Places of worship in England will be able to open from Saturday 13th June for acts of private prayer. People can pray in household groups as long as they distance themselves from other praying groups. However, acts of organised worship are still not allowed. I am, I admit, mystified by the difference between a room of socially-distanced people engaged in individual prayer and the same people, in the same room, at the same distance, engaging in an act of worship. Apart from a priest and a little more exhalation I don’t see any difference.
My Dad’s funeral took place on the 12th June. He had worshipped on and off for 50 years in the village church (admittedly more off than on – like Churchill he was more a flying buttress than a pillar of the church, supporting it from the outside), but he could not have his funeral service in the church. If he’d died a few weeks later this would have been OK. That’s irksome, but not ironic. The irony is that they announced the reopening on the day of his funeral.
When we visited the church at Sibsey, we noticed a sign about the God’s Acre Project. It seems to be a nature conservation project which manages churchyards for wildlife, in addition to their primary purpose of containing graves.
It seems like a good idea, and after being developed in Lincolnshire has been adopted by some Kent churches too.
It’s difficult to see a downside to the idea, as many churchyards are, to be fair, not kept in a manicured condition. It seems sensible to make a virtue of this and help develop the wildlife potential of the area.
Here are some pictures of the spring flowers at Sibsey. I note that they have nest boxes up too, as they have a number of mature trees, including an avenue of limes.
Winter Aconites – Sibsey
The stump of cross is, it seems, a Grade 2 listed and a Scheduled Monument. I know we value our old bits and pieces, but this seems over the top for a bit of broken cross. If it was that important they should have looked after it better.
To be honest with you, I’d rather see some of the gravestones scheduled and looked after, rather than a bit of stone which looks tough enough to look after itself.
Remains of the Churchyard Cross
It was just a flying visit on Wednesday, to give me a start on the research for The Talk, as I am beginning to think of it. There is quite a lot more to see, and I’m sure a few leaves on the trees will encourage avian activity around the nest boxes.
We were pottering along through the Norfolk countryside when we found this tower.
Fortunately there was a notice to give us a clue.
All Saints Church Tower, Panxworth, Norfolk
It seems that it fell into disrepair, was rebuilt in the 19th Century and again fell into disrepair, being pulled down in 1969. It was reputedly used by Satanists, struck by lightening (which may or may not be connected) and restored again.
It’s an interesting place, and well-looked after, but there isn’t much to keep you, not even an information board. Fortunately there is plenty about it on the internet.
Interestingly, some of the gravestones show the same names as the war memorial. The continuity of the countryside is an amazing thing.
Octofoil window – Angel by John Hungerford Pollen 1863 Our Lady of the Assumption, Rhyl, Denbighshire
Angel with Spear, 1860s. By N H J Westlake or J M Allen. St Michael’s and All Angels, Derby
St Mary Magdalene and Jesus after the resurrection by John Hardman Powell c 1852, from St James’s Church, Clifton, Oxfordshire
A few more pictures from the stained glass museum at Ely. I thought it was an appropriate time to show a few more. After a struggle with my connection, which turned out to be a problem with my WordPress account, I’m short of time, so will add detail later. (I have now added details to the photographs, in case you want to know more about the glass – not sure if they show on the featured photo but they are the same as the one below from Essex Unitarian Church.)
St Joseph and the Angel c 1920 by Wilhelmina Geddes.
Henry Holiday 1907 Essex Unitarian Church Notting Hill, London
While we were in the Fens on Wednesday, as you already know from previous posts, I took a few pictures of Crowland Abbey on the way past. A photogenic ruin, stone faces and a graveyard – hard to resist.
The Abbey was founded in memory of St Guthlac early in the 8th century but destroyed by Vikings in 866, an earthquake (1118) and three fires (1091, 1143 and 1170). It wasn’t all bad though, the isolated Fen location kept it safe during the civil disorder of the Middle Ages and allowed it to accumulate considerable wealth.
St Guthlac is depicted in this photograph – he’s holding the whip he used to drive the demons off the island (which is what Crowland was before the drainage of the Fens). That’s not a blemish in the archway by the way, it’s a Jackdaw flying by.
St Guthlac -right side, second tier, statue on left
This is a cropped and enhanced piece from the picture above it, showing a close-up of St Guthlac, now protected from birds by netting.
The West Front, with its fine selection of statues was completed between the 12th and 14th centuries. Given time I could probably identify most if not all of them. I could also date statues and heads from the fashions they are wearing. That, however, is a project for the future. I need to know more about church architecture before I start on fashion of the Middle Ages.
I’m generally at peace in three places. One of these is when I’m out in nature (though a cold day at a gravel pit doesn’t work the magic as much as a spring day in the woods. Another is in church. The third one is among antiques.
We seem to be wired to respond to nature, and I suspect church builders knew more about promoting tranquility a thousand years ago than we do now. As to the third, I’m not sure why it happens, but it does. It might just be that I’m strange.
One place I find it hard to be relaxed is in hospital. That probably starts in the Workhouse. They weren’t meant to promote relaxation, which is fine when you are building to scare the poverty-stricken and the elderly. When they were turned into hospitals, as many of them were, a change of emphasis might not have been possible. I’m not saying this is the reason, but it might be.
There is also the well known “white coat effect”. I used to be able to control this by imagining sunlight streaming into a wooded clearing. These days, I can’t hold the picture in my mind and I frequently find myself having discussions with doctors about my blood pressure.
I don’t know why it should be so. I’m overweight, so as far as I’m concerned that gives the blood more room to spread out. I should have low blood pressure, not high. Unfortunately this, according to my doctor, is not how it works.
Plan B then, should surely to go back a few hundred years and do a bit of cupping and bleeding. Looking at it logically this will reduce the pressure, just like letting air out of a tyre. Simple.
I shall have a word with my doctor when I see them on Thursday.
We had a walk round the outside of Southwell Minster yesterday. We’ve never looked round the outside properly before, and we didn’t have time for a full tour.
The Minster is actually the cathedral for the Diocese of Nottingham, but it keeps the old title as part of what seems to be a policy of keeping itself hidden. Even its own website refers to it as ” the best kept secret among the forty-two English cathedrals”.
As The Association of English Cathedrals lists 44 on its website I have a suspicion that there are two English Cathedrals that are kept even more secret than Southwell. This might be explained by the presence of Royal Peculiars in the longer list. But it may not. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is full of examples of why it’s a good thing to keep out of church business, so I’m not going to dig any deeper.
Ram’s head gargoyle – Southwell Minster
Pig Gargoyle – Southwell Minster
Seen from the winding country roads that serve Southwell, it is a breath-taking building. I will cover it more fully in the Spring, when the light is better for photography, but for now, here is a selection from the carvings scattered around the outside, some from the 12th century, some from more modern restorations.
The ones at ground level are on the wall of the Bishop’s Palace, though I’m not sue if they started off there.
The ones from the Minster look quite crisp so I suspect they are from recent restoration work.
Carved head – Southwell Minster
Carvings on the Bishop’s Palace – Southwell
Carved head – Southwell Minster
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
To round off the visit we visited the tearoom for parsnip soup with artisan bread from Welbeck. Unfortunately, for a man looking forwards to a chunk of traditional bread, it was a rather thin panini that arrived, cut to a point at one end then baked crisp before serving. It was more like a crusty weapon that a meal. The soup was excellent though.
Soup and a dangerous panini
The misty effect was unintended, it was actually condensation on the lens as the warm air of the cafe met the cold of the camera. The perspective makes the bread look bigger than it really was, and the soup bowl look smaller. That’s what happens when a hungry man decides to photograph his food.