Hucknall, Nottinghamshire – St Mary Magdalene

We called in at Rufford, and then the final stop on our bus tour was Hucknall. I have been to Hucknall before – I have been through on the railway line, and I have travelled the tram north from Nottingham, but it is not on the tourist trail. Once Hucknall was a thriving town with textiles, mining  and engineering, surrounded by good farming land. Then the town stopped thriving. In order to make it thrive again, a lot of money has obviously been poured in, We were handed a glossy brochure A Snapshot of Hucknall in the 21st century produced by the Hucknall Tourism and Regeneration Group – website. There is a town tour, 91 places to visit – you would think they could have found another nine – a driving tour, a walking tour, and a Byron Festival.

St Mary Magdalene, described on the leaflets as “The Parish Church in the heart of the town” stands at the top of the High Street, by the Market – SK 533494. They have a website and can do clever things with QR codes. They have obviously had a lot of money to reorder and tell their history, and are using it to proclaim that “the church is a place for Christian worship and has opportunities for people of all ages and experiences.”

I picked up five leaflets – Pilgrimage, an interactive tour; Kempe pilgrimage; Byron pilgrimage; Ada Lovelace; Ben Gaunt. There are lots of other displays – inside and out. I had a good chat with the churchwarden, and he suggested I bring my lot over for an afternoon. There is certainly plenty to see.

The tower is the oldest part of the church, dating back to the C11, as does the Nave. The north aisle is thirteenth century, and there was a major extension 1887/8.

Inside is a medieval coffin lid. This is one of the symbols of the Four Evangelists.

This angel, on the last pillar on the south aisle, was installed at the extension of 1872/3. It was commissioned by Canon John Godber, the wealthy Victorian benefactor.

He also paid for the huge number of Kempe windows. Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907) and his studio produced windows for many churches, and the pilgrimage leaflet takes you round all of them in this church. My photos of windows are never very good – I need a proper lesson. I was under a little time pressure today, so my apologies.

When Canon Godber ran out of windows to be filled, he used James Powell and Sons, Whitefriars Glass, to produce these angels and other panels. The process is known as Opus Sectile, pieces of coloured glass turned into tiles.  We have the return of the Prodigal Son. The company also produced early light bulbs.

At the East End is a Victorian reredos. It is closed for Advent and Lent  (and the leaflet explains what those seasons are).

Byron is buried in a vault beneath the chancel. I have to say I know hardly anything about Lord Byron – except that he kept a bear while at Cambridge. The leaflet tries to make something vaguely spiritual – “Poet and icon of the Romantic age [he] found rest here … . It had been a short life but a long pilgrimage of self discovery. He had wandered across Europe in self-imposed exile and explored the boundaries of socially acceptable behaviour on a spiritual quest, searching for meaning to his life. He finally found it in the struggle to liberate his beloved Greece, sacrificing his life to that cause before his body returned home to the Byron family vault.”

One of the others in the vault is Ada Lovelace (1815-1852). She was Byron’s only legitimate daughter, but never knew her father. Her mother, Annabella Millbanke, steered her away from poetry towards more logical and scientific pursuits. She discovered a natural flair for mathematics, and this ability impressed Charles Babbage, the designer of the first mechanical computer. He asked her to work on some mathematical problems which could be run through the engine. The algorithm she produced to calculate a number sequence called Bernouilli numbers is widely considered to be the first computer programme. Later she was the first to suggest that a machine might mimic human creativity.

I liked this Madonna and Child – indeed, I liked this church, and there is a lot more I could have blogged.

Let us go outside, enjoy the garden – and end with a notice that shows Rectorial Power. I want one!

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