Sunday, 15 November 2009

St Cuthbert, Aldingham

St Cuthbert
Aldingham
Cumbria

This beautiful church sits on the Western shores of Morecambe bay sheltered behind the sea wall.....a wall that has provided decades of protection against the relentless pounding of the sea. The village of Aldingham has gradually been washed away, so in a sense I think we're luck to still have this wonderful church today. The church, with its small car park, lays less than a mile to the North of the motte and bailey castle which also looks out over Morecambe Bay.

It is likely that the church was founded in around 1147; the surviving portions of this original building are thought to be the round pink sand stone arches and pillars that mark out the South arcade. An additional Norman arch has recently been discovered in the West wall of the South aisle.

Sometime in the early to mid 1200's, it's likely that the chancel was extended by around 15 feet.... but traces of the original chancel are still to be seen. The tower was probably built in the mid 1300's and at the same time most of the Norman windows were probably removed and replaced. Only one Norman window of this period remains.

A small scrap of Saxon cross has been found built into the east wall just below a window, possibly providing us with evidence of a much earlier church on this site. This cross fragment perhaps falls in line with legends that relate to the time when the monks of Lindesfarne brought relics of St Cuthbert to the England for safety from marauding Viking raiders. Sketchy evidence exists (from a local grave digger) that there are Viking burials on the North side of the grave yard, though there seems to be no documented evidence of any finds.

View of the 13th century chancel from the South.

A decorated grave slab can be seen in the chancel, possibly from the grave of Goditha of Scales. See this link The floral design apparently suggests that this stone dates from the late 12th or early 13th century. The grave slab was discovered by the Reverend Dr Stonard when major rebuilding work was carried out on the North aisle in the 1840’s. It was during this period of rebuilding that the West door was opened up, the South porch was demolished, new pews were fitted, the nave was re-paved and a new ceiling was installed.

View of the Norman arch looking into the nave.

Two items of interest that should be searched for inside and outside the church. One is the squint, the hole in the wall that joins the nave and the South aisle. This enabled those sat in the aisle to see the vicar as he preached his sermon, and for the vicar to see the congregation. The leper hole in the East wall of the church, is clearly visible from the outside of the building, and also through to the interior just above the altar. Tradition would have us believe that the 'leper hole' was for undesirables to watch the services inside the church, without troubling those sat within the cost confines of the church.

View of the South aisle pillars, probably dating from the 1200's.

Interestingly, the church still retains some of its box pews....a rarity these days.

View of the Norman arch separating chancel from nave.

View of the squint looking from the chancel to one of the chapels.

The photo above shows the 'leper squint' from outside the church.

View down the nave towards the chancel.

The church is open most days for visitors to explore, and there is a small car park nearby.

St Mary of Furness, Barrow in Furness

St Mary of Furness
Duke Street
Barrow in Furness
Cumbria

This fabulous Victorian church is to be found on Duke Street, on the West side of Barrow. The church was founded in 1858 but wasn't opened for worship until some nine years later in 1867. Built to designs by E.W. Pugin, it was built on a site donated by the Duke of Devonshire. The building costs amounted to a grand total of £6000. The original church was built without a tower or a spire, check out the link for an early view of the church pre-spire at this web site.

The steeple was added to the tower in 1888. All in all, the church was built to provide seating for eight hundred people, and with the organ, added in 1881, St Mary's became one of the focal points for Christian worship in Barrow. Although the church appears to be open for inspection, there are daily services during which you are not permitted entry unless taking part.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

St James, Barrow in Furness

St James
Hindpool
Barrow in Furness
Cumbria

This magnificent red church, with its tall thin grey spire, can be found just off the A5087 where it meets the A590. It's a truly massive building and impossible to miss. Built between 1867 and 1869, and consecrated on Whit Sunday in 1869, it was the second Anglican church to be erected in Barrow. In May 1941, it was badly damaged in an air raid, but quickly repaired and re-opened.

It was built to accommodate 1000 worshippers, with all seats being free and available for anyone wanting to attend services here. The one hundred and fifty foot spire is visible from much of the town.

This is the official web site of the church. The site on which the church was built, was gifted to the town by the Duke of Devonshire, whilst the money required for the materials and building work, were supplied by the Directors of the Iron and Steel works of Barrow in Furness. Edward Paley was contracted to design the building....yet another church in Cumbria for which he is responsible. It was during the early design phase of this church, the Edward Paley was joined by Herbert Austin....and the now famous partnership of Paley and Austin was formed. This was another church in this area that did not appear to be left open for inspection.

St George, Barrow in Furness

St George
Church Street
Barrow in Furness
Cumbria

This is a most striking church, dressed in its grey and brown cladding. Situated on Church street, in the South of Barrow, it stands out amidst the other buildings in this area. St George was built between 1859 and 1861 to designs by E.G. Paley of Lancaster. It was consecrated on the 4th if January 1861. It was funded by the Duke of Buccleuch and the Duke of Devonshire. A North aisle was added in 1867, largely funded by Sir James Ramsden. It contains two stained glass windows by Shrigley and Hunt of Lancaster.

The church was erected as a brand new place of worship. Prior to its erection, the nearby St George's School and Mechanics Institute, built in 1849, was used as a chapel, being granted a license as a place of worship, in 1852. The church was built to seat around 1000 people, with all seating being free and available to anyone who chose to attend services.

It was unfortunate that the church was not open on my visit.

Roose Road Bible Christian church, Barrow in Furness

Roose Road Bible Christian Church
Roose Road
Barrow in Furness
Cumbria

As the A5087 leaves Barrow in Furness, heading out towards Rampside, it passes through an area called Roose Road. The red stone building, shown below, stands on the North side of Roose Road, and as is plain to see, it is no longer used as a place of worship.

It was opened as a church in 1875, finally closing its doors in 1976. The congregation joined Christ Church on Beacon Hill when the church closed down. According to the Genuki web site the Bible Christians were formed in 1815 after breaking away from the Wesleyans. In 1886, the resident preacher here at Roose Road, was W.E. Gilbert. I'm not sure what the building is used for now, but it appears to be in pretty good condition.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Whitby Abbey, Whitby

Whitby Abbey
Whitby
North Yorkshire

Battered by storms, religious turmoil, the English Reformation, German battle ships and age, the remains of St Hilda’s Abbey remain to this day, an iconic piece of Whitby’s history.

Perched atop East Cliff with views out across the sea to the North, West and East, the remains of the abbey overlook the town of Whitby below and to the West. Sited next to the medieval church of St Mary, the ruins are extensive and offer a good few hours of intensive exploration.

Founded in 657 as a double house priory by the Saxon King of Northumbria, Oswy, the site’s original name was Streanshalh (also the ancient name of Whitby). Lady Hilda, the niece of Prince Edwin, was appointed the priory’s Abbess, and both Benedictine monks and nuns lived and worshipped there. The abbey was home to Caedmon, a well known Saxon poet. When Hilda died, she was canonized, and her relics and those of King Oswy meant that the abbey had a steady income. This money was used to expand the abbey and its buildings. Another princess, Aelfled took over as Abbess. Records of the abbey and its success or failure are then hard to come by and not much is known from this time.

In 664, the abbey was the chosen site of a Synod that would later become known as the Synod of Whitby, a meeting of Roman and Ionean clerics. The Northumbrian Celtic Christian king Oswy eventually ruled that his kingdom would observe the traditions and customs of Rome rather than the Irish monks of Iona, changing the face of Christianity in the North East of England.

Above photo, courtesy of Tereza Emmott.

In 867 the site was almost completely destroyed by Danish raiders and subsequently abandoned. Indeed, such was the destruction, that the abbey was not re-founded until 211 years later, in 1087. The new abbey was rebuilt by a soldier called Regenfrith, on the orders of William de Percy. This abbey lasted until 1540, when Henry VIII destroyed the abbey and all those around the country during the English Reformation. On the 14th of December, 1539, the abbey was handed over to Henry VIII’s commissioners, under the Dissolution of the Monasteries act. William Davell was the last abbot of Whitby, and he passed a community worth £437 to the crown. The buildings and the grounds were leased to Richard Cholmley in March of 1540. His family took up residence in the Abbot’s lodges. Landscaped gardens were planted and the house was extended. These gardens and the house now form the backbone of the English Heritage visitor’s centre. During the 17th century, the extension to the house lost its roof in a violent storm and was never repaired. The building eventually collapsed, along with major parts of the abbey’s church….firstly the nave in 1762, and then the tower in 1830.

The remains that can be seen today, were probably started in the 1220’s, replacing the earlier buildings, the foundation lines of which can still be seen in the grass. The early medieval gothic structure of the abbey are similar in design to the whole of, or parts of similar buildings of the time such as Glasgow Cathedral and the transepts of York Minster. The abbey would have been a highly decorative building, painted and with many stained glass windows. All these have gone now, and the elaborate carving is all that remains to demonstrate the amount of creative effort that was invested here.

The West front of the abbey was originally an impressive fa├žade facing out over the town below it, and was reputedly still standing in the late 1700’s. Some parts of the masonry began to deteriorate from this time on, and with the help of a sea borne attack by German navy ships, completely collapsed in 1914. During excavations in the 1920’s Saxon tomb stones were unearthed, giving an insight into the first abbey of 657. Some of these tomb stones have been left in situ, and some have been moved to the visitor’s centre. The site is not only a great historical place to visit, but it offers great views out across the sea over Whitby and beyond. I would strongly recommend climbing the 199 steps up to the church of St Mary, paying a visit to this medieval church, and then making your way to the abbey.