Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday 20 January 2023

Listing for five Catholic Churches in East Anglia

I chanced upon a BBC News report about the listing on the recommendation by Historic England of five Catholic Churches in the diocese of East Anglia.

Catholic churches are often overlooked in books on Victorian and later gothic revival creations. When asked why this was so Sir John Betjeman, sincere Anglo Catholic that he was, commented “But ours are better”. Whilst this may well be true of many instances it is not of these five, nor of the works of Pugin - father, son and grandson - of A.W. Pugin’s  pupil Wardel, both here and in Australia, of the three cathedrals to be built by the fifteenth Duke of Norfolk in Arundel, Norwich and Sheffield ( imagine building three cathedrals ) or of St James Spanish Place, Holy Name and St Chad’s in Manchester, Chideock in Dorset and Clifford in Yorkshire. There are the monastic churches at Pantasaph, let alone Downside or Belmont, or St Peter’s Winchester and indeed Buckfast from the early twentieth century, to name but a few. Not gothic but in a variant on Counter-Reformation baroque are the very fine churches of the London and Birmingham Oratories. 

The article, with pictures of all five churches, can br seen at Roman Catholic churches granted special protection

The only one of these which I have visited and where I have attended Mass is the marvellous church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge - a glorious building that is on a scale worthy to be a cathedral and built on the basis that everything was to be of the highest quality.

The church in Kings Lynn dates from 1896-7 and the article highlights the fact that the future King Edward VII was a contributor to the building fund. That appears to have been a not untypical ecumenical gesture by him, and unusual at the time or for some decades to come. 

The church is of especial interest in that it houses the first post-reformation shrine to be set up of Our Lady of Walsingham. Thr convert Charlotte Boyd had bought the derelict Slipper Chapel and restored it to the Church, but no-one knew what to do with it - it was to be a generation before the great Fr Hope Patten began the recreation of active pilgrimage at Walsingham, followed by the restoration of the Slipper Chapel. The Lynn News website has a piece about the listing of the church and its link with King Edward which can be seen at Historic town church, which was built with a king's support, awarded listed status

I was interested to read about the church in Great Yarmouth and in particular the painting in that building of Our Lady of Arneburgh ( or Ardenbergh ).The later medieval devotion to this shrine at Ardenbergh in the Netherlands in a chapel in the churchyard of the priory of St Nicholas Great Yarmouth  is something I have written about in my May Marian Pilgrimage articles, but I was unaware of the revived devotion in the town. There is a link to an article from last year about a major roof repair following storm damage and the hoped-for restoration of the painting of Our Lady of Arneburgh at Great Yarmouth church roof repairs allow mural to be restored

The church at Felixstowe is more recent with its first phase completed in 1912. It was interesting to see the presence of King Manuel II of Portugal at its dedication that year. He was a great benefactor of the Catholic church in  Twickenham, and of other charitable causes when he lived in exile in England 

Beccles is well known for its historic medieval parish church with its detached bell tower but the Catholic church appears to be well worth a visit also. This Minster church of St Benet looks to be a very scholarly work, splendidly recreating a Norman church of the earlier twelfth century.

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