.

We had to cope with a fire at St Matthew’s – the funniest thing was when I ended up on the roof with the Fire Investigator and Police Photographer, and the access window shut behind us. Fortunately we were able to open it – as one of them said, if we have to call the Fire Brigade we’ll never hear the last of it.

We had a day at Baddesley Clinton, though the bookshop was closed, discovered Shipley Country Park, and found new memorials at the National Memorial Arboretum. An art course from the National Gallery, and a University of York course on “The Reformation in Ten books”, taught by Dr Francesca Cioni – excellent.

We ended the month with a week in a small cottage on Hadrian’s Wall, by Twice Brewed. We couldn’t meet Harry and Sarah indoors, but we had some lovely walks with them. We visited no bookshops or churches, but we had a gorgeous day at Vindolanda, another at Beamish, and stopped in Ponteland to photo the new road sign on the new estate built over the old Police HQ.

I walked 36 miles, none of it along the Wall (hangs head in shame), so have now done 436 this year. I also continued my Facebook rambles.

The fools in charge decided to bring in a Covid tier system. Various people had better ideas.

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northernvicarwalks September 2020

You know it is going to be a bad month when, on 1 September, you go for a 5 mile walk which has as one of its goals, posting a small parcel at the Post Office. Hannah had prepared it, and asked you to post it to a friend of hers’. You stand outside in the queue for 20 minutes, sweltering under your face mask, and text her to ask what the parcel contains. “Face masks”.

4 miles walked the next day at Kedleston, then 4 on my Derwent Valley Walk. We had Scarecrows in Allestree on Saturday, and Julie and I walked 5 miles to see a lot of them.

On Sunday 6th I went off to the Great Central Railway. They have bridge work on the main line, so were running the Mountsorrel branchline (new track for me). I parked at Rothley and had a circular walk of 3 miles. Road to Rothley Temple (now in the Hotel) – actually a Preceptory run by the Knights Templar (founded 1231, dissolved 1540) – across Town Green (nice timber-framed cottage), and the golf course. It feels like an ancient bridleway. I crossed the railway, then back along the boundary of Thurcaston and to the station. They were running a diesel shuttle. I sat at the end in First – bringing back memories of my childhood. We then went north and came alongside Swithland Sidings. Points were scotched and we reversed onto the Up line – men with bolts and flags, old BR at its best. Down the branchline to Nunckley Hill, where there is a fascinating little heritage centre. An excellent afternoon.

3 miles round Darley Park on Monday 7, and 3 miles along the Cromford Canal on Wednesday 9. Then I did 4 miles to Duffield on Thursday, and 2 at Darley Abbey on Saturday. Morgan likes the new multi-user path, and can’t read simple signs.

A week’s holiday at home started on Monday 21 September we had a lovely trip to Southwell. We walked along the old railway and through the Minster grounds, but failed to get into the Minster itself (we spent too long with Helen in the pub). I’ve already blogged our visits to Tideswell and Castleton. Then on Wednesday we went to Shipley Country Park for the first time – it’s only 20 minutes drive, but has miles of walks and a decent cafe.

On Thursday 24 we drove north Harlow Carr gardens, and met Hannah. 6 miles walked, red mushrooms found, and tea at Betty’s. I’ve already blogged our trip to the Black Country Museum the following day.

3 miles at Melbourne Hall on 26 September, and 4 miles round the beautiful English Heritage gardens at Brodsworth on 27th.

Back to work on Monday with a 2 mile walk to St Matthew’s and round, a 4 mile walk round Shipley Country Park on Tuesday. That meant I had walked 78 miles in September, so my total is up to 400.

I wrote a facebook Rambling every day. Here they are:

We’re supposed to be in a rule of six, but no one seems sure how we interpret that and there are lots of exceptions. Apparently it is illegal for 7 children to feed ducks, but it is legal for 30 adults to shoot them.

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Derwent Valley Heritage Way 9 – Belper to Milford

Walk 8 was on 2 September 2019, walk 9 on 4 September 2020 – and that was only by accident. I started in the Oxfam Bookshop – a superb Oxfam Bookshop, but buying two heavy books at the start of the walk was just stupid.

I went through the Memorial Gardens and admired the flowers. The sculpture is of Jim Green, who died on the Somme – http:// belperinwartime.org/sacrifice.html

Then I decided I would follow the Derwent Valley Heritage Way towards Milford. It was a lovely walk. I went through Belper Parks, then the edge of the town, and along past Rowlandhill Farm – some lovely views down into the Valley. Along to Shaw Lane and down into Milford. It looks to be a fascinating village with cottages that must date back to its Mill past. There are some little footpaths that will be worth following. The Primitive Methodist Chapel is now a house, and I chatted to the lady who says it is a lovely holiday cottage but rather echoey (when her children are chasing round at 7 am).

I walked back to Belper along the A6, nice view over the railway to the River – I found this photo of the Goods’ Shed in the 1960s, all rather derelict now.

I walked past Park Foundry, which was formed in 1850. It used to make solid fuel stoves, but seems to have been closed for a good few years now. There is a footpath north of the railway from the A6 to Gibfield Lane. This leads to The Avenue, which does not have any exit at the far end. I walked back, rather annoyed at the extra walking, and found a Midland Railway Boundary Post which I had missed. Rather chuffed by that discovery! Back through to the Station via the Coop – such excitement. I had walked 4 miles, and had enjoyed it

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Black Country Living Museum, Dudley – Gospel Car 11, Ebenezer, and Providence Chapel

Black Country Museum on Friday 25 September. Last time we went I remember Gareth being taken for a walk on the cakewalk at the fairground – sadly the fairground has gone at the moment – but the rest was wonderful. They have a superb guidebook too, which means I need to spend another day reading that. They give a simple map which shows the accessible routes, so we had a good explore.

We started with the Newcomen Engine, this is a replica but the original was only about a mile away. It’s dated to about 1712, and is currently waiting for a refurb.

Then past the garage and bus depot – on the way back we had a good chat with the bus driver, he was fascinated by Morgan’s wheels.

We had a lesson at St James’ School, then decided we wanted lunch. It was a bit early in the day, but there was no queue, so we shared a portion of fish and chips. Then we explored the row of shops. Hobbs’ fish and chip shop from Hall Street, Dudley, dates to 1916, but the building is older.

The canal arm and basin date to 1839. I had a chat with the lady on the canal boat – she said that even with the small living area she would rather have been a boater, than have worked in the factories. The staff and volunteers were lovely.

There was a lady beside the Methodist caravan, and we had a good chat to her. It is a replica of Gospel Car 11, Ebenezer, and there is information about it at http://www.methodistheritage.org.uk/gospelcar.htm. This is a website well worth exploring – I realise that northernvicar is rather Anglican, and I have not been good at exploring Non-conformist heritage.

According to the website “The Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists and Church Army all used ‘Gospel cars’ in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Within Methodism, horsedrawn wagons were partly replaced by hand-pushed ‘trek carts’ in the inter-war years, and finally by deaconess’ caravans in the 1950s. Gospel Cars were used for ministry in markets, fairgrounds, at overnight moorings for barge and boat people, and to traveller camps, and to reach rural locations.”

This reproduction was built in 2011 and it is rather good that it is displayed here. Boat and barge people were one of the historically marginalized groups to whom the Gospel Car missioners were reaching out. “It was a little home on wheels – what are seats during the day were beds at night. It was a little church on wheels – the bigger audience would be addressed from the platform while the smaller audience would be invited inside.” They had pictures, an organ, a gramophone, percussion band instruments and a magic lantern. I am old enough to remember film evenings in our little chapel – Fact and faith films. One of them had the line “I’m going to fill my lungs with helium gas”, and I remember my dad disgracing himself as he got a fit of the giggles. We were supposed to take these things seriously!

My new friend was playing us tunes on her “Atlas organette”, apparently it is a reed instrument, air pressure produced as she turned the handle. As we talked, and I confessed I was a Vicar, we got chatting about our churches. She said something like “I’m not allowed to proselytise while I’m here, and I wouldn’t dream of doing so, but I had a chap earlier telling me the church was useless these days. I gently told him about the amount of food bank collections my church has been going over the last few months.” This caravan was no doubt used for evangelism, social care, and basic education for children in the hour or two they spent here while the boat was being loaded.

The website comments that life with the caravan “sounds wonderful, but with walls of just a single plank thick it would certainly be very, very cold on many a winter night.”

We then walked across the canal to the HQ of the Dudley Canal Trust. I wanted a ride into the canals and J was going to read a book. “We have a boat we can get you on” they said, and indeed they had. They had done some work with plastic screens, so we were all socially distanced and it felt safe. It was a great tour – I remembered quite a lot of it, but they certainly have an amazing set of tunnels. The chap on the boat giving the commentary had a good line in patter, the AV was well worth watching, and we can go again anytime in the next year. They also do longer tours exploring further afield. The lives of the workers, those who did the mining and those working the boats must have been pretty dreadful.

We went back into the main part of the museum, and I visited the chapel. Providence Chapel is the Darby Hand New Connexion Methodist Chapel which originally opened on 29 January 1837. Methodism, and other non conformist groups, were flourishing by the late 1700s. They were more radical than the Church of England, more evangelical, had a greater social conscience, and were not bound by the parish structure.

Darby End grew up in the late C18 as a coal-mining community alongside the Dudley Canal. It was named after a family who arrived in the C16 to run a mill on the Mousesweet Brook (they must have made that name up!). I think the policeman, who was our guide, said that the Methodists were nail-makers who had come to the village from Belper. They were members of the New Connexion, who had split from the Wesleyans in 1797. They worshipped in a house for several decades, until they could afford to build this chapel. A simple brick chapel, galleries added later, with high pulpit and text. It takes me back to my youth, worship in the small Baptist Chapel in Barton, preaching in so many chapels like this across the Cambridgeshire Fens. I remember one church meeting when there was a discussion about what we should put behind the pulpit – we’d recently repainted the interior of the chapel. My dad wanted a simple wooden cross, Sid wanted a text. Sid also worshipped at Zion Baptist chapel, and was a man with strong views. My dad was also a man with strong views. At one point in the discussion, dad suggested Isaiah 40.9 “Get thee to Zion”.

We were reminded by our guide that this chapel was not just a place of worship. It was a place of education, of community, of social care, of political life. It closed in 1974, and the pews were offered to the Museum. They visited, and asked if they could have the whole church. It is good to see it here, but difficult not to wish it was still a centre for its community. I know the world has changed, but when all the chapels and most of the churches are closed, we might realise what we’ve lost. Zoom won’t replace it.

Finally we enjoyed the last row of shops, and talked to the lady on the left, who was out on strike. Sheila Chamberlain-Hyett tweets as @Sheila_Fairy talked to us about the Women Chainmakers’ Strike of 1912 and Mary Macarthur – and I purchased the book. They have an annual festival in Chadley Heath, so it would be good to go next year. There’s also a facebook page Friendsofthewomenchairmakers.

We had had a very good explore, and were almost the last people to leave the museum. Slow on the M6 again, but we made it home. Now all we need to do is go back!

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Castleton, Derbyshire – St Edmund, King and Martyr

Tuesday 22 September 2020. We went on to Castleton, as I had arranged to meet Linda to look round St Edmund’s church. Pre-covid it was open all the time, now just twice a week. It is one of three churches with a house-for-duty Vicar, and at the moment has one service a month (and the fourth Sunday on zoom). Again, like Tideswell, no guidebook. I did wonder if their noticeboard is a symbol of 2020.

The Chancel arch, which we’ll see in a minute, is Norman, but the rest of the church was restored in 1837. One authority describes it as “almost as ugly as could well be imagined” which is a little harsh.

The ceiling is interesting, the pews are old, and I like the lights. A couple of monuments – this one is to Charles Potts, 1725 – and a nice hatchment. Some damp problems are going to need sorting.

The Norman arch is rather good. There’s a little organ, and Edmund’s arrows are in the screen to the vestry. The vestry contains the Farran Collection, the parish library. It was bequeathed to the parish by a former incumbent, the Reverend Frederic Farran. The greatest part of the material is apparently of the C18, but includes some C17 and C19 items. A note says that a catalogue was produced in 1977 by the School of Librarianship in Sheffield. The school has gone, Amazon have no copies for sale, “Farran collection” has no hits on the Derbsyhire Libraries catalogue, nor any hints on the Sheffield University website, and a quick google gives no information. I am glad to say that Cambridge University Library has a copy of the catalogue. I wonder when anyone last accessed the collection. They also have a Breeches Bible on display.

Linda got the lovely cross and candles out for me to photo. Blue John is gorgeous.

The East Window dates to 1853, and may be by Wailes. I don’t know whether they did Dorcas and Edmund too.

The annunciation is by Kempe and Co, and dates to 1912. Finally there is one medieval fragment of an angel.

Then out into the churchyard, which is looking rather lovely.

Posted in Derbyshire | 3 Comments

Tideswell, Derbyshire – St John the Baptist

On Tuesday 22 September 2020 we started the day at High Peak Bookshop, then drove up to Tideswell, and parked right outside the church of St John the Baptist, SK153757. They advertise themselves as the Cathedral of the Peak, and are open despite being unstaffed. They have a one way system, in via the south door (which has flat access) out through the (inaccessible) north door. Although they must be one of the major church tourist hubs in the middle of a National Park, they had no guidebook on sale. Pevsner fills four pages with the church and the rest of the village, so I probably have more than enough information for this blog.

Pevsner describes it as “one of the grandest of Derbyshire parish churches” and “the most complete example of the C14 decorated style in the county. Apparently the mason(s) are likely to have had Yorkshire connections. The patrons were the Foljambe family, who also have links with Bakewell and Chesterfield. Sir Godfrey de F was born in Tideswell in 1317, his family were the Lords of the Manor, and he served in  several of the Parliaments of Edward III, was Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, a close friend of John of Gaunt, and died in Bakewell in 1376 – there is a memorial to him in Bakewell church. The family had come over with the Normans, and took up residence in this part of the world – in case you’re wondering “Foljambe” means “a limp”.

Most churches had a bit of building, a few years off, then a bit more building – this one looks to have had a pretty continuous story (though perhaps with a break for the Black Death). Some say the work started in the early C14, with the tower being the final bit at the end of the century. Others have shortened the time, suggesting the whole thing was started in about 1380 and done in about thirty years. Having spent less than a decade working in a Cathedral being built, the thought of even thirty years of it is a bit much. A reminder though that families were building, not only to their glory but also to the glory of God.

We entered through a two-storey vaulted porch, and I wonder how this lead tablet could be interpreted. Inside there is currently a one-way system.

It is a church to look up in, and you then realise how high the church is. Can you imagine the work that must have gone into building it. No huge tower cranes, but a forest of wooden scaffolding, and where did all this stone come from – I assume it is reasonably local. Where did all the workers lodge in a small Derbyshire village, how much did the de Foljambe family spend on this place?

Looking down, the shape of the Victorian pews is rather nice too. I liked Mr Oldfield’s memorial. The window at the east end of the south aisle is by Alfred Fisher 1996 – it is a bit less saccharine than most windows covering the subject of Jesus welcoming the children.

At the east of the aisle is the De Bower chapel. A note says that the wording carved in the alabaster of the tomb would have it that the effigies are of Sir Thurstan and Lady Margaret de Bower. However there is no historical record of a knight with that name, though there is a Yeoman Sir Thurstan who made his money in lead mining. Pevsner says that he was one of the founders of the Guild of St Mary at Tideswell with foundation charters of 1384 and 1392. The tomb is early C15, much restored in 1873. They have made a little museum in this chapel.

Standing at the east end of the nave, it is worth looking up. The Chancel Screen is mainly C14, so I do wonder why they were allowed to fasten a projector screen to it (although the top part may well date from the Victorian reconstruction).

There are some nice carvings – Baptism, Confirmation, Visitation of the Sick and Ordination. The work dates to the last couple of decades of Victoria’s reign and was done by a local firm, the Hunstone’s. It was founded by two brothers, Robert and Advent. They were followed by Robert’s sons William and Advent II, and then Advent II’s son William (keep up at the back!).

The Chancel is rather gorgeous too, “one of the three or four finest in the county”. Either started early C14, stopped during the Black Death and then completed, or done in one campaign after the Black Death was over (though you would have thought that might have caused a few problems). Nice misericords and other carvings too. St Chad with his book, George with dragon, and Mary Magdalene with her jar of spikenard (precious ointment). The tomb is to Sampson Meverill 1462.

Back in the main body of the church, the organ dates to 1895 and is by Forster and Andrews of Hull. It was renovated in 1988 by Johnsons at a cost of £14,000. The casework dates to 1928 and is by Advent Hunstone, described on the Historic Organs Register as “a nice essay in Richly carved Gothic, carved by local artists … in oak. Oak carvings incomplete due to builder’s death in 1928. Decorative pipes, some speaking but mostly dummies.” The Lady Chapel is currently locked, but you can look in to see the two figures. The older may well predate the present church, the other, wearing a veil and whimple and with her feet resting on a dog, dates from around 1375.

Back in the main body of the church, the organ dates to 1895 and is by Forster and Andrews of Hull. It was renovated in 1988 by Johnsons at a cost of £14,000. The casework dates to 1928 and is by Advent Hunstone, described on the Historic Organs Register as “a nice essay in Richly carved Gothic, carved by local artists … in oak. Oak carvings incomplete due to builder’s death in 1928. Decorative pipes, some speaking but mostly dummies.” The Lady Chapel is currently locked, but you can look in to see the two figures. The older may well predate the present church, the other, wearing a veil and whimple and with her feet resting on a dog, dates from around 1375.

A final explore outside – I wonder which saint once filled the gap, and what the young lady and the devils thinks about our current position.

Posted in Derbyshire | 1 Comment

northernvicarwalks August 2020

I’ve already blogged the National Memorial Arboretum and my 5 mile walk there on the 1st of the month. We opened St Edmund’s in Allestree on 2 August – so both my churches were open within three weeks of it being possible. I commented it would have been so helpful if the Church of England had provided all the signage we needed – which they did, in the middle of September (8 weeks after I’d needed them).

After the service we drove to the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway for tea in Queen Victoria’s carriage. Built in 1885 for the London & South Western Railway, altered to become Her Majesty’s personal coach in her Golden Jubilee year 1885. She used it on her trips from London to Gosport for the boat to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, and she was kind enough to join us today. After her death it remained in Royal use for several years, then became a family saloon, then the body was sold for a gamekeeper’s home. It was restored by Stephen Middleton of Stately Trains, and he was a very pleasant host.

A 5 mile walk round Calke Abbey on 5 August. Gorgeous gardens, but the church was locked.

Powis Castle on 10 August, a 6 mile walk, and a ride on the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway. The heavens opened while the engine ran round at Castle Caereinion, thank you to volunteer train crew – getting soaked is all part of a day’s work.

4 miles at Kedleston on the 13th. Now Julie has Morgan, her new powerchair, she can get round the Long Walk. A trip to Hardwick, then 3 miles at Shugborough on the 18th – a National Trust property we had never been to. I’ve already blogged the 5 miles at Blist’s Hill and Lilleshall Abbey.

3 miles along the Cromford & High Peak Railway on the 22nd, my first trip on an Azuma on the 26th, 4 miles at Kedleston on the 27th, and again on the 29th. That makes a total of 38 in August. Add that to the 284 in the first seven month and I have now reached 322.

Walking is a good way to cope with the continuing incompetence of the Prime Minister and his government. One of several fiascos in August was exam results – an algorithm to predict what pupils should have got favoured private schools. There were protests. The government U-turned, but no minister walked.

I kept posting on facebook

Posted in 1,000 mile walking, Derbyshire, National Trust, Railway interest, Staffordshire, Wales, Yorkshire | Leave a comment

Lilleshall Abbey, Shropshire

After Blist’s Hill we drove out through Coalport and some interesting roads to Shifnal, which looks like a town worth exploring, and up to the A5. Then I saw a sign to English Heritage Lilleshall Abbey, so we followed it. SJ737142. A short walk from the road, and a rather peaceful spot.

It was founded in about 1148 for a community of Augustinian canons – they originally came from Dorchester in Oxfordshire (a town I have never been to), there were probably about 13 canons originally. It was a powerful place by the C13, deriving its income from gifts and legacies, farmland, two windmills and investments in property. They also had the tolls for the use of Atcham Bridge over the Severn. Henry III was entertained here twice around 1240. This picture is by Terry Ball and is on the EH interpretation board.

The Abbey suffered a financial crisis in the C14 and the abbot was accused of mismanagement.  The number of canons was down to about ten before the abbey was suppressed in 1538. It became a private house, owned by James Leveson of Wolverhampton, but the buildings were severely damaged by several weeks of a Parliamentary siege in the Civil War. It was then abandoned and left to decay.

In 1767 the Donnington Wood canal was dug through the abbey precinct. It stretched from coal mines at Donnington Wood, with another branch from a lime quarry at Lilleshall, down to a basin beside the Newport/Wolverhampton turnpike road. Later it was connected to the Shropshire Canal, which was linked to the Severn by the Hay Inclined Plane. The whole system was closed by 1904 and you wouldn’t know there was ever a canal here (which is the polite way of saying I didn’t until I read the EH website – https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/lilleshall-abbey/History/. The State took over the site in 1950. It is an unstaffed property.

You come up to the Abbey by the west door of the church. You can easily imagine it in all its splendour.

A little way down on the north side is a spiral staircase which you can still climb. It is a good view, back to the west arch and forward to the east end.

Walking east, you realise how important this area of the church was – seven services a day, and they wouldn’t have closed down for the plague. The east window was a C14 addition. The choir stalls at St Peter’s Wolverhampton are thought to have come from here, rescued by the new owner after the Dissolution. I wonder about the sense of emptiness and betrayal the monks must have faced as their monastery was closed and sold off around them, but I suppose you just go with the flow as that’s the easiest thing to do.

Finally I wandered round the precinct buildings. The Skype, a narrow passage way which could be closed off at either end, and the warming room – lovely ceiling. The arch into the cloister is rather lovely too – you can imagine the procession of canons with cross, incense and music, making their way through here on a Festal Day.

Three hundred years after a Royal Visit, sold to a man from Wolverhampton … ho hum.

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Blist’s Hill Victorian Town, Shropshire – St Chad

Last November we purchased an Annual Pass for the Ironbridge Museum in their Black Friday deals. Then came winter, then came Covid. We drove over a few weeks ago to collect it, but it was a wet, horrible day and after a couple of hours at Blist’s Hill we had had enough. On Friday 21 August we booked a 10 am admission, and were there exactly on time. The weather was rather better.

We ambled across to the Canal, and admired Trevithick’s loco which was built here in 1802 (this replica dated 1990 – I would love to see it steam.

We had a lovely walk along the old canal – I’d love to dredge some of that and get some vessels on it – past a fascinating Gospel Car and Sunday School. It was originally built in 1904 as a double-decker tramcar for the Birmingham & Midland Tramways car number 10 in Wolverhampton, then converted to a Sunday School for Bridgnorth People’s Hall Mission at Erdington in 1928. It needs some TLC. There were lots of blackberries as we walked along, and when J is on Morgan she is just the right height.

This part of the canal ends at the top of the Hay Inclined Plane, which operated from 1792 and 1894. It lifted boats through 63 metres (207ft), a height that would normally be achieved by using 25 locks. The original rails were removed in 1910 and the canal basin filled in during the 1920s. Restoration work started in 1969, continuing later with the re-laying of the railway tracks and the clearance of the canal basin. There is a long article The Hay Inclined Plane in Coalbrookdale (Shropshire, England): Geometric Modeling and Virtual Reconstruction, from the journal Symmetry 2019 – which I attach – and I think I now understand how it worked. It is one of those things that needs a bunch of MA students to build a digital recreation of it (Julie and I were so good at that, I don’t think it will be done by us).

Later on we walked to St Chad’s Mission Church. Sadly this was locked – a grill you can look through. Martin, formerly the Diocesan Communications Officer for Newcastle, says he and all the other CE Communication Officers recorded a hymn there for the BBC on one occasion – the obvious one would be “Go forth and tell”, but there must be one about confusion and spin. A google tells me there is one called “God you spin the whirling planets” (though it is not a ditty I have ever sung).

The original building was built at Lodge Bank, close to Granville Colliery (now in Telford), around 1888. These were churches that could be built nice and easily. The majority of the contents are from the original building, moved here in 1977, augmented by various items from St Paul’s church, Aqueduct, Telford, with “pews, offertory plate, hymn and prayer books from Broseley Parochial Church Council.” It was re-consecrated by the Bishop of Hereford, and it is sad you can’t get inside. I don’t know if they ever use it, it should be possible to portray a living faith in a historic reconstruction.

In the Ironworks, and you can imagine some of the congregation working long, dangerous hours here, we joined a guide for a half hour tour. Pig (or cast) iron was the original product, the base of the industrial revolution, but while you can make a bridge out of it, it is basically brittle. They needed something stronger, especially to make rails. By heating the iron to about 1,200 degrees C, puddling it (removing the impurities), then hammering it, you could make wrought iron. The Puddler was paid a good salary, but looking into an oven with a bright white light would cause blindness, and the chemicals were the same as smoking 300 a day. Most were dead by 35. The job passed to the son, who must have realised he would go the same way.

Then it was taken to be hammered, 19 tons every time it came down. The adults kept out of its way, but a child with a brush was expected to sweep the debris away between blows. If they lost a limb, or died, they were dispensable. The hammer was made about 140 years ago, and still works perfectly. Then the metal was rolled and rolled, getting smaller every time. The talk made sense of some of my Panamint films.

We had a really enjoyable day, and walked about 5 miles. I feel we’ve done most of the museum, but I’d like to go back for some of their special events. There are several other Ironbridge Museums that need to be done too. Our pass is valid until July 2021, so we might get to some sort of normality by then.

Posted in 1,000 mile walking, Railway interest, Shropshire | Leave a comment

National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire – the Army

Let’s start this final section with one amazing memorial, then we’ll end our visit with another.  We should mention we enjoyed the gardens and the café – and look forward to coming back when the Remembrance section is open, an exhibition exploring how humanity remembers. There are also many memorials I didn’t photo, and others that I even failed to find (The Donor Family Network is an obvious one for me). We will be back.

The Shot at Dawn memorial is one of those that makes you stand in silence. During WW1 309 British and Commonwealth soldiers were shot for desertion, cowardice, striking a senior officer, disobeying a lawful command, casting away arms and sleeping at post. Most of these were sentenced after a short trial at which no real defence was possible. Andy de Comyn’s statue is modelled on Private Herbert Burden of the 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, who was shot in Ypres in 1915, aged just 17. The wooden posts are arranged like a Greek amphitheatre, each one named and given their age (when we know it) – many of them were just children. I failed to photo the six trees which stand for the firing squad – and we should not forget the trauma that being in the squad must have caused. It is good that a pardon was issued in 2006, but a tragedy that so many died.

‘The hand of peace’ is a memorial for Sapper Support, asking us to think about post-traumatic stress and mental well-being. The sculptor was Peter Barnes, and we are invited to reach out and hold the hand of the person who needs our love and support. There is an additional notice at the moment. Is it poignant, or does it increase the fear? There has been little reported of the mental cost of the pandemic, and what the mental toll will be over the next few years, to soldiers and so many others.

I found the Ambulance Service memorial touched me in a way I didn’t expect. I don’t know how many ambulance crew have died, but I do know that their job is dangerous. I have had several high speed journeys with my boys – I shall never forget being in the passenger seat of an ambulance car on one of Gareth’s journeys to London for a new heart. We had gone from Bury to the Stansted services in a souped-up minibus, then transferred to a fast car for the ride on to Great Ormond Street. He put the blues and twos on as we came round the roundabout, down the slip road, then I watched the needle on the speedo. It didn’t take long before we were over a hundred. Most cars got out of our way, but I could see the concentration of our driver. Later we were coming in along the Bow Road, dodging the traffic, through the red lights, wrong side of the road – all because it was his job. I have no doubt there was danger, but I never felt safer. Sometimes, I am sure, something goes wrong and lives are lost.

The Royal Tank Regiment has a model of a Mark V Heavy Tank (Male) which took part in the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918, less than two years after the first battle involving tanks which was on the Somme in September 1916. If I come in the Spring I will see hundreds of daffodils planted in the pattern of tank tracks, and if I look more closely I will see a pattern of ash trees, several of which were propagated from trees from the battlefield at Cambrai.

The Polar Bear deserved a closer look. It is a memorial to the 49th West Riding Infantry Division and was dedicated on 7 June 1998. The Infantry was formed in 1908 and fought in France and Flanders during WW1. In WW2 they saw action in Norway and Iceland, hence the name. The bear is made from yellow hardwood and was created by Essex woodcarvers.

The Normandy Veterans original memorial was dedicated in 1999, and an improved one went in in 2014 for the 70th anniversary. Julie’s dad was one of those involved – he was in the Duke of Cornwall’s. We keep saying we ought to find out more, trouble is that someone with the name of Henry Brown is not exactly the easiest person to trace.

Blown away, by Sioban Coppinger, FRSA, 2014. “A study of a moment in time. The young man, his life fleeting as a gust, sees the whole world in a glance.” The artist’s inspiration was from T.S. Eliot, “Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future”. It is made from bronze laurel leaves and sits on a plinth fabricated in mild steel. It has intentionally been left to rust, with stripes of bronze reflecting its adopted strength.

We left the Armed Forces Memorial till last. It is reached by a flight of stairs, but the path circles round twice and that is a special way (though I am glad my wife now has Morgan the powerchair rather than Esme the wheelchair). This is the memorial where over 10,000 names are recorded, those who have been killed on duty since the end of WW2. Since 1948, the men and women of the Armed Forces bhave taken part in more than 50 operations and conflicts across the world. To quote the guide “These actions have ranged from hot war to peacekeeping, from humanitarian assistance to fighting terrorism, from the jungles of Malaysia to the storms of the South Atlantic, from the seaport of Aden to the streets of Northern Ireland. It is not just service men and women who have made sacrifices. Behind every name on the Memorial there are the wives, husbands, partners, parents, children and colleagues who have loved them and who live with the pain and consequences of their loss every day.”

I recognised one of the names, and I must check the name of the man from Darley Abbey who died in the Falkland’s conflict. There is space for more names.

The Memorial was designed by Liam O’Connor and draws its inspiration from the ancient landscapes of prehistoric Britain and the classical forms of ancient Rome. At the centre are two bronze sculptures, the embodiment of loss and sacrifice. Created by Ian Rank-Broadley it bears witness to the cost of armed conflict. A gap has been left in the two southern walls, which allows a shaft of sunlight to penetrate to the heart of the Memorial, onto the central bronze wreath, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year.

It was an inspiring end to our visit. We had walked 5 miles, and yet there is a great deal more to see.

Posted in Staffordshire, World War 1 | 4 Comments