Scottish Independence Referendum

With the Scottish Independence Referendum on September 18th looming, I thought I would take this chance to reflect back on the last 307 years, since England and Scotland formed one of the most successful Unions in history, to form the Kingdom of Great Britain (later to become the United Kingdom). Whilst the two nations had been enemies for centuries, they came together to peacefully co-exist as one Kingdom, as one people, as a new state, the Kingdom of Great Britain!

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This post won’t be about politics, but a celebration of what has made this country as great as it is today. Whatever people may think about the various Governments in power in the UK since the 18th century, and in Scotland since the end of the 20th, we remain one of the most respected nations on Earth, known for our equality, fighting spirit, patriotism and most of all, our camaraderie, and whichever way the referendum goes, we shouldn’t forget what brought us together. It is fixed to the start of this blog from now until the Referendum, so that, especially for people from other countries, the Union itself is explained and examined.


The union of Great Britain was formed on the 17th April 1707, one year after the agreements reached between the English and Scottish Governments in July 1706. Both Governments agreed to the plan, and on the aforementioned 17th April the Duke of Queensberry, James Douglas (1662 – 1711, who was a major part of the Union Treaty signing) arrived at Kensington Palace in London to cheering crowds.

Reasons for the Union?

England was a very wealthy country, and owned various territories around the world, and was also an economic powerhouse. Scotland however was in a slightly different position, it was relatively poor with little infrastructure, so the two countries joining up was seen as a way to help Scotland prosper. Scotland also didn’t have a Navy to speak off, whereas the English Navy was a great fleet, so this helped increase the security of both nations.

Another reason for Union was the Union of the Crowns, which both countries entered into in 1603, which combined the Monarchies of England and Scotland. James I (and VI) became the first joint monarch of both countries, and the ultimate catalyst for the Union was also to do with the Monarch, albeit the later Charles I. When the English Civil War started in 1642, Oliver Cromwell eventually took control and created a realm that brought England, Scotland and Ireland into a Union together. When the Monarchy was eventually restored, and Charles II became King, Cromwell’s Union dissolved, but both England and Scotland remained in overall favour of what had been (at the time Ireland was also part of the Union). The monarchs at the time were Queen Mary and William II (and III) who jointly ruled until Mary died in 1694. William ruled alone until his death in 1702. Queen Anne took over and saw the Union arrive.

Devolution was granted to Scotland in 1999, after the 2nd of two referendums yielded a yes vote for Devolution. The previous one had been rejected in the 1970’s. Donald Dewar became Scotland’s 1st ever First Minister and the first head of Government in the country since 1707, when the Scottish Parliament met for the final time to approve the Union.

Since The Union


James Thomson (1700 – 1748, Scottish Poet) wrote a poem called Rule Britannia, the lyrics of which were put to music by Thomas Arne (1710 – 1778, British Composer). The song went on to become the most patriotic song in the Kingdom at the time and is still in wide use today. It united the English, Scots and Welsh as the British people, beyond their old distinct cultural identities.


The first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to hail from Scotland entered office this year, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713 – 1792) and there were at least 8 Scottish Prime Ministers between 1762 and 1964.


James Watt (1736 – 1819, Scottish Inventor) and Matthew Boulton (1728 – 1809, English Businessman) entered into a partnership to sell James Watt’s revolutionary new design for the Steam Engine which vastly improved the existing models. Matthew helped Watt enter the market with the new Steam Engine and made him a very wealthy man. Scottish inventiveness combined with English business expertise joined forces to forge a path through the Industrial Revolution.


King George IV (1762 – 1830) visits Scotland, and in doing so became the first reigning monarch to visit the country since 1650, before the Union itself. The visit was organised by Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832). The King appeared in Tartan, which had long been the symbol of the Highlanders. He decreed during his visit that any man not in uniform must appear in Tartan, so the rest of Scotland obeyed and it quickly became the National Dress of Scotland, not just representing the Highlanders but the Lowlanders as well.


Many artists have contributed to the many fabulous Church buildings around the UK, with a notable figure being Edward Burne-Jones (1833 – 1898) who not only created fine Stained Glass windows for Churches in England, from Brampton to Birmingham, but also created a window called Miriam in 1886 for St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.


Scottish Soldiers stood proudly side by side with English, Welsh and Irish soldiers during World War I, defiant against the Germans and defending our great nation from invasion. In fact, during the war Dundee had one of the highest proportion of serving citizens of any city in the UK


Once again Scotland took up arms with its British comrades, this time against the Nazi Powers across Europe, and was invaluable against the war effort. The shipbuilding yards on the River Clyde in Glasgow were an important part of Britain’s Naval campaign and sustained heavy bombings, but they didn’t give in or surrender, they kept on fighting for their country. Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt (1892 – 1973, Scottish Pioneer) invented the Radar during the War which would go on to become an important tool during the Battle of Britain, out of which the UK emerged victorious. The head of RAF Fighter Command during this particular battle was also Scottish, a man by the name of Hugh Caswall Tremenheere Dowding (1882 – 1970).


Scottish born Prime Minister Tony Blair comes to power as leader of the UK, and his immediate successor, Gordon Brown, was a true Scot. One of Tony Blair’s policies was devolution for parts of the UK, including Scotland, which eventually succeeded.


In a 2nd referendum on the issue, voters approved the creation of the Scottish Parliament, as voters had also done in Wales a year earlier. The various parts of the United Kingdom (aside from England which is still ruled directly from Westminster) came together to share ideas, and work as a team, giving their respective countries the best of two Governments, a local and a national one, to help them take Britain into the 21st century.


London hosted the 2012 Olympic Games, and Athletes from not just Scotland and England, but Wales and Northern Ireland came together to break the British medal haul for all Olympic Games since 1908, as the different countries used combined teams in various events to prove Britain’s sporting ability. Scottish athletes won gold in various events, from Andy Murray in the Tennis, to Chris Hoy in the Cycling, and they stood as part of a larger team who showed the world that Scotland, and Britain as a whole, has the talent and the aspirations to be sporting champions. At the same time they inspiring a whole new generation of British talent, who will represent us in the future and new Olympic Games.


The 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy were held at Normandy in France, as a thank you by the French and the rest of Europe to not just the English/Scots/Welsh/Irish soldiers who helped to expel the Nazi’s from their soil, but to all the other soldiers from other countries, and France itself, who were instrumental in the defeat of Nazi Germany.


The last major event Scotland was involved in before the referendum was of course the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014, where the Commonwealth, most members of which are former British Territories and Dominions, came together to show how Britain has influenced cultures all over the world, and to celebrate the peaceful co-existence between these realms and to compete in the noblest form of competition, sports. Whilst it brought a sense of Scottish patriotism, it was also a time of reflection for the UK, on where it would be by the end of a sensational year…

The Referendum

So whichever way this referendum goes, history shall always remember the proud partnership between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, throughout War Time, Peace Time, Sporting Events and much more. We were the forerunners of democracy, industry and I shall always be proud to say I was/am a citizen of the United Kingdom, and I have enjoyed my travels throughout Scotland just as much as I have through the other parts of the UK. I may be English, but at the moment I feel I am British first.

Whatever the United Kingdom becomes, whether it be stronger united, or part of an enduring friendship divided, may all four countries, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales prosper.

Please don’t use this post to start a debate, or comments will be closed.

Faith & The British: Pt 8 – St Michael’s, Coventry

Out of all the religious buildings this series of posts will cover, there is one that stands out as both a place of great sadness, and a place of celebration, for peace and justice. This amazing place is St Michael’s Cathedral in the city of Coventry, and the name applies to the ruined shell of the original Cathedral, and the new one that has grown up next to it…

 St Michael’s:

Location: City of Coventry District, West Midlands (historically Warwickshire), England


Ruined Cathedral:

Status: Ruin

Faith: Church of England

Constructed: 14th – 15th Centuries

Architect: Various


New Cathedral:

Status: Cathedral

Faith: Church of England

Constructed: 1956 – 1962

Architect: Basil Spence (1907 – 1976)

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This is a view of the present arrangement between the two Cathedrals, which are physically joined to create one overall building. There was one previous building, called St Mary’s, that was the joint Priory and Cathedral of the City between circa 1095 and 1539. Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monastery put an end to the buildings use, although some remains do still exist.

On the left is the original Cathedral, which began life in 1138 when the Parish Church of St Michaels was first mentioned. The majority of the overall structure is from the 14th and 15th centuries, replacing the previous Norman Church. Chapels were later added in the 16th Century, and the Church quickly became the local Parish Church, and one of the largest such Church in England. The Spire you seen in the above picture is the original Church spire, and wasn’t a new addition to mark Cathedral Status being granted in 1918 when the Diocese of Coventry was created. It prospered over the next few decades, but it’s long history was cut tragically short on November 14th, 1940, when the German Luftwaffe destroyed the building in a bombing raid over the city. All that survived you can see on the picture, with the Spire and the outer walls which are a shell of their former glory.

The very next morning the decision was taken to rebuild the Cathedral, to stand defiant against German Tyranny, and Basil Spence was hired to oversee the project. He argued however, that the original building should be left in its present condition as a memorial, and a new building built adjacent. His idea was listened to, and by 1956 the foundation stone had been laid by Queen Elizabeth II. Just 6 years later the Cathedral was complete, again with Elizabeth in attendance at its opening. The new building is visible on the picture to the right, and I shall show you some stunning aerial views from the original Spire later on in this post. It too contains a spire, which sits on top and is made out of metal, and required a helicopter to help install it. What I like most about the new building is that it was made out of exactly the same material as the previous building, a type of Sandstone from Hollington in Staffordshire.

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This is the main entrance to the Cathedral, which is freely open to the public as a Memorial, to enable reflection on days gone by. The base of the spire is visible on the right, and remarkably it survived almost unscathed. A Shop and Information Centre can be found at the very bottom, where you can buy a pass to ascend to the top of the tower. We visited in January so this seems to be open all year round.

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The Tower can be firmly dated to 1374 when construction on the Tower (West Tower) and the spire atop it began. The Botoner Brothers, William and Adam, who were both former mayors, were responsible for the tower, with their sisters, the Botoner Sisters Mary and Anne paying for the Spire. It was completed by 1450 and the top of the spire is a stunning 295 feet tall. A spiral staircase runs from the base up to the top of the tower section, and there are a few rooms you can explore on the way up, including a great view down inside the tower to the large Bells which still ring out across the city.

Between the towers completion in 1394, and the beginning of work on the spire in 1433, other parts of the Cathedral began to take shape, with the Nave and Aisles being added. 1450, not only notable for the completion of the Spire, also heralded a visit to the city by King Henry VI (1421 – 1471).

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Almost 300 feet later, you can gaze out across the city of Coventry, with the famous Holy Trinity Church across the road dominating the skyline. Other views including the surviving medieval buildings around the city, such as the Guildhall across the Street from St Michael’s, and in the distance, the city of Birmingham. Coventry used to be one of the most historic cities in the country, but the raid that destroyed the Cathedral did the same to much of the City Centre, leading to many new modern developments, but there are a number of places around the city where its stunning historical gems shine through. Its amazing being this high up, and before we visited we had no idea we could get this far up the Cathedral Tower, although we were aware of the sad history surrounding it. It stands as a beacon of hope rising high above the ruins below.

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From the Tower you can also see far down into the ruined shell of the rest of the building, which is a very sad sight, yet inspiring at the same time. You can see the bases of the columns along the central aisle leading through the Nave, with the East wall at the far end. There is no glass left in the frame, so sadly I can’t talk about what must have been beautiful Stained Glass from centuries ago.

If you look to the right, just before the ruined section jutting out, you will see a green roof. This sits over the top of the Haigh Chapel, also known as the South Porch. It has been restored and dates back to the 14th century, and is available to visit. Also, a figure of Christ stands on the left of the East section of the building, and there is an entrance to the Crypt just before the connection with the new building.

My favourite story about the Cathedral is that, after the bombing, a stonemason called Jock Forbes found two of the wooden beams that previously held up the roof, lying on the floor in the shape of a cross. He tied them together and a replica of this cross sits on the altar of the Cathedral at the East End which you can spot in the picture above. Over 160 were subsequently made from the ruins, and one of these was sent to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, Germany, which suffered the same fate as Coventry Cathedral. The Kaiser Church mirrors Coventry, as the ruins of the original are kept alongside the new as a Memorial. I think that Coventry as a name has not faired so well in conflict, as a HMS Coventry fought in the Falklands War against Argentina after they invaded the Falkland Islands, and was sadly sunk. It did however bear a cross of nails, as have all ships named Coventry since.

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Earlier I promised an aerial view of the new Cathedral, and here it is, and it looks stunning. The fact that the stone matches the original building is a fantastic feature, and it really does look like an extension. The main entrance is underneath the green canopy which connects to the two Cathedrals, and the tall fan like structure on the left of the New Cathedral is the Chapel of Unity, topped with a green dome. In the centre of the picture the Cathedral spire is visible, and this is the one that was placed by helicopter.

Looking along the left side of the building, the “Tablets of the World” extend most of the way towards the far end inside, towards the low square refectory. The canopy section at the front acts as a large porch, with one Cathedral on either side, and features a set of steps leading up to the two buildings, called St Michael’s Steps.

Descending from the tower, this is the view you get inside the shell of the original Cathedral. The Cross at the East End sits opposite us, and the detail on the walls still survives today, although all the window arches are empty. Winston Churchill visited the city in September 1941, and walked through the Cathedral, which still had piles of rubble within. The main frame hasn’t changed since the 1940′s, and has been lovingly preserved.

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Turning round to look back, we gazed in awe up at the spire of St Michael’s, with the spire of Holy Trinity Church in the background. Its truly miraculous that both of these iconic towers survived the blitz, and indeed so did a 3rd, although the Church attached to it, Christ Church, was destroyed. Sadly it was the Churches second destruction as it had been rebuilt once already. It’s so strange seeing the interior walls illuminated by the sunlight, and it really made us pause to reflect.

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Moving into the Porch, the imposing entrance window of the new Cathedral greets you, and it’s stunning in design. Designed by John Hutton (1906 – 1978) the Screen features 66 figures of Saints and Angels which took an incredible 10 years to create. The area leading down into the porch from the original Cathedral is called the Queens Steps, presumably after Elizabeth II.

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There are many statues located around the city, and one of these is called “Victory of the Devil” pictured above. This was designed by Sir Jacob Epstein (1880 – 1959, British Sculptor), showing the cities defiance to evil.

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You do have to pay to enter the new Cathedral unless you are coming for prayer, and it was a little steep for us that day but I got this picture from the main entrance, and it shows the stunning interior created since the originals destruction. A font is located just down and to the right, with the main choir at the end of the hall, surrounded by the towering Pipe Organ, created in 1962 by Harrison and Harrison (British Company from Durham, established in 1861). The Tablets of the World that I mentioned earlier are also visible, on the lower part of the left hand wall. These 10 Stone Tablets talk about God and faith, and continue down the right hand wall.

There are many parts of the New Cathedral that are impressive, but its more than that, so as this picture looks towards the main section of the New Cathedral, we look to the future, and hope that this kind of sad yet inspiring story is not repeated in this country. You can find out more about Coventry in my dedicated post here.

Faith & The British: Pt 7 – Holy & Undivided Trinity, Carlisle

In the border city of Carlisle, one landmark stands out above all others, sat on a hill in the city centre. The Cathedral Church of the Holy & Undivided Trinity is a stunning building in the middle of the historic city centre, and there is plenty to discover inside…

Holy & Undivided Trinity:

Location: City of Carlisle District, Carlisle, Cumbria (historically Cumberland), England

Status: Cathedral

Faith: Church of England

Constructed: circa 1122

Architect: Various

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Our story begins back in 1122 as it was around this time that the building was founded as an Augustinian Priory, built out of Red Sandstone.  Incidentally this is quite interesting, as it is one of only four such buildings that would be upgraded to Cathedrals. The building was begun by a man named Aethelwold (died 1156), and after the Church was upgraded to Cathedral status a decade later, he became the first Bishop of Carlisle, from 1133 to 1153.

100 years later the Cathedral was surrounded by two friaries, a Dominican Friary and a Franciscan Friary, which were both founded slightly further out in what would become the City Centre, near the West Coast Main Line station today. During 1307 Edward I (1239 – 1307) visited the Cathedral, and because of this the building received a refurbishment over the next century. Whilst the Cathedral has survived the main centuries from its conception to the modern day, the friaries were not so lucky, and after King Henry VIII pursued the Dissolution of the Monasteries from around 1536, the friaries ceased to have any function, and the Cathedral stood alone. As I said the Cathedral survived through many centuries, but it lost an important section of itself when the English Civil War hit Carlisle between 1642 and 1651. The Castle and City Walls were in need of repair, and the easiest way to do this was to remove stone from the Cathedral to patch up the other defences. The original Nave of the building, shown at the back of this picture, was once much longer, but a large portion of it was demolished for the stone by the Scottish Presbyterian Army. If you look at the stone work on the side of the surviving Nave as well you can tell that it has been patched up with new materials, presumably where extra stonework was taken.

Various restorations of the Cathedral have followed, including between 1853 and 1870 when Ewan Christian (1814 – 1895, British Architect, who also designed the National Portrait Gallery in London) helped to restore the building.

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The main entrance to the Cathedral is at the end of the South Transept, and as you walk in the shop/information office is directly to your right. Moving straight ahead you will enter the space between the Transepts, with the Tower high above. Supposedly the tower once had a spire, which blew down at some point before 1420. If you turn to the left, this is the view that greets you. The Nave is a stunning area of the Cathedral, and the place where I shall start our virtual tour.

It contains a font in the centre, and the beautiful West Window behind it. This is one of a number of windows around the Cathedral designed by John Hardman, a manufacturer of Stained Glass from Birmingham, which also includes the East Window which we shall get to in a minute.

A chandelier hangs from the ceiling, and this area happens to be the shortest Nave of any Cathedral in England. Usually the Nave is the main portion of the Church, but as noted above this was demolished for other uses, leaving the Chancel as the more prominent part of the building. Within the Nave there is a Chapel of the Border Regiment, set into one of the two bays that remain, one on either side.

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Moving towards the Chancel, this is the view you see as you enter the Cathedral, looking from the South Transept into the North. It’s most notable feature is the Tait Memorial Window , which features 5 of the 7 daughters of Dean Archibald Campbell Tait. Sadly they all died within 33 days from March to April in 1856, all aged under 11, of an infection. The 2 other children survived and moved with their parents to London when the Dean became the Bishop of London. They are actually buried in Stanwix Graveyard elsewhere in Carlisle, where a memorial also sits.

Beneath the window is the Bishops Court, which was a miniature courtroom, with the central panels behind the Altar and the pews on either side for people attending the session. The main panels are called the Brougham Triptych, which was built in 1520, in the Belgian city of Antwerp, and it contains the mark of the Antwerp Guild of Woodcarvers. It is called the Brougham Triptych as it previously inhabited St Wilfred’s Chapel in Brougham, after it was bought by Baron Brougham from a church in Cologne in the 1840′s. At some point it moved to Carlisle. A Triptych is made up of three carved panels together, as shown above.

These types of Court are also known as a “Consistory Court” and were established by King William I (1028 – 1087, AKA William the Conqueror) and this is a great example of the court. Others exists in the other Diocese’s around the country, with the most complete example being in Chester Cathedral, in the city of Chester. Whilst today these courts mainly discuss matters relating to the buildings themselves and facilities contained within, they can take members of the Church below the rank of Bishop to court for misconduct.

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The Chancel is by far the most impressive part of the Cathedral, and the largest. It stretches all the way up to the East Window at the far end, which sits above the main altar. A fire badly damaged the building in 1292, and the window dates to the rebuild afterwards, from around 1350. It is a staggering 50 feet tall, and you can tell by the size of the people stood below how large it looks. As it happens, it is the largest such window in the whole of England, and sits 26 feet wide. There are two main sections of Glass, with the top half being original glass, showing the Last Judgement of Christ, with the lower portion showing the Lift of Christ. This portion was built Hardman & Co (John Hardman), around 1861, in memory of Bishop Hugh Percy (1784 – 1856, Bishop of Rochester and Carlisle).

The area at the front of the picture is the Choir, which was installed before at least 1545, with space for six chorus boys. This has been expanded to include space for 16 male and 16 female choristers, along with 6 clerks. The beautiful wooden sections are from the aforementioned 1545, but the actual choir of singers dates back to 1133, when there were 4 laymen and 6 male choristers. A laymen is a “non-ordained member of a Church”.

The Choir area was built in the 13th century, and damaged by the subsequent fire leading to a rebuild from 1322 until 1350. On the back of the wooden stalls are a series of painted panels, depicting various religious scenes. The Labours of the Months, 12 scenes depicting different labours from the 12 months of the years, are carved into the capitals of 12/14 pillars in the Choir area. A capital is a carved section at the top of the pillar. You can see a slideshow of the 12 pictures here.

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Turning to look back at the far end of the Choir, the stunning wooden spires above the 46 seats are visible, beneath the impressive Cathedral Organ. Whilst the earliest records for a physical Organ date back to 1571, an actual Organist wasn’t employed until 1650 when a man named Thomas Southick was hired.

The current Organ was built in 1856, by Henry Willis (1821 – 1901, British Organ builder from London) and it was a revolutionary design at the time. It was later enlarged in 1875, and again in 1906. I am unsure of it’s original position within the building, but it was moved here in 1930. It has been rebuilt twice since then, first in 1962 by J. W. Walker & Sons Ltd, a British firm from 1828 established by Joseph William Walker, and again in 1997 when David Wells gave it a more Victorian tone.

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Our favourite part of the Cathedral is the ceiling, above the Chancel, Choir, East Window and main Altar. It’s a masterpiece and one of the most colourful ceilings we have seen inside a religious building, which are usually just wood or stone.

The structure of timbers was erected around 1400, after the fire that destroyed many of the previous wooden timbers. The patterns on it are much newer however, and were only added between 1853 and 1856, by an artist called Owen Jones (1809 – 1874). It was repainted in 1970, and it looks stunning, and it really stands out so that you can see every detail. Its amazing how much detail has gone into each panel, and although they all look the same they come together to create a fantastic pattern.

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This is a close up view of the Chancel, with the chairs on either side. Just behind where I am standing is the Bishops Throne, with a golden Eagle Lectern in front of it. The sun shines brilliantly through the East Window, illuminating this whole section of the building. Its humbling entering the Chancel, as although Carlisle Cathedral is the 2nd smallest of the ancient Cathedrals around England (after Christ Church in Oxford) it has one of the most amazing views entering this area of the Cathedral.

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Located in the North and South Aisles of the Choir, behind the wooden stalls, are a number of tombs, with perfectly sculpted figures adorning the tops of them. This particular one is for Francis Close (1797 – 1882), who was the Dean of the Cathedral for 25 years between 1856 and 1881. The statue on top is made out of Marble, and looks almost saintly, and it was glowing slightly earlier in the sunlight.

Carlisle Cathedral is a beautiful building, to go with a beautiful and historic city. You can find out more about the Cathedral by visiting it’s official website here, and you can explore the city itself in my dedicated post here. There is a certain feature on the outside of the building which caught our eye, a grotesque on the side of the outer wall in a rather odd shape, and Gemma will tell you more in her post here.

Faith & The British: Pt 6 – St John’s, Brecon

We have so far been inside two fantastic Cathedrals in Wales, and the first of these was in Powys, Mid Wales, in the charming town of Brecon…

St John’s:

Location: Brecon, Powys, Wales

Status: Cathedral

Faith: Church in Wales

Constructed: circa 1215

Architect: Dr Geoff Worsley

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Brecon Cathedral is situated in the beautiful rolling hills of the Brecon Beacons National Park in the heart of Wales, just outside the pleasant town of Brecon. The present building dates back to 1215, when it was rebuilt when King John (1166 – 1216) was King of England and Wales. A few previous Churches had existed on the site, starting with the Celtic Church sometime after the 5th Century when Celtic Christian was prevalent across Celtic nations, and Wales is one of the ancient ones. This was followed by a new Church built after 1093, by Bernard de Neufmarche (1050 – 1125, who conquered the Kingdom of Brycheiniog, which Brecon is a part, between 1088 and 1095) and dedicated to King John.

The Church eventually became a Priory, but after the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) between 1536 and 1541, it became the Parish Church. It was part of a wider selection of buildings, which included the main Church pictured. The other buildings do still exists, but fulfill a variety of functions today, from a Cathedral Clergy to the Heritage Centre and Restaurant.

In the 1860′s, after some work in 1836, the building was restored following a period of decay, and the tower was strengthened later in 1914. The building became a Cathedral in 1920, after the Church of England was disestablished in Wales, leading to the creation of the Church in Wales which still operates today. Brecon is the head of the Diocese covering Swansea and Brecon, since it’s creation in 1923.

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This is the central Nave of the building, with the Chancel and the East Window of the Sanctuary visible in the distance. The Central Tower sits high above the Chancel, with the North Transept off to the left, and the South Transept to the right. When we visited they were setting up for a concert, although I can’t remember who was performing, and this involved setting up a stage underneath the tower, with lighting along the aisles. There are no pews in the Nave, just rows of chairs arranged on the beautiful patterned floor which you can see above. Underneath the Tower hangs a wooden cross, which features a figure of Jesus on it.

There are two chapels in the Nave, one off either side of the aisles, with the Corvizors & Tailors Chapel on the left, and the Weavers & Tuckers Chapel on the right. The Font is located just behind where I was stood to take this picture, along with the two West Windows, split between the two portions, which features a Good Shepherd, and the main West Window beneath it.

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This is a close up shot of the East Window from 1882, which features Christ in the very centre, with Mary and St John beneath him to either side, and Mary Magdalene in the centre, pointing up at Christ who has saved her soul. As with many windows in the Cathedral, it is a memorial, and this is one is to the South African War between 1877 and 1879.

A wooden cross hangs from the ceiling underneath the tower, also depicting Jesus.

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Off to the left of Chancel is the Vicar’s Chapel (also called the Havard), which joins on to the North Transept, shown above. It contains rows of pews, with a tall central window set into the far wall. This area acts a War Memorial to the South Wales Borderers (the 24th Regiment of the Foot) and of the Monmouthshire Regiment of 1923. Around the outside of the Chapel are the colours of previous Regiments, dating back centuries.

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Leaving the Chapel then brings you out into the North Transept, shown above. It contains various memorials and more stunning windows, with a curved wooden beam roof that is a thing of beauty. Underneath it is the North Window, which was added in 1903. Designed by Taylor & Clifton, it features three large windows, in memorial to those who died in the Boer War between 1899 and 1902. Various saints and Christ himself are shown across various panes, and you can find out more by following the link near the end of this post.

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This view is looking back from underneath the Central Tower towards the main entrance and the West Windows. A piano sits in the centre of the area beneath the Tower, and the South Transept is off to the left, and joins onto the Vestry and the St Lawrence Chapel.

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I think the roof is one of the most stunning parts of the building, and could almost be an original feature, if it wasn’t for the fact that sadly wood decays over time so it must have been replaced quite a few times over the last few centuries. The ribs are a very intricate design and make me recall some of the design work from the Lord of the Rings, in the Elvish city of Lothlorien, where I think it would fit brilliantly.

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This is a view into the Corvizors and Tailors Chapel, which is the special chapel for two of the Trade Guilds, the Corvizors (which I think was an old Cobbler) and the Tailors. It is now part of the main church, whereas it was once separated when it was inhabited by the guilds. The Chapel on the far side is also a Guild Chapel, for Weavers and Tuckers.

On the far right an arch is visible, and these leads into the North Transept. There are at least 5 impressive Stained Glass Windows in this Chapel, with 2 in the adjacent one. You can find out about the various stained glass windows around the Cathedral by following this link.

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One rather interesting find is shown above, and is called the “Games Monument” from around 1555, and rather than being a monument to a sport, it is a memorial to the Games family of Aberbran. Supposedly there were other figures in the collection but were burned by Oliver Cromwell’s Soldiers. I assume the rest of the figures showed the main figures of the family, and as this figure is female it could be a wife of one of the males, or a daughter.

The Cathedral is a fantastic building, and has kept its charm from centuries past. Brecon itself is a lovely town to visit and you can find out more about it in my dedicated post here.

Faith & The British: Pt 5 – St Mary & St Pauls, Blackburn

There are 6 cathedrals in the Historic County of Lancashire, and I shall be covering 4 of these during these posts. The first of these is in the town of Blackburn…

St Mary the Virgin & St Paul:

Location: Blackburn, Blackburn with Darwen Unitary District, Lancashire, England

Status: Cathedral

Faith: Church of England

Constructed: 1820 – 1977

Architect: John Palmer (1785 – 1846), W. A. Forsyth (Died 1950), Laurence King

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Blackburn Cathedral is a stunning example of architecture over the last few centuries. As you arrive at Blackburn Railway Station you get this view over at the building, and it is arguably the best place to see it from. Between the station and the Cathedral stands the Bus Station, and at the rear of that is a statue of Queen Victoria, the head of which you can just see protruding from the white roof in the lower left hand corner.

Much like St Philips Cathedral in Birmingham, Blackburn Cathedral was originally a Parish Church, which was greatly expanded and enhanced. This has been a site of Christian Worship since at least 596 AD, where supposedly a Romano-British church was left after the Romans withdrawal from Britain. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, Blackburn was already established and there was a church here, and evidence points to various dates it must be predate, such as before the reign of Ethelred the Unready (987 – 1016). As the centuries passed by the actual physical building was rebuilt numerous times, in the 14th century it was rebuilt whilst King Edward III was King, and by the 15th century a new Norman Church was present.

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The last Church here was built between 1820 and 1826, by John Palmer, as by 1818 the previous one was in a bad state and needed replacing. It formed a stunning Georgian Building, and was chosen by the Bishop of Manchester, William Temple, as the building that would become the Cathedral. This Church still exists today, and actually makes up the Nave shown above. The rest of the Cathedral was then built around this, starting in 1938, with W. A. Forsyth as the head architect. World War II started just 1 year later, halting building work as resources were geared towards the War. It wouldn’t be until 1950 that construction would get going properly, and a new architect, Laurence King, was hired in 1961 after Forsyth’s death in 1950.

Rising building and material costs after the war had necessitated a rethink on the design, which originally included a much larger Tower, but this was replaced with a Lantern Tower. The Tower contains 56 pieces of coloured glass, and of course the standout feature is the enormous spire, constructed out of aluminium in 1967. Building work was completed in 1967, and the building was ready for business.

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This area is in the centre of the Cathedral, under the Lantern Town, and is called the Sanctuary, where the sections of the building cross each other. In the middle is the Corona, the large metal crown which represents both Suffering and Glory. The thick cables holding it aloft then run all the way up into the Tower.

The stone columns really show up well as you reach here, as more light is getting in and you can see the alternating colours of the stone, arranged in square shapes with four sub columns, one on each of the corners. The Transepts are located either side of the Sanctuary, to the left and to the right.

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Looking up at the ceiling high above, criss crossing arches lined with gold joined the central walls. At the far end is a metal statue of Christ The Worker, up above the main entrance. This area merges seamlessly with the rest of the building, even though this was once a previous Church.

When the Cathedral was built, an undercroft/crypt was built along with an extension to the East, and that still exists, and houses a Cafe and a Gift Shop.

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This beautiful model inside the Cathedral shows with great accuracy how the building looks from the outside. Due to its sheer size and the amount of surrounding buildings, its difficult to get a picture that shows off the whole building from outside, unless you were taking an aerial shot. The main tower is at the front above the door, and you can see the Lantern Tower in the centre, with the many spires around the outer circumference. The spire rises in the centre, and the transepts extend out from either side.

A number of very rare treasures are housed within the Cathedral, including 8 Misericords from the 15th Century which were installed at Whalley Abbey, that were brought here for preservation. A misericord is a wooden shelf on the underside of a folding seat, and ideal for use when you have been stood up for a long time for prayers or hymns. Another treasure is also from the 15th Century, the Pax, a gilt tablet engraved with a picture of Madonna on a crescent moon holding baby Jesus. These were once widespread, but after the reformation many of them were destroyed, leaving only 8 in the whole country. It was hidden in the Cathedral to avoid destruction, and was found in 1820 when preparations were being made to build the new Church.

Blackburn Cathedral is a beautiful example of the architectural quality of religious buildings across the historic county of Lancashire, and you can find out more about the town itself in my dedicated post here.

Faith & The British: Pt 4 – St Philip’s, Birmingham

Birmingham, as the 2nd largest city in the United Kingdom, has many grand and fantastic buildings. We saw at least two Cathedrals, but the only one we could go inside (thanks to a service on in the other) was St Philips, a charming building in the centre of a large park in the heart of the city…

St Philip’s:

Location: Birmingham, City of Birmingham District, West Midlands (historically Warwickshire), England

Status: Cathedral

Faith: Church of England

Constructed: 1711 – 1725

Architect: Thomas Archer (1668 – 1743)

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St Philips is the 3rd smallest Cathedral in England, after only Derby and Chelmsford Cathedrals. It is one of various Cathedrals around England that began life as a Parish Church, when it was completed in 1725. The design for the Church was by Thomas Archer (1668 – 1743, English Architect) and was almost a replacement for the nearby Church of St Martin, which was too small for the growing population of Birmingham.

The first section of the building to be completed was the main structure in 1715, when it became the Parish Church. The tower was added by 1725, and if you look at the top of the parapet you will see a series of urns across the top. These were the final addition to the Church, although much later in 1756 long after the main sections of the building had been completed.

St Philips was later upgraded to the status of Cathedral in 1905, 6 years after Birmingham was granted city status, in 1889. Rather than build a new Cathedral it was decided to use an existing Church, and I think they picked a fine example. Sadly during the Birmingham Blitz in 1940 the Cathedral was very badly damaged, and wouldn’t be restored until 1948, although some of its treasures were removed at the war, ensuring their survival.

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There are a number of Memorials in the Cathedral Grounds, this area being known as Colmore Row. One of these is an obelisk, dedicated to Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1842 – 1885, English Soldier who died during the Battle of Abu Klea in Sudan).

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Outside the main entrance (the West Front) to St Philips is a statue of the Cathedrals first Bishop, Charles Gore (1853 – 1932, Anglican Bishop). This fine statue was crafted by Thomas Stirling Lee (1857 – 1916, English sculptor) in 1914. The Cathedral Tower is located above us here, as is known as the West Tower.

After admiring the fine gardens and statues outside, we moved in through the main doors, to see what secrets the Cathedral held…

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As I mentioned before, St Philips is the 3rd smallest Cathedral in England, so it is the size of a general Church inside, so standing at the main entrance you can see the majority of the main features. Directly across from us, at the far end of the building, through the Chancel is the Eastern Apse, which was actually extended between 1884 and 1888, by Julius Alfred Chatwin (1830 – 1907). Before that it was much shallower, but it now incorporates much more space at the East end. The centre window was created by Edward Burne-Jones (1833 – 1898, British Artist) and he also contributed to St Martin’s Church in Brampton which we visited recently. There are four windows by him in total in the building, installed between 1885 and 1891, and these are the treasures I spoke of that were removed at the start of World War II, being spared the devastation, and then being reinstalled when the building was restored. The window you can see above is called “The Ascension” which depicts Jesus rising up to heaven surrounded by Angels. The other 3 windows are part of the wider story:

1) The Nativity

2) The Crucifixion

3) The Last Judgement

The third window is featured at the West End, above the main entrance.

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As you look around, all of the Corinthian Columns are covered in Marble, and high above there are Wooden Galleries between the columns, a typical feature of English Churches. Holding up the gallery are pillars known as Tuscan Capitals, the rectangular features with the ridges going up the whole length of them. This picture shows the North side of the building, and there are numerous graves/memorial stones attached to the Tuscan Capitals for people associated with the community, as well as some historical graves behind them on the far wall, which are a common feature of Churches.

St Philips, although it isn’t a tower, grand Cathedral, has a unique charm all of it’s own and it feels like a little snapshot of history in the centre of such a growing city. You can find out more about the City of Birmingham itself in my dedicated post here.

Faith & The British: Pt 3 – St Anne’s, Belfast

The next Cathedral we shall be examining is the only Cathedral we had time to explore inside during our trip to Northern Ireland, making it quite special. It’s called St Anne’s, and is located in the centre of the Northern Irish capital city…

St Anne’s:

Location: Belfast, Belfast City (historically County Antrim), Northern Ireland

Status: Cathedral

Faith: Church of Ireland

Constructed: 1899 – 1904

Architect: Sir Thomas Drew (1838 – 1910), Sir Charles Archibald Nicholson (1867 – 1949)

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St Anne’s Cathedral is a stunning building in the heart of the city centre, only a few minutes from the other major attractions in the city, such as the City Hall, the brand new Shopping Centre and the Albert Memorial Clock. It is relatively new compared to some of the more historic Cathedrals across the UK, as it was around this time, at the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th, that Belfast was becoming an important city in the then United Ireland as part of the UK, as a major industrial Victorian City. When Southern Ireland (now the Republic of Ireland) was partitioned from the North in 1921, and eventually became independent a year later, Belfast became the capital of the new area known as Northern Ireland, and at the start of the 20th century it was the largest and most productive shipyard in the entire world, and famous as the shipyard that built the RMS Titanic.

The buildings history began in 1899 when the foundation stone of the Nave was laid by the Earl of Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley-Cooper (1869 – 1961). The Nave was designed by Sir Thomas Drew, and completed by 1904. The main entrance is part of the West Front, and it was the second area of the building to be built, between 1925 and 1927, using a new architect, Sir Charles Archibald Nicholson. It was dedicated to to the men and women who died in World War I, which ended only a decade earlier.

St Anne’s is visible all over the city, thanks to one very distinctive feature, which unusually is both inside and outside at the same time…

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If you look at the very top of the Cathedral in the previous picture you can see a tall metal spire protruding from the roof. This can also be seen inside the building, as it sticks out from the ceiling in the very centre of the Cathedral. This is a new addition, installed in 2007. It stands 40 metres tall, and is made out of stainless steel.

The section sticking out into the main body of the Cathedral is surrounded by a glass panel, but aside from that it goes straight out through the roof. The spire is known as the “Spire of Hope”, and at night it is a shining beacon across the city, which is emerging from a period of unrest to become a centre of peace across the world. Whilst it isn’t the first thing you will see as you enter the building via the front entrance, I had to start with it as it is my favourite part of the building, and a great way that modern architecture can be incorporated into an old building to make it even more beautiful, as it transcends two centuries linking the architectural heritage of the Victorian Era with the modernist talents of the new world.

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This is the view that greets you as you enter though the main entrance, and the tip of the spire is visible underneath the central arch, high above the Central Crossing, in the centre of the Transept. This section was the next to be built, between 1922 and 1924.

The entrance is at the West End, whilst the other end, visible past the arch, is the East Apse and Ambulatory. This central section, the Nave, was the only part of the Cathedral constructed when it was opened in 1904. It contains a window called “The Good Samaritan Window” which is actually part of the previous Parish Church, also called St Annes, from the 1770′s, which the Cathedral was built around. The Church was then demolished, although the Window was saved.

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Just off to the right of the main entrance is the Baptistry, so named for the Font in the centre, where Baptisms are traditionally carried out. The roof of the Baptistry is in the form of a dome, beautiful painted with a starry sky complete with golden stars around the top edge.

This section was added in 1928, and its counterpart off to the left, the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, followed in 1932. This second room contains some stunning mosaics, showing Saint Patrick to mark the 1500th anniversary of Patrick arriving in Ireland.

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Moving into the South Transept, you can gaze in awe at the enormous Organ, sat high above the Chapel of Unity. This area was completed in 1974, and of course sits opposite the North Transept, which contains both a Celtic Cross and a Chapel, completed in 1981.

At the far end is the East Apse and Ambulatory I mentioned earlier, and you may have noticed that they, along with the Transepts are made out of a different stone to the Nave. These sections were only built from 1955 onwards, when the main Ambulatory was built. The Transepts followed a decade later, completing the main structure of the building. Remarkably, even though Belfast was heavily bombed by the Germans during World War II, the Cathedral survived virtually undamaged, even though all of the surrounding buildings were in ruins. It would seem that faith really does conquer all as St Pauls Cathedral in London achieved a similar miracle during the Germans attack on London, standing defiantly amongst the flames of the surrounding buildings. This link illustrates how lucky St Anne’s Cathedral was during the bombing.

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This area is the South Aisle, with the Central Aisle on the right and the North Aisle on the other side of that. You can see the towering columns that hold up the roof here, as well as some of the flags representing Britain on the wall, which are, looking left to right:

1) Red Ensign (1801 onwards) which is used by the Merchant Navy, commercial ships registered in the UK, who are an important part of the British Economy, hence the term Merchant Navy.

2) Blue Ensign (1801 onwards) which is used by ships and organisations associated with the UK. Both the ensigns were brought into use during the 17th century when the English Flag was in the top corner, until 1707 when England and Scotland united, so the Union Jack (minus the diagonal red stripes) was put on instead. England and Scotland united with Ireland in 1800 so the St Patricks cross was added, resulting in the present designs.

3) Royal Air Force Ensign (1921 onwards) used by the Royal Air Force.

4) The Union Flag (1801 onwards) which is the British National Flag, with the red cross of England, combined with the Scottish Saltire and the St Patrick’s Cross to create the Union Flag.

5) White Ensign (1801 onwards) flown on British Naval Ships. Unusually compared with the other ensigns, instead of the main portion of the flag being white it instead features the St George’s Cross, which is the national symbol of England.

All but the White Ensign are permanent flags on the sides of the Cenotaph in London, a monument in Whitehall as the primary War Memorial of the United Kingdom. The White Ensign was however featured from 1920 (when the Cenotaph was unveiled) until 1943 when the Air Force flag replaced it.

Set into the left hand wall are more Stained Glass windows, which are highly detailed and let the sun shine through in different colours across the building.

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Looking back up the Nave you get a great view of the West Window, sat high above the entrance, and made up of three stunning Stained Glass Panels. Each one is 25 feet tall and 5 feet wide. On the left window is David (10th C BC – 9th C BC), the father of Solomon (970 BC – 931 BC) who is shown in the Right Window. Solomon was the builder of the First Temple in Jerusalem, around the 10th century BC, although there is no actual evidence that it ever existed. David is referenced in the bible as the David who beat Goliath, and he was also the King of Israel. In the centre window features Christ himself, surrounded by angels, with the Lamb of God at the top of the window, and the Water of Life at the bottom. The detail on all three windows is incredible, and they really stand out from wherever you look at them.

Sadly the next feature I want to mention was whited out by the bright sun outside, but just inside the main entrance is a special pattern on the floor, in the shape of a circle, two feet in diameter. It is made up of 32 distinct pieces, each of which represents one of the 32 counties of Ireland, 6 of which make up Northern Ireland, and 26 of which make up the Republic of Ireland. It serves as a reminder that although the people of Ireland are spread between two countries they are united under one Church, on one island.

St Anne’s is a fantastic Victorian Cathedral, in Northern Ireland’s most important City, the centre of shopping, leisure and tourism for the country. It’s a very calm place to visit and is one of at least 2 Cathedrals in the city, the other being St Peter’s which was built in the 1860′s and characterised by the twin towers/spires at the front. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit St Peter’s but it is a must for our next trip to the city. You can read all about Belfast itself in my dedicated post here.