Newsletter 6


Friends of St Mary's Church, Cricklade, Wiltshire, U.K.


Chairman: Hugh Dudley, 4 Pleydells, Cricklade, SWINDON, SN6 6NG

Secretary: Gerry Dudley, 4 Pleydells, Cricklade, SWINDON, SN6 6NG

Treasurer: Tony Barratt, 13 Boundary Close, Stratton, SWINDON, SN2 7TF


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Newsletter No. 6


St Mary's Flower Festival Edition - Summer 2001

Dear Friends,

There's so much to say in this letter I'm not sure where best to begin ... there's the flower festival, the work on the altar frontal, news about the heating and other building works, the forthcoming annual general meeting, new patrons for the Friends, a new notice board at the church, the work on the parish marriage registers, plus a special article on the early 16th century rector John Holden ... read on.

St Mary's Flower Festival

First of all though let me remind you all about the flower festival on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th September at the church. The theme is 'A Band of Gold' a celebration of marriage, and all its anniversaries in flowers. The festival coincides with the national Heritage Open Days scheme run by the Civic Trust, and the Historic Churches cycle ride. This really is not to be missed.

As well as the flower show itself, there will be a recital held in the church on the evening of Friday 7th from 6pm. This will be a chance to preview the displays and listen to traditional wedding anthems. Our soloist for the evening will be Isobel Collyer who trained at the Royal College of Music, accompanied on the organ by her mother Janet Williams. The recital will be followed by cheese and wine at Brook House, courtesy of Louise and Seymour Aitken. Tickets for this very special event priced at 7.50 are available from Beryl's the florists and Baileys Newsagents in Cricklade High Street, or telephone Bernadette Yarnold on 01285 861586 or Gerry Dudley on 750107 for details.

As well as being a splendid event, the flower festival will be the major fund raising event held by the Friends this year, so please, give it your support! Helpers are always welcome, or get a poster from Gerry or Bernadette to put in your window or on a notice board. But most of all come along during the weekend and bring your friends and family!

Fritillary Altar Frontal complete

Another major initiative from the Friends comes to fruition this month with the completion of the restoration work on the early 20th century altar frontal embroidered by the Butt-Miller family. The local team of volunteers has replaced the perished backing fabric, and painstakingly reattached the embroidered motifs, which are now highlighted by gold thread. The altar frontal is now in use in the church once again, and will be on display in the church throughout the flower festival - it looks absolutely splendid.

St Mary's Parish History Project

Also on display in the church for the festival will be copies of the parish marriage registers from 1686 up to the early 20th century. Bernadette Yarnold has transcribed these from archives at the County Record Office, Trowbridge. Fascinating details of local family names, streets in the parish and the occupations of those getting married or acting as witnesses are recorded. For example, although the parish was only a small one in 1839, the Reverend Hugh Allen conducted a record eleven marriages that year.

For the more recent history of marriages in the parishes Bernadette would very much welcome the loan of photographs or other memorabilia for temporary display in the church during the flower festival. If you can help, call Bernadette on 01285 861586.

In addition, there is now a 'History File' on permanent display in the church, which brings together copies of articles about the church and details its development from Saxon times up to the Victorian restoration. It makes a good read (but please remember to leave it for others to enjoy!).

"Stands the church clock at ten to three?..."

Well twenty to eleven actually (pace Rupert Brooke). As you will recall the Friends are funding work to restore the chiming mechanism on the 1863 tower clock at St Mary's. David Jones of Helston in Cornwall has been contracted to do this work, which will also include thorough refurbishment of the mechanism and re-gilding of the clock dial above the chancel. An automatic winding unit will also be installed to remove the need for a weekly climb up the Victorian ladder bolted to the inside of the tower. The clock mechanism was removed in late spring , and so for the moment time stands still at our end of the High Street. All being well, work on the re-gilding will commence in late August. Re-installation of the clock will be co-ordinated with work on the proposed heating system (see below).

Hot air ...

It's perhaps difficult to remember at this time of year, but it does get cold in the church come the winter! After extensive consultation with English Heritage and specialist church heating engineers, a scheme is under consideration to install a gas powered air heater in the church. This will be located in the tower chamber with ducts directing a warm air stream into the aisles on either side of the church, from where it will circulate throughout the building. Details of the installation will be determined at a site meeting on 22nd August, so we should have progress to report in the next issue.

Getting St Mary's noticed

Visitors to the church will have seen the new notice board that now faces up the High Street from the south wall of the chancel. The board includes a specially commissioned painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary, presenting the Christ Child to the world, by Maggie Fitzpatrick.

Building works

There is less welcome news about the front wall. The hoped-for grant from North Wiltshire District Council towards the cost of refurbishment of the front wall to the churchyard, and replacement of the iron railings under the High Street Refurbishment Scheme now seems to be in some doubt. This is a blow as the church forms such a strong visual feature at the north end of the High Street, in the heart of the zone designated by the council as a Conservation Area. Hopefully good sense will prevail. In the meantime the Friends very gratefully acknowledges the grants recently received from two local charities, the Waylands Trust and the Cricklade Show - particularly generous given this year's agricultural crisis.

New Patrons for the Friends

The Friends is very pleased to announce that Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton and the Rev. Ken Withington have accepted our invitation to become patrons of the Friends. We welcome their support.

A date for your diaries...

Please note that the Friends will be holding an Annual General Meeting on 13th November at Brook House by kind permission of Seymour and Louise Aitken. More information will be sent out to Friends nearer the date.

Friends of St Mary's Church Newsletter - Special Supplement - John Holden, Rector


John Holden,

Rector of Saint Mary's, Cricklade, 1510-14:

Thoughts on Good Shepherd Sunday


Dr. John R. Robinson, Oxford


"WHAT A WONDERFUL PRIVILEGE to be with the people of Cricklade, on Good Shepherd Sunday, in their beautiful church of Saint Mary where Father Richard celebrated Mass as did his Dominican predecessor, my great-times- eleven-uncle, Father John Holden D.D., nearly five hundred years ago! John's family continued to receive vocations to the religious life.

The family link is through Cecily Foster who married my great-great-grandfather, Robert Robinson of Hutton Hall, North Yorkshire, in 1767. Cecily's mother was Elizabeth Holden, daughter of Robert Holden of Leagram, near Chipping, in Lancashire, who, in turn, was descended from John Holden's brother, Ralph Holden of Chaigley Hall, five miles away, and his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Hancocke of Lower Higham in Pendle Forest.

Ralph and Elizabeth's great grandson, Richard Holden of Chaigley Hall, married Eleanor, daughter of Miles Gerard of Ince. Eleanor's brother, also Miles Gerard, a Douai priest, was martyred at Rochester, 13 April 1590. He was Beatified in 1929.

Richard and Eleanor's second son was Henry Holden (1597-1661), Douai priest and doctor of the Sorbonne. Their grandson, also Henry Holden, (1620-1688), after holding a commission under Colonel Thomas Dalton on the Royalist side during the Civil War, trained at the English College at Douai and became chaplain to the Daltons at Thurnham Hall.

Cecily had two sisters who were Poor Claire Nuns: Abbess Elizabeth Foster (1725-14 Feb. 1802) and Sister Grace Maria Foster (1729-2 Feb. 1802). During the 'Reign of Terror' of Robespierre, they were taken from their convent in Dunkirk and imprisoned, under appalling conditions, for eighteen months. They were only saved by the downfall of Robespierre; and they were allowed to return to England on 26th March 1795.

Three of Cecily's grandsons were Ushaw priests: Canon Robert Thompson (1807-1875) who built a church at Nun Monkton; Father James Thompson (1809-1837); and Canon John Thompson (1814-1884). John was, for forty-three years, chaplain to the Bar Convent in York.

Cecily's great-grandson, Father Robert Robinson S.J. (1866-1944), was Procurator at Stonyhurst College. His farming background ensured that he was put in charge of the College farm. For his sturdy corpulence and blunt Yorkshire common sense he was known as 'Father Solid.' His sermon, 'The Christian Warrior,' Father Solid maintained, could be adapted to any special occasion !

Cecily's great-granddaughter, my aunt Catherine (21 July 1859-?), became a Carmelite nun. She wanted to join straight from school but her father, Thomas Robinson of Nuthill, East Yorkshire, insisted on her coming home for a year first.

Perhaps these vocations were promoted by John Holden, Rector of St. Mary's. I am hoping to find out more about his career."

I should like to thank the Cricklade Museum and its Curator Tom Ramsden-Binks for helping with my investigation and Father Richard Barton and the Friends of St. Mary's for inviting me to contribute to their newsletter.

Edmund Lee, Newsletter editor adds...

It is interesting to speculate how different a building St Mary's would have been at the time that John Holder was rector, before the Reformation and the later Victorian restoration. An external staircase just near where the cross stands in the churchyard would have led up to a gallery running along the North aisle, and possibly a rood-screen across the chancel arch. The chancel window was much smaller, and the church must have been rather darker inside than now. It's impossible to tell, but perhaps the interior was painted in the soft reds, ochres and blues of the medieval period. The bells in the tower are first recorded in the 16th century, and may have been a new addition in John Holden's day.