Melbourne, Derbyshire – St Michael and St Mary

“A little drive” out on Saturday 2 November (and writing it up on 4 November). Melbourne is a small town but, like most small towns, parking seems to be at a premium. We eventually found a space outside the Hall, and I wandered into the church – SK 389250. (Nice to see welcoming notices on both north and south side – south side entrance is flat, but there’s nothing to tell you that). It is rather a wow church when you walk in –

A church is listed in the Domesday Book, and it may – like Repton and Breedon – have been a substantial structure. It was rebuilt into the form we see now in the C12. When Henry I founded the diocese of Carlisle in 1133 he presented the church at Melbourne to Adelulf, it first bishop. It has long been assumed that Adelulf used this church as his base since Carlisle was a bit dangerous (and Virgin Trains are so bad), but there is no evidence of this, he seems to have stayed up north. The manor was a Royal manor, so had Henry I built himself a substantial church – at the west end we can see a gallery, could this have been a royal pew?

The Norman arches and their carving are rather wonderful – it has the feel of a special, Royal, important church. A statement of power is being made. Not quite as much as a statement as Durham, but certainly the same idea.

I liked the window under the gallery – one leaflet says it’s 1953, but nothing says who made it.

The font is C13, and the flower arrangers go for quiet and subtle! (I hope they check the lists of baptisms planned before doing quite such a big display!). There is also a fascinating notice about their solar panels – in November 2011 they installed a 9.84kW array of 48 photovoltaic solar panels on the roof. So far the feed-in-tariff has earned them £28,000 – the aim is that they pay for themselves within 25 years. The weblink is, which does not work – hardly fills you full of confidence (and certainly doesn’t enthuse me to push sceptical PCCs in this direction).

I made my way up the north aisle. The hatchments and flags tell the story of the occupants of Hall and Town. Sir Penistone Lamb was created the first Viscount Melbourne in 1781. His second son William inherited the title in 1828 – he was Home Secretary before becoming Prime Minister in 1835. As Australia developed, one province was named after his Queen, and its capital after him. His is the second hatchment on display, theirs’ is the flag.

One imposing bishop, an Agnus Dei, and a C13 chest.

The North Transept ends with an altar, once it would have ended with a semi-circular apse and the altar would have been further east. I like the glass and the altar frontal, but I missed the squint into the chancel. Look at the carvings as we move round to the Chancel arch. Did you spot the cat on one side, and the dog straining at the lease on the other?

Worth looking at to the bell frame as well, and west to enjoy the Nave. The top of the tower is C17 and the original four bells dated between 1610 and 1732. They were recast and rehung in 1882 (with two bells added), and another two were added in 1887 (Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee). The organ dates to 1860, and was rebuilt in 1981. This is a church with a good choir – Julie had been here for an RSCM day.

A very proud eagle, and the wall painting behind is a wonderful relic (it was hidden behind a plaque). There would have been a great scene of hell and damnation, now we have the demon Tutivillus hovering over two women – wonder what they did wrong!

In the Chancel we have some space. The side walls are Norman, the east is part of the late medieval rebuilding. It is a high chancel, and there may have been a second storey – once again, you are reminded that this is a major church. The hatchments are those of the first and the third Lord Melbourne. The east window glass is by Hardman.

At the east end of the south aisle I liked the painting, The Red Cup by Michael Cook, and lit candles on this All Souls’ Day for my lovely lads. I looked Michael Cook up and found him at  – he currently has work in display at Derby Cathedral. Better go and have a look!

I want for a wander out of the south door and round the outside. The church is surrounded by buildings, including a tithe barn at the west, so you can’t get a good overall view. But look at the details.

We went next door to the craft shops and tea room at Melbourne Hall – Tea room has flat access for the wheelchair (and did a very nice ham omelette), but we’re not sure whether there is a disabled loo. The gardens look worth a visit, and the Hall is open occasionally. If I’m doing the gardens I might come on the bus!

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Birmingham – Hall of Memory

On Saturday 19 October I was allowed an escape day. I started with my flu jab, then caught the train from Duffield to Derby and on (on a packed Cross Country train) to Birmingham. I eventually managed to escape from New Street (how could they make such a mess of a station rebuild?) and walked to the Library of Birmingham. Why does Birmingham have a stunning library when in Derby they closed a beautiful Victorian library and handed everything else over to community control?

The Library is hosting an exhibition called “Watt in the World, the life and legacy of James Watt 2019.” I did a little bit of research on him many years ago while looking at ‘Finding God in technology’ for a St Edmundsbury Lent Address, and one of the sadnesses of 2019 is that I haven’t had opportunity to do more Watt stuff – there’s been quite a lot at Soho House, Handsworth, and elsewhere in the Midlands (and in Glasgow). There was some fascinating material in this exhibition, but I was most intrigued by a print entitled “Engraving of the Liverpool to Birmingham Railway in 1825” (ie dated several years before the line opened). Never seen it before, can’t find it on the web, and there’s no decent (affordable) exhibition catalogue to tell me more about it. Here’s part of it.

Outside is a building site for the Birmingham Westside Metro extension. It will be wireless, interesting to see how battery power works. I had a wander and then realised there was what looked to be a fascinating building open.

The Hall of Memory was built to commemorate the 12,320 Birmingham citizens who died and the 35,000 who were wounded in the First World War. The foundation stone was laid on 12 June 1923 by The Prince of Wales. He said that the building would stand to “symbolise to generations to come that Birmingham stood for, during  period of great national crisis – work of every kind unflinchingly given, compassion to the sick and wounded, courage and resource in adversity, and, above all, self-sacrifice in the face of death.” It was opened two years later by HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught, is built of Portland Stone, and cost £60,000, and was constructed mainly by Birmingham craftsmen. It was designed by S.N. Cooke and W. Norman Twist, built by James Barnsley and Sons, and John Bowen and Sons. Website at

In the centre of the Hall is a sarcophagus-shaped dais of Siena marble, and in the display case are two books, one for each of the World Wars. There is a third book, as Wars never end.

Having been to the Island of Barra, I wondered why they sent a wreath – it’s the Birmingham Air Raids Remembrance Association – It is good that they remember something that could so easily be forgotten.

Looking up, the glass is rather lovely. The main one was designed by R.J. Stubington. He studied, and then taught, at Birmingham School of Art.

There are four Art Deco Bas-relief plaques depicting scenes from the First World War. Here are two of them. 35,000 came home disabled – that might be something to think about this Remembrance Sunday. How Society looks after the people who need looking after – I can see that annoying a few!

These seats do not look the most comfortable to sit and meditate on. It was a shame that there wasn’t anywhere you felt welcome to sit and think. The one chap on duty sat in a side office on the phone, not making eye contact with any visitors. There was just an A4 sheet with information, and nothing to help people remember. It would be a fascinating project to see what you could produce in such a multi-racial City.

Outside there are four bronze statues by Albert Toft, another local man – They represent Air Force, Army, Navy, and the Women’s Services. Rather stunning.

I wandered back to New Street and travelled home via Rugeley Trent Valley and Tamworth (the way one does). I was home at 3, having had a good day out. Today (1 November) I have got my blog totally up to date (which it hasn’t been for a while). I now need another day out!

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Binchester, County Durham – Roman fort

We drove on about four miles to Binchester Roman Fort. We last came here in 2010 on a warm May Saturday when there was a bunch of re-enactors on site and the place was buzzing. Rather different to a very wet Friday in September when the only people on site are us and the lady from Durham County Council – who came and found us later in our visit to lend us an umbrella. Although there is no café and the loos are portaloos, everywhere in the main buildings are wheelchair accessible (as is a portaloo). More details at Durham CC have a superb archaeological section, and are to be congratulated for so much good work.

Dere Street is the main Roman road from York to Corbridge – I have blogged Corbridge and the settlement at Piercebridge (the one south of Binchester, Vinovia). There has recently been a lot of archaeological exploration along the line of the new A1(M) south of Scotch Corner – have a look at This road was probably laid out while Petilius Cerialis was governor of Britain between 71 to 74 AD, and the first fort was built here circa 75 AD. It covered about 7 hectares, and was one of the largest in the North. Around 90 AD it was reduced in size, and may have been abandoned completely when Hadrian’s Wall was  built in the 120s. A new and smaller fort was built circa 160. It continued to function as a military base until the end of the Empire in 410 AD.

Later the stone was used to build Escomb church and Auckland Castle, but John Leland and William Camden, writing in the C16, described walls and buildings still standing. In 1815 the ground collapsed under a horse and cart, and a hypocaust was found and preserved. In 1833 Bishop Van Mildert, the owner of the site, allowed the sculptured and inscribed stones collected over previous centuries to be broken up and used as building material in a new coal mine – never lets bishops anywhere near anything historic! The first excavations took place in 1878-80, directed by the Reverend Robert Hooppell, a nearby Vicar (Vicars always being more use than Bishops). More recent work included a visit by Time Team in 2007 (is that really 12 years ago?) and work continues every summer. The old people’s home that has covered much of the site is now closed, and there are plans to investigate more – we will be back (when it’s not raining quite so hard).

In the dry we visited the Bath House. It is easy enough to work out the layout, and imagine the progression from cold to hot. You can also imagine the hard work of the slaves in keeping the fires stoked and the furnaces blazing. Several years (decades?) ago they built a replica bathhouse at Segedunum Fort at Wallsend. A lot of money was poured into it, and I’m I sure I remember you could book it for parties (perhaps I’m just fantasising …). Then it was drained, and I remember visiting when there were barriers everywhere to stop you falling in to an empty bath. Now (again I think for several years) it has been closed “until further notice”. Time for a campaign to re-open it?

I then braved the rain to look at the Dere Street and the Commander’s House beside it. I did wonder whether the Commander would really want to live bang in the middle of the town with all the traffic going past his front door. 

Then I walked across the field into a huge tent which cover the excavations made this last summer (at least, I think they are. There are reports at  and at but I can’t quite square those with what I saw. Here we seem to have Regimental Baths, obviously a larger complex than those we’ve been in, and probably of earlier construction. Just admire the workmanship, and imagine the noise and bustle.

This is obviously a site with a lot more to find. There seems to be a real buzz about history in Bishop Auckland – I picked up a leaflet for their History and Heritage Festival 13-28 September. Escomb Church, Binchester, Auckland Castle, Weardale Railway, and preparations for the Bicentenary of the Stockton-Darlington Railway in 2025. Wonderful to see how history is being used to regenerate a town that has not had an easy few decades – we need to pay a proper visit, and not just call in while en route down the A68.

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Escomb, County Durham – Saxon Church

On Friday 27 September we left Northumberland and drove back down the A68, then we turned off to Escomb Saxon church – NZ 189301. A church literally in the middle of the village, surrounded by a circle of 1960s houses, parking outside, and the key hangs on a hook outside number 28. Church website –, and it’s on and They also mention a Small Pilgrim Places Network, which looks worth finding out more about –

This church was built about 680 AD. Just mull that over – 680. When we read the Lindisfarne Gospels and think about Bede, this is a church that had been built when he was writing. Imagine all that this village has seen. Roman, Vikings, Prince Bishops, the building of the Stockton-Darlington Railway (terminus nearby at Witton Park), the coal mine and iron works, the decimation of industry in the 1960s and the building of the houses around it. It is a church that is still here, still used, still a place of prayer and worship – wow. T.S. Eliot wrote about “a place where prayer is valid” – it doesn’t come much more valid than here! To quote their guide “In its most simple and basic form the survival and continuity of this little church speaks of God’s eternal presence in the midst of our human frailty and transience.”

Having got the key I let myself in, ignored the displays in the porch, turned on the lights, and sat in the church itself just to soak up the atmosphere. Why was it built here? Who built it? Why is it so tall? I can’t see anything in the guidebook which suggests that the roof has been raised – so what does that say about a bunch of Saxons? They were perfectly capable of building to height and at height – I hope no one fell off the scaffolding while they did so. What does it say about their concept of the Glory of God, building their church so much higher than their houses? When the kids were little we lived near the Anglo Saxon Village at West Stow in Suffolk – well worth a visit – this church is on a different scale to those houses and halls.

As you walk round the church there are various notices pointing out items of interest. The stone came from Binchester Roman Fort (the next blog) and you can see its origins. The stone next to east window in the north wall proclaims “Bono Rei Publicae Nato”, To the man born for the good of the State.

In the Chancel you can see The Tree of Life with a couple of figures (Adam and Eve) next to a blocked up door.

In front of the altar is a strip of Frosterley Marble, mined the other side of the Wear. The pattern in it was made by corals which grew in the warm, shallow sea which covered this area 180 million years ago. One assumes it is a grave cover, so the person underneath must have been of some importance. It would be wonderful to know who he was.

In front of the altar is a strip of Frosterley Marble, mined the other side of the Wear. The pattern in it was made by corals which grew in the warm, shallow sea which covered this area 180 million years ago. One assumes it is a grave cover, so the person underneath must have been of some importance. It would be wonderful to know who he was.

The piscina has a drain to ensure that the holy water does not get into the wrong hands. Nice solid chancel roof. The fresco on the chancel arch is C12, painted on to the plaster. You can imagine that most of the church would once have had these patterns and colours. There is a reference to the plaster work in 1697. Most of the frescos would have gone in the C19 when the church stood roofless for a while. The Victorian church (dedicated to St John the Evangelist) which replaced it, did not last as long as this chapel. Pevsner gives this church a dedication to St John, but the guidebook does not – nor does it link the church specifically with one of the Saxon saints we know about. Too often we (and northernvicar includes himself in this criticism) assume that faith depends on named individuals, amazing men (usually men) whose names we know. Rubbish! Although I will balance that with Kipling’s lovely poem – – on display in this church.

Let’s remember the generations baptised in this nice solid font (late medieval), and enjoy the Millennium Textile – made by local people, children from Escomb School and Durham City Embroiderers’ Guild under the leadership of Ann Clare.

A good display in the porch – well worth a detailed read. I enjoyed this church!

I went outside into a rather wet churchyard. This Celtic Prayer was displayed in church:

As the rain hides the stars,

As the autumn mist hides the hills,

As the clouds veil the blue of the sky,

So the dark happenings of my lot

Hide the shining of thy face from me.

Yet, if I may hold thy hand in darkness,

It is enough,

Since I know,

that though I may stumble in my going

Thou dost not fall.

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Chillingham, Northumberland – St Peter

Any Man’s Kingdom is a lovely film. It is a travelogue of Northumberland produced in by 1956 British Transport Film for British Railways, directed by Tony Thompson. As it includes a scene of the Lindisfarne taxi, a rusty Ford, driving across the sands onto the island, it gets a mention in my MA dissertation. (For my blog readers I should explain that Julie and I have just both completed MAs in Public History and Heritage at Derby University). Details of the film are here – The original film was filmed in 1953 and is available on a DVD produced by Northern Heritage – At a trial screening it was realised that a sequence showing passengers travelling to Bellingham Fair by train was no longer possible as the line had been closed. That sequence was re-shot the following year, with passengers travelling by bus! The later version is available on See Britain by Train, a DVD released by the BFI. The film’s music was written by the composer Elisabeth Lutyens, who lived with her family in Lindisfarne Castle.

The film also has a section on Chillingham, the Castle and the wild cattle who live here. But Chillingham, its castle and its cattle, is a place I have never visited – until today. Passing the Castle, it wasn’t immediately obvious whether it was open or not. The Wild Cattle were better signposted, and they are just up from the church of St Peter, NU 062 259. The Cattle have a website at As you can see, it has a page about the church – so a round of applause for them! The castle has a website, but no mention of the church – No applause for them. They are advertising themselves as Britain’s most haunted castle – and even the tearoom is not accessible to those in wheelchairs (so we won’t be going there!)

My photos are not brilliant. Have a look at those on other wesbites:,, and

There is parking outside the church, but it isn’t disabled accessible either. I climbed the steps and stopped to admire the headstones en route. The nave and chancel are C12, nave windows C16 and the lovely bellcote is of 1753.

Entering the church, it is rather frustrating to find there is no leaflet, no guide, nothing. Here is a church in the tourist spot, where at least one of the tourist attractions wants to advertise them, so they need to talk to the people at Kirkharle and do some joined up thinking. In a moment we will see a stunning tomb – again with no information, no display panel, nothing.

A C16 king-post roof, a memorial half way down, a Jacobean pulpit, and a font which is dated 1670 and originally came from Ancroft. here was an 1828 renovation, and the box pews date to this time. Then you climb several steps into the Chancel. 1960s altar and east window – as Pevsner puts it “some hate it; others welcome the glorious view of the trees beyond.”

Let me quote Pevsner again: Sir Ralph Grey +1443 and his wife. A sumptuous monument of considerable artistic importance, because against the tomb-chest there stand fourteen figures of saints in niches separated by figures of angels, and all these figures escaped the iconoclasts of the C16 and C17. So here is an example of dated sculpture of c. 1450, the date of the Beauchamp Chapel in Warwick, and though the sculptural quality of the Grey tomb is much inferior to the Earl of Warwick’s, the stylistic position is the same – drapery folds just breaking, though not so crackly as generally late in the C15. Rich, thickly encrusted canopy work. Alabaster effigies, and a background or reredos – for the head side of the tomb stands against the wall – with a standing angel and left and right two demi-figures of angels holding big helmets. Above this, Jacobean addition with elaborate strapwork cartouche and obelisks.” There is a book by Barbara Harbottle and David Heslop entitled Chillingham church, The South Chapel and Grey Tomb (2000).

According to a note in church, Sir Ralph was a crusader knight, and his wife is Elizabeth. Nothing is mentioned about his crusading days, but apparently he fought for the Lancastrian side in the Wars of the Roses, while his son fought for the Yorkist cause. When the Lancastrians had the upper hand Sir Ralph sentenced his own son to death by hanging, drawing, and quartering. The sentence was eased at the last minute and the younger Grey was ‘only’ beheaded. I wonder what Elizabeth thought of that, and I looked at a beautiful tomb in a new light. A very sad world.

At the beginning of November I did some more research. Apparently, Sir Ralph was born in 1406, and was the youngest son of Sir Thomas Grey and Lady Alice Neville. His father, Sir Thomas, was part of a plot to assassinate Henry V, and was executed on 2 August 1415. (Henry was of the House of Lancaster). Ralph died in France in 1443 and was buried here in Chillingham – imagine the logistics of bringing his body home. One of his sons was another Ralph, born in 1432, who was executed in Doncaster on 2 July 1464. So Ralph senior (died 1443) did not sentence his son Ralph junior (died 1464) to death.

In his book, The Brothers York: an English tragedy, Allen Lane, 2019  Thomas Penn notes that after the Battle of Hexham (15 May 1464) Edward IV (of the House of York) turns his fire on Northumberland Castles. Ralph junior is commander of Bamburgh. When his castle is captured he is taking south to Doncaster and brought before the King.

“Edward’s instant response was to hand Grey over to his constable of England, John Tiptoft, to be tried for treason. The trial, as all parties knew, was a formality. Sitting in judgment, invoking the full force of the laws of chivalry, Tiptoft detailed to Grey precisely why it was he had to die. Before Grey was killed, Tiptoft told him, he would undergo the full ritual degradation of knighthood. First his spurs would be hacked off – here, Tiptoft gestured to Edward’s master cook, standing aproned and clutching a knife in readiness – then, the royal heralds would cluster round and rip his coat-of-arms from his body, before dressing him in a paper replacement painted with his coat-of-arms reversed that he would wear as he went to his execution. Here, Edward saw fit to intervene, graciously commuting the humiliation in memory of Grey’s loyal grandfather, Sir Thomas, who, half a century before, had been convicted for his part in a plot to kill the Lancastrian king Henry V, and executed alongside Edward’s grandfather. Without further ceremony, Grey was drawn on a hurdle to a makeshift scaffold and beheaded.” (Thomas Penn, The Brothers York, an English tragedy, Allen Lane, 2019, page 103).

Still a pretty dreadful story – what human beings will do to other human beings. I suppose it puts Brexit arguments into some sort of context!

Posted in Northumberland, Railway interest | 2 Comments

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 – – and there is a tourist trail which was produced back in 2013 at  (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.

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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. 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 –

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 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 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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