Into Eden – Great Salkeld

Day 2

The Druids

I started the day with a walk around Penrith in search of coffee and hogbacks.

A monument in St Andrews churchyard known the the Giant’s Grave. Legend has it that it is the grave of a knight called Ewain Cæsarius, the four hogbacks are said to represent four wild boars that he killed in the forest of Inglewood. In reality the monument is comprised of four hogback stones and two ancient crosses. All of which have seen better days.

A Hogback is an Anglo- Scandinavian grave marker dating to between the 10th and 12th centuries. They are generally found in locations that were settled by the Danes.

Giants Grave

I was keen to get moving so didn’t take the time to have a look around St Andrews church. I later learned that it was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, I will have to return.

Great Salkeld.

The village is steeped in history, located on a Roman road and river crossing point, the route later became a major drove road between England and Scotland. The road was also a main route for invaders, marauders, reivers and moss troopers.

St Cuthberts

The local church founded in the 9th century is a wonderful illustration of the history of this part of the north of England.  The church is dedicated to Saint Cuthbert as this was one of the resting places for his body when monks removed it from Lindesfarne following the 9th century Viking conquest of the kingdom of Northumbria.

Cuddy

A beautiful stained glass depicting Cuthbert with an Eider or ‘Cuddy’s Duck’ at his feet

The church tower looks out of proportion with the rest of the church, this is because it was built in the 13th century as a defensive tower, a sanctuary from the invading Scots. The stone walls of the tower are 6ft thick with thin window slits and a narrow iron entrance door. This style of building is known as a Pele.

Throughout the Middle Ages the North of England was a dangerous place. Following the Harrowing of the North by the Normans, Scottish raiding parties would regularly move down into England to steal cattle and goods and take slaves. The 12th century Chronicler Simeon of Durham wrote Scarce a little house in Scotland was to be found without English slaves of one or other sex. 

Aside from the regular raids by brigands from the north, between 1060 and 1745 there were at least 10 formal invasions by Scottish armies into England.

Armour

The 17th century armour mounted on the church walls bears witness to the area’s turbulent past.

Arch

For me, the crowning glory of the church is the 11th Century Romanesque arch

A Medieval cross slab and a Roman altar can be found in the porch

These 3 large boulders of red sandstone in the graveyard are a bit of a puzzle. I cannot find any references to them.

Sinnington

I arrived at the church just as the warden was leaving she told me that she had just opened up the church and showed me the key, it was about a foot long with a shaft as thick as my thumb.

I’m going to have a little rant now.

The churches I have visited over the past few days have all been open and welcoming but many that I visit are not, they are locked and covered in signs warning thieves to beware. I am aware that theft from churches is a real problem in some areas, I am also aware that church attendance is dwindling rapidly.

Churches are primarily places of worship, I do not subscribe to any religion but I do get a sense of tranquil otherworldliness when I visit a beautiful old church. These institutions are also custodians of our history and culture. Their walls reflect the history of our islands and our communities, to deny people access to these spaces can only perpetuate the decline of these institutions. I’m not sure what the solution to this problem is but I know that locking a church up for six days a week does not help anyone and can only foster a feeling of exclusion in the wider population.

The church and the village pub are both in decline in many areas, William Blake offered a solution in his poem The Little Vagabond.

Dear Mother, dear Mother, the Church is cold,
But the Ale-house is healthy & pleasant & warm;
Besides I can tell where I am use’d well,
Such usage in heaven will never do well.
*
 But if at the Church they would give us some Ale.
And a pleasant fire, our souls to regale;
We’d sing and we’d pray, all the live-long day;
Nor ever once wish from the Church to stray,
*
 Then the Parson might preach & drink & sing.
And we’d be as happy as birds in the spring:
And modest dame Lurch, who is always at Church,
Would not have bandy children nor fasting nor birch.
*
And God like a father rejoicing to see,
His children as pleasant and happy as he:
Would have no more quarrel with the Devil or the Barrel
But kiss him & give him both drink and apparel.
*
There are lots of carved stones both inside and outside of this beautiful church, here are a few.

Sinnington

This carving has been interpreted as a Jelling bound dragon.

Sinnington vi

This small inconsequential stone, carved with a crude cross, measures about 10cm square. It is known as a consecration cross and indicates a place where the wall of the church was touched with holy oil during the consecration of the church. There are a number of other small crude crosses carved on the external walls particularly around the original entrance, which is now blocked and filled with a number of carved stones.

Sinnington i

 

A lovely pair cross heads built into the exterior walls