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A Twist in the Tale - 6 August 2014

This event drew some 40 people to the Saints last Wednesday evening.

Nigel Swann opened the evening by welcoming everyone, and noted, with pleasure, the first visit by our new Vicar, Fr Patrick, to a Friends event. Nigel also pointed out that as Vicar, Fr Patrick now held the position of Vice-President of the Friends.

Tony Hallam then gave his illustrated talk, an entertaining and very personal mix of fact and anecdote, on the Tale of the Spire. But, on the way to the Spire, we were given a brief glimpse of a few of the many other interesting aspects of the church:-

Above the porch at the West end, there is a niche with a small statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and child, obviously much more recent than the surrounding stonework. Tony advanced the theory that the niche originally held another statue, but that this was removed during Cromwell’s time (C1644), and the niche remained empty until 1929, when the present statue was installed.

Statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Parish Chest

The Parish Chest, or Poor box, was used for collecting alms for the poor of the parish, and was secured by three locks, each with a different key held separately by the Vicar and Churchwardens (Then, as now, “trust no-one” seemed to be the guiding principle). The coins used for payment were known as Scots, and those who didn’t give, were said to have got off “Scot-free”. Sounds familiar?

The Font, thought to date from Saxon or Norman times, disappeared from the church in Cromwell’s time, and was re-discovered in 1898, serving as a flower pot in the Vicarage garden.

The Font

the Spire

And so to the Spire. Accessed via a spiral staircase, winding clockwise in accordance with contemporary castle-building practice (to allow castle defenders (usually right-handed) to wield their swords freely, whilst hampering the attackers in the same way), this leads, via 144 steps, to the top of the tower.

Here, Tony became controversial. The Crooked Spire isn’t crooked!

It bends, quite alarmingly, some 2.9m to the South West at its tip. It also twists, in an anti-clockwise direction when looking up from the top of the tower. But neither of these distortions, singly or together, amount to crookedness. Tony was quite adamant about this, but, although to the purist he is right, calling it the Twisted-and-Bent-but-not-Crooked Spire is never going to catch on!

The Crooked Spire

We heard several anecdotes relating to visitors to the Spire. The small boy looking up at the maze of timber inside the spire and commenting “What a mess!”; the innocent enquiry “which did they build first, the tower or the spire?” and the Japanese tourist who’s photos of the spire so alarmed his camera manufacturer that they asked him to return the faulty camera so that they could replace it.

Time passed all too quickly, but the audience were most enthusiastic when showing their appreciation at the end-most of us learned something new about the church, and we were left wanting more.

The programme concluded with a quite lavish buffet, provided by Gwen Hallam and Irene Moore, and several people took note of the BYOB instruction on the tickets to bring a very convivial end to the evening.

John Duncan

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