Boston Spa and Clifford Circular Walk

The latest walk by Weekday Wanderers was the Boston Spa Circular. My first thought whenever I hear mention of Boston Spa is of the British Library Lending Division which is actually based at Thorp Arch Trading Estate just across the River Wharfe from Boston Spa itself.


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Lanercost Priory

On our way up to Scotland in June we travelled via The Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle and Lanercost Priory. At The Bowes we looked at the latest exhibition Shoes : Pleasure and Pain; saw the famous automaton Swan in limited action and enjoyed a lovely selection of portraits of English women: English Rose – Feminine Beauty from Van Dyck to Sargent. Our Art Fund cards gave us free admission to everything and the Museum – a French Chateau plonked down in the Yorkshire Dales – has a good cafe and well-stocked shop.

Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum

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Mattishall : The Geographical Centre of Norfolk.

This week I’m visiting family in Norfolk but I decided to book my own place for the week and now find myself in the geographical centre of the county staying in Mattishall.

Mostly I’ve been driving into Norwich to visit family and take my mother out for ‘days’. But today I stayed around Mattishall and took two walks around the village and local lanes. The first on my own and later with my schoolfriend and her husband, daughter and Phoebe their spaniel.

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In the Steps of the Saints : A Trail of Gower Churches

On a previous visit to South Wales I picked up an older edition of this leaflet. My original copy has no date and listed only 15 churches. The new leaflet now includes 17 the additional 2 being Wernffrwd, St David’s and Penclawdd, St Gwynour. Both in north Gower and neither of which we visited. Quotations, in italics, are taken from my Churches Trail leaflet.

Gower Church Trail


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Pugin’s Staffordshire Gems

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812 – 1852) was a prolific architect of the Victorian age. In fact he burned himself out through over work and died at the age of 41 having designed not only the exteriors but also the furnishings and fittings of  countless churches not only in England, but also in Ireland and Australia. He converted to Catholicism and most of his ornate designs are for Roman Catholic churches and cathedrals. There is a long list of his architectural achievements at the end of his Wikipedia entry here. He is most notably connected with the building of the present Palace of Westminster. Continue reading

With Friends at Shottesbrooke for a Landmark Occasion


50th cup

Back in May, when I was in Ireland, The Landmark Trust celebrated it’s 50th anniversary with a variety of activities and events on a Golden Weekend – the sun even shone! That weekend (16 and 17 May) properties were open to the public, Antony Gormley’s LAND sculptures were unveiled and visitors at all properties were entertained by choirs singing simultaneous performances of An Anthem for Landmark.

I was disappointed to miss this event but in the annual Friends’ mailing I received an invitation to attend “A reception for Friends to include a talk and tour about Shottesbrooke, its church and Landmark’s offices” and the date was to be the afternoon of Friday 26 June. I knew already that I’d be flying out of Gatwick on 18 June and back on 25. So I decided to drive to London, leaving the car at Belsize Park, and drive to Shottesbrooke in Berkshire on the Friday in question.

What a beautiful day it was and how lucky the Landmark Trust staff are to work in such beautiful, rural surroundings. A buffet lunch was spread before us upon arrival; and not long after the first group was assembled to have an introduction to the Estate and its deserted medieval village by local historian David Ford. You can read here his history of the Estate and his entertaining history of the Church.

St John Shottesbrooke

Spire inspired by Salisbury Cathedral

St John’s Church, Shottesbrooke features in Simon Jenkins’s “England’s Thousand Best Churches” which I’ve mentioned here several times before. “The spire is visible rising over the woods from a distance and is a splendid feature of the landscape.”  Inside there are several extraordinary tombs, including the double tomb of Sir William Trussell and his lady with a canopy of eight ogee arches, and “The floors of Shottesbrooke are littered with splendid brasses still in place. one pair, of a priest and a layman of c.1370, has them both in prayer with singularly grim expressions on their faces.”

trussell tomb

The Trussell Double Tomb

brasses 1

brass 2

brasses 3

After visiting the church we were taken across the lawns to view the exterior of Shottesbrooke Park House. It is still owned by descendants of cousins of the Vansittart family who bought the property in 1716, namely the widow and son of Sir John Smith (founder of The Landmark Trust).

smith memorial

Sir John Smith Memorial in the Churchyard

House 1

Side View of the House

house 2

House Front

house rear

Rear of House

Following David’s tour we adjourned back to the cottage for further cups of tea and home made cake before being taken to see the anniversary exhibition in a barn, to offices in farm out-buildings and the Landmark main offices in the former farmhouse.



barn entrance

Welcome to the Exhibition


A Display Table


To be published soon!

The Director of The Landmark Trust, Anna Keay, then welcomed us and thanked us for our support before going on to tell us about two properties that are opening this year (Belmont at Lyme Regis and St Edward’s Presbytery at Ramsgate) and future projects. Strawberries and cream were served to round off a wonderful afternoon. Friday was the start of a weekend of festivities and receptions at Shottesbrooke including a Director’s Lunch for Landmark Patrons on the Saturday and a big anniversary celebration on the Sunday to which all staff including housekeepers and gardeners were invited.


Carousel Fun on Sunday!



The Leeds Library Summer Day Out in Whitby

whitby view

The weather on this year’s annual Leeds Library Visit to Whitby could not have been more different from last year’s The Lake District trip. The sun shone all day and the sky was blue as blue. Perfect weather for a day at the seaside. But first stop on our journey was in Pickering where after tea and toast in the Poppies Tearoom we visited the parish church of St Peter and St Paul where medieval wall paintings have been extensively restored. Originally discovered in 1851 they were almost immediately covered over again. In the 1870s they were restored and, as the leaflet tells us :

Nikolaus Pevsner, in his series of books The Buildings of England (1966), wrote that the church has “one of the most complete series of wall paintings in English churches, and they give one a vivid idea of what ecclesiastical interiors were really like”.

Pickering church

Pickering Church

George and dragon

St George and The Dragon Wall Painting

east window

The East Window

Our day out was  primarily to visit the Whitby Literary & Philosophical Society Library and Museum housed in a purpose built art gallery in Pannett Park above the town and with views of the Abbey opposite and the sea beyond.


The Society had been founded in 1823 by a group of Whitby citizens led by The Reverend George Young, a minister of the Presbyterian church. It’s chief object was to set up and maintain a museum specialising in fossils since “Whitby is a chief town of a district abounding with petrifications and containing not a few Antiquities”.

in library

The Society’s Library Today

Initially opened in two rooms over a shop in Baxtergate it subsequently moved to several other locations in the town but finally, by the end of the 19th century the Society decided it needed more space and a new building which opened in 1931 and adjoins the Municipal Art Gallery : The Pannett Art Gallery.

pannett park and abbey

We had an introduction to the collection in a new wing added 10 years ago with funds from The Heritage Lottery Fund. The volunteer curators, Stephen and Fiona, spoke enthusiastically about the collection and the Whitby Merchant Seaman’s Muster Rolls which are an important part of it.

The Muster Rolls are a unique series of historical documents which are the surviving paperwork for the Whitby Merchant Seamen’s Hospital’s regulation of the “seaman’s sixpence”, an eighteenth century pension provision. This pension provided financial support to injured seamen and to the widows and children of seamen who died while serving on merchant ships.


Example of Muster Roll from the Library website

They record a wealth of information about crews and ships, and offer a particularly rare insight into working men’s lives : age and place of birth; port where and when enlisted; where and when leaving the ship; name of the ship and its owners.

The Library holds on microfilm the Whitby Muster Rolls from 1747 to 1795 and also some Whitby Muster Rolls from 1800 to 1850. The Museum passed 7,000 Rolls to the Society in 2010. These require careful repair and conservation and much of the cost of this is being defrayed by The Thomas Roe Trust.

The main specialism of the Library is the Whitby local area :

Local History – collections of books, pamphlets, journals, maps, prints and manuscripts for Whitby and the surrounding area (approx. 15 miles radius)

oblique sailing

Maritime History – collections of books, Lloyds registers, and records including muster rolls, and ships’ account and log books


Geology – extensive collection of books and journals relating to the history of geology and the internationally important discoveries of Jurassic fossils made in the 19th Century in the Whitby area

Industrial heritage – sources for the development of the alum, jet, ironstone, and potash industries and the railways in the area

Family History – many sources including printed parish registers, lists of monumental inscriptions for many local churches, wills, and indexes to wills in the York Registry

Literature and language – a small literature collection focussing on novels, poetry and plays that are either by Whitby writers or are about Whitby, and a small collection on Yorkshire dialect

After tea and biscuits we were free to visit the Library and the Museum and Art Gallery.

After a picnic lunch in the lovely Pannett Park and a final look round the Museum a fellow library member and I headed into town. After a walk along the quayside we climbed the 199 steps to the church and the Abbey for more stunning views before returning to the coach pick-up point and the return journey to Leeds.

Whitby church

Whitby Church


Whitby Abbey

view from steps

View from the Top of the 199 Steps

St Martin’s in the Bull Ring : Defiant Gothic … and what we learned there

St Martin's clock

“Defiant City Centre Gothic” writes Simon Jenkins in church crawler‘s ‘bible‘ of St Martin’s church in Birmingham city centre.

“It once towered over the old Bull Ring market place, dramatically clinging to a hillside. Today the site is desperate, squeezed between what survives of the market and an inhuman whirl of urban roads and concrete blocks. Rescue is planned, but the cost of rectifying the horrors of the 1960s and 1970s will be huge. For the moment, St Martin’s is a beacon in a wilderness.” [England’s Thousand Best Churches]

Square in c1950

Looking towards St Martin’s Church with the Bull Ring Market in the foreground (c1950)

St Martin's 1

It is now almost impossible to take a photograph of St Martin’s

We found that St Martin’s (the only Birmingham church listed by Jenkins) was literally a few minutes walk from our Back-to-Back ‘experience’. So it became the excursion on the final morning of our stay before checking out at 10 and catching our trains before 11.

Although the opening time is 10am we noticed a cafe and office attached to the church and a figure moving about. The very kind receptionist understood our ‘plight’ and allowed us to go inside and take a look at the Pugin-influenced building, rebuilt on the site of an older church, in 1873-75 by J.A.Chatwin who had worked with A.W.N.Pugin.

There’s a hammerbeam roof, a modern font, Decorated arches, 14th century alabaster effigies and a beautiful, early Burne-Jones stained glass window.

Burne-Jones Window

Burne-Jones  Window [source]


The Modern Baptismal Font Cast in Bronze by Jacqueline Gruber Stieger in 2002.

Our helpful guide also told us two other facts. The first was that the church has a rare outdoor pulpit and the second, nothing to do with ecclesiastical facts at all, was how to make an ‘infinity scarf’ (another term, new to me, for a snood or cowl) by the ‘arm-knitting method‘!

Outdoor pulpit

Outdoor Pulpit and reflection of Selfridges.

Arm Knitting Demonstration

New St Reflections

Birmingham New Street Station Reflections as we leave