Monthly Archives: Oct 2019

Early Railway History in King’s Lynn

The first two railways to enter King’s Lynn were the lines constructed by:

  1. The Lynn & Dereham Railway which received its Royal Assent on 21st July 1845 built a short section of its line between King’s Lynn and Narborough which opened on either 17th or 27th October 1846. [1][2] The line was extended to Swaffham on 10 August 1847. [2]
  2. The Lynn & Ely Railway Company which received its Royal Assent on 30th June 1845, [2] opened from King’s Lynn to Downham Market on 27th October 1846. On the same day, this railway opened its harbour branch which connected with the main line just to the South of King’s Lynn and ran for 1.25 miles to the wharves on the riverside. Ships using these wharves sat on the mud at low water. [3] The original line ran South, via Downham Market, towards Ely. The first station south of King’s Lynn was St. Germain’s. It took another two years to reach Ely. [2]

These two companies merged to form the East Anglian Railway on 22 July 1847. [2] Wikipedia claims, contrary to Fell, that the spur connecting to the harbour was not opened until 1849. At one point that harbour spur was a complicated network of lines, boasting two swing bridges, serving premises on and around the town’s South Quay. [2]

Expansion followed with the opening of several branches. A line running north to the seaside resort of Hunstanton was opened in 1862. [2][4][5] A journey along the line was celebrated by former Poet Laureate John Betjeman in a short BBC film. [6]

King’s Lynn to Fakenham:  The Lynn & Fakenham Railway was received Royal Assent in July 1876, it opened to traffic between Gaywood Junction and Massingham on 16 August 1879 and between Massingham and Fakenham in August 1880. It was an early constituent of what became the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway.

The Lynn & Fakenham Railway, first used King’s Lynn station, but ran into it from the north, via Gaywood Junction.  When first amalgamated the Lynn & Fakenham Railway became part of the Eastern and Midlands Railway. In November 1881, Eastern & Midlands Railway gave notice to amalgamate after agreement on such periods and terms to be fixed or agreed and the rights of the Midland & Great Northern Companies and of the Midland Railway and of the Great Northern Railway: Peterborough, Wisbeach and Sutton Railway; Midland & Eastern Railway; Lynn & Fakenham Railway; Yarmouth & North Norfolk (Light) Railway; Yarmouth Union Railway; into one Company to be called the Eastern & Midlands Railway. That amalgamation was given Royal Assent on 18 August 1882. [2][12]

By the early 1890s further amalgamations and renaming were considered and Royal Assent given to the Midland and Great Northern Railway Companies (Eastern and Midlands Railway) Act 1893 authorising the Eastern & Midlands Railway to be vested in the Joint Committee of the Midland & Eastern and Norwich & Spalding companies on and from 1 July 1893 and for the combined organisation to be incorporated under the title of the “Midland and Great Northern Railways Joint Committee”. [12]

The line from Gaywood Junction east towards Fakenham was abandoned on the opening of the station at South Lynn. The “Lynn Avoiding” line (South Lynn to Bawsey) was the last link in the chain which brought the eastern lines, which had reached Norwich in 1882, and Cromer in 1887, in direct contact with the lines west of Lynn. The Lynn Avoiding Line opened in January 1886. The South Lynn Station opened for goods traffic in November 1885 and for passenger traffic on 1st January 1886. [12] South Lynn closed to all traffic on 28th February 1959. [2]

In the same year, 1862, the Great Northern Railway reached Sutton Bridge from the West. The King’s Lynn to Sutton Bridge line was the last part of the East-West route to be built, opening in 1864. It later formed part of the larger Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway line between Spalding and King’s Lynn, after its formation in 1893. [7]

The line was single track and originally used the southern half of the second Cross Keys Bridge to cross the River Nene, following the embankment to the east of the bridge and continuing on to King’s Lynn. The construction of the third Cross Keys Bridge in 1897 required slight alterations to the course of the route immediately out of Sutton Bridge. This part of the route was closed to all traffic in 1959, and the track was soon dismantled, allowing the widening of the adjacent A17 road in its place. [7][8][9] The changes in the route can be picked out on historic OS Maps (1884-1888. 6 Inch Ordnance Survey County Series Map – First Edition. TF 42 SE and 1902-06. 25 Inch Ordnance Survey County Series Map – Second Edition. TF 42 SE).King’s Lynn Station in 1948. [14]King’s Lynn Station: 1: Passenger Facilities; 2: Good Facilities; 3: Maltings; 4: Docks Branch (c) Historic England [10]

King’s Lynn’s Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway connection was served by the station at South Lynn. A connecting shuttle service ran from King’s Lynn to South Lynn as often as twenty times a day. [2][11: slide 106]

South Lynn Station from the Air in 1946. [13] Train approaching South Lynn Station across the River Great Ouse. [13]South Lynn Station. [13]

There is excellent material on the history of the railways in King’s Lynn on the “King’s Lynn Forums” (KLF) on a thread entitled “South Lynn and King’s Lynn Railway Stations – M&GN.” [13][15]


  1., accessed on 5th October 2019.
  2., accessed on 5th October 2019.
  3. Mike G. Fell OBE; The King’s Lynn Docks & Railway Company; in BackTrack Magazine Volume 25, No. 3 Pendragon, Easingwold, York, March 2011, p144.
  4. Leslie Oppitz; Lost Railways of East Anglia; Countryside Books. 2002, p15.
  5.  Insight Magazine; January 2005., accessed on 2nd September 2007[Wolferton Station’s] origins go back to the opening of the Kings Lynn to Hunstanton branch railway line in 1862[.]
  6., accessed on 16th October 2019.
  7., accessed on 16th October 2019.
  8. N.R. Wright; Sutton Bridge and Long Sutton: An Industrial History; 1980, p8, p15.
  9. Alan Stennett; Lincolnshire Railways; 2016, p59-60.
  10., acccessed on 21st October 2019.
  11. Richard Adderson & Graham Kenworthy; Ely to Kings Lynn, including the Stoke Ferry Branch; Middleton Press, 2000.
  12., accessed on 23rd October 2019.
  13., accessed on 23rd October 2019.
  14., accessed on 23rd October 2019.
  15., accessed on 16th October 2019.

The TNL Tram Network – The Changes in the Urban Network (1929-1934) (Chemins de Fer de Provence 86)

This post continues a series of reflections on the tramway network in and around Nice which are based on Jose Banaudo’s French language book “Nice au fil du Tram Volume 1: Histoire.” The text below includes elements translated from Jose Banaudo’s book. [1]

A Changing Urban Network in/around Nice

The 1930s through to the 1950s saw major changes in the urban environment. As elsewhere, the car began to dominate people’s understanding of progress. Other forms of transport, to a greater or lesser extent, took a secondary place. Independence, rather than interdependence, came to dominate political thinking. The strengthening democracy after the Second World War valued the perspective of the individual. By the end of the 1950s the place if the ‘expert’ in any debate was beginning to be challenged. No longer were people as willing to be told what was best for them. In a significant way, the car became a touchstone for that growing independence and self-confidence. The tram and the train began to be seen as part of the past rather than an important part of the future.

We noted in the last post in this series how buses began to replace trams on the longer routes. Road improvements swept away the tram infrastructure. The rails were replaced, at first,  in some places, by trolleybuses. In others the change to petrol/diesel engines vehicles was more rapid.

Banaudo, writing in French, says: “While the tramway disappeared from most interurban lines, the monopoly of this mode of transport was not immediately threatened in the city of Nice. Initially, in 1925-26, TNL had simply created three ‘automobile omnibus’ lines serving routes complementary to the tramway network. These services were designated from 1928 onwards by letters:

A Masséna – St. Sylvestre;

C Masséna – Caucade; and

D Masséna -St. Isidore. 

On March 20th of the same year, two new links were created to serve Mont-Boron Hill, to the east of the city: 

B1 Masséna – Miramar, and

B2 Masséna – Col de Villefranche. 

Their routes were modified several times, only stabilizing in September 1929, the first taking Boulevard Carnot (Basse Corniche) and the second, the Chemin du Mont-Alban (Moyenne Corniche).” [1: p93]

He continues: “The year 1929 was marked by the development of road transport in the city, with the delivery of Renault buses of a Parisian type which were put into service on eight new lines which opened from 19th January to 7th October:

A: Place Masséna – St. Sylvestre, by Boulevard de Cessole;

D1: Place Masséna – Digue-des-Français, by St. Augustin;

E: The PLM Station – Port, via Berlioz, Rossini, du Congrès and Paradis streets;

F: Square Masséna – St. Etienne, by Boulevard Carabacel, Avenues Désambrois and Lambert, Streets Mirabeau, Vernier and Chemin de Pessicart;

G: Square Masséna – Le Ray, by Streets Gubernatis and de Lépante and Avenue St. Lambert;

H : Place Masséna – St. Roch, by Place Garibaldi, Rue Bonaparte and Boulevard de Riquier;

S1: Place Masséna – La Bornala, by Rue de la Buffa;

S3: Rue de l’Hôtel-des-Postes – Rimiez, by Avenue des Arènes.” [1: p93]

After this, there was a lull in the development  of bus routes with some routes opening and then closing within short periods of time.

However some routes were set up which survived. Line K: Masséna – Madeleine-Superior was created in February 1932 and in March 1933.

The tramway  is eliminated from the centre of Nice

Banaudo says:  “All the bus-lines created by the TNL between 1925 and 1933 in the municipality of Nice were established on routes complementary to the main routes travelled by tramways, either by taking streets in the city centre that had previously been left out of the network, by climbing hills that were not suitable for trams, or by opening up suburban districts that were undergoing urbanisation. Operated by limited-capacity buses where the driver issued tickets to passengers, these lines had low frequencies and carried relatively modest traffic.” [1: p95]

Early in the 1930s, following the example of Paris. TNL and the municipality began negotiations to extend the use of buses to a main route, that from Place Massêna along the Avenues of la Victoire, Malaussena and Borriglione. It was envisaged that this move would improve traffic movement and eliminate the need the costly maintenance of an electrical power supply. “On 5th June 1931, the municipal council decided to convert the lines serving St. Maurice, St. Sylvester and the Boulevard Tzarewitch to a bus-service.” [1: p95]

To implement this program, it was necessary to finance the purchase of a further sixty buses. These were ordered from ‘Renault’ and ‘Panhard et Levassor’ from 1933 onwards. The road vehicle fleet reached 144 units by the following year, surpassing the number of motorised trams. In addition, the TNL finally won a number of legal actions against interurban line operators who picked-up and put-down passengers inside the city in direct competition with trams and buses. [1: p95]

Lines were either provided with new termini, as in the case of lines to the West and East of the centre of Nice, or diverted along alternative routes as in the North of the city. Place Massena lost its trams altogether. We now know that this decision was one which came to be regretted by the municipality towards the end of the 20th century as they began to develop plans for a new tram network. [1: p95]

A new “Gare municipale d’Autobus” on the Couverture du Paillon, between the Casino Municipal and Place Massena was opened in 1934. The departures and arrivals of all long-distance lines were moved to the new bus station. The end of the tramway provision in Place Masséna saw the tramway kiosk demolished and a new “TNL Station” was built south of the Casino Municipal, along Boulevard des Italiens (now Jean-Jaurès). [1: p95]

The Tramway kiosk in Place Massena in 1913 [2]Place Massena again. [3]Avenue de Malaussena. [4]Avenue de la Victoire [5]

Monday 8th October 1934 was chosen as the date for the changes to take place. On the Sunday evening, the trams ran for the last time on Place Masséna and the south-north axis through the Avenues de la Victoire, Malaussena, Borriglione, du Ray and St Sylvestre, as well as in Joseph-Garnier Boulevard, Tzaréwitch Boulevard and on the left bank of the Paillon, between Place Masséna and Place Garibaldi. The next day, the network was completely reorganized, creating thirteen tram lines (including those of Contes and La Grave, the last vestiges of the departmental network) and twenty-two city bus lines. A new pricing system based on tickets sold in booklets came into effect. [1: p95]

There were initial problems. Users were disrupted by changes in numbering and new tram routes. The buses were considered noisy. polluting and at certain times their capacity was notoriously insufficient compared to that of the old trams and their trailers. The Nice daily newspaper “L’Eclaireur”, which from the beginning had unreservedly encouraged change, began to doubt whether it had been worthwhile. [1: p95]

My understanding of Banaudo’s comments is that the changes were hastily brought in so as to satisfy a variety of different political agendas. Hindsight suggests that the conurbation would have been better served by renovating/refurbishing its tramways rather than allowing them to fall into disrepair and be replaced by what ultimately has proved to be a poorer series of alternatives.


  1. Jose Banaudo; Nice au fil due Tram Volume 1: l’Histoire; Les Editions de Cabri, 2004.
  2., accessed on 14th October 2019.
  3., accessed on 14th October 2019.
  4., accessed on 14th October 2019.
  5.,illustrateurs,nice–41-avenue-de-la-victoire-tramway–signee-beraud-,8390.html, accessed on 14th October 2019.

Harvest 2019 – John 6: 25-35

This is a shortened version of a post from 2015. ….

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” – John 6:35 .

These words from Jesus follow the story of the feeding of the 5,000. …

We have all probably experienced what is is like to be physically hungry. Just as those 5,000 who were fed by Jesus did. However, in the context of that miracle, Jesus talks about our hunger and thirst – not so much physical but spiritual.

Just as we feel hunger, all of us experience deep longings at the core of our beings which need to be fulfilled. Longings to be accepted, to be loved, to count for something, to make an impact, for others to see us as significant, as important or as strong.

Often these longings are well hidden away, but at times we encounter them in powerful ways. Perhaps in grief over the loss of a loved one, perhaps in the dark of the night when we are less in control of our emotions, perhaps at the point where everything seems to be going so well for us, yet something seems to be missing.

So many of us are driven to fulfil these longings for significance, for meaning in our lives. Perhaps we become workaholics, or we become demanding and jealous in our relationships, or we pursue success at the cost of everything else, or we turn to alcohol or drugs, or … some of us, to add a little levity,  even go shopping.

It’s part of the human condition! We long for our deepest needs to be met and we search for ways to make this happen!

Jesus says: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Or to put it more succinctly, “I am all you will ever need.”

All those desires for meaning, for hope, for significance, for love – those thirsts, those hungers. Pursue me, get to know me, spend time with me – and I will meet them. This is not just some idle promise made by a preacher looking for something to say on a Sunday evening. These are the timeless words of Jesus. They are Jesus promise to us.

And note: he doesn’t say “I’ll find you something to do for me, and then you’ll feel better” No, Jesus is talking about our very being, the very core of who we are, the bit no one else can see. Right at the core of who we are, that’s where Jesus will be – meeting our deepest desires for wholeness. And not just sparingly, but overwhelmingly, generously, and, just as in the story of the feeding of the five thousand, there’ll be plenty of leftovers, flowing out of hearts that are truly loved. For once we really know that we are loved, we can really begin to love others.

Our thankfulness to God will overflow in love towards others. This is ultimately what our Harvest Thanksgiving is all about. We express our gratitude to God for God’s love and provision for us and as we do so we seek to make a difference in the lives of others. … We give because we have ourselves been given so much.

Bicester Military Railway – Book Review

The Bicester Military Railway. …

This book, written by E.R. Lawton and Major M.W. Sackett in 1992, [1] gives a comprehensive history of the Bicester site which extends from the original concept to the date of publication of the book.

In the 21st century, large areas of the complex have been given over to civilian use.

Lawton and Sackett chose, when putting their book together, to frame the whole text with two hand-drawn images showing the rail map of the site. These are placed inside the front and back covers of the book. My scans below are not of the highest quality. The two drawings are centred on Graven Hill, closest to Bicester; and Arncott.This book is written by two people with extensive experience of work on the railways, and particularly at Bicester. …

“Ernest Lawton served for 42 years on the LMS and later BR, including wartime duty with the Royal Engineers. During this time he became a locomotive driver on the Bicester Military Railway followed by promotion to Locomotive Supervisor at Arncott Depot. After the war he had various appointments on BR(LM) until retirement in 1981 from the Divisional Passenger Manager’s Office, Liverpool.” [1: dust-jacket]

“Major Maurice Sackett ISO [came] from a railway family, his grandfather working on the LSWR and his father on the SECR. He joined the LNER in 1937, became a member of the 6th Railway Battalion of the Home Guard on its formation, and left the Railway in 1942 on being called up to the Corps of Royal Engineers, which he served until 1947, his last military appointment being O.C. of the Railway Operating & Maintenance Detachment at Bicester. On demobilisation he accepted an appointment as a civilian operating officer on the BMR, which he served until promotion to Divisional Officer at Reading in 1961 and subsequently as the first civilian Superintendent, Army Department Railways in 1979.” [1: dust-jacket]

The introduction to the book provides a potted history of the military use of railways within the UK. The first such use was way back in 1830 when a ‘Regiment of Foot’ was transported over the recently opened Liverpool to Manchester Railway. “The movement took 2 hours compared with a march of two days after which the soldiers would have arrived exhausted and with some 20% stragglers.” [1: p8] Since then full uses has been made by the military of the civilian railway system. “Additionally they have developed their own railway expertise in the Corps of Royal Engineers and since 1965, in the Royal Corps of Transport.” [1: p8]

“It was soon recognised that railways had an important part to play in the running and organisation of military stores depots. Not only did they make connections with the civilian railways for the transfer and transport of military stores but also provided internal transport for the movement of goods within the depot.” [1: p8]

In 1805 military trials were undertaken at Shoeberryness, Essex to evaluate shells developed by the military. “By 1849 a Detachment of the Royal Artillery arrived in the tiny village of Shoeburyness to set up a School of Gunnery. … Sappers constructed a standard-gauge tramway to connect the various installations.” [1: p8] After a time using canal barges on the Theames, the military decided that a rail link to the site was required and the War Office cajoled the London, Tilbury & Southend Railway (LT&SR) to “extend their line to Shoeberyness ao as to connect with the tramway and this was completed in 1884. The size of the guns increased, the ranges were expanded as was the Tramway. … It was also required to provide a quite intensive passenger service.” {1: p8]

Shoeberyness became the forerunner of a series of different sites around the UK: Vickers made use of Eskmeals in Cumbria as a Test Range; Aldershot was provided with sidings; the LSWR constructed a line to serve military establishments at Amesbury and Bulford. During the 1914-1918 war, “a depot was built at Chilwell just outside Nottingham, which by 1916 was producing shells in great quantities. By the end of that War the railway serving the Depot had moved some 227, 000 inward loaded wagons and despatched 224,000. It was just one of six such installations.” [1: p8]

“By the mid-thirties it was becoming increasingly likely that there would be another major war and the War Office began to plan new depots to meet the situation. In sortie cases construction was commenced, such as the under-ground ammunition depot at Corsham and the large Ordnance Depot at Donnington. Amongst those planned was that at Bicester, …. Kineton (Ammunition), Long Marston (RE Stores), Longtown (Ammunition), Steventon & Lockerley (Motor Transport), West Moors (Petroleum), Cairnryan and Marchwood (Military Ports). Some were entirely new projects, others the adaption of an existing industrial facility. In the case of the Ammunition Depot at Nesscliffe the War Department took over the Shropshire & Montgomeryshire Railway in 1941 with a detachment of officers and men from 193 Railway Operating Company RE. The Depot was built alongside the main line with connecting lines to the various sub-depots and in addition to providing the military railway requirement the Royal Engineers continued to run a minimal public freight and passenger service. The line experienced the busiest period of its entire life!” [1: p9]

Detailed looks at a number of the military sites mentioned above are available on my website ( [2][3][4][5]

By 1942, there were some 39 significant military railway systems in the UK. Around 600 miles of track were in use, with over 200 locomotives. In addition there were a further 200 sites where sidings existed and agents undertook work on behalf of the military! “Some 2,400 personnel were controlled from … Headquarters … through six Divisional Commanders. … There were additionally six Railway Construction Groups.” [1: p9]

This is the context in which the Bicester Military Railway was developed, Lawton and Sackett look in detail at the development of the site. In the first Chapter of the Book, the site is developed. Known initially as ‘X’ Depot, it was renamed Bicester Central Ordnance Depot in 1940. Land was acquired in 1941 and tented camps were set up for the people involved in the building work. Early in 1942, around 1,500 Royal Engineers were working alongside others (including prisoners of war) on the building of what was becoming a vast Depot. By early 1943, over 30 miles of track had been laid. by the end of the year, the system was almost complete – over 47 miles of track and 234 turnouts/points.

The second chapter focusses on signal control system and level-crossings. The third chapter is substantial and covers the railway system at work. It is copiously illustrated with photographs coming for the life of the system from the 1940s to the late 1980s. The fourth chapter covers the Motive Power used by the military at Bicester from the early ‘Dean Goods 0-6-0 locomotives, later ‘saddle tanks’ and the series of different diesel locomotives in use in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.0-4-0 Diesel Locomotive – Storeman – on the BMR in 2014 [8]

I particularly found the examples of small railcars, photographs of which are shown alongside the text, which were supplied by Wickham, Baguley-Drewery, Hudswell-Clark and Clayton of interest.

Chapter 5, a really short chapter, highlights arrangements made for passengers on the network. There were 12 passenger platforms provided, none of them provided with passenger facilities such as waiting rooms.

Chapter 6 covers maintenance arrangements for the motive power and rolling stock; and Chapter 7 covers the maintenance of the permanent way. A final short chapter then covers the main line links to the site.

Comprehensive appendices tabulate first steam locomotives, then diesel locomotives and finally the railcars in use on the system.

The authors offer a final postcript [1: p156] which reflects on reviews which were undertaken on the value of the site up to the early 1990s. Their final comment being, “after half-a-century the BMR is still fully operational, a valuable asses in the deference structure of the United Kingdom.” [1: p156]. Sadly, with the benefit of hindsight we can say that the operation of the site was kept under review and over the years it has been downsized as parts have been sold off for civilian use.

The Garrison once occupied an area of 12½ square miles. The Garrison roads stretched over 32 miles and the Army railway had over 41 miles of track. The storage areas were enclosed by 21 square miles of perimeter fence.

In April 1999, the depot changed its name to Defence Storage and Distribution Centre (DSDC) Bicester.

In 2000, the Garrison had 850 servicemen and 2500 civilians working within its boundaries. They were the largest employer within Cherwell District Council. [6]

The BBC reported, in 2013, on the opening of Bicester Bomb Disposal Training Base. [7] So the future for Bicester Garrison is not all bleak. The railway, however, seems top have a very limited role in whatever that future might be. Perhaps others can enlighten us!


  1. Ernest Lawton & Major Maurice Sackett ISO; Bicester Military Railway; Oxford Publishing Co., 1992.
  2. Roger Farnworth; Bicester Miltary Railway;
  3. Roger Farnworth; MOD Kineton and its Railway History;
  4. Roger Farnworth; The Shropshire & Montgomersyshire Light Railway and the Nesscliffe MoD Training Area and Depot – Part 1;
  5. Roger Farnworth; The Shropshire & Montgomersyshire Light Railway and the Nesscliffe MoD Training Area and Depot – Part 2;
  6., accessed on 12th October 2019.
  7., accessed on 12th October 2019.
  8., accessed on 12th October 2019.



Faith or Faithfulness? Luke 17: 5-10

What does it mean to ‘have faith’?

Jesus says, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this tree, ‘Be uprooted and plated in the sea’, and it would obey you.”

Jesus seems to be saying: “If you can screw up enough faith, if you pray hard enough, if you really believe, then you’ll be able to do powerful things. You’ll be in control of life and God will be able to work through you! If you are just prepared to leap across that chasm believing that I will miraculously get you to the other side, then you are my disciple!  ”

But is he really? ……  Or is it rather the case that we hear him saying what we think he is saying rather than listen to him properly. After all, what do we say when things go wrong for us? …… “What have I done to deserve this?” “Why is this illness happening to me?” … It is as though we do really believe that we have the power to make our circumstances right, just be being better people, by having more faith?

And so, when we hear the word ‘faith’ we so often think of something rather like the flexing of spiritual muscles, or determinedly screwing ourselves up to believe. “If only I had more faith,” we say. “If only I really believed.” … And so many of us fail to achieve this … and as a result so many turn their back on ‘faith’: “It does not work,” they say.

And so when we hear those verses in Luke 17 we hear Jesus saying something, perhaps quite sarcastic: “Faith, don’t talk to me about your faith, you have not even got enough to fill a mustard seed, if you had you’d be doing all sorts of marvellous things in my name.”

But when we do so, we miss the point.

called_chosen_-faithful_part3-680x300What Jesus is actually saying is something much more like this: “Faith is about trusting in an all powerful God, it is about living faithfully to what you believe, it is about faithful service. Just a tiny little bit of that kind of faithful living will change the world.”

Where is the evidence for reading the Gospel this way?

Firstly, there is the whole of the reading above. In the first two verses Jesus talks about faith – but then he goes on to talk about masters and slaves. He could be talking about the way in which the physical world should obey its masters, those masters being his followers who have faith. But I don’t think he is. Let’s just focus on Luke 17:10 which tells us so much about ‘faith’ …

Jesus says: “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

‘Faith’  is all about being ‘faithful’. We are slaves, servants of our master, and the greatest and the best thing that we can say of ourselves is that we have lived faithful to that calling – we have served our master, we have lived faith-fully.

Second, there is that word ‘faith’; ‘pisteo‘ in the Greek. It is used consistently through the Greek version of the bible for being faithful, trustworthy, sure and true. Just here in Luke:

Luke 12:42                faithful and prudentfruitosp_faithfulness

Luke 16:10-12          faithful, faithful, faithful

Luke 19:17                trustworthy

In each of these cases, and throughout the New testament, it is the same root word,  ‘pisteo‘. So when Jesus uses the word ‘faith’, he is not asking us to screw ourselves up to believe, but he is asking us to live faithfully to what we believe, to be his trustworthy followers. To be faithful and prudent. “Those who live this way,” says Jesus, “Are people of faith. … And, (in the figurative language that he is using) it won’t just be a mulberry tree that is uprooted, even the gates of hell will not prevail against them.”gar-19

Angels and Mirrors ….. John 1: 47-51 … Michaelmas 2019

First, I have to say that I believe in Angels … both as God’s messengers and as beings that sometimes intervene.

A true story. … A few years ago now, my wife, Jo, my mother-in-law, Elisabeth and I were travelling back from West Wales to Leominster where Elisabeth lived. The A-roads in the area are relatively narrow and they twist and turn with high hedges either side. It was late in the evening and dark. Just after rounding a sharp 90-degree bend, a tyre blew on our car. It was a dangerous location and the road was too narrow to be changing a tyre without some sort of ‘protection’. Jo headed round the bend with a torch to flag down drivers and let them know of the obstruction ahead. We all tried our mobiles. … There was no signal. We tried to work out where the nearest house was but could see nothing.

At that moment a Range Rover stopped near Jo and ask what the problems was. The driver left his vehicle beyond the bend with hazard lights flashing walked over to our car, changed the tyre, shook our hands and left. We did get chance to say thank you. But before we knew it he was on his way and gone. We encountered an angel!

Let’s set aside ‘Angels’ for a moment and think a little about the Gospel reading set for Michaelmas in 2019. … John 1: 47-51.

What do you see when you look in the mirror? … Do you like what you see?

I am still surprised by the age of the person who looks back at me out of the mirror. I feel as though I am no different than I was twenty years ago but the mirror does not lie!

Many of us when we look in the mirror can be quite critical and wish that a different face was looking back at us.  And yet, if we say these things to someone else, they often wonder what we are talking about!

If we see an image that we wish was different – others don’t seem to see the flaws that we can see.  Those close to us see the face of the person they know and love – yes, not perfect – but certainly not someone who needs to worry about their appearance!

I am always surprised when I read a column is the glossy magazines that come with weekend papers, and hear someone famous or beautiful, or both, talking about themselves. It is as though someone who seems attractive and self-confident has looked in the mirror and as a result they are surprisingly over-critical of the face that looks back at them, the person that they see.

And it’s not just our looks, is it. … We can underestimate our abilities, our gifts and skills; we can be reticent about trying out something new because we think that we’ll be no good at it; we can even get some kind of distorted sense that it’s wrong to think about the things that we’re good at, in case we’re thought to be overconfident or boastful!  Sadly, so often, this holds people back from reaching their God-given potential – using their gifts and talents to help others and being comfortable with who they are.

Many of us keep parts of ourselves hidden even from our nearest and dearest.

Nathaniel, in our Gospel reading, was probably no different – he assumed that he could control what people knew about him. And then he met Jesus. … Jesus seems to know all about him, without having met him.

Jesus sees Nathaniel coming towards him and says ‘Here’s a true Israelite – without a false bone in his body.’ Nathaniel is amazed ‘How do you know me?’ he asks. ‘Ahh… says Jesus, ‘One day before Philip brought you to me, I saw you sitting under the fig tree’.

Jesus seemed to know everything about Nathaniel – from just having seen him under a fig tree. … From that glance, Jesus was able to decide that here was someone he wanted in the group of his twelve closest companions. No lengthy interview, not gathering of references – Jesus just knew.

We see this throughout the Bible, that God, that Jesus, knows things about people that enable God to give those people a new direction in life.  Jesus, meeting the woman at the well, surprises her because he knows about her past – and instead of feeling embarrassed, she runs off to tell her town all about this man. They put their faith in him – she’s an unlikely evangelist!

God is not a distant authoritarian figure judging us from afar, but a God who is tender, who is loving, who knows and experiences the messy-ness of life.  God knows us, warts and all, and keeps on loving us. God sees the good and the bad in us, and keeps on loving us. God is saddened when we stray from the way of living that he knows is best for us – but he’s not there with a notebook putting down another note about our failings, he’s longing for us to recognise where we get things wrong and to turn to him to show us how to live differently.

God lovingly ‘created our inmost parts and knit us together in our mother’s womb’ and who is saddened when we don’t like the way we look, because we’re rejecting his gift of creation.

God made us who we are, giving us unique gifts, and is saddened when we don’t use them, as if we’re saying that we know better than him.

What do we see when we look at ourselves in a mirror, or in our weakest moments? Is it an image that we have developed ourselves, is it based on rude and unfair comments made by someone in the past, or is it going to be based on what God thinks of us. A God who knows me and loves me.

In the grand scheme of things, that is all that really matters.  That knowledge allows me to be truly me, the me that God has created, known and called.

What does this have to do with St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael and Michaelmas?

Just this, I think. …. Angels are messengers. The most famous are Michael and Gabriel. They bring God’s message to his people. They speak the words of God. Overwhelmingly in the Bible we see Angels bringing words of hope, encouragement and blessing, whether it is to Abram and Sarah, to Jacob or to Samson’s parents, or to Gideon or to Joseph or Mary or Zechariah, or to us.

Angels are truth-speakers and overwhelmingly their message to us will be encouraging and up-building, they see us and speak to us through the eyes and mouth of God. They see us as children of God.

Michael and Gabriel, and Jesus, all call on us to be the people God intended us to be, loved and loving, blessed and blessing others, full of grace and gracious towards others.

And finally. ……………………. Angels drive Range Rovers!

Two Pocket Books about the Forest of Dean

In the Autumn of 2019 we spent a week in the Forest of Dean. I came across two books about the Forest which are both quite small. Both are facsimile copies of much older works.

A Week’s Holiday in the Forest of Dean

The first appears in the featured image above. It is a copy of a book written by John Bellows, a well-known publisher based in Gloucester. “A Week’s Holiday in the Forest of Dean” was first published in the 1880s and facsimile copy was prepared and published in 2013 by Holborn House Publishing. [1] A preface has been added, written by Ian Standing, it gives some biographical details about John Bellows and covers the publication history of the book.

Bellows chose to travel from the Midland Station in Gloucester to Berkeley Road and then through Sharpness along the Severn and Wye Joint Railway. His journey took him across the Severn Railway Bridge and on through Lydney into the Forest.

He describes the station at Speech House Road and the walk up to Speech House from the Station.

Then, the following morning, Bellow’s party travelled down the hill from Speech House to Cannop Brook. Crossing the bridge, they spent a short while viewing the chemical works which were at that location before pungent odours chased them away. Their route, for a short way, was then along an old tramway. [1:p25] Might this tramway have been the Bixlade Tramway or part of the route of the Severn and Wye Tramway which was the fore-runner of the later standard-gauge railway?

Perhaps the more likely tramway is that which ran up Wimberry Slade, the route of which ran through what became Cannop Colliery and in much more recent times a Highway Depot for the Forest and a Cycle Hire Centre.

There are references throughout the text to the railways in the Forest. … In Bellows journeys around the Forest, trains were used, as were the railway lines which carried them. Bellows casually remarks that the route to Trafalgar Pit from Speech house involved his party walking, “straight across the open turf and down the path across the Beechen Hurst, til [they] strike the Railway in the Valley, mount the embankment, and walk along it to the right as far as the signal-box, where we leave it for a forest path on the left, running parallel to the line, which brings us to the huge ‘dirt-heap’, on which the rubbish of the pit is shot.” [1:p59]

Bellows party goes on to visit St. Briavels. He comments: “The train from Speech House Road would deposit us at Millwall Station, with no fewer than nine important iron ore mines within the circuit of a mile.” [1:p61]

This little facsimile book is a pleasure to read and a excellent way if getting a feel for what the Forest of Dean was like in the late 19th century.

Fine Forest of Dean Coal

The second little book was originally published by the Forest of Dean Colliery Owners’ Association, Cinderford. It carries a lot of contemporary advertising and is itself a publicity booklet for the coal mining industry in the Forest of Dean. It has been reproduced in the Lightmoor Facsimile Series and is No. 2 in that series.

The booklet contains a short history of mining in the Forest, clarifies the status of Free Miners, explains the arrangement of the different coal measures underground.

The Fuel research board had just completed a survey of the coalfield focussing on the Coleford Highdelf Seam which was worked by the remaining large collieries. The moisture content of the coal prior to extraction and treatment was 3.4%. Once air-dried, the moisture content reduced to 2.8%. The volatile matter in the coal amounted to close to 40%.

All of the collieries in operation in the forest were fitted with modern screening arrangements and picking belts. Cannop had recently had a Dry-Cleaning Plant installed for small coal below 2″.

The booklet focusses on each of the collieries in the Forest in turn: Cannop, Lightmoor, Eastern United, Northern United, Lydney & Crump Meadow, Parkend Deep Navigation (New Fancy), Princess Royal, Park Collieries. Each has at least one photograph.


1. Ian Standing and David Harris; A Week’s Holiday in the Forest of Dean; facsimile copy of a publication with the same title written by John Bellows; Holborn House, 2013.

2. J. Burrow, Ed.; Fine Forest of Dean Coal; Forest of Dean Colliery Owners’ Association, Cinderford; facsimile published by Lightmoor in the series … Lightmoor Facsimile Series, No. 2.