Downpatrick Treasure Hunt 2019

The Downpatrick Treasure Hunt was held on Friday, 19th July and despite some inclement weather at some points during the evening this did not dampen anyone’s spirits and everyone had a great night. Around 120 people took part travelling round a new and exciting route devised by Anna and Marion with 36 fiendish questions as we traversed the countryside around Ballydugan lake. The weather was good when most of the cars were out and when it did rain everyone was protected by the marquee where Renie entertained everyone with her playing while the participants enjoyed their hog roast. It was a great night at the Lakeside Inn hosted by Margaret and Geoffrey and a big thank you goes to them and to the many people who worked hard to make the night the success it was. So far the evening has raised about £725 for church funds.

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Cars preparing to set off

TH Margaret

Margaret preparing to time the start

TH start indoors

Thelma and Robyn received and timed in all the participants

TH hog roast

Hog roast

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Inside the marquee

The red telephone boxes of south county Down

One valued feature of our streetscapes is the red telephone box. Designed by the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott they are usually described as ‘iconic’ but apart from anything else they are simply a good design which fits so comfortably in our minds of how the world should look. By far the most popular and widespread version is the K6. The original prototype was made in 1924, the K6 is a slightly smaller design dating from 1935. The first versions of this carried a Tudor crown, after 1953 they featured the crown of St Edward used in the coronation.

But while a red telephone phone box undoubtedly has a place in many people’s affections it is unlikely that many people really have any use for them. I would think you have to be aged at least 40 to remember what it was like to need to find a phone box or be distraught at finding one and then discovering it didn’t work or having to stand outside waiting for one to be vacated. These days you are as likely to see one as a feature in someone’s garden as you are on the road but you do still see some of them in their original surroundings.

In fact their numbers have dropped dramatically in recent years. The total number of public pay phones in Northern Ireland is now 1,660 of which just 184 are red telephone boxes. Or at least that was the figure given in 2018, and even that is a reduction of 17 from just two years before that. BT have an ‘adopt a phone box’ scheme and this is quite big in some places where the boxes can be used as bars, coffee shops even libraries. I am not sure how much take up of this there is in Northern Ireland but a particularly useful adaptation is to use them to house defibrillators of which there is an example in county Down, although not in a K6 box.

Some red telephone boxes are now listed buildings and 27 are listed in Northern Ireland. There are places where they are seen as essential features of the landscape, their disappearance would be missed and they remain popular with tourists from overseas. But it is hard to avoid the suspicion that they are very largely redundant in terms of their original purpose. They were once essential and must have been particularly important in rural areas. I remember once – before the advent of the mobile phone – breaking down in the car near Rademon. I had to knock on someone’s door to call the AA. Even then it would have been a long walk to the nearest payphone in Crossgar but in county Down there are still some examples of the K6 red phone boxes in their original positions.

But yesterday, as I travelled around county Down, I kept an eye out for telephone boxes and determined to record some of them while they are still there. So we start in Ardglass where a K6 box sits in front of Jordan’s Castle.

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This is actually a listed building, but whether it complements Jordan’s Castle I leave to others to decide. A close inspection of it reveals a high degree of dilapidation, there is no glass at all in one wall, and the interior, even if the phone still works, does not look at all inviting.

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With a view of the harbour at Ardglass

The phone box in Ardglass is one of only two K6 boxes listed in this part of county Down. The other is in Strangford. Apart from the fact that the box in Ardglass has a moulded Tudor crown and so must date from between 1936 and 1953 I am not sure what criteria was used to ensure that those two were listed and not the other two that I pass quite frequently. Near Ballee is the only red phone box which I saw which is clean, well-maintained and looks entirely usable. It sits at its rural cross roads and looks entirely fitting. It would seem to me to have a higher claim to being listed.

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The phone box at Ballee

At Woodgrange, in a very rural area, there is a splendid view across the fields to the mountains of Mourne.

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The view at Woodgrange

There is also a K6 phone box which like a medieval ruin is gradually being reclaimed by nature and which fits into the landscape itself in quite a charming way.

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Ivy creeps in and out of the box and I didn’t attempt to open the door. Partly this was because it looked like it hadn’t been opened in years but also I didn’t want to interfere with the delicate ecosystem which seemed to be developing inside. There was a modern card phone unit but the place was filled with cobwebs. To misquote C.H. Spurgeon slightly, it looked like a good place for spiders.

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PB Woodgrange right view 02

A few miles away at Kilmore there is a more modern box, what is known technically as a KX100. Presumably, given its location with more housing around it, it gets more use but it does not look particularly well maintained.

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Kilmore

And in Crossgar there are two KX100s, although one is converted, usefully, to a place to house a defibrillator.

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Crossgar

The KX100 is not a very attractive piece of street furniture but they are cheaper to erect and maintain than the old K6 boxes. But they can never give the kind of visual appeal that comes from Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s design. Only about 20% of the original K6 boxes survive over the whole of the UK so it is nice to know that at least some remain in rural county Down.

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Woodgrange

Roscoe Gardens, Mount Pleasant, Liverpool

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Memorial, Roscoe Gardens

Roscoe Gardens, as it is now named by the Council, situated at the foot of Mount Pleasant is an easily overlooked green space in Liverpool city centre. It often has a slightly forlorn look which is not surprising as it is surrounded by some very high buildings and is probably difficult to maintain. But this was the site of the graveyard of Renshaw Street Chapel, a chapel which stood on the other side of the space facing into Renshaw Street where Grand Central now stands, a massive red-brick structure that was originally built as the Methodist Central Hall.

It is only right that someone as important in the history of Liverpool should have the space named after him. The author, campaigner against the slave trade, MP (who voted for the end of the trade despite the opposition of so many people in Liverpool), botanist, art collector and much more was hailed as Liverpool’s greatest citizen and was ultimately buried in this graveyard.

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Renshaw Street Chapel, 1811-1899

William Roscoe was born not far away, at the top of Mount Pleasant, in the Bowling Green Inn where his father was the publican. Not long after his birth his family moved a short distance to a newly built tavern which had attached to it an extensive market garden.

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William Roscoe’s childhood home

The history of the chapel that stood nearby is commemorated on the memorial built there after the chapel was sold and the congregation relocated on Ullet Road. Two of the chapel members buried there are commemorated: Joseph Blanco White and William Roscoe.

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Joseph Blanco White

Joseph Blanco White was another hugely significant figure who is increasingly remembered in both Liverpool and his home country of Spain.

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Plaques for Joseph Blanco White on the memorial in Roscoe Gardens

 

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Joseph Blanco White (Ullet Road Church)

William Roscoe was a member of this congregation all his life but although he lived near to the site of this graveyard he would have attended the previous chapel on Benn’s Gardens. Indeed he was baptised there on 28th March 1753 and was a regular attender throughout his life until the new chapel was built on Renshaw Street. No doubt Roscoe was present at the official opening in 1811 when the Rev Robert Lewin preached (making no reference to the new building in his address!). But his membership of this congregation was one of the constant threads that ran throughout his life and in Renshaw Street a large memorial was built to him, later moved to Ullet Road.

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Memorial to William Roscoe originally in Renshaw Street, now in Ullet Road

Two of the panels on the Roscoe Gardens memorial commemorate the congregation that once met nearby and one names three of the ministers:

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The only contemporary memorial in Roscoe Gardens is one to the Mount Pleasant school which was run by the congregation and stood on an adjacent site:

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The memorial is fixed to a neighbouring wall. The inscription reads:

On this site stood the Mount Pleasant British Schools erected 1821 closed 1901 after eighty years of useful work. The stone here preserved was above the doorway. 

Above that, on the original stone, is written Hear instruction and be wise and refuse it not from Proverbs 8:33.

Images of Oxford

Oxon Brasenose Lane

Brasenose Lane

Whenever I am in Oxford I always tend to take pictures as I walk about. This is easily done with modern mobile phones and if the pictures are unlikely to win any prizes they at least can give pleasure to the photographer. I took a lot of pictures when I was an undergraduate at Oxford, in those far-off days using a Russian Zenith EM camera, which was then the cheapest SLR camera that was available. I was reminded of this as I walked around Oxford recently because of certain items in the news. One of the inevitable consequences of being at Oxford is that you rub shoulders with all sorts and conditions of persons, including many would-be politicians. There were not a few from those days who went on to be government ministers both Labour and Conservative, at least one was party leader and another one looks like becoming Prime Minister. But when I was a student at Christ Church I shared rooms with a person who was an activist in the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA). This had the side effect of frequent visits to our rooms of his associates from the (to me) rather dull and pointless world of Oxford student politics. For now I will draw a veil over the various political figures who were around in those days. For the most part they didn’t really impact that closely on my life but one of them came to mind when I was back in Oxford recently. One frequent visitor to my roommate was another OUCA activist who would come to discuss issues with his colleague, on one occasion pacing around the living room in a very heated way complaining about a story that Cherwell, the student newspaper, was threatening to run about him. Most of the time his presence didn’t impinge on me nor I on him but he couldn’t always ignore me and so on one occasion, when his friend disappeared for a while, asked to have a look at a fresh roll of film I had just had printed. “These really are marvellous photographs” he said. “Really quite excellent photographs” he enthused. He went through the prints one by one and then through them again, all the time praising each of them to the skies. Such use of light! What a composition! How ingenious! On and on he droned. A friend of mine who was visiting found this very amusing. This was standard ‘hack’ behaviour, to butter people up and ingratiate yourself so completely in the hope that one day you might vote for them in some election or other. The years go by and I had thought that this particular individual had never made it into politics. But at some point he does appear to have been elected to Parliament and recently achieved significantly high office and so is involved in the manoeuvres that will see the appointment of a new Prime Minister. Of course, maybe he really did think my photographs were superlative. Who knows? But being a successful politician is rather like being a great actor. You have got to have sincerity. If you can’t fake sincerity you will never be a great actor.

Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera

Oxon Oriel gate

Oriel College gate

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White Rabbit in the covered market

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Tom Quad, Christ Church

Oxon Merton lane

Grove Walk

 

Catholic Apostolic Church, Liverpool

The Catholic Apostolic Church was a remarkable church which combined revivalist enthusiasm with liturgical worship and married a millenarian theology with prophetic ministry. Because of their belief in the imminent second coming they set up a system that ultimately proved to guarantee their own obsolescence. Believing that the second coming of Christ was very near they tried to re-establish the offices of the primitive church starting with Apostles in 1832 which had reached the full number by 1835. Since only they could ordain the prophets, evangelists, pastors, ‘angels’ (bishops), deacons and other orders down to doorkeepers, the death of the last apostle in 1901, before the return of the Lord, meant that there was no longer any possibility of continuing in the long term.

I am not sure how many Catholic Apostolic churches there ever were but their churches were very grand and required sophisticated architectural designs. Because they tended to include in their number many wealthy people they were often able to design and build some quite magnificent buildings. The church in Gordon Square in London, now leased to various Anglican groups, would be the best surviving example of their architecture, but the Roman Catholic Church in Bristol was originally Catholic Apostolic and is another impressive building, in this case having a classical design. I did see the less grand Catholic Apostolic church in Belfast before it was suddenly demolished but wasn’t able to take a photograph of it. Indeed an online search does not produce any images of this building, although it would be nice to think some images are preserved somewhere. It seems to have given up its licence to conduct marriages in 1954.

This excursion into the world of the now vanished Catholic Apostolic Church was prompted by the discovery of an old USB on which I had transferred at some point a couple of slides featuring the Catholic Apostolic Church on Catharine Street, Liverpool. It closed at some point in the 1970s and later was used by the New Testament Church of God. Later still it passed into secular use, then became badly dilapidated before being burnt down in the mid-1980s.

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The church in the mid-1980s

I found these images on the USB, originally taken as 35 mm slides the first of which I must have taken in about 1985 and the second in 1986. The first shows the church when it was unused and beginning to show signs of neglect. The second shows the view from the side towards the high altar after it was destroyed by fire. A great shame that such an unusual building was lost. Pevsner recorded that the plan of the building had been revealed to the first minister in a dream. He also said there were Flemish roundels incorporated in the stained glass windows. Whatever was there the little that survived was subsequently demolished and a block of flats built on the site.

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The ruined interior after the fire

The image at the top of the page is a detail from an aerial view of Liverpool by John R. Isaac in 1859 and published in New York. This is a view from a hot air balloon and can be viewed on the Library of Congress site here.

Amongst the churches found in that image is the Catholic Apostolic Church on the corner of Catharine Street and Canning Street, it can be seen slightly to the right of centre still with its spire which was removed in the early 1970s. An account of all the churches in that picture can be read in an earlier post: Seven Churches in Liverpool in 1859 viewed from the air.

No pictures or text may be reproduced from this site without the express permission of the author.

John Strain’s 40th anniversary as organist at Ballee

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In front of the organ after the service (Photo: Mary Stewart)

On Sunday, 30th June 2019  we celebrated John Strain’s 40 years as organist at Ballee Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church. John discovered his talent as a musician at a young age and assumed the mantle of organist back in 1979. In all those years John has only missed a Sunday service on three occasions and is well-known for his wide knowledge of tunes and his willingness to find just the right hymn even at a moment’s notice. In that time John has played at many baptisms, weddings and funerals as well as at many other local churches including the local Church of Ireland for the last thirty years. Some years ago John released a record of his playing on the church’s organ made by Samuel Dalladay of Hastings in 1912 and in 2012 played for the congregation’s organ centenary twelve-hour hymnathon.

Ballee Presentation 30 June 2019

With Doreen Chambers and Sophia Cleland who both read lessons during the service (Photo: Mary Stewart)

This special service was built around six hymns chosen by John who also gave his reasons for choosing them. During the service readings were given by church members and John’s tremendous commitment, loyalty and achievement in the church was celebrated as a special presentation was made to him to mark this significant anniversary. The hymns John chose were ‘Morning has broken’, ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God’, ‘Go work in my vineyard’, ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say’, ‘When I survey the wondrous Cross’, and ‘Great is Thy faithfulness’, all from Hymns of Faith and Freedom.

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With Jayne Caven, church secretary (Photo: Doreen Chambers)

An audio recording of the service is available.

You can read about Ballee’s Carnegie organ here

Faith and Freedom

HMCO quad

Faith and Freedom gave its annual report to the meeting of the Ministerial Old Students Association and the Annual Meeting of Friends and Honorary Governors held at Harris Manchester College, Oxford on 24th  -26th June, 2019. It was an excellent meeting, one of the highlights being the Principal, Professor Jane Shaw’s illustrated lecture on  The Arts and Empathy. Nigel Clarke, the business manager for the journal gave an impressive powerpoint presentation outlining the last year’s activity. A number of new subscribers signed up to receive the journal.

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Nigel delivering the annual report

HMCO Principal lecture

Art and Empathy lecture by the Principal

HMCO worship in the chapel

Worship in the college chapel

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‘Kindle’, a steel and glass artwork by Steve James and Vital Peeters in the college herb garden

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The latest issue 

 

Clough Children’s Day 16th June 2019

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Children of the Sunday School who led the service at Clough

The annual Children’s Day service at Clough was held at the morning service on Sunday, 16th June. With songs, readings and prayers the children led the service on the theme of the Feeding of the Five Thousand and prizes were awarded for attendance and participation in the recent denominational exhibition held in All Souls’ Church, Belfast when Clough Sunday School were awarded a magnificent total of 17 prizes. At the service the Rev Dr David Steers thanked retiring Sunday School Superintendent, Elsie Nelson, for the tremendous service she has given to the children and the church over recent years.

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All the children’s work was displayed in the church

 

Rev Felix Holt

Back in 2016 I wrote about the grave of the Rev Peter Holt in the grave yard of the former Croft Unitarian Chapel (pictured above). The first full-time minister at Croft, he later served at Leigh and Astley in Lancashire. (Click here to read that post.) I remember preaching at Astley when a student in the 1980s and the Holt family was still remembered there then. Peter Holt was the father of two ministers, the most well-known was the Rev Raymond V. Holt, the other being the Rev Felix Holt whose longest ministry was at Ballymoney in county Antrim. Since posting about the Holt family I have heard from Andrew Holt, the grandson of the Rev Peter Holt and son of another brother, and also recovered some material about Felix Holt which came to light a few years ago.

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Rev Felix Holt

Felix’s nephew tells me that his cousin, Felix’s son, served with the RAF during the Second World War and was shot down and killed over France. According to the Commonwealth War Grave Commission his son was Flight Sergeant (Navigator) Alwyn Evelyn Stuart Holt who died on 19th July 1944 aged 21. He served with 207 Squadron Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He is recorded by the CWGC as “Son of the Revd. Felix Holt and Margaret Isabel Holt, of Charles Street Manse, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland.” He is buried at Margny Communal Cemetery, Marne, France.

Among other things Rev Felix Holt was the clerk of the presbytery of Templepatrick for seven years and moderator of the Remonstrant Synod of Ulster from 1916 to 1917 and from 1935 to 1936. He must have been a considerable scholar. He taught ancient languages at Dalriada School in Ballymoney as well as working as a private tutor. I have a copy of a flyer he used listing his qualifications.

Felix Holt tutor

He was also the editor of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian magazine for a few years. The picture from this front cover is the only picture I know of him.

Felix Holt Cover

No pictures or text may be reproduced from this site without the express permission of the author.

 

All Souls’ Church, Belfast built 1896

All Souls’ Church, Belfast exterior is modelled on Croyland Abbey in Lincolnshire. Built by the architect Walter Planck and opened for worship in 1896 it is the only church designed by that architect in Ireland. But it is interesting to note how closely the interior resembles the interiors of a number of fifteenth-century English parish churches. The arches, pillars, chancel, east window, clerestory windows all are reminiscent of a number of such places. I realised this when I saw a picture of the interior of the Church of St Mary in North Petherton. An Edwardian postcard of this interior  looks almost identical to All Souls’. Even the pews in All Souls’ underline this effect, the pews were brought in from the old meeting house on Rosemary Street when that church was vacated. These originally dated from the 1870s and a lot of Victorian parish churches would have installed new, modern pews at that time. The choice of this kind of architecture was quite deliberate by the minister, the Rev Edgar Innes Fripp in 1896. He was reaching back to medieval England to establish the kind of devotion he thought was most truly authentic. But architecturally it is a marvel. John McLachlan (in The Unitarian Heritage) says it is “unique in Irish Non-Subscribing church architecture”. But there is nothing like it in English Unitarian church architecture either which has a lot of remarkable gothic buildings.

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Simon Walker (Historic Ulster Churches) says “it would be as fitting in a rural English setting as in Belfast’s busy University area”. Richard Oram (Expressions of Faith Ulster’s Church Heritage) notes that “It is a unique and beautiful, little building”. Paul Larmour (Belfast: an illustrated architectural guide) calls it “a gem of Victorian architecture”.

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The pictures on this page show the church under construction and soon after it was built, plus a view of the chancel taken before the NSPCI Sunday School service held there on 7th June 2019.

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All Souls June 2019