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September 2018

Friends of Stoke Minster – From Pagan Worship to Stoke Minster

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This one-off day seminar is the first lecture of its kind to be held in Stoke. The seminar draws from the extensive archive of Dr. Richard Talbot, covering a period when Pagan worship and possible sacrifices were held in Stoke – up to present day Stoke Minster. Dr. Talbot’s full press release for the event can be found below:

The seminar commences in the morning with coffee followed by a tour of the churchyard where once a moated druid-circle may have stood, to the early first stone Saxon church, the Saxon cross and font to the Norman Church, its demolition and the creation of the present stone arches. Only recently Dr. Talbot has discovered the location of many other stones relating to this Norman Church – in a garden at Hartshill! The facts behind this stunning discovery after all these years will be fascinating to hear and to see the pictures.

The churchyard contains numerous stones and tombs of many of our famous potters. Dr Talbot will locate those now hidden of Thomas Whieldon, the father of the pottery industry and his family. Many new facts have been gathered regarding the ancient traditions of the Wake, how the old church was organised and importantly discussing the old churchwarden’s accounts and Bishops visitations which present a new insight of life in a different time-zone. The list of Rectors forms an integral part of Stoke’s history as many never even came to Stoke but were appointed by the Patron because of favours thereby in return to receive an almost Kings-Ransom.

The growth of the Potteries brought with it pressures upon the church and as a result in 1807 the church was divided to create several separate Rectories based upon the old Churches of Ease leading to in excess of twenty parishes stretching from Norton in the Moors to Caverswall which in the 13th century was the most-wealthiest parish in the country. This wealth extended into the 19th century as the rector received annually an income from Tithes amounting to what would be today several tens of thousands of pounds. By the early 19th century the old church found itself impossible to maintain services as it could not contain the huge influx of workers to the Potteries. The 14th century leper hospital and the parish first poor house are to be discussed.

In 1830 the present church was built on glebe land to contain more than 2000 persons which was the turning point for the parish whereby the custom of church tithes was re-implemented to the fury of local residents with protests, petitions and posters against the plan notably those from the Duke of Sutherland. These were to finance other churches such as St. Marks, Shelton and St. James Longton but somehow the church ended up £9000 in debt. The churchyard itself has its own story on where to bury and importantly how to stall grave-thieves.

The seminar is wide-ranging and places should be reserved in advance as numbers are limited. Sign in 10.30 a.m. with coffee commence prompt at 11.00 a.m. Bring own lunch from 12.30 with tea or coffee provided. Recommence at 1.15p.m. close approx. 3.00-3.30 p.m. Cost £5.00. Reserve your place now at: drrichard.talbotmbe@gmail.com. More information Tel: 07962143131

Yours Faithfully – Ode to Autumn

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In his latest ‘Yours Faithfully’ column for the Stoke Sentinel, Saltbox Chief Executive Lloyd Cooke talks about the changing of the UK seasons and how they can reflect life and personal experience.

I love autumn. While I also like the new-birth expectancy of spring and sitting outside in the summer sun, it is autumn which is my favourite season. There is nothing quite like going out early in the morning and smelling the freshness of an autumn day.  John Keats, one of the greatest English poets, wrote his famous poem Ode to Autumn which begins with those familiar words “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”.

One of the good things about living in the UK is that we have clearly defined seasons, something that isn’t true in other parts of the world. This means that while we may not like the dark and cold of winter or April showers, we know that change will come and something more pleasant will appear.

This ebb and flow of our UK seasons mirrors life. For all of us there will be ups and downs; times of happiness and celebration as well as times of sadness and difficulty.  In the Bible, this is famously referred to in the book of Ecclesiastes: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3v1-4).

In our lifetime, we will all experience the wintertime of loss, the springtime anticipation of new things and the sparkling joy that summertime brings.  However, autumn is different. It is fresh and pleasant and mellow. Traditionally, autumn points towards harvest time. It is the time when new school terms begin. It is the time when clergy friends in the Methodist Church commence new appointments.

Life always feels better when we can find balance and rhythm.  Sometimes we can plan for this but often it can be the result of a change in circumstances. Last year, I found that one of the results of losing my wife to cancer was that I reflected afresh on my life and what I wanted in the future. While I didn’t make any major changes, bereavement gave me an opportunity to take stock and make some alterations. I decided that I wanted to lose some weight, take more exercise and become fitter. I decided I wanted to read more and so began working my way through a list of “101 fictions books to read before you die!”  I also decided to become a Stoke City season ticket holder (I will avoid any comment about the start to our season!).

So, what season of life do you feel that you are in currently? If you feel happy and blessed, then savour and enjoy it for all it is worth. Share your happiness with others by being gracious, kind and generous. However, if you are lost, lonely or sad then remember that life doesn’t have to remain that way. Try to avoid becoming morose. Consider if there are some positive changes you can make (though I understand that buying a Stoke City season ticket might not be the answer for everyone!). Ultimately, make time to seek God. His son’s death on the cross means that He understands pain and loss. Perhaps go to church, try listening to inspirational music. You could try praying and if you don’t know what to say try the words of the Lord’s Prayer. My prayer for all Sentinel readers is that the arrival of autumn’s mists and mellow fruitfulness will signal a time of blessing for you & for our communities.

Lloyd Cooke (Chief Executive – Saltbox)