The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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St Robert’s Cave-Chapel And Holy Well, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

St Robert’s Cave by Storye book (Wikimedia Commons).

OS Grid Reference: SE 36083 56059. In a secluded wooded area near Grimbald Bridge between Abbey Road and the River Nidd at Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, is St Robert’s Cave & Holy Cross Chapel. Nearby, another chapel, but a 15th century wayside chapel and shrine, hewn out of the rock, which is today dedicated to Our Lady of The Crag. This particular chapel is not how-ever associated with St Robert. About 470m to the north is St Robert’s holy well, a healing spring resorted to by the faithful in times past. Robert Flower (1160-1218) was a hermit who spent many years here – more especially his latter years – but also at a number of other monastic sites across Yorkshire. He was said to have performed some miracles and devoted much of his time to the poor, though he was never canonised by the Church.  You can reach St Robert’s Cave from the newer bridge on Wetherby Road (B 6164). Go down the steps onto Abbey Road and a bit further south beside the river is the cave. The medieval Chapel of ‘Our Lady of the Crag’ is ½ a mile to the west at the other end of Abbey Road. St Robert’s Well was located on Monkswell Park Road about a ¼ of a mile north of town.

David Hugh Farmer (1982) says that St Robert was: “The son of an important townsman of York and became a cleric early in life. As a subdeacon he was a novice at the Cistercian abbey of Newminster, but stayed only a few months. He then chose to live as a herm at Knaresborough in a cave where another hermit, also in residence, was a knight in hiding from Richard I, on whose death (1199) he returned to his wife. Robert continued there for some years, until a wealthy widow offered him a cell and chapel at Rudfarlington, near by. A year later this hermitage was destroyed by bandits, so Robert lived at Spofforth under the church wall for a few months, then at Hedley near Tadcaster, where he found the monks to easy-going, before returning to Rudfarlington. Here he had four servants and kept livestock, but was soon in trouble with William de Stuteville, constable of Knaresborough Castle, for harbouring thieves and outlaws. The charge may have been true, for Robert was well known for charity to the destitute. The hermitage was destroyed by William; Robert returned to his cave at Knaresborough, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Farmer goes on to say of St Robert: “His benefactors included King John who gave him forty acres of land in 1216, which he eventually accepted for the poor  and so refused to pay tithes on it. William de Stuteville also gave him land and cows. Robert had a companion called Yves, who  remained with him for the rest of his life.

Farmer also adds that: “Robert’s death, like much of his life, was controversial. Cistercian monks from Fountains tried unsuccessfully to aggregate him to their Order on his death-bed and, after his death on 24th September, to bury his body in their church. But he refused the first and foiled the second by arranging for his burial at the chapel beside his cave. Later the Trinitarian house at Knaresborough acquired the hermitage: papal records for 1252 offered  an indulgence for ‘Building the monastery of St. Robert at Gnaresbur, where the saint’s body is buried’. This document followed his translation, but preceded any official process of canonization, for which a book of Lives and prayers was prepared. Official canonization never took place, but implicit approval was given to the cult. The chapel became a place of pilgri-mage, where oil flowed from the tomb. Matthew Paris regarded Edmund of Canterbury, Elizabeth of Hungary and Robert of Knaresborough as outstanding saints of the early 13th century.”

Sign at St Robert’s  Cave by Caruso 308 (Wikipedia)

St Robert’s Cave on Abbey Road, with its connecting chambers and the grotto-like inner chapel, were carved out of the solid Limestone cliff beside the river Nidd. It’s thought the saint himself enlarged the chapel and hermitage which has a stone altar, stone seat, two alcoves, medieval carved cross and more recent graffiti; building this structure must have taken a considerable amount of both energy and time. The chapel was dedicated in honour of the Holy Cross and maybe also St Giles? Pilgrims visited the hermit-saint knowing him to be a miracle worker, and even some eminent local people were known to seek his good council. However, the cave and chapel were frequently flooded by the river Nidd and for long periods remained uninhabited and cut off – this more so in recent times. After the death of St Robert in 1218 his body lay in a tomb that was located in the cave-chapel. There is a church dedicated to him at Knaresborough and another at Pannall, north Yorkshire. Morley church, Derby-shire, has some very nice stained-glass windows depicting the Life of St Robert of Knaresborough. His feast-day is 24th September.

There used to be a holy well named for St Robert 470m to the north of the saint’s cave (at SE 3629 5650), but today that holy spot is the Monkswell Business Park, Manse Lane. However, the last vestiges of the said well/spring can still be seen although today it is a ‘wishing well’ into which locals throw coins! Robert Charles Hope (1893) said of this well that: “A short distance above Grimbald’s Bridge, in a field called Halykeld Sykes, on the north side of the river Nidd, is “”St Robert’s Well.”” There is also a chapel of St. Robert of Knaresborough, which was confirmed by charter to the Brethren of the Order of the Holy Trinity at Knaresborough by Richard, Earl of Cornwall.” Another holy well, said to be named after St Robert, can still be seen just to the southeast of Levisham, north Yorkshire.

Our Lady of The Crag, Knaresborough. (Drawing)

About ½ a mile to the west, at the other end of Abbey Road, is the medieval chapel of  ‘Our-Lady-of-the Crag’, which has sometimes mistakenly been called St Robert’s Chapel, but this folly-like structure was built 200 years after the saint. The chapel, with its tiny inner shrine, was carved out of the sandstone rock-face in c1408 by a local mason by the name of John, whose son was almost killed in a rock fall. John prayed to Our Lady for a miracle. His son survived, and to thank Our Lady for the miracle he built the Chapel in thanks. The inside of the chapel is very tiny but there is an altar and a lovely modern statue of Mary. It has a carved vaulted ceiling with bosses and gargoyles. Church services do still occasionally take place at the chapel and groups of pilgrims come on visits (see the St Mary of Knaresborough website, below, for more informa-tion). By the chapel’s entrance and ‘standing guard’ is an 18th century carved statue of a very life-like knight in armour holding his sword. The chapel is Grade I Listed.

Our Lady Of The Crag Chapel.

Headley & Meulenkamp (1999) add with regard to this chapel and saying that: “………it is a wayside shrine with beautiful Gothic decoration, immediately above it is Fort Montague, an 18th century folly.” They say of Knaresborough that: “it resembles parts of Derbyshire, not least because of the large number of hermits caves.” Fisher & Pennington (1953) say that: “It was originally a wayside chapel, founded at the beginning of the fifteenth century. It won its unenviable place in the annals of notoriety when Eugene Aram hid in it the body of his victim. Aram was convicted of murder and executed in 1759 many years after his crime, which was given a romantic interest quite undeser-ved by a novel of Bulwer Lytton. The figure is of a knight drawing his sword.”  

Sources and related websites:-

Farmer, David Hugh, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press, 1982.

Fisher, Graham & Pennington, John, Historic Britain, Odhams Books, Feltham, Middlesex, 1953.

Headley, Gwyn & Meulenkamp, Wim, Follies Grottoes And Garden Buildings, Aurum Press Ltd., London, 1999.

Hope, Robert Charles, The Legendary Lore Of The Holy Wells Of England, Forgotten Books, 2012 (originally published 1893)

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_Roberts_Cave_008

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_of_Knaresborough

http://www.stmarysknaresborough.org/shrine.html

https://www.visitharrogate.co.uk/things-to-do/st-roberts-cave-p1203201

http://www.crsbi.ac.uk/site/1970/

http://www.halikeld.f9.co.uk/holywells/north/robert1.htm

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=26391

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.


St Peter’s Church, Prestbury, Cheshire

St Peter’s Church   (R. A. Riseley, 1952).

   OS Grid Reference: SJ 90082 76935. The 13th and 14th century grey sandstone parish church of St Peter at Prestbury, Cheshire, is located at the southwest side of the village, close by the A538 road (the village road), and just opposite The Bridge Hotel. The village is located some 4 miles to the southeast of Wilmslow. The River Bollin flows near the church. There was probably a late Saxon church on this site, or close by, in the 11th century. There is the obvious evidence with regard to that early church in the churchyard where there’s a very well-put-together monument made-up of two large fragments of Saxon crosses, which has some very nice, almost Celtic-like, carvings. Also in the churchyard a 12th century Norman chapel with a carved doorway that has some outstandingly beautiful sculptural work: above the doorway is a tympanum with “Christ in Majesty” and above that seven carved figures that are now sadly defaced.

   The parish church has some medieval features including an Early English three-light lancet window (1220-30) at the north side of the chancel and a 13th century piscina with carved head in the south aisle, while the 13th century font was recut in the 19th century and has carved heads of monks from St Werburgh’s Abbey. In the north aisle is a 14th century figure of St Nicholas. There is a nice oak rood-screen of 1787. The crenellated church tower is of 1480. Also of interest some late medieval carved (incised) coffin slabs. The earliest coffin slab is built onto the north wall of the chancel and has a foliated calvary cross and a Latin inscription to Reginald Legh, Esquire, son of Robert Legh, Knight, foremerly Lord of Adlington. He built the church tower and porch. Reginald died in 1482. Apparently there was a priory hereabouts in the 14th century and, in the century following, there was a monastic hospice (Spittal House), which in more recent times became a farm. After the Norman Conquest the manor and church came into the possession of the Earl of Chester and, by 1153 Hugh Kyvelioc, Earl of Chester, had given the same manor and church to the Abbey of St Werburgh at Chester. Another interesting slab in the north wall of the chancel shows Sir Edward Warren of Poynton, who is represented in full armour; around the border is a Latin inscription: “Here lyeth the body of Edward Warren of Poynton, Knight, which departed from this transitory life the 12th day of October, in the year of our Lord God, 1558. Whose soul God pardon. Amen.”

Saxon Cross in St Peter’s Churchyard by R. A. Riseley.

   The Anglo-Saxon cross in the churchyard is actually two sections of different crosses that have been delicately placed together to form a T-shaped ancient monument; the carvings looking much more Celtic in design than Saxon. This may be due to the close proximity of Prestbury to the Welsh border and, we know that that border was as far east as Chester and Warrington back in the so-called Dark Ages, and so the Celtic influence was stronger. The cross fragments were discovered about 1841 when restoration work on the chancel was taking place; the sandstone fragments were embedded in the masonry. Originally the carved fragments were presumed to date from the 8th century, but today they are considered to be from the 10th or 11th century. It is richly carved all over with interlacing, interlinking and key-pattern designs. At the bottom there is a strange creature with a large, open mouth and several tails and a possible human figure, while there is a second human figure in the centre of the top T-shaped section. All-in-all a very beautiful piece of sculptured stonework, be it Celtic or Anglo-Saxon? Also in the churchyard a Grade II listed sundial dating from 1672.

Norman Chapel at St Peter’s Church, Prestbury, by R. A. Riseley, 1955.

   At the southeast side of the parish church stands the 12th century Norman Chapel. According to the booklet ‘Prestbury and its Ancient Church’ (1952): “The building which stands close to the present Church and which is generally known as the “Norman Chapel”, was probably built on the site of the more ancient Saxon edifice. It has a beautiful Norman doorway, a fine specimen of its kind. Over the doors is a tympanum representing “Christ in Majesty,” a subject which occurs in 21 other Norman tympana in England. Above on the corbel table are seven figures, now much defaced, which are of great interest, being unique in Christendom. Their interpretation seems to be as follows: The central figure represents God the Father holding the law in His left hand typified by an open book, and the Gospel in the right hand as fore-shadowed by the cross; conjointly justice and mercy are portrayed. The figure to the right with the animal (the Norman method of drawing a lamb) seems to stand for Christ, the Lamb of God , seated at the right hand of the Father. The figure to the left, having a resemblance to a bird, typifies the Holy Ghost in form of a dove. Collectively these three figures stand for the Trinity. St Peter with the key is shown in the sixth figure. To this saint the church was dedicated as is its successor at the present day. Figure two represents the monarch who reigned when the oratory was built, and this is almost certainly Richard I, Coeur de Lion, he being the first of the Norman kings to bear the budded scepter surmounted by a plain cross as here shown. The brings the date of the oratory within the year of his coronation, 1190, and that of his death, 1199.

   “The warrior with battle axe, figure one, and priest with staff, figure seven, represent the military and ecclesiastical government of the county palatine. The figures then may be, when taken together, interpreted as follows: “”In the name of the Blessed Trinity, this church, dedicated to St. Peter, was built by the abbot and monks of St Werburgh in the reign of Richard I, when Randle Blundeville was Early of Chester.”” 

   The Parish church of St Peter is a Grade I listed building and the Norman chapel is a Grade II listed building.

Sources & Related Websites:-

Bottomley, Frank, The Church Explorer’s Guide, Kaye & Ward Ltd., London, 1978.

Rogers, Harold, W (forward by the vicar), Prestbury and its Ancient Church, Macclesfield Press Ltd., 1958? (Drawings by R. A. Riseley).

The AA, The Illustrated Road Book Of England & Wales, The Automobile Association, London, 1961.

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/churchyard-cross-prestbury/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Peter%27s_Church,_Prestbury

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1221919

http://www.crsbi.ac.uk/site/1197/

                                                    © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.


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Tintagel Head Celtic Monastery, Cornwall

Map of Tintagel Island in Cornwall.

Map of Tintagel Island in Cornwall.

   OS Grid Reference: SX 05003 89064. On the rocky, windlashed headland of Tintagel-Head, in Corn-wall, near the ruins of Tintagel Castle which was built in c 1145, are the scant foundations of what was considered to be a Celtic monastery, dating from the beginning of the 6th century AD. This was probably a high-status Dark Age monastery with royal connections. There are also the walls of a 12th century chapel of St Julitta which is attached to the monastic buildings. It has always been assumed that the monastery here on Tintagel Head was founded in 500 AD by St Juliot, Julitta, or Julianta, a princess who hailed from south Wales, and might be one and the same as St Uletta. Tintagel Castle has long had “romantic” associations with King Arthur and Merlin the Magician. Today the monastic remains lie on Tintagel Island, which is all but cut-off from the rest of the headland where the castle ruins are situated. There is limited access from the castle to Tintagel Island through a deep chasm in the headlands via a footpath and bridge, but its very precarious and great care “should” be taken, especially if weather conditions are against you.

   The monastic site here at the south side of Tintagel Island, with its rectangular-shaped buildings all joined together, was excavated in the 1920s and 30s by C. A. Raleagh Radford (1900-1999) – at which time it was thought to be a high status Celtic monastery, but more recently a few historians have opted for the possibility that it might have been a trading centre due, perhaps, to the large amounts of pottery (known as Tintagel Pottery) found at the site, says Geoffrey Ashe ‘A Guidebook to Arthurian Britain’. Another large building (site E) that was a part of the monastery lies beneath a garden, while other little clusters of buildings (sites B.C. and F) lie to the S and SE of the main monastic site, which is known as site A. These clusters of buildings were probably the monastery’s farm and stables. By the 9th century it seems the monastery here at Tintagel was abandoned, its buildings left to go back to nature and the mists of time, but to be re-invigorated again in the 1920s by an archaeological dig! 

   There is a lot of very good field information on the Celtic monastery at Tintagel in the work ‘The Quest for Arthur’s Britain’, edited by Geoffrey Ash. It says that with regard to excavations on the island: “These excavations showed that the headland of Tintagel had been the site of an extensive Celtic monastery. Four different phases identified in one of the buildings indicated a long period of occupation. Imported pottery from the east Mediterranean established an initial date in the fifth or early sixth century. A silver penny of King Alfred (871-99)—the latest artifact antedating the castle—may represent no more than the loss by a pilgrim to a deserted oratory which was no longer the centre of a living community. Pottery of the twelfth century and later, though relatively common on this site, was never found in the layers associated with the monastery.

   “The Celtic monastery of Tintagel was bounded on the landward side by an earthen bank, now crowned by the thirteenth-century curtain, and by a broad, flat-bottomed ditch. The upper part of the existing bank is a twelfth-century heightening, but the base, some 30 feet across and 8 feet high, dates from the fifth or sixth century. Like its medieval successor, the monastic bank ran from the edge of the scarp overlooking the eastern valley to within a short  distance of the protruding boss of rock, leaving the same narrow entry. Early texts often speak of the monastic vallum, a term indicating the enclosure which fenced in the cashel or settlement occupied by the community. It seems always to have been a physical barrier, an earthen bank, a rampart of turf or a hedge. But it also had a spiritual meaning, separating the city of God from the world outside.

   “Within the enclosure the monastery consisted of groups of buildings, each with its special function. Eight such groups were located, of which six were explored and planned; the other two had been too far destroyed by the medieval castle. Two further sites were noted in folds of the cliff, and others probably await identification.

Plan of Celtic monastery at Tintagel, Cornwall.

Plan of Celtic monastery at Tintagel, Cornwall.

   “The first and largest site examined lay on the eastern edge of the plateau; it was centred on the twelfth-century chapel. The Celtic site consisted of a long range of buildings facing east on to a court which was bounded on the far side by the cliff, here forming the edge of the plateau. The range was approached from the south by a path running along the edge of the plateau; this is now reached by a modern zigzag approach rising up from the inner ward of the castle. The original way is likely to have been along the plateau, which has here been destroyed by the encroachment of the sea. At the south end of the range of buildings, a small square room thrust forward from the general line, together with the stub of a wall, suggest a gate with a lodge providing access to the court. With the court, a much-ruined stretch of walling immediately south of the later chapel is probably part of an older oratory. Beside it is the base of a square block of masonry, a tomb shrine or leacht. These tomb shrines are a normal feature in Celtic cemeteries; they housed the relics of saints or founders.

   “On the far side of the chapel a number of graves have been discovered. The oratory with the tomb of the saint would be the primary objective of visiting pilgrims. In its immediate vicinity one would expect to find the various buildings catering for their needs. There would be a treasury containing other relics, perhaps possessions of the saint. There would also be a sacristy, where the vessels needed for the service of the oratory would be stored. A guesthouse for the refreshment of pilgrims might also be found in this area, together with rooms needed by those members of the community charged with the care both of the pilgrims and of the lay community, of which the pastoral care was the responsibility of the monastery.

   “On this basis, it may tentatively be suggested that the southern end of the range, with a large central hall and smaller rooms grouped on one side and to the back, represents the guesthouse. The central part, now appearing as a single room, has been much damaged by the later chapel. Originally it may well have been subdivided, and here, in the vicinity of the oratory, one might expect the treasury and sacristy. This would leave the smaller rooms at the north end for the needs of those members of the community whose duties were with the lay world. This range had a long history. Four distinct building phases could be recognized. Normally the phases indicated adaption, while retaining the main structure of older date. Even so, a life of some three centuries is not likely to be too long for the existence of this community, and it could well have been in being for a far longer period.”

   And what about the founder/foundress of the Celtic monastery on Tintagel Head. Who was St Juliot or Julitta? The thinking is that the founder was St Uletta (Ilid). She was, according to legend, one of the many daughters of King Brychan Brycheaniog and was the founder of the first church at Llanilid, Mid-Glamorgan, in Wales, and is commemorated there with St Curig. In c 500 AD she went with other members of her family to Cornwall. We know that she was close, spiritually, to her sister St Morwenna and her brother St Nectan. It seems, however, that in Cornwall her original name was St Juliana (Iludiana) and over time the name became Juliot and Julitta; and soon after her arrival in Cornwall she established the monastic community at Tintagel.

   But St Juliot has been much confused with an early 4th century Christian martyr called St Julitta, who was commemorated with her three-year-old son St Cyricus in the west country. Their cultus was brought to Cornwall in the Middle Ages. St Juliot, however, is perhaps the patroness of Luxulyan church, Cornwall, with a feastday on the sunday nearest 29th June, according to David Farmer ‘Oxford Dictionary Of Saints’.  In Cornwall St Juliot (Julitta) is sometimes referred to as a “martyr” due to confusion, again, with the 4th century saint of the same name. St Juliot is also commemorated at Lanteglos-by-Camelford, Cornwall, where a holy well is named for her. And St Juliot in the Valency Valley, north-east Cornwall, is named after the saint. A few historians have suggested that St Juliot was, in fact, a male saint! St Julitta’s feastday at Llanilid church in Mid Glamorgan, Wales, is given as 30th June.

Sources and related websites:

Ashe, Geoffrey,  A Guidebook to Arthurian Britain, Longman Group Limited, London, 1980.

Farmer, David, Oxford Dictionary Of Saints, Oxford University Press, 2004.

http://www.archaeology.co.uk/specials/the-timeline-of-britain/tintagel.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Ilid

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Juliot

http://www.thisisnorthcornwall.co.uk/king_arthur.html

Jones, Sally, Legends of Cornwall, Bossiney Books, St Teath, Bodmin, Cornwall, 1980. 

Spencer, Ray, A Guide to the Saints Of Wales and the West Country, Llanerch Enterprises, Felinfach, Lampeter, Dyfed, 1991.

The Quest for Arthur’s Britain, (Edited by Geoffrey Ashe), Paladin Frogmore, St Albans, Herts, 1976.

Westwood, Jennifer, Gothick Cornwall, Shire Publications Ltd., Princess Risborough, Bucks, 1992.

                                                                 © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.

 


St Chad’s Church, Rochdale, Greater Manchester

St Chad's Church at Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

St Chad’s Church at Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

    OS grid reference: SD 8964 1313. St Chad’s parish church stands upon a lofty ridge overlooking the River Roch and the town of Rochdale, Greater Manchester. The church is a very imposing edifice standing high above the equally imposing Victorian town-hall and its famous clock tower. There was a church here in either the late Saxon period, or more likely just after the Norman conquest – the mid 11th to early 12th centuries – although that is open to question. There is a well-known legend that says there were problems with the siting of the first church which was being built on lower ground on the other side of the river, and that it had to be re-sited to the higher position that we see it today. The church can be reached from opposite the Town Hall carpark and by climbing the steep 124 steps up to Sparrow Hill.

    Author Dennis Ball in his interesting book ‘Lancashire Pastimes’, says that: “A Saxon thane, Gamel, Lord of Rochdale, decided to build a church to St Chad on the banks of the river Roche. The foundations were dug and all the materials taken to the site. All the materials mysteriously disappeared and reappeared at the summit of the steep hill on the opposite side of the river. Gamel was very annoyed and blamed his workmen. He made them take all the materials back to the original site. This took the whole of the next day. That night they were again moved back to the top of the hill. But this time the culprits were seen by some of the workmen. They were goblins.”

    Another, more lengthier interpretation of the legend, from the 19th century is given by J. Harland & T. T. Wilkinson in ‘Lancashire Legends’, which is published in ‘The Secret Country’ by Janet & Colin Bord. They say: “Towards the close of the reign of William the Conqueror, Gamel, the Saxon thane, Lord of Recedham or Rochdale, being left in the quiet possession of his lands and privileges, was ‘minded, for the fear of God and the salvation of his immortal soul, to build a chapel unto St Chadde’, nigh to the banks of the Rache or Roach. According to Mr Roby, in his ‘Traditions’, a place was set apart on the north bank of the river, in a low and sheltered spot now called ‘The Newgate’. Piles of timber and huge stones were gathered in profusion; the foundations were laid; stakes having been driven, and several courses of rubble stone  laid ready to receive the grouting or cement. In one night, the whole mass was conveyed, without the loss of a single stone, to the summit of a steep hill on the opposite bank, and apparently without any visible signs of the mode of removal. The Saxon thane was greatly incensed at what he supposed to be a trick of some of his own vassals, and threatened punishment; to obviate which, a number of the villeins and bordarii with great difficulty and labour con-veyed the building materials back to the site for the church; but again were they all removed in the night to the top of the hill. Gamel having learned the truth, sought counsel from Holy Church, and it was thereon resolved that the chapel should be built on the hill-top, as the unknown persons would not permit it to be erected on the site originally selected. This explains the chapel or church of St Chadde, still standing on a hill so high that one hundred and twenty-four steps were cut to accomplish the ascent, and enable the good people to go to prayers.”

Statue of St Chad on Rochdale Parish church.

St Chad’s statue, Rochdale Parish church.

    St Chad to whom Rochdale parish church is dedicated was a 7th century northern churchman who became abbot of Lastingham in Yorkshire, and for a while he was bishop of York until St Wilfrid returned from France. Later, he was made bishop of the Mercians at Lichfield. He died in 672 AD and his feast-day is held on 2nd March (Colin Waters ‘A Dictionary Of Saints Days, Fasts, Feasts And Festivals’). The town of Chadderton near Rochdale is probably named after St Chad.

    There are no antiquities of great age within St Chad’s, although the Tudor pews are of some notable interest and parts of the church tower are ‘thought’ to date back to the late Saxon age, or more likely the early Norman period. The statue of St Chad high up on the outer south wall is particularly fine. The Lancashire poet John Collier (Tim Bobbin) 1708-86 is buried in the churchyard.

Sources:

Ball, Dennis, Lancashire Pastimes, Burnedge Press Limited, Royton, Greater Manchester, 1987.

Bord, Janet & Colin, The Secret Country, Granada Publishing Limited, St Albans, Herts, 1980.

The Automobile Association, The Illustrated Road Book Of England & Wales, London WC2, 1961.

Waters, Colin, A Dictionary Of Saints Days, Fasts, Feasts And Festivals, Countryside Books, Newbury, Berks, 2003.


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St Candida’s Church, Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset

Shrine of St Candida at Whitchurch Canonicorum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shrine of St Candida at Whitchurch Canonicorum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Os grid reference: SY 3967 5432. At the north-side of Whitchurch Canonicorum village, in Marshwood Vale, along Lower Street stands St Candida’s Church (St Candida and Holy Cross), an ancient parish church on an equally ancient site, probably Saxon. The building houses the quite rare 13th century shrine of  a Saxon saint who was apparently martyred hereabouts by Vikings; the church then became a place of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages. St Candida is also known as St Whyte, St Wite, St Wita and St Gwen, though very little is actually known about her, and the date of her death not known with any real certainty – although it was, according to legend, somewhere between the 7th-9th centuries AD. The church tower of St Candida’s has some carved stones built into it which depict the martyrdom of the saint. The village of Whitchurch Canonicorum lies in the far south-west of Dorset – a few miles north of the A35 on country lanes – some 6 miles north-east of Lyme Regis and 2 miles north-east of Charmouth.

Within the parish church stands a rare 13th century stone shrine with three large oval-shaped apertures and, inside this there is a lead reliquary which is said to contain the bones of a local Saxon saint called Candida or Wite who was martyred at nearby Charmouth, probably at the beginning of the 8th century AD or, possibly in the 9th century? Some historians ‘consider’ her to be a saint from south Wales called Gwen Tebrion, but this seems most unlikely as St Gwen lived at an earlier date, the 6th century, but she shares the same feast-day 1st June.  Gwen means ‘White’ in the Welsh language form. The assumption was that King Athelstan gave the ‘so-called’ relics of St Gwen to the church at Whitchurch Canonicorum back in the 10th century AD.

A reference in the Reader’s Digest book ‘Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain’ says of the apertures in the medieval shrine “pilgrims thrust diseased limbs or bandages in the hope of miraculous cures”. Indeed numerous miracles of healing the sick and infirm have been recorded here over the centuries. An early miracle recorded at the shrine was the restoration of sight (Rodney Castleden, 1986).

In an article by Rodney Castleden ‘Saints, Shrines & Miracles’ for ‘Exploring The Supernatural’ magazine in 1986 we are given some interesting information about St Candida’s tomb [shrine]. The author says: “At the turn of the century a crack appeared in the stonework of St Candida’s tomb. It was then possible to examine the leaden reliquary inside… which carried the inscription HIC REQUEST RELIQE SCE WITE (Here lie the remains of Saint Wita? Wita was an alternative name for Candida. The lead box was opened up and inside were found the bones of a small woman who was about forty years old at the time of her death”. Castleden goes on to say that: “Very little is known about St Candida. Indeed, it may be her obscurity that ensured that she attracted no attention at the time of the Dissolution. All that we know about her, apart from the evidence of her shrine, rests on local tradition, which may or may not be reliable. The local tradition says that St Wita, or Candida, was a Saxon woman killed by the Danes on one of their raids when they landed at Charmouth. Part of this tradition is preserved in carvings on the church tower; they show a Viking axe and a Viking longship, the agencies of Candida’s death”.

Parish Church of St Candida at Whitchurch Canonicorum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Parish Church of St Candida at Whitchurch Canonicorum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The parish church of St Candida and Holy Cross stands on a Saxon foundation, but the present-day building is architecturally Early English (late Norman) to Perpendicular – 12th to 14th century. The font is Norman and the pulpit Jacobean, and it is noted for its nave arcades and tombs, according to The Illustrated AA Road Book of England & Wales. Authors Jones & Tricker ‘County Guide To English Churches’ say that: St Candida’s is “nearly all EE. The south doorway is however Norman and the S porch Perp. The arcades are EE with stiff-leaf foliage and trumpet-scallop capitals. The fine tower has eight pinnacles and is Perp. Norman font with intersecting arches, 16th C stalls (French) and Jac pulpit”.

It is of interest here to mention that just 1 mile to the south of Whitchurch is the village of Morecombelake and a healing well dedicated to St Candida (Wite). The well has long been able to cure eye troubles. Indeed author Rodney Castleden says: “Dorset children still call the pale blue flowers of the periwinkle ‘St Candida’s Eyes’, which again links the saint with eyesight. The well and its magic properties seem likely to form part of a much older tradition, from long before the Christian era”.

Sources

Castleden, Rodney., Saints, Shrines & Miracles, The Supernatural Magazine, November 1986.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_St_Candida_and_Holy_Cross

Jones, Lawrence E. & Tricker, Roy., County Guide To English Churches, Countryside Books, Newbury, Berks, 1992.

Pepin, David., Discovering Shrines And Holy Places, Shire Publications Ltd., Princes Risborough, Aylesbury, Bucks, 1980.

Reader’s Digest., Folklore Myths & Legends of Britain, (Second Edition), The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1977.

The AA, The Illustrated Road Book of England & Wales, (Second Post – War Edition), The Automobile Association, London WC2, 1962. 


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St Teilo’s Church, Llantilio Pertholey, Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy)

St Teilo's Church, Llantilio Pertholey.

St Teilo’s Church, Llantilio Pertholey, Monmouthshire.

Os grid ref: SO 3114 1632. St Teilo’s Church at Llantilio Pertholey about 1 mile north of Abergavenny (Y Fenny), Monmouthshire, stands in a secluded hollow just off the Old Hereford road, in a lovely, peaceful setting within what looks to be a partly circular churchyard. The church is largerly medieval but there are many different periods built into the structure which can be a bit confusing, if not daunting. At the back of the church there is an ancient yew tree that is said to be 1,200 years old, so there ‘may’ have been a place of worship here in the 8th century? And there is a medieval churchyard cross (south-side) which is now a war memorial.

According to ‘The Legend’ an unidentified holy man called Bevan came here with some companions and established a cell. Bevan was a follower of the renowned Welsh churchman, St Teilo (Theliau), who is said, according to legend, to have died at his monastery of Llandeilo-Fawr, Carmarthenshire, in 560 AD. Teilo had earlier been bishop of Llandaff, succeeding St Dubricius (545). The name Pertholey (Bertholey) and Bertholiau is thought to refer to “a defiled gate” or entrance, but other than that the meaning is uncertain. So why was it defiled? Could it refer to “martyrs”? We know that Bevan was buried here, but he seems not to have suffered martyrdom. Fred Hando in his work ‘Hando’s Gwent’ 1987 refers to ‘The Book Of Llandaff’ for information as to the beginnings of this place; he also says: Pertholey is Porth Halauc – a polluted entrance.

The hamlet of Llantilio Pertholey is just north of Mardy on the Old Hereford road, while Abergavenny is 1 mile south, and the more recent A465 road to Hereford is just a little east of the church. At the edge of the churchyard the river Gavenny makes its way toward the town, and then to Llanfoist. St Teilo’s stands in the shadow of Skirrid Fawr, holy mountain to the local people. A couple of legends, or myths, are associated with the Skirrid – probably in connection with the part of the hill that has slipped away due to an earthquake at the time of Christ’s crucifixion, or it was caused when the giant, Jack o’ Kent tried to jump from the Sugar Loaf to the Skirrid – but missed his footing. There are also remains of an ancient Roman Catholic chapel of St Michael on the top of the hill, now just a few stones in a little grassy hollow.

Another View Of St Teilo's Church, Llantilio Pertholey.

Another View Of St Teilo’s Church, Llantilio Pertholey.

In the 15th century porch there is an ancient holy water stoup (sadly it is broken) and a wooden alms-box (1704). The interior is spacious but everywhere seems to be ‘put to good use.’ Probably the oldest part of the church is the north tower with its 14th century entrance to the stairway, though there may be some earlier, 13th century masonry in the nave, according to Mike Salter in his work ‘The Old Parish Churches Of Gwent, Glamorgan & Gower’ 1991. The east and south arches are of 1350-1400. It is worth pointing out that some of the arches are ‘all out of true’, seem to lean inwards and are irregular, while the two chantry chapels (north and east) date from the 15th and 16th centuries respectively, the 15th century north chapel (Triley Chapel) has a depressed arch, a timber two-bay arcade, a crude stone altar with consecration crosses was originally a stile, a recess in the wall that may have once housed a tomb and some medieval tiles in the floor [church leaflet]. The south chantry chapel (Wernddu Chapel) was added in the 16th century. In the nave the west window dates from 1729. The east chapel (Neville Chapel) is particularly nice as it has graceful oak arches supported by stout oak columns carved with flowers and cable pattern, according to the historian Fred Hando ‘Hando’s Gwent’ 1987.

The octagonal font has a full size bowl and its lid is recent; the angles at the base of the font have carved fleur de lys, according to the church leaflet. I think the most interesting part of this church is the “squint” or hagioscope which afforded a good view of the altar. Canon E.T. Davies in his book ‘A Guide To The Churches of Gwent’ 1977, says that: “It is around the chancel arch that the visitor should looks for squints or hagioscopes, especially at the end of a north or south aisle. These apertures enable those sitting or, more probably standing, in the aisles, a view of the high altar; they are not leper squints.” The piscina in the wall to the right retains some of its original colouring [church leaflet]. So, all in all a very nice interior.

Cross/war memorial in St Teilo's churchyard.

Cross/war memorial in St Teilo’s churchyard.

Outside in the churchyard (south side) stands a beautiful war memorial on a very large chamfered base – the monument is modern but the base is medieval. The churchyard cross used to stand on the base but was destroyed in the 1640s. Close-by, to the west an ancient yew tree that is hundreds of years old and could, therefore, date back to the Dark Ages (the 6th century) when Iddon, son of King Ynyr, gave this piece of land to Llandaff and St Teilo on which to build a church. Above the porch there is a nice shield-shaped sundial. Over on the south-side of the Skirrid (Ross Road) stands the church of St David at Llanddewi Skirrid, while a few miles over to the north-west is the gorgeous little church of Bettws -these two buildings are cared for, and ministered by, the incumbant of St Teilo’s.

Sources:

Salter, Mike., The Old Parish Churches Of Gwent, Glamorgan & Gower, Folly Publications, Malvern, 1991.

Davies, E. T. Canon., A Guide To The Ancient Churches Of Gwent, The Griffin Press, Pontypool, Gwent, 1977.

Hando, Fred., Hando’s Gwent, Blorenge Books, Abergavenny, Gwent, 1987.

The church leaflet (a very useful little guide).

Barber, Chris., Mysterious Wales, Paladin (Grafton Books), London W1X, 1987.


Hope Churchyard Cross, Derbyshire

Churchyard Cross, Hope, Derbyshire (Photo credit: Geograph)

Churchyard Cross, Hope, Derbyshire (Photo credit: Geograph)

Os grid reference: SK1721 8347. At the south-east side of the Derbyshire village of Hope stands the 14th century church of St Peter and the Hope Churchyard Cross, a late 9th century Saxon cross-shaft. There is also a medieval cross in the churchyard. The church is located on Station road at the east side of the village close by Pinder Road and, just a short distance to the east the river Noe flows into Peakshole Water. And 1 mile further east in The Hope Valley at Brough the scant earthworks of a Roman fort can be seen. The village of Castleton is 2 miles west on the A6187, Bamford is 3 miles to the north-east, and Buxton is 6 miles to the south-west on the A6 road.

This 6 foot 6 inch sandstone cross-slab stands at the south-side of the church and is now set into a more modern square base. Said to date from the time of King Alfred, it was found in two pieces after being hidden-away in the wall of a nearby school-house until 1858, having lain there for safety since the Civil War. It is richly carved albeit a little weather-worn. All four sides have carvings in seperate panels, the best side being the east which has three panels; at the top there is knotwork, while in the middle two figures are holding up a large staff (or a cross), the lower panel having two interlaced rings surrounded by foliage. The west face is also exellent. Again there are three panels, the top shows a figure holding the cross above his shoulders, the central segmental-headed panel has two saints embracing, while the bottom one has three double concentric rings with double cords crossing ‘diagonally’ and interlinking over the rings. The north face has just two panels with snakes biting each other (top) and the bottom having four-cord plait design with interlacing; there is interlacing composed of figure of eight knots on the south face. Sadly the cross-head is long gone. Close to this is The Eccles Cross, dating from the Middle Ages.

Near the north door there is a medieval calvary on five octagonal steps with a pillar sundial on top of an eight-sided base. This base has a square-shaped hole which could have accommodated an earlier, Saxon cross, although the whole thing is more akin to a market or wayside cross? Inside the church there are two nicely carved medieval grave-slabs (in the chancel) with crosses and various symbols of outdoor life, namely hunting horns and arrows suggesting that these belonged to two officials of the Royal Forest of the Peak. These grave-slabs were made in the 13th century and came from the building prior to the present church. On the north wall there are a number of “ugly” gargoyles, reflecting our pagan past, two of which may be the horned god of the Celts, Cernunos. According to the author David Clarke in his book ‘Ghosts & Legends of the Peak District, 1991, St Peters “is the oldest recorded Christian place of worship in the northern Peak District, and in Saxon times it was the focus of one of the largest parishes in England, stretching from the Derwent woodlands in the north to Buxton, Tideswell and the Padley gorge.”

About a mile to the east at Brough, near Bradwell, in the Hope Valley are the earthworks of the Roman fort of ANAVIO. But there is little to see now apart from some low, grassy banks. Two Roman roads ran from the fort, one going to Buxton, the other to Melandra Castle near Glossop and Templeborough, near Rotherham.

Sources:

Geograph:  http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2368735

Photo:  © Copyright Ashley Dace and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Sharpe, Neville. T., Crosses Of The Peak District, Landmark Publishing Limited, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, 2002.

Clarke, David., Ghosts & Legends of the Peak District, Jarrold Publishing, Norwich, 1991.

Bunting, Richard., Anglo-Saxon and Viking Derbyshire, J. H. Hall & Sons Limited, Derby, 1993.