Seaham ~ part 3 ~ St.Mary’s

The Church of St.Mary The Virgin, is on the list of the top 20 oldest churches in Britain.  It’s also the only surviving building of the original Saxon Village of Seaham Harbour. (now just Seaham). It was founded by King Æthelstan in 930AD and has 7th C late Anglo Saxon masonry and early Norman masonry in its nave, and a 13th-century chancel and west tower.  Over the 16th-century porch door is a late 18th-century sundial with an unusual verse, now illegible, which begins: “The natural clockwork by the mighty one wound up at first and ever since has gone…” which doesn’t make much sense as it stands, but that’s all that can be read.

King Æthelstan was our first proper king according to modern historians at least, grandson of Alfred the Great and son of Edward the Elder. At first King of Mercia, he then went on to be King of Wessex too when his brother who was King there died.  In 927 he conquered the Vikings who were ensconced in York and became the first Anglo-Saxon ruler of the whole of England. He also had a pop at Scotland forcing Constantine II to submit to him. Of course neither the Scots or the Vikings were likely to take all this lying down so they all invaded back in 935.
Æthelstan defeated them at the Battle of Brunanburh, a victory which gave him great prestige both in the British Isles and on the Continent. After his death in 939 the Vikings seized back control of York, and it was not finally reconquered until 954.  As well as being a good politician, centralising government, bringing important leading figures to council and arranging his siblings marriages to foreign rulers, he was also very pious, and was known for collecting relics and founding churches.  More legal texts survive from his reign than from any other 10th-century English king and they show his concern about widespread robberies, and the threat they posed to social order. His legal reforms were built on those of his grandfather, and his household was the centre of English learning during his reign, laying the foundation for the Benedictine monastic reform later in the century.

The church was closed when we got there, so we wandered around the gravestones as you do, and took some pictures of course.  The church is now a way North from Seaham as it is today, and overlooks the headland.

View from St.Mary’s

It has some old and interesting graves, if you click through the picture you can read most of them,

Lord Charles Stewart Reginald Vane-Tempest-Stewart, died in October 1899, aged 19. The 2nd son of the 6th Marquess of Londonderry.

I can’t find out what he died of or how, his elder brother was in the army, and survived to become the 7th Marquess, but there’s no mention of military service for Reg. Very mysterious considering his pedigree.

Dear World….


Elizabeth in the bloom of life, died age 17 in 1772


Thomas Robinson…He was ‘useful’ a lot!

Death in mining explosions was all too common back in the 1800’s.  The Seaham Colliery suffered an underground explosion in 1880 which saw the deaths of upwards of 160 people including surface workers and rescuers.

William Richardson- he had an explosive end…

The enthusiasm for the Volunteer movement following an invasion scare in 1859 saw the creation of many Rifle, Artillery and Engineer Volunteer units composed of part-time soldiers eager to supplement the Regular British Army in time of need. One such unit was the Seaham Artillery Volunteers formed at Seaham in County Durham on 14 March 1860, which became the 2nd (Seaham) Durham Artillery Volunteer Corps’ (AVC).


In 1870 there was a head-on collision at Brockley Whins between a coal train and an express passenger train, caused by a pointsman’s error and a lack of interlocking. Mr. Reed died of his injuries sustained there, 2 months later.


Next to the church is what used to be the Vicarage, c1830, restored c1990 and was built by Lady Londonderry  for the Rev O J Creswell. No info on him either :/


I think it must have been converted into (expensive) appartments now judging by the (expensive) cars parked on it’s drive,


So that’s the end of our Seaham trip, numpty me forgot to get a shot of the church itself 🙄 so Sophie has lent me hers at the top of the post.

All pictures are embiggenable, and more photo’s of our day out can be found HERE

Mere Knowles Cemetery~ April 2018 ~Part 2

Part 1 HERE

We noticed that the chapels were not in the most habitable state of being

Indoor arboretum

and in noticing the roofing issues then noticed carved stone heads around the (technical term alert) stone rim thingy that went around it.  There were a lot, so I’ve just chosen the ones I recognised, (see if you agree) and one I don’t but if you know who they are do say…

HRM Queen Elizabeth II?


Alec Guiness?


Owen Teale ? (Sir Alliser Thorne in GOT) fab Welsh actor.


An extra on The Walking Dead??


Your turn 🙂

I’m wondering if it’s bad of me to have fun with what are obviously serious religious icons, but I find it hard to be obviously seriously religious these days. And furthermore and forthtoothwith, whilst my googling of the chapels came up with “Lodge and gateway rock faced stone, possibly magnesian limestone from Marsden quarry with ashlar dressings;” and further excruciatingly comprehensive architectural details, nothing was apparent regarding the people who adorn the blessed thing. 🙄

Anyways, we left to return to the car, and while Sophie was macro-ing the wildflowers


I doodled round the corner where I found space set aside for a set of more recent headstones, very different from the old, grey aged stones, as modern headstones are of course, but these were all for a different faith I think, though am not sure. (Another google fail).

Your Love is within our hearts.

They are very similar to the one I got for my Mum, black and gold with a carved lily in it. Though I think the script here is Arabic and my Mum was from Yorkshire. If the people here are of different faiths, it doesn’t matter, the sentiments on their memorials are just the same as always whatever dominations I see on my travels to cemeteries.

Finally, on our way out I liked this old door with its cracked paint, and the light coming through the gates.

You can click on the photo’s for an embiggened experience 🤪

For more fun with heads, there are a few more than I’ve posted 🙂  the full album can be seen HERE

Stay tooned, next time we are off to Alnwick Gardens to see an orchard of rare Japanese Blossom trees. And Other Scintillating stuff! Really!! 😉

Fraggle report – Mere Knowles Cemetary – April 2018

There’s nothing better (in mine & Sophie’s opinions) than wandering around cemeteries reading and photographing old graves and monuments.  For us it is history with a personal view, the lives (and mostly deaths!) of real people and sometimes their families, chiselled into headstones.  Names, ages, dates and symbols to be pondered on, sometimes researched (googled 🙂 ) and kept for posterity in digital files, while they crumble away in the graveyards over the years.

We decided a few weekends ago to visit a couple of cemeteries in Sunderland, firstly Grangetown cemetery.  Although we have been there before, we like to go in spring as it has rows of pink-blossom trees through it and we were on our annual blossom-tree hunt!  Unfortunately the blossom had yet to bloom so we didn’t spend long there.  They also have an Angel of Grief so I shot that instead.

The Angel of Grief

The Angel of Grief is an 1894 sculpture by William Wetmore Story for the grave of his wife Emelyn Story and the original can be found at the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. Its full title bestowed by Mr.Story was The Angel of Grief Weeping Over the Dismantled Altar of Life, a bit of a mouthful, but I think he was probably feeling depressed. He never sculpted again after his Mrs’s death, except for this monument to her. He is quoted as saying “It represents the angel of Grief, in utter abandonment, throwing herself with drooping wings and hidden face over a funeral altar. It represents what I feel. It represents Prostration. Yet to do it helps me.” Better than Prozac then.

The statue has been replicated in many cemeteries across the world, there is even a Flickr group dedicated to them you can visit HERE and the image has also been used in popular culture, such as in an album cover for the band Nightwish’s album Once (2004) and in the 2012 film The Woman in Black.

The one in Sunderland is dedicated to William Frederick Larkin by his wife Carrie.

The angel’s left arm has  been broken off midway up the forarm sadly, which is a great shame, so I photographed her so it didn’t show. I mean, what lady wants her bad bits in photo’s, even if she’s distraught?

I am not sure if they are related but there is also a lovely memorial to a Major Larkin in this cemetary, but I haven’t yet found anything out about him.

We then went to visit Mere Knowles Cemetery as this was a new one to us.  It was opened in  July 1856 due to older cemetaries  becoming overcrowded and a health hazard as a result of the cholera epidemic that swept through Sunderland in the 1830’s.

There isn’t a carpark (that we could find) at the cemetery so we parked in Morrisons supermarket car park where Sophie became enamoured of some trees wrapped in green netting, not sure what they’re being protected from!

Lolipop trees

We walked up to the cemetery through the back way alongside a little stream.

Along the path laid part of a sad little headstone

but plenty of cheery flowers in the grounds




Lonely Girl

The first burial at Mere Knolls cemetery was mariner’s daughter Mary Ann Wood, 19, who was laid to rest at the site on July 4, 1856. There are quite a lot of memorials and one of my favourites, (mosaics being a hobby of mine) was this unusual cross

Well done Barb!

Not sure who Barbara was a good and faithful servant to, probably her husband, different times folks, different times!

There’s are too chapels in the grounds, both very similar so will just show the one

though neither are in use.  In part two we’ll have a look at them in detail as they have some wonderful stone- carved heads to see.

That’s all for now folks, stay tooned for part 2!





St. Andrews Church, Bolam ~ September 2017

Last week I posted about mine and Sophie’s trip to Bolam Lake, and for regular followers you’ll know that in the afternoon the clouds came over and we decided to visit St.Andrews Church, which is only around the corner and a minute or so away from the lake. In spite of that, and in spite of having been there before, I managed to not find it and got lost for 1/2 an hour. I’m blaming the sat-nav for confusing me!  Anyway eventually we got there and took a few pictures.

The church is ancient, a grade I listed building, and has been there for 1000 years. 

The tower was built at that time, by the Saxons, with a belfry at the top. The main belfry window opening has a classic Saxon rounded shaft in the middle, said to be made by applying wood turning techniques.

The porch’s round arched doorway has 13th century dogtooth carving around it and reaching all the way down to the ground . The pattern at its best is usually shaped like four flower petals. The outermost nutmeg carving is more a 12th century style. Above it in the church wall is a reused gravestone.

The Chancel

The chancel is typically long and narrow, with an east window of three lancets, which were glazed in about 1880 by F.R. Wilson. The original Saxon chancel was lengthened in the 13th century by the Normans and parts of the former sanctuary arch can be seen, reused. The beautiful altar frontal was donated in 1909 by Augusta in memory of her brother Charles Perkins who died at 2am on25th August 1905.

The South Aisle and at the end the Shortflatt Chapel.


The chapel, currently referred to as the Shortflatt Chapel or sometimes Dent chapel, is now so named because it was built by Robert de Reymes, who had inherited half the barony of Bolam. He was a knight and lived at Shortflatt, as did his descendants for the following three hundred years. Shortflatt eventually passed to the Dent and now the Hedley-Dent family.

Robert rebuilt Shortflatt Tower in stone with a licence to crenellate in 1305, after it had been burnt down. The town of Bolam was granted a market and a fair the same year, but Bolam castle was described as dilapidated. He died in 1324 and there is an effigy of him (without legs) in the chapel. It is thought the effigy was shortened to fit in the niche, which originally almost certainly would have contained a statue of The Virgin Mary.

On April 30th 1942, a German bomber  was on a bombing run over England when he was chased by 2 RAF fighters, in trying to get away he offloaded his bombs and flew low. He didn’t make it, but one of his bombs flew into the chancel. On 5th May the vicar’s wife, wrote to her son Flying Officer John Hutton stationed in the Middle East:
‘…Jerry paid us a visit at 4am May 1st. He was being hotly pursued by two of our fighters who were on his tail. He was very low down, and discharged the whole of his load in order to get away, but he failed and lies at Longhorsley. 4 bombs 2 1/2 tons in all. One fell, just missing the walnut tree, which still stands, 30yds from houses wall. An unexploded one lay in the chancel, it had passed through the lower part of the wall in the H>D> Chapel, smashing all the furnishings in that part of the church, none of any value, injuring some windows…the remaining two bombs only made large craters in Windmill field…’.

The churchyard has no less than 16 listed monuments, including the gate, but mostly ancient graves.

The oldest legible inscription on a headstone is dated 1697 and reads:
Hic jacet corpus Marci Ansley de Gallow-hill. Obiit II de Aprilis anno etatis……: salutis humanae 1697.

I think most photographers like a good graveyard to explore, and St.Andrews is one of the most interesting. And old!

Well that’s enough for a post I think. For more of the medieval stonework, mushrooms and ancient graves, the full album can be seen HERE

For more interesting info on the church, the website is HERE

Stay tooned 🙂




Washington Old Hall~July 2016 part 3

Part 1.  Part 2.


Technically speaking these shots are from the Holy Trinity church right next door to the hall, but we did it on the same day so I’ve chucked it in with the Hall report. 🙂

The History Bit

Holy Trinity Church is known locally as the ‘Church on the hill’ and has been central to Washington’s large parish for centuries. The oval mound on which it stands, once within a rounded enclosure, suggests the re-use of a pagan site. Rounded churchyards usually have Celtic origins. Unfortunately the Domesday Book (1086-7) excludes places north of the Tees and because of this the church’s earliest documents belong to the 12th century. In 1112 the area around the church was mentioned as being part of Bishop Rannulf Flambard’s lands. Again it is mentioned in 1149 as being part of Bishop William of St Barbe’s estates. The next bishop, Hugh of Le Puiset (1153 – 1195) decided to re-organise his estates. In one of the areas to be changed he required more land to build a castle and to make a new borough. This area was known at the time as Stockton and Hartburn and was held by William of Hartburn. William exchanged his lands and by 1180 William had settled in his new lands and was known as “de Wessington” from which the name Washington derives.

Some really old graves to be found

and also some new ones

theres always a spider

We did go inside..

In 1832 the old church was demolished and, sadly, it is likely that many historic objects disappeared. This included the Saxon (or early Norman font). However, fortunately, the font was later found, being used as a water trough, and returned to the church where it still stands.

and that’s the end of our day out in Washington. (UK…Not where Trump works 😀 😀 )

(info @










Day 201~366

The hottest day of the year, 27° and it was pretty but also horrid. I do not live in a country where these temperatures are the norm for any length of time, so I never acclimatise.  I am acclimatised to 16° and lower, maybe 18/19° on a good day, with intermittent rain. I pine for lovely weather, and when I get it I can’t cope. Couldn’t sleep, felt vaguely rough, but still went out for a photography trip with Sophie. We stuck local incase I felt worse, so visited Washington Old Hall, which has a tenuous link to George Washington, 1st of his line of presidents of the US of A. His ancestors lived in the hall, but moved out about 120 years before he was born on Pope Creeks Estate, Virginia USA.

Anyways, at some point my trip there will be a Fraggle Report, argh I have quite a few saved up now :/

Next to the Hall is trinity Church and we went to take shots of the cemetery as you do, and I found this grave which looked really different from most, and old.

WOH-70 copy

It says…

Easter, doughter (daughter) to John Rogerson Departed this life March Y 5.

I’ve never seen a grave with Y 5 as a date so I did a bit of research on the net and discovered that in medieval times, although ‘Y’ was not technically a roman numeral, people used ‘Y’ to replace the number 150, which means that Easter (fab name!) died and was buried in 1505.  Thats 200 yrs or so before USA was founded! 17yr old Henry VIII becomes King in April of that year! Trinity church has had a site there since the 1100’s so it’s not surprising, but to me it was a great find. I wonder if there is anymore information buried underneath because it looks to me that the land has taken over the bottom half of the tombstone. I wanna dig it up!

Apart from that my shadow shot of the day, on a younger model, 1870, no biggy 🙂

WOH-55 copy

Such history at our fingertips.