Monday 3 March 2014


Great Witley Church

Ludlow Mermaid
This is more pre-Lent than post-Christmas; but it was not until last week that we were able to get away for a few days.We decided to see an area we'd not visited before - so it was a hotel at the junction of the three counties of Worcestershire, Shropshire and Herefordshire, near Tenbury Wells. Very Gothic Revival is the Talbot, and very comfortable. They had missed the worst of the recent floods, and we were able to drive around the locality with no more difficulty than we've had in Hampshire and Dorset lately. Ludlow was quite near, and it was good to discover misericords in the amazing parish church which I've known from illustrations but never registered where they were situated. Here is one: this is the very famous mermaid, admiring herself in a hand-mirror, I think the carver must have enjoyed the idea of putting her under a somnolent monk. There is so much to see in the church besides the carvings, though. This tomb, occupying the Easter Sepulchre (made redundant by the Reformation) is of a local worthy - a knight and chief justice in the Council of the Marches, no less - who, it is said, remained a Catholic, and decided to have his tomb as near as possible to the high altar.

In more recent times there have been alterations made in other local mediaeval churches, at least as disrupting as Sir Robert's tomb. This is Leominster Priory.

Leominster Priory reordered

Leominster Priory
In such a vast building (virtually three naves side-by-side) it is hard to understand why it was necessary to site Font and  Altar and Pulpit all crammed together. The east end of the building, just glimpsed on the right of the picture above, has its own set of furniture making a holy-huddle of a worship-space. I suppose we must be grateful that  the main fabric of the church survives, to be better used at some future date.

One great delight was to see the famous church at Great Witley [see the first photo above]. The National Trust book told us that Witley Court was closed until Easter. Fortunately some work was going on in church and we were able to get inside this amazing baroque gem. So unexpected, to find something which would look at home in Bavaria here in the English countryside - with an organ on which Handel played. Grateful thanks to the Dukes of Chandos! The house, a ruin since a devastating fire, was able to be viewed from the road.

The shell of Witley Court

Ceiling of Great Witley Church
Now we are girding our loins for Lent. Our group will be scattered on Ash Wednesday, since the Parish occupies the Church for the greater part of the morning (and some of us will join them):  Fr Darryl, now ensconced in Iford, has an evening Mass at which I am to preach. Then on Sunday we are back together again, with a Council meeting planned where we hope to make some decisions about the timing of our move from Southbourne to St Thomas More in Iford. A pity, perhaps, to be relocated so soon, but there should be better opportunities for growth. Your prayers would be welcomed - thanks.

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