Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Langley Chapel, a Tiny Church

Hello, thank you for calling in, and thank you for the lovely comments left on my last post.  I do love reading them and I think I have altered the settings so that anyone should be able to leave a comment now without having to be "registered" anywhere.  Several of you mentioned the book about Tiny Churches and asked me to share my visits with you so on Sunday the Best Beloved and I set off to visit the first.  Although it was raining, the drive was lovely, along narrow lanes bordered by ancient hedges.  We had to stop twice to allow an oncoming car to pass but the only other traffic was on legs, two or four. 

Langley Chapel, a simple stone rectangle with a small wooden bell-tower, stands in a corner of a field in a remote part of a rural county.  Farm buildings are on the other side of the field boundary.  As I stepped out of the car, all I could hear was a clamour of birdsong and the gentle bleating of sheep in a far field.  There was nobody else around and I could have been standing at almost any point in time.   I turned the heavy, iron key in the lock, pushed open the door and stepped in...to a seventeenth century Puritan time capsule.  Plain, whitewashed walls, simple glazed windows and heavy, dark wooden furniture.  A plaster frieze between the south wall and the roof is the only ornamentation. 

The  first thing I saw from the doorway was a musicians' desk, placed at the back of the church.  I have never seen one anywhere else.  I was drawn to it and placed my hand flat on it, feeling the echoes of those whose hands made music here four hundred years ago.  (The Best Beloved thought I was a bit daft at this point!)

So why does does this little gem stand alone, seemingly in the middle of nowhere?  The manor of Langley was first recorded almost a thousand years ago and was one of the most substantial in Shropshire, substantial enough to warrant two water mills in the manor, and the Burnell family built a large hall here and surrounded it with a moat.  The population of estate workers and tenants was sizeable and as the manor was a couple of miles away from the parish church, in 1313 the Burnells were granted permission to build a parochial chapel on the estate so that everyone would be able to attend services.  The chapel was rebuilt in 1546, by which time the estate had passed to the Lee family, and its roof was replaced in 1601.  These last two dates are important because we are now in the Tudor period, King Edward VI has established the Protestant Church of England and a new English prayer-book, issued in 1547, introduced a new style of congregational worship.
The Reformation changed the style of Christian worship in England and so changed the layout of churches in order to facilitate that worship.  The focus of the service was no longer a mass, spoken in Latin by a priest who turned his back to the congregation and faced a stone altar placed against the east wall.  Instead, the focus was the word of God, reading from the bible and  preaching to the congregation, with communion shared with them from a wooden altar table which the priest stood behind as he faced them.  So, when Langley Chapel was refurbished at the beginning of the seventeenth century, it was done so in the modern way; the Puritan way. 
 This altar table is a replica, the original having been stolen!
The altar table is surrounded on three sides by benches, complete with kneeling rail so that those who wish to can kneel and those who don't can sit.  (Puritans regarded kneeling as "popish" so they always sat.)

The reader's desk, from which the bible was read to the congregation, is huge, emphasising the importance of this part of the service.

The seating here is all about social class: at the back there are benches for labourers and servants, in front of them there are box pews for farmers, millers and tradespeople, to give some protection from the draughts, and right in front of the pulpit there is a large box pew for the Lee family.  Well, if you were going to have to listen to a long sermon, you needed somewhere comfortable to sit, didn't you? 
During the second half of the seventeenth century Langley Hall and its estate was passed to the Smythe family and they moved out less than fifty years later. By 1717, the hall was being used as a farmhouse and it was demolished in about 1870, replaced by a new farmhouse.  With no servants or estate workers, the population dwindled and so did attendance at the chapel's services until the last regular service was held there in 1871.  So the Victorian trend for reordering churches in a medieval, gothic style bypassed Langley Chapel and it was left alone and abandoned, its heavy tudor doors locked, its interior preserved as a time capsule.  It was repaired in 1900 and again in the 1960s and during one of those repairs the concrete floor must have been laid and the haphazard arrangement of medieval encaustic tiles set in the chancel. 

 All that remains of Langley Hall is buried beneath the earth; only the chapel is left.  It is of such significance that it was taken into the care of the state, in 1914.  I have never seen a church like it. 

  See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Five Christmas Gifts

Hello and Happy New Year. I really hope that 2017 will be a better year than 2016, which was particularly difficult for me.  I haven't made any resolutions but, prompted by a friend, I have set myself a few goals which I hope to achieve before the end of this year so I am busy making plans and lists; I do love a list.  I also love a list of Five and so today I am joining Amy's Five On Friday at Love Made My Home to share with you five of my Christmas presents.

1.  Mrs Tiggywinkle

The 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter brought an outpouring of commemorative items onto the market and I was hopeful that something would make its way into my Christmas stocking.  I was not disappointed: my thoughtful sister bought me this special 50p piece from the Royal Mint.  Obviously, I shan't be spending it!

2.  A Glass Soldier

The Teacher gave me this to hang on my Christmas tree.  It was made by the sixth form students at the special school where she works and I think it's beautiful, as she knew I would.  (I tried to photograph it in situ, hanging on the tree, but my photos were rubbish!)
3.  Tiny Churches

If you've been visiting me here for a while you might have worked out that I like visiting churches.  I'm not sure why but I think it's because no matter how old or how big the church is, there will always be an altar which will (almost) always be placed under the east window, there will always be a font, a pulpit, pews or chairs, and yet these fixtures are always different.  There are stories to be told and I like decoding the clues.  This book was a gift from another thoughtful sister and it turns out that I have already visited a few of the churches in this book, although I have never written about them here, so I think it must be time to revisit them!
4.  A Rather Battered Little Book of Poems

My mother gave me this book and it is real treasure.  Obviously, it's not new and the inscription shows that my grandmother gave it to my grandfather on his 39th birthday which means that unlike many of their possessions, it survived Hitler's blitz on London during the Second World War.  There is more treasure within its leaves: a newspaper cutting, a fragment of a poem written by my great, great uncle, James McKeon of Cloonfad.  I wonder when that was tucked inside?

 Click on the photo to enlarge it and read the inscription.
5.  A Trip To The Theatre

Every year at Christmas my parents take their children and grandchildren to the theatre, at enormous expense as there are now twenty of us.  This tradition began in 1980, I think, when they brought together grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in London to see Hiawatha at the National Theatre and although we had a few years' break, it's now an annual event.  Cameron Mackintosh's production of Mary Poppins was this year's treat and it was a brave choice because some of us love the film and this musical is not the same as the film - obviously.  I mean, you can't really animate the penguins on stage, can you?  However, it really was a treat for all ages and I heartily recommend it.
So there you are.  No diamonds, porsches or expensive perfume, just some simple, thoughtfully chosen things which bring me happiness.  I'm off now to have a look at everyone else's Five On Friday (or Saturday).
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Ring Out The Old, Ring In The New

Hello, thank you for calling in, it's lovely to see you here.  It's New Year's Eve, the seventh day of Christmas, and I am feeling rather wistful.  In years gone by I would have been fizzing with excitement by this point, looking forward to dressing up and going out to celebrate with friends until the New Year was ushered in and settled right down, but those days are long gone and tonight it's just the Best Beloved, the cats and me settling down by the fire with Jools Holland's Hootenanny on the telebox and a bottle or two of fizz.  Lovely.
You know, even after two lovely carol services I never really found my Christmas mojo this year.  Sigh.  I looked for it everywhere, but it never came out of its hiding place.  On Christmas Eve the Best Beloved told me that he was really enjoying Christmas this year and I pointed out to him that he had already been off work for a week during which he had been out for breakfast twice, been to the cinema twice, been to the pub and taken a lot of naps.  Of course he was enjoying his holiday, but there wasn't anything festive, was there?
That evening, we went to the most magical Crib Service.  It was supposed to take place in the parish church but with three days to go, the churchwardens told us that they didn't want us so we held it in a little garden instead.  Forty-two people squeezed in and found the real meaning of Christmas there in a "stable" full of toy animals - not just donkeys, sheep and cows but several bears, a leopard, a tiger, a cat, a dog, a fish, a monkey, a reindeer and a unicorn, too -  and fairy lights.  The little boy who was playing Mary got tired of holding the Baby Jesus so he laid the doll down in the manger full of hay and cuddled the monkey instead while the little girl playing Joseph looked on.  Adults who had always wanted to be in a nativity play squeezed in and we all sang Away In A Manger.  We all went home with love in our hearts but I still couldn't find my Christmas mojo.

Christmas Day was small with only three of us here but it was perfectly formed.  We went to church together, not our parish church but another, and found it full of joyful people.   We came home and opened our gifts, small things but well-chosen to give delight.  The Best Beloved and The Mathematician cooked a magnificent feast.  On Boxing Day The Teacher and Flashman came over and there was another feast.  We like feasts.  The next day, my clan gathered around my parents: all of their daughters, our menfolk and all the grandchildren, twenty of us altogether.  How blessed we are.  We went to the theatre in the afternoon to see Mary Poppins and came home in the evening to another feast at my sister's house.  Still my Christmas mojo was nowhere to be found.
Perhaps it's because my children are not here?  They are spending a few days together in Amsterdam and will return home tomorrow.  Perhaps it's the hurt caused by my parish church?  Perhaps it's because I can't find my nativity set?  We never had one at home when I was growing up but an elderly friend gave me one when The Teacher was small, it was hers but her son had bought her a rather grand one to replace it.  Every year I clear a shelf on the bookcase for it but this year, we can't find it and the room doesn't look right without it.  Perhaps it's the missing of those we have loved and lost?  The Best Beloved has felt very keenly the death of his father in September, following the death of his mother just before Christmas last year, and there have been moments when he has fallen apart.  We usually take our Christmas decorations down at Epiphany - apart from the crib because it seems such a shame to take it down when the Magi have only just arrived!  I leave that up until Candlemas at the beginning of February but obviously, that won't be happening this year because what doesn't go up can't come down.  Usually, I want to keep the tree up until Candlemas as well, I do love it so, but the Best Beloved puts his foot down quite firmly, and he is probably right.  Can you imagine how many needles there would be on the floor?!Last night I sat looking at the tree, twinkling away merrily in the firelight, and decided that I couldn't wait to take it down.

I really don't know what has happened to me this year - after all, I am the woman who some of my friends call "Mrs Christmas".  It's not simple Bah Humbug, I really have searched and searched, but the mojo went missing.  So for the first time ever, I am ready to leave Christmas behind, kick this dreadful year out of the door and sally forth into a new one.  This is the year which has seen my family overshadowed by illness since May, saw two deaths in September and the loss of my job in October when my employer suddenly went into liquidation.  No longer will any new works of David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Terry Wogan, Victoria Wood, Denise Robertson, Glen Frey, Caroline Aherne, Leonard Cohen, Greg Lake and George Michael be able to move me (nor Richard Adams, but he was 96 so I think that's OK).  We've had shocking results in a referendum in the UK and an election in the USA and children are still being placed into small, unseaworthy boats in the eastern Mediterranean Sea because their parents believe that they will be safer in those boats than on the land.  So, in that vein, I leave you with a few lines from In Memoriam by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

See you in 2017.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x










Monday, 19 December 2016


In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
Hello, thank you for dropping in.  It's a busy time, isn't it?  There is so much to do in this last week before Christmas.  I have found it difficult to get into the festive mood, for several reasons.  I think it's partly because we have a number of family birthdays in December, the last one falling today, and so I could never feel ready to fully concentrate on Christmas until the birthdays had been marked.  It's also because a few years ago, the Best Beloved told me that he hates Christmas and that his favourite day of the whole year is Boxing Day because it means that there are 364 days to go until Christmas!  This news was like a dagger through my heart because, you see, I loved Christmas: the music, the lights, the bustle in the high street, the festive television programmes and theatre visits, the carol services, nativity plays, the decorations, the all-round jollity.  So now I tread on eggshells around him for the whole of December, not talking about the choosing of gifts or the writing of cards, wrapping while he is out, going to carol services without him and recording festive television programmes to watch secretly very early in the morning while he is still asleep.  Last week he dropped the bombshell that he enjoyed Christmas last year and I pointed out to him that his mother died last December so we didn't listen to any Christmas music, watch any festive television or films or attend any carol services and kept the whole thing very low key. Great Big Sigh.
However, I have now heard my Christmas word and I am ready to sparkle.  I often say that for me, Christmas begins when I hear the word "Quirinius" and usually, that is the Sunday before Christmas.  After all, when else do you hear the word "Quirinius"?  The quote at the beginning of this post is, of course, the beginning of the story of the birth of Jesus as told in the second chapter of the Gospel of St Luke and is probably read at every carol service in Christendom.  It makes me feel warm and fuzzy and tells me that Christmas is nearly here.  I heard it on Sunday evening in a candlelit Victorian chapel at a lovely ecumenical carol service organised by all the Christian churches in my community.  I heard it again last night at another, very special carol service - I do love a carol service!
Back in April I visited St Bartholomew's Church in Moreton Corbet and wrote about it here.  A young friend of mine who plays in a brass band read my post and told me that every year, on the Monday before Christmas, the church holds its carol service with mulled wine, mince pies and...the brass band.  I wrote it in my diary then and there and determined to go this year.  I have to tell you that The Mathematician and I had a wonderful time.  The wine and the mince pies were warm, the brass gleamed and twinkled, the candles flickered, the church was packed to the rafters and the singing was lusty.  When the preacher talked about the Christmas shopping and preparations and asked the rhetorical question, "What are we doing it all for?" a very small child at the front immediately answered, "For Jesus," and hearts melted.  When I visited in April I wrote that I had little sense that this church was a House of God but last night, as we sang about Glory to the Newborn King in the candlelight, I changed my mind.
I took some photographs - please excuse the quality, the lighting was low and the heaters, set high on the columns, gave out a red glow, so I'm afraid the pictures look warm and fuzzy, but then again, that is exactly how I felt.

See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

A Walk In The Woods

Hello, are you well?  Coping?  Thank you for dropping in here, I didn't realise I had been away for so long, and thank you for the comments you left on my last post, Anne and I are delighted that so many people now know Joe's story.
I do love autumn.  I love its colours and its fruitfulness, trees laden with conkers, acorns and chestnuts, fascinating fungi sprouting from trees and from the earth, walking on thick carpets of fallen leaves and beech mast, so when the Best Beloved said to me one Sunday last month, "Where would you like to go this afternoon?" I answered straight away, "To the woods."  They didn't disappoint.  The air was soft and warm, the leaves scrunched as we walked over and through them and all around us the squirrels scampered through the trees, gathering food for the winter and running down the solid trunks to bury it under the ground.  I sat on a bench by the pool and drank in the colours and the sounds, greedily feeding my soul in preparation for the week ahead. 

Since then, the temperature has dropped, the winds have blown, all the leaves have fallen and when I look out of my window I see the spiky tree skeletons outlined against pale blue skies.  Autumn's glory days have passed and, with frosty mornings, dark afternoons and hot water bottles at bedtime, we are nearing its end - yes, I know that the meteorologists like to fit the seasons neatly into the calendar year so that winter begins on 1st December, but if you have been reading here for a while you will know that I am an astrological kind of gal and in this house, it's autumn until the winter solstice on 21st December.

Out in the back yard, a large Nordmann Fir is propped up against the wall.  It's almost time...
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Sunday, 13 November 2016

On 13th November 1916

Hello, thank you for dropping in.  Today is Remembrance Sunday and it carries special poignancy in this year, the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the largest battle of the Great War on the Western Front.  On the first day of the conflict we often simply call "The Somme" 19,240 British soldiers died.  19,240.  The battle did not finish that day, however, as fighting continued for a further 140 days, by which time the British army had advanced just seven miles and more than one million men were dead or wounded. 
The last battle of the Somme Offensive was the Battle of the Ancre which began one hundred years ago today and ended on 18th November 1916.  Today I am going to tell you the story of a young man who was injured at that battle, one hundred years ago today, and died a grim and painful death.  A volunteer who lied about his age in order to join up, so keen was he to do his bit and serve his country, he left behind no wife or children to tell his story and he lay unspoken of for almost a century, his sad tale untold.  I am not going to tell you his story: my cousin Anne is, for she is his great niece.  These are her words and I am thrilled to bits that she has written this post for us. 
Wor Joe, wor kid, the bairn, Able Seaman Joseph Garside. He would have been all of these names to those who knew him. He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne on 16th September 1897 to Joseph and Annie Garside my great grandparents. He was 5' 4" tall, had dark brown hair and eyes, his occupation was a pitman. I only know all this because of my research into our family history. My Mam gave me all the information I needed to get started. She told me all about her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, who married who etc. But nothing about Joseph. Now why on earth should Joseph be missing? Perhaps it was because he died before she was born or perhaps Joseph's life was too short and too painful to talk about. But now, on this the 100th year anniversary of the Somme, Joseph Garside, along with all our brave young men, needs to be remembered and talked about.
Joseph joined the Royal Naval Division on 27 May 1915 giving his date of birth as 1896. In December 1915 he was drafted to Hawke Battalion and his records show the Division was moved to Egypt in January 1916 preparatory to the Gallipoli Campaign. At the end of the Gallipoli Campaign the Division were re-designated 63rd (Royal Naval) Division and were moved to France, departing Mudros 18th May, arriving Marseilles 23rd May 1916. Joseph's Hawke Battalion were involved in the Battle of Ancre, a phase of the Battles of the Somme. It was here he was wounded on 13th November 1916. His records show he was admitted to the Gen Hos Dannes Camiers on 17th November and later transferred by Amb. Train/ HMS Cumbria on 23rd November and arriving at Warncliffe War Hospital, Middlewood Road, Sheffield on 25th November. On 24 August 1917 Joseph was discharged (invalided) from the RN and spent the rest of his days being cared for by the Mary Magdalane Home for Incurables Newcastle upon Tyne, close to his family. He died on 11th June 1918 aged 20 of (1) Gun Shot Wound Spine (2) Paralysis Cystitis. It is hard to imagine how dreadful his last 19 months would have been. Joseph was buried in his local churchyard with full military honours.
However this is not the end of Joseph's story. I was contacted last year by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and informed that Joseph was one of several hundred servicemen who were not on any official war memorial. Many, like Joseph, had died after they had been discharged. A new 1914-1918 Memorial to include all these servicemen was to be unveiled at Brookwood and,  as Joseph's name was on this new memorial, I was asked if I would like to attend the inauguration and dedication ceremony? It was an unforgettable, very moving day and my husband Alan and I were introduced to the Duke of Kent who is President of the CWGC and I was able to tell the Duke all about Joseph Garside! 
Now you have been remembered and talked about. God bless you wor Joe, you were just a bairn.

P.S. A little update to this story.  Joseph's great nephew Robert Garside has discovered his burial site in St James Churchyard, Benwell, Newcastle upon Tyne and informed the CWGC who have sent the following email:
I can confirm that the Commission is in the process of producing a headstone to mark the grave of Able Seaman Joseph Garside in Benwell (St. James) Churchyard as his official place of commemoration. We cannot say when this work will be completed at this stage, but the Commission update you once we have any further information.
So perhaps another ceremony may be in the offing with his family attending.
See you soon (she said, wiping a tear from her eye as she pinned on her poppy),
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Friday, 11 November 2016

On Armistice Day

Hello, thank you for dropping in, you are very welcome here.  This was intended to be a Five On Friday post but there is no link-up this week, so please bear with me.  Actually, that may be a blessing in disguise as I am not sharing five things today anyway!

There were several things I considered sharing with you this week, but then I realised that today is Armistice Day and that I couldn't write about anything else.  Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday in November, has been marked in my diary for more than forty years: as a child, I was a keen Brownie Guide, Girl Guide and then Ranger Guide which meant attendance at church parade and the wearing of a paper poppy.  Armistice Day itself didn't seem as important as it does now, certainly we never observed a national silence at 11am as has become fashionable, although not compulsory, over the last twenty years or so.  Perhaps it was the Falklands War in 1982 which changed the general attitude, or the Gulf War in 1990/1?  As I have become older it has seemed increasingly important to remember the fallen and the terrible toll that war takes.

I haven't always worn a poppy.  There is a current dispute with FIFA over whether or not the England and Scotland football players should wear poppies on their shirts during their match this evening as FIFA says that the poppy is a political symbol and it doesn't allow political symbols.  I do think that it is used as a political symbol sometimes, which is what stopped me wearing it for a few years, but a friend of mine, a wise ex-serviceman who has been involved in the theatre of war, put me straight and told me, "We wear a poppy to remember the fallen.  That's it."  I have worn a poppy ever since; I don't think it's glorious to die in war, "fighting for one's country", I think that war is bloody and cruel, but I choose to honour the fallen.
I mused over five things for this post.  My first thought was five war poems; my second thought was to show you photographs of five members of our family who served in the armed forces during wartime (and, thankfully, all came home); my third thought was to show you five artefacts we own associated with twentieth century wars.  All of those ideas seemed rather trite and undignified when faced with the reality that we mark this day because so many people have died due to humankind's inhumanity to humankind.  So instead, I ask you to take five minutes today to focus on that thought, to remember the fallen and to thank them for their sacrifice, whether voluntary or not; and if you can't take five, please take two, perhaps at 11 o'clock.
On Sunday, I shall, as usual, be at the cenotaph in our parish at 11am, wearing a poppy and my grandmother's regimental brooch.  The Best Beloved will join me, and may even wear his father's medals.  We will remember them.
Image result for remembrance day free downloadable poppy image
I shall be back here on Sunday with a very special post, the story of a young man who was unknown for decades but who has been recently discovered.  See you then.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x