22 May 2023

Saint Peter’s Church
in Harrogate town
centre is part of the
Major Churches Network

Saint Peter’s Church is a landmark building in the centre of Harrogate (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

Saint Peter’s Church is a landmark building in the centre of Harrogate, on the corner of Cambridge Street, Cambridge Crescent and Cambridge Road, a short stroll from the war memorial and Betty’s Tearoom in the heart of Harrogate.

During our week in Yorkshire earlier this month, two of us visited Saint Peter’s Church, which is an excellent example of Victorian Gothic architecture, and boasts exceptional 19th-century stained glass. The tall striking tower is a prominent sight and makes it impossible to miss this church.

Harrogate became a popular spa town in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the growth in population was stimulated by the arrival of the railway in the 1860s. The Victoria Park Company began to develop the open agricultural land between High and Low Harrogate in 1860 to provide the town with a new centre.

It became obvious that a new church was needed in this part of Harrogate, to serve both the growing population and the needs of the town’s authority. A new parish was formed out of the parish of Christ Church, High Harrogate.

Mary Anne Fielde offered her house as a vicarage, with a garden large enough for building a new a church and school too. The school was the first part of the building project, beginning in the mid-1860s. The school was also a place of worship until the new church building was built.

Sadly, Mary Anne Fielde died before the foundation stone was laid on 21 April 1870. The church was then built in stages as funds became available.

Inside Saint Peter’s Church, Harrogate, designed by the Yorkshire-born architect John Henry Hirst (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Saint Peter’s Church was designed by the Yorkshire-born architect John Henry Hirst (1827-1882) of Bristol, who also designed Cambridge Crescent and Prospect Crescent in Harrogate. Hirst designed the new church in the Decorated Gothic style, with elements from mediaeval French architecture. The design was executed by the architect George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), who was born in Hull. Bodley also gave the Golden Gates in the church.

Bodley was influenced by George Gilbert Scott and William Morris, and his work includes All Saints’ Church, Jesus Lane, Cambridge, Queens’ College Chapel, Cambridge, and repairs to Jesus College Chapel, Cambridge.

The chancel and temporary nave of Saint Peter’s were opened on 7 September 1871, and the new church was consecrated on 3 October 1876.

Further important additions were made in 1885, 1890, 1910, 1921 and in 1926, when the great tower was completed to a design by AA Gibson, who respected Hirst’s original concept.

A carving of the head of an archbishop by William Pashley (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Inside, Saint Peter’s displays much of beauty and high craftsmanship. The splendidly broad nave contains stone carving by two outstanding Victorian sculptors, Harry Hems and William Pashley of Harrogate and Leeds.

The eight carved heads by Pashley in the nave depict Archbishops of York and of Canterbury. Pashley also designed the roundels over the front and rear doors. Pashley’s other works at Lichfield Cathedral and Leeds Minster are widely admired.

However, the stained and painted glass is Saint Peter’s greatest decorative glory, and is both rich and artistic.

This glass, made by the London firm of Burlison and Grylls, who also designed the rose window in Westminster Abbey, embellishes the chancel, transepts, chapel and aisles of Saint Peter’s, and is a glorious sight. The large east window above the altar was given by Mary Anne Fielde.

The stained and painted glass by Burlison and Grylls is Saint Peter’s greatest decorative glory (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

A striking three-light stained glass window by Burlison and Grylls depicts the Army of Heaven in the Book of Revelation. A man wearing a red cloak and a papal tiara is carrying an upright sword and is seated on a white horse that is trampling a dragon in flames. They are surrounded by knights mounted on horseback carrying tilting spears. The knight at the left in the front row knight looks directly at the viewer and is a photographic likeness of Aubrey Coombes.

In the tracery, five angels carry ribbons with a quotation: ‘He was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war’ (see Revelation 19: 11).

The inscription below reads: ‘To the glory of God and in loving memory of Aubrey Cecil James Coombes 19th (Public Schools Batt) Royal Fusiliers who fell at Cuinichy, France,/ 28th December 1915, in the Great War, 1914-18, aged 24 years. This window is the gift of his parents, James and Edith Coombes, Harrogate.’

Much of the interior woodwork as produced by the Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson studio of Kilburn, with his trademark carved mice adorning surfaces in the Lady Chapel, the entrance porch, and at the altar rail.

The bronze war memorial was designed by William Walker. It include the names of Captain Donald Simpson Bell (1880-1916) and Private Charles Hull (1890-1953), both from Harrogate and awarded the Victoria Cross for valour during World War I.

The great organ was built by the internationally celebrated German organ builder Heinrich Edmund Schulze (1824-1878).

The first vicar of Saint Peter’s, the Revd Lundy Foote (1842-1925), served for 50 years before retiring in 1922. Three of his sons are depicted in the south aisle window nearest the entrance.

The ornate reredos behind the high altar designed by Bodley is a memorial to Canon Foote, and there is a bronze memorial in his honour under the right-hand angel, behind the gilded gates

The High Altar and Bodley’s reredos in Saint Peter’s Church, Harrogate (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Foote provides an interesting link with many places I know in Ireland. The Foote or Foot family were descended from John Foot who settled in Dublin after the Battle of the Boyne. His son, Geoffrey Foot (1704-1773), a custom’s officer in Ringsend, married Jane Lundy and their son, Lundy Foot (1735-1805), bought the land at Footmount, at the foot of the Dublin Mountains, in 1766. Later this was the Augustinian retreat at Orlagh, at the top of Ballycullen Road.

Lundy Foot established a business as a tobacconist and snuff maker in Dublin. One enthusiastic author claimed that in 1800 Lundy Foot’s snuff was as famous in Dublin as Guinness is today. The business was later acquired by PJ Carroll.

Lundy Foot’s eldest son, Geoffrey Foot, lived in Hollymount, now the core of the old building at Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, and died in 1824. One of his sons, Canon Lundy Foot (1793-1873), was the first Rector of Whitechurch (1824-1828), where I was once an NSM, and established Whitechurch National School. Later he was a canon of Salisbury Cathedral until his death.

A younger son, the Revd Frederick Foot (1808-1871), worked in a number of parishes in the south-east of Ireland, including Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, Redcross, Co Wicklow, Cappoquin, Co Waterford, Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, and Fethard, Co Tipperary.

Geoffrey Foot’s younger brother, also named Lundy Foot, built Footmount, the first house on the lands at Orlagh in 1790. He surrounded the house with choice plantations, including tulip trees – one of which survived behind the apse of the Augustinian chapel – and laid out the road from Ballycullen House to the entrance at the Orlagh Estate, past Saint Colmcille’s Well.

Lundy Foot was seen as a ruthless magistrate. In 1816, he brought to trial the three Kearneys – a father and his two sons – for the murder of a gamekeeper. They were hanged on the banks of the River Dodder at Old Bawn, a ten-minute walk from Foot’s house. Local anger was high, and Lundy Foot was afterwards fired at and seriously injured. He recovered and went to live in Rosbercon Castle, near New Ross, Co Wexford, selling Footmount to his son’s father-in-law, Nathaniel Callwell.

Lundy Foot lived at Rosbercon Castle for almost 20 years until 2 January 1835, when he was stoned and hacked to death while planting trees on his estate. His murder followed a dispute over the eviction by the Tottenham family of a tenant named Murphy from a small holding of five acres that had been bought by Foot. He is buried in the family vault in Saint Matthew’s Church, Irishtown.

Inside Saint Peter’s Church, Harrogate, facing west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

A series of improvements to the exterior and interior of Saint Peter’s Church was carried out in 2009-2011. These greatly enhanced the mission of this church at the heart of Harrogate Community.

Saint Peter’s is a member of the Major Churches Network, founded as the Greater Churches Network and representing about 300 of the largest, most significant and well-loved churches in England.

Saint Peter’s Church is open from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm from Monday to Saturday.

The daily food ministry in the church is reflected in the motto on the church logo, ‘Feeding Hungry People.’

The Army of Heaven in the Book of Revelation depicted in the Coombes window by Burlison and Grylls (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Revelation 19: 11-16 (NRSVA):
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’

Five loaves and two fish … ‘St Peter’s Harrogate Feeding Hungry People’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Catherine Fox’s reminder
of Covid’s cold climate
and hope after that
apocalypse is not disaster

Patrick Comerford

COVID has not gone away. It is still here, and it is still killing people. I am due to receive my fifth vaccine at the Open University in Milton Keynes later this week (22 May 2023), and we still have self-testing kits in the bathroom cabinet.

Without the vaccines, without self-isolation, without people working from home, the impact of the pandemic may have been more devastating. Who knows whether the emergence of a new and deadlier variant has been forestalled or is still going to catch us all unawares?

How quickly we forget. At the moment, we cannot forget the beginning of the war in Ukraine, and we continue to be faced with gaps on supermarket shelves and soaring food prices that are blamed on ‘supply chain problems’ and not on Brexit.

But how quickly, I fear, we have forgotten the cargo ship jammed in the Suez Canal, the last planes from Afghanistan, petrol shortages and gridlock outside petrol stations, the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, people singing opera to each other from balconies in Italy, the tsunami in Tonga, Prince Andrew, Djokovic at the Australian Open, the closure of Debenhams … migrants drowning in the Channel.

Some people want to forget COVID, and while we were there some people tried to ignore and to deny COVID. Some mad-caps, right up to the White House, tried to dismiss it all as a conspiracy. But real people and real families, real communities and real parishes suffered – and remain traumatised.

So that we do not forget the impact of COVID – and the lessons we have learned during the pandemic – we need both historians and novelists to tell the story. Historians can help us to remember and analyse the causes and consequences of events over these past few years. But novelists are going to remind us of its social impacts: some heart-breaking, but some heart-warming.

Is our communal experience of COVID going to produce literature and poetry? Catherine Fox has started us on the road with The Company of Heaven, her fifth and latest account of daily life in the Diocese of Lindchester, our very own 21st century Barchester.

We are invited into ‘the valley of the shadow of COVID’, where she finds ‘a silver lining to the COVID clouds’ as we spend 12 random days over 12 months in Lindfordshire, rummaging through 12 baskets full of broken fragments.

Our hearts are still hanging in the willows by the waters of COVID. We are still in exile. Lest we forget, she reminds us of the days of facemasks in churches, blankets in pubs, perspex screens between tables in restaurants, repurposed car parks, the rule of six, and the neck-and-neck race between the search for vaccines and the emergence of new variants.

These were the days when we kept doors open to keep air circulating, and when the return of football was accompanied by the return of naked racism.

There are new words than I find difficult to take on, such as ‘Anglicanly’ and ‘Brexchatology’ – hopefully they never appear as answers in the Guardian Quick Crossword.

There are curious conundrums about cutting diamonds, the size of pearls in the Pearly Gate, and why Harry Potter didn’t magic himself 20/20 vision so he wouldn’t need glasses. There are discussions about the genesis of figs and pearls, and a reminder that 42 is the meaning of life.

But real theological and pastoral dilemmas and challenges are posed too. How do I look God in the face when it turns out my best was worse than doing nothing would have been?

At one point, there is a knowing hint that clergy in particular identify with Lindchester: ‘Let the ordained reader understand.’ But there are home truths for every reader.

I too, in previous roles, know the toll on students and academic colleagues of a devastating, career-destroying Turnitin report. As I read about the temporary suspension of the Bishop of Sidcup, clergy disciplinary measures facing a former Bishop of Lindchester, and the links with a possible transfer to York, I was also reading the news in the Church Times that Archbishop John Sentamu has had his PTO (permission to officiate) suspended.

This book is a reminder that real life, and Church life, are inexplicably cruel. We all know only too well that ‘grief is just part of being human.’

But have we learned anything? The forgetfulness of Father Dominic Todd’s mother advances with age and with dementia. As time moves on, have we forgotten the names of variants and the numbers of deaths announced each day?

Lest we forget, this was the era of Dominic Cummings and of Partygate. We still sang hymns behind facemasks. Elderly people in care homes and people with dementia suffered emotionally and psychologically while the ‘impudence of impudent politicians’ went unchecked.

The ‘fatuous war against woke’ continues, the promise on the side of red buses of £350 million a week for the NHS has never been delivered.

Lindchester, we are reminded, is somewhere between Lichfield and Chester. The pilgrim route between Chester and Lichfield is known as the ‘Two Saints Way’ and the countryside of Linfordshire seems to be a recreation of the countryside along that route, particularly as it approaches Lichfield along Cross in Hand Lane. The Close in Lindchester and its residents continue to recreate images of the Cathedral Close in Lichfield and life there. Indeed, since Adrian Dorber retired, Lichfield Cathedral has a woman (acting) dean.

But since the Lindchester Chronicles began, Catherine Fox has moved on from Lichfield, first to Liverpool and now to Sheffield. There are hints that in future years we may hear more about Liverpool – Janes Rossiter finds a new family in Liverpool; and more about Sheffield – this volume is dedicated to the Steel City Choristers.

But today Catherine Fox is cutting as she recalls that while we queued in long lines in the rain for boosters or cried and wept at pared-down weddings and funerals, rule-breaking Christmas parties were taking place in Downing Street. ‘Far off in Westminster pages are snatched from the Trump playbook … Let posh boys have the mastery … the rules don’t apply to … the Bullingdon Club.’

She describes the NHS as ‘underfunded, overstretched, simultaneously utterly brilliant and dismayingly crap.’ The general public continues to pick up the slack for a decade of underfunding. As I head off for my next vaccine this week, I too am wondering when we are going to see that £350 million a week being invested in the NHS.

We are all tourists on a live volcano. ‘What shall we rise to tomorrow? A glorious heaven? Or an ever-deepening hell?’ The Extinction Rebellion protests continue, the fast-rising cost of living remains unchecked, the war in Ukraine rages on. This remains a divided nation. But there is hope in Leah Rogers, who is Linford’s Greta Thunberg, and all the Leahs across this land. Ellis Gray’s reclamation yard is a metaphor for the truth that we can all be ‘ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.’

As we spend another year in Lindford in The Company Heaven, we are caught between one Easter and the next, without celebrating Easter itself. But, as we are reminded, the Church exists between two resurrections. There is hope: apocalypse means revelation, not disaster.

At one level, we are reminded ach of those 12 days that ‘Thou God Seest Me.’ But at another level we are invited to join in the task of separating the weft of joy from the warp of woe. As Paver writes in his September book: ‘Your faults and scars are part of you, part of your history. There is a star in your heart. So don’t be scared. Let it be part of you.’

‘High above, behind the clouds, ten thousand, thousand stars also shine, although we cannot see them.’

• Catherine Fox, Company of Heaven, was published on 18 May 2023 by Marylebone House (SPCK), London: 288 pp, £10.99, ISBN-13: 9781910674673, 9781910674680

Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (44) 22 May 2023

The Ascension depicted in the East Window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Eastertide and Ascensiontide continue throughout this week, until the Day of Pentecost next Sunday (28 May 2023).

Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection. I am reflecting each morning during Ascensiontide in these ways:

1, Looking at a depiction of the Ascension in images or stained glass windows in a church or cathedral I know;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The East Window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry, is in memory of Bishop William Higgin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The East Window, Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry:

This morning (22 May 2023) I am looking at images of the Resurrection in the East Window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry.

Saint Columb’s Cathedral, the Church of Ireland cathedral in Derry, is dedicated to Saint Columba, who is one of the three patron saints of Ireland, alongside Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid.

Also known as Saint Colmcille, he established a monastic settlement in the Derry area before he was exiled from Ireland to Iona. His disciples and monks later introduced Christianity to Scotland and northern England.

The best-known stained-glass window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral is, perhaps, the window commemorating the hymnwriter Cecil Frances Alexander, wife of William Alexander, Bishop of Derry. This window illustrates three of her hymns: ‘Once in Royal David’s City,’ ‘There is a green hill far away,’ and ‘The golden gates are lifted up.’

Mrs Alexander is remembered as the author of children’s hymns, but visitors should not overlook the East window in the chancel, depicting the Ascension and Christ with the Apostles. This East Window is in memory of William Higgin, who was Bishop of Derry from 1853 to 1867.

William Higgin (1793- 1867) was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating BA in 1813. He was the Rector of Roscrea, Co Tipperary (1828-1835) and then became Vicar General of Killaloe. He became Dean of Limerick (1844-1853), and then Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe (1849-1853). He became Bishop of Derry and Raphoe in 1853 and died on 12 July 1867. He was succceeded as Bishop of Derry by William Alexander (1824-1911), later Archbishop of Armagh (1896-1911) and husband of the hymnwriter Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895).

The upper lights in the East Window depict the Ascension of Christ, while the lower lights depict Christ with the Apostles.

This window is of five lancets, measures 3540 mm x 460 mm, is mullioned and transomed and has 22 tracery-lights. It is the work of the studio of William Wailes (1808-1881) in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Wailes ran one of the largest and most prolific stained glass workshops in Victorian England. He had studied with Mayer of Munich and later worked closely with AWN Pugin. His famous works include the windows of Gloucester Cathedral, the East Window in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, the Transfiguration East Window in Saint Saviour’s Dominican Church, Limerick, and many of the windows in Saint Mary’s Church, Killarney. Wailes also designed the window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral erected in memory of Brutus or Brute Babington, Bishop of Derry for a few months from his consecration in 1610 until he died on 10 September 1611.

‘Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples’ (Mark 10: 23) … the lower lights in the East Window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry, depict Christ with the Apostles (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 10: 17-27 (NRSVA):

17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 18 Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother”.’ 20 He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ 27 Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’

The Cecil Frances Alexander window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s prayer:

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week is ‘Accountability and Care.’ USPG’s Research and Learning Advisor, Jo Sadgrove, introduced this theme yesterday, when she reflected on accountability on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death on Thursday (25 May 2023).

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (Monday 22 May 2023):

Let us pray for all who study the past. May lost histories be brought to light and shameful histories be named that we may build honest relationships in the present.


O Lord, from whom all good things come:
grant to us your humble servants,
that by your holy inspiration
we may think those things that are good,
and by your merciful guiding may perform the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Gracious God, lover of all,
in this sacrament
we are one family in Christ your Son,
one in the sharing of his body and blood
and one in the communion of his Spirit:
help us to grow in love for one another
and come to the full maturity of the Body of Christ.
We make our prayer through your Son our Saviour.

Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry, is dedicated to Saint Columba, one of the three patron saints of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org