"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The Parish Church of St Alphege, Solihull

I gave E a lift into Solihull on Monday as she was meeting a friend for lunch so, as I had two hours free time before running her home, I decided to revisit the Parish Church of St Alphege as the first visit I made a few years ago was fairly brief. The oldest part of the church dates back to 1180 with additions made in the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. The church is dedicated to St Alphege who was born in 954 and was made Archbishop of Canterbury 1006-1012. He was killed by invading Danes and canonised in 1078.

I had a walk around the outside of the church first - here we have marks made by arrow sharpenings over the centuries. The long marks were made by Broadheads and the round ones by Bodkins (these are different types of arrowhead used with the long bows).

A Solihull Geology Trail booklet I have mentions that this rock is a glacial erratic - i.e. a rock that is different from the local bedrock and which was transported from another area by glaciers during an Ice Age and then deposited as the ice melted.

The Northern Porch dates from around 1360 and

contains two lovely stained glass windows.

The font dates from the 14th century but the stonework was dressed in late Victorian times.

The stained glass (apart from a few fragments of medieval glass) dates from 1845 onwards. It really is very beautiful - so rather a lot of stained glass window photos in this post!

The Candlemas Window designed by Claude Price in 1977.

The West Window - the Tree of Jesse by CE Kempe dates from 1879

The Resurrection by CE Kempe

In the bottom left hand part of the photo you can see a wheatsheaf - Kempe's mark.

This window shows Thomas Becket being murdered by four barons in Canterbury Cathedral. It dates from 1956 and is the work of Lawrence Lee once Professor of Stained Glass at the Royal College of Art and the designer of windows in Coventry Cathedral (another place I must revisit one day).

St Katherine's Chapel which contains a Reredos with paintings of Saints

Stained Glass in the Chancel

The East Window by William Vailes of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

The Chantry Chapel of St Alphege

Upper Chapel

Fragments of Medieval wall decorations

The East Window of 1908 containing flora and fauna images was by Bertram Lamplugh (a follower of the Arts and Crafts Movement)

The Lower Chapel - the Crypt Chapel of St Francis (medieval, built around 1277 and once the Chantry priest's chapel and chamber). The Altar is original.

Another photo of the church as I was leaving.

Lovely to see some thistle seedheads left to flourish near one of the entrances to Touchwood Shopping Centre.

Passion flowers - why doesn't mine flower like this?!!!

E had originally suggested going on to one of the local National Trust properties where Spotted Flycatchers have been seen recently but by the time we met up it was too late. So we stopped off in Coleshill on the way home and I had a browse round "Books Revisited" while E looked for Pokemons! Did have a cup of tea and a slice of Victoria Sandwich in a tearoom - no photo as I had left the camera in the car boot!

Reference: St Alphege Solihull Guide Book


Simon Douglas Thompson said...

I love those sharpening marks, more authentic than anything else on view in that church, in my view. History drips off them.

Caroline Gill said...

I always so enjoy these posts - and learn so much. I particularly like the photo of the brasses ... it brings back many happy memories of biking around our rural villages as a teenager to rub the local ones with heelball and brass rubbing sticks of 'astral', which I always thought was a wonderful name! We always got permission, and in those days, not many folk realised that rubbing could be detrimental. I especially liked the ones that had a faithful dog or lion at the foot of its master - or the small ones of groups of children. Some were quite gruesome skeletons etc.!

Ragged Robin said...

Simon Douglas Thompson - Thanks Simon. I don't think I have ever seen so many arrow sharpening marks on a church - a whole wall of them :)

Caroline Gill - Thanks so much Caroline - so pleased to hear you enjoy these posts - I always worry there are too many photos and too much detail!

I was so interested to read of your brass rubbings - it was something I always wanted to do and never did. I used to get books from the library on 100 things to do at a weekend or 50 things to do on a rainy afternoon and brass rubbings were always mentioned :) I was in a church recently (the one at Coleshill I think) and a lady there mentioned that one had been damaged by all the brass rubbings done over the years which was something I hadn't thought of before. From memory I think St Mary's at Warwick has a brass rubbing section - will have to check!

Rosie said...

Looks an impressive church especially the stained glass and the crypt but my favourite bits are the brasses and those wonderful bow sharpening marks:)

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Thanks Rosie - yes, it is impressive there. Sorry I couldn't get a better photo of the brasses - pictures with flash didn't turn out well and not using flash being in a darker area of the church meant shutter speed was very low!

Countryside Tales said...

I always enjoy your church posts, especially the arrow sharpening marks, a real touch-stone with history.

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks very much CT :) - Best example I have seen so far of arrow sharpening marks :)

Wendy said...

I also love the arrow sharpening marks - I suppose because I can imagine the archers making them! I wonder why the church let the walls be used like this. The other objects in the church, made by craftsmen, are also impressive. There are so many lovely stained glass windows here for a parish church.

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy Thanks so much Wendy. I too so love all the history and craftsmanship in and around churches. I've done a bit of googling re: the arrow sharpening marks. Apparently in Medieval times it was compulsory for every person who could use a longbow to practise their archery skills every Sunday usually on an area called the Butts. The church was the nearest stone building where the arrows could be sharpened as the houses were built of mud and timber. I would imagine the church would have found it difficult to stop them!! :) Interesting how many Warks churches seem to have these marks - I wonder how common they are elsewhere?