Saturday 25 April 2020

The Fair Mile Chapel

Today I am going to address a chapel I should have posted a long time ago. If you look at the churches in my maps you will find this one listed but it is attributed to another blog I have that is in long need of some work doing to it.The chapel was where patents and staff could go and worship and no doubt back when the place was first built you had to go to for Sunday worship as part of the job. No doubt part of the Victorian thinking was to healing that going to church  was for the good of your soul. One side chapel was consecrated as Catholic sometime in the 1950s before that they used a building nearby.My parents both worked at the Hospital from around 1942 till they retired in 1978. Dad died a couple of years later aged 60 Mum went on till she was 88 before joining him up at the local churchyard. After she died I as sorting out the old photos and came across a treasure trove of picture taken at Fair Mile. They became the reason I started writing Forgotten Fairmile. Many of the photos were used in a book a colleague wrote on the place and went towards a huge Exhibition we had on the place. Sadly the hospital closed in 2003 and lay empty till 2010 when they started converting the place to housing. I managed to get on site during all this time to photograph what was going on. I wrote a blog on the chapel for Forgotten Farimile but it never appeared on the Church Explorer, best part is it was one of the first explores I did. I have updated the original blog with more photos of the outside and tried hope you enjoy the story though you might find some of the photos a little disturbing.

The blog was written around some photos I found of my Mother and her friends I thought it would be good to find out where the picture was taken
This is the photo of my Mother and friend that was taken outside the chapel

 It seemed a popular place to have a photo taken 

The Chapel would have been used for the salvation of the people who worked there and some of the patients who were able to go. From what I could see the place was not used that much and I think in the end the catholic  priest was the only one who had any service there though even that went out the window and he used one of the old rooms in the admin block after services could not beheld there because it was too cold in the winter.

And it could get cold, this is what it looked like in Jan 2010 after the hospital closed

Almost lost in the snow here

Looking very cold an unwelcoming

I cannot say it looked a lot better during the day which is how I saw it for the first time in around ten years back in 2008

The Shrubbery around the East end had really gone wild

  I September 2010 the contractors moved in to begin converting the hospital, the offices were plonked in the car park beside the Chapel. I might add this is where the old security used to be sighted as well not that it was up to much from what I saw from the inside of it. Half the cameras did not work proplerly
 This was an old entrance  to the chapel

The area looked like this when it was cleared away

it has some very nice Victorian brickwork decorating it

 Though it did not look that good after years of neglect. 

 Around the North side was a covered porch which no doubt was the main entrance, if you look to the left a little more you see another door which used to be the one we used to go to the Catholic chapel

 The West entrance which I cannot ever remember being used

 The door to the chapel was open when I visited the site one Friday so I wandered in and took a load of photos, it was the fist time I had been in the place for over ten years, I was pretty shocked I must admit. I went to the back where the West door is and took this shot down the nave
The one is near where I cam in and you can see both transepts right & left and the chancel. The left transept is where the catholic chapel was and a sliding screen could be pulled across. On the right was where the organ is

I used to remember a meber of the congrigation playing this at Mass

The keybords looked like they wanted to be played

Over in the North transept where the Catholic chapel was I noticed the altar had gone and the tabernacle was missing the front.
That was left on the table where the altar wine used to be kept during mass

It was broken and ripped off the hinges, some skanky chave had torn it off.

On the windowsill were a couple of metal vases, wonder they had not been thrown around

The altar in the main chapel was there and the hangings draped over it
Looking back up the chapel the sunlight poured in and lit the aisle up

I took some more photos round the organ in the South transept, it looked proud and I hoped it would be saved


All it need is the music and an organist

Above the inside of the organ was on display

Left the clerks desk beside the choir stalls in the chancel

A bible was still on the Pulpit lectern where you could see empty pews which no longer would seem people sat in them in this chapel

I had to wonder what would happen to the pulpit

Along on the south wall one of the windows had a hymn board in place with the number 193

Neaby on one of the pews hymn books were stacked
By the organ a vase and music waited

Must have been a year or so later I found myself back in the chapel again. The organ had gone

taken away and in it's place flat pack kitchen units stored
The beautiful cross on which the switches used to be taken away
I left not wanting to see any more and felt deflated at the loss of the place

Back to my first photos of my Mother and friends, I'm sure it was here the pictures were taken all those years ago.
I walked past the chapel in 2019 and got this photo, it was for letting though I could not say if any one and taken up the offer
Back across the lawn it looked a bit more welcoming in the sunlight.
Till Next time Take care and stay safe

Saturday 18 April 2020

The Churches Conservation Trust

The Churches Conservation Trust  is one trust I came across on one of my first visits to churches many years ago. I did not know much about it then but the trust looked after redundant churches.
These churches have little or no congregation to make them viable but are still a valuable resource, the church is left in its basic state and the power removed and building looked after. A couple of time a year a service is held in them to keep them as a place of worship. Visit their website to find out more. I am lucky in that there are three of these churches with in a five mile radius of where I live and two I found while looking for WWII pillboxes that were nearby. Here are a few of my favourite churches I visited.

St Johns  Mongewell is on an old Jewish school called Carmel College very near a Boathouse that has an interesting history because there is a WWII defended building attached to it disguised as part of the boathouse. While trying to pinpoint the place on a map I noticed a little cross nearby and found a church when I went along to visit the boathouse. The college when I visited was empty and had been fro many years as it closed but looking through the windows you would have thought from the chairs on desks that they had gone home for the weekend. The church itself I found was a ruin but had some restoration done to it and the Chancel had been made into a chapel which on my first visit was locked but after I found where the key was kept I went back. I intend to go back agin one of these days and get some better photos
The next one is only a mile or so away along a footpath at Newnham Murren and is a beautiful little church to visit. Over to my left out of sight behind a row of trees is another WWII pillbox and the church was also witness to another tragedy during WWII when a Halifax Bomber crashed a few hundred yards away in a field Killing the Pilot and navigator. The tried to stop the plane crashing into the nearby town of Wallingford when the wing gave way and it crashed. If you click on the link you can read what I discovered. St Mary's church is worth the effort of visiting if you are nearby

 St Peters Church is further along the path in Wallingford and if you come from Newnham Murren along the river you will see the Church Spire as you come to the bridge across the River Thames. It dominates the town. I remember passing it on my was to work when I was an apprentice back in 1968 and one of the craftsmen who I was under used to stop off on the way home to wind up the clock. As new people came to the town and it expanded they started to complain until the town council took the decision to stop the clock and now it sits silent. The church became redundant back in 1971 but is still used for various events and concerts. One of the interesting point so of the church is that is it the last resting place of  the Blackstone Family and in particular William Blackstone who's memorial is on the South side of the church. If you visit Wallingford I recommend a visit

St Bartholomew Lower Basildon is a church I visited a few times, the first time was to look for the grave of Jethrow Tull of Seed Drill fame, he lived locally for most of his life and was buried at the church, you will find a headstone with his name on it but its a modern version near the church, I fer his grave is lost in the churchyard some where. While there I went to look in the church but found it locked. I did not realise at the time it belonged to the trust and one day I went back to see if I could visit again and was please to see the doors were open. It was a wonderful church that I found had a nice atmosphere and well worth my visit. If you visit Beale Park (not far away) then on the way out you pass the church, If you are there do pop in for a look it is worth it.

 Not sure why but it took a while for me to visit St Katherine Chiselhampton which I did not realised was part of the Trust I always thought it was still in use till I went there one day and found the Church locked by the door was a little sign telling me it belonged to the Churches Conservation Trust and where the key could be obtained. I tried one but could get no reply so I left and decided to come back another time which I did and the key was at the pub down the road. They were very helpful and gave me the key and when I opened the door it was like going back in time. The church was stunning to look at with box pews , white painted walls  and flowers in the windows. The church is not far from Oxford and I have to say is one church making an effort to see.

The next church is not far way at Nunham Courteneay and All Saints Nuneham Courtenay 
was a church I did not realise was there, I had though t it a private chapel in the grounds of   Nuneham House till I found out that the trust looked after it. I made my way to the House and parked in the carpark of what is the Global Retreat which owns the house and grounds, when I enquired after the key I was told the church was open and how to get to the church. When you look at it the church reminds me of a Temple with the Portico, in fact I was wondering what I would find inside but I was very pleased with what I did find. It was another stunning church with a beautiful interior and well worth going to see.
The last church I will mention today is St Thomas East Shefford It is very near to East Shefford Farm and you leave your car in a parking space outside the gates. The church looks old as you walk up to is and inside is very plain and unadorned with only a few chairs around the place. What stands out are the wall paintings you can see over the chancel arch and the old glass in the windows. I is one of my favourite church I have come across on my visits.
I have only covered a few churches from the Trust that I visited  but I am sure if you check their website you will find many more near to you that can be visited. I have no doubt that I will visit more when I get a chance. You can find a list of other organisations in the right had column of the blog which I have listed though I will admit I am not a member of any of them though it has not crossed my mind to join one of them they are all worthy of support.
Till Next Time Please stay Safe


Saturday 11 April 2020

St Magarets Chapel Chapel

As it is Easter I thought I would write on a place I visited but never posted about on The Church Explorer, probably because I forgot about the place but with Easter upon us I suddenly remembered this place. It's real name of the place is the Hospital of St Mary Magdalene Glastonbury and was built around 1310 you can read more about the place in the link. Now I have to admit Glastonbury is an odd place with a mix of very different people, some are of local Somerset origin others moved there for the peace of the place and the odd ones out who are  what I term as new age travellers who just seem to hang around. The shops there vary with many selling healing stones some occult items. I find it a very weird mix to be honest. But head along the road from the Abbey and you will come across the Almshouse.

You would easily walk past the entrance to the place which is along this passage

You then come out in this little garden with the almshouses lining one side

You can go in on of the dwellings as it has been restored, you will see a raised bed where the occupant would sleep

A fireplace where they would get heat and cook their meals. Not sure about the chairs you see I'd have thought they would be lucky to sit on anything when the place opened. One window for light though I see that has been blocked up.

If you look back along the garden you can see the St Margaret's Chapel in front of you
Go inside and this is what you will see, I stitched some photos together to get this panoramic, the photo was taken back in 2013 before I had an iPhone
The chapel is a single cell building with an altar at the East end and altar rail.
A simple cross and vases of flowers either side decorate the altar. The candle in the bowl is on the altar rail
This unadorned altar is simple and to the point. It was one of the very few places of worship that I have felt at peace and where I wanted to spend a little longer. What ever you believe I think you could find a moment peace in here.
If you find yourself in Glastonbury you will no doubt go to the Abbey and  I would say it is worth going to, you will find St Patrick's church there which is another very simple church to visit, the Abbey I find is a place I love to go and find it peaceful but the Almshouse chapel is worth it. Even the Main church in town though nice enough does not hold a candle to it.
Till Next time Have a good Easter and Say Safe