On Saturday, 7th May 2022 our intrepid concert organisers Caroline and Jeremy embarked on a “Sponsored Alk”. Their aim – to visit all the churches in the world dedicated to Saint Alkmund in a single day. Jeremy additionally played some music (if only briefly) in each church.
The task was made easier by the fact that there are only six such churches, all in the Midlands: Blyborough in Lincolnshire, close neighbours Duffield and Derby, Whitchurch in Shropshire, Aymestrey near Leominster (this church has a joint dedication to St John the Baptist and St Alkmund) and of course, Shrewsbury – their ‘home church’. In 250 miles in less than 12 hours. Here is the story of the day:
To ease the challenge. Jeremy and Caroline drove to North Lincolnshire the previous night, where a planning meeting was held in the “George” at Kirton-in-Lindsey. The day of the “Sponsored Alk” dawned bright and clear – and the views from the ‘Wold’ over the surrounding flat lands were spectacular. At 8.30 am the trip began.
St Alkmund’s, Blyborough was a small stone church in a delightful bucolic setting – we had missed the sprays of daffodils that encircle it, but the sound of sheep bleating on a warm sunny morning was a pleasant welcome on our arrival. Churchwarden Patrick and Vicar Tom greeted us, and Jeremy found a small, G compass chamber organ just right for some John Stanley music. Everywhere we were to be greeted by friendly, warm-hearted people who smiled when we instructed them to “say Alk” for the camera. Too soon it was time to head south on the M1 and A38 for Duffield.
St Alkmund’s, Duffield is a few minutes north of Derby, a larger and friendly church with an organ to match! We got on so well here that it was difficult to tear ourselves away after Jeremy had completed his ‘set’ on the two-manual organ which dominates the view of the West End. Marjorie, Jan and crew were the perfect hosts, the former plying us with coffee and histories of St Alkmund which have already been passed around the other churches! A bit of Charpentier and then a quick 8-minute leg to:
The 1960’s St Alkmund’s in Derby was built in Kedleston Road to replace the older church, which was demolished to make way for a by-pass. Coventry and Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedrals were clearly in the minds of the architects, but so (from the outside) may have been the BBC Television Centre… Alex made us welcome, and, as there is no longer an organ in the building, Jeremy played an electric keyboard. There are objects from the older church still on view, but “St Alk’s” is a forward-looking place of worship now. Alex reminded us that Alkmund’s sarcophagus is still in Derby Museum, but his bones were thrown into the river at the time of the Reformation – the Saint managed to escape the attentions of the Viking Great Heathen Army, but not those of Defender of the Faith Henry VIII… After lunch, we headed west across Mercia.
We reached St Alkmund’s at Whitchurch, Shropshire by the early afternoon, feeling that we were on home ground once more, especially when greeted by a large and welcoming group of people! This was the largest church and largest organ of the six, and Jeremy certainly gave it a work-out with Karg-Elert’s “Nun danket”. We were sorry to leave, but had to make haste as we had to turn south along the A49 – a road notoriously difficult for those in a rush! Our next destination was in rural Herefordshire south of Ludlow, in a valley near the Groggin and beside the River Lugg.
Doubting our Tom-Tom satnav made us a couple of minutes late for the church of St John the Baptist with St Alkmund at Aymestrey near Leominster – the only place on our trip where we weren’t on time!! Rev Julie Read and several members of the congregation were forced to sit and wait in a warm, sunlit churchyard till we arrived. The small Bevington chamber organ was reminiscent in scale and style with the first organ we had visited that morning. It also ensured that the John Stanley voluntary was the only piece played at all six churches on the ‘crawl’. Thanks for the cake and the juice – we said our goodbyes and turned for home.
Saint Alkmund’s in Shrewsbury was the sixth, last and certainly not the least of the churches, where Jeremy was met by our other organist, Bill Smallman, and a group of friends pictured above at the West Door in the rays of the setting sun. The tour was completed in just under 11 hours, with around 250 miles covered in the day, and many new friends made. Let’s hope this is not the last time the six churches get together and celebrate our common origins and purpose. Thanks to all who supported the trip, and especially to Caroline Thewles – Passepartout – for keeping me awake at the wheel!!! Should anyone wish to donate to our ’cause’ – the renovation of the St Alkmund’s, Shrewsbury organ, details are below which explain how to vecome involved.
DONATIONS WELCOME!!! To contribute:
Online: Lloyd’s Bank business account : Parochial Church Council St Alkmunds – 30 97 62 00595607 ref: SPONSORED ALK
Cheque: pay to St Alkmunds PCC Restoration Account, adding SPONSORED ALK on back of cheque, please. Send to Jeremy Lund, 85 Wenlock Road, SHREWSBURY SY2 6JU or give directly to Jeremy, Treasurer or Churchwarden.
Cash: not by post, please: by hand to Jeremy or Andrew Cross, Treasurer or one of the Churchwardens.