Snowdrops for Sophie

In light of my recent incredibly sad and heart breaking loss of Sophie I thought long and hard about doing this walk, especially as I’d originally intended taking Sophie with me, but there was nothing to be gained by staying at home and after several weekends of not being able to go anywhere I really needed a few hours out. My intended destination was Hornby Castle Gardens, only open on a few select weekends each year with the most recent being the snowdrop weekend. Sunday’s weather forecast for that area was for sunshine and even though it was cloudy and grey here at home I decided to take a chance and go.
As I got to the far side of the nearby moors I could see sunshine and blue sky ahead and by the time I was heading north up the M6 it had turned into a really lovely day. Living where I do, halfway up a hill on the north side of town, I don’t normally encounter any instances of flooding in bad weather so I was quite surprised at the sight which greeted me as I drove along the A683 towards the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Just before Claughton village the River Lune had overflowed and a huge area of flat grazing fields had disappeared underwater, though fortunately the natural slope of the land from the roadside had prevented the water from reaching the road itself or any roadside properties.
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There’s a river in there somewhere
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Set back off the road, and just out of reach of the flood water, was the old Lanefoot Crossing signal box in the garden of a nearby cottage. Once part of the long-disused ‘Little’ North Western Railway line which operated between Lancaster and Wennington, then extended to Leeds, it was in use between 1849 and 1968, and in more recent years has been preserved and refurbished to be used as a summerhouse for the cottage.
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The Lanefoot Crossing signal box
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There was no parking available in the grounds of Hornby Castle so I left the van in the village car park and walked along the road and over the bridge to the castle gardens entrance gates. The River Wenning, swollen from all the recent rain, was in full flow as it ran west to join the Lune, and on the east side of the bridge the water was a seething boiling mass as it came over the nearby weir – definitely not a place anyone would want to fall in.
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River Wenning looking west
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Looking east
Entrance to the castle grounds cost £5 with dogs free of charge and after being given a map, which I didn’t really need as I’ve been there before, though not at this time of year, I set off with Poppie to find some snowdrops. Now I don’t know if my expectations were too high or if maybe the recent bad weather was a factor, but far from seeing carpets of snowdrops as I thought I would all I found were small clumps dotted here and there among the trees, with several clumps together on the bank leading up to the castle lawns.
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Driveway up to the castle

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The pond and island

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Part of the path along the riverside had been closed off as it was muddy and very slippery but I got round that by walking along the riverbank itself, and when I rejoined the path I came to the remains of a dead tree trunk. One side looked very much like the other so it was hard to tell which had been roots and which were branches but I liked the shape of it so it was worth a quick snap.
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Along the riverside walk

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Just past the tree trunk the path wound steeply uphill and almost doubled back on itself, emerging at one corner of the castle lawn. At the far side steps led down a short steep bank to the main driveway and on the bank itself were a couple of clumps of pink flowers ; they looked a bit sorry for themselves but at least they provided a bit of colour.
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Across the driveway a path and a succession of wide shallow steps went down through a wooded area to the walled garden ; at this time of year there wasn’t much colour about the place but I did see some more pink flowers, some daffodils, a few more isolated clumps of snowdrops and some lovely bright blue things which I don’t know the name of.
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The walled garden was my last port of call, I’d been everywhere else and with so few snowdrops to see there was no point walking round again, so I made my way back to the van and with one last shot from the bridge I set off for home, arriving back at 4pm and still in sunshine. Although Hornby Castle’s website promises ‘hundreds of named varieties of snowdrops’ the ones I saw all looked the same to me, and compared to the carpets of flowers I saw at Lytham Hall last year the clumps of snowdrops dotted here and there were rather a disappointment.
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This had been my first proper walk with Poppie on her own and it seemed so strange having just one little four-paws with me instead of two. Even though the snowdrops didn’t live up to my expectations I know that Sophie would have loved the walk so I’ve decided – when the time is right, and in her memory, there’ll be some snowdrops planted in her corner of my garden.

 

Bolton’s street art…

What little there is of it anyway.
My Monday walk this week is a relatively short one across the town centre from north to south, starting at the 1st Edition tattoo parlour just on the north edge of town. It’s round the corner from one of the places where I work so I pass it regularly ; the mural on the side wall has been done by a Hungarian-born Preston tattoo artist with over ten years experience working as a graphic designer, illustrator and street artist.
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Artist – Andrew Senph
Down into the town centre itself now, and the Greyhound pub on Deansgate. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to find out any history of the pub other than for some strange reason it’s referred to locally as the Kicking Donkey ; on its side wall is one of several murals done by an artist going by the name of Kaser.
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Artist – Kaser
A few minutes walk from the Greyhound and past the open market took me to the Griffin pub on Great Moor Street and a Kaser mural on the corner wall, though again I can find no history of the pub itself.
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Artist – Kaser
Another few minutes walk and I came to the Sweet Green Tavern on Crook Street, and more murals by Kaser. Yet again I’ve been unable to find out much history of the pub though the very friendly young lady behind the bar did tell me that the building used to be three separate premises. The window on the far left was once a doorway and that and the two windows on its right were the original pub which was just one room. The existing doorway and the two windows to its right belonged to a bakery and the other three windows were the doorway and windows of a house.
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Stretching along the pub’s rear wall, and bordering the main road, is a large mural which pays tribute to the photos of Humphrey Spender and the Mass Observation of 1937/38. Seen close up it’s just a jumble of black and grey shapes but from across the road (or in my case the middle of the road!) it makes more sense.
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Artist – Kaser

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On the end wall of the pub is another mural by Kaser, taken from a photo of the 1918 Crook Street train crash. On March 16th that year a coal train with an engine weighing 70 tons pulling wagons carrying over 400 tons of coal ran out of control going down the incline approaching Bolton Terminal Station. It was diverted into the Crook Street goods yard but ran through the yard, smashed through the buffers and the boundary wall, crossed the road diagonally and smashed into two small houses. The guard jumped from the brake van but the driver and fireman stayed on the footplate ; fortunately none of the men suffered more than minor injuries but eight people living in the houses were injured, though not seriously. In addition to the damage to the engine and the houses five coal wagons were completely wrecked and seven others were damaged.
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Artist – Kaser
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Framed article in the pub, taken from the local paper in 1998
Going through the pub and out into the outside smoking area I found a plethora of murals by Kaser. Unfortunately some of the canopy supports prevented me from getting completely uninterrupted photos of some of the murals but the shots I got were good enough. My favourite was the hummingbird on the end wall, and even though it was looking a bit worse for wear it was still quite pretty.

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This has no connection to the artist Banksy – the landlord’s name is Banks
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As far as I’m aware these murals are the only examples of street art in my town ; I can think of several places which could be brightened up with a mural or two so it’s a shame that most of these are hidden behind the outside wall of a pub’s beer garden. I’m glad I found out about them though, and at least I’ve added a few more photos to my street art collection.

 

Town centre heritage trail – some local history and photos

The industrial past of my home town, Bolton, lives on today in many ways, including the work and inventions of several famous locals who helped to forge and shape the industrial revolution. The Industrial Heritage Town Centre Walking Trail has 12 sites of interest including historic buildings and statues, and my Monday walk this week starts at the first one, the Town Hall in Victoria Square.
In the mid 19th century the town’s mayor at the time, J R Wolfenden, promoted the idea for a town hall and a competition for the design was held by Bolton Corporation. It was won by architect William Hill of Leeds in partnership with Bolton’s George Woodhouse and building began in 1866. A quarter-chiming clock by Potts of Leeds was installed in the baroque-style clock tower in 1871 and the completed Town Hall was opened by Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1873. In later years the design was re-used by William Hill as the template to build Portsmouth’s Civic Town Hall in 1890, which is a near-identical twin, though it was renamed Portsmouth Guildhall in 1926 when the town was elevated to city status.
In the early 1930s the rear of the town hall was extended to the designs of local architects Bradshaw, Gass & Hope and which matched the original building, with a crescent of civic buildings providing office space built to the rear on a new street. Inside the town hall was the Albert Hall, a central hall used for concerts and official functions, which was surrounded on three sides by a wide corridor and an outer ring of offices. In 1978 local steeplejack Fred Dibnah made repairs to the clock tower and its 16 stone pillars and gilded the sphere at the top. On November 14th 1981 the Albert Hall was unfortunately gutted by a devastating fire but the rest of the building was saved, with the hall itself being rebuilt as two public halls, the new Albert Hall and the Festival Hall.
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To the right of the town hall is the statue of Lieutenant Colonel Sir Benjamin Alfred Dobson. Although born on the Isle of Man he was a descendant of the founder of Bolton company Dobson & Barlow, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of textile machinery. He studied as a civil engineer and entered the family firm in 1871, eventually becoming Chairman ; he also wrote books about the spinning industry and held several engineering patents. As a Conservative MP Dobson represented North Ward for six years from 1874 and was a magistrate from 1880.
In March 1879 Dobson opened the lattice girder ‘Dobson Bridge’ in Queen’s Park and in June 1884 he opened the Chadwick Museum in the same park. In 1894 he became Mayor of Bolton, with his wife Coralie being the first Mayoress to wear the Mayoress’s Chain and Badge ; he was knighted in July 1897 and died in March 1898 while still in office. The statue of Dobson, modelled by Manchester sculptor John Cassidy, was purchased by public subscription and was unveiled in February 1900. In much later years his great grandson, Christopher Brian Spencer Dobson, who was a lawyer, politician, comedian and actor, co-wrote the screenplay for Nicholas Roeg’s 1973 film ”Don’t Look Now” (starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland) under the name Chris Bryant.
About 50 yards away from the Dobson statue, in a huge reinforced glass case, is the Corliss Steam Engine built in Bolton by Hick Hargreaves & Co Ltd in 1886. The original Corliss steam engine was invented in 1849 in Rhode Island, America, by George Henry Corliss who managed to create an engine that was 30% more efficient than conventional ones. This was an important breakthrough as it meant that for the first time steam power became more economical than water power. This in turn meant that as factories no longer needed to use water to turn their wheels but could use a steam engine instead they could be built anywhere, not just next to a suitable river. The Corliss engine was ideal for textile mills as it had adjustable speed and power, which was useful when connected to machines for the spinning of delicate thread.
The Bolton engine was in use until 1969 in a silk spinning mill owned by Ford, Ayrton & Co in Bentham, North Yorkshire, and when it came to the end of its working life it was donated to the people of Bolton. Representing a typical steam engine which would have powered so many mills throughout the region, it was erected and placed in its huge glass case by Bolton Corporation when Oxford Street and Newport Street were pedestrianised in 1973. At one time the large wheel could be seen going round on Saturdays but it hasn’t turned for many years now.
The Bank of Bolton on Deansgate was a joint stock bank established in 1836 with a capital of £300,000. In 1896 it was acquired by Manchester & County Bank Ltd which eventually became part of the National Westminster Bank. The Coat of Arms still exists on the outside of the building and also in some of the interior stained glass, though of course for security reasons I wasn’t allowed to take any photos inside.
Along Deansgate and past the junction with Bradshawgate is Churchgate and Booth’s Music Shop which occupies the site of Arkwright’s Barbers Shop established in the early 1760s. Born in Preston, Lancashire, in 1732 Richard Arkwright was apprenticed to a barber in nearby Kirkham and began his adult working life as a barber and wig maker, setting up his shop in Bolton’s Churchgate. It was here that he invented a waterproof dye for use on the fashionable periwigs of the time, the income from which later funded his prototype cotton machinery.
After the death of his first wife Arkwright became interested in the development of carding and spinning machinery to replace hand labour in the conversion of raw cotton to thread for weaving, and in 1768 he returned to Preston with John Kay, a clock maker, where they rented rooms in a house on Stoneygate, now called Arkwright House. There they worked on developing a spinning machine and in 1769 Arkwright patented the spinning frame which produced twisted threads using wooden and metal cylinders rather than human fingers. This machine, initially powered by horses, greatly reduced the cost of cotton-spinning and would lead to major changes in the textile industry. The original building where Arkwright had his barbers shop was demolished in the early 1920s, being replaced by the existing building, though there is a plaque commemorating him on the wall above the music shop windows.
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At the far end of Churchgate is the large St. Peter’s Church, commonly known as Bolton Parish Church. The fourth church to be built on that site, it was designed by Lancaster architect E G Paley. Paid for by Peter Ormrod, a local cotton spinner of Halliwell Hall whose father founded the Bank of Bolton, it was built between 1867 and 1871 in the Gothic Revival style. Its tower, at 180ft high, is the tallest in the historic county of Lancashire and has spectacular 360-degree views across the area. The spacious and beautiful interior contains many items of interest including fine stained glass windows, carved woodwork, a museum corner and an organ with beautifully decorated case and pipes. Guided tours of the church can be pre-booked, and having been in there myself a couple of years ago it’s a church well worth seeing.
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In the grounds of the Parish Church is Samuel Crompton’s tomb. Building on the work of James Hargreaves and Richard Arkwright Crompton invented the spinning mule, a machine which greatly revolutionised the cotton spinning industry. Unfortunately his invention was never patented, which allowed others to copy his idea, and in 1827 he died a poor man at his house in King Street in the town centre. It’s said that a large number of people attended his funeral, including some of Bolton’s factory owners ; his original gravestone was very simple but in 1861 the existing granite monument, paid for by the workers of Dobson & Barlow Ltd, was placed over the grave.

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Not far from the Parish Church is Wood Street, a short cobbled street of Georgian terraced houses, most of which are now offices, and No. 16 is the birthplace of William Hesketh Lever, industrialist, politician, landowner and major Bolton benefactor. Lever started work at his father’s grocery business in Bolton but as a businessman he is noted for founding the soap and cleaning product firm, Lever Brothers with his younger brother James in 1885, and at Port Sunlight on the Wirral he built his works and a model village to house its employees. Lord Leverhulme was asked to become Mayor of Bolton in 1918 and for some time worked with town planners on a grand architectural revival for Bolton.
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Along the road from Wood Street is Nelson Square and the Samuel Crompton statue. In honour of his contribution towards revolutionising the cotton spinning industry a statue paid for by public subscription was unveiled on 24th September 1862 and still stands proud today.
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Heading back towards the town hall and on one corner of Victoria Square is No. 1 Newport Street, the Exchange Building. Built in 1826 by the Bolton Exchange Company it was originally a trading exchange inside which was a private reading room. This developed into a private library which later became Bolton’s first public library. Later still it became Bolton Council Reference Library and remained as such until 1938 when the library services were transferred to the new civic buildings behind the town hall. By 1956 the building was being used by the Inland Revenue Valuation Office, in the years since then it has been a building society and is now currently a Coral’s betting shop.
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Bolton Museum, Art Gallery and Central Library are all housed together at one end of the Civic Centre buildings designed by local architects Bradshaw, Gass & Hope in the 1930s. The museum collections include natural history, Egyptology, archaeology, art and local history, and one of Britain’s oldest public aquariums, opened in 1941, is housed in the basement.
In 2003, after consulting experts at the British Museum and Christies, Bolton Museum bought the small sculpture Armana Princess  for £439,767 from a local man who claimed it was from his grandfather’s forgotten collection. The sculpture remained on display until 2006 when it was exposed as a fake ; after an investigation the forger was found to be the local man who, over a period of several years, had produced many forged works of art in his garden shed, including what was said to be an original Lowry painting – he was eventually sentenced to 4 years 8 months in prison. In recent years the museum received £3.8 million in grant funding to update and improve its collections and displays and after a refurbishment programme lasting almost two years it re-opened in September 2018, with the Armana Princess  back on display in a special section for fakes and forgeries.
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The museum and art gallery concluded my circular walking trail round the town centre but there was one more place on the list – Queen’s Park. Although not actually in the town centre one part of the park was right on the edge and was included in the trail because of its heritage connections. Originally opened in 1866 as Bolton Park it was renamed by the Town Council in 1897 in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The park is the original site of the Chadwick Museum, which eventually became the Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, and it also has the Dobson Bridge, erected in 1878 to link the original park to a later extension and officially opened by B A Dobson who was Chairman of the Park Committee at the time.
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Dobson Bridge, Queen’s Park, on a much nicer day
Unfortunately when I did this walk two days ago the weather wasn’t exactly brilliant, it was so dull and grey that I’ve had to seriously enhance these photos to properly show some of the sites of interest, but hopefully I’ll have time to do the walk again on a much nicer day and I’ll be able to replace these shots with some better ones.

Scavenger photo hunt – January

After a break in December for everyone to take care of all things Christmassy the first photo hunt of this year has arrived, with the topics being – Lost/found, print/s, lunch, starts with M, ends with T, and as always, my own choice. Initially I didn’t think I would be taking part this month as taking care of a very sick little dog has meant that my computer time has been kept to snatched moments here and there, however I’ve managed to hastily put together a few photos so here goes.
Three weeks ago I managed to ‘lose’ my door key somewhere in the house ; with only a few places where it could have been I searched them all more than once but couldn’t find it anywhere so had to resort to using the spare. Three days after losing it I finally found it hanging from the top of the dog crate where Sophie had her bed ; I must have put it there momentarily while dealing with Sophie and the key itself had slipped down between the bars, leaving it hanging from the top, but why I didn’t see it until three days later I’ll never know.
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Lost/found – my front door key, missing for three days
Searching my bedding stash the other day I came across this duvet set which hadn’t been used for a while so I decided it should see light of day to cheer up my room. I’ve loved leopard print fabric for many years so when I saw this in an online store a couple of years ago I just had to have it.
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Print/s – my leopard print bedding, actually much brighter than it looks
As Michael and I had no opportunity to go out for a meal since before Christmas he said he would take me to lunch last weekend on his day off so with my friend babysitting Sophie we went to our regular haunt a few miles up the road, the Black Dog at Belmont village. I wouldn’t normally have such a big lunch but caring for Sophie has meant that any recent ‘meals’ have been more of the snack type, quick to prepare and easy to eat while sometimes having a dog lying across my lap, so in this instance I decided to have something a bit more substantial.
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Lunch – home made cheese and onion pie with a delicious cheese sauce
Delving into the archives this time for one of a set of photos I took a couple of years ago for a blog post which I haven’t, so far, got round to writing. These are just a few of my extensive collection of mouse ornaments – I don’t know how many I have, probably somewhere in the region of about 200 on display in various parts of the house. My mother really had no idea what she was starting when she bought me the first one all those years ago!
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Starts with M – Mice
Another one from the archives, and this was taken from the end of the camp site where I stayed for a week back in early June 2013. The site was in a gorgeous location next to a beautiful beach with fabulous views over to the islands of Eigg, Muck and Rum, and the late evening sunsets were amazing.
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Ends with T – Arisaig sunset
And finally, my own choice just had to be this one. After the first couple of days of her illness I transferred Sophie’s bed upstairs to the side of my own bed and this was taken as she settled down after a short bedtime walk last night. At the moment I don’t know what the future holds for either of us – her recovery from the stroke will be a long hard job and it’s very much a case of one day at a time but every little improvement, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction.
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My own choice – Sophie
So there you have it, my hastily put together choices for this month. As always, I’m linking up with Kate’s blog and as soon as I get a few minutes I’ll be over to see what photos other have chosen for this month.

Dublin’s Georgian doors

Heading back to Ireland for my post today, and after photographing a few of Dublin’s Georgian doors last September I went back in December to get some more shots. Back in the 18th and early 19th centuries Dublin’s Georgian houses were characterised by a uniform style to conform with building regulations at the time, which meant that all new properties in a particular area looked exactly the same, though there are a few urban legends behind the reasons why the door colours were eventually changed.
One story leads back to the Irish writer George Moore who painted his door green in an effort to stop another writer, Oliver St. John Gogarty who lived on the same street, from mistaking Moore’s house for his own when coming home drunk from the pub, then in retaliation Gogarty painted his own door red. Another story came from the poet W B Yeats who wrote that Moore painted his door green for artistic reasons, being of the opinion that ‘the whole decoration of his house required a green door’. Whatever the true reason was, Moore is widely documented as having fought many times with his neighbours over his green door.
Whether or not George Moore did actually start the door-painting craze is uncertain but it did catch on and eventually many of the residents decided they wanted to express their individuality by not only painting their doors in bright colours but also adding wrought iron boot scrapers to the front steps and changing the knockers and fanlights to make each house distinctive from its immediate neighbours.
Although, on the north side of the River Liffey, there are several streets which still have Georgian houses with colourful front doors the most popular ones are concentrated in an area on the south side of the river, so join me on my ‘door walk’ as I wander along three sides of Merrion Square and the south side of St. Stephen’s Green.
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Today most of the houses still have their original fanlights and some have even retained the box-shaped glass recesses in which a lamp would have been placed. There were so many nice doors it was impossible to photograph them all ; I didn’t even venture into Fitzwilliam Square and the other streets in the area so maybe I’ll make that a mission for the next time I visit Dublin.

 

Bury Parish Church – some history and photos

This week’s Monday walk, if you can call it that, features a wander round a church about seven miles from home in the next town. The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin is situated right on the edge of Bury town centre, just a couple of minutes walk from the interchange and the main shopping centre and not far from the well known open market. Church records suggest that the first church on the site was a wood and thatch structure which was replaced in the late 16th century by a building in the Gothic style ; between 1773 and 1780 the main body of this church was demolished and rebuilt although the spire wasn’t touched.
The spire itself was replaced in 1842 but by 1870 the timbers in the rest of the church had rotted and another new building was needed. The current church was designed on a much grander scale by architect J S Crowther and was built leaving the 1842 spire in place ; construction took five years and the church was finally consecrated on February 2nd 1876. The interior features hammerbeam and tie-beam roof trusses, decorative mosaic flooring by Minton and stained glass windows by Clayton & Bell and Hardman & Company, while the tower houses eight bells, six of which date from 1722.
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The nave is 84ft 6ins long, 30ft wide and 76ft 6ins high, with the windows on the north wall depicting Old Testament figures while those on the south wall depict those from the New Testament. Unfortunately most of the windows were so high up that I would have needed to use an exceptionally long step ladder to get good clear shots of them. The west wall rises in four stages to the great rose window and was inspired by Westminster Abbey, while the pulpit was given in memory of Reverend Roger Kay who re-founded Bury Grammar School in 1726 ; it’s believed that he is actually buried beneath the pulpit.
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The nave and sanctuary
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The ornate sanctuary screen
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Looking down the nave from the sanctuary
The organ was at one time situated above the west door but it was relocated to its current position when the church was rebuilt in 1876. Originally a tracker action organ electrics were eventually installed and the console was moved to the south side of the chancel where it faced east. The organ was rebuilt in 2007, keeping some of the original pipework and giving it a French sound, and the console was turned to face south.
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Flooring in the South Chapel
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South Chapel reredos – Mary and child flanked by patron saints of Britain
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Looking down the nave to the west wall
The church is also the garrison church of the Lancashire Fusiliers. On April 25th 1915 the Lancashire Fusiliers were involved in taking West Beach at Gallipoli, for which the regiment won six VCs, and each year a service is held on the nearest Sunday to that date to commemorate those who took part in Gallipoli and subsequent battles. For anyone interested in regimental history the church has a number of colours hung on display along with memorial tablets, record books and other artefacts, with a dedicated museum in the old Fusiliers building round the corner.
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The Fusilier Museum
I hadn’t originally intended going into the church as I was in Bury for an entirely different reason, but when I saw the ‘church open’ sign on the outside railings I thought I may as well pop in for a quick look and I’m glad I did. It’s a lovely place with many interesting features, more than I realised at the time, so it would be worth making a return visit the next time I go to Bury – and with a nice little café just across the road I can treat myself to coffee and cake as well.

Carmelite Church, Dublin

The Carmelite Church in Dublin, official title the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel but usually referred to as Whitefriar Street Church, is a place I discovered more or less by accident while roaming the city’s streets a few weeks ago in search of street art, and with my liking for stained glass windows I decided to go in and take a look – and I have to say that I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
The first Carmelites arrived in Ireland in 1271 and settled in Dublin in 1280 ; they stayed until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century then later returned and established themselves in the oldest part of the city in the early 17th century. Although there’s been a church in the location of Whitefriar Street since then the current church wasn’t founded and consecrated until 1826/1827.
By 1840 the building had become too small for the congregation so a new nave and north aisle were added, with the existing church becoming the south aisle of the new church ; these additions effectively tripled the size of the existing church and established the building as one of the largest churches in the city. By 1951 the entrances on the narrow Whitefriar Street to the west of the church had become inadequate and indirect as traffic gradually increased, most of it coming from the east end of the building, so a plan was put in place which involved only minor structural alterations. The interior of the church was completely reversed, placing the high altar at the west end, adding on a sacristy and making a direct entrance off the main thoroughfare of Aungier Street.
With its relatively small entrance in the centre of something resembling a large apartment building the church didn’t look much from the outside, but this was very much a case of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ as the fairly unassuming façade really belied what’s inside. Through the outer wrought iron gates and double doors I found myself in a pleasant atrium with patterned mosaic tiling on the floor and walls painted in contrasting colours. In the centre was a shrine with an almost-life-size depiction of Calvary, and set back in an alcove on the right was the shrine of St. Albert of Sicily and two brightly coloured stained glass windows.
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Carmelite Church entrance
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St. Albert of Sicily was born during the 13th century in Trapani and entered the Carmelite Order as a young man, then after his ordination he was sent to the priory at Messina. He was a man of prayer and penance and a lover of solitude but he was also very active within the church and spent much time studying, being regarded as the patron of Carmelite studies. He spent the last years of his life living in a hermitage near Messina ; he died in 1306 and though he was recognised as a wonder worker during his lifetime miracles and cures continued to be attributed to him after his death.
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Mosaic tiling on the atrium floor
At the end of the atrium another set of double doors led into the church itself ; everywhere I looked were beautiful stained glass windows and as well as the two shrines out in the atrium there were several shrines within the church, including one to Our Lady of Dublin and the one most popular with couples, the shrine and relics of St.Valentine.
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Looking down the nave to the sanctuary and high altar
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The dome of the high altar with its angels and gold dove

Carmelite church pulpit 1 - Copy

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Gold dove on the underside of the pulpit canopy
The church’s early pipe organ had been replaced in the 1960s by an electronic instrument but in the early 1980s the then Prior of Whitefriar Street, in consultation with the Carmelite Community, decided to install a new tracker action pipe organ. It was built by the renowned firm of Kenneth Jones & Associates of Bray, Co. Wicklow, and though much of the material was new some historical pipework by noted 19th century Irish organ builders John White and William Telford was sourced.
A tracker action organ is an instrument where all the parts are mechanical rather than electrical. Although electricity is used to power the wind blowing apparatus and the lights at the keyboard all the connections between the pipes and the keys are achieved mechanically. In total the organ contains more than 2,200 pipes ranging from the size of a small pencil to 16ft in height, and it’s one of the finest tracker action organs in Ireland.
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St. Therese was born in France in 1873 and at the age of 15 entered the Lisieux Convent with three of her sisters, where she was appointed assistant mistress of novices five years later. While in the convent she wrote a brief autobiography and account of her spiritual teaching and asked one of her sisters to edit her writing wherever was necessary – this was done and in 1898 the convent had 2,000 copies printed. Although some Carmelite convents didn’t like the new book it sold 47,000 copies in twelve years with demand continuing to rise. Unfortunately Therese never got to see what a success the book became as she died of tuberculosis the year before it was published.
With the success of her book the previously unknown Therese was acclaimed as a saint and a great spiritual teacher. She had said that she wanted to spend her time in heaven doing good on earth and it seemed that those who prayed to her for help were finding their prayers were granted – she was beatified in 1923 and canonised in 1924. The Shrine of St. Therese was blessed in 1955 ; the marble statue of the saint is a replica of the statue which stands over the high altar in the crypt of the Basilica in Lisieux and the mosaic background depicts Our Lady of the Smile which was originally designed in 1750 for a church in Paris.
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Shrine of St. Therese of Lisieux
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The sculpture in the centre of the shrine to Our Lady of Dublin is a life-size figure in oak and probably dates from the early 16th century. Originally it would have been brightly painted but sometime over the centuries it was whitewashed over ; the removal of the whitewash in 1914 unfortunately also removed the ancient surface underneath but after it was cleaned and restored the shrine of Our Lady of Dublin was formally erected in 1915.
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Shrine of Our Lady of Dublin

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In the early 1800s, during the restoration of a religious site in Rome, the remains of St. Valentine were discovered, along with a few artefacts relating to him. In 1835 a well-known Irish Carmelite preacher was visiting Rome and such was his fame that he was given many tokens of esteem by Catholic Church leaders ; one such token came from Pope Gregory XVll (1831-1846) and were the remains and relics of St. Valentine. They were received into the Whitefriar Street church in 1836 but interest in them died in time and they were put into storage.
During a major renovation of the building in the late 1950s/early 1960s the relics were returned to prominence with an altar and shrine being specially constructed to house them ; the statue was carved by an Irene Broe and depicts Valentine wearing the red robes of a martyr and holding a crocus in his hand. Today the shrine is visited by many couples who come to pray to Valentine and ask him to watch over them in their lives together.
Carmelit church St.Valentine - Copy
Turning my attention to the colourful stained glass windows I didn’t know which to photograph first as they were everywhere, some nearly 140 years old and all very lovely. Some windows were single ones, some were in twos and others in sets of three or even four. The Immaculate Conception windows were originally crafted in the 1880s by the renowned Franz Mayer & Company of Germany and are fine examples of what’s known as the ‘Munich Style’ of stained glass. Some of the most beautiful windows were the Rosary Windows, crafted in the 1930s by Earley & Company of Dublin ; these and the Immaculate Conception windows were all restored in the 1990s. Also featured in individual windows were the Carmelite Saints, the Irish Saints and the Holy Family – mouse over the bottom of each image for the description, although the first two and the last one aren’t named.
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Looking from the sanctuary
After spending half an hour looking round this lovely church it was time to get back to my original search for street art. On such a brief visit I hadn’t seen or photographed everything that the church had to offer but it was such a lovely place that I’ll certainly make a return visit in the future as I’m sure there’ll be many more wonderful things to discover.