Sunday… so Off to Church. A Church built on Lead – but built with Stone

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St. Marys Church, Wirksworth, Derbyshire

The town of Wirksworth is on the very edge of what is known as the White Peak area of Derbyshire.  Limestone is the underlying rock which soon gives way to some rich arable farmland along the Ecclesbourne River. It is this location that gave Wirksworth its wealth and importance since the earliest of times. Romans made haste to take their share of Wirksworth rich veins of Lead and for the purity of its Limestone quarried in the surrounding area.  More on Wirksworth later….. but first lets concentrate on St. Marys.

For such a relatively small town, St, Marys if a very substantial building.  There has been a church on this site since 600 ad. The church you see today is substantially from the 13th and 15th centuries, with restoration works  taking place in the 1800’s.  It is a Grade 1 listed historic building.  St. Marys is in a central location within the Town.  Surrounded by an extensive graveyard, which is enclosed by a iron railing fence, and then by the important buildings of the town, such as Grammar School, Town Hall and Almshouses. 

Walk inside and it is the size that impresses any visitor, more Cathedral like (and bigger than some) rather than the Parish Church.  Layout is of the traditional East/West -North/South Cross shape.  A central Tower is at its heart. The Nave is long and high, leading to the Chancel and then to the Altar below the Stained Glass East window. To the right of the Chancel can be found the Lady Chapel.

All under a high timber arched boat shaped roof.

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St. Marys is also very special for its collection of stone carvings.  These you need to search out as they blend into the interior stone walls of the church. I believe that they were discovered in foundations of the very early church and rescued.  They depicted both Gospel events, local symbols and simple graphics.  See if you can spot Adam and the Apple…

On the North Wall of the Nave you will find a Coffin Lid.  Again excavated in1820 from the Chancel Floor in front of the Altar. Below it was a complete skeleton thought to be of the Northumberland Missionary Betti (circa 653ad) _DOI5190_00025qqq

There is also another famous Stone sculpture.  It relates to Wirksworth Lead Mining history.

It is called  “T’owd Man

It the oldest depiction of a miner.  Here he stands with his Pick and Kibble (metal bucket).

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Originally this stone was located in the nearby church at Bonsall.

The Lead connection and Limestone Quarrying was the heart of Wirksworth for many centuries.  The wealth it created no doubt help in the construction of St. Marys.  The Town itself prospered.  It was granted its Royal Charter, as a Market Town, in 1306.  It also was home to the Bar Moot Court or Miners Court, settling territorial mining disputes and other incidents.. Tales tell of ruthless judgements for the guilty.  The Town Hall is as grand as any,  today the High Street is much as it always has been all surrounded by grand building. A great place to explore, look out for the remains of a medieval Cruck Truss which shows how buildings once were constructed.

 

In  the pics above, note the Covid Signs.  Restrictions have eased but traffic and folk were few…..  I assure you Wirksworth is still a very busy and active community. Churches have only recently reopened outside of service times, so maybe we will get to glimpse inside some more local churches.  

One day everything will get back to normal, till then….

Please Remember ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

6th June

(C) David Oakes 2021

 

Silent Sunday…. When is a Church, Not a Church

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St. Cynog Church, Llangynog, Wales

St. Cynog can be found in the Tanat Valley in the Berwyn Mountains, Powys, Wales.  The village of Llangynog is at the point where the rivers Eirth and Tanat meet.

Today Llangynog is a quiet community, a small village surrounded by Hill Farms.  It is also surrounded by the ghosts of once very busy Slate Mines and Quarries.  Remains of this industrial heritage can still be seen on the surround hill sides and along the neighbouring valley’s.

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St. Cynog dates back to 1254, with rebuilds at various times between then, and the last refurbishment in 1894.  Carved stone windows and a porch entrance and its carved stone pillars, add character to what could have been a plain stone building. Carved wood beams support the roof, but also add something special to an otherwise simple interior. Outside the Graveyard with its many slate headstones confirms its links to the local heritage…. and no doubt the Bell Tower will have sounded both solemn events as well as happier times for the village

As with so many Welsh villages, the church was once the centre of the community, Sunday Service a must, in fact considered a duty by many.  Today with the community shrinking in size St. Cynog is no longer the ‘Parish’ Church’.  It is though kept open, kept alive, as what is known as a Pilgrims Church available for travellers.  It still has an important religious role.  A programme of services is held at various intervals through the year, it is still used for weddings and funerals. Perhaps what is equally important , that as a Pilgrim Church, it is still a centre point for the community… far better than closure and standing empty.

Please Remember ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

30th May

(C) David Oakes 2021

Silent Sunday…… No Church, will a Priory do?

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Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island, Northumberland

Just one of the stone arches that remain as markers to the grand scale of what was once Lindisfarne Priory.

But before I show you more I should explain that these extensive ruins, whilst old, dating back to the 1100’s, they are not the original religious settlement on Holy island.

Holy Island (once I am told known as the Healing Isle) is located on the North East coast of England, just short of the Scottish border, in the county of Northumberland. For several centuries the community at Lindisfarne was credited as a major centre for Celtic Christianity.  Saint Aidan and Saint Cuthbert, Eadfrith and the Venerable Bede all have direct involvement with establishing and leading the Islands Christian Community. An important influence across Northumberland and into many parts of England and no doubt Scotland.  One of the most notable religious contributions was the creation of the Lindisfarne Gospels (circa 710ad), a treasure now in the keeping of the British Library* 

For several centuries there was no large stone built Priory, but a more rustic collection of simple wood and  stone constructions. Its initial downfall was following a bloody Viking invasion followed a little later by a Danish invasion.

It was only following the Norman Conquest that major changes occurred across England.  Lindisfarne Priory was re-established in the 11th century, the building and expansion continued across 3 further centuries.

So what you can see today are just a small, but still significant, part of the Lindisfarne story.

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The Priory fell fowl of  King Henry VIII act for the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1557, a sad end to this one time religious strong hold of great influence. 

Look closely at the above image.  You can just see Lindisfarne Castle ( Circa 1570- rebuilt 1901) poised on a rocky outcrop.  Just another excuse to visit this wonderful Island that is only accessible at low tide across a narrow causeway….. and adventure in its own right.

  • I understand there were plans to bring back the Lindisfarne Gospels for a visit to the North East, possibly Durham Cathedral as host.  The date was suggested as 2022. Worth keeping and watchful ear for more updates 

Where ever you are today…..

Please Remember ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

23rd May

(C) David Oakes 2021

Silent Sunday….. A Church Visit

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 Marienkirche, Rostock, Germany

For such a large Church, Marienkirche (St. Marys) is well hidden in the side streets of the Hanseatic City of Rostock.

It is indeed an enormous Gothic Brick construction dating back to the 13th century (it was further enlarged during the 14th century).  I say enormous, it is and larger than many Cathedrals I have visited.

The Brick Tower with its many glazed windows is only matched by the interior height of the nave.

Reflecting Rostock’s maritime importance as a member of the Hanseatic League, there hang various models of sailing ships upon which the City built its wealth.  These are overshadowed by the famous Astronomical Clock.  Dating back to 1472 this masterpiece is till operating today…. and worth a visit in its own right

Disaster nearly befell Marienkirche during 3 nights of Air Raids in 1942.  Thankfully swift actions prevented widespread fire damage. 

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Well worth a detour on any visit to Rostock… when you find Marienkirche you will be surprised at its size and yet intermit atmosphere

Remember ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

2nd May

(C) David Oakes 2021

 

Silent Sunday…… Three Spires

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Litchfield Cathedral, Staffordshire

The threes Spires of Litchfield Cathedral make for a dominant landmark on the horizon.  The central Spire is 253ft high whilst the twin spires are a mere 190ft .

The full name for this medieval Cathedral is Saint Chad and Saint Mary.  Its history dates back to 669AD when Saint Chad founded the first building.  It was a wooden structure.  This was replaced by a Norman style building in 1085, and then again 1in 1195 in the Gothic style.

Inside the Cathedral you do enter a peaceful world…..  but history also tells us that this was not always so.  The Cathedral took the full force of aggression against it in the English Civil Wars. 

Today it is once again a very different world that surrounds this dramatic building.

Please Remember ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

25th April

(C) David Oakes 2021