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St Mary Magdalene Church offers a haven of peace and reflection, a reminder of the presence of God at the heart of community life in Hucknall.
Now a Church of England parish church, the site can trace its heritage back over a thousand years of Christian worship. Though it may look and feel timeless, St Mary Magdalene has constantly evolved. Changes in religious practice and the wealth of the local population have left their mark.
From the Norman lord of the manor, Ralph de Burun (ancestor of the Byron Family), in the 11th century; wealthy local landowners the Torkards in the 13th century; money from 16th century hosiery manufacturers; to the rising affluence of communities built around the textile mills and coal mines of the 19th and 20th centuries; St Mary Magdalene has had many benefactors. And in 2015, an HLF-supported restoration project saw significant refurbishment to the fabric of the building and creation of a ‘heritage hub’, introducing visitors to the world-renowned heritage of which the church has custody.
The poet Lord Byron (leading figure in the Romantic movement), along with his daughter Ada Lovelace (mathematician and writer known for her work on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical computer), are interred within the church in the Byron family vault. Visitors from around the world make pilgrimages to St Mary Magdalene to see Byron's last resting place and learn about his life and works.
The church has twenty windows filled with stained glass produced by the Kempe Studios in London; one of the largest collections of any parish church in England. They are fine examples of Victorian Gothic Revival from a time when the Anglican Church was rediscovering its medieval roots. And did you know that the great bell Big Ben, whose rings usher in each New Year, was reputedly named after a giant of a bare knuckle boxing champion, buried in the churchyard?
All of these fascinating, historical characters, events and artefacts form the basis of new, interpretive displays (many featuring previously unseen images and repositioned artefacts for better access), which visitors experience as part of interactive tours, taking in all areas of the church. Significantly, the interpretation includes activity-based displays tailored for younger visitors, aged six and over. These are accompanied by a children’s trail, which prompts children to explore the church, finding clues to solve puzzles and earn a reward.
Now a Grade II* listed building, the oldest part of the church (the base of the tower), dates back to the 11th century but a building representing a place of worship stood on the same site as long ago as the 8th century. Interpretive displays record and illustrate the huge changes that have taken place over time, culminating in the imposing building which now overlooks Hucknall’s marketplace.
Few buildings, let alone churches, are fortunate enough to have custody of such a wide range of heritage. When visiting, take a moment to consider the visitor book and scan the recent entries; you’ll be joining a consistent number of visitors who marvel at stories of the town’s famous sons and daughters, and the events that have shaped the local landscape.
Did you know that the designer of Nottingham’s Council House was born in Hucknall? How about the inventor of the shin pad – Sam Weller Widdowson was another Hucknall man who played football for Nottingham Forest and England and cricket for Nottinghamshire! Rolls-Royce developed and tested the Flying Bedstead, forerunner of the Harrier jump-jet at Hucknall Aerodrome. And Eric Coates, composer of memorable tunes such as the Dam Busters March and the theme tune to Desert Island Discs, was born and lived in Hucknall, too. All of these stories and many more are included in the interpretation in church – there’s something to appeal to all interests and ages.
St Mary Magdalene church is ideally positioned for access via public transport, being on major bus routes through the town and 10 minutes walk from the NET tram stop and Robin Hood Line at Hucknall Train Station.
For more information visit our website at http://www.hucknallparishchurch.org.uk
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Thursday 6 – Sunday 9 July 2017
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