Whitby Abbey


After the walk with my son along to Sandsend and back, during the afternoon all four of us headed through Whitby, over to the East Cliff and then up the 199 steps to visit the ruins of the Abbey. Perched on top of the cliffs above the town and next to the old Parish Church, even on a fine day it has rather a “spooky” atmosphere, especially when viewed across the graveyard as in the picture above! No wonder Bram Stoker used this as a location for the early part of Dracula.

We’d all been into the abbey during our previous visit to Whitby, but it was certainly worth another visit – although you can much of the structure from outside the walls without paying the entry fee, we’re all either members of English Heritage or Cadw (the Welsh equivalent) so we got free entry and were able to get a closer view.

The current Abbey wasn’t the first one on the site. The original Anglo Saxon builing was founded St Hild when Whitby was part of the Anglo Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, way back in the 7th Century when the the town was known as Streaneshalch and is the liklely location of an important gathering of the clergy, known as the Synod of Whitby, which established the dominance of the Roman Church over the Celtic tradition in the kingdom of Northumbria. The Anglo Saxon building was destroyed following the Viking raids in the 9th Century. The site was then deserted for a couple of hundred years until after the Norman invasion when a new Romanesque Benedictine Abbey was founded in 1078. This wasreplaced by the current Gothic structure constructed over a protracted period between the 13th and 15th Centuries. The Abbey was closed by Henry VIII in 1540 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and it gradually fell into ruin – no doubt used as a “quarry” by the locals.

Here’s a few shots I took during our visit.


Ripon Cathedral

It can a long, tedious drive back home from the North east. I didn’t fancy the chaos of the M62 after a bad, traffic jammed journey the previous Friday, so we decided we’d drive back across the Pennines on the A59 via Harrogate and Skipton. Not a fast route but likely to be more pleasant than the alternative. We also decided to break the journey so stopped at Ripon, somewhere we’ve never visited before. It’s quite a small town, and the major attraction, besides nearby Fountains Abbey, is the Cathedral.

There’s been a church on the site since the 7th Century, originally a wooden structure, which was replaced by a stone building in 672, one of the earliest stone buildings erected in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria. It’s been twice destroyed (first by the Vikings and then by the Normans) and rebuilt. It’s been modified many times over the years, resulting in the building we see today. Like many of the old Cathedrals it incorporates several different styles of architecture, mainly Gothic but with some traces of Romanesque style. There’s even a remnant of the first stone church – the crypt.


The west front is a very impressive example of the early English Gothic style, with it’s lancet windows


Entry was free although you are supposed to buy a pass, costing £3, to take photos. I stumped up but there were plenty of people snapping away who clearly hadn’t.

Looking at the lancet windows from inside the building

The first thing we noticed on entering the Cathedral was the installation suspended high up in the ceiling


The Cathedral’s website tells us

Since May, 10,000 origami angels have been made by 100 volunteers and 300 school pupils, who have helped to create an inspiring host of angels in the nave of Ripon Cathedral. Each angel represents a dedication made during the COVID-19 pandemic to key workers and loved ones. Our volunteers range from 3 – 90 years old and are located across the region.

Cathedral website

The Nave was in a later Perpendicular Gothic style


This is the old 15th Century stone font

I liked the impressive Arts and Crafts style pulpit, made by Henry Wilson in 1913 a.


At the end of the nave, we descended down these narrow stone steps into the crypt


This is the only remaining part of the original stone building and would hold the “holy relics” which are so important in the Catholic Church. It’s a tiny space and was only reopened recently, entry having been stopped during the height of the Covid crisis.


The transept is one of the oldest parts of the main building, with elements of both Gothic and, with the rounded windows, the earlier Romanesque or Norman style.


The highly decorative roode screen leads to the Quire (or Choir – take your pick as to the spelling!). The stone screen is medieval, but the stautes of Kings, bishops and saints are Victorian


There’s a massive stained glass Great East Window – an example of Decorated Gothic – at the end of the Quire, behind the high altar. The glass is Victorian – the original glass was destroyed by Puritans during the Civil War.


Looking back down the Quire (the light made it difficult to get a decent photo

The misericords on the choir seats were carved between 1489 and 1494 and depict various mythical figures. It is alleged that some of the figures influenced and inspired Lewis Carroll who visited the Cathedral (interesting as we were returning from Whitburn where there definitely is a Lewis Carroll connection.)


The same workers also carved the misericords at Beverley Minster and Manchester Cathedral.

The massive spaces of the Nave and Quire in cathedrals can be overwhelming and I often find the smaller, more initmate, side chapels the most interesting. The Chapel of the Holy Spirit is on the south side of the quire and has a modern look. The striking screen, meant to resemble lightning bolts, screen was designed by Leslie Durbin, a jeweller who designed the rear of the first pound coins and the Stalingrad Sword that was presented to Stalin by Churchill at the end of the Second World War.

The altar frontals were designed by the (female) textiles expert Theo Moorman

St peter’s Chapel, on the other side of the Quire, has a more traditional look

The altar is made of a reused font, possibly dating back to the medieval period. The painting behind the altar is a reproduction of a work by Reubens.


The Chapel of Justice and Peace is located at the west end of the church, to thee north of the entrance


Behind the altar are words of the poet Wilfred Owen, who spent his last birthday here in 1918, words that speak of tragedy and loss through war.


It’s been a while since I’ve indulged my interst in art and architecture, so it was good to have the opportunity to visit this excellent example of a grand Gothic church. We spent a good hour looking round but had to hit the road. I’ll have to find time to take another look sometime, perhaps combined with a visit to Fountain’s Abbey. I’ve not been there for a while. And I do have coneections with Ripon – my family history research suggests I have a family connection – but I don’t shout that out, it’s hard to accept I might have some Yorkshire genes 😬

Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral stands on the south bank of the Thames, near London Bridge and I’ve walked past many times when I’ve been in London both for work and pleasure. After wandering around Borough market we decided to go and have a closer look.

There’s been a church on the site since Norman times, if not earlier. Between 1106 and 1538 it was the church of an Augustinian priory. Following the dissolution of the monasteries, it became a parish church. It only became a cathedral in 1905 when the diocese of Southwark was established.

This is an old drawing of the church  and the nearby old London Bridge from 1616 (source: Wikipedia)


The famous panorama of London in 1647 by the Czech artist Wenceslas Hollar was drawn from the top of the tower of the church, then known as Saint Saviour’s.


The present building is mainly Victorian Gothic following the reconstruction of the building, which was in a bad state of repair, in the 19th Century, although there are some remnants of the older structures, particularly in the retro-choir.

Looking down the Nave


The high alter screen. The original was installed in 1520 but the two rows of statues are in excellent condition and were only added in 1905.


An older part of the building at the far end of the nave


Originally the building had a timber roof, but that was replaced during the Victorian restoration. However, a reproduction has been created in the crossing, underneath the tower


The original roof would have been held together by several hundred carved bosses. Some of the originals have been preserved and are displayed at the far end of the nave. Here’s some of them.


During Elizabethan times, the Bankside area, south of the Thames, where the church is located, was outside the jurisdiction of the City of London, and became something of a “pleasure garden”  occupied by the bear baiting pits and theatres including the Globe, Rose and Swan. The reconstructed Globe is a short walk away. So, not surprisingly, the cathedral ahs a close connection with the historic dramatists. William Shakespeare’s brother, Edmund, was buried there in 1607. His grave is unmarked, but there’s a commemorative stone in the paving of the choir.


There is a large stained glass window dedicated to William Shakespeare, depicting scenes from his plays, at the base of which is an alabaster statue of him reclining, holding a quill.


There’s also a memorial to Sam Wannamaker, the American actor who left the USA to avoid persecution during the McCarthy era and who inspired the reconstruction of the Globe Theatre. (Inspired isn’t the right word, really. He had to fight tooth and nail and put a lot of time, energy and sweat into getting it built)


John Harvard the founder of Harvard University in the USA was born in the parish, and baptised in the church on 29 November 1607. He is commemorated by the Harvard Chapel in the north transept, paid for by Harvard University alumni resident in England.

There’s an attractive Arts and Crafts style stained glass window in the chapel


There’s some other attractive stained glass in the church, though the bright autumn sunlight streaming through them made it difficult to take decent photographs.  I rather liked this modern design in the retro-chapel


Outside there’s a small but attractive garden. Overlooked by Borough Market it’s something of an oasis of peace in a rather hectic neighbourhood.


There was a recreated Augustinian herb garden at the back of the church. The monks would have grown herbs for both culinary and healing purposes – in medieval times the monks would have tended to the sick which is why many older hospitals have their origins in churches, monasteries and nunneries.


A view of the shard from the churchyard.


And a pleasant surprise. I spotted this sculpture in the churchyard. My immediate reaction was that it looked like a work by Peter Randall-Page.


Checking out the information board confirmed my suspicion



Shrewsbury Abbey


Shrewsbury Abbey is a large Medieval church standing on the opposite side of the English Bridge from the old city centre. As with many old churches it’s been altered and adapted over time and, consequently, displays a mixture of styles – Romanesque, Gothic (the later, Perpendicular style) and Victorian Neo-Gothic.


It was founded as a Benedictine Monastery by Roger de Montgomery in 1083 although there had been a Saxon church on site before the Conquest.


The church which survives today was originally part of a complex of buildings which, other than a few remnants, are long gone – some demolished following the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of King Henry VIII and others by Thomas Telford when he built the main road that runs alongside the Abbey.

After the dissolution of the monasteries there were plans for the church to be designated a Cathedral, but that never came to fruition. It continued to serve as a place of worship, though, as a rather grand Parish Church.


The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, written by Ellis Peters, are inspired by medieval Shrewsbury. Cadfael is a Welsh Benedictine monk at the Abbey in the first half of the 12th century. He was played by Dereck Jacobi in the TV series of the stories, although it was filmed in Hungary rather than Shrewsbury.

The Abbey used to have a shrine to St Winifride, a 7th Century Welsh saint. In the 12th Century Monastaries wanted to have relics which would attract Pilgrims and earn them ncome so the Abbot had the remains of Winifride brought from her place of burial in Gwytherin in North Wales. The shrine was destroyed and the relics can now be found in Shrewsbury’s Roman Catholic cathedral and Holywell in North Wales. However, there’s a window devoted to the saint in the Abbey, installed in 1992, designed by stained glass artist Jane Gray.



There’s also a window by the same artist celebrating the fictional monk, Cadfael.


The Abbey was built in the Romanesque (Norman) style with substantial round pillars supporting rounded arches and a substantial part of the original building still stands in the central section of the Nave.



It was remodelled in the 14th Century when the tower was built. This required replacing the Romanesque arches at the west end of the nave with bays with stronger pointed Gothic arches supported by slender columns.


After the dissolution the west end of the Abbey was closed off and fell into ruin. There was a wall at the end of the Romanesque nave. The west end was rebuilt in a Neo- Gothic style during the Victorian era, designed by John Loughborough Pearson.


IMG_2331A new clerestorey was also created above the Romanesque and Gothic nave.


A war memorial tablets close to the west entry of the church includes the name of the First World War  poet Wilfred Owen.


IMG_2339 (2)

Outside the Abbey, there are still some remnants of the monastery



Another day, another Minster


Starting to feel like a prisoner in my hotel room, I drove over to Howden, a small town a five mile drive from my hotel. It’s not more than a village, really, but it’s dominated by a large Gothic church – Howden Minster.

The Yourhowden website tells us

The Minster was owned by monks from Peterborough Abbey in Saxon times, but in 1080 it was gifted to William of Calais, the Bishop of Durham. The Norman church was rebuilt in the early English style in the 13th century and rebuilding work was completed in the ‘decorated’ style around 1340. A small octagonal Chapter House was built after 1388, the last of its kind to be built in England.

and that

The church survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries as it was not a monastery, but fell victim to the Dissolution of Collegiate Churches and Chantries in 1548.

It was one of the first Decorated Gothic churches in the north of England


Over the years the church was neglected and started to fall into ruin lack of funds for maintenance. Today, only the nave survives intact, with the quire and chapter house in ruins, but preserved under the guardianship of English Heritage. The remaining, intact, parts of the building are still in use as a parish church.

I had a look around the outside of the building.  This is the octagonal Chapter House.


A view of the tower from the graveyard to the south of the building.


The south entrance. It’s clearly undergone some restoration.


A view of the tower from the north west


The view from the south. It’s considerably plainer than the Minster at Beverley


Although it was early evening the entrance wasn’t locked, so I decided to have a look inside.

Looking down the nave with it’s high ceiling supported by characteristic pointed arches.



The altar.


The ornate Quire screen.


A modern series of abstract sculpture by John Maine R.A. was installed outside the minster 2002 –2008, inspired by the four elements.

The churchyard itself represents “Earth”.

This star like pattern made of granite and inlaid into the pavement in front of the west entrance is “Water”. The granite is from the Himalayas.


Air” is represented by series of truncated columns of various heights, with patterns inspired by the carved columns in Durham Cathedral,




This is “Fire”, which stands in the north east corner of the churchyard, in front of the ruined Quire.


Beverley Minster


The minster very much dominates the centre of Beverley. It’s a massive building, comparable in size to many cathedrals yet it only has the status of a parish church. The designation of “Minster” may suggest to some that it is a cathedral, especially as the Minster in York has that status, but it isn’t the case. A minster is a designation given to church that was established during Anglo-Saxon times as a missionary teaching church, or a church attached to a monastery. So it’s the origin of the church that explains its designation – the first church on the site was attached monastery founded in Beverley in the 7th century.


The original building was destroyed by the Danes, but was rebuilt and then refashioned by the Normans. After this burnt down in 1188, the current Gothic building was constructed between 1220 and 1420. This prolonged period resulted in all three styles of Gothic church architecture can be seen in the Minster.  The Quire, which is the oldest part of the church, was built in the Early English style while the nave is the Decorated style with the west end of the church in the Perpendicular style.


The Minster is mainly built of limestone, mostly from Tadcaster near York so it is a bright creamy colour. However limestone as a soft stone of calcium carbonate is susceptible to damage from acidic rain and the elements, so there are signs of weathering and it has clearly been subject to repair and restoration. Black Purbeck ‘marble’ (actually not marble but a hard limestone from Dorset) has also been used for some of the shafts and columns inside the building.

These extremely ornate twin towers at the west end of the church are an outstanding example of Perpendicular Gothic


A close up of the west entrance.


The north west entrance (the main entrance into the church) – more Perpendicular Gothic


The south east of the building. Much less ornate Early English style


English Decorated style on the north side of the nave


The north entrance


The church is open to visitors until 5 p.m. so I was able to take a look inside. However, there was a Baptism service taking place which meant I had to be careful not to disturb the worshipers and restricted where I could wander.

I did, however, manage to get a quick look down the nave before the service started.


Typical of Gothic buildings it has a high ceiling supported by clusters of relatively slim columns with pointed arches.

The elaborate carved elements are typical of the English Decorated style


I rather liked the carving of musicians along the north aisle of the nave



The ceiling in the nave has relatively simple decoration but there’s a more elaborate section over the alter in the quire



As we’d expect with a major Gothic church, there’s some attractive stained glass.

The Great East Window contains the oldest glass in the Minster, dating from around 1220-30 to the early 1400s.

Nearby, this attractive modern design in the Pilgrim’s window at the right hand side of the Retro Quire


Also in the Retro Quire, this modern statue of two pilgrims, heading towards the Pilgrim window


There’s also several tombs and plaques representing members of the Warton family who were benefactors to the Minster, including this rather elaborate monument.


More attractive stained glass windows in the chapel at the north east of the building

I rather liked these  lancet windows in the “Retro Quire” at the east end


The very elaborate Percy Canopy which stands over the tomb of one of the Percy family who were one of the richest and most powerful families in the north of England in the 14th century.


It’s not certain who is buried here although it is thought that it is likely to be Lady Eleanor Percy who died in 1328.


These two large wooden doors below the west window were carved in the early 18th century by a York wood carver named William Thornton. On the doors are figures of the four gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Beneath the figures are their symbols – an angel, a lion, a bull and an eagle. Between the symbols and the figures are four carvings representing the different seasons of the year.


Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to take a photograph from directly in front.

There was more to see, but by now the service was in full flow so I felt it was appropriate to depart quietly.

The Minster’s website tells us

One reason the Minster is judged to be one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in Europe is that the different styles have been carefully harmonised.

I have to say I agree. It’s a beautiful building and I was pleased I’d taken time out to drive over to Beverley to take a look.




I’m working in East Yorkshire this week, staying in Goole. I had an early start on Monday so had booked to stay over on Sunday evening. Sunday looked a promising day and I didn’t fancy being stuck in front of the telly watching the Wimbledon men’s final (I don’t get tennis I’m afraid) so I decided to drive over the Pennines early afternoon and find something to do. The small, historic town of Beverley is about 30 minutes further east from Goole and as I’ve never been there before (only seen it signposted off the motorway when driving over to Hull) I decided it might be a good bet to keep me occupied. I wasn’t wrong.

The town grew up around a monastery that was founded at the beginning of the 8th Century and there’s been a church here ever since. Today the town’s main attraction is the Minster which was built between 1220 and around 1420.


Although it has the size and grandeur of a cathedral, it isn’t the seat of a Bishop, and only has the status of a Parish Church.


The town has an attractive shopping street. Unfortunately it is mainly populated by the main high street chains. There were plenty of pubs and places to eat – a reflection of it being a tourist destination.


Most of the buildings in the town centre are Georgian and Victorian but there are some traces of the town’s medieval heritage. The North Bar is one of them.


It’s the last remaining gateway that protected the entrance to the town and at one time had  a drawbridge. There were originally five but the other four are long gone.

A short distance away is another Medieval Gothic church, St Mary’s. Like the Minster, a fine example of Gothic architecture. It dates from the 12th century and so predates the minster. It underwent a major restoration between 1844 and 1876 under the successive supervision of Augustus Welby Pugin, his son E. Welby Pugin, and Sir Gilbert Scott. So it’s appearance probably reflects the Victorian take on Gothic like many other churches (including our own Wigan Parish church)


There’s a medieval building more or less opposite St Mary’s – now converted into an up-market shopping centre


Lot’s of attractive Georgian buildings around the town.








There are also examples of other architectural styles. This is the local library built in the early 20th Century. I’d probably describe it as Edwardian Baroque


The old Corn Exchange, from the same period.


And an Art Deco style façade in amongst the Georgian buildings on the corner of the Saturday Market and main shopping street, Toll Gavel.


An interesting town, well worth the diversion (as the Michelin Guide would put it). It rather reminded me of a smaller scale version of York, minus the medieval walls.

Melrose Abbey


It was around midday when we dropped D and J off at Morebattle to pick up their car.We said our goodbyes and then we set off to drive over to Melrose. It was a pleasant day so rather than head off straight home, and get caught up in rush hour traffic on the Motorway, we’d decided to go and have a look at the Abbey that’s the start of the St Cuthbert’s trail and which we’d missed by starting at Morebattle.  Although it would have taken a couple of days to walk between the two Scottish Border towns it was less than an hour’s drive.


Just like Lindisfarne Priory, the ruined Abbey wasn’t the one where St Cuthbert lived. It’s a later Cistercian building founded in 1136. In fact, the original Celtic Christian monastery was located about two miles east of the town.


The Abbey is allegedly the resting place of the heart of Robert the Bruce and it’s resting place is marked by this memorial


Of course, there’s no real evidence that his heart is actually buried here.

The original building would have been Romanesque in style (like Lindisfarne Priory) but being close to the border with England the area was regularly a war zone and, inevitably, the Abbey was seriously damaged. There are some traces of the original building, such as this doorway


but it is a Gothic structure, built after1385, with characteristic high pointed arches, large windows with ornate tracery and flying buttresses.






The remains of the ornate stone vaulting over the presbytery


Elaborate capitals


A good view of the nearby Eildon hills from the roof




There isn’t much left of the cloisters and the monks’ living accommodation.


However, there’s a good little museum in the restored Commendator’s House, built in the late 1500s – much of it’s stone being robbed from the Abbey buildings. (Commendators were lay administrators who, were placed in charge of abbeys in Scotland)




St Mary’s Church, Lindisfarne


St Mary’s church sits directly opposite the Priory Church on Lindisfarne (Holy Island). It’s the oldest, complete building on the island. Parts of the structure are thought to date back to the 7th century, several hundred years before the appearance of the Priory. However, it’s main structure is from the the 12th century, when it was built by the Benedictine monks from the Priory to serve the local population, with additions in the 13th Century and later.

It’s built from cream, pink and grey sandstone and architecturally it’s largely a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic.


Inside we can see Romanesque arches and piers along the north aisle. with an Early English Gothic arch at the east end of the nave leading to the Chancel. This wall is the oldest part of the church, dating back to Saxon times. The small door at the top of the wall is from this period.


The south aisle has pointed Gothic arches


This striking statue – The Journey – is by Fenwick Lawson, who also created the statue of St Cuthbert in the Priory ruins. It was carved from elm using a chainsaw and depicts the monks of Lindisfarne carrying St.Cuthbert’s body on the first stage of its journey around Northumberland when the monks deserted the island following the Viking raids. There’s a bronze casting of this work in the cathedral at Durham.


This is St Peter’s chapel in the north aisle, dedicated to local fishermen


There was some attractive stained glass, particularly these two lancet windows at the west end of the church, of St Cuthbert


and St Aiden


They were designed by Leonard Evetts

Exeter Cathedral


There’s been a cathedral in Exeter since the 11th Century, although the current Gothic building was constructed between 1270 and 1340. Prior to that, there was a Norman (Romanesque) church, started in the 12th Century, but when  Walter Bronescombe was appointed bishop in 1258, he decided that the building was old fashioned and decided to have it replaced by one in the then fashionable Decorated Gothic stye. Some Norman features remain, though; in particular, the two towers.

The North Tower has a Gothic window punched into the north wall.


The west front has a very impressive image screen, covered with a large number of statues, inspired by Wells Cathedral


The cathedral’s website tells us

At the bottom are angels appearing to support all the figures above.  Most of the figures of the middle row represent Kings of Judah.

In the upper row, to right of centre, is a representation of God.  On His right hand would have been a seated figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Her image was destroyed in the Reformation and, later, mistakenly replaced by King Richard II.  Also in the upper row are figures of the Apostles, the Evangelists and Old Testament Prophets.

Dozens of figures also peer out from the battlements above and the whole screen is decorated with plants and animals.


Although today it is bare stone, originally it would have been painted in bright colours.

As it doesn’t have a central tower, the cathedral has a continuous ribbed roof along it’s entire length. The longest


Looking upwards


There was a plaster replica of one of the 400 roof bosses on display which showed just how large they are


This ornate pulpit in the Nave was erected in memory of Bishop John Coleridge Patteson


The large astronomical clock is on the north wall at the crossing (between the Nave and the Quire)


Dating from 1484, the large dial of the Exeter Astronomical Clock is a working model of the solar system as it was then understood.  The sun and moon circle around the earth at the centre of the dial.

The Quire screen


Looking down the Quire


The Victorian choir stalls were designed by George Gilbert Scott.


The very ornate bishop’s seat


The Lady Chapel was particularly ornate and a good example of Decorated Gothic.


with some impressive stained glass


and mosaic floor



I rather liked his sculpture in the Lady Chapel


and this cross, made from driftwood, in one of the side chapels


and this simple cross in one of the other chapels