24 August 2022

Saint Bartholomew’s Church,
Farewell: site of mediaeval
Benedictine priory near Lichfield

The East End of Saint Bartholomew’s Church in Farewell retains parts of the older Benedictine priory church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Today is Saint Bartholomew’s Day (24 August 2022), and earlier this week, as part of Lichfield Peace Walk, I visited Saint Bartholomew’s Church in Farewell, about three miles outside Lichfield.

The walk along Cross in Hand Lane, from the Hedgehog Vintage Inn to Farewell, is one of my favourite walks in the area around Lichfield. This walk marks the beginning – or the end – of the pilgrim route between the shrine of Saint Chad in Lichfield Cathedral and the shrine of Saint Werburgh in Chester Cathedral.

Today, this pilgrim route is marked out as the ‘Two Saints’ Way.’ And little has changed has taken place in the landscape along this route since mediaeval times. The road twists and turns, rises and falls, with countryside that has changed little over the centuries.

Saint Bartholomew’s Church and tower in Farewell … now a Grade II* listed building because of its mediaeval fabric and fittings (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

At this time of the year, the fields are green and golden under the clear blue skies of summer. Although farming patterns have changed in the last 30 or 40 years, these fields may not have changed in shape or altered in their use for centuries, and even the names on new-built houses can reflect names that date back to a period in the 12th to 14th century.

Apart from the occasional passing car or van, one other walker and two cyclists, the only hints of modernity are the overhead pylons, and – until their demolition last year – the smoking towers of the power station in Rugeley could be glimpsed in the distance.

The local historian Kate Gomez suggests the name of Farewell has nothing to do with saying goodbye and points out that the alternative spelling of ‘Fairwell’ refers to a nearby ‘fair or clear spring.’ Apart from Farewell and Fairwell, other forms of the name in the past have included Fayrwell and Fagereswell.

At the top of Cross in Hand Lane, Farewell is about 2½ or three miles north-west of Lichfield. The main buildings of interest here are Farewell Manor, Farewell Mill, Farewell Hall, and Saint Bartholomew’s Church.

A gate in the churchyard in Farewell, leading into the Staffordshire countryside (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

There may have been a Saxon church on this site, and the story of this country parish church predates a small Benedictine house founded there ca 1140 by Roger de Clinton (1129-1148), Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry (1129-1148).

The Benedictine Priory was a stopping point on the pilgrim route between Lichfield Cathedral and Chester Cathedral that gives its name to Cross in Hand Lane.

Bishop Roger de Clinton endowed the place with several episcopal estates. His original grant included the church of Saint Mary at Farewell and important tracts of neighbouring land.

The first recorded inhabitants were three brothers who were Augustinian canons regular or hermits: Roger, Geoffrey and Robert.

Farewell began as a foundation for, but it soon became a Benedictine nunnery. At the request of the three friars, Farewell, and with the consent of the chapter of Lichfield Cathedral, the bishop made a new grant to the nuns of Farewell ca 1140.

The bishop gave the nuns the church of Saint Mary at Farewell, as well as a mill, a wood, pannage, the land between the stream of ‘Chistalea’ and ‘Blachesiche,’ and six serfs (coloni), formerly his tenants, with their lands and services. In addition, at the request of Hugh, his chaplain, and the canons of Lichfield, he granted the nuns large swathes of lands and woods in the area.

Inside Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell, facing the east end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Bishop Roger’s charter was confirmed by his successor, Bishop Walter Durdent (1149-1159). Later, the nuns received a charter from Henry II, probably in 1155, along with lands in the forest at Lindhurst within the royal manor of Alrewas. The nuns were to hold their lands free of all secular service, and the charter was confirmed by King John in 1200.

The priory also founded a ‘daughter house’ at Langley in Leicestershire, but following a dispute that went as far as appeals to the Pope on at least two occasions, all claims by Farewell to Langley were abandoned in 1246.

By 1283, Farewell Priory had acquired a house in Lichfield but assigned the rent to the fabric fund of Lichfield Cathedral. Other priory lands were in Curborough, Chorley, Hammerwich, Abnalls, Ashmore Brook, Elmhurst, Longdon, and ‘Bourne,’ with farms at Farewell, Curborough, and Hammerwich.

Inside Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell, facing the west end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

But, as the nunnery prospered, all was not well in Farewell. Reports from 14th-century episcopal visitations found incidents of nuns who left the nunnery and put aside their habit, and nuns who were sleeping two in a bed and with young girls in their beds.

The main information we have about conditions in the priory come from official inspections records. After his inspections, Bishop Norbury (Northburgh) made a number of orders in 1331:

• The nuns were not to use girdles and ‘burses’ of silk but were to wear their habit; they were to elect a nun of experience to be in charge of provision of items of dress.
• No secular women over 12 years of age were to live in the house unless they were going to become nuns.
• No secular persons were to be received by the nuns in their rooms.
• Only women of good fame and honest conversation were to be employed.
• The door at the back of the garden leading to the fields was to be kept locked in response to several scandals.

Perhaps the bishop’s strictures were not effective or enforced. Bishop Roger Stretton issued a new decree in 1367 in which the nuns were forbidden to keep more than one child each for education in the priory, and no boy over seven years of age was allowed. The nuns were not to go into Lichfield without leave of the prioress, each nun had to be accompanied by two other nuns, and there was to be no ‘vain or wanton’ delay.

Looking out onto the world … the north porch of Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The nuns were engaged in sheep-farming and arable farming in the 1370s. By 1400, they also had a warren which provided pheasants and partridges as well as rabbits. This attracted poachers using nets, ferrets and whippets to catch the rabbits.

By the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509), the Prioress of Farewell also held lands in King’s Bromley.

The priory did not survive the general dissolution of the monastic houses. When Cardinal Wolsey carried out a visitation of Lichfield Cathedral in 1526, he discussed the suppression of the priory with Bishop Blythe. In 1527, Richard Strete, Archdeacon of Salop, and Dr William Clayborough, a canon of York, were given a commission to dissolve the priory and to disperse the nuns.

The last Prioress of Farewell was Elizabeth Helshawe. The Benedictine priory was dissolved, the prioress and the other four nuns at Farewell were moved to Nuneaton and other Benedictine nunneries, and their property was to go to the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield Cathedral for the support of the cathedral choristers.

In August 1527, the Chapter of Lichfield was granted all the possessions of Farewell Priory, including the house and church, which were assigned to the 12 choristers of Lichfield Cathedral. The priory and its possessions were then valued at £33 6s 8d.

The vast priory estates at the time included the Manor of Farewell and property in Chorley, Curborough Somerville, Elmhurst, Lindhurst, Alrewas, Hammerwich, Ashmore Brook, Lichfield, King’s Bromley, Water Eaton (in Penkridge), Pipe, Abnalls, Cannock, Burntwood, Rugeley, Brereton, Handsacre, Oakley (in Croxall), Tipton and Longdon.

The Altar and Reredos in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The church was reopened in 1689, and by the early 18th century, the Parish Church of Saint Bartholomew seems to have been the only surviving part of the priory buildings.

The nave was demolished in the 1740s. During demolition, curious earthenware vessels in varying sizes were found in the south wall, some feet apart and 6 ft from the ground. The vessels were laid on their sides, the mouths towards the inside of the church and sealed with a thin coat of plaster.

The church was rebuilt in 1745. The nave was rebuilt in the 1740s using red brick, and the tower was added. The new church was rededicated to Saint Bartholomew. There was further restoration in 1848 when the church was re-roofed, and four pinnacles were added to the tower.

Further repairs and restorations were carried out in 1871, 1936 and 1950, and the church was reopened and rededicated by Bishop Edward Woods of Lichfield on 27 May 1950.

The Baptismal Font in Saint Bartholomew’s Church dates from 1703 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The only mediaeval portion of the church now surviving is the stone chancel at the east end, the altar rails, the east window and the miserere stalls. The Baptismal font dates from 1703, and the carved octagonal oak pulpit from 1887.

The three bells are not in use today. According to a directory of 1892 the smallest bell, inscribed Sancte Leonarde, is considered to be as old as any bell in England and was probably from the priory. The other bells date from 1602 and are inscribed ‘God save our Church’ and ‘God save our Queene’.

Saint Bartholomew’s Church is now a mixture of two different building styles and materials. The church is a Grade II* listed building for its surviving mediaeval fabric and fittings.

The square, plain topped west tower now serves as a vestry, with kitchen and storage space, but the bells are no longer used. The churchyard is well maintained and is bordered by brick walls and some hedging.

The war memorial in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Farwell is referred to in Arthur Mee’s book Staffordshire (1937): ‘We greet it with delight and bid it farewell with a sigh. Its people walk in beauty, an enchanting scene it is.’

The priory is also referred to in the fifteenth Brother Cadfael book by Ellis Peters, The Confession of Brother Haluin (1989).

Farewell itself is small, and covers only 1,049 acres. A mile further on is the small village of Chorley, so the church in Farewell is not the focal point of village life. Today, Farewell and Chorley form a civil parish, but the parish council is a joint one with Curborough and Elmhurst, all within Lichfield District.

In the Diocese of Lichfield, Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell, and Christ Church, Gentleshaw, are a joint benefice. The Revd Lynn McKeon has been the Priest-in-Charge since 1 December 2015, assisted by the Revd Bill Hassall, retired priest. Sunday services are 11:30 am each Sunday.

‘God is Love’ … an inscription above the north door of Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Further Reading:

Roy Lewis, The History of Bradwell Church (3rd edition, 2000), available in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, £2.

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware,
Orthodox theologian, bishop
and academic, dies at 87

Patrick Comerford and Metropolitan Kallistos Ware at the IOCS summer school in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, a few years ago

Patrick Comerford

I am saddened to hear the news that Metropolitan Kallistos Ware died earlier today (24 August 2022), a few weeks before his 88th birthday.

Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia was a pre-eminent Orthodox theologian in Britain, an academic, lecturer and author and a faithful priest and bishop.

I first met him when he was a visiting lecturer was a post-graduate student at the Irish School of Ecumenics in 1982-1984. Later got to know him when he was a regular lecturer when I was student at the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge from 2008, and we were both involved in a video promoting the work of the IOCS.

For many years, Metropolitan Kallistos (1934-2022) was President of the IOCS in Cambridge and chaired the board. For many people in the English-speaking world, his books and lectures were their first introduction to the world of Orthodoxy.

He was deeply committed to international dialogue between the Orthodox and Anglican Churches, and as awarded the Lambeth Cross for Ecumenism by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2017 ‘for his outstanding contribution to Anglican-Orthodox theological dialogue.’

Metropolitan Kallistos was born Timothy Ware in Bath on 11 September 1934, and was raised in an Anglican family. Having won a King’s Scholarship, he went to Westminster School. From there he went to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he took a double first in classics as well as reading theology.

On 14 April 1958, at the age of 24, he joined the Orthodox Church, and later he travelled throughout Greece, where he spent much time at the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian in Patmos. He also visited other major centres of Orthodoxy, including Mount Athos and Jerusalem, and spent six months in Canada at a Russian Orthodox monastery.

In 1963, while he was still a lay member of the Orthodox Church, he published the first edition of his book The Orthodox Church under his original name, Timothy Ware. This has since become the standard English-language textbook and introduction to Orthodoxy, and he has gone on to wrote and contribute to many more books and journals.

He was ordained priest within the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1966 and was tonsured as a monk, receiving the name Kállistos. That same year, he was appointed the Spalding Lecturer in Eastern Orthodox studies at the University of Oxford.

He continued to hold that post for 35 years until his retirement. In 1970, he was also appointed to a Fellowship at Pembroke College, Oxford.

In 1982, he was consecrated a bishop with the title Bishop of Diokleia, and was appointed an assistant bishop in the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain.

Although was now a bishop, he remained at Oxford where he continued to lecture in the university as well as serving as the parish priest of the Greek Orthodox community.

He retired in 2001, but he has continued to publish and to lecture on Orthodox theology.

In 2007, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elevated the Diocese of Diokleia to the status of a metropolitan diocese. He became a titular metropolitan although he never had pastoral care of a diocese and was nominally an assistant bishop in the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain.

He also chaired the Friends of Orthodoxy on Iona and the Friends of Mount Athos and serves on the advisory board of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship.

The Orthodox Church, first published in 1963, has run to several editions and has been revised many times. In 1979, he produced a companion volume, The Orthodox Way.

However, his most substantial publications have emerged from his translation work. With GEH Palmer and Philip Sherrard he has undertaken to translate the Philokalia. Four volumes of five published to date, but the fifth volume has yet to appear.

It was a privilege some years ago to join his 80th birthday celebrations at an IOCS conference in Cambridge. The conferences and programmes organised by the IOCS are not going to be the same without his humorous and gently-delivered yet scholarly and authoritative papers.

May his memory be eternal.

Praying with USPG and the music of
Vaughan Williams: Wednesday 24 August 2022

‘Alleluia! Bread of heaven … / here proclaimed as priest and victim / in the Eucharistic feast’ … words from the hymn set to Vaughan Williams’s arrangement of ‘Hyfrydol’ … the Altar and Reredos in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell, visited by the Lichfield Peace Walk this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Today in the Church Calendar is the Feast of Saint Bartholomew (24 August). Earlier this week, I visited Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Farewell, outside Lichfield, when I took part on Monday in the first stage of the three-day Lichfield Peace Walk from Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield, arriving at Saint Chad’s Church, Stafford, later today.

Before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose music is celebrated throughout this year’s Proms season. In my prayer diary for these weeks I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, Reflecting on a hymn or another piece of music by Vaughan Williams, often drawing, admittedly, on previous postings on the composer;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

A statue of Saint Bartholomew on the west front of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The Gospel reading in Common Worship at the Eucharist on the Feast of Saint Bartholomew today is:

Luke 22: 24-30 (NRSVA):

24 A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

28 ‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials; 29 and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’

Today’s reflection: ‘Hyfrydol’

For three mornings this week [Monday to Wednesday], I am listening to Vaughan William’s ‘Three Preludes Founded on Welsh Hymn Tunes,’ and I conclude this morning [24 August 2022] as I listen to the third of these preludes, ‘Hyfrydol.’

These three organ solos are based on Welsh tunes, which Vaughan Williams had already arranged for hymns in the English Hymnal, which he edited with Canon Percy Dearmer.

Vaughan Williams’s father, the Revd Arthur Vaughan Williams, came from a family of Welsh origins that had distinguished itself in the law.

The composer first published these organ preludes in 1920 and dedicated them to Alan Gray (1855-1935), who was the organist of Trinity College Cambridge (1892-1930) when Vaughan Williams was an undergraduate there.

Vaughan Williams studied the organ under Gray at Trinity, and with Gray’s patient help he passed his exams to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists (FRCO) in 1898, and received his Doctorate in Music (MusD) at Cambridge the following year. These three organ preludes are Vaughan Williams’s tribute as a grateful student to Alan Gray.

The third of these preludes, ‘Hyfrydol’ (pronounced ‘huv-rud-ol’, meaning “cheerful”) is based on the tune of that name composed around 1830 by the Welsh singer, Richard Huw Pritchard (1811-1887), when he was still only 19.

Pritchard was a grandson of the 18th century Welsh bard Rowland Huw. He lived for many years in Bala, where was a minister and precentor (or director of the choir) at the annual Sasiwns y Bala. Many of his tunes were published in Welsh periodicals, and ‘Hyfrydol’ was first published by Pritchard in 1844 with about 40 of his other tunes in his collection of hymns for children, Cyfail y Cantorion (‘The Singer’s Friend’).

He moved to Holywell, about 20 miles west of Chester, in 1880, when at the age of 69 he was forced by poverty to take a job as a loom tender’s assistant in the mills of the Welsh Flannel Manufacturing Company. He died in Holywell in 1887 at the age of 76.

‘Hyfrydol’ is Pritchard’s most enduring tune and was regularly sung to a number of Welsh hymns. However, it was almost 20 years after his death before ‘Hyfrydol’ was first sung to English words. Vaughan Williams arranged it in 1906 for the hymn ‘Alleluia, sing to Jesus’ by William Chatterton Dix in the English Hymnal (No 302; see New English Hymnal, No 271).

Hyfrydol has been used as a setting for many other hymns, including Charles Wesley’s ‘Love Divine, All Loves Excelling’ and ‘Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus,’ Francis Harold Rowley’s ‘I Will Sing the Wondrous Story,’ John Wilbur Chapman’s ‘Our Great Saviour,’ and Philip P Bliss’s ‘I Will Sing of My Redeemer’ (1876). In the Irish Church Hymnal it is the setting for John Bakewell’s hymn, ‘Hail, thou once-despised Jesus!’ (No 268).

‘Hyfrydol’ has a metre of (alternating lines of eight and seven syllables). Other examples of this metre include ‘Blaenwern’ by William Rowlands and ‘Abbot’s Leigh’ by Cyril V Taylor.

The best-known arrangement of ‘Hyfrydol’ is that by Vaughan Williams for his revision of the English Hymnal in 1906, and he also composed some variations on this theme. Here once again, as with so many arrangements, Vaughan Williams turns an apparently simple tune into a work of great beauty and with profound emotional impact.

The East End of Saint Bartholomew’s Church in Farewell retains parts of the older Benedictine priory church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Today’s Prayer, Wednesday 24 August 2022:

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace
truly to believe and to preach your word:
grant that your Church
may love that word which he believed
and may faithfully preach and receive the same;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Almighty God,
who on the day of Pentecost
sent your Holy Spirit to the apostles
with the wind from heaven and in tongues of flame,
filling them with joy and boldness to preach the gospel:
by the power of the same Spirit
strengthen us to witness to your truth
and to draw everyone to the fire of your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG prayer diary this week is ‘The Pursuit of Justice.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by Javanie Byfield and Robert Green, ordinands at the United Theological College of the West Indies.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today (Saint Bartholomew the Apostle) in these words:

We give thanks for the life and works of Bartholomew the Apostle, who is said to have spread the Gospel in various parts of Asia and Africa.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Saint Bartholomew’s Church and tower in Farewell, near Lichfield … now a Grade II* listed building because of its mediaeval fabric and fittings (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

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