Lichfield, Staffordshire – Cathedral church of St Chad, again

On Saturday 16 October 2021 we set off south to go to Bournville, but the A38 was closed at Fradley Junction. We had a guided tour of industrial estates, and then decided that Lichfield would be far enough. We managed to park not far from the Cathedral, and started with their café. I thought this was an interesting scaffolding buttress.

Then we entered the Cathedral and could explore the Nave while a communion service went on at the East End. Lovely icons over both candle stands and the crucifix – worth having a read of www.patrickcomerford.com/2018/11/the-crucifixion-icon-completes-triptych.html. In brief, Gabriel and the BVM were painted in 2016 by painters from the Bethlehem Icon School. “The icon of Archangel Gabriel is based on the Lichfield Angel, a limestone carving discovered during excavation work under the Cathedral floor in 2003. In the paired icon, the Virgin Mary is seated on an elevated throne weaving a cloth that would become the veil of the Holy of the Holies in the Temple. A red curtain stands behind her in the doorway of her house, evoking the veil of the Temple. In this icon, the curtain is drawn back to indicate that the Lord is entering in, making the womb of the Virgin Mary his dwelling place, making her the Mother of God. The icon includes patterns that are indigenous to Palestinian culture. The colourful rug on which the feet of Virgin Mary rest is decorated with Palestinian motifs that are particular to the Bethlehem area.”

Last time we came – there are previous Lichfield blogs on this site – the north transept had children’s activities, now it has the shop. No cash, no change … and then the wi-fi goes down! Somehow it all got sorted – I am a patient soul (especially when the Shop Manager is a nice young lady). The font is wonderfully Victorian, had the pyramids been built when the Israelites escaped with the Ark of the Convenant? I wonder what Archdeacon Iles makes of it, and what he would make of wi-fi.

Three lovely altars – one at the East End of the North Quire aisle, one at the East End of the church (below), and one at the East End of the Quire. I must read the history of it all – we purchased Jonathan Foyle’s new book about the Cathedral, all we need now is time to read it!

The tomb of Ellen Jane and Marianne stops and makes us think. Then you read the memorial to William Mott. My immediate thought was one along the lines of he managed to be Registrar, Chapter Clerk, Deputy Registrar and Bishop’s Secretary – now we need a Diocesan Office, a Bishop’s Staff, etc., etc. (and you still struggle to get them to reply to emails). Then you realise his wife died when he was 43, then his six year old son died three years later – I stopped moaning about Diocesan administration.

The Bishop Hacket Memorial was re-sited here during 1979. He was bishop from 1662 to 1669. He was the driving force behind the re-building of the Cathedral after the Civil War – an event remembered in a stained glass window.

The tomb of William S.R. Hodson lies under the Union Jack which flew night and day over the residency from 1 July to 30 September 1940. It was presented to Hodson’s Horse by the Government of India in memory of the part played by the Regiment in the relief of the residency in 1857, then was presented to the Dean and Chapter in 1946 for safe keeping. I can’t quite work out what the link is between 1857 and 1940. Hodson was killed at Lucknow in 1858 – I suppose I should do some research.

In the South Transept they had an art exhibition – “The Laboratory”. The central desk is inspired by the desk in Albert Einstein’s study, full of working papers, letters (from Einstein) and an open sketch book ready for ideas to be written upon. In the centre of the desk is a single apple – Eve’s, or Newton’s? Various equations are projected around, and the items within the lab all depict different sciences (including the molecular structures for Carbon Dioxide and ice, included together to indicate relate to global warming). The installation is by Peter Walker.

There are lots of lovely windows – but I only photoed a few this time.

The West Front is glorious, again it needs a proper explore, and there is a new statue of St Chad towards the East End. It was made of bronze by local sculptor Peter Walker, stands 3 m tall, welcoming visitors and pilgrims to the Cathedral. He holds a representation of the C8 St Chad Gospels in one hand, and the other is raised in blessing. There is a new garden planted too – and lots worth reading (and videos to watch) at https://www.lichfield-cathedral.org/what-s-on/st-chad-statue-the-hope-garden. We went on into town – and enjoyed the Oxfam Bookshop. We had a good visit, and an easier drive home.

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Old Radnor, Powys – St Stephen

Go and have a look at Old Radnor parish church said one of the ladies in Kington, so we did – SO 250590. St Stephen’s church is in Wales, but still the Church of England. (That’s made it fun when the Covid regulations have been different across the border). The views are lovely, and we should probably have gone to the pub next door. Good website – their photos are better than mine, so do have a look – https://www.kingtonparishes.org.uk/oldradnor

There was probably an early church here dedicated to the Welsh saint Ystyffan, a member of the Welsh royal family of the C6. The stunning font is pre-Conquest (perhaps as early as the C8). The Normans assumed that Ystyffan and Stephen are the same bloke, started to build their parish structure, and put Old Radnor into Hereford diocese. Its patronage moved from the princes of Powys to the hands of the Mortimer family. I didn’t take a close up of the stone in the nave by the chancel arch, but apparently it may have been the tombstone of Hugh Mortimer, rector here 1257-90. He was also parson of Bisley in Gloucestershire and in 1270 was granted licence for life “to hunt with his own dogs, the fox, the hare, the badger, and the cat through the forests of Oxford, Gloucester and Worcester.”

There was probably an early church here dedicated to the Welsh saint Ystyffan, a member of The church today is largely a rebuilding of the C15 and early C16 centuries – its size, proportions and balance, suggest it was rather more than just a parish church, some sort of collegiate church. In pre-Reformation times there were five altars, which suggests a college of priests maintaining the worship. The tower was also designed for security – apparently there is space where a beacon could be lit should reinforcements be needed from the castle at New Radnor.

The most stunning thing in the church is the C15 screen. It stretches right across the church, including both aisles, and would once have held a rood (the statue of Christ on the cross with Our Lady and St John). It is the work of Gloucestershire carvers, and their work can also been seen at Cirencester. Originally it would have been painted too – we tend to forget the colourful experiences that worship would have been. I failed to photo the stalls, including one which still has a medieval iron book chain – to make sure the clergy didn’t walk off with the book I assume.

The organ case is apparently the earliest surviving organ case in the British Isles – C16, restored in 1872. It has been suggested that the organ came from Worcester Cathedral when it was replaced by a bigger instrument. There’s also a connection made with the composer John Bull, organist to the Chapel Royal and first Professor of Music at Gresham College, was born in the parish in 1563. Apparently the organ is worth hearing. The roof is rather splendid too, and I should have got some better photos.

You can also enjoy some tiles, some Victorian glass (Easter Sunday morning), a splendid memorial, and a lovely angel.

Sacred to the memory of Thomas Lewis Esq of Harpton, who descended from an Ancient and respectable family in this County: on the accession of the present Royal Family, he was called by the voice of his countrymen, to represent his native Borough in Parliament: in which character he served them during the reigns of George the 1st and 2nd, a period of near 30 years. He was blest with a clear understanding and sound judgment.

It had been worth the drive to visit a friendly bookshop and two lovely churches – one either side of the border.

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Kington, Herefordshire – St Mary

On 30 September we drove across the border as Julie wanted to visit Lockdown Books in the small town of Kington – https://lock-down-books.com/. It is only open three days a week, and is a radical bookshop with not a lot of stock. He’d responded to a Julie email about accessible bookshops, and we got a lovely welcome. He’s obviously enjoying running it, so why not!

We walked up to the parish church of St Mary’s – SO 291566 and were surprised to see so many churches parked outside. It wasn’t a funeral, the flower arrangers were getting sorted for harvest. I couldn’t find a guidebook. The benefice has an excellent website – https://www.kingtonparishes.org.uk/kington – which gives a very good piece about the town, but not much on the history of the church. Herefordshire churches have a good tourism website

There is an C18 lych gate that I failed to photo. The tower is Norman, the nave C12, chancel C13, south aisle C14 and the north aisle is C19. It certainly feels a large, open church, one where the eye is drawn upwards.

A rather splendid Norman font, and even more splendid harvest flowers.

The Vaughan tomb is a beautiful piece of alabaster. Here lie Thomas Vaughan of Hergest Court who was killed at the Battle of Banbury in 1469 (part of the War of the Roses), and his wife Ellen Gethin, known as Ellen the Terrible. Apparently it is believed she killed her husband John by piercing his heart with an arrow as an act of revenge for his killing of her brother David. The tomb is decorated on all four sides so it is thought it originally stood in the centre of the chapel, before being moved to a corner. Neither of them may have been lovely people, but their tomb is rather nice.

Some nice windows. Three Kings (Epiphany) is a little different to normal. Jesus healing the sick. Simeon and Candlemas.

Some harvest displays to finish with – thank you ladies for your skill and your welcome.

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Oswestry, Shropshire – St Oswald

We spent the last week of September 2021 on holiday in Wales, and on Wednesday 29 we crossed the border and went to Oswestry. Julie enjoyed Booka Bookshop, and then we went to St Oswald’s church. The last time I came here was for a job interview in 2008 – the world could have been very different if I’d got that! It was good to find the church open, and they have a website – https://www.stoswaldsoswestry.org.uk/church-history/.

In 642 Oswald, King of Northumbria, was killed by Penda, King of Mercia – tradition has it that he died on the spot where the church now stands. Domesday mentions a church here,  and a title deed of the same year (1086) refers to St Oswald’s. There were various periods of border wars in the C13 and a great deal of destruction during the Civil War. There was a major restoration between 1872 and 1874, under the architect G.E. Street – it certainly feels a Victorian church. The tower is impressive too.

I love the door of 1692 – that’s the way of making sure your time as Warden is remembered.

There is a lovely font of 1672, which is said to have been a gift from Colonel Lloyd, the Governor of Oswestry Castle, as a thank-offering for the restoration to the throne of King Charles II.  Street added a second (which I didn’t photo). If I’d been Vicar I’d have said one was enough!

On the wall of the Lady Chapel is a rather stunning Triptych, Moses and Aaron on Mount Sinai, standing either side of the Ten Commandments. It is said to predate 1730 and may have been the reredos from the C17 rebuild of the church, after the Civil War. It was the reredos behind the High Altar until the Street re-ordering when it was removed and stored in the tower. You wonder if it was placed there en route to the tip, but never got there, or whether someone thought they’d put it back once the architect had gone back to London! It was restored and placed here in 2004.

On the north side of the Nave is the Yale Memorial. There is a tablet which reads “Underneath are interred the remains of Margaret the wife of David Yale Esq., daughter and Heiress of Edward Maurice of Cae Mor, Gent. She departed this life the 20th day of December 1754, aged 66. Also lie the remains of David Yale Esq. who dyed Jan. 29th 1763, aged 81.” There is another inscription which is almost illegible but apparently says “In memory of Mr Hugh Yale alderman of this town and Dorothy his wife, daughter of Roger Roden Esq., of Burton in the county of Denbigh whose bodies are interred in ye chancel of theis Church commonly called St Mary’s before its demolition in the late wars, anno 1616. They gave to ye poor of this town the yearly interest and benefice of one hundred pounds to continue for ever, besides other good acts of charity.” A later Yale is the chap who founded the American University.

There’s a rather nice War Memorial in the St George’s Chapel.

There is a lot of Victorian stained glass, including this Last Supper and this Ascension. The Millennium Window is by Jane Grey – we have Oswald and his tree, and a lot of different symbols – see www.stoswaldsoswestry.org.uk/church-history/architecture-features/the-millennium-window/

I wonder how I would have felt if I had got this building – would I have fallen in love with the building? I’m not sure!

We had a walk round and found a War memorial garden. A memorial to those who worked for the Cambrian Railway, their HQ was in the town, and a memorial to Wilfred Owen – he was born in the town on 18 March 1893.

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London – St Magnus the Martyr

The final church I managed was St Magnus the Martyr on Lower Thames Street, EC3R 6DN,  down by the top of the old London Bridge. They have a superb website – https://www.stmagnusmartyr.org.uk/ – with lots about the history and life of the parish. I would love the music, but it’s a bit too “high” even for me – rather too male! The noticeboard made me smile – I want to be a “Cardinal Rector”, although I want to a proper University! You would probably be wise to stop reading this and look at the virtual tour at https://www.stmagnusmartyr.org.uk/virtual-tour/

A bishop of London was present at the Council of Arles in 314, but there is no archaeological evidence of any church this early in the City. A grant from William I in 1067 to Westminster Abbey mentioning a stone church of St Magnus next to the bridge is now thought to be a C12 forgery. It was built to the south of Thames Street to serve the growing population of the bridgehead and was certainly in existence by 1130. A stone bridge was completed in 1209, and the church stood at the north end. The model is rather special – every church should have one!

Enjoy lots of other things worth looking at.

There are plenty of places with saints and statues, places where we are encouraged to light candles. I lit a couple in memory of my boys, moved on, and realised a couple of minutes later that they were being blown out as they wanted to lock up and go home!

They had a nice statue of Magnus of Orkney, but the sun was in the wrong place. There is a debate about whether the Magnus of the dedication was the Orkney Magnus – loving Orkney, I like to think he was. I will come back and have another explore sometime soon.

I spent the rest of the day chasing trains. I can now colour in all the Docklands Light Railway and the Circle line (the original circle, not the current teacup shaped line).

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London – St Mary at Hill

St Mary-at-Hill church, just round the corner from the Monument, was open and well worth a visit. They have just finished a new exhibition and there are some fascinating display boards. Their website is supposed to be www.stmary-at-hill.org, but it wasn’t working for me. I suspect it will have lots of lovely photos. Mine are lousy, so go and find some better ones – you won’t be disappointed. I recommend the blog and photos at http://www.alison-allmand-smith.co.uk/harvest-of-the-sea/ – this is the fisherman’s church, and there are some gorgeous displays.

It dates to 1336, the north aisle was rebuilt at the end of the C15, and was severely damaged by the Great Fire. Christopher Wren rebuilt the interior and east end, managed to save some of the medieval fabric, and added a lantern to the west tower. The tower was rebuilt in brick in 1787-88, and more changes were made in Victorian times. The church escaped damage in the Blitz, but a fire in 1988 caused severe damage. It has now been beautifully renovated, and is a pleasure to visit.

The organ is an 1848 William Hill organ. Thomas Tallis was organist here 1538-39. Lovely font too.

There are lots of fascinating memorials, and the display boards tell some lovely stories. The Resurrection Panel dates from the 1670s. It probably stood in the entry to the churchyard. It shows the Last Judgement. A triumphant Christ tramples Satan underfoot, as the dead emerge from their coffins to be judged.

Wilson Carlisle was Rector here from 1891 to 1926. He encouraged everyone to come to church, played his trombone from the pulpit, and was the founder of the Church Army.

I left through the old churchyard, out to the other side of the church. Good view down to the Shard.

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London – St Botolph’s-without-Aldersgate

I walked from the Barbican, past the Museum of London and the memorials to the Wesley brothers’ conversion, then crossed the road to St Botolph’s-without-Aldersgate EC1A 4EU. They have a website at https://www.stbotolphsaldersgate.org.uk/about-us/about-us/, and you can download a history sheet (memo to self, download the sheet before you visit). It is “without Aldersgate” as it stands just to the north of the old City gate.

The first building on this site dates to about 1050, the second was built in the mid C14, survived the Great Fire, but fell into disrepair in the mid C18. It was completely rebuilt between 1789 and 1791, under the direction of two Nathaniels. Nathaniel Wright did the exterior, and Nathaniel Evans the interior. In 1831 the east front was demolished and the building shortened so the road could be widened!

The East window is the only surviving painting on glass in the City of London. Painted by James Pearson in 1788 it shows Jesus’ agony in the garden. The two smaller windows replace ones destroyed in WW2. The ceiling is rather lovely. The organ was built by Samuel Green in 1778.

I liked the smaller windows. Four historical ones – William I conferring the patronage of St Bartholomew’s, James I entering the City in 1618, Henry Compton Bishop of London rescuing Princess Anne at his residence in 1688, and John Wesley preaching at Moorfields in 1738.

Jesus with Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Jesus walking on the water, Jesus the good shepherd, appearing to Mary at the resurrection.

Finally a good selection of monuments. The last one has the priorities right.

A police call post outside. Then back to Barbican and I continued round on the Circle to get to Monument.

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London – St Giles, Cripplegate

Wednesday 15 September 2021 and my first trip to London for far too long. I took the train to St Pancras and then went a couple of stops along the Circle to Barbican. I had an explore, and found that St Giles was open. It is on the south side of the Barbican and I last visited when Hannah had a RSCM course. It was lovely to find the church open, and empty. Their website is https://www.stgilesnewsite.co.uk/. A.N. Wilson commented “The Barbican is now an immense plate-glass fantasy, enormous gleaming towers soaring upward to the sky. But, doggedly, in the middle of it all, St Giles Cripplegate, bombed and repaired, stands as the last imaginable little memory there of that vanished City which Shakespeare knew.”

It is a beautifully light church when you enter it. The original church was probably a wattle and daub structure, the first stone church was founded in 1091 by Alphune, Bishop of London, and the present church was built in 1394. There was a major fire in 1545, though the Great Fire didn’t touch the church. It was badly bombed in WW2, then rebuilt by Godfrey Allen, using the restoration plans of 1545, which they found at Lambeth Palace.

There are lots of famous people linked with the church, so let’s start with the Alleyn Window on the north side. Edward Alleyn was the proprietor of the Rose Theatre and Fortune Theatre and the founder of Dulwich College. As the guidebook says “he was the proprietor of several profitable playhouses, bear-pits and brothels”. The window is by John Lawson of the firm of Goddard and Gibbs.

The east window was designed by Geralds Smith and made by the Nicholson Studios in 1960. Many of the figures in the widow are connected with the history of the church – St Bartholomew in the bottom right hand corner, St Alphege, the Archbishop of Canterbury beaten to death with the jawbone of an ox, is next to St George who “has no direct connection with the parish.” You can work the rest out!

I rather like the screen in front of the window, though I can find nothing which tells me who it is by. Sedilia and piscina of the medieval church.

Worth looking west. My photo of the organ was dreadful – which is sad as the musical tradition of the church is very important. One day, when I retire, I will come and enjoy wonderful church music. Mayoral crests (I assume). The C18 font came from St Luke’s church, Old Street.

There are many fascinating people connected with this church. John Milton was buried in 1674 in front of the altar, he lies next to his father. The 1793 bust on the south wall was made for the church and paid for by Samuel Whitbread, of the famous brewery family.

John Speed (1552-1629) was a historian and a map-maker during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I and lived in what is now known as Milton Street. He and his wife were buried in the church. They had 18 children – makes you wonder how he had time to make maps.

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) is reputed to have been born in Fore Street, but there is no record of his baptism here. His death is recorded – as “Mr Dubow, Cripplegate”.

Sir Martin Frobisher (1539-1594) lived in what is now known as Beech Street. He was en explorer of the Northwest passage to the Spice Islands, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He was also a captain against the Spanish Armada, was wounded in a naval engagement against the Spanish, and died in Plymouth. His heart and entrails are buried in St Andrew’s church in Plymouth, the rest of his body came back here.

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) was married in the church in 1620, aged 21, to Elizabeth Bouchier, the daughter of a Cripplegate merchant.

I know nothing about Thomas Stagg, and he isn’t mentioned in the guidebook, but his memorial made me think.

I enjoyed this church – and they let me use their loo. For this relief, much thanks.

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northernvicarwalks – August 2021

I should entitle these monthly summaries “northernvicardoesn’twalk” or “northernvicarridestherails”. I only walked 20 miles this month. I rode lots of trains. The Wrexham Bidston line, Sheffield trams (though I had to walk the final mile when they took my tram out of service!), the Apedale Railway, two days in Bristol (including a ride through St Philip’s Marsh Depot), Edinburgh and the tram, Birmingham (with two freight lines), and Bedford/Leighton Buzzard. I can feel your excitement!

There was a lot of work done – an email from On High “hoping I was having a quiet summer” got a resounding raspberry. There have been a lot of baptisms and weddings – all good fun.

Two National Trust properties this month. Beningborough Hall was rather lovely – a good place to meet Harry and Sarah (we are a long way from them).

Julie herded sheep at Kedleston.

I continued to ramble on facebook.

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Alstonefield, Staffordshire – St Peter (again, for Lockdown Chronicles)

On Tuesday 31 August Caroline (our church administrator) was back after a week away, so we had a couple of hours trying to sort out where on earth we are! Then we drove north to High Peak Bookshop as Julie wants pictures for her blog – books and lunch. She was quite chuffed to find this book as her review is mentioned in its blurb.

We had a beautiful drive through to Alstonefield and, like the last time I visited, struggled to find St Peter’s church. It’s on an earlier blog –

http://www.northernvicar.co.uk/2018/12/04/alstonefield-staffordshire-st-peter/

Disabled access through the west door and a good exhibition to look round. “The Isolation Chronicles” by Sue Prince, artist. Her website is https://www.sueprinceartist.co.uk/ – the paintings have been published in two books. Her pictures are a fascinating record of the last horrendous year – of the normality, the boringness, the incompetence and evil of those in authority, and the wonderful work of so many. It was great to see them all.

I also enjoyed the Cotton pew, the pulpit and the woodwork again.

There were good refreshments too, rather special china, and we had a chat to Carrie (one of our fellow students). They have had a goodly number of visitors to the exhibition, and I was glad we had made the effort to attend.

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