Historian and Broadcaster
- Place of Worship
- St Wilfrid’s Church
- An ancient building home to a lively and growing community.
- Kibworth, Leicestershire LE8 0NB
- Church of England
St Wilfrid’s is a warm and welcoming place.
Over the years I have had the chance to visit many wonderful British churches; some famous, some forgotten gems, some in the shadow of tower blocks, some tucked away in the middle of nowhere, but all of them still rich in memorials to our national and local history, memory rooms of our story.
The last couple of years filming The Great British Story up and down the land were especially full of vivid memories: tiny Thornham Parva tucked away in the depths of rural Suffolk, with its magical medieval murals and panel paintings which were spared the rage of the iconoclasts in the Reformation; up near Arbroath there was St Vigeans on its steep ancient mound with its astonishing Pictish sculptures depicting nothing less than a lost universe of signs and symbols; in Glasgow we went to Govan, which was quite simply a revelation, jammed unpromisingly between the old shipyards and pubs and brownstones of the Govan Road, with its lovely ancient circular graveyard and its astounding collection of Viking Age hogbacks; in the North-East I never miss Wearmouth and Jarrow (what names to conjure with in British history!) with their tall narrow basilicas from the seventh century where Bede lived and worked; in South Wales I was captivated by Llancarfan with its brilliant medieval paintings only now being uncovered, and by Llantwit (surely one of the most atmospheric churches in the British isles?). And who could forget the stunning parish church at Long Melford, paid for by Suffolk wool; or Repton in Derbyshire with its unique crypt-mausoleum of the Mercian kings; or, tucked away in the East Devon hills, little Morebath, made so memorable in Eamon Duffy’s marvellous book Voices of Morebath – the story of one community and its vicar through the troubled times of the Reformation.
And from our most recent shoot I have to mention St Bartholomew at East Lyng, still standing on the lip of the Saxon ditch at the end of the causeway to the Isle of Athelney in the Somerset marshes: Alfred’s last stronghold that spring of 878 when he fought the Vikings, burnt the cakes, and saved England. Where to stop? But if I have to name a favourite church, then I will choose one that I got to know well filming our Story of England series recently: a series in which we told the story of one village through the whole of English history, with the help of the local community. The village was Kibworth in Leicestershire: the church is not especially memorable for its architecture, perhaps, but I always love going there. It is dedicated to St Wilfrid, who maybe preached there in the late 7th century; its chancel is 12th century, its beautiful light and airy nave from the 14th century, the time of the Black Death; the same time as its elegant and towering spire which fell in 1825. St Wilfrid’s is a warm and welcoming place, packed on the big festivals like Easter or Armistice Day, or for talks and music concerts; and it is a reminder that the English church everywhere is a witness to our story: Saxons, Vikings, Normans, the Black Death, the Civil War, and on down to us. But they are also living places.
Our churches are among our most valuable historical resources, and it is always a delight to stop for a few minutes to explore. Every one has its own story. And if we look after them they can still play a part in the life of the people.