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.