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

Mausolea & Memorials to the dead in Ireland

Clough Church Hall was full for the lecture by Dr Finbar McCormick on Wednesday, 13th March on the topic of ‘Mausolea & Memorials to the dead in Ireland’. It was an incredibly informative and also enjoyable and entertaining talk about a subject that might not appear that interesting at first glance.

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Dr McCormick delivering his lecture

Dr McCormick took his hearers through the traditions of dealing with death going back to antiquity and into the Christian era including the changes that came about due to the Reformation. It was astonishing to see the variety of mausolea produced in Ireland over the centuries, including one Victorian structure at Clonbern, county Galway constructed entirely from cast iron! Among many other tombs Dr McCormick referenced the Templeton Mausoleum designed by Robert Adam at Templepatrick in 1789 (illustrated at the top of this page). Dr McCormick showed how classical funereal art and architecture influenced later mausolea like the Murland tomb, which drew on the decorations for sarcophagi as well as ancient buildings. It is quite clear that such a rich construction as the Murland Mausoleum was designed by someone with a very thorough understanding of classical architecture and funeral design.

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Inverted torch on the Murland Mausoleum

Dr McCormick also suggested that the Irish architect Thomas Turner could possibly be the architect of the Murland Mausoleum given that he designed the family house at Ardnabannon in the 1860s and some of his large scale buildings in Ireland include similar details to those found on the Mausoleum. But it was a fascinating evening that certainly showed why this particular tomb is worthy of conservation by the Follies Trust.

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Dr Finbar McCormick

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Refreshments after the meeting

Thomas Steers and the Blue Coat School

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Front view of the original school building of 1717

I was interested to discover through the tercentenary history exhibition in the Bluecoat Arts Centre in Liverpool that Thomas Steers is now credited as one of those responsible for the construction of this very fine building. There can be little of importance in the city in the early eighteenth century that Thomas Steers didn’t have a hand in. The school (correctly termed the Blue Coat School) was founded in 1708 but the building not completed on School Lane until 1717. For nearly two hundred years the building was the home of the school until it moved to new premises in Wavertree. In the decades after 1906 the Bluecoat became the location for an innovative arts centre in the oldest building in the city. Thomas Steers’s involvement in the building appears to have only recently come to light. The exhibition in the Bluecoat states that:

Recent research confirms that Liverpool’s dock engineer Thomas Steers, together with mason Thomas Litherland, were responsible for the construction of the building. Both received considerable payments, recorded in the school’s meticulous accounts books by Bryan Blundell, the master mariner who founded the Blue Coat School and was its first treasurer.

[A page of the accounts] from 1719, records fees to Steers and Litherland, who had previously worked together on Old Dock nearby (completed 1715), the world’s first commercial wet dock which was instrumental in Liverpool’s rapid growth as a global trading port.

Blue Coat front pediment

Liver Bird above main entrance

The Old Dock has now been excavated and is open to visitors. It’s fascinating to see the brickwork exposed to view after years lying hidden beneath the surface, but here was laid the maritime prosperity of Liverpool, thanks to the engineering skills and technical vision of Thomas Steers.

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Inside the Old Dock, picture taken in 2016

Thomas Steers was a notable public servant of the city, serving as water bailiff, town councillor and mayor, and designed other docks as well as private and public buildings and local canals. His reputation also brought him to Ireland where he worked as a consultant on the Newry Canal, spending a number of years working on the project. It wasn’t his first visit to Ireland since he is said to have been commissioned in the 4th regiment of foot and served at the battle of the Boyne in 1690.

The Bluecoat building was badly damaged during the blitz of 1941 but was saved and has been restored a number of times over the last century. The Latin inscription across the front of the façade has been removed and restored at different times. It reads:

CHRISTIANAE CHARITATI PROMOVENDAE INOPIQUE PUERITIAE ECCLESIAE ANGLICANAE PRINCIPIIS IMBUENDAE SACRUM. ANNO SALUTIS MDCCXVII

which is translated on the Bluecoat website as: ‘Dedicated to the promotion of Christian charity and the training of poor boys in the principles of the Anglican church. Founded in the year of salvation 1717.’

Blue Coat front centre 02

Part of the inscription can be seen below the clock

This is an interesting text because based on little more than this assertion, almost three hundred years after the school was founded, the Church of England attempted to gain control of the school. Since it was always open to anyone and was completely free of any sectarian basis most people thought the twenty-first century C of E was going a bit far and the Bishops seem quietly to have withdrawn from the fray. At the time this controversy was underway I wrote to the Liverpool Echo pointing out that a local dissenting minister, the Rev John Brekell, preached a charity sermon in 1769 and told his hearers that no less a person than Bryan Blundell himself had told him that this inscription had been had been forced on him against his will by “some zealous Churchmen”. There is no doubt that the school enjoyed financial support from the wealthy Presbyterian community and in turn did not restrict its benefits to members of the established church. Neither as a charity school in its first centuries nor as a state school in the twentieth century had it displayed the characteristics of a ‘church school’. William Roscoe, poet, historian, abolitionist and dissenter refers to the school in his poem ‘Mount Pleasant’, first published in 1777. ‘The Blue-Coat Hospital’ is:

Yon calm retreat, where screen’d from every ill,

The helpless orphan’s throbbing heart lies still;

And finds delighted, in the peaceful dome,

A better parent, and a happier home.

The exhibition in the Bluecoat includes a lithograph of the picture Recollections of the Blue-Coat Hospital, Liverpool, St George’s Day, 1843 by Henry Travis. The original used to hang in the school boardroom when I was there, and most probably still does. Most pupils would rarely have seen it but when I was at the school I had regularly to attend in the boardroom for clarinet lessons. Not being much of a musician I frequently found the painting with its crowds and banners and marching pupils rather more absorbing.

Travis, Henry; Recollections of Liverpool Blue Coat Hospital, St George's Day

‘Recollections of the Blue-Coat Hospital, Liverpool, St George’s Day, 1843’ by Henry Travis (Picture: Liverpool Blue Coat School)

Murland Vault Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church

The Murland family vault at Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church will be the focus of a public lecture by Dr Finbar McCormick on the topic of ‘Mausolea & Memorials to the dead in Ireland’ at Clough NSP Church on Wednesday, 13th March 2019 at 7.30 pm. Everyone is welcome and the talk will be followed by refreshments. The tomb is in need of conservation which will be undertaken by the Follies Trust in the forthcoming months.

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Clough Vault front detail 02

Clough Vault diagonal front

Clough Vault front diagonal detail 02

Clough Vault diagonal side

Clough Vault urn

More information can be found on a previous post here – Mausolea in Downpatrick, Ballee and Clough

The Follies Trust leaflet contains illustrations of the tomb and information on how to make a donation to the project if you wish. It can be downloaded here:

Follies Mausoleum Flyer

Mausolea in Downpatrick, Ballee and Clough

The three Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churches of Downpatrick, Ballee and Clough each possess interesting graveyards housing the last resting places of centuries of church members, including many notable figures. The graveyards are remarkable too for the wide variety of tombs, stones and other memorials. Of especial note are the mausolea mostly dating from the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries.

Downpatrick has a large number of what Professor James Stevens Curl describes (in Mausolea in Ulster, Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1978) as being of ‘the barrel-vaulted variety, rather like a Nissen-hut’. These type of tombs appear to be local to the Downpatrick area, there are other examples in the locality but the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church on Stream Street has the largest number of examples of them, tombs built by local merchants including the Potter, Morrison, Quail, Rowan and Gordon families. The Quail tomb is dated 1800. The Morrison family tomb is located in the graveyard exactly opposite the house on Stream Street where the family then lived, so every day they gazed out of the window at a rather stark reminder of their own mortality.

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Downpatrick tomb, possibly that of the Potter family

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Quail family tomb

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Gordon family tomb

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Morrison family tomb opposite their residence

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Downpatrick tomb, inscription not legible

There is another example of such a tomb at Ballee.

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Side view of the tomb at Ballee

Of particular interest to architectural historians are the two tombs at Downpatrick described by Professor Curl as consisting:

of square bases, with panelled sides, surmounted by pyramids having concave sides derived from early mausolea in the Kedron Valley, Jerusalem.

The link with the Kedron Valley is particularly intriguing.

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The two concave tombs at Downpatrick ‘derived from early mausolea in the Kedron Valley, Jerusalem’

But by far the grandest tomb is to be found at Clough. Professor Curl describes it as:

A work of Victorial funerary architecture in full bloom…The grand ‘Order’ of consoles instead of pilasters or columns; the massive vermiculated rustication of the entrance; the shrouded urns; and the remnants of neoclassical form give an indication of the ‘fat atmosphere’ of funerals so typical of opulent burial in the nineteenth century…The funeral pomp of the Murland mausoleum at Clough is something one might expect to find in the cemetery of Père-Lachaise or in one of the great American cemeteries, rather than in a small rural churchyard in the shadow of the Mountains of Mourne.

The Murland family were local mill owners and members of the church at Clough. The Memorial at Clough is now in need of conservation and the Follies Trust is hoping to tackle this in forthcoming months. On Wednesday, 13th March 2019 there will be a public lecture at Clough Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church at 7.30 pm by Dr Finbar McCormick on the topic of ‘Mausolea & Memorials to the dead in Ireland’. Everyone is welcome and the talk will be followed by refreshments.

Dr McCormick is a senior lecturer in the School of the Natural and Built Environment at Queen’s University, Belfast and former Chair of the Discovery Programme. The Follies Trust writes:

The talk will look at the history and development of memorials to the dead in Ireland and beyond. It will show how the Reformation changed people’s attitude to commemorating the dead and will demonstrate how Presbyterianism in Scotland played such an important role in the development of the modern mausoleum. Dr McCormick will also show how classical ideas had such an influence on mausoleum design as can be seen in the magnificent Murland mausoleum at Clough. The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society list describes the mausoleum as ‘the phenomenal Murland vault of about 1860, furnished with all the pompe funebre of the classical manner, with trimmings.’ It was designed by Thomas Turner and is a fine example of the genre.

The Follies Trust leaflet contains illustrations of the tomb and information on how to make a donation to the project if you wish. It can be downloaded from this link:

Follies Mausoleum Flyer

 

Faith and Freedom Calendar 2019 available to download

The Faith and Freedom Calendar is available and has been sent out to all individual subscribers to the journal. You can order additional hard copies from Nigel Clarke, the business manager (faithandfreedom@btinternet.com), in return for a donation which will go to the Send a Child to Hucklow Fund.

The whole Calendar is also available to view and to download via the following link:

faith and freedom calendar 2019 web

 

This year’s Calendar features:

Winter in the Vale of Edale, Peak District National Park. Photo:  Andrew Clarke

Church House, Abbey Street, Armagh.Photo: Paul Eliasberg

Gerbera (African Daisy). Photo: Graham Bonham

Juvenile blackbird. Photo: Graham Bonham

A celebration of famous Unitarians on Dunas Day, Torockó, Romania. Photo: Sára Bíró

St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta, Malta. Photo: Anne Wild

Lake Ohrid viewed from the church of the Archangel Michael, Radožda, Macedonia. Photo: Tony Lemon

Unitarian service at Bölön, Transylvania, Romania. Photo: Sára Bíró

Dandelion seed head. Photo: Graham Bonham

Methodist chapel, Barber Booth, Edale, Derbyshire. Photo: Andrew Clarke

Commemorating the centenary of the end of WW1, Downpatrick. Photo: David Steers

Cygnets on Ballydugan Lake, county Down. Photo: David Steers

Cover scan back 2019

Faith and Freedom 2019 Calendar

The Faith and Freedom Calendar for 2019 is now winging its way to all individual subscribers around the world. Additional copies can be had for a suggested donation of £5 (all of which goes to the Send a Child to Hucklow Fund). Email Nigel Clarke at faithandfreedom@btinternet.com if you would like to order one.

The Calendar is full of fantastic images celebrating the world of faith and the natural world, each month carrying a large illustration from around the world including Derbyshire Peak District, Northern Ireland (Armagh and Down), Malta (St John’s Co-Cathedral Valletta), Transylvania (Torockó and Bölön), and Macedonia (Lake Ohrid) as well as Graham Bonham’s brilliantly detailed pictures of plants and birds.

There is a scan of the cover at the top of this page, and of the back cover at the bottom and here are some of Graham’s images:

Flower Graham Bonham

March
Gerbera is a member of the daisy family and was named after Dr Trugott Gerber, an eighteenth-century German botanist and friend of Carl Linnaeus. The plant is native to the tropics and is commonly known as the African daisy. A perennial, it is attractive to insects and birds but resistant to deer. The picture was constructed by combining multiple images focused at different points into a single composite image.

 

blackbird

April
The common blackbird is a species of true thrush. RS Thomas’ poem ‘A Blackbird Singing’ cites “a suggestion of dark Places about it.” However it is not normally seen as a symbol of bad luck. In medieval times the trick of placing live birds under a pie crust just before serving may have been the origin of the nursery rhyme. A blackbird also featured on the UK 4d stamp in 1966.

 

Seeds Graham Bonham

September
The image of the dandelion seed head can be interpreted in many ways, explains Graham Bonham who created the focus-stacked composite image. “It could symbolize transience – the temporariness of existence: there one moment and blown away the next. Alternatively, it could represent fecundity – one bloom produces hundreds of potential new lives – or be about underappreciated beauty: even pesky ‘weeds’, which many people use ‘chemical weapons’ against (to the detriment of the environment), have beautiful aspects.”

 

Cover scan back 2019

Ancient Chapel of Toxteth 400th Anniversary

Ancient Chapel of Toxteth celebrates 400 years of worship and witness

Two images of the Chapel separated by about 120 years:

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ACT Ext 05

 

Service to Commemorate the

400th Anniversary

of the

Ancient Chapel of Toxteth

Sunday, 25th November 2018

2.30 pm

Please note the service to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth will be held on Sunday, 25th November as advertised. However, the time of the start of the service has been changed it will now commence at 2.30 pm and not at the previously stated time.

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Preparing for worship

ACoT landscape logo

New St Patrick’s Cross at Down Cathedral

 

Cross long view

I was very pleased to be amongst those present for the Civic reception for the new High Cross erected at Down Cathedral on 24th September. Based on fragments of an ancient cross kept in the Cathedral it is carved from Mourne granite, weighs five tonnes and towers over its immediate surroundings. It is an impressive structure, a work that eloquently reflects the legacy of St Patrick so close to his grave. The fragments that are inside the Cathedral were originally found on the site that is now marked as St Patrick’s grave and are thought to date from the eighth century. The pieces were digitally scanned and the decoration carved onto the new Cross to create a pristine replica of what may once have stood at the entrance to the Benedictine monastery which originally stood on the hill.

Cross reverse view

Cross front view

Cross speeches

Cross hand print

Hand print at the foot of the Cross for pilgrims

 

The most interesting place in Southport

 

Southport is always an interesting place. It has all the usual seaside details you would expect plus some features that mark it out as a little more dignified than the usual destination. Most notably these include the intricate nineteenth-century cast iron verandahs which adorn Lord Street.

But for me, for as long as I can remember, the one place that really stands out is the Shell Shop. You could easily miss it if you didn’t know it was there but it is a place I never walk past without going in.

Youthful visits to Southport with church and youth groups always included a trip to the Shell Shop. It was arranged as a museum around some rickety staircases and took the visitor on an eccentric journey to the South Sea Islands. A large and grubby looking plug from borstal hung near the end of the experience along with, I was recently reminded by Tony the current owner, a large model of a witch doctor placed there to discourage young visitors from shop lifting! Nowadays I don’t go so much for the shells as for the three floors of second hand books. I didn’t realise until a recent visit that the original Shell Shop and book shop were two separate businesses and indeed both were different to the current business, Parkinsons Books, but such was the demand from visitors for shells and other unusual items that the large stock of shells, fossils and curios from around the world remain very much a part of the display.

There is always a good selection of theology upstairs and it is always worth the hike to see what is there. But the shadowy passageway containing the 50p bargains never fails to yield some great finds. Not so long ago I purchased six random volumes of the original Dictionary of National Biography for 50p each. You might wonder why I wanted them since they are quite bulky and are, of course, available online these days, but you couldn’t leave them there for £3. Besides I only have to find 16 more and I will have the full set.

Southport shop front

A Lord Street shop front

Southport colonnade

Victorian cast iron and glass shop canopies

Southport shell entrance

The entrance to the Shell Shop

Southport shell 50p books

50p bargains

Southport shell passage

Getting nearer to the shop

Southport shell books

Ground floor

Southport shell shelves

Some shells

Southport diver

Don’t forget the diver. Southport statue