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St KENELM'S TRAIL

HIGHLIGHTS

[Introduction] [Route] [Legend] [Practicalities] [Highlights]
     
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Drawing by David Taylor of the image of St Kenelm on South Wall of the church

[Figures in square brackets denote the distance along the route]

 

St Kenelm's Church and Well, Romsley  [0.0]

This small chapel marks the start of the walk. Much of the building is Twelfth Century, including the Nave and chancel. There is an impressive tympanum over the doorway of Christ in Glory in a Romanesque form. A crude figure of St Kenelm adorns the outer South wall,

Inside, there used to be a 14th century cycle of wallpainting depicting the legend of St Kenelm, but these were destroyed in a 1846 restoration. The North window, donated  depicts the legend which was given in memory of the child victims of the First World War.

To the East of the church is the hollow in which the well is located. Some speculation about the provenance of this site is given at this link.  The continuing interest in traditional beliefs about holy wells is evidenced by the frequent presence of ribbons on a tree near to the wellhead.

Nearby Penorchard Farm has been suggested to be the site of the hunting lodge where Kenelm was staying at the time of his fatal hunting trip.

Some three miles from Romsley is the town of Halesowen, where the  Premonstratensian Hales Abbey was founded in 1218. Pilgrims to the Shrine of St Kenelm would frequently call at this Abbey, further details of which are available at this link .

St Kenelm is still remembered in Halesowen at the modern Roman Catholic church of Our Lady and Saint Kenelm with a fine modern statue (left).

 

Buy the guide to the St Kenelm's Trail

  Clent Hills [0.6]

A range of three hills, popular with Midlanders as a recreation area. At its peak Walton Hill's height is 312 meters, the second highest point in the county - traveling  to the East the first point of equal height to be encountered would be in the Ural mountains. At the peak of Walton, the remains of a hill fort can be seen where Ancient Britons fought a battle against invading Romans.  Link

 

 
 

Shut Mill [2.3]

This is one of a number of mills that once lined the Belne Brook down into the nearby village of Belbroughton. A corn mill was recorded on the site of Shut Mill as early as 1295, although in more recent times, it was famous for making scythes. Each morning the sluices above the mill were opened to refill ponds further down the valley.

 

 
  Waseley Hills [3.8]

The Waseley Hill Country Park is the home of the Countryside and Conservation service who manage the North Worcestershire Path. The land was donated by the Cadbury family to become a pioneer Country park in 1971. The summit is called Windmill Hill after a floor mill which once stood there. Link.

 

 
  Lickey Hills [7.1]

These hills, which used to form part of the forest of Feckenham, now sits on the edge of the Birmingham conurbation. The highest point is known as Beacon Hill, the site of one of a network of fires lit to warn of the approaching Armada in 1588. Link

 

 
barntgreen-1.jpeg (73434 bytes) Barnt Green [7.6]

Barnt Green House, beside the railway was built in 1602.

 

 
  Worcester - Birmingham canal [10.3 - 20.9]

Work on this canal commenced late in the eighteenth Century, and was finished in 1815. The unevenness of the route posed massive problems, solved by the construction of long tunnels at King's Norton and Tardebigge, together with the building of a total of fifty eight locks over the seventy one miles of the canal. The fist lock encountered on the walk, at Tardebigge, is remarkable due to the immense fall of fourteen foot. When the canal was opened, there was a boat lift instead of a lock, but this was later abandoned due to mechanical unreliability. Link

 

 

 
  Tardebigge [14.5]

A small village distinguished by a well sited church, St Bartholomew, which dates from 1777 and with the chancel being added in 1879.

 

 
 

Shell [23.9]

Shell Manor Farm includes a hall and cross winged house with a classic medieval solar wing.

 

 
  Himbledon [24.8]

Mary Magdalene is a Thirteenth Century church, with a weatherboarded bell turret dated to the Fifteenth Century.

 

 
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Huddington [26.0]

The path goes close to Huddington Court, an early Sixteenth Century timber framed house and one of the most picturesque imaginable.  It was originally owned by  the important recusant Wintours family, two members of which were executed for participation in the Gunpowder Plot. Interestingly for the purposes of this site, another plotter, Sir Everard Digby, named his son Kenelm, presumably after the saint. Sir Kenelm Digby was to become an important adventurer and writer in the Seventeenth Century.

This plot, which was conceived by fanatics and stood no meaningful chance of achieving its aim of bringing about Spanish intervention in English affairs, was the final death-knell of Catholic England. Huddington Court is therefore an important landmark on the St Kenelm 's Way as it  provides a link to the processes which resulted in the ending of the cult of the Saints and the disappearance of figures such as Kenelm from the popular imagination. 

The house, which is in private ownership, contains an impressive priest hole on the second floor, and is reputed to be haunted by ghosts connected with the Gunpowder Plot (see illustration). The Norman Church of St James stands in the grounds of the Court.

Link

 

 
Upton Snodsbury [28.6]

Nearly all of the present day church of St Kenelm dates from the late nineteenth century, although there is  south-side fourteenth century window as well as a late perpendicular doorway. Brief church guides record the legend that St Kenelm's body rested here on its final journey, and suggests that a wooden church was present in those days on the site of the present structure. A medieval preaching cross stands in the churchyard. 

 

 
  Flyford Flavell [31.5]

The church of St Peter is nineteenth century. Nearby Grafton Flavell church is considerably older, having a fourteenth century tower and standing in a deserted village site, first recorded in 884.

 

 
  Rous Lench [33.5]

The first of three lenches (lench probably meaning ridge or hill) visited, there are in fact five in the locality, Ab and Aith lying outside the route. Rous is the name of the family who held the village from 1382 to 1721. Rous Lench Court is a large picturesque black and white house built around two courtyards and dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The church of St Peter is largely Norman.

 

 
  Church Lench [36.6]

The village is named after the church of all Saints, the doorway being dated as late Norman. The body of the church is Victorian.

 

 
  Wood Norton Estate [39.2]

The seat of the Duc d'Aumale and then his grand nephew Duc d'Orléans. The house and grounds are Nineteenth Century.

 

 
  Fladbury [41.5]

St John the Baptist is another church with Norman elements, in this case, the tower. There are brasses to John Throckmorton and his wife, dated as 1445. 

 

 
Jubilee Bridge [41.7]

This bridge was erected in 1865 to mark the silver jubilee of Queen Victoria. The chronicles of St Kenelm record a dispute concerning ownership of the body of St Kenelm at an Avon crossing called Pyriford, a name now lost. Although some authorities suggest that the site must be a known ford near Pershore, it seems more likely that it was close to this place as the Salt Way was known to cross the river between the villages of Fladbury and Cropthorne.

 

 
Cropthorne [42.5]

The Church of St Michael has an unbuttressed Norman Tower, with thirteenth Century additions. The Cross-Head on display in the church  has been described as the best piece of Anglo-Saxon art in Worcestershire,  being dated as c825, almost contemporaneous with Kenelm.

 

 
  Salt Way [44.1 - 45.9]

Part of a network of roads which spread out across Mercia from the Salt town of Droitwich. Salt was the most essential of substances for early civilizations being needed both as a preservative and as a essential part of a life-sustaining diet. The roads created to move salt around developed to be the motorway network of their day, and would have been used on all long distance journeys.

Bredon Hill an be seen from this road, and could have been visited by continuing on the Wychavon Way. It is celebrated in a poem by A. E. Houseman which is to be found at this link.

 

 
  Ashton under Hill [47.5]

The church of St Barbara has a Norman nave and a Thirteenth Century west tower.

 

 
  Greet [54.0]

The village is notable for the Manor Farmhouse, built around 1600. The rear wing retains its original Tudor windows.

 

 
Hailes Abbey [56.6]

Founded in 1246 and once a celebrated pilgrimage site, due to a phial possessed by the monks said to contain the blood of Christ, this Cistercian abbey now lies in ruins. Remains of the dramatic cloister arches survive and there is a small museum. Link

The atmosphere of this abbey recalls some elegiac lines by Jacobean playwright John Webster, from his most famous play, The Duchess of Malfi:

I do love these ancient ruins

We never set foot upon them but we set

Our foot upon some reverend history.

And questionless, here in this open court,

Which now lies naked to the injuries

Of stormy weather, some men lie interr’d

Lov’d the church so well, and gave largely to ‘t

They thought it should have canopy’d their bones

Till doomsday    (5.3.9-17)

Opposite the entrance to the Abbey is a beautiful, unpretentious chapel with no known dedication. Predating the Abbey by about 100 years, this church is famous for its medieval wall paintings.

 

 

St Kenelm's Well, Sudeley [58.3]

This fascinating little monument is in fact a water-pump house which supplied the village of Winchcombe up to 1928 and was formerly attached to St Kenelm's Chapel, a church  built in the Sixteenth Century and demolished in 1830. The illustration below right shows  the water house on the left. The only other  surviving fragment of the chapel appears to be a blocked three light perpendicular window at the rear of a nearby cottage dated 1838. The pump house was rebuilt in 1887 by J.D. Wyatt when the statue of the Saint was added over the door and dated AD 819, commemorating the martyrdom.

 

 
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Sudeley Castle [59.5]

This fine building is more a palace than a castle and has something of a double history. The building mostly dates from the fifteenth century when it was owned by the Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III. In 1547 is passed to Lord Admiral Thomas Seymor who that year married Henry VIII's widow Catherine Parr. The castle passed to the Seymor family in 1554 in whose ownership it remained until is was taken by rebels in the Civil War, at the end of which it was rendered uninhabitable.

The second phase of the Castle's history began in 1837 when it was sold to the businessmen John and William Dent who set about a major restoration programme, bringing the house towards the condition we find today.

The chapel of St Mary's in the grounds dates from 1460 and includes the tomb of Queen Catherine Parr, albeit enclosed in a Victorian monument whose ornate features contrast sharply with the beautiful clean lines of the medieval interior. There is also a stained glass window depicting St Kenelm (left).

Link

 

 
Winchcombe abbey.jpg (36739 bytes) Winchcombe [59.9]

This was one of the most important  of the Saxon towns of central England. By the early eighth century it was one of the main royal centres of the Kings of the Hwicce sub-kingdom who owed their allegiance to the Kings of Mercia. The Lloyds TSB branch is suggested to mark the site of the Royal Palace where Kenelm would have lived. A Minster was established in the late Eighth Century which achieved fame as the guardians of the body of St Kenelm and which lent the town great significance, but was to decline with the dissolution.

The former abbey church, now the parish church of St Peter's, is largely the work of Abbot William (1454-74). The exterior features a famous collection of gargoyles, believed to be based on local characters. The interior features include a small and a larger stone coffin, discovered in the Abbey grounds in 1815 and assumed to be those of Kenelm and his father Kenwulph, who is recalled in a statue above the nave. 

The great Benedictine Abbey, known as St Mary and St Kenelm from 969, has disappeared more completely than almost any other of comparable stature. The land on which it stood is now in private ownership and inaccessible. From the churchyard however may be seen a stone cross in the grounds of the adjacent property. This was erected in the nineteenth century to mark the centre of the tower of the former monastery.

This view of the cross, which features an inscription recording the legend of St Kenelm, is a glimpsed memorial to a lost world, a symbolically fitting end to our journey.

Link