Ballidon, Derbyshire – All Saints

All Saints church, Ballidon, is on the right of the road as you drive up to the village – grid reference SK 203 544. It is now in the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches – – a charity I have discovered in the last couple of years. Their magazine is a treat. There is a laybye almost opposite the gap in the wall which leads to the church. On Friday 31 December 2021 we were glad to be able to pull off the road and park here as there are a lot of large lorries which drive past en route to the quarry at the end of the lane. With the best will in the world, this is not a Julie-accessible church, so she spent time with her book.

The settlement is very old, there are remains of Neolithic and Bronze Age barrows, and of a sizeable mediaeval population. There is no mention of a church in the Domesday Book and the present building dates from c 1100. The south door is simple Romanesque architecture – which is the phrase the guide leaflet uses, and I asked myself whether I could define “Romanesque”. tells me it is a European art movement, “a large-scale architectural style that emulated the Classical Roman styles from the Antiquity and Byzantine periods.” Yes, that is probably what I would have said – I’m not as ignorant as I thought I was!

I opened the gate and door, and stepped into the church. A simple church, nave, chancel and vestry. Constructed of local limestone rubble with gritstone dressings. A document from 1547 shows the church was well equipped for divine worship, and a hundred years later William Alsop was dismissed as a clergyman for conducting illegal marriages – where did all these people came from who wanted to get married here! The church was remodelled in 1822 and 1892. In the 1851 Census of Religious Worship it had seats for 72 people, a service was held fortnightly in the evening and the average attendance was between 20 and 35 – which gives a lie to the story that our churches were once full. The benches date from 1882.

The font is wonderful. It dates from the C14 and has some interesting carvings – I missed what the leaflet describes as “a sexualised woman”. The man with his book is upside down. The bowl of the font doesn’t belong with the darker coloured stem, though they are of a similar date. I am glad that Friendless Churches took this building over when it was closed, but it is sad the font is (I assume) never used. (I don’t know why my camera gave it a green tinge).

This painted reredos is on the nave altar – the leaflet describes it as “naively painted”. Why is one of the magi, or is it a shepherd?, carrying a lump of stone? There is a similar painting behind the altar at the east end. Woodwork dates to 1882. Quite damp at the end here, including some water on the floor.

The east window dates to 1894 and is by Kempe – the appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene. The chancel arch was well repaired, and I love the way that an official notice has survived for more than a century.

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Swanwick, Derbyshire – St Andrew

I went to Swanwick first thing on the Thursday before Christmas to take a funeral. It was a very foggy day (when we were in the cemetery it was like something out of Dickens).

I went back before the New Year to get some outside photos – and it rained. The church is by the crossroads in the middle of the town – SK 405531. Parking not easy for a funeral.

The church was built between 1858 and 1860 by Benjamin Wilson – he was a Derby architect who also built Ashbourne Town Hall and St Giles Matlock. Swanwick is first mentioned in a charter of 1275, and a coal mine was established here as early as 1368. Much of the land belonged to a nearby monastery, at the Dissolution the Babingtons of Dethick took it over. By 1620 it was owned by the Turner family, whose house was where The Hayes conference centre is now. (I don’t like clergy conferences, so a day or two at The Hayes always depresses me!). The village was beginning to spread from here up to the present centre where the church is now.

In 1736 the Swanwick Colliery Company was established, a bit further north (by the services by the A38). The village also became renowned for its silk stocking cottage industry which went on to supply the Royal Family during the time of Queen Victoria. The domestic framework knitting industry continued into the C20. Footware was also manufactured here – apparently there is still a Boot and Slipper pub. In the late C18 the Butterley Iron Company was built just south of the village and the industrial development of the area continued. The colliery closed in 1968 and this is not a pretty (or affluent) area of Derbyshire.

The land for the church was given by Rev John Wood. Much of the money came from Fitzherbert Wright, the chap who was Managing Director of the Butterley works. In 1902 he gave the money for the tower to be added – this was designed by the firm of Naylor, Sale and Woore. “Nisi Dom” is “Except the Lord … build the house, their labour is but lost that build it” (Psalm 127 verse 1) – of course the miners of Swanwick would get that reference immediately (as did a C21 Vicar – he lied (and I had google)). Pevsner did not like the carvings. I did, and I like the men and women on the window carvings of the church itself.

Inside the church is large and high – we had about 40 people for the funeral, it would have been dismal if there had been less. They have taken some pews out and use the space wisely.

The east window is by Martin Travers, dated 1922 – according to Wikipedia he was “one of the most influential British stained glass artists of the twentieth century.” He was based in Fulham, and there is a selection of his images on the V&A website. The most recent book about him retails at £55, which is a bit outside my price range! Christ in Majesty.

The west window shows the calling of St Andrew and is dated 1953. There is a children’s window too, but her toy is not one we would portray today.

Lovely fish on the altar frontal.

The Nativity triptych is signed F.P., an Italian POW at The Hayes – rather lovely. I was told the faces were modelled on fellow prisoners.

Rather a lovely chair, and even the eagle was being festive.

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Orwell, Cambridgeshire – St Andrew

St Andrew’s church is at TL 362504. We used to come to this village to have an explore of the old chalk pit, now a nature reserve, and I remember watching two steam engines ploughing a field – engine at each end and plough being dragged across. I don’t remember visiting the church, but in those days I hadn’t discovered the windows of Leonard Evetts. A group of five parishes, all of which have open churches (I’ll be back), and a good website at

The church is on a steep rise on the north side of the village. No parking, no loo and too many steps – and difficult to see what they could do to change that. Julie stayed in the car with her book. There was probably a church on this site built about 1150, but most of today’s church dates to the 13th and 14th centuries. Tower about c1250, arcades and aisle c1320. In the porch we have boxes of food, not just for a food bank but also for anyone in the community who needs it to come and help themselves. Posh, wealthy Cambridgeshire in the third decade of the 21st century. Interesting cross fragment.

It is a lovely high, light church – and I had forgotten the effect of colourful kneelers. I headed to the chancel, which was rebuilt in 1398 in memory of Sir Simon Burley, Lord of the manor of Orwell and tutor to the youthful Richard II. There was a major rebuild in 1883.

The window was installed in 1958 in memory of Robert Wilmot Whiston, Rector until 1917 I wonder why it took so long to do a window for him?). Readers of this blog will know that Leonard Evetts the designer used to live in my parish of Ponteland and designed many wonderful windows in the North East (and some in Cambridge at Cherry Hinton, already blogged). It shows many scenes of the life of St Andrew including, along the bottom, the baptism of Andrew and John by John the Baptist, the two of them carrying his body, Andrew as a boy leaving his father and brother to be a fisherman, the disciples in a boat piloted by Christ, and the feeding of the five thousand. Beautiful.

The ceiling is rather lovely, and there is a memorial to a former Rector Jeremiah Radcliffe. The website says he was part of the team of scholars who translated the Authorised Version of the Bible. John Knewsteb of Cockfield (one of my previous livings) was another one – more info on that blog post.

Some fascinating ledger stones. I wonder if having Senior Fellows of Trinity as your Vicar meant there was a poor curate looking after you, or whether Cambridge was close enough that the Vicar be regularly be in his parish – and what they made of him.

The organ apparently needs some work. Rather a chunky font. Nice hatchment, and some good bits of carving. A fragment of the cross and St John.

The tower dates to c1250. The clock was installed at Trinity in 1610, and might not have been new then. It came here in 1726. Huge Old (I assume) Vicarage next door, with doorway in hedge. All rather nice.

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Barton, Cambridgeshire – St Peter

Our 38th wedding anniversary, 3 December 2021. We drove to Barton and parked by the school so I could have an explore of St Peter’s – TL 408557. The village of my childhood. We moved here when I was 9. Lovely that St Peter’s church was open – indeed church, chapel, school and Vicarage, still seemed the same as they were half a century ago. But Mr Law no longer lives in the Vicarage and Miss Mason no longer lives in the School House.

Looking at the church website – – I did not remember that there is a record from 1270 of an Anchoress called Alice living in the church. An anchoress is a lady who withdrew from the world into a small cell, to use her life in prayer and meditation. Most of the church is C14, with the additional of a modern loo and kitchen on the north side – opened in 2005. They could do with a “Church Open” notice.

I remembered the C14 wall paintings, although I’m sure there are more now than were visible in the 1970s. On the north side we have St Michael weighing souls, St Christopher, St Martin on horseback and St Anthony with his pig –  see There is, apparently, also the only painting in an English church of St Dunstan holding the devil by his nose. We also have the wedding at Cana and the Annunciation. If I was a local artist, it would be wonderful to do some reconstructions (not, I hasten to add, in situ).

I found the brass of 1593 remembering John and Margaret Martin, it’s under the Chancel carpet. I remember rubbing this one wet day when mum was trying to find things for us to do. The font is a C14 lump of clunch with a limestone bowl. The pulpit was originally part of a three-decker pulpit, and is dated 1635. Perhaps one of the things I should do in my 60th year is ask for permission to come and take a service here.

There are four nice stained glass windows. David playing his harp for Saul, Christ on the cross with Mary and John (this is the East Window, installed as a War Memorial), Jesus in the temple (Candlemas), and one of Christ in Majesty (I think) and suffering children.

School services, playing in concerts, happy memories. In the churchyard is the grave of Ron Hoare, who was my oboe teacher for several years. I knew it was there as I went to his funeral, but I had forgotten that was over 20 years ago. I then found the grave of Mr Searle, who became Vicar when I was 16. He died a couple of years ago. The last service I went to in the church was a memorial service for mum in 2010 – so there were a lot of emotions as I revisited this church. I am extremely grateful it was open and I could just wander in. Every church should be open like this.

I also walked down to the Baptist Chapel which was where we normally worshipped. Hard to blog – there isn’t a lot to say about it architecturally, and I couldn’t get inside. I’ve just looked at their website – – and it says the church is closed for Covid. It is also the only church website I have ever found which tells you which buses run to the chapel (do they run on Sundays?). I have a lot to thank them for.

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Cambridge, Cambridgeshire – St Bene’t

St Bene’t’s church is the oldest in Cambridge. A classic Anglo-Saxon tower, each stage a little narrower than the one below. There are six bells in the tower. In 1273 there was one, and the Rector, Alan, disputed the new University’s assumed right to ring it to summon the gownsmen to lectures. It was agreed that they would make an annual payment for the use of said bell. The most recent work done has been to install a ramp down through the churchyard, and there are still some nice memorials in place. This was a 2019 project with Freeland Rees Roberts the architects.

The glass doors, installed for the Millennium, have sculptured handles designed by Neal French, featuring the pelican, a traditional symbol of Christ and part of Corpus Christi College’s coat of arms. The College is next door and was founded in 1352. The guidebook comments that if the church was wealthy, the old Saxon tower would no doubt have been replaced. This part of the town was poor and overcrowded. The Black Death between 1348 and 1350 meant a third of the town’s population – and half its clergy – died. Corpus Christi was built as an act of thanksgiving (presumably by those who survived) and part of its foundation included “leave to appropriate the church of St Bene’t”. This gave the church new patronage, and the college didn’t have to spend money building a chapel. It remained a parish church under the Bishop of Ely, so there were some interesting disputes over the centuries.

I didn’t really work the architecture of the interior out. The guide tells me how the part I didn’t photograph linked in with Corpus, nor did I photo the Saxon arch inside (sorry).

The North Aisle was added in 1853, this included the porch, and the church was reordered, and the south aisle rebuilt, in 1872. The north aisle now houses some excellent history banners, and there is a very full guidebook. Look up and enjoy the angels (but they have no wings, so are they queens?) designed by the architect Raphael Brandon – he had studied East Anglian angel roofs.

The Franciscans moved into Cambridge in 1938 and after the War they ‘took over’ the church. I remember Brother Martin SSF from our time in Cambridge – he was Vicar here from 1971 to 1985. In the north aisle is this Maquette of the Crucifixion by Enzo Plazotta, which was given to the church by him – the full size statue stands in the College Garden of Westminster Abbey.

The Chancel is very simple, but I found it rather sad that the altar platform covers a lot of this ledger stone. At first I thought it was the Vicar’s name missing, then realised that it would mean that said Vicar was female – so I assume there is a Vicar’s name, and his wife’s name, both covered up.

The East Window is rather Victorian – I like the way he does the hair of Mary Magdalene.

.Various other things of note. A memorial to Fabian Stedman (1631-1713) – bellringer. I miss having bells that can be rung. Just one of several memorials. A modern font  – rather lovely. Jesus in the temple with the teachers (Candlemas) in a window. The organist kept behind bars.

The lovely tower again. They have an excellent website –

Almost next door is the Corpus Clock. Installed in what was the doorway to a bank in 2008 it is amazing that 13 years on there is always a crowd looking at it. Conceived and funded by John C. Taylor – for more details see and watch his fascinating video at The clock’s keeper explains it at It is a beautiful piece of work.

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Cambridge, Cambridgeshire – St Andrew’s Street Baptist Church

We are in Cambridge for a Wedding Anniversary break and on 2 December 2021 (37 years and 364 days since that Fateful Day) we walked along to St Andrew’s Street Baptist Church. I realised that, although we worshipped here for three years and were married here, I know nothing about the history of the church. The website helps – – and I hope they don’t mind if I use a couple of their photos.

On 16 April 1721 a group of Christians took over the stable and granary that was on this site, and started a new church. Forty years later the Reverend Robert Robinson took over a congregation of 34 people in a “damp, dark, cold, ruinous, contemptible hovel”. A few later they pulled down the old building and replaced it with a chapel large enough to seat 600 – he must have been quite a leader. In 1791 the Reverend Robert Hall came to the church. He was “a fine scholar and great preacher” and the church was enlarged to take about 200 people. In our day the Student Baptist Society was the Robert Hall Society and I was President for a year. Nowadays the RHS in my life is the Royal Horticultural Society! A new church was built in 1836, and replaced by the current one in 1903. This picture dates to soon after the completion of this building.

Church Halls were added onto the back of the site. One summer Julie and I spent a week or so cleaning and sorting. We tried washing the curtains, they disintegrated. Mike Quicke, the minister, told us not to worry “They’ve been there for years. Robert Hall blew his nose on them.” Mike married us in 1983, the same year the Church Council agreed to build the new Stone Yard Centre. There has been a café here,  but that is now closed. We rang the doorbell and a young lady came and welcomed us into the church. Most of the pews have gone, removed a decade ago, and I was sad to see the worship band has replaced the organ – I’m just a boring old traditionalist.

The window behind the pulpit was erected to commemorate members of the congregation who died in WW1. The window depicts three characters from “Pilgrim’s progress” – Freedom in the centre, Truth on the left and Faithful on the right.

They obviously have a busy church and a busy ministry, and I am so grateful for that. No doubt it has its challenges, as everywhere does (especially at the moment). We remain very, very grateful for our three years here – and remember a wedding day with joy.

One more personal pause while here. We went down Downing Street and onto the New Museums Site to have a look at the refurbished Zoology Museum. My grandad, Len Hoskison, was caretaker here for many years. I would go and find him on my way home from school and he would find me jobs to do. I remembered the whale, plenty of butterflies, the dioramas, and some jars with interesting things inside. Lovely to go back. I wonder what grandad would have made of it having a shop and a café. We patronised them both.

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Cambridge, Cambridgeshire – Great Saint Mary’s

Great Saint Mary’s is the main church in the centre of Cambridge – the University Church. In my youth their Director of Music also conducted Cambridge Youth Orchestra, so we did various concerts here. In our undergraduate days we came to various events here – I remember Michael Flanders and Donald Swann leading a packed church in “Mud, mud, glorious mud” with the Vicar, Michael Mayne, conducting from the pulpit. I used to bring the Confirmation kids over from Bury every year and we used to climb the tower.

Leaving Julie in Heffers bookshop, I headed up the 123 steps (if memory serves), 114 feet. At the top I realised how out of condition I am. There was a rainbow over St John’s, and I enjoyed myself working out which church and which college was which. The first written record of this church is 1205. Although St Bene’t’s is earlier, there was probably a church by the market place at the start of the eleventh century. When scholars arrived from Oxford in 1209 they would no doubt have used the nave as a meeting place. It burned down in 1291 and was slowly rebuilt. A major rebuild started in 1478 under the patronage of Richard III and then Henry VII. The Nave was complete by 1519, it had cost £1,350, and the tower by 1608. King’s; the Old Schools and Senate House with Clare behind; looking up Trinity Street with Gonville & Caius, Trinity, and John’s; the Chapel of St John’s with added rainbow; Michaelgate; the Market; St Edward’s with St Bene’t’s behind.

Sadly you don’t get to see any of the 13 bells. The clock dial dates back to 1679, the workings 1892. The chimes, known as the Cambridge Quarters, date back to 1792 when Joseph Jowett, Professor of Civil Law, was (according to the guidebook) asked to produce suitable chimes – that begs lots of questions! Apparently he was assisted by William Crotch, the composer. Later they were copied for the newly built Big Ben in 1858, and are now familiar as the Westminster Chimes.

Back down below I had a good explore – there was a bunch of students preparing for a Carol Service this evening (you forgot how early Christmas starts in Cambridge). Let’s start with the font, which dates to 1632. £3 was donated for a new font without religious imagery. The font is octagonal with seven of the sides representing the days of the week and the eighth, the eighth day, representing eternal life. Presumably it replaced one with a lot more religious images on, removed or destroyed at the Reformation. Divine Office was first performed in English in 1549 and within 60 years “the glory of the late medieval church, glowing in colour with windows filled with stained glass, wall-paintings of biblical scenes and a painted and gilded roof, was … transformed into a plain, whitewashed auditorium with only its architecture reminding the congregation of more colourful times.” 35 Cambridge Reformers perished at the stake in the reign of Queen Mary.

The church continued serving parish, town and university. Religious fashions came and went – the aisle galleries were installed in the 1730s. Some of the pews in the galleries date to the C15 or C16, but the ones in the Nave are Victorian (1863 – another re-ordering). The Clerestory windows were installed between 1902 and 1904 – the Te Deum.

The East End is dominated by The Majestas. Installed in 1960 it is carved in wood and covered in gold leaf. In shows Christ in Majesty, in front of the empty cross, surrounded by the four Gospels. The East Window (1872) is the Christmas story.

The memorial on the north wall just beside the altar is to Dr Butler, physician to James I. He was known for his eccentricity, his amazing diagnosis of illness and seemingly miraculous cures. There are many other memorials around the church – Michael Woolf, churchwarden and landlord of the Rose tavern, died in 1614.

At the east end of the North transept is a chapel. It contained some fascinating things, but really needs a proper sort-out. The Great War Window was installed in 1922. The risen Christ was created by the Hungarian sculptor Gabrielle Bollobas – I think the one in Selwyn is better. Nor was I particularly impressed by this line of angels.

I have missed many things in this lovely church, but we must have the 1863 pulpit. It is on rails so can be pushed out into the middle for University sermons. The heavens had opened as I prepared to leave, so I sat and read the guidebook for a bit longer – knowing J would be happy in Heffers for a while. I also went back the following day to get some of the photos I hadn’t got. There are times I regret not having taking full advantage of all the facilities, all the inspiration, that Cambridge offered – and, indeed, offers. O well! We’ll be back.

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northernvicarwalks – November 2021

This was the month we finally managed to restart our Toddler Group, and that was a huge pleasure. Remembrance Sunday was busy too – I felt mixed emotions, pleased that the place was full, but worried about the number of people who were there.

I managed two train trips – a day to Hull and a morning up the Joint Line.

An almost-daily Facebook Ramble.

We had two lovely days out. Sadly Bourneville church was locked, though the bookshop was open.

Kenilworth church was open, but there was a wedding in progress (how dare they be busy when northernvicar arrives?). A nice bookshop, plus a charity bookshop and other charity shops selling books. Julie visited all of them – indeed I think she looked at every single book.

The highlight of the month was a 60th birthday party for Julie. We held it in the wonderful Gosforth Theatre in Newcastle, and had 50 friends there. There was enough space that it all felt safe, and a good time was had by all.

Congratulations to my former congregation at Milbourne who have finally manage to get a loo. I started the process, but was unable to carry it through. The one they have is a very green composting loo. Well done!

Bury St Edmunds gained a Christmas attraction – I don’t know who took this photo, but it made me smile.

We ended the month with snow – enough to delay our Advent Procession by a week. Sara Murfin took this photo of St Matthew’s.

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northernvicarwalks – October 2021

October continued in the same vein. Worship every Sunday, plus Zoom, and a lot of baptisms. Not a lot of walking – just 18 miles this month (though that was 18 miles more than in September). One train jaunt and regular facebook rambles. We visited Lichfield, and that has been blogged elsewhere.

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northernvicarwalks – September 2021

I don’t know if anyone reads these monthly summaries, but if – in the future – I want to know what railways I did, what walking I didn’t do, or my thoughts on facebook, at least I will know where to find them.

There was a railway jaunt based on Sheffield.

As well as the London churches I blogged about, I did the Docklands Light Railway and the whole of the Circle line.

A ride on the Tyne and Wear Metro while up North with Harry and Sarah.

And a couple of journeys while we had a week’s holiday in Wales.

I continued an almost-daily facebook ramble.

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