Children’s view of history – Peterborough Cathedral

 

Front view of the Cathedral, taken from Aiden's bit of grass :)
Front view of the Cathedral, taken from Aiden’s bit of grass 🙂

Hello everybody. My name is Aiden and I am four years old. Sometimes people call me AJ so you can too if you like. My Mummy is called Paula and she does write a page for her work. I am being assessed for something called Autism as I sometimes do things that other boys and girls don’t do but Mummy says that doesn’t matter to her as she loves me anyway, all the way to the moon and back again. She calls them meltdowns, but I think she is funny when she says that, because I’m not melting. Mummy is writing my words so I hope I do okay and you like my story. Mummy says she has lots of friends who like history, like her and me. And I look at all the pictures of castles and things you share and sometimes Mummy tells me about them or reads me the stories. So Mummy says I should say thank you, because its nice to share and I like it.

One of the things I like is history stuff. Mummy does history stuff for her work so I get to learn all sorts of really cool things. I like to look at like medieval castles and churches and monasteries and things, how they are built and how different they look to other history like Tudor and Georgian. I also like archaeology. Did you know that Henry V and some others built some monasteries, because they liked them and thought they would help them be God’s friends when they died, but there was a naughty King called Henry VIII who pulled them all down again because he was a bad, greedy man?

Yesterday my Mummy took me to Peterborough on the big orange bus and we went for something to eat but I didn’t like the restaurant because it was loud and there were lots of people in there, so I couldn’t eat my lunch and hid in a corner because I was scared and my ears hurt. So she took me outside into the square, where the sun was shining. There were fountains and some birds were playing in them, and I ate my sandwich, and looked at the Church. It’s called St John the Baptist church and is named after a friend of cheeses (I think he means Jesus – Paula) who baptised people in a river hundreds of years ago.

St John the Baptist (Peterborough Parish) Church
St John the Baptist (Peterborough Parish) Church

The church has been there for 600 years. Mummy told me it was built in about 1407. I don’t really understand what that means, but I know its older than Mummy and maybe even as old as Grandad. Looking at the church made me happy again, so Mummy and I went for a walk and saw the Guildhall next to the Church which is 17th Century but looks much older.

Then we went to the Cathedral. There is a big gate which is Norman, and has really old doors in it which are very big. And inside the gate are more doors which go to rooms. At the side of the gate is a chapel and then some grass where we sat, because I get scared a lot and sitting down on grass and being quiet helps me be happy. Going through the big gate was a little bit scary. After we sat on the grass, me and Mummy talked about the buildings around us. There is another gate to the Bishops Palace, but you aren’t allowed to go in there. There are some old buildings in front, which look like they have two different phases. Right at one end was a small square building, which I think is probably medieval, but it has been made bigger with lots more houses on it, which look more Georgian and had different bricks.

Mummy asked me which bits I would like to see, so we went through a gate next to the Cathedral in the corner and we walked to the cloisters, which are all bricked up now, but you can still see the arches. Cloisters are my favourite bits of old abbeys. Then we went to the other side of the cathedral where there is another double archway, and there is an old house there. Mummy said it was built after the old bits, but it is still quite old, and maybe was a house for some of the people from the Cathedral. There are a few more buildings like that around the grass in a square which is a bit like a courtyard. The other arch leads to the place where there are graves where people who died a long time ago are in the ground.

Mummy asked me if I wanted to go into the Cathedral to see a Queen who is buried there. She told me that Henry VIII, the bad King was mean to this Queen who was his lady. And he didn’t want to be married to her anymore so sent her away and got a new lady and that was when he pulled all the abbeys and monasteries down. Then the Queen was very sad, and she died and he didn’t care, so she was buried in my Cathedral at Peterborough all on her own. That’s not very nice is it?

I was really scared to go into the Cathedral because its big and makes a funny noise to my ears. But I held Mummy’s hand and I was very brave and we went inside, and Mummy talked really quietly to me and showed me lots of bits of the building and the stones and arches and things and she let me touch them which makes me feel better. We walked up one side and she showed me the grave of Queen Catherine and there was a pomegranate on it, and there was a picture of her on the railings and a plaque on the wall which I liked running my fingers on because it was tickly. It had words on it about the Queen, but I didn’t care about the words because I liked how it felt and Mummy says I can learn things about her when I am a bit bigger.

13669240_306258253049597_5691250449028346358_nWe saw a big stone which is really old. Mummy says it has been there since before this Cathedral, and Vikings came and broke the old cathedral and killed some of the monks and some of the monks hid the stone. And then this cathedral was built instead and they found the stone and put it in here. We walked down the other side of the cathedral. Mummy says the sides are called transepts. And there was a grave except it isn’t a grave anymore because the other Queen got moved after she was buried and is buried in Westminster instead. She is a Scottish Queen and naughty Henry VIII’s little girl who was another Queen called Elizabeth when she was a grown-up said she was trying to steal her crown and said “If she doesn’t have a head, she can’t wear my crown” and chopped her head off.

Then Mummy let me choose a present for being a big brave boy and I picked a ruler which has all the kings’ names on it, because I like to measure things like artefacts and bricks to see how old they are. We went back home on the bus again, and went past some other things called Longthorpe Tower and St Kyneburgh’s church, which has been on Time Team. (Time Team is my favourite program and I watch it every day, because it helps me learn and stops me from doing the funny things that I can’t control.) But I will tell you about them another day. I took some photos at Peterborough, which Mummy is adding to my story. I hope you like them.
Mummy is adding Phoebe’s story about the Cathedral too so you have grown up words to read.

Love Aiden.

Exton Parish Church and the history of the Earls of Gainsborough

Parish church of St Peter and St Paul, Exton
Parish church of St Peter and St Paul, Exton

My turn to contribute again everybody. So today I’m going to take you on a short tour of my local Church, as discussed by Phoebe in her ‘Historic towns’ series, and discuss some of the residents within, and their family history.

Exton Parish Church – or to give it its proper name the Parish church of St Peter and St Paul, Exton – stands in the grounds of the seat of the Earl of Gainsborough, Exton Park. Although on private land, reached by a footpath cut into the boundary walls of the estate, it has served the as the village church for many years; indeed, there are records of a priest serving the parish going back to the 12thC and it is accepted that parts of the church date back to around that time although the majority is dated to about the 14thC. It is felt that there is a possibility the original church pre-dates the current estate, and the old medieval village surrounded it, before moving away to one side as the estate was founded.

Many old tombs and stones stand in the Churchyard, covered in yellow lichen and moss, their inscriptions illegible, through ravaging over centuries of weathering. Unlike neighbouring churches there doesn’t seem to be many of the 17thC slate stones that the area is known for. Here and there, newer graves are dotted around, the burial ground continues to be in use.

Entering by the small modern door into the porch, we passed through two large wooden studded inner doors into the church. To my left stands the medieval 14thC octagonal font with its ornate facial carvings and decorative brass cover and tucked behind that in the rear corner was the fairly substantial marble tomb dedicated to the resting place of John Harington, Sheriff of Rutland, (died 1524) and his wife Alice Southill. There has been a Sheriff of Rutland (now High Sheriff) since 1129 although the position dates to pre-Norman conquest. Traditional duties were to act as a Shire Reeve, the highest law enforcement officer, of a shire or county, acting for the crown. Nowadays the position is largely ceremonial and includes acting as returns officer in elections, and presenting of High Court Writs where required. Ceremonially a Sheriff would also be required to offer protection to Circuit Judges whilst in court, but those areas of the role are fulfilled by the local police in modern terms.

John Harington (d1524) and his wife Alice
John Harington (d1524) and his wife Alice

Nominations are generally offered to the crown each year in November in the form of “Lites” (a list of three per county) from which they would choose by the pricking of a pin, a tradition said to have begun when Elizabeth I could not find a pen with which to mark her choice. The top person on the list is generally the choice with the other two filling the role in the subsequent two years. No one person can serve more than one year in every three unless nobody else suitable can be found. Notable Sheriffs of Rutland have included the Harington/Noel family for every generation between the 15th Century and the 17th Century, then recommencing in the 19th Century, the Browns of Tolethorpe, one of whom was the founder of the Brownist religious movement from whom the Pilgrim Fathers drew their faith before making their voyage to America; the father of William Cecil, Lord Burghley and Margeret de Clare, widow of Piers Gaveston, favourite of Edward II. Several of the de Bohuns have also served.

On the wall above John and Alice are dedication plaques to the memory of Montague Wriothesley Noel and his wife Christabel. Montague served as commander of the Royal Navy in the Great War, and was killed in World War 2 whilst on active duty in 1941 in the English Channel.

translation of inscription on tomb
translation of inscription on tomb

Crossing the Nave to the far side of the church, we find the tomb of Anne, Lady Bruce of Ross. Anne was the only child of Sir Robert Chichester and his wife Frances Harington, the younger daughter of Sir John Harington, Baron Harington of Exton who was guardian to Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Winter Queen. Anne was the first wife of Thomas Bruce, Lord Kinloss and Earl of Elgin and mother of his sole heir, Robert, Earl of Aylesbury. She died the day after his birth aged 22 on 20th March 1527 according to her tomb, although other sources claim 1526. Thomas later remarried Diana Cecil of the Burghley family. The noble families of Bruce, Manners, Harington, Noel, Cecil and Wriothesley are heavily intertwined and linked with Exton as a result as you will see.

An intriguing story regarding the father of Sir Robert Chichester, Anne’s paternal grandfather Sir John Chichester, is that during his service at the Lent Assizes in Exeter Castle, from 14th March 1586,

‘A noisome and pestilential smell came from the prisoners who were araigned at the crown bar which so affected the people present that many were seized with a violent sickness which proved mortal to the greatest part of them’.

The result being that amongst others, 8 Judges, 11 of 12 Jurors, and several constables succumbed to the outbreak of “the pestilent smell” – ascribed by modern physicians as Typhus. Sir John Chichester was one of the notables above who died in the period 14th March to 10th April 1586. Many members of the local population were also mortally affected.

Above the tomb of Anne Bruce, on the north wall is a commemorative plaque to young Tom Cecil Noel MC and Bar, RFC who was shot down and killed during the Great War. Tom was the son of the Cottesmore line of the Noel family.

Following the death of Sir John Harington in 1612, his son, Sir John Harington inherited the estate of Exton, and his father’s substantial debts, accrued from his role as guardian of Elizabeth of Bohemia, daughter of James I of England. Sir John jr sold the bulk of the estate to Baptist Hicks, a wealthy businessman with the remainder being willed 2/3 to his sister Lucy, Countess Bedford and 1/3 to his sister Frances Chichester. He died six months after his father and Frances died in 1615. Baptist was married to Elizabeth May, with whom he had two daughters. The older, Juliana married Edward, Lord Noel, who was to become Viscount Campden following the death of Baptist Hicks, who had also procured the seat of Campden House in Chipping Campden. It is the Noel descendants who hold Exton to this day as both Lords Campden and Earls of Gainsborough. Edward was the son of Sir Andrew Noel and Mabel Harington, daughter of James Harington of Exton and Lucy Sidney. See how it all comes together?

The East Window, dedicated to the last "protestant" Earl of Gainsborough, Charles Noel. Circa 19thC From this point, all the later Noels were raised as Catholics, and are interred in the Catholic Chapel attached to Exton Hall.
The East Window, dedicated to the last “protestant” Earl of Gainsborough, Charles Noel. Circa 19thC
From this point, all the later Noels were raised as Catholics, and are interred in the Catholic Chapel attached to Exton Hall.

Edward and Juliana, were given land for a home in nearby North Luffenham, where they built a substantial house, ruins of which remain today at foundation level. During the Civil War C1640s, Edward, on the side of the Royalists, offered sanctuary in his house to local villagers, when they were over-run by Parliamentarian forces rampaging on the lookout for food and horses. Accounts vary as to the circumstances; however, despite an assurance reached by both sides that nobody would be harmed as long as the required provisions and horses were supplied, a shot was fired from within the house – most likely by a nervous or irate villager, and the house was subsequently sacked as a result. Edward was taken as a prisoner to Oxford Castle, along with his son, the Hon. Henry Noel, where they both died in around 1643. Edward’s second son Baptist Noel succeeded him as Viscount Campden, the Luffenham seat in turn went to Baptist’s son Henry who was born as his Uncle Henry and grandfather Edward died. Juliana and Edward, possibly also Henry, are buried in Chipping Campden.

Baptist Noel is also buried in Exton church. Born in 1642, he was a politician, MP for Rutland and Lord Lieutenant of Rutland. He was married four times, his first marriage to Lady Anne Fielding, daughter of the Earl of Denbigh; his three children from this marriage all died young. His second marriage was to Ann Lovett, their only son was stillborn. Thirdly to Hester Wootton, with whom he had six children, including his heir, Edward. Lastly to Elizabeth Bertie, daughter of Montague Bertie, 2nd Earl Lindsey. From this marriage there were nine children including Catherine, who would later go on to marry John Manners, Duke of Rutland, as his third wife following his scandalous divorce from his first wife, Anne Pierrepoint, as a result of her adultery, at which point he bastardized all the children born during the union, the death in childbirth of his second wife, Diana Bruce, daughter of Robert Bruce, above named son and heir of Thomas Bruce and his first wife Anne Chichester. Told you it all comes around…… The monument is noted with the others as monuments significant to British History, and is the most magnificent within the church. Designed and built by Grinling Gibbons, the tomb depicts Baptist and Elizabeth, kneeling in Roman Attire, and surrounded by carvings of his 19 children.

Another fine tomb is the Kelway monument. Robert Kelway was the father of Anne Kelway, who was the wife of John Harrington, first Baron of Exton, you know the chap – he who was guardian to Elizabeth of Bohemia. Buried here are Robert, possibly John (who passed away on his way home from delivering Elizabeth to Bohemia, so it isn’t confirmed whether he was interred here or at sea) and his first son, named Kelway for his grandfather to whom the couple was extremely close, Anne being his only child. Baby Kelway died at 21 weeks old, in 1570, however the monument does mention daughter Lucy (later countess of Bedford) as still living. John’s later children, John Jr and Frances are obviously yet to be born and as a result are not mentioned.

Two Nollekins memorials are present within the Church, one dedicated to Lt-General Bennett Noel and one to Elizabeth Noel and her two husbands. There are also plaques and monuments to James Noel, one of the nineteen children of Baptist Noel, who died aged 18. He is depicted again in Roman attire, wearing a wig. Close to the Kelway monument is the memorial and plaque to Henry Lewis Noel, dedicated by his daughter Emilia. The final monument to the family is that of James Harrington and his wife Lucy, which is strikingly similar to the Kelway monument which stands opposite. James was the father of John Harington, and has been attributed with building the now ruined Exton Hall, alongside which stands the newer replacement. They also had 18 children.

At the east end of the church, alongside the altar, is the earliest tomb, dating to the 14th Century – that of Nicholas Grene, an early ancestor of the family. Overhead is the glorious East window with its stained glass memorial depicting the parable of the sheep and goats, dedicated to the final Earls, prior to the family’s 19th Century conversion to Catholicism. Since that time, internments of the Noel family have taken place in the Catholic Chapel, St Thomas of Canterbury, attached to the new Exton Hall, starting with the Countess Ida in 1867 who died suddenly a week after her husband Charles Noel inherited the title from his father Charles Noel Noel (ne Edwardes). Ida’s body was the first one to be interred, in the foundations of the chapel, at that point still under construction. Following the earlier death of Henry Noel, 6th Earl of Gainsborough in 1798, without heir, the title had become extinct.

Charles Noel Edwardes’ father was Gerard Edwardes, illegitimate son of Lord Anne Hamilton and his mother Lady Jane Noel, daughter of the 4th Earl, Baptist Noel. Following Henry’s death, they changed from the patronymic Edwardes to their maternal name Noel by Royal Licence after retaining the lands but not the title by special remainder from Parliament. Charles Noel Noel as he now was known, was subsequently created 1st Earl of Gainsborough under its second creation. Gerard and his first wife Diana Middleton had eighteen children; following her death her remarried his long-term mistress Harriet Gill, daughter of the local vicar, with whom he had a daughter Harriet Jane; finally, after her death three years later he married Isabella Evans.

Well now, I hope you enjoyed the trip around the church with me, and the photographs I have added. Please accept my apologies for anything blurry, however I didn’t have my spectacles on at the time. I’m sure you will agree however, for a little tiny village church, Exton certainly contains more than its fair share of amazing monuments to an intriguing family history. Next stop will hopefully be the Catholic chapel; however I need to sweet-talk the present Earl for that. Maybe a quiet chat in the pub one night…..? Watch this space!

Paula

Peterborough Cathedral

13062036_261530060855750_114611907704354958_n  The Cathedral Church of St Peter, St Paul and St Andrew sits in the centre of Peterborough. Surrounded on three sides by church buildings, and fronted by a grass lawn, the precinct is entered by a stone gateway on the west side. On approach it is possible to note that the Cathedral has a lop-sided appearance as one of the great towers, to the right hand side behind the stone façade was never completed. Three large arches of the early Gothic style welcome visitors, each containing the statue of one of the saints to which the Cathedral is dedicated. Built in the 12th Century, at around the same time as both Ely and Durham Cathedrals, Peterborough Cathedral is the only one of its style to have survived virtually intact.

But what about its history? Well there are various phases of build evident both around the existing Cathedral and earlier buildings lurking within and beneath. Investigations have highlighted a boundary ditch in the range of the Cathedral, as well as early stonework monuments, indicating the possibility that a Roman temple or similar structure existed on the site. In the 7th Century, an Anglo-Saxon church, known as Medeshamstede, complete with monastery was known to have been on the site, a Hedda stone from this phase is prominent in the Lady Chapel in an alcove. The church and monastery existed until around 870, following its rapid decline after it was most likely sacked by Danish Invaders in a known raid a few years earlier in 864. The Hedda stone is carved with 12 figures thought to be the Abbott and Monks, who were murdered in this raid.

Around 100 years later, in the mid-tenth century, there was a monastic revival, which saw the re-dedication of certain abbeys and cathedrals, including Ely and Ramsey. At this point the Church of Medeshamstede began a new phase of building work under the sponsorship of the Bishop of Winchester, which included new halls, a second tower and extensions to the west. A Benedictine Priory was also added around 966. The original surviving church tower was dedicated to St Peter and the surrounding town became known as a Burgh. It is from this that the city gets its modern name, Peterborough. In 972, Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury further endorsed Peterborough, increasing its popularity.

In around 1000 AD, a monk is alleged to have stolen the relic of St Oswald from Bamburgh Castle and presented it to the Abbot at Peterborough, in an effort to gain favour. A chapel was built to house the relic, dedicated to St Oswald; alas the relic – said to be St Oswald’s arm, was to vanish during the reformation of the monasteries in the 16th Century. Nonetheless during its 500 years residing within the Cathedral, it drew many pilgrims, which earned the priory and the town a substantial amount of revenue. As a result, it was nicknamed Guildenburgh – The Golden Borough.

Aside from the Hedda stone, and a significant number of other artifacts, the early foundations of the original Anglo-Saxon church are the only survivors of this period, under the South Transept, although in the past decade, workman doing maintenance on outer walls of the precinct found a number of 11th Century Anglo-Saxon grave markers, felt to be those of local townspeople. A later list of relics written in the 12th century lists two pieces of swaddling cloth from baby Jesus, as well as part of his manger, a small part of one of the five loaves, but no fish, from the feeding of the 5,000, a section of the Virgin Mary’s raiment, a piece of Aaron’s rod and relics from all three dedicated saints. Finally, there were certain contact relics – items associated with their closeness of proximity – of murdered Archbishop of

Canterbury further endorsed Peterborough, increasing its popularity.

In around 1000 AD, a monk is alleged to have stolen the relic of St Oswald from Bamburgh Castle and presented it to the Abbot at Peterborough, in an effort to gain favour. A chapel was built to house the relic, dedicated to St Oswald; alas the relic – said to be St Oswald’s arm, was to vanish during the reformation of the monasteries in the 16th Century. Nonetheless during its 500 years residing within the Cathedral, it drew many pilgrims, which earned the priory and the town a substantial amount of revenue. As a result, it was nicknamed Guildenburgh – The Golden Borough.

Aside from the Hedda stone, and a significant number of other artifacts, the early foundations of the original Anglo-Saxon church are the only survivors of this period, under the South Transept, although in the past decade, workman doing maintenance on outer walls of the precinct found a number of 11th Century Anglo-Saxon grave markers, felt to be those of local townspeople. A later list of relics written in the 12th century lists two pieces of swaddling cloth from baby Jesus, as well as part of his manger, a small part of one of the five loaves, but no fish, from the feeding of the 5,000, a section of the Virgin Mary’s raiment, a piece of Aaron’s rod and relics from all three dedicated saints. Finally, there were certain contact relics – items associated with their closeness of proximity – of murdered Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, which were “liberated” by its Prior, Benedict, who had witnessed his murder. When Benedict arrived at Peterborough with the reliquary, he was given the role of Abbot.

It was thought King Harold stopped in Peterborough on his way to Hastings from York in 1066. It is accepted that the Abbott at this point, Leofric, and several of the monks and townspeople joined the party on their way to fight the invading Normans. Leofric died on the journey and his monks and the civilians were killed in the battle. Local hero Hereward the Wake led a party of Danes to the Abbey where they raided and took as much of the assets as possible to prevent the new Norman Abbott from getting hold of it. In 1116, the church burned down as a result of an unattended fire.

In 1118, Abbott John de Sais began construction on a new church. In order to fund the venture, a new market place and shops are built in the church grounds and outside of the precinct walls. The new area of town remains to this day in the same layout as it was originally constructed 900 years ago. Henry II visited Peterborough Cathedral in 1154, accompanied by his chancellor, Thomas Becket, later to become Archbishop of Canterbury. Following the decline of their relationship, Thomas was murdered 16 years later, ostensibly on the orders of the King, for which he was later to pay penance. Following his death and the aforementioned transfer of his relics, a new Chapel, the Becket Chapel was constructed to house the relics, particularly the Becket casket which is now on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum.13077099_261530134189076_1006542124755896129_n

By 1238 the new Cathedral was finished and consecrated. Notable visitors aside from those previously mentioned included Kings Edward I, II and III, the Prince of Wales – Edward, the Black Prince and Henry VI. Both Philippa and Blanche, daughters of Henry IV were born at nearby Peterborough Castle. Following her lonely death at nearby Kimbolton in 1536, Katherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII was buried in Peterborough; just three years later as the dissolution of the monasteries gained momentum, Henry took control and closed the Abbey, claiming it as a Cathedral. A School was founded in the Bishop’s House, which is still open although in different premises. In 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots was executed on the orders of Henry’s second daughter, Queen Elizabeth, at Fotheringhay and her body was laid to rest next to that of Katherine. After Elizabeth’s death and the succession of James I, he had his mother moved to Westminster, where she lays facing both Elizabeth and her sister Mary I.

In the 17th Century during the English Civil Wars, Katherine’s tomb amongst others was desecrated when troops under Oliver Cromwell’s command, took control of the Royalist town. They also damaged much of the interior, along with the stained glass windows. Charles I was held prisoner within the precincts for two days in 1646. A popular local legend states that several ghosts are present in and around the Cathedral and its buildings. Including one in the upper areas carrying a candle, a ghostly choir, four monks who stole out one night for an illicit drinking session, one in one of the houses. There is also the ghost of a gentleman said to have fallen from the gatehouse during an attempt to gain entry during the Civil War.

13103267_261530164189073_794421909027505046_nKatherine’s tomb was later replaced at the end of the 19th Century with a plain black marble slab and wrought iron fencing where visitors often leave gifts of pomegranates and flowers, and each year on the anniversary of her internment, a celebration of her life takes place at her grave. On my many visits here, I am always struck by the presence around her tomb. It has a feeling of grace, of tranquility. Serenity. Unexplainable but definitely there. I am by no means religious, and I keep an open mind regarding spirituality, but even I cannot deny that there is something there, which draws me back time and again and gives me such a feeling of peace where she lays.

Other notable burials included several of the past Abbotts and bishops, not just of Peterborough but also York and Worcestor, the man who buried both Queens, Old Robert Scarlett, is buried in the entrance, and several relics of saints are interred by the altar. Edward the Confessor’s nephew, Ralph the Timid is also buried within the Cathedral, along with 7th Century Saints Kyneswide – daughter of King Penda of Mercia and Tibba, her cousin. Kyneburga, sister of Kyneswide was also originally buried here, but was later transferred to Thorney Abbey in around 970.

Peterborough Cathedral was fortunate in that it did not suffer the same fate as many other grand religious establishments during both the Dissolution and the later Civil Wars, despite direct action against her in both. Renovation work began on the damaged interior in the 19th Century, using remaining rubble from surrounding monastic buildings, and restoration work is ongoing at the present, particularly on the statues both inside and outside the Cathedral. Supporters are able to donate funds in return for adopting a stone in the cathedral fabric.

All in all, Peterborough is a beautiful Cathedral, well worth a visit if you should be in the area. I often lurk around, and have been known to take part in the fun ghost walks which centre around the Cathedral Precincts on Halloween. *Tip… standing down the right hand side of the Cathedral, if you look up to the Tower window, you will see a face, lit up by a flickering candle. Go on…. I dare you!

Phoebe

Roche Abbey

Aerial View of Roche Abbey with plan re-laid in wall.
Aerial View of Roche Abbey with plan re-laid in wall.

Hi everybody, it appears it’s my turn to make a small contribution again to the page other than setting up posts for you all and replying to some of your comments… so, please forgive me if this isn’t up to the usual calibre, but the writers are so much better than me 🙂 Here’s a little something about a site that is close to where i grew up. Hope you all enjoy it

Built in 1147, Roche Abbey nestled on the side of Maltby Beck, near Rotherham. Home to an Order of Cistercian Monks, it was quite advanced for a monastery of the medieval period. Later developments included a kitchen and other buildings, including the Abbott’s rooms across the river from the Abbey, which were reached by a small bridge. Also taking position over the water were a set of latrines which emptied directly into the stream, which the monks had dammed further upstream, in order to provide a faster run of water.

The Abbey also had a quarry, and was constructed in a valley area, on the edge of what was once Sherwood Forest. The Abbey was founded by Richard de Busli, thought to be a nephew of Roger de Busli, who was credited with building the nearby Tickhill Castle. (I say nearby, in modern terms approximately 20 minutes by car, in medieval times, perhaps a good half day’s ride away) and Richard FitzTurgis, whose family later took the name of nearby Wickersley when they received the Lordship. FitzTurgis was tenanted the land on a semi-feudal basis, for the monastery by the De Vesci Family, Lords of Rotherham. His son Roger de Wickersley inherited upon his father’s death, and his share was later passed to his daughter’s husband, of the de Levit family, who later settled Hooton Levitt near to Wickersley.

view of the trancepts
view of the transepts

In the later 14th Century, John de Levit sold his share to a businessman from London, Richard Barry. By the time of the Dissolution it was controlled by the 2nd Earl of Cumberland, Henry Clifford who was married to Eleanor Brandon, daughter of Charles, Duke of Suffolk and niece of Henry VIII. To say he benefitted financially from the closure of Roche Abbey would be an understatement. There were several grants made by Henry VIII to Clifford in relation to the land and assets as compensation.

Although there are no surviving financial accounts or records of life in the 400 years of the monastery, we do know that when Roche was dissolved, there were fourteen to seventeen monks in residence, the abbot, Henry Cundall and an unknown number of novices, possibly the three that make up the difference in monks. A chronicle written by (later) Wickersley priest Michael Sherbrook who was a child at the time, graphically details the ensuing spoiling of the once magnificent structure after its closure in 1538. The local population, including his father, feeling very much as though the Abbey was part of their community, and as a result were entitled to a share of the spoils, pretty much robbed out everything they could of the timbers, lead and stonework. Nothing was left as sacred, even the tombs of the nobles and brothers buried within the precincts were turned over and ransacked for anything of value.

a contemporary depiction of a monastery being robbed out during the dissolution. This picture is often associated with Roche as its source is an "Unnamed" eye-witness detailed account.
a contemporary depiction of a monastery being robbed out during the dissolution. This picture is often associated with Roche as its source is an “Unnamed” eye-witness detailed account.

Strangely however the administrative and livestock buildings over the river remained untouched. In ruins, the remains of the proud abbey and the land on which it stood, were passed around as a part of deals and trade, until eventually in the 18th Century, landing into the hands of the Earl of Scarborough, who owned the land next to the former abbey grounds. In an effort to make the scenery more aesthetically pleasing to his Sandbeck Park seat, he commissioned renowned landscaper Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to “tidy up” the site. Brown launched into an ambitious remodeling of the ruins, which included pulling down most of the remainder, and burying large parts of what was left under large grassy mounds. New turf was added, and much was planted with new trees to create a woodland.

The once proud Abbey remained hidden from view for nearly a century and a half, until 1920, when it was excavated and claimed as a monument by English Heritage along with the remains of the medieval woodland it sits alongside. The stone bridge remains over the river, and the huge walls of the North and South Trancepts rise up alone quite suddenly from the valley below as you drive the modern road that runs along the cliff edge, when you turn your head backwards for a glimpse as it cuts away. The robbed out walls have been picked out and re-laid extensively to give an accurate interpretation of the extent of the fine building that Roche Abbey once was.

The gatehouse, doesnt look much from this angle, but once inside there are the remains of several arches and a vaulted ceiling rather reminiscent of medieval cellars that we see in such buildings as Henry VIII's wine cellar that remains under the MOD building at Whitehall
The gatehouse, doesnt look much from this angle, but once inside there are the remains of several arches and a vaulted ceiling rather reminiscent of medieval cellars that we see in such buildings as Henry VIII’s wine cellar that remains under the MOD building at Whitehall

There are several local legends concerned with the Abbey, one being that there were secret passages under the grounds, another that the site is haunted by the ghosts of several murdered monks. How true that is, depends on your belief in such things. One thing is true though, having grown up in the shadow of this sad, lonely yet nonetheless magnificent structure, I can vouch that Roche Abbey ruins do have a distinctly eerie feel to them as they stand alone, 900 years later, in the mists of a small valley.

Paula

Churches of the UK – Parish churches and Royal Peculiars

So we all know what a Church is for, what it looks like, who runs it. Right? They can be Catholic, Anglican, Methodist or Mormon and all branch denominations in between. From modern brick buildings to small, ancient, weather beaten stone-built creations often found meandering through the countryside, where they have stood, in company of long grass and leaning ivy-covered stones of long forgotten graves, many for close to a thousand years. That’s quite impressive really isn&rsqu […]

5080321 So we all know what a Church is for, what it looks like, who runs it. Right? They can be Catholic, Anglican, Methodist or Mormon and all branch denominations in between. From modern brick buildings to small, ancient, weather beaten stone-built creations often found meandering through the countryside, where they have stood, in company of long grass and leaning ivy-covered stones of long forgotten graves, many for close to a thousand years. That’s quite impressive really isn’t it? Then of course we have the big soaring grand structures that stand out in older cities. The Cathedrals; many of which have stood for hundreds of years, gazing down in superiority at the surrounding buildings in abject splendor. The stuff of Kings and ceremony.

Some of us find these places fascinating, whether we hold to a particular religion or not. There’s a strange thrill to be found from wandering amidst the overgrown burials, reading the stones. Wondering about how this person died or why all those children from that family were taken away so young. In the church where many of my family are buried, there is one such grave dating to the mid-nineteenth century, which holds the remains of no less than ten children from one family, all of whom died as infants; I think one made it to three years old perhaps. In the village where my parents live, in the Churchyard there is the similarly aged grave to three children and their mother. Two of the children died two days apart, both were buried on the same day that the second one died. Was it expected? I often wonder, the result of some tragic accident or an illness that it became obvious neither were going to survive? Did they pre-empt the joint funeral or was the second death unexpected and the simultaneous burial added as a sad hasty after-thought?We pay a vast sum of money each year to enter grand places of worship. York Minster, Lincoln Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral. Many who hold a particular faith feel a spiritual connection as they wander the vast halls of these magnificent places. They gaze in awe at the intricate architecture. And they play “spot the famous dead guy” in the tombs and stones they meander past. (Well, I do, anyway!) They have a story to tell too, but in many cases we already know that story. There in York Minster, we have the tombstones of the Archbishops of York, the resting place of William of Hatfield, second son of Edward III, younger brother to Edward the Black Prince who died aged 5 months in 1337, and the curious corner holding the remains of several notable men who all appeared to have died within hours or days of each other. Upon further research, it becomes evident that these are the fallen from the infamous Battle of Marston Moor in 1644.

5320994But then there are the Peculiars. “What are those?” I hear you cry. Well I will tell you. A Peculiar is a church or chapel which sits in a particular diocese, but falls OUTSIDE of the jurisdiction of the Church administration for that parish or diocese. In other words, the Church might be there, but the bishops working that area don’t govern it. There are three notable Peculiars in London, two of whom belong to Grey’s and Lincoln’s Inn, home of Law for the city. They are known as “Non-Royal Peculiars”. The remainder are known as “Royal Peculiars”. These churches and chapels fall under the direct jurisdiction of the reigning monarch. Many of you will have been in some of them. Others are private, entry is not generally permitted save for the Royal family and their estate workers, except on a few select days in one or two instances. St George’s Chapel, Windsor is one example of such.

But there are three operating Royal Peculiars which are open to the public, on pretty much a year round basis. And they are St John’s Chapel in the White Tower, Tower of London, St Peter ad Vincula, also at the Tower (although to the public, aside from standard and organized services, entry is only permitted to St Peter’s as part of the organized guided tours) and finally The Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster, which again has general entry. Or you may know it as its more common name, Westminster Abbey. For the princely sum of twenty English pounds, you can stroll to your hearts content through the most well-known Royal Peculiar in Britain, and take in the magnificent stonework, the amazing acoustics and the hundreds of long dead people of note contained there within.

Of course it isn’t really the Abbey itself, but the Church of the Abbey; but Henry VIII gave it Cathedral status in 1540 to protect it during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, tradition has it because he drew the line at desecrating the burial place of his parents, particularly his mother, to whom he was very close. Many of the monastic buildings and indeed those of the neighbouring Palace of Westminster, remain in part in the surrounding area. More on that in later articles. The main benefit of a Royal Peculiar, in that it remains under the control of the Sovereign, is that it also takes its denomination from the reigning monarch. Technically, if the Queen was Jewish, Westminster Abbey could in effect become a Synagogue. In practice of course, with current monarchical rules, it’s not possible, as there is a clause in the Kingish-Queenly contract that states the Royals are not to marry outside of their faith (Church of England) unless they want to give up their claim to the throne. As a result, the Royal Peculiars of Britain, of which I believe there are thirteen, are and will remain within the branch denomination of the Church of England.

So, I hope you enjoyed this introduction to Churches of the UK. I’m aware that it was a little basic, but an intro isn’t an intro if it makes a better conclusion! As time progresses, we will expand upon the development of the different styles and periods of British Churches, and add further articles on some of the more popular, older or just plain pretty ones we have here. And perhaps include some from other nations too.

Phoebe