Ever wanted to have a look around a building or place not usually open to the public ?, Heritage Open Days are the chance to do just that, its England's largest festival of history and culture, and its free.
So Last SaturdayI took the chance to have a look around one of Northamptonshires most historic buildings, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is a rare Norman Round church, I was specifically interested in the military aspect of its history as I knew it has an abundance of this in connection with the Northamptonshire Regiment. I has visited the building before as I knew a skirmish had taken place during the English Civil War which had lead to marks from musket balls being visible on its exterior which can still be seen today.
I was shown around by a very knowledgeable chap called David Parish who is a military tour guide and he pointed out the various things and people connected with the church's military history and gave me some information about some of the magnificent stained glass windows, three of which were made in Germany.
The church is worth visiting just to see the Jaffa Window which depicts scenes from the Crusades and has intricate detail which my pictures won't do justice too but I hope they give you an idea of the craftsmanship involved, below is just two of the four panes that make up the window.
Unfortunately the picture I took of the windows in its entirety didn't turn out so well because of background light so I'm hoping David can send me one so I can post it up.
Update, since I posted this I have kindly been sent a picture of the Jaffa Window by John Kightley, thank you John, It can be seen below -
The Gallipoli Window is seen below -
The church contains a chapel for the Northamptonshire Regiment the ceiling of which can be seen on the left.
The church is one of only four remaining round church's built in Britain, it was modelled on the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Simon de Senlis built the church as an offering of thanks for his safe return from the Holy Land.
The Soldiers Chapel is where over 6000 soldiers from the Northamptonshires are remembered from the two great wars.
Above is the layout of the original round church and below my picture of this part of the church which doesn't really do it justice if I'm honest.
Some of the windows are memorials to individual soldiers paid for by their family, this window is a memorial to Eric Bostock.
So what is the fascination of really old buildings for me ? well probably their permanency, or lets say in the context of how long we have been around as humans, their relative permanency. Look around you today and most everything seems to be built on shifting sand metaphorically speaking, the church I visited today has been around for hundreds of years before I was born and most likely will be around for hundreds more after I'm long gone.
Think back to the ediface that was Greyfriars Bus Station, that took immense effort to build and yet 40 odd years later it is no more having been demolished, look back at the people who built the church and how little they had in terms of equipment and you have to marvel at their collective achievement in not only building the church in the first place but the fact it is still standing with relatively little maintenance many hundreds of years later.
The Normans and Simon de Senlis
The Norman legacy in Northampton is far reaching, Northampton Castle was built by them and it was used for the trial of the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket in 1164.
Some information about Simon, he was by birth a Norman, the Son of Ralph the Rich, both he and his Brother Garner rendered considerable assistance to Duke William in his conquest of England. Garner returned to Normandy to inherit the paternal estates, but Simon being in high favour with the Conqueror remained in England.
Simon was lame in one leg which caused a problem for him when the lady who had been offered to him as a bride refused to accept him because of his lameness.
Simon rebuilt and fortified the town of Northampton, and erected the castle near to the western gate, in the year 1084 the Earl repaired and re-founded the Cluniac priory of St Andrew, Northampton, making in a dependency of the French House of the Blessed Mary de Caritate.
In the year 1096 Simon in common with many of the nobles and knights of England joined in the first crusade, which ended in the capture of Jerusalem by assault on July 15th 1099.
Simon survived and returned safely to England before the end of that year.
To earl of Northampton Simon de Senlis who was one of the most powerful and wealthy of the new nobility of England, the rebuilder of Northampton and the founder of its castle, a great benefactor of religious houses and a most faithful son of the church, an earnest crusader, and a devout pilgrim, the first erection of the church of the Holy Sepulchre of Northampton may with considerable confidence be assigned.
Simon on his return from the Holy Land built the church as a sign of his thanks for his safe return, the original church of the Holy Sepulchre consisted of the round or circular part, with an aiseless chancel extending some distance to the east, which probably terminated in an apse.
Obviously over the years work has been undertaken to maintain the building which at one stage was in dire need of work to be carried out.
The soldier pictured below is Edgar Mobbs he served as a Captain in the 7th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the same Regiment.
He is one of Northampton's most well know sportsmen, he captained the Saints and played for and captained England, the Mobbs memorial match is played every year in his honour. He was awarded the DSO and died in the Ypres Salient in Belgium killed in action in 1917.
The gentleman to the left is Fred Lessons, who played many times for Northampton Town, he served with the Ist Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment.
The Cricketer Charles Tomblin who played for Northants died towards the end of the war in June 1918 and served with the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment. Sadly I can find no pictures of Charles, but I'm making enquiries.
We should always be mindful of the people that gave their lives and suffered unimaginable hardships and witnessed such horror, women that lost husbands, parents that lost beloved sons, sons and daughters that lost fathers, brothers that lost brothers, what we should never do though is glorify war.
We have travelled from the Crusades which was fought many hundreds of years ago to World War One which although it seems a long time ago is still relatively recent, and what has mankind learnt, today we see wars still raging and civilians bearing the brunt of those wars, maybe in some distant future we will learn how to put our energies into more productive pursuits for the common good of mankind.
That would be a fitting tribute to all the talented young people who had their lives cut short and all their relatives who never really recovered from the shock and sadness of losing their loved ones.