Monday Meditation: St Luke’s Village Church, Hodnet

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St Luke’s Church is next door to the beautiful Hodnet Hall Gardens, sitting just beside the entrance. This small, intimate church was open for visitors when we were at the gardens in the summer and is well worth a look if you like historic buildings and richly-coloured stained glass windows.

This Grade 1 listed building is Norman in origin and listed in the Doomesday Book. Much of the original Norman nave still exists. It has the only octagonal tower in Shropshire, with octagonal wooden clocks on each side. I had never seen a tower like it. I warmed to this unusual church instantly before venturing inside the porch, its open door inviting us in.

The stained glass windows were beautiful. One is in memory of Mary Heber, an ancestor of the current family in residence, and the other tells the story of The Holy Grail.  It was really difficult to find the right angle to do justice to the vivid colours and images, the sun was streaming through windows and washing out some of the colour. We were the only ones there and took our time, not feeling in anyway rushed by person or event.

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The aisles and chapels are tiled in various colours and intricate patterns. They are in wonderful condition. I spent a lot of time just sitting, contemplating, taking everything in, all the magnificent beauty and craftmanship.

 

 

IMG_3995The families who have owned the Hall have been – and still are – long-time patrons of this church, supporting its upkeep. Many of them are buried there or memorialised within the church. There are some very elaborate marble memorials on the walls and in the family chapel. Unfortunately, my camera battery died and I didn’t realise it had given up on the marble sarcophagus in the family chapel.

I’ve never seen pews like these before, they were all across the front of the congregation, no doubt there for the great and the good! I found them incredibly uncomfortable, forcing me to sit up rather than lean into them.

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I don’t know exactly what it was about this church, but it had a very welcoming feel to it. It’s quite small which makes it more intimate, less intimidating, for all its imposing stone and sense of history. There was a sense of continuity through the family names that you get in small villages, and lots of notices addressed to visitors and parishioners inviting them to look around, providing information and histories, a visitors’ book, but also framed photographs of the current incumbents and articles about local people and activities.

A lovely touch was the invitation to request a prayer for, or thoughts be sent to, someone who needed it, whatever the circumstances, no names necessary, and there were candles and matches if you also wanted to light one on their behalf. No charge. I requested a mention for our dear friend, Terry at Spearfruit.

(Please Note: I wrote this post some time before Terry passed away and I hope it doesn’t cause distress to anyone close to him. He was very much on my mind at the time of our visit).

One project I particularly warmed to was some research conducted by the local Scouts group into the names on the War Memorial in the church yard. This research was left out for all to see and filled in the details behind the names, turning them into real people not just ciphers. The project was at the back of the church for anyone to leaf through, with an invitation to contact the authors if any information is incorrect or if the reader had more up to date details to include.

There was a small piano alongside the ancient organ, and really old prayer books, Bibles, registers in full view, not locked away or removed for fear of vandalism, as in many churches these days. This added to the welcoming atmosphere of this beautiful church.

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I was reluctant to leave, but we had been out all afternoon and now it was approaching evening and the gardens where we had parked the car would soon be closing. If you click on the link in my first paragraph, you can read about this magnificent estate, one of the most stunning and unspoiled places I’ve visited.

A final look up towards the church from the entrance to the Hall:

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

 

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William Penny Brookes, Father of The Modern Olympics!

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(Image from Wikipedia)

Now I know what most of you are thinking: no, that was Baron De Coubertin, everyone knows that!

In actual fact, De Coubertin was inspired to hold the Olympics in Athens after visiting The Wenlock Olympian Society Games, an annual event founded by a local surgeon, humanitarian and PE enthusiast, William Penny Brookes, and held in Much Wenlock, Shropshire since 1850.

De Coubertin organised the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896 after visiting Britain in 1890 to find out more about sport in our public (i.e. private) schools the previous year. Dr Brookes invited him to visit the Much Wenlock Olympian Society Games where they competed in quoit-throwing, cricket, running, hurdles and football amongst other events. De Coubertin eventually employed many of Dr Brookes’ ideas including the opening ceremonial parade, holding the event in different cities and opening it to all sportsmen from around the world (women were not invited to participate!)

Sadly, Dr Brookes didn’t live to see the Games in Athens, he died a few months before at the age of 86.

Dr Brookes’ role in the founding of the modern Olympic movement was acknowledged by Juan Antonio Samaranch, President of the International Olympic Committee, when in 1994 he came to Much Wenlock and laid a wreath in Dr Brookes’ memory.

Dr Brookes was keen to improve the education, health and opportunities of the working classes. He set up a library for their use and was particularly keen on promoting sport ‘for the development of the manliness of the human race’. He was active in local justice and administration and concerned for the welfare of his fellow citizens. He campaigned tirelessly for the introduction of sport into the school curriculum.

He is still much revered in his home town. There is a blue plaque to mark his lifelong home and a marble memorial in the local parish church of Holy Trinity where he and all his family are buried. There is also a Brookes’ room inside the entrance of the church which has a children’s area and a kitchen.

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The Games are still held annually in July in Much Wenlock. My son and his friends took part for a bit of fun in their student days, which nevertheless led to fierce rivalry. Last year, now in their 40s, they decided it was time to have another go. One of them came all the way from Dubai just to take part – with a torn hamstring! He spent the night before with ice packs tied to his leg in all sorts of pain. Nothing was going to stop him taking part! He came fourth in the pentathlon.

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You can follow The Olympian Trail around the town of Much Wenlock – there are plaques embedded in the pathways – you can also visit Dr Brookes’ grave which lies in a beautiful and peaceful setting in the grounds of the 12th century Holy Trinity Church, orginally the church of the nuns of the local priory.

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Children from Steiner Schools all over the country carry on Dr Brookes’ programme when every summer they gather in the grounds of one of their schools to take part in traditional Olympic sports – including wrestling – whilst camping out and making their own food.

One of the early winning Olympians was none other than W.G. Grace, the famous English cricketer.

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(Image from Wikipedia)

So, why is cricket – an original Modern Olympic sport – no longer an Olympic event? It is played all around the world on streets, in parks, on beaches, in back gardens as well as in much-anticipated international matches.  I think I know the answer, but out of courtesy to my US readers, my lips are sealed 😉

Copyright: Chris McGowan