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 had a couple of stays at the wonderful Gladstone’s Library – https://www.gladstoneslibrary.org/ – “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.
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 – https://www.stpetersvauxhall.org/sundays – 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.
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.
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 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=558FKNwxUGQ. 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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Julie and I are staying at Gladstone’s Library – https://www.gladstoneslibrary.org/ – a residential library in Hawarden, just over the border into Wales, Clwyd (Flintshire). It is a wonderful place to go and do some work, so we started 2022 with three nights here.
On Friday, the day after Epiphany, I went for a look at the church next door. They had just finished removing the Christmas Trees from a Festival – “you should have come yesterday” said one of the locals. I did think that if they had advertised their Festival (and yesterday’s Epiphany service) on a poster in the Library, then I might have done! At least the church is open and welcoming.
“There has been a church on this site since St Deiniol, a 6th century Welsh saint, planted his staff here.” A contemporary of St David, he was consecrated the first bishop of Bangor in 516. The list of rectors goes back to 1180 – I wonder if they have to promise to stay for at least a decade before they get the chisel out? Most of the C13 church was destroyed in a fire in 1857. This church was rebuilt by George Gilbert Scott and the money of the Gladstone family.
They have a new candle/prayer stand just inside the door – it was dedicated last night and is a beautiful piece of work made by Poplar’s Forge. My problem with these is that we no longer think it’s OK to leave a box of matches handy, and yet few people now carry said box of matches.
It is an attractive church, with a nice model inside, and I should have had a better wander around. They produce a “Seven things to look for” leaflet – let’s just say I didn’t see them all.
I spotted this plaque and photo – partly because Lincoln Theological College had a “Benson Room” and partly because I thought “fell asleep in Christ” is just a typical phrase – we don’t want to say “died”. Archbishop Benson had come to stay at Hawarden Castle with Prime Minister Gladstone, and he had come to Evensong as an ordinary member of the congregation – one assumes that Stephen Glynne, the Rectory, was used to coping with important people in his services. The Archbishop had some sort of fit, was carried out and across to the Rectory while the service continued. Later the news came that he had died. Apparently the Rector finished the service with the funeral collect from the burial service, the organist played the Dead March, and the ringers rang out a muffled peal (really?? – I thought it took a while to muffle bells). Then the Rector presumably went home and poured himself a stiff drink!
In the north east side of the church is a chapel where Mr and Mrs Gladstone lie – or, at least, that’s what I assumed. William and Catherine married in 1839, so had been married almost 60 years when he died in 1898. She died two years later. The leaflet tells me they are buried at Westminster Abbey. Here they lie in the boat proceeding through the sea of life – “the whole group is intended to suggest eternal peaceful movement on through eternal ages”. It was installed in 1906, but the leaflet doesn’t say who made it.
In the Chancel is a rather splendid carpet designed by Isla Gladstone, granddaughter in law of William Ewart. There is also a plaque with a Latin version of “Rock of Ages”, a translation made by William Ewart – the original hymn is by Augustus Toplady, written in 1793.
Here are five of the windows. An Annunciation window in the Gladstone chapel, then Burne Jones musical angels and OT figures. The West Window, which was installed a week after Gladstone’s funeral, shows the Nativity. The leaflet tells me that “the Mother and Child are the last images visible in the church as the rays of evening light fade”.
There is a large churchyard which I need to explore when it’s not raining. I will apparently find a grave to a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade, a Boer War Memorial cross, the grave of William Glynne Charles Gladstone, killed in France in 1915, aged 29 – his was the last body to be repatriated, and 48 Second World War graves, many of them young airmen who died accidentally while learning to fly at RAF Harwarden. May they rest in peace.
We continued on to Parwich. St Peter’s church is in the middle of the village at SK 188 543, just behind The Sycamore Pub (which is one of those annoying places where the website says dogs are welcome, but makes no comment about accessibility for humans). The church has a page on the village website – https://parwich.org/category/church/. It is not accessible either. It is a late Victorian replacement of the Norman church (1872-3) – Pevsner describes it as “unfeelingly hard-edged and rock-faced”. The church was open, but there was no notice saying so. It was depressing seeing how many walkers just walked past. There was no guidebook available either.
A very high and large church with lots of pews – it is depressing that 150 years after being built the church doesn’t even get a weekly service (it is currently part of a group of five villages and their Vicar has just retired). I wish I could see a positive future for all of these buildings.
Under the tower is a replica of a tympanum (a recessed semi-circular stone over a doorway). It is carved out of grit stone, probably from Stanton Moor, and was rediscovered during the demolition of the old Norman church. It was under plaster and whitewash, and may have been deliberately concealed during the Puritans’ purge of church decorations in the mid 1600s. There is no agreement as to the date this was carved – anywhere between 700 and 1200. This means it could have been made for the Norman church when it was built in the 1100s, or been reused from a possible older Saxon church on the site. The original is outside, above the west door, and there is a 2008 reconstruction inside the church – they decided not to try and move the original. There is an excellent display panel which explains some of the symbolism and there were leaflets produced in 2008 when the project was undertaken – no leaflets available now or on a website that I can find. A Christmas tree making photography hard.
Lovely old font – it has a date of 1662 which is the date of reinstatement. Original Norman chancel arch by the tower with a Royal Arms and a note about the bells. A rather lovely C17 chest lid.
The church had several Christmas trees in – it had obviously been a good Festival. Made photography a bit difficult. Nice school board and parish map.
Some rather nice modern stained glass. Beatrice and Mary Graham, postmistresses to the village, window by Meg Lawrence 2008 – Post Offices are another village institution that no longer exist. I remember Bert, the post master in Barton, Brian at Fornham All Saints, and Ralph in Cockfield – a very full-time job in the days before everything was paid into bank accounts and you buy stamps on line.
A Harvest window, a St Francis one, and one with birds and a sunrise. The Millennium windows have the names of all the children aged under 14 in the village – designed by David Pilkington and Ian Baillie. A lot of children – I wonder how many there are now.
The East Window is 1865 by Holland, Son and Holt of Warwick, and a link between Christmas and Easter in another window.
Then a wander round outside – lovely churchyard, and I should have a wander round the village sometime.