Round Church and fake gravestone
Following the collapse of the older church in 1788, St Chad’s Church at Shrewsbury was built 1790-92, incorporating Classical Greek features. The site and plan caused much controversy as circular churches were unfamiliar in England and furthermore part of the town walls had to be demolished.
A simple grave slab in the churchyard declares it to be that of Ebenezer Scrooge and it is indeed a fake. In fact it was a film prop when the church was featured in the film ‘Christmas Carol’ which was filmed in Shrewsbury and the crew left it in situ.
King Louis X1V statue
There is a very fine statue of King Louis X1V of France in the church of St James at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, but the interesting thing is that the head is not that of Louis.The statue was sculptured for and represents Louis X1V and was being conveyed to France when the vessel containing it (and the sculptor) was captured by an English ship commanded by Sir Robert Holmes.
The sculptor had finished the body but the head was left to be completed in France. Upon learning who the statue was for, Holmes compelled the sculptor to finish it by carving his (Holmes) head on the King’s body.
Holmes later became the Governor of the Isle of Wight and held the office from 1667 to 1692, and after his death the statue was erected in the church in his memory.
St James' Church
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A monstrous serpent
A worthy knight, Sir William Wyville, who was Lord of the Manor of Slingsby near Malton in
in the 13th century, had good reason to be grateful to his dog. Legend has it that the dog helped Sir William
to kill a monstrous serpent which was prone to devour travellers on the road to
Malton. A battered stone effigy of Sir William can be seen in
Slingsby church – a knight in chain mail, with sword and shield, his hand
clasping a heart. Unfortunately the
feet and the dog have been broken off and lost.
Copyright 'richflintphoto' to whom I am grateful for allowing me to copy his photograph.
An arm chair to be seen in the sanctuary was given to St Helen's church in the 17th century by Captain William Hardcastle. It seems to be a strange place for this chair given its history, for it was in this chair that notorious highwayman, Swift Nick Nevison, was found and arrested by Hardcastle in 1684.
Highwaymen were prevalent in this area in the 17th and 18th centuries when stagecoach travel was the order of the day. John (or William) Nevison was one of the most notorious of these characters, a man renowned for his dash, ingenuity and fearlessness, he was probably born at Wortley near Sheffield in 1639. Although Nevison came from a good family, he stole from his family and soon left home. He stole a horse and rode to London where he obtained employment and for a couple of years it seemed that he had settled down, but then he stole £200 from his employer and disappeared with the police on his tail. He evaded capture and eventually enlisted as a soldier, serving in Flanders, but, ever the individualist, Nevison deserted and returned to his native land and became a highwayman. His notoriety soon earned him the soubriquet Swift Nick Nevison (Some say it was Charles 11 who used this name) with the reputation of aiding the poor. He rode and worked alone and reaped a rich harvest from the wealthy travellers on the southern highways until things became too hot for him and he moved back to his native Yorkshire where he was virtually unknown. As he continued his nefarious activities Nevison soon had the local law officers after him and it is said that it was whilst being closely pursued by constables on the road between Pontefract and Ferrybridge that he took his horse on an incredible leap between two cliffs, making good his escape. This chasm became known as Nevison’s Leap and was near to where a pub of that name is now situated. The story goes that Nevison was eventually caught and committed to Leicester Gaol, but escaped by pretending to have contracted the Plague. One of his friends,a physician, came and attested to his illness, and another friend, a painter, provided make-up. Nevison feigned death and was carried out of the gaol in a coffin. His subsequent reappearance on the highway was at first taken to be ghost sighting. Out of character and as an act of self preservation he shot and killed a constable, Darcy Fletcher, who had a warrant for his arrest. This increased the pressure upon the authorities to ensure his capture. It appears that he had joined a gang of highwaymen who operated from the Talbot Inn at Newark on the Great North Road. Stories of this audacious freebooter are legend and he usually managed to keep one step ahead of the law but his luck ran out in 1684 when he was found asleep in the chair at The Three Houses Inn at Sandal. He was arrested and tried for a variety of crimes including Fletcher’s murder and was hanged at York in that year. He was buried in an unmarked grave at St Mary’s Church, Castlegate, York. It was in fact Nevison who made the legendary run, wrongly attributed to Dick Turpin, from London to York. This able and accomplished horseman had been arrested and accused of committing a robbery near London at 4.0.clock in the morning. He was acquitted after proving that he was in York on the day in question, and had actually spoken to the Lord Mayor at 7.45pm. Nevison later boasted that he had made the amazing ride of 209 miles to York in less than 16 hours after the robbery. It seems that although Nevison was dreaded by those liable to suffer at his hands, he was in fact a gentleman of the road, much respected by the poor to whom he was a good friend, and a contemporary ballad was written about him: ‘ Did you ever hear tell of that hero, Bold Nevison was his name. He rode about like a bold hero, And with that he gain’d great fame. He maintained himself like a gentleman, Besides he was good to the poor, He rode about like a great hero, And he gain’d himself favour therefore.’
St Helen's Church
Robin the Devil
The Parish Church at Kendal in Cumbria is almost as wide as York Minster and has associations with Katherine Parr one of Henry V111 wives.
Kendal Parish Church
A 17th century helmet and sword hanging high up on the north wall inside the church, tell an unusual story and are said to have belonged to one 'Robin the Devil'. He was in fact Royalist, Sir Robert Phillipson who lived in a curious round house on Belle Isle, the largest island on Lake Windermere. During the English Civil War Belle Isle was besieged and bombarded by a Parliamentary troop led by a Colonel Briggs, a regular worshipper at Kendal church. The attack failed somewhat due to trees on the island which protected Phillpson's house and when the Parliamentarians departed Phillipson is said to have pursued Briggs to Kendal where he entered the church on horseback searching for his enemy. He was repelled and it is said that he lost his helmet and sword in the skirmish whilst making good his escape.
The lonely 'tin tabernacle' church at Syre in Sutherland is a stark reminder that throughout the 19th century, landlords evicted Highland tenants from their crofts in order to replace them with marginal smallholdings with extensive sheep farms attached. Their methods were very harsh often using violence together with the burning of the houses. Many thousands of these Highlander’s had no option but to emigrate, leading to the depopulation of the Highlands. In 1886 following growing civil disobedience, the Napier Commission’s report resulted in the passing of the Crofting Act, giving crofter’s security of tenure, bringing the clearances to an end, but did nothing to restore land already cleared. Whole villages were cleared in this part of Sutherland leaving a bleak wilderness to the sheep.