St Margaret’s Tower, Staveley

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St Margaret’s tower stands in the centre of the village of Staveley in Cumbria. It’s all that’s left of a church that used to occupy the site, which was demolished in 1865 when a new church, St James’, was opened on drier, higher ground. Since then the tower has stood proud in the small graveyard. The clock  at the top of the tower, was added in 1887 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

St James’ has a stained glass window designed by Edward Burne-Jones and made by Morris and Company. I really must go and have a look next time I’m in the village.

St Pancras Old Church and Cemetery

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The graveyard where Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin were originally buried belonged to the St Pancras Old  Church which is in Somers Town, where they used to live. (It’s called the Old church as it was replaced by a newer building in

There’s been a place of worship here since Roman times, with the first Christian church built on the site in the 4th Century AD. The church yard, was converted into public gardens, St Pancras Gardens, to make way for the rapidly expanding railway in 1877. The work was supervised by the author Thomas Hardy, then a young architect.

Entrance to the park is through these very grand gilded gates

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The church is reputed to be the oldest church in Britain, but has been rebuilt and remodelled many times, most recently in the 19th century. So it shows features from several eras. The overall style is Romanesque, with rounded arches and a quite elaborate front entrance. I wasn’t so fond of the Victorian “Belgian style” tower, though which I thought jarred with the overall look of the building.

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The interior is simple and clean without any nooks and crannies, but has various religious items decorating the walls.

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The old churchyard is a pleasant park with a number of interesting monuments. My main objective was to visit the original resting place of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Their original grave is marked by a simple rectangular headstone. It was here, that their daughter, Mary, used to secretly meet with the poet, Percy Shelley. At that time only her mother rested here as Godwin was alive and disapproved of the young couple’s relationship.

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Other monuments include the tomb of the architect John Soane  and his wife

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The structure, which is now Grade I listed, provided the inspiration for the design of the iconic red telephone box by Giles Gilbert Scott.

This rather intriguing collection of headstones clustered around an ash tree. They were relocated here by the young Thomas Hardy when he was tasked with the exhumation of human remains and dismantling of tombs from that  part of the cemetery over which the railway lines were to be constructed. An unpleasant task that is likely to have influenced his poem of 1882

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“O passenger, pray list and catch
Our sighs and piteous groans,
Half stifled in this jumbled patch
Of wrenched memorial stones!

“We late-lamented, resting here,
Are mixed to human jam,
And each to each exclaims in fear,
‘I know not which I am!’

“The wicked people have annexed
The verses on the good;
A roaring drunkard sports the text
Teetotal Tommy should!

“Where we are huddled none can trace,
And if our names remain,
They pave some path or p-ing place
Where we have never lain!

“There’s not a modest maiden elf
But dreads the final Trumpet,
Lest half of her should rise herself,
And half some local strumpet!

“From restorations of Thy fane,
From smoothings of Thy sward,
From zealous Churchmen’s pick and plane
Deliver us O Lord! Amen!”

Today the tree is known as the Hardy Tree.

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St Alfege’s church, Greenwich

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St Alfege’s church stands in the centre of Greenwich, not far from the Cutty Sark and the old Naval College. It was the first of the six London churches designed by the English Baroque architect, Nicholas Hawksmoor, who had worked with Christopher Wren and John Vanbrugh. His churches generally combine Gothic and Classical features, usually with an eccentric twist.

The current church is the third on this site. The second collapsed in 1710. The current building was begun in 1712, and consecrated in1718. It’s essentially neo-Classical with rounded windows, Doric columns and pilasters, architrave with a frieze decorated with triglyphs and a triangular pediment (look at me trying to use architectural terms!).

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One departure from Classical orthodoxy is the round arch that penetrates the architrave and the pediment on the front of the building.

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The tower wasn’t designed by Hawksmoor. The medieval tower from the previous church was retained to save money. However it was modified in 1730 by another architect, John James who had it refaced  and added the spire.

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Hawksmoor’s design, published in an engraving in 1714 had an octagonal lantern at the top, a design he used on a later church, St George in the East, over the river in Wapping.

There’s a nice sketch of the spire of St Alfege’s here on a blog that also has some sketches of other Hawksmoor churches.

Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get a look inside as the church was closed. But here’s a picture from Wikipedia.

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On our way back on the Docklands Light Railway, changing lines at Westferry I spotted the tower of another Hawksmoor church, St Anne’s, Limehouse.

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If we’d have had time, I would have wandered over to take a proper look, but that will have to wait until another occasion. Visiting Hawksmoor’s churches is one of the items on my “bucket list”.

When I was over in London earlier in the year, I had a look at an exhibition of photographs and models of the Hawksmoor churches, “Nicholas Hawksmoor: Methodical Imaginings” showing at Somerset House. It closes on 1 September, but there are reviews of the exhibition here and here.