An ossuary is a chambers for storing human bones. They range from a box to whole buildings, and often came about when burial space was scarce. However, throughout ancient and medieval times displaying and maintaining the bones of the deceased was also a way to honour the dead and visiting them is a fascinating reminder of mortality, one of the only certainties in life. There are only two remaining ossuaries in the UK, but more common are the Memento Mori found in and around churches across the country.
Whatever your passion; art, wildlife, sculpture, family history, architecture, walking, rock climbing, searching out the most perfect cream tea or even just finding somewhere quiet to sit and read a book. These are all things you can do in church buildings around the UK.
The church has a rich and tasty relationship with beer. The beers brewed by religious orders were often richer and higher in alcohol than those drunk everyday, perhaps to sustain the monks during fasts. In Britain medieval church houses hosted ‘church ales’ to raise funds. They were banned by Oliver Cromwell and many became ordinary alehouses. To this day ancient churches are often near an old pub. Today’s beer festivals, bringing together local craft ales in unique surroundings, can be seen as a step back in time to the medieval church ales. Welcome to the land of hops and glory!
Cumbria has a history of invasion and settlement; the Romans, Anglo Saxons, Vikings, Normans and Border Rievers have each left their story in our church buildings. Characteristically small and simple, yet not without beauty and grace, they reflect the socio economics of a rural landscape formed of lakes, mountains, coastline and border frontiers. The Anglo Scottish war (c1296-c1513) curtailed the Decorated and Perpendicular styles, yet retained Norman influences. 18th century prosperity, Victorian growth and romanticism contributed to the county known as the land of lakes and fells, Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter.
With over 1,000 events involving churches joining Heritage Open Days, there are hundreds of exciting activities happening this September. Equally, we think it is important to share heritage with everyone, and are proud of the number of family friendly events on offer over the weekend. To highlight these events, and encourage all the family to discover the heritage of their local parish, we have put together a list of our favourites.
Visit unique historic buildings, see beautiful countryside, get some exercise and have fun with the family! Ride+Stride is a sponsored bike ride or walk in which people all over England walk or cycle between churches, exploring and enjoying the countryside from Cornwall to Northumberland. The money they raise helps to save historic churches, chapels and meeting houses for future generations by helping to fund urgent repairs and the installation of modern facilities. Below are the areas where a Ride+Stride event is taking place in 2017.
The Book of Common Prayer was created in 1549 by Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556). Deeply rooted in the Bible, it was the handbook of the new English Church which had just split from Rome. Revisions were made in 1552, 1559, 1604 and 1662 and the 1662 book used today remains significantly as Cranmer wrote it. Cranmer was a leader of the Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I. He drew extensively on his personal library of more than 600 books and manuscripts. Below are some of the many churches which use The Book of Common Prayer for all or some of their services.
Cornwall’s churches are rarely simple buildings nestling into the landcape. Instead they are assertive structures with heaven thrusting spires or towers, commonly three times the height of the church. This gives Cornish churches a squat appearance externally, though often they are found to be tall inside. By the 1500s granite was the material of choice and many were enlarged, but often left with much earlier fabric. Quaint villages are rare here, generally churches are found in towns, hamlets or trading ports. Methodist and Nonconformist chapels partly filled the gaps left after the Reformation. Here is a sample of special churches.
Nicholas Hawksmoor (probably 1661 – 25 March 1736) was an English architect and a leading figure of the English Baroque style. Hawksmoor was responsible for six new churches in London, each different, each unique. They are his best known independent works of architecture. It has been argued that there are hidden symbols amongst the obelisks, pyramids and imitation altars on his churches. His churches are unusual, and well worth visiting!
Spires and Squires: the county was christened this centuries ago and it still holds true; magnificent churches whose spires populate the skyline and equally great country houses. Both stretch back to early medieval times and the ten best churches selected reflect this stretching from Saxon times through to the 20th century. Easy to access and full of treasures, not only architectural, the county offers a wealth of interesting things to the travelling tourist.
It comes as little surprise that the oldest buildings in Greater Manchester are all churches; St Mary the Virgin in Eccles has parts built in the 13th century, the tower of St Chad, Rochdale, dates to the 1200s; and, St Leonard in Middleton has fragments of a Norman billet frieze. But Greater Manchester also has an amazing collection of Victorian and modern churches to explore. Here are a few to show off what the region has to offer.