Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Bells of Lundy

This poem sequence was inspired by listening to writer and poet Gwyneth Lewis experiences  in  the Radio 4 documentary "A Voyage to Lundy", in particular when she describes the Church and the bells.

With the Atlantic Ocean to the West, and the Bristol Channel to the East, Lundy lies eleven miles from the nearest mainland off North Devon. The Island is three miles long and half a mile wide, and covers 1,100 acres.

The current church of St Helen’s built by the Revd Hudson Grosett Heaven has been a notable feature of the Lundy skyline since 1897, but the history of Christianity on the island dates back as early as the 6th century.

The population of the island at the time was around 60 and was often swelled by visiting seamen, which explains its size. It is built using granite from the island and other materials brought in from Ilfracombe. Lundy became known as the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’.

There were eight bells. But the fittings for the eight church bells quickly corroded and the bells were taken down from the tower in the early 20th century. In 1994 they were restored and continue to attract many groups of visiting bellringers to Lundy. Two more bells were added in 2004.

But the original eight each had a unique inscription, and this poem is built around those inscriptions.

The Bells of Lundy

The Bell says: “I warn that the hour has now come for prayers”

Venus fading in the dawning day
Sunrise on sail in the Fastnet race
The bell calls for the hour to pray
Take shelter under wings of grace

The Bell says: “We all sing the praises of God”

Ding dong, hear this merrily on high
Across the years, the bell does ring
Praise to the Lord of the sea and sky
Come weary traveller, come and sing

The Bell says: “HGH, the Vicar, had us brought into being”

Reverend HGt Heaven wanted bells
Sounding across the sea and spray
Heard on beach, and in sea shells
A call to worship, a time to pray

The Bell says: “Charles Carr & Co. made us AD 1897”

Hot iron in foundry cooling down
Across the sea, the bell rings out
For those in peril, lest they drown
Safer passage through tidal doubt

The Bell says: “When rung confusedly we announce dangers”

The storm bell sounds, thunder roars
The wind is rising, the gales severe
Batten down hatches, keep in doors
The bell says have hope, never fear

The Bell says: “When rung backwards we signify fires”

Lightning streaking across the sky
Burning the land with deadly hand
Sailing ships blaze with St Elmo’s fire
Bell calls to judgement on the land

The Bell says: “Rung in the right way we proclaim joys”

The bell rings out on Easter morn
An end to darkness, time of trial
The empty grave,a golden dawn
Joy to the world, and Lundy Isle

The Bell says: “I say farewell to the departing souls”

Abide with me, setting of the sun
Darkness of death, liminal space
All passion spent, all things done
Lundy Isle bell: threshold of grace

Friday, 18 August 2017

Beautiful Britain - The Smaller Channel Islands - Part 1

My history for the next few weeks will come from “The Channel Islands” by Joseph E Morris, B.A., published by London, Adam and Charles Black, 1911. It is fascinating because, firstly, it is a guidebook from 1911, depicting a Jersey before the Great War erupted across Europe, and secondly because it is very much an outsider looking in, and making very personal observations mingled with the history.

Beautiful Britain - The Smaller Channel Islands - Part 1: Alderney

Hitherto, in dealing with the two larger of the Channel Islands, we have found their claims to natural beauty in their coasts.

The interior of Jersey is no doubt pleasant, with its lush-green valleys running north and south, with its quiet little villages, and with its never-ending potato-fields. The interior of Guernsey, on the other hand, is frankly hideous, save here and there a cottage, or a picturesque old farm, hidden in the folding of some safely secluded dell.

But in both cases alike the real distinction of the island is limited to cliffs that for warmth of colour and strangeness of contortion can surely be paralleled in Cornwall alone. Sark, on the contrary, is almost wholly coast ; the interior in comparison is a negligible quantity ! And almost as much may be said of Alderney.

Both these islands are exceedingly small-Sark being only a trifle more than three miles in length, and about one and three-quarters of a mile in breadth (measuring, not precisely from east to west, but at right angles to the axis) ; and Alderney being about three and a half miles in length, from north-east to south-west, and one and a quarter miles in breadth.

Alderney is undoubtedly the less beautiful of the two, and is probably by far the least frequently visited of all the different members of the Norman archipelago. The voyage from St. Peter Port, in a very small boat, and made only two or three times in a week, is dreaded, and not without reason, by those for whom rough seas have no welcome.

Alderney, again, is the least foreign of the Channel Islands in local colour, though nearest France in situation ; and here the old Norman patois has been entirely replaced by English. It possesses in its capital, St. Anne, a small, old-fashioned country town that is wholly without parallel anywhere else in the islands. The harbour is at Braye, a short mile north from the centre of the town; and the visitor, in strong contrast with what happens at Sark, is landed in the least romantic corner of the island.

Of the old church nothing now remains but a picturesque tower, and even this does not seem to be medieval. The new church was erected from designs by Sir Gilbert Scott, and is, perhaps, the most striking modern building in the Channel Islands.

The interior of Alderney, or Aurigny, to use the French form - Her crew hath seen Castile's black fleet, beyond Aurigny's isle- is strongly individualized, and rather wild and remote. One feels at once that this little island has a flavour of its own-a state of things no longer felt among the villadom and glass-houses of Guernsey.

The strength of Alderney, however, lies chiefly in its west and south coasts ; no one would visit the island except to visit these, or unless one happened to be an enthusiast for the world's neglected and inaccessible spots. I do not know how far the barbarous quarrying that was projected some six or seven years ago on the south side of the island has since been carried out, or how far it has injured the amenities of the coast.

Anyhow, the Two Sisters, towards the south-west corner of the island, are hardly to be rivalled in their splintered grandeur, even in Jersey or Sark.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

And so to bed

And so to bed... another selection of quotes.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from William Shakespeare

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd,
Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,
And Time, that gave, doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow.
And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from John Bunyan:

As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a Den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep: and, as I slept, I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold, I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the book, and read therein; and, as he read, he wept, and trembled; and, not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying, "What shall I do?"

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Bre McDaniel, The Tears of St Lawrence:

he was burned to death on a gridiron for the way he saw
all the criminals whose crime is being poor and staying alive,
defied the emperor whose every word was law
the tears of st lawrence are lighting up the sky
and the jewels of cornelia are standing by her side
three days left before he died
hid everything among the crippled and the blind,
stepped right up to the judge, his hands in cuffs
said, "these are the riches of the church and you look poor to us,"

the tears of st lawrence are lighting up the sky
and the jewels of cornelia are standing by her side
these are the treasures

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Elizabeth Enright:

Did you know that a bee dies after he stings you? And that there's a star called Aldebaran? And that around the tenth of August, any year, you can look up in the sky at night and see dozens and dozens of shooting stars?

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Michelle Cuevas:

Found in trees. Sometimes also in old silent movie theaters, seaside zoos, magic shops, hat shops, time-travel shops, topiary gardens, cowboy boots, castle turrets, comet museums, dog pounds, mermaid ponds, dragon lairs, library stacks (the ones in the back), piles of leaves, piles of pancakes, the belly of a fiddle, the bell of a flower, or in the company of wild herds of typewriters.
But mostly in trees.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Jodi Picoult (and reflects the weather outside):

It's raining... the kind of rain that comes down so heavy it sounds like the shower's running, even when you've turned it off. The kind of rain that makes you think of dams and flash floods, arks. The kind of rain that tells you to crawl back into bed, where the sheets haven't lost your body heat, to pretend that the clock is five minutes earlier than it really is.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Richard Adams (Watership Down):

Human beings say, "It never rains but it pours." This is not very apt, for it frequently does rain without pouring. The rabbits' proverb is better expressed. They say, "One cloud feels lonely": and indeed it is true that the sky will soon be overcast."

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from John Steinbeck:

I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers. I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in the summer -- and what trees and seasons smelled like -- how people looked and walked and smelled even. The memory of odours is very rich.

And to to bed... quote for tonight is from C.S Lewis:

Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of our experience.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from the Menologium:

And [after the feast of St James] after seven nights
of summer's brightness Weed-month slips
into the dwellings; everywhere August brings
to peoples of the earth Lammas Day. So autumn comes,
after that number of nights but one [i.e. on August 7],
bright, laden with fruits. Plenty is revealed,
beautiful upon the earth.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

As I see it: Why CBBC is killing children’s TV.

As I see it: Why CCB is killing children’s TV.

Remember “The Magic Roundabout”, or “Paddington Bear”, or further back, “Captain Pugwash”? Or “The Herbs” or the “Clangers”?

If you can you are fortunate because those belong to the days before a dedicated channel for children on TV.

These were short 5 minute “filler” programmes, put on to fill up the gap between the end of the main children’s TV at 4.55 pm and the main news at 5.00 p.m.

Ostensibly they were for children, but in fact adults, waiting for the news, also enjoyed them very much. They were so much a part of the cultural landscape that they were referenced on the TV series Porridge:

Fletcher: Hello, Dylan.
Melvyn: Hey, man, my name's Melvyn. What's this "Dylan" scene?
Fletcher: It's affectionate, not malicious. You see, you do remind us of Dylan.
BOB Dylan?
Fletcher: No, the hippy rabbit on the "Magic Roundabout".
I'm not a hippy!
Fletcher: You're the nearest thing we've got. You wear an earring. You were thrown out of art school. AND you've tie-dyed your uniform.
Mr Barraclough: So you watch "The Magic Roundabout"?
Fletcher: Yeah. There's nothing else to watch. "Magic Roundabout"? It's given innocent people a lot of pleasure! And us guilty people too! Simple pleasures are important.

But now such shows are banished to the dedicated channel – CBBC – children’s TV. It seems innocuous – after all what can be better for children than to have their own channel where you know that all the TV will be “safe”.

Back in 2013, the great change happened. The Independent reported that:

“The BBC has banished children’s television to a "ghetto" by axing the dedicated slots for programmes on BBC1 and BBC2, the creator of the hit series Teletubbies has claimed. “

“Regular weekday teatime children's programming disappeared from BBC1 before Christmas, to be replaced by ratings-boosting soaps and game-shows, ending a 60-year broadcasting tradition.”

“Favourites including Newsround and Blue Peter now air exclusively on the digital Children’s BBC channel, with CBeebies the sole home for pre-school programming”

Anne Wood said that:

“There is a certain amount of overlooking of the fact that children’s programmes do get a wider audience than people are aware of. Just as children’s literature does. In my long career, I have frequently had letters from older people who have enjoyed my programmes as much as children do. A lot of the reason older people like to watch children’s programming is because it is life-enhancing.”

And Jacqueline Wilson, author of the Tracy Beaker novels, said:

“When children’s programming was on the ordinary BBC, one might catch a little of it by chance. And I’d think, ‘Oh, that’s very sweet, and perfect family viewing.’ Whereas when children tune into CBBC or CBeebies, it’s a sort of dividing mechanism.

“If a children’s show works really well, it does have an adult audience as well as a child audience. Whenever I’m on Blue Peter, for example, the amount of adults who stop me on the street and say they saw me on the show is amazing.”

On a recent episode of Blue Peter, albeit a repeat in the afternoon, the Independent noted:

“A repeat of a past episode, which aired at 2.30pm on 13 June, is said to have been watched by nobody sparking fears for the long-running classic series which was once a significant part of British culture.”

The Huffington Post commented:

“While the episode scored an audience of 46,000 in another slot and has had 39,000 requests on BBC iPlayer, the figures are still away off the one million viewers the programme had ten years ago, when it still aired three times a week on mainstream channel BBC One. “

And the Daily Mail chipped in:

“Blue Peter, which was once watched by eight million and celebrates 50 years of handing out its iconic badge today, now attracts an average audience of just 100,000 viewers. This compares to more than 340,000 who tuned in for each episode in 2012 when it was still being shown on the BBC’s main channel.”

Blue Peter’ veteran Peter Purves (whom I remember with John Noakes and Valerie Singleton!) said:

“I think it was better when it was on mainstream television because it picked up an audience of all ages; it wasn’t just for the age group at which it was aimed which always used to be seven to 12.”

And Valerie Singleton also said:

"It is a shame. The idea of sitting around and watching one channel together at the end of the day has gone, sadly. Families are just becoming so fragmented that they will be watching different programmes in different rooms all the time."

This is an assessment which tallies with the academic publication.“The Television Handbook” (edited by Jeremy Orlebar) which says:

”In the past the mainstream TV channels scheduled children’s TV for a preschool audience in the morning aid for children after school in the afternoon up to the 5 o'clock news. “

“This had two advantages: the amount of time dedicated to children's TV was limited, therefore limiting the amount of time children could watch television; second, the programmes could be easily seen by adults a they were on the main channels. “

“Adults quickly got to know Blue Peter (BBC) and Playschool (BBC) or Rainbow (ITV). As soon as multichannel TV became ubiquitous television schedulers moved virtually all children‘s television to dedicated channels such as CBBC. Most parents in the twenty-first century have no idea what sort of programmes their children watch. Who can name the current Blue Peter presenters or their dog?”

Sadly, this analysis is all too true, and there is now a cultural divide between the generations, where children’s TV has been cut off from the adult mainstream, and placed in its own little niche. There is still some very good children’s television, although the increased time on which it is broadcast has meant that there is also a lot of dross to fill in the time.

But the good programmes are not promoted on the mainstream channels and remain tightly cocooned on their own channel. Programmes like Blue Peter or Newsround, which where intergenerational, have lost that audience, and are no longer a shared experience in the way they used to be.

And while CBBC seems dedicated to aim at older children aged 8 to 14, there is no longer any space for drama which filled a gap before the news for older teens aged 14 to 16.

Here are some of the great series of the past for older children and adults, but there were many more. I have starred those I've seen.

*The Changes
*Boy Dominic and Dominic
*The Box of Delights
*The Chronicles of Narnia
*Grange Hill
*Ace of Wands
*Five Children and It
Stig of the Dump
Children's Ward
Carrie's War
*The Adventures of Black Beauty
The Feathered Serpent
King of the Castle
*The Phoenix and the Carpet
*A Traveller in Time
*The Secret Garden
*Tom's Midnight Garden
*The Tomorrow People
Return Of The Antelope
The Children Of Greene Knowe
*Escape Into Night
*Children of the Stones
*Dark Season
*Century Falls
*The Sarah Jane Adventures
Arthur of the Britons
The Doombolt Chase
King of the Castle
*The Borrowers
The Secret World Of Polly Flint
Byker Grove
*The Demon Headmaster (and sequels)

Some drama is existing but it is a pale shadow of what came before. 

Den of Geek notes:

The recent Sparticle Mystery, excellent Wolfblood and Hetty Feather are encouraging signs the pendulum has begun to swing back a little, but all the major broadcasters need to make more drama for children - Edward Barnes' idea of "a balanced diet of programmes" seems long gone.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

On a lighter note....

I came across these on an old CD dating from 2000!

A news story which I assume was true but speculative at the time...

The name’s Bond, or Smith or Jones…

The intelligence services were a little alarmed by the government's plans to replace passports and driving licences with biometric identity cards by 2007.

The cards, it was feared, could make it more difficult for secret agents to adopt false identities during undercover operations. We have it on good authority that the Home Office has taken this on board and will ensure the new population database will allow some of the UK's more shadowy citizens to have multiple identity cards. Their true identities will be known only to the Department of Constitutional Affairs!

This still rings true....

Anti-Consultant joke:

A shepherd is herding his flock when a BMW pulls up. Out steps a sharp-suited young man who tells the shepherd he will calculate how many sheep he has in return for one of his flock.

The consultant whips out his notebook computer, connects it to his mobile phone and surfs the internet, getting a high-resolution picture of the area.

After rapid calculations he tells the shepherd he has 1,586 sheep.

The shepherd asks the consultant if he can avoid giving the him one of his sheep if he can guess his job. The consultant agrees and is amazed when the shepherd guesses correctly.

"Easy," says the shepherd. "You showed up here even though no one called you, you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, and you know nothing about my business. Now give me back my dog."

This is rather dated! Who uses discs now!

Heard on the helpdesk

Helpdesk: "Fine, now click your left mouse button."

Sales clerk: "But I only have one mouse."

Customer: "I brought my Windows discs from work to install them on my computer. As I put each disc in it turns out they weren't initialised."

Tech support: "Do you remember the message?"
Customer: "I wrote it down: "This is not a Macintosh disc. Would you like to initialise it?"'

Tech support: "What happened?"

Customer: "After they were initialised, all the discs went blank. And now I have brought them back to work and I can't read them on my PC. This is our only set of Windows discs for the whole office. Did I do something wrong?"

Monday, 14 August 2017

John Rodhouse on Post-War Education in Jersey

Speaking to the Jersey Care Inquiry, John Rodhouse had some interesting background comments on secondary education in Jersey, and indeed the state of education and its disconnection with the wider world in the post-war period.

John Rodhouse on Secondary Education

The introduction of a comprehensive secondary education

When I arrived in Jersey in 1973, I stepped back into the 1950s. Jersey operated in ways that were very different from the United Kingdom, both in terms of its society and its education system. Life in Jersey was somewhat slower and the education service was not well supported by legislation.

I say this as a matter of fact and not as a criticism of Jersey, or of the way the States operated. I believe that some of the problems Jersey experienced can be attributed to the difference in scale between Jersey and the United Kingdom. However, it is important also to remember that Jersey, through its history, differs from the United Kingdom. Jersey has never been part of the United Kingdom, and I do not think that comparison with the United Kingdom is always fair.

When I lived and worked in Jersey, there were around 90,000 people living there. It is not easy for a community of 90,000 people to operate in all areas of governance (other than foreign policy and defence) in the same way as a state the size of the United Kingdom. There was, inevitably, a difference in dynamic and I will discuss this in greater detail later in this statement. I would therefore like to make it clear that my comments and observations are not intended to be critical of Jersey in any way; one cannot make a true comparison. During the course of this Independent Inquiry, I have read many of the transcripts of evidence given and I have been somewhat troubled that, at times, this has not been recognised.

Between April and December 1973 I was Director of Education (Designate). The man I was to succeed, Charles Wimberley, remained in post as Director until the end of the year and for those nine months I was in a sort of limbo. I attended Education Committee meetings but I was not involved in the management of the Department.

My prime task in 1973 was to produce an acceptable plan for the introduction of comprehensive secondary education. The States had approved a decision of the Education Committee to abolish the eleven plus examination. However the Education Committee had no agreed plan to reorganise secondary education on the island.

Jersey had a system of maintained primary and secondary schools, which were funded from the public purse. There was also a number of fee-paying schools, two of which were funded by the States; Victoria College and the Jersey College for Girls. These schools covered the whole age range from 5 to 18

Under the system that was in place in 1973, the children with the highest scores in the eleven plus exams were awarded places at Victoria College or at Jersey College for Girls. The remaining high scorers were admitted to Hautlieu School.

Following extensive discussions both private and public, with teachers, politicians, parents, churches, business organisations and individuals, I developed a proposal that all children leaving the maintained Primary schools at age eleven should move to the local Secondary school. In their third year all Secondary schoolchildren would be assessed by the teachers for admission to a High school with a predominantly academic curriculum and an age range 14 to 18. The assessments should be jointly considered by the staff of both the Secondary schools and the High School and a recommendation made whether the child should transfer to the High school or complete the period of compulsory education in the Secondary school.

In November 1973 the Education Committee finally agreed on the Fourteen Plus Transfer System which was detailed in a report presented to, and endorsed by, the States. Introducing the new comprehensive secondary education system was a significant task that occupied a substantial amount of my time in my early years in Jersey. An equally urgent task was to create a new Secondary school ready to receive its first 150 pupils by September 1975.

Questions and Answers:

Q: "When I arrived in Jersey in 1973, I stepped back into the 1950s." Can you provide a bit more detail of why it was that Jersey struck you in that way?

A. Well, I think we are talking now of the way in which Jersey operated. It had none -- had experienced none of the developments that had gone on in the United Kingdom following the end of the world war.

Q. And I think you say that that was in part determined by Jersey's experience of the war, is that right?

A. Well, partly. I think I would draw attention to the fact that Jersey was occupied by the Germans through the war and isolated and particularly isolated after the Normandy invasion and after, when peace came, Jersey was in no way connected to what I would call the social revolution that went on from 1945 for the decade: the Butler Act, the 1944 Education Act which introduced enormous changes in education, the Beveridge Report and the legislation that followed that, the establishment of the National Health Service, none of those things had any effect whatsoever on Jersey.

Q. Can you understand why? Do you have an explanation for that?

A. Well, Jersey was very conscious of the fact that it was not part of the United Kingdom and it governed itself apart from the United Kingdom and that was a very important -- it was very important to them.

Q. Well, it brings us to page 4 of your statement {WS000612/4} and your account of your role as Director of Education, because between paragraphs 15 and 19 and indeed later on in your statement you set out what I think you would describe as the unique system of government that you found in Jersey.

A. Yes, yes.

Q. And between paragraphs 15 to 19 you provide an account of the oversight of the various services being carried out by committees, that the committees would be appointed by the States and presiding over each committee would be a president. Various questions run from that. How would the president get to be appointed?

A. The president was a Member of the States, elected to the States either on the -- either as a deputy representing one of the parishes, or as a Senator and Senators were elected on an island-wide franchise.

Q. Would the individual who wanted to be president of the Committee put him or herself forward, or was it a question of selection by a body of Senators or Deputies who would say "You're going to be the president"?

A. I think I can only describe it as there was a great deal of informal discussion before the States meeting at which the presidents were appointed and the -- I don't recall in my time any great debate about that, or any contested elections for president.

Q. So there was no transparency in that process as far as you could judge?

A. No, it was just the States Assembly decided that X should be president of Y committee.

Q. Did the selection of the individual have any bearing in relation to the Service to which they were appointed?

A. No, not particularly. Generally a president would have served -- no, that isn't true because if I reflect on it, of the four presidents I knew, two had served on the Education Committee as ordinary members, but the other two had not been members. So no, there was no special connection.

Q. And how long was a presidential term? Was it dependent on when elections took place?

A. Yes.

Q. Right.

A. Unless something happened which caused the president to lose his office, yes.

Q. At paragraph 16 {WS000612/4}, Mr Rodhouse, you provide the names of those you served under as Director of Education, those presidents that you worked with. What sort of relationship did you have with those individuals, was it an entirely professional one, or did you become friends with these individuals? How did it work in practice?

A. It was a very close relationship, professionally very close, and to some extent it was social. Senator Jeune and I were both members of the Rotary Club, but we didn't mix socially in the sense of having common interests, but I was on call to the President 24 hours a day.

Q. How easy was it for you in those circumstances, Mr Rodhouse, to become a critical friend of the Committee?

A. I had to be a critical friend of the Committee. I'm not sure they always thought I was the critical friend.

Q. In the decisions taken by the Committee would the President have the casting vote?

A. Oh, yes, yes. The President having chosen the members of his committee would choose people that he thought -- I keep saying "he", but please accept that – would choose people that he thought generally agreed with him.

Q. And indeed you come on to describe the appointment of other members of the Committee. What criteria would have to be satisfied to be appointed to the Committee?

A. You had to be a member of the States, that was the only -- that was the basic criterion. The president selected his members, as I say, on the basis of his personal choice and also of course those people who came to him and said they would like to be on the committee.

Remember there were no political parties in Jersey -- well, that's not true, there was one, it was called the Jersey Democratic Movement, one Deputy was elected to the States who was a member of the Jersey Democratic Movement. I think the rest of the Members of the States thought that he was a crypto-communist. He was a fine man. I tried hard to persuade the President to invite him to join the Committee.

Q. And did the President of the Committee have the power to dismiss a member from the Committee, or how would that work?

A. Oh, yes.

Q. He did.

A. Well, I'm sure if it there were a real disagreement between a member of the Committee and the President, the President would simply invite him to leave the Committee.

Q. When determining the approach to change, looking back on it now would you have described it as conservative, liberal, forward thinking? Which category --

A. Very conservative. Very concerned to maintain what they saw as Jersey values and Jersey ways. A N Whitehead, who was a contemporary of Bertrand Russell and also a philosopher, wrote somewhere that the strongest single force in education systems is inertia. Inertia was a very strong force in Jersey.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Who Used the Church Porch?

From "The Pilot", 1966, comes this, an interesting historical ramble. I've shown St Helier Church Porch. In St Brelade, the Porch was converted into a vestry and a new porch opened up at the front of the building.

Some Church Customs Explained
By S.G. Thicknesse

Who Used the Church Porch?

Once upon a time the church porch was a remarkably important part of the building. Almost the only common reminder of varied and ancient uses that even the smallest still holds are the civil notices upon its walls.

Until about the sixteenth century, the `ancients', or `masters of the parish', generally did the business of their village or town in the church porch. At least in some parts of Northamptonshire, they were still doing it there in the nineteenth century.

They won their title of `parish vestry' only when they moved from the porch to the vestry, perhaps moving in hope of greater warmth, but also probably because many of the great mediaeval porches were pulled down at the Reformation from dislike of other uses to which they had been put.

One of the favourite of these had been the Palm Sunday Passion play. Processions on other occasions marshalled themselves in the porch and returned to it after stopping at various places in the churchyard. But on Palm Sunday the procession halted outside the porch at its return, to watch the Passion play traditionally staged inside or upon its leads.

In the churchwardens' accounts of St. Peter Chepe for 1519 there is an item which appeared in the expenditure of a good number of other London churches: `Paid for hiring of the hairs of the prophets upon Palm Sunday'.

Weddings, too, were at one time generally celebrated in the church porch. So Chaucer wrote of the good Wyfe of Bathe, `Husbandes at chirche dore hadde she fyfe'.

Christenings often took place there as well, and possibly the piscina in the Norman porch of Malmesbury Abbey was used as a font. In some porches there was an altar, as there was at Grantham, while in the parish church at Bristol there is a recess which is said to have been a confessional.

This last might be related with a very early use of the porch, as the place for penitents, who were excluded from the body of the church until they had been granted absolution. The catechumens had formerly shared the porch with them, during such parts of the Mass as they were allowed to hear. (Porches, for example in Indian and African churches, are still put to these ancient uses. Unbaptized relations of converts also watch the baptisms from them.)

When such porches were an almost separate structure, usually at the west front, they were sometimes known as a `galilee'. Precentor Millers gave one explanation of this name when in 1834 he wrote about the Ely galilee: `As Galilee, bordering on the Gentiles, was the most remote part of the Holy Land from the Holy City of Jerusalem, so was this part of the building most distant from the sanctuary, occupied by those unhappy persons, who, during their exclusion from the mysteries, were reputed scarcely, if at all, better than heathens.'

In some monastic foundations this was the only part of the building accessible to women. Here a monk's women relations would come to see him, first having been told formally at the gatehouse, `He goeth before you to Galilee. There shall ye see him.'

On the continent the place of the great porch was sometimes taken by a cloistered court. This was generally called a narthex, a term sometimes properly employed also in England. Later, it was on occasion known as a paradisus, a garden, or a parvisium, an open place. In England, as abroad, this part used by the penitents was also commonly employed for the `pleadings at the gate', that is the bishop's Consistory court; and sometimes, as at Canterbury, for the civil and criminal business of the Hundred court.

Not infrequently a second storey was added to the great porch, and even, as for example at Taunton, Stamford, and Thaxted, a third. These chambers, or the whole porch, were called the parvise (from the old paradisus or parvisium), a word which also came into use for a domestic study.

Sometimes, as at St. Mary's, Sherborne, or at Gissing, Norfolk, the parvise had a fireplace, and seems to have been used by itinerant or chantry priests, or as a study by the parson. The one at Gissing became, in 1696, a lodging for an ejected rector.

At St. Wulfram's, Grantham, the parvise was a library and still holds over two hundred and fifty chained volumes.

In many parishes, including that of Massingham, Norfolk, the porch chamber was a school. At Oxford, the porch of the University Church was used for examinations. Undergraduates who call the Responsions examination `Smalls', have probably long forgotten the howler which somebody made when he first thought that the examination in parviso - in the porch-was something to do with parvus - the Latin small.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Time for the Stars

Time for the Stars

Time for the stars, my friend
Across the firmament of night
Shooting stars, flares of light
Burning up in a fiery end

In the heavens, signs portend
On earth, darkness or delight
Time for the stars, my friend
Across the firmament of night

In space: who shall we send?
Across that canopy of night
Following a destiny so bright
And a rocket ship will ascend
Time for the stars, my friend

Friday, 11 August 2017

Beautiful Britain - Guernsey - Part 3

My history for the next few weeks will come from “The Channel Islands” by Joseph E Morris, B.A., published by London, Adam and Charles Black, 1911. It is fascinating because, firstly, it is a guidebook from 1911, depicting a Guernsey before the Great War erupted across Europe, and secondly because it is very much an outsider looking in, and making very personal observations mingled with the history.

Beautiful Britain - Guernsey - Part 3

The South Coast of Guernsey

Though Vale is not uninteresting, it is with a feeling of relief that one turns one's back on this north corner of the island that once perhaps was so beautiful, but is now so hopelessly spoilt.

The glory of Guernsey, as already stated, is now wholly confined to its south coast. Moulin Huet is a gracious bay, too well known from photographs to need further description ; whilst the little Saints Bay to the west of it-a shrine within a shrine-is almost equally charming.

Westward from Icart Point, itself a splendid promontory, the coast sweeps round in another great curve to La Moye Point ; beyond which, again, to Pleinmont, at the south-west corner of the island, the cliffs, though everywhere deeply indented, continue, on the whole, a more uniform direction. The great hollow between Icart and La Moye Points is apparently nameless, unless it be Icart Bay.

There is no authoritative Ordnance map of the Channel Islands, to which one might adhere whether right or wrong; and the best map of Guernsey with which I am acquainted, in the late Mr. C. B. Black's guide-book, gives the name Icart to the eastern recess of the great main bay,, and Petit Bot and Portelet to the two small recesses to the west of it.

Anyhow, Petit Bot is the most secret and intimate of the three, and entirely picturesque with its disused mill and martello tower. This is one of the points on the coast to which the chars-a-bancs descend from St. Peter Port; and the drive down the glen by which we approach it is delightful.

The next calling point is Le Gouffre, just beyond La Moye Point, which here runs out into the sea in long ribs of warm red granite. Here the cars generally halt for a couple of hours, whilst the tripper feasts on lobster in the pleasant little inn. The Gouffre may be taken as roughly the centre of the grand seven miles of cliff line of this splendid south coast.

The section hence to the west is less frequently explored, though the picturesque cave of the Creux Mahie, again roughly half- way, is often paid a visit, and is well worth visiting. - Pleinmont and Torteval come into the “Toilers of the Deep " ; and this corner of the island, the farthest of all from St. Peter Port, is luckily less injured than the rest.

The northwest coast of Guernsey, from Pleinmont Point to Vale, past the huge sweeping hollows-some of them singularly symmetrical of Rocquaine, Perelle, Vazon, and Cobo Bays, is chiefly a matter of rocky beach and of slight elevations shelving down in gentle declivity to the sea.

The glasshouses, moreover, which have languished much at Torteval, flourish again in- amazing vigour as we draw near Cobo Bay.

The Chapel of St. Apolline

There are two points of interest, however, in this corner of the island that justify even the dull, direct journey by which we approach them from St. Peter Port. The first of these is the little Chapel of St. Apolline, which is stated in all the guide-books, on documentary evidence, to have been founded by Nicolas Henry in 1394, or thereabouts.

Even documentary evidence, in architectural matters, is not always to be trusted. Only the day before writing these lines the writer was re-visiting the Lady Chapel at St. Albans Cathedral, which is said to have been built-again on documentary evidence-circa 1310; though the Inventory lately published by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments adds cautiously : " The tracery of these windows . . . is very advanced in character for the date."

The tracery, indeed, is so advanced, if the date be really right, as hopelessly to confuse all previously held notions as to the systematic evolution of English architecture. That the building was at any rate finished by this date is altogether incredible. I notice that the late Lord Grimthorpe, in his pugnacious little handbook, after setting out the evidence from the Abbey Records, adds significantly, " but the style of the windows suggests a much later date."

And the case is much the same with this Chapel of St. Apolline. On October 13, 1392, Nicolas Henry received permission from the monastery of Mont St. Michel, in Normandy, to alienate certain fields to provide an endowment for the Chapel of Notre Dame de la Perelle, which he had recently erected; and in an Act of the Royal Court, dated June 6, 1452, we come across the phrase, " La Chapelle de Notre Dame de la Perelle appellee la Chapelle Sainte Apolline."

Certainly the identification seems complete. On the other hand, the writer believes that no one visiting this chapel who has previously read Professor Baldwin Brown's beautiful volume on Saxon Architecture-and it so happened that the writer paid his first visit to the Channel Islands almost immediately after its perusal-can fail to detect in this building quite a number of criteria that are there set out as indicating, at any rate in England, a pre-Conquest era of building.

Unfortunately I have kept no note of these features, but the impression then made on my mind is vivid. I may, of course, be wrong; but it seems to me at least possible that we have here the solitary survivor-far older than the Fishermen's Chapel at St. Brelade's in Jersey-of those many chapels that are known to have been built in the Channel Islands in the eighth and ninth centuries by the successors of St. Magloire.

The Island of Lihou

The other point of interest in the neighbourhood of L'Eree is the rocky islet of Lihou, approached by a causeway across the sands, or more properly the rocks, but only at low tide.

Here are the scanty fragments of the Priory and Chapel of Notre Dame de la Roche, apparently a cell to the monastery of Mont St. Michel, which seems to have had so much to do with the spiritual matters of the Channel Islands. The tide at St. Michael's Mount is said to rush up across the level sands more quickly than the fleetest horse can gallop, and visitors to Lihou will be well advised to remember that here again its onset is unexpected and swift.

At L'Eree village is another dolmen, the Creux des Fees, to which passing allusion has already been made. St. Peter's Church in this neighbourhood-in full,

St. Pierre du Bois-is perhaps the handsomest, though not necessarily the most interesting, of all the twelve churches in the island, and exhibits some Flamboyant work of a very pleasing character.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

And so to bed...

And so to bed...

Another collection of my bedtime quotations.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Homer:

Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men. Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth, now the living timber bursts with the new buds and spring comes round again. And so with men: as one generation comes to life, another dies away.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Robert Louis Stevenson:

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from J.K. Rowling:

We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Ovid:

As wave is driven by wave
And each, pursued, pursues the wave ahead,
So time flies on and follows, flies, and follows,
Always, for ever and new. What was before
Is left behind; what never was is now;
And every passing moment is renewed.

And so to bed.. quote for tonight is from Pope Francis:

The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes. Everywhere he helps these forced migrants to encounter brothers and sisters, with whom they can share bread and hope on their journey.

And so to bed.. quote for tonight is from Elizabeth Fry:

I believe there is something in the mind, or in the heart, that shows its approbation when we do right. I give myself this advice: Do not fear truth, let it be so contrary to inclination and feeling. Never give up the search after it: and let me take courage, and try from the bottom of my heart to do that which I believe truth dictates, if it leads me to be a Quaker or not.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Roland Barthes:

For me the noise of Time is not sad: I love bells, clocks, watches — and I recall that at first photographic implements were related to techniques of cabinetmaking and the machinery of precision: cameras, in short, were clocks for seeing, and perhaps in me someone very old still hears in the photographic mechanism the living sound of the wood.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Sir Walter Raleigh:

GIVE me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope’s true gage;
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Helen Keller:

It is beyond a doubt that everyone should have time for some special delight, if only five minutes each day to seek out a lovely flower or cloud or star, or learn a verse to brighten another’s dull task. What is the use of such terrible diligence as many tire themselves out with, if they always postpone their exchanges of smiles with Beauty and Joy to cling to irksome duties and relations?

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Walt Whitman:

Love the earth and sun and animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others...
And your very flesh shall be a great poem.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Holding Landowners to Ransom

Shark circling Treasure Chest

Bailiwick Express reports that:

“Chartered surveyor Julian Mallinson says he was forced to pay thousands to the States after trying to sell his Greve d’Azette-based Brise de Mer apartments – £3,000 of which related to a set of just eight steps which were approved by Her Majesty’s land administrator while the Foreshore was still in Crown ownership.”

It cannot be right that something was approved by Her Majesty’s land administrator while the Foreshore was still in Crown ownership, and then Jersey Property Holdings apparently just make up the rules to suit themselves and ignore the past history of a property, even when the Crown approved the steps.

The various claims being made here and with owners along the Foreshore may be legally right, but what they are doing is quite immoral. Moreoever, they seem to be targeting people trying to sell their properties, in other words, those owners at their most vulnerable. They can hold them to ransom, knowing that a seller is more likely to cave into demands.

Morally, although not legally (or at least not tested in Court), it has all the hallmarks of blackmailers charter for coining money.

Apparently, according to Bailiwick Express:

“A spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure (DfI), who has responsibility for the matter, defended their decision to review encroachments on the recently-acquired land, stating: “There is a need to protect the Public’s interest as a landowner, and other encroachments are regularly dealt with on a case by case basis.”

This isn’t good enough. An anonymous civil servant should not be the one making these statements. The responsibility lies with the Minister, and he should not hide behind an anonymous spokesperson.

Unfortunately the States has vanished off for the summer recess, but I hope some politician asks some very awkward questions.

Bailiwick Express also has revealed that:

“.. contracts settled so far have not provided protection against the future purchasers of those properties, meaning that the cycle of coastal payments could continue in perpetuity.”

Blackmailers, of course, take a payment and then return to the victim for more.

“Those payments only constitute a transfer of a right to maintain the status quo – not ownership or the ability to build or develop the land in future. Contracts viewed by Express also showed that the owners could at any time be given two weeks’ notice to carry out works on the sea wall, steps leading from it or the land behind it - all of which at their expense and “to the entire satisfaction of the Minister for Infrastructure.”

We urgently need clarity on this. The Minister needs to provide clarity and not leave sellers and buyers in a legal limbo.

St Clement Deputy Simon Brée seems to be the only States member speaking out strongly on the subject.

“I am very concerned of the actions of the Department. The Government of Jersey must understand that they govern on behalf of and for the Public of Jersey. This approach to things does nobody any good and people start to question the integrity of the department that are doing this. It’s absolutely atrocious... I can’t see any other reason than they are purely looking at every opportunity to raise money from the public and this is a form of very heavy handed sledgehammered crack and nut approach. Why are they doing it? If it is not purely to raise money, then why are they doing it?”

He added: “The Crown would not have gifted that land to the Public of the Island of Jersey solely as a revenue-raising measure. It is madness in its extreme.”

There was a Freedom of Information request on 1 April 2016, which among other questions, asked:

How many foreshore encroachments have been pursued since the gifting of the foreshore to the people of Jersey?

Can you please detail all the encroachments pursued and the settlements made, financial or otherwise?

What has been the defined financial settlement or the method of calculating that encroachment that has been decided by the minister responsible?

The only reply was

“It is not possible to identify without legal knowledge and substantial effort, a list of cases which might be deemed to be about ‘encroachments’ as used in the request.”

This is the typical runaround which one gets from a lot of FOE requests, and is the sort of evasive answer which also happens when States members ask Ministers questions. It is extremely unhelpful. Even with rates, the Parish websites give an indication of the methodology of calculating a rate. Taxation is done with precision. Here we have nothing. It could be calculations scribbled on the back of a beer mat, for all we know.

That there is no reply forthcoming here suggest an “ad hoc” method of calculation, probably looking at property values, and how much owners can afford to cough up.

When the land was gifted from the Crown to the States, the Royal Central website said:

Representatives of Her Majesty on the island commented that she felt it was time to “support the interests and aspirations” of islanders.
Clearly in the case of Jersey Property Holdings, the aspiration is to claw as much money as they can.

It was said at the time: “The government of Jersey has expressed a view that ownership of the seabed and foreshore would assist effective management and economic development, particularly in the area of renewable energy projects.”

Any of those in the pipeline yet?

The only "renewable" so far seems to be the possibility that JPL might go back to new owners and demand more money.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

A Very Casual Approach

I've been reviewing the part of the Jersey Care Inquiry where they interview Deputy Andrew Lewis about the Wiltshire Investigation of Graham Power and Operation Rectangle. 

It's a very casual approach - "I had moved on. I was back in business. It wasn't a primary concern to me." This was despite the fact that he was clearly a key witness in the suspension of Graham Power. It's a very slack attitude.

He makes a great play of the short amount of time to review the witness statement that had been taken fromn him - and then it emerges that it was only 4 pages long. How long can it take to review four pages? Admittedly it is a bit longer than the Gettysburg Address, but not that long. When the Government issues propositions, sometimes with a four or five page preamble, are we to believe that States members have trouble with it?

Now Deputy Lewis was not a member of the States at that time. But it does raise a point: do States members only make more of an effort when in  office, or should they still see it as a civic duty to ensure that they remain engaged with any process resulting from their time in office?

An example of the latter would be Senator Sarah Ferguson, who remained very engaged with States matters even after she lost her seat, and had no platform in the Assembly. Part of that was what might be called "pundit" columns in the JEP, such as also seen with Ben Shenton, Terry Le Main or Rob Duhamel.

But she also attended Parish Assemblies and other Parish events - the Noirmont Liberation Day service, for example - and remained very much a participant in  the St Brelade, as well as addressing more Island wide issues in the JEP.

Andrew Lewis and Wiltshire

Q. Did you tell Wiltshire Police "I had no reason to believe that they", that's Mr Harper and Mr Power, "were not managing the investigation well"?

A. I don't believe those were my precise words, no. What I would have said was that I didn't have any concerns that justified any public statement, or any huge concern at that time, because I needed to protect the integrity of the Police Service and indeed the investigation.

Q. So it's written in this way through the carelessness of the police officer who was taking down what you were saying?

A. Yes, and it went to many many pages, the Wiltshire report I think was sort of 300 pages, they had a lot of work to do, and so I wouldn't say it was careless, I imagine they were getting witness-weary.

Q. And it was also carelessness on your part that you failed to spot the mistake?

A. No, I won't say it was carelessness. I had moved on. I was back in business. It wasn't a primary concern to me. Clearly it was to those that would be using the Wiltshire report for any purpose in the future, but it wasn't for me.

Q. Well, you knew the purpose of the Wiltshire investigation, didn't you?

A. Well, I was aware of some of the purposes of it, yes.It was to review as to how that operation had gone.

Q. And also to review the actions of Graham Power?

A. That was certainly one of the things they were looking at.

Q. So it was hugely important that the investigation received accurate information from its witnesses?

A. Yes, it did, absolutely.

Q. And you were a key witness?

A. I wouldn't say I was -- I was one of many witnesses.

Q. And you had made the decision to suspend?

A. Yes, I had.

Q. So it was really important, wasn't it, that anything you told the Wiltshire Police was accurate?

A. Yes, to the best of my ability, bearing in mind this was quite a while after the suspension had taken place.

Q. Yes, but the explanation you have given for this inaccuracy turning up was that you had moved on and it wasn't as important to you as it was to others. Is that really why we end up with inaccuracies in the statement?

A. Sorry, you will have to repeat that question.

Q. When I asked you how this inaccuracy had turned up and how you hadn't noticed it when you looked through the statement, you said that you had moved on and this statement wasn't as important to you as it was to those who were actually doing the investigation.

A. I think that's fair to say, yes.

Q. So does that mean you didn't give this great care when you looked over it again?

A. I didn't really get a chance to look over it again. It was a statement that was taken relatively quickly. I didn't get a huge amount of time to review it afterwards and looking at it in the cold light of today, maybe I would have made more attempt to get Wiltshire to clarify matters.

Q. How much time were you given to review it?

A. I really don't remember; not very much.

Q. Was it sent to you in the post?

A. I can't remember.

Q. Well, if you don't remember how you received it how do you know you didn't have much time to review it?

A. That I do remember.

Q. So how much time did you have?

A. I don't remember exactly how much.

Q. Well roughly, are we talking half an hour, or two days, or a week?

A. I really can't remember.

Q. Because you see, this statement is only four pages long, so it wouldn't have taken very long to go through it, would it?

A. No. Like I say, I have explained my situation. I had no intention of saying anything other than helping Wiltshire with their inquiry and the fact was that I had no major concerns about the inquiry at that stage. I made that perfectly clear and I made it also perfectly clear that to go on the public record and say that would not be the right thing for a minister to do.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Fun With Intelligence Tests 1

These come from an extremely old compendium of games that I've had for many years. I've hidden the answers on another blog page - there's a link at the bottom of this one.

Fun With Intelligence Tests

HAVE you ever tried any Intelligence Tests? Here are some to play with. No doubt you are an intelligent person, but what sort of intelligent person are you? Are you quick in the uptake?

Can you reason? Can you perceive what is relevant and what irrelevant? Have you a sense of logic? Here is your chance to find out.


None of this first group of posers should take you longer than 3 minutes.


"LISTEN, GIRLS," said their Uncle Joe; " I was in the bar of the Black Horse yesterday-"

" You would be," said Gwendolen

" I was in the bar of the Black Horse," said Uncle Joe, ignoring the interruption, " and two Australians came in. Odd."

" Why odd? " asked Grace.

" Because," said Uncle Joe, " one of them was the father of the other one's little boy ! Now, girls, how do you explain that? "

" Easily," said Gwendolen. " You mean he was the step-father."

" No," said Grace, " how could he be? . . . Or wait a moment : there might have been a divorce, or something."

Uncle Joe grinned. " There was no divorce," he said. " You girls don't use your brains ; try again."

What is the explanation ?


JOYCE HAS just been showing me a letter from her sister Edna. " My holiday " (Edna wrote), " has ended unfortunately. As you know, I have been learning to ride on Tom's pony. He is perfectly well-behaved as a rule (the pony, I mean), but yesterday he took it into his head to turn skittish : result, a broken limb for me!

It's now in plaster of Paris and, though the fracture is only a ` simple' one, it will, of course, take some time to heal ! More details next time. I've only just time to catch the post now; on my way back I shall drop into the bon-bon shop and get you some of those pralines."

Which of her four " limbs " do you suppose Edna has broken ?

Potted Personalities

RHYMED clues are given to the identity of famous men and women.

I. He sang of the bitter fruits
Of the forbidden tree
And contributed (in Latin) to contemporary disputes ;
Now tell me : who was he?

2. A " master builder "-though the house he built
Was but for dolls : a backcloth was its sky.
His gingerbread has maybe lost its gilt,
But his influence will not die.

3. A king : we remember him best
By his little practical test;
While his foolish courtiers flattered him
The incoming waves bespattered him.

4. A poetess, from her Wimpole Street abode,
Published many a melancholy ode.
Who was it who first showed her what hope meant,
And, in the end, contrived her elopement?

5. In his own sphere, this musician
Occupied a prominent position ;
What would we not give for one toot
Of his " magic flute " ?

For answers to all these, click here:

Sunday, 6 August 2017

How Old is the Pulpit?

From "The Pilot", 1967, comes this, an interesting historical ramble.

Some Church Customs Explained
By S.G. Thicknesse

How Old is the Pulpit?

THE pulpit as a place almost exclusively for preaching is only as old as the importance of preaching-that is to say, some five centuries old. Before then, and specially in the primitive Church, there were certainly sermons; but it was only rarely (before the fifteenth century) that these were delivered from a `pulpit', a piece of furniture specially made for the purpose.

At first, in accordance, as it seemed, with the example of the Apostles, a homily in church had been the prerogative of a bishop. Homilies had been delivered by bishops to their flocks ex cathedra-from the episcopal chair of office in the chancel. On occasion, they were delivered from the altar steps.

It seems to have been St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople in the fourth century, who first changed the custom. Chrysostom, `the golden-mouthed,' decided to preach to the people from some place from which he could be better heard. He chose, therefore, to speak from the ambo, the high desk or platform from which the Gospel and Epistle were read.

The ambo was also used for the reading of notices and of the pastoral letter of the bishop, and for reading the names from the `diptych'. This was a tablet made with a hinge to open and shut in which were weekly written the names of those who had brought the bread and wine for the Communion. To these names there were soon added those of benefactors in general and of the deceased for whom prayers were desired.

The ambo seems usually to have stood at the dividing line of chancel and nave, and therefore to have been a much more convenient place from which to preach than from the chancel proper.


As time went on, the ambo was often made more complicated and ornate. Sometimes it became a `double-decker', sometimes a `triple-decker', divided thus for its various uses. From the highest floor the deacon read the Gospel, facing towards the congregation. From the next floor the sub-deacon read the Epistle, facing the altar. From the lowest floor a clerk in minor orders read the Old Testament.

At a later date it became embedded in the rood screen from which the singers chanted. (Before the development of rood screen or choir, the appointed singers seem generally to have sung from the platform of the ambo itself.) 

Reconstruction of St Sophia with ambo

In the great church of St. Sophia at Constantinople, the ambo held the central position. Richly and exquisitely embellished, it was the place where the Emperor of the Eastern Empire was crowned.

Mediaeval churchmen explained how very proper it was that preaching was added to the other various uses of the ambo. They quoted the verse of St. Matthew which recorded that Jesus went up `into a mountain' and, opening his mouth, taught the people; and Isaiah's `Get thee up into the high mountain; [thou] that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength'.

The reading of the Bible from a raised place had precedent from the Jewish synagogue, and from the Old Testament record of how, for example, Josiah and Ezra had read the Law to the people from raised places.

By the end of the middle ages, two changes had taken place which produced more specialized pieces of furniture to take the place of the ambo. First, the sacred books had become so heavy that they needed a special support, and the lectern was made. Secondly, a great revival of preaching after a long lapse made it natural to build a special preaching-place, and to put it boldly in the nave.

Both the lectern and the pulpit tended to carry away with them the symbols and decoration of the old ambo.

On the lectern were repeated the motifs of the Evangelists, and on the pulpit the scenes of Christ's preaching, or the figures of Moses and the Apostles, or of the fish, the peacock, and the dove. 

Fotheringay, Northamptonshire

Sometimes, as at Fotheringay, Northamptonshire, a fine sounding-board was made above the pulpit, which soon became an indispensable part of the furniture of the church, and was usually against the second pier of the nave on the north side.

Sometimes, for special occasions, and after the example of the friars, open-air pulpits were made.

The famous one at St. Paul's Cross has now disappeared, but there are still some very fine specimens left: for example, at Shrewsbury, and in Magdalen College, Oxford. These pulpits were at once seed-bed and symbol of the Reformation.

Magdalen College, Oxford