- Coventry - Reading : Midlands - Reading
Robins : Midlands to Reading : from the Midlands through
the Thames gap to Reading
obvious centre of the Midlands nowadays is Birmingham.
However, this was only small in medieval times. Coventry
was a larger commercial centre and an important ecclesiastical
centre and pilgrimage destination. But Lichfield
had the more important shrine, of St Chad, and was the
seat of the bishop for most of the Middle Ages, so we
will start there. A footpath leads from the cathedral
(a foundation of secular canons) to his holy well, which
is by the church of St Chad, where his oratory was,
ca 1km to the NE at Stowe (which means 'holy place').
obvious route SE from Lichfield is Watling St,
which passes just to the S of Lichfield at Wall. However,
this is now a major road, so much more walker-friendly
is to use the towpath of the Coventry Canal, to Tamworth.
This was home to the royal palace of Mercia, and at
Wigginton the chapel of St James later became a spital.
The canal passes through the grounds of Benedictine
Alvecote Priory, now a picnic area; a doorway and dovecote
remain of the priory buildings. Next is Polesworth,
where the parish church is a descendant of the originally
Saxon Benedictine nunnery church.
canal crosses Watling St at Atherstone, where
the chancel and tower of the parish church remain from
the Augustinian friary. To the S are the remains of
the former Cistercian abbey of Merevale.
name of Nuneaton recalls the former Benedictine
nunnery, a cell of Fontevrault, the slight remains of
which are in the parish church of St Mary. On the N
outskirts, the village of Weddington has a (largely
Victorian) church of St James.
canal will take you right into the centre of Coventry;
on the way, to the E, the villages of Bulkington and
Ansty both have a medieval church of St James. In Coventry
itself, the modern cathedral is on the site of a
Benedictine nunnery. See here for an imaginary account
of a medieval pilgrim arriving in Coventry, where there
were various other monastic foundations, notably the
Franciscan friary, the tower of which is now part of
Christ Church, as well as several hospitals. The Carmelite
friary became a workhouse and later an infirmary, and
there are some vestiges of the Charterhouse SE of the
city centre. At Spon, W of the city centre, was a chapel
of St James and St Christopher, and to the E at Willenhall,
the chapel of St James was built for pilgrims approaching
Coventry from the S.
to the S, perhaps via Stivichall or Styvechale, which
has a church of St James, to Stoneleigh, where the gatehouse
survives of the Cistercian abbey. To the W is Kenilworth,
where the gatehouse also remains of the Augustinian
Centenary Way will take you to Warwick, where
the heavily restored chantry chapel of St James, built
over the W Gate, survives. Just to the N, Old Milverton
has a church of St James. The Centenary Way continues
E along the Grand Union Canal and then heads S to Avon
Dassett. A slight detour will take you to Southam,
which has a C13 church of St James and also a celebrated
Holy Well, which is easily reached by footpath. From
Avon Dassett, head E to Claydon. This has a church of
St James the Great, and close by is a farmhouse which
incorporates what remains of the Gilbertine priory of
Clattercote. Continue S on the Oxford Canal towpath
to Banbury, just W of which the scant remains
of Augustinian Wroxton priory are incorporated in Wroxton
Abbey, now part of an American university.
on the Oxford Canal, at King's Sutton is the well of
St Rumbald, who was born here, and whose shrine in Buckingham
became popular; originally, Buckingham church
was a chapel-of-ease to King's Sutton. Further on, the
village of Aynho had a pilgrims hospital in medieval
times, dedicated to St James, though nothing remains
of it (the church of St Michael looks more like a stately
home). Nearby Clifton's (Victorian) church of St James
has been converted into offices, but Somerton still
has a largely C14 one.
Oxford is Wolvercote, where a short detour takes you
to the ruins of the former Benedictine nunnery at Godstow.
To the W, Wytham Abbey is post-medieval and not an abbey,
but further W again, at Eynsham, was a Benedictine abbey,
though nothing remains of it.
Oxford itself, the cathedral unusually also serves
as the chapel of Christ Church College. It was originally
the Augustinian priory of St Frideswide, whose (rebuilt)
shrine can be seen there. Various other colleges are
based on medieval monastic buildings, but little or
nothing remains of such important buildings as Osney's
Augustinian priory or the Cistercian abbey of Rewley.
Cowley, famous for the Morris factory, has a church
of St James dating from the C12.
the Thames Path S to Radley, with a C14 church
of St James the Great (further photos here), and Abingdon,
where the fine gatehouse and various other buildings
survive of the Benedictine abbey. Further on, Dorchester-on-Thames
(do not confuse with Dorset's Dorchester) was in Saxon
times the site of a see, later transferred to Lincoln.
In the C12, an Augustinian abbey was founded which housed
the popular shrine of St Birinus. Of the abbey, the
church and a monastic building survive, and the shrine
is again the site of an annual pilgrimage.
of Wallingford, Sotwell's chapel of St James
is a Victorian rebuild which includes parts, noticeably
the roof, of the medieval church. Continue S to Goring
and Reading (see Icknield Way page).
à R.Uni Sud-Est
at wanadoo.fr - 25/12/2016