Monthly Archives: August 2018

31st August, 2018. Activities over the national Heritage Week.

What started out as the national Heritage Weekend has evolved, in this region certainly, into a Heritage Week +. I list here the events that I am leading;

Tuesday 4th September, Hull History Centre, 11-30am, illustrated talk entitled History of Hessle Common (south-west Hull) (see list of Publications and Articles).

Thursday 6th September, ‘Kardomah’, Alfred Gelder St., Hull, 10am, talk on origins of Humber Estuary

Sunday 9th September, Tyrwhitt Hall, Barton, 2pm, Guided viewing of the Great Hall.

Wednesday 12th September, Barrow Road Cemetery, Barton, 6-15pm, Guided tour.

Saturday 15th September, Baysgarth Park, Barton 11am and again at 2pm (meet beside Baysgarth House). Between these two times am giving a short talk at  the Ropewalk, Barton at 12-15 re my book on 19th century housing using Barton as the case study.

Sunday 16th September, Tyrwhitt Hall, Barton, second guided viewing of the Great Hall.

Both Hull and Barton Civic Societies have produced a fine booklet listing all events at each location with lots of pictures and background information, Hull’s is called Heritage Open Days 2018 (A4 size), Barton’s is called ‘Picturing the Past’ (A5+ size).

23rd August, 2018. Church studies generally.

The recent blogs on St. Edmund’s church, Downham Market, Norfolk example my take on church studies generally. Like History itself church studies has many ‘compartments’ each of which can involve a lifetime’s study, for example Modern, Medieval, Classical, social and economic, political, history of science, history of theatre, African, American, South-East Asian etc. etc. In the case of church studies optional ‘compartments’ might be; architectural styles, building materials, internal fixtures and fittings, site and situation, changing liturgical needs etc. For generations people have come out of universities with a History degree achieved solely with reference to just one of the above and not necessarily more informed about others of the above than the ‘man in the street’.

Church studies cannot be so efficiently compartmentalised as differing elements impact on each other, e.g. changing liturgical requirements will impact on internal fixtures and fittings, and so forth.

Churches are worthy of study for many reasons, the most obvious often being that they are the oldest building in the locality (or part of them is). Changes in the design, extent and fabric of a church building often reflect the history of that community generally and thus can be a source of evidence for the local historian. Changes to the internal fixtures and fittings often reflects national political changes, even international e.g. dictates of the monastic orders. Churches reflect the skill of building technology through the ages and the availability of building materials links to regional geology as well as consideration of transport networks in bygone times. In fact much of the interest in church studies is related to the idea of ‘reflecting’, reflecting elements of social and economic history of bygone times.

Modern (modern in the sense of post 18th century) churches – Georgian, Gothic Revival, Modern (20th century) have no lesser status in these respects.

Finally, church studies are open to all interested in History, one’s own religious persuasion being a quite separate issue.

Most churches have a secular ‘listing’, this vital to their future.

19th August, 2018. St. Edmund’s church, Downham Market, Norfolk – part 3.

The dedication of Downham Market church is to St. Edmund. According to Linnell, Rev. C.L.S. Norfolk Church Dedications (St. Anthony’s Press, York, 1962) this dedication comes ninth in the rank order of Norfolk church dedications, the county’s churches having a total of 21 with this dedication (top of the rank order, as across most of the country, is St. Mary, 196 Norfolk churches, and second All Saints, 153). However, across the whole country Rev. Linnell notes that St. Edmund as a dedication doesn’t come in the top 18 of dedications. For a possible explanation one needs to research the man himself.

Although Edmund was king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia from 855-869 the only surviving reference to him is from part of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle written decades after his death. Here legend has it that a Danish army invading East Anglia beat Edmund, shot him with arrows (see picture above from a medieval illuminated manuscript) before beheading him, this, allegedly, because he would not renounce his Christian faith. Through the Middle Ages the status of patron saint of England was shared by Edmund, Edward the Confessor and George, during the reign of the boy-king Edward VI (Reformation) all saints banners were banned except for that of St. George.

As speculated in the last blog the present church of St. Edmund’s, Downham Market may well stand on the site of a much earlier church, perhaps late Saxon, and even though church dedications could change over time, it seems likely that the church’s dedication has a real historical context.

18th August, 2018. St. Edmund’s Downham Market, Norfolk, part 2.

Traditionally the royal arms were supported by a lion ‘rampant’ and a unicorn ‘rampant’, the former representing England, the latter Scotland (the above picture of a Queen Anne royal arms at Anwick church, Lincs. is taken from Alexander, J.S. andBryant, G. Royal Arms in Lincs. Churches (Barton W.E.A., 1990, 21). The shield, which sometimes changed with the advent of a new monarch, is in the centre and divided into quarters. The top right quarter shows three lions ‘passant’, representing England, and a lion rampant (not unicorn) representing Scotland, each in half the quarter. The top right quarter shows three fleur-de-lys representing the long-outdated notion that the English monarch was also that of France. The bottom left quarter showed a harp representing Ireland while the bottom right quarter repeated the design of the top left. The motto below, ‘Semper Eadem’, translates to ‘Always the Same’.

The lower walling of the west tower of St. Edmund’s church is interrupted by two small lancet window openings (just visible on the photo of the previous blog’s picture). The simple style of these openings suggesting that here is surviving evidence of a much earlier church than evidenced in the rest of the building, evidence that suggests that there has been a church on this site for over a millennia. This possibility is supported by the fact that  incorporated into later walling is a section of spiral shaft typical of early Norman styling.

The Perpendicular chancel arch contains a relatively modern screen and rood, this a product of the Gothic Revival movement which sought to reinstate many fixtures and fittings of medieval churches in contrast to the Georgian ‘auditory’ church interiors. The rood was traditionally a platform above the screen with a Crucifixion cross above and on which were performed some aspects of the  Mass. In St. Edmund’s church hanging in from of the screen is an eight-branch glass chandelier (or was in 1980), a most incongruous fitting.

(To be continued).

16th August, 2018. St. Edmund’s church, Downham Market, Norfolk.

Despite my comments about St. Edmund’s church, Downham Market in the previous blog I have to admit that I have never been inside. Ely and Norwich diocese are much better at encouraging parochial church councils to make arrangements for the access into churches than they use to be, often with a nominated key-keeper living nearby with the contact details posted on the churchyard gate. In the 1960s and 1970s the understandable response to an escalating increase in church theft post-War was to keep the buildings locked at all times except when a service was being held. Schoolboys were not to be trusted. Therefore to write about interior fixture and fittings I have to rely on the description in Mortlock, D.P. and Roberts, C.V. The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches, No. 3 West and South-West Norfolk (Acorn Editions, 1985) – there are other reference books on Norfolk churches.  I have chosen five points to write about, adding some background, and will add some background to the dedication – St Edmund.

Two interesting feature on the inside of the church are a surviving west gallery and on the west wall above the gallery a royal arms dating from the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714). West galleries were a common addition to church interiors in the 18th century along with box pews, three-decker pulpits etc., the Georgian reformation of church fixtures and fittings. Often west galleries provided the only free seating in the nave and also often served as the seating for the ‘parish players’. Following the 19th century Gothic Revival movement few of these features remain, the best example where all can still be seen in-situ is at St. Mary’s church, Whitby.

Royal arms, a visual confirmation that the monarch was head of the national church and a requirement of all parish churches since the Reformation, tended to change as monarchs came and went, or at least families of monarchs. Queen Anne’s royal arms reflected the Act of Union of 1707. (TO BE CONTINUED).

15th August, 2018 The nature of chalk, part 4, south-west Norfolk, part 2.

The town of Downham Market stands astride the scarp slope of the East Anglian Heights (as does Caistor in Lincolnshire) with St Edmund’s church sited at the highest point. As the scarp slope overlooks the level Fens to the west as far as the eye can see the church forms a prominent landmark and, even without its current needle spire (lead-clad), would have been a landmark centuries ago for travellers trying to cross the Fenland wetlands before the large-scale drainage schemes of the 17th century started to transform the Fenland environment. In this sense the church building performed a valued secular function in the same way that coastal church buildings often did (see Landmarks and Beacons in the Publications/Articles section).

St. Edmunds is approached from the town by a steep flight of steps and is surrounded on three sides by its churchyard. The 19th century churchyard extension has nearby (across a public right of way) the civil cemetery with a fine cemetery-mans’ house and chapel of rest near the main entrance. These, and the church itself, are built of car-stone, a strata of friable stone within the chalk and the local building stone to the area. Not a freestone but a reasonable building stone if coursed in heavy mortar and laid parallel to its bedding plane. The car-stone strata is visible in the cliffs at Old Hunstanton where the chalk escarpment was breached by the mouth of the Wash in recent geological times, the corresponding cliff-line to the north being at Keel in the Holland region of Lincolnshire.

It is through this churchyard that I walked to secondary school between 1959 and 1966 having got off the Eastern Counties bus from Stoke Ferry. Weather permitting my mate and I would sometimes sit on an old bench in the churchyard, the bench is now long-gone.