London, St Etheldreda

In London for a family wedding. By myself as the church and crypt are inaccessible to Julie (a wheelchair user). I know it is an ancient building, and I know money is always tight, but nothing has been done. Their website – – makes no mention of access (and the news page has not been updated for the last decade). Surely there must be rich parishioners who get too old to attend, and yet no one seems to care. Welcome to church!

The church is dedicated to Sy Etheldreda and stands on Ely Place, a private road, just round the corner from Hatton Gardens. Etheldreda was the daughter of a King of East Anglia, born in Exning in AD 630. She founded the double monastery at Ely in 673 and died six years later.

Around 1250 John le Franceis, Bishop of Ely, obtained a licence to build a chapel on land owned by St Paul’s. It was completed by 1290, part of the 58 acre palace site – orchards, vineyards, gardens and ploughlands included. In 1531 Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon attended a banquet in the great hall, which lasted five days. At the sumptuous feast the King and Queen dined separately – one of the first indications he was thinking of taking a new wife. (I did wonder if that was a good omen for our newly-weds!). We forget what an upheaval the Reformation must have been in some places – the Catholic mass, sung by all 21 Bishops of Ely, was banned. The windows and statues in the church remind us of the blood that was spoilt.

Elizabeth I was instrumental in the demise of the chapel, due to her passion for the courtier Sir Christopher Hatton. She intimidated Bishop Cox, now (of course) an Anglican bishop, to rent him for house for £10, ten loads of hay and one red rose a year – the guidebook does not make it clear whether the Queen or the Bishop got the rose!

In 1620 the Count of Gondomar, Spanish ambassador to James I, moved into Ely Place so Catholic Mass was allowed here as they were officially in Spain,  but his successor was not allowed to stay here – Mass was too popular. Matthew Wren, uncle of Christopher, was Bishop of Ely, but during the Civil War he was accused of being too Catholic, and ended up in the Tower. The Great Fire almost destroyed the church, and over the next century the Bishops of Ely let the place deteriorate. Ely Place was built at the end of the C18 on the site of slum dwellings and the remains of the palace buildings. The church was remodelled in the style of the time.

In the 1870s the chapel was up for sale, and the Catholics purchased it. Father William Lockhart was the son of a well-connected Anglican clergyman who came under the influence of John Henry Newman and the Oxford Movement, becoming a Catholic priest in 1846. The first Mass was said in the Crypt in 1876, three years later (on the Feast of St Etheldreda) the first Solemn High Mass was held in the church. The Duke of Norfolk has a piece of Etheldreda’s hand, which was installed in a reliquary next to the altar (I missed it!).

On 10 May 1940 an explosive bomb landed on the church, destroying much of the roof and all the stained glass. A number of people were in the crypt, but no one was killed.

The East Window was installed in 1952, designed by Edward Nuttgens. Christ in the centre, the dove above him. God the Father at the apex, surmounting the choirs of angels. Four evangelists, Mary and Etheldreda, Joseph and Bridget of Kildare.

The West Window (Charles Blakeman, 1964), is dedicated to the English martyrs. Five of them stand under Tyburn gibbet and the cross.

We have Old Testament scenes in the windows on the south side, and New Testament scenes in the windows on the north. Here are a selection of them.

I liked this window outside the chapel too. An interesting collection of statues, pictures, etc.

Let us finish with the posh soap in the gents – you don’t get Baylis and Harding in Derby!

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Derby, Normanton – St Giles

On Thursday 16 June 2022, the Feast of Corpus Christi, Deanery Chapter was at St Giles, Normanton – a church of a very different tradition to mine (you won’t find baptisms, weddings or funerals on their website – This church building dates to 1862, with additions in 1902/3. It was designed by F.J. Robinson, and built on the site of a Saxon church.

In 2010 the pews were removed which gives a lovely flexible space, but what angered me was the focus of the church. The altar is blocked off behind noticeboards so we face a preacher, an overhead projector screen, and a pull up banner.

Nor will it surprise you that the font is off limits, the organ (1893 by Peter Conacher & Co of Huddersfield) disused behind the paraphernalia of the worship group, the alabaster behind what would have been a side altar is covered in children’s work, and don’t even think of entering the pulpit.

The South Side of the church is full of memorials to the Sherwood Foresters, as this was the garrison church for the nearby Normanton Barracks, their regimental HQ until 1963. One notice reminds us of the bravery of the 14th Battalion – formed on Markeaton Park in 1940 when there was a danger of German invasion. They served in various parts of this country, then left for Egypt in May 1942, taking part in the Battle of El Alamein. Later they saw service in Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia and Algeria. In February 1944 they landed at the Anzio beach head in Italy and experienced some of the most bitter fighting of the whole war. They continued their advance through Italy, fighting their way north, until finally in October 1944 at San Savino came their last battle. Casualties were so great that the Battalion disbanded and the survivors sent to other ones. Brave men.

Finally a memorial to a lady who no doubt worked and worshipped here in years’ past.

I’m sorry if I sound grumpy – the sad fact is that this is a church which, by almost any measurement, is more successful than mine. More people, more money, more commitment – I wish we had the children and youth groups that they have, or a ministry team with so many young faces, and I do not wish to rubbish the work they do. But I want churches were everyone feels welcome, where it doesn’t feel like a Jesus cult, where we can enjoy choral and organ music, and where the beauty of a building speaks to worshippers and to the community around. I hope those days have not gone.

Posted in Derbyshire, World War 1 | 2 Comments

northernvicarwalks – May 2022

May 2022, and I am actually blogging it on the last day of the month! It has been a month with the Peace Doves in Derby Cathedral – an installation by the artist Peter Walker, 8,000 doves (all made locally by schools, organisations, etc). Quite gorgeous – and the Cathedral servers are now carrying lamps in procession instead of lighted candles (can’t think why!). I have the pleasure of precenting Evensong about once a week – always a pleasure.

I even managed some walking this month – bluebells in Allestree Park and at Renishaw.

My first train ride – the Old Road to Sheffield – also included a decent walk from Edale.

We also walked at Kedleston, and had a day at the Midland Railway Centre.

A bit more of the Nottingham trams.

We had a couple of stays at the wonderful Gladstone’s Library – – “sleep with books” it says, I always do! It is highly recommended, and is open to anyone. I was allowed to escape and go to Holyhead, Llandudno and the Great Orme tram.

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London, St Peter’s Vauxhall

St Peter’s Vauxhall on 27 April for a conference, Historic Religious Buildings Alliance (which was excellent and remarkably positive) – one delegate there said “you’re Northern Vicar”! Lots of train rides too, but you can find them elsewhere.

Vauxhall Manor originated as part of the Manor of South Lambet and gets its name from Faulkes de Breaute who married Margaret de Redbers in 1216. In 1326 Edward the Black Prince granted it to the Prior and Covent of Christ Church, Canterbury. Industry developed in the C17 with the Duke of Buckingham’s plate glasshouse, potteries, vinegar, glue and starch works, then new wharves and depots as the railways arrived. It was famous for the Vauxhall Gardens – their heyday was between 1720 and 1760. Peter Whitfield’s lovely book London, a life in maps, says that “each evening in summer would see a stream of boats ferrying their parties to Vauxhall. It was laid out as a formalised woodland, with arbours and long walks lit by hundreds of lanterns hung in the trees; the darker fringes, however, were ‘adopted to all species of gallantry or vice’” (page 83). By the 1840s it had begun to look tawdry and was closed in 1859. The land was soon used for “slums and noxious industries” to quote the church leaflet.

Father Gregory, the incumbent of St Mary the Less (the main parish church), accepted the land for St Peter’s from the developer on condition that all the seats were free. He, and others, believed that religious instruction and the teaching of trade skills were the surest way of combatting poverty, “the one giving the will to work, the other the means.” They started with an art school, opened in 1861, which would provide designers and artists for Doulton’s pottery works and draughtsmen for Maudslay’s steam-engine factory. During the 1870s and 80s they achieved great renown and many leading sculptors were trained here. Gregory included an orphanage on site, it was for the daughters of clergymen and professional men, who were apprenticed as pupil-teachers – rather a clever piece of thinking.

In 1860 Gregory asked the architect John Loughborough Pearson, who had done the work on the schools, to draw up plans for the church. Although his plans had to be scaled down to what they could afford, most of the internal decorations went, the essential elements of the interior space are Pearson’s. It was built between 1863 and 64. It is the prototype of many other town churches he went on to design. It cost a mere £8,000. The apse is fifty feet high – I didn’t ask how they heat it – and the vault takes the weight with no external buttresses.

The font is in the north west corner, and seems to be a little surrounded with stuff. An amazing font cover and some modern stained glass.

Colourful pulpit as well – you can tell a good conference by the quality of its food!

Glorious Chancel – like St Anne’s in Derby, imagine it behind clouds of incense!

Here we are, looking back down into the nave, and a final window.

According to their website – – they seem to combine contemporary worship at 0930 and 1600 with traditional worship at 1100 plus a monthly Choral Evensong. Good luck to them if they can manage that variety! They have a lot of outreach work, and gave us a very good welcome. The church was a lovely space and was very good for our meeting. Perhaps this final photo reminds us that the work must go on.

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Derby – St Anne’s

St Anne’s church on Whitecross Street is a typical High Church built in 1871-72 for the expanding town. Despite being a near-neighbour, it is under the Bishop of Ebbsfleet and I had never been in until an organ recital on Monday 28 March 2022. The original design was by Ordish and Traylen – rather depressing that when you search for them, nearly all the references are to churches they built that are now closed. I need to get a photo from a distance – from close up it is rather unprepossessing, though the side door is rather fun – thin clergy for the use of.

Pevsner says that the big windows create “a powerful and majestic effect” – not sure I’d agree. It must cost a fortune to heat! Having said that, I can imagine that proper High Church liturgy, the choreography done properly amidst swirling clouds of incense, could be rather splendid.

The Chancel is impressive. The paintings are scenes from the life of Christ by Daniel Bell, “a notable work of Pre-Raphelite influence” – they do not seem to have stood the test of time particularly well. Some others on each side.

A couple of side altars, a wonderful vestry and a venerable box.

The days of the past when clergy were proper clergy (I don’t know their current incumbent, I’m sure he is “proper” too), a solid font, and a fun window.

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Hadrian’s Wall Exploration – Animated altars

Before we moved south I walked the Wall and explored various other sites – click on the category of “Hadrian’s Wall Walk” on the right of the screen to find them all. In January 2022 we were on one of our regular trups north, and visited the Great North Museum in Newcastle again. It is a funny place, such a mix of stuff – local, anthropological and the Wall gallery. What I really wanted to see was the art exhibition involving projection onto seven of the altars. It was a stunning light show – We watched it three times – here are some still photos. Stunning.

This is the text of a Newcastle University press release, published on 27 October 2021

Seven Roman altars at Newcastle University’s Great North Museum: Hancock have been transformed in vivid hues thanks to an innovative creative project called Roman Britain in Colour.

The display is a collaboration between the Museum and Hadrian’s Wall Community Archaeology Project (WallCAP), working alongside creative studio NOVAK. 

The seven altars feature animated videos projected directly onto the stone surface, giving visitors a sense of how colourful they were when made around 1900 years ago.  

The animations also offer artistic interpretations of the altars and the gods associated with them. For instance, the altar to Neptune, Roman god of freshwaters and rivers, was found in the River Tyne. It depicts a blue underwater scene filled with fish.  

The altar to Oceanus, god of the sea, is animated with seaweed, starfish and a crab, whereas the altar to Fortuna drips with bright crimson, perhaps suggesting a ritual using wine or the blood of a sacrificed animal. 

Other altars with new animations are dedicated to Jupiter, supreme deity of the Roman pantheon, Minerva, goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare, and Antenociticus, a native British god only found at Condercum Roman Fort – present-day Benwell in the west end of Newcastle. 

Dr Rob Collins, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and WallCAP Project Manager, Newcastle University, said: “Roman altars are a great source for understanding the culture of the Roman Empire, but they can seem boring and uninteresting for people that do not know how to ‘read’ them. Working with NOVAK and the Great North Museum: Hancock, the altars come alive and invite you to look more closely at the artistry and information that they hold.” 

Andrew Parkin, Keeper of Archaeology at the Great North Museum: Hancock, said: “We’re used to the look of sandstone altars and reliefs in museums but we forget that they were originally painted in bright colours. The paint has been lost over the centuries but researchers have found trace amounts of pigment using ultraviolet light and x-rays. These new projected animations really make the altars stand out and add greatly to the Hadrian’s Wall gallery in the museum. The team at NOVAK have done a fantastic job in creating the artwork and mapping the projections precisely onto the stones.” 

Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, WallCAP aims to improve the heritage of Hadrian’s Wall, by understanding the risks to the monument, and working with local communities to identify, secure and protect the heritage and cultural significance of Hadrian’s Wall. 

So while we are used to seeing altars looking like this, this exhibition has been an eye-opener.

Posted in Hadrian's Wall Walk, Newcastle upon Tyne | 2 Comments

Nantwich, Cheshire – St Mary’s (again)

We came to Nantwich in 2014 and I blogged it – before then it was when we were on a narrowboat in University days. Back in January 2022. The church of St Mary’s is rather gorgeous – last time there was a ramp to the Nave, now there is a wheelchair lift. The Queen’s Silver Jubilee Curtains are still rather stunning – even if they are 45 years old (am I really that old?). Lovely nativity.

The 1985 window by Michael Farrar-Bell, in memory of Albert Bourne, a local farmer, is worth another photo. It depicts God’s creation, showing Cheshire and world wild-life, stars and Halley’s comet, while Mr Bourne is shown walking his dog. The second window, also in the Nave, was designed by Henry Clarke (1889-1931), and installed in memory of Lt Richard Knowles, killed in 1918. The main figures are Richard Coeur-de-Lion, St Cecilia and St Mary.

Last time the Chancel was off limits for restoration work. The medieval misericords are stunning. I should read up the history and write a long blog about them – or you can just enjoy the pictures.

You must not forget to look up, or around.

In the South Transept is the alabaster and limestone memorial of 1614 to Sir Thomas Smith of Hatherton, Mayor and Sheriff of Chester, and his wife Anne. It was transferred here from Wybunbury church in 1982.  I should have moved those three chairs – and I wish churches wouldn’t store tables etc in such close proximity.

It is a gorgeous church – so glad to come back.

Posted in Cheshire | 2 Comments

Kirk Langley, Derbyshire – St Michael’s

St Michael Kirk Langley is at SK286388, just south of the main road. It is mainly C14, with a couple of Victorian restorations. Fascinating roof line, all bits and pieces out together – I like what I assume is a Victorian chimney. A rather wonderful memorial on the outside south wall.

The main door is the west door, and I failed to get a photo of the interior of the church. I did look up to the roof. The font is C13 with a C17 cover.

An interesting selection of memorials. This chest tomb is to Henry Pole (died 1559) and his wife – Pevsner does not give us her name, but a notice in church says she is Dorothea. A nearby memorial is to Alice Beresford (died 1511). The one that caught my eye was to One to John Meynell “suddenly deprived of life by a collision of carriages on the Midland Counties Railway.” On 19 May 1851 the driver of the 2105 from Derby to Leeds suffered a broken pump-rod at Clay Cross station. The driver stopped to remove the broken part, and the train was hit from behind by a goods train. 2 people died and 16 were injured. The Inquest blamed the driver of the goods train but also condemned the railway company practice of allowing a goods train to follow a passenger train with a gap of only 5 minutes, the lack of a night signal man at Clay Cross, and the regular practice of allowing trains to stop at stations which were not intended in the timetable.

Some nice Victorian glass – St George, Crucifixion, Paul and John, and the East Window by Burlison and Grylls.

It was nice to see a village church, open and welcoming. At least, it was open for the meeting I was attending – there is nothing on its website which says whether it usually is.

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northernvicarwalks – December 2021 to April 2022

I started to write a monthly “northernvicarwalks” blog when church crawling was impossible during Covid, and it helped me keep my sanity. I hope it also proved to anyone who reads this blog that I am still active (or, more likely, sedentary). During Covid I did a daily facebook ramble, and this seemed a good place to store them – if posterity will be interested. I post less often now, and won’t be archiving these any more.

But here I am at the end of May 2022, and I have not touched this blog for almost six months. I am still alive, just working rather harder than I have been. If you want to see what a normal Church of England Vicar and the churches he leads have been getting up to, please click here.

I will get back to blogging some churches – I have a few that need sorting and getting on to this site. I will do the occasional walk – we are off to Orkney in the next couple of months and I want to walk some of the St Magnus Way.

I have, in my attempt to cover the whole of British Rail for the third time, been on some train rides. I will file them all here. On my draft page I get a picture of the image, but on the published page there simply seems to be a lot of white space and a clickable link if you would like to download the pdf.

Wrexham – to complement the angels of the last post.

London for the Elizabeth and Mary exhibition, and a trip to Upton Park. Many years ago I was called into the Dean’s Office. “I’ve had a letter of complaint” he said. I had led the Carols of Candlelight service, and had made a joke an American president. One of the congregation had taken offence. “Sorry, what shall I do”, I asked. “Send a grovelling reply, and file his complaint in your Upton Park folder,” said Neil. I looked confused, “Upton Park folder?” “You’re a railway enthusiast,” he said, “Upton Park.” “East London, not far from Barking.” “Yes, two stops short of Barking. Every Vicar needs an Upton Park folder.”

Nottingham trams.

Manchester trams.

Huddersfield, Mirfield, Grand Central, and some obscure curves in Yorkshire.

Chiltern to London, then the London, Tilbury and Southend. Southend Pier and the Tilbury Gravesend ferry. Rather a lot packed in to one day.

Tyne and Wear Metro

Bury St Edmunds

The delights of Toton Yard.

The Leek and Rudyard Railway.

Various bits of East London, Jubilee and Victoria lines – and Battersea Power Station station.

Selwyn the cat thinks I am mad. He is probably right.

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Wrexham, Clywd – St Giles

St Giles church Wrexham is just down from the centre of the town, not far from Central station. Central is now a terminus – in the old days the line went on east (indeed it cut through the churchyard). Church website

A previous Rector is Geoffrey Marshall, who now lives in Derby and helps us out. He posted images of their angel festival on facebook, and I was really pleased to find it was still on. It has to be said that thousands of angels meant I missed some of the architectural gems of this church, but they made up for it!

This was one of the last major churches to be completed before the Reformation, so no huge changes were made as the country changed the way it worshipped. The organ went, the rood loft went, new galleries were installed in 1707, a new organ in 1779, more galleries in 1819-22 and a triple-decker pulpit – the population of the town was expanding, and the sermon was becoming the focus of the service. Elihu Yale of Plas Grono was a major benefactor (and also of Yale), as were other local men who made huge fortunes in coal, iron and brewing. New churches were built in the town – several of which closed in the C20, their treasures coming to St Giles. There was a major reordering in 2012 with the installation of a nave altar, and spaces in the aisles for meetings etc.

I made my way in through the porch and up the north aisle. Angels, and windows (but I missed the memorial window to Bishop Reginald Heber (I’ll blame the angels!).

There is something wonderfully ironic that the simple memorial tells me clearly who is remembered – a 36 year old timber merchant and carpenter. The stunning memorial is almost impossible to read. The guidebook tells me it is to Miss Mary Myddelton of Croesnewydd Hall, Wrexham, daughter of the chap who owned Chirk Castle. It is by a French sculptor, Louis Francois Roubiliac (c 1705 to 1762) – so I now know more about the chap who made it than the lady it commemorates!

The next window commemorates the tercentenary of the Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1989. It was commissioned by the regiment and designed by Joseph Nuttgens, and shows men in the different uniforms worn between 1689 and 1989, and some of their battle honours.

The War Memorial Chapel has a simple wooden altar, lovely angels, an alabaster reredos and a window of the Sermon on the Mount. It was designed by J. Eaddie Reid and made by the Gateshead Stained Glass Company of Whitley Bay.

I went up into the Chancel, through the screen probably given to the church by Elihu Yale, made by smiths Hugh and Robert Davies of Croesford. The memorial to The Reverend Thomas Myddelton and his wife Arabella is by Louis Roubiliac. The reredos was installed in 1914. The sedilia with its Green Men and other fertility symbols is C14, and was no doubt moved here from elsewhere in the church – rather lovely that they kept it and didn’t just throw it out. The Cunliffe memorial window, to George, Vicar here from 1826 to 1875 – he was born in 1795, so presumably stepped down when he hit 80. Would I have wanted another year so I could have done 50? (He died in 1884). Underneath is the effigy of Hugh Bellot, a C15 bishop – apparently he is wearing the post-Reformation attire of a Doctor of Divinity from Cambridge University. I should have got a better photo.

The Nave altar has plenty of space, and the Kings have arrived. Look up at the angels – those in the roof are C15 (though presumably well-restored), and the 2021 Festival Angels are fascinating. There are more than 6,000 of them, commemorating the 6,000 plus victims of Covid in Wales. I was told that they had some “come and make angels” workshops, and presumably many groups got involved.

The wall painting over the chancel arch is C16. It depicts the Day of Judgement and shows figures (including two kings and a bishop) wrapped in shrouds rising from their coffins to present themselves before Christ in Majesty, flanked by Mary and John. The two sides are more faded than the centre, which suggests that there might have been something (?Royal Arms)  which replaced it. The whole painting was resdiscovered in 1867.

There are some lovely corbels, faces and a mermaid!

I finally turned and looked west, under the tower – and there was another “wow” moment. Whoever designed this Festival has done an incredible job – well done, and thank you.

By the west door is the grave of Elihu Yale. Born in Boston Massachusetts in 1649, he spent the last 22 years of his life near Wrexham. He was largest benefactor of Connecticut College around 1720, so they renamed the place. That’s enough – the rain started.

The museum, which is just down the road, is very good – film about the mining industry that was so important in this part of the world, fascinating display about the Roman pottery kilns and tile works on the River Dee at Holt, and an excellent cafe.

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