Back in the day I used to lead groups of walkers at many locations throughout England and Wales and this included at Christmas too. On one particularly cold and frosty evening we were returning through a stone-built village at the end of a long but invigorating tromp across the moors when somebody mentioned carol singing. Anecdote followed anecdote as they tend to when you're weary and looking forward to dinner. "In Yorkshire" somebody offered "they sing 'While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night' to the tune of 'Ilkley Moor Bah t' 'at'". Before long we were all singing lustily and loudly while curtains in cottage windows twitched to see what on earth was happening - mighty dread, perhaps, having seized their troubled minds!
For those who've not heard this version of the song, to what is actually an old hymn tune, here's a clip from YouTube. Be warned, nothing happens for the first two minutes of the video but what follows is worth the wait - or you can skip the first two minutes of course.
Hope you enjoyed that! The singers were of course members of a choir, The Andover Museum Loft Singers to be precise. If you click on THIS LINK you can find out all about them, watch more videos and if you like what you hear you could even purchase their CD.
Many of us have been puzzled by the appearance of verification on our blogs. But none can be more puzzling than this:
I often find myself in Cambridge with a camera. I am not alone in that. You'll see more cameras than shopping bags in Cambridge, particularly during the summer months. They mostly all take the same pictures though. So here are some from the archive that I've never seen anybody else taking.....
The view from Castle Hill, looking towards St John's College Chapel. All that remains of the castle in question is a big heap of earth, though there is a pub called The Castle as you can see.
Perhaps the most perfect little church in Cambridge, St Peter's. No longer in use but cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust.
The city is full of nooks and crannies for the inquisitive explorer, some houses being tucked away where they can only be reached by walking down footpaths and passageways.
A floral display outside a pub. Back in the 1970s two friends and I visited all the pubs within the city boundary - all in the interest of research, you understand. I think there were about 120 pubs back then, though somehow my memory is a little hazy about some of the details. We undertook this task on bicycles and, as far as I remember, only fell off once! The pubs haven't survived as well as us - there are now only 85 of them. (If you read this, Graham or Paul, please feel free to contact me with more details!)
A shop selling college scarves and robes, with that well-known building determined to get in on the act.
On the street leading around to King's is this marvellous arrangement of windows which nobody seems to notice, their sights being set upon visiting the Chapel.
And here's an odd and unusual view of King's Parade; the side where the shops are rather than the side with all the college buildings. For those who know Cambridge this view can be sneaked from near the Senate House.
Just a door on the Old Schools building, full of character but suffering from its proximity to grander and more pompous feats of architectural achievement.
And the charm of the ephemeral. Be Happy! And take care.
The annual Christmas Tree Festival took place last weekend at our village church. Trees were decorated by various clubs and organisations in the village, including the school where I work. Yours truly went along to take some photos.
As promised a few days ago here are two rather grand village churches, just a few miles apart in Suffolk. Superficially at least these two churches have certain similarities - both stand right in the heart of attractive villages, each has a spire and a grand porch, inside there are fine roofs and rood screens in both churches. And both villages, of course, have rather odd names! Lets look at them one at a time in the order that I visited. Rattlesden
Rattlesden nestles snugly in the steep little valley of the cutely-named River Rat. It's a place of beauty to which I feel I shall be returning some day. It's church stands on a little rise to the south of the river. In this part of Suffolk each church seems to have a different spire or tower, Rattlesden's is a neat but plain affair and is the result of rebuilding in the nineteenth century.
There's a pleasant, airy porch which seems to beckon you into the building.
In the bell-tower is a marvellous wrought-iron spiral staircase. The only way to get a photograph was to reach into the structure with the camera, point it upwards and hope for the best. I'm rather pleased with the result.
Turning from the tower into the body of the church you can see what a grand place it is. The chief glory is the wonderfully carved wooden rood screen, to the right of which can be seen the parclose screen which forms a little side chapel. The whole thing only dates from 1909-16 and was designed by George Halford Fellowes Prynne.
A rood screen should hold a representation of the crucifixion and this one has an especially fine one, quite beautifully carved.
It's by no means a strict replica of a medieval screen though the carving is based on a fragment of the original screen which survived. The whole structure is covered with fine carving.
As if this was not enough there is also a fine "angel roof", again a reconstruction as almost all such roofs are.
A couple of miles or so over the hill from Rattlesden stands Woolpit. It's one of those buildings that one can fall in love with straight away. The spire is an outrageous confection dating from 1850 and designed by Richard Phipson.
It has a porch which is even more ambitious than that at Rattlesden. In fact it almost looks too big for the building to which it is attached, almost forming a small tower.
Inside the church is every bit as grand as you might expect with large clerestory windows throwing light into the upper reaches of the nave and also lighting up the magnificent carved roof.
Now you understand why I didn't show you more photos of the roof at Rattlesden; I knew this one was still to come.
There are over one hundred angels as well as other figures and carving in this amazing roof. It was restored by Henry Ringham. Henry Ringham (1806-1866) was the son of a Lincolnshire farm worker. In 1822 he moved to Ipswich and taught himself to read and write, draw and carve wood. In 1844 there was a competition to find carvers skilled enough to work on the newly built Houses Of Parliament. The work of Henry and six others was exhibited in London and, though he did not work on the parliament building other commissions poured in.
The first of these was to restore the hammerbeam roof and carved bench ends at Woolpit. By the time of his death he had worked on 160 churches. His work was characterised by his refusal to replace even small fragments of older carving which were still serviceable.
There's also an interesting rood screen at Woolpit; not as elaborate as that at Rattlesden but older, dating from at least 1750. As you can just about make out from the photo above it was once brightly painted.
The depiction of saints on the lower portion of the screen gives some idea of what once was.
Earlier I mentioned the bench-ends which were restored by Henry Ringham and there are just four examples above. These are on the ends of the pews and represent a menagerie of animals, both real and fanciful. Some of these are original fifteenth century work while others are exact copies made by Ringham. They are extremely picturesque and I'm sure that children love them but what on earth is their significance in a church?