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Mum and Dad – Part 2 – Mum

This the second of two posts about my parents. The first tells Dad’s story:

This post tells Mum’s story, predominently in her own words ….

Mum was born in Tonbridge, Kent [1] in the home of friends of her parents on 14th December 1929. She had an older brother, Bernard, born on 2nd January 1924 in a hospital in London. Her maiden name was Phyllis Rosanna Ellen Norton (Rosanna was her Mother’s Mother’s name and Ellen was her Father’s Mother’s name).

Mum was actually Christened ‘Hosanna’ as the clergyman didn’t hear properly!

Early in her life, Mum lived in Tonbridge – she says that she did not play out as a child, nor go to school until she was 6 years old; her mother didn’t want to part with her. The ‘school-board’ man came to visit to see why she was not there!

Mum’s dad (we called him Garpe) had his own business and was doing reasonably well, but his brother joined him and became a sleeping partner, needing a share in the profits but doing very little. To ease the situation, Garpe returned to being a shipwright in Chatham dockyard and moved his family to Gillingham. The house in Tonbridge was let out and they rented one in Gillingham. Mum thinks that this happened early 1938.

Later in 1938, with the scare of war, she was sent back from Gillingham to Tonbridge to live with her Uncle Syd and family. Mum did not think thatbshe was too unhappy, but her mother (our Nana) was and as a reult Mum went back to Gillingham in 1939. School was an unhappy time for Mum in Gillingham. She says: “I was picked on by head and staff and children.”

In 1939, Mum sat the scholarship and passed. She and her family moved to Plymouth in 1940 as Garpe (misguidedly, as it turned out) thought it would be safer – he transferred to Plymouth dockyard. Mum went to a local primary school, but was transferred to Devonport High School – in a blue summer dress, while everyone else was in a brown uniform!

Devonport High School for Girls (1940). [2]

Early that first term,  as far as Mum can remember, Devonport High School was evacuated to Tiverton, but she stayed in Plymouth and went to Plymouth Emergency High School. Before the evacuation, Mum remembered crossing one of the quadrangles and being fired on from an aeroplane. She also remembered a land-mine landing just in front of the school one night.

For a while, mum and her mother slept out of town at Bere Ferrers to avoid the worst bombing, although that didn’t last long. She remembered watching incendiaries being dropped in fields opposite the family home, also hearing explosions when a fort nearby was hit, and, going up a road close by to witness Plymouth on fire from end to end!

In Spring 1945, Mum had some 6 weeks off school with scarlet fever – during that time,she says: “I read a book called ‘Stepping Heavenwards’ and it helped me, as I’d been lacking assurance (I was never sure that I was truly converted).” After that time Mum returned to school in time for School Certificate at Plymouth Emergency High School.

St. Budeaux Parish Church.[5]

Mum and her family continued living in Higher St. Budeaux during the war and going to St. Budeaux Parish Church and she went to Sunday School there too. Come Summer 1945, the war ended and life returned somewhat to as it had been. Mum returned to Devonport High School;  In her own words: “I think mornings only to start with, I went into the 6th Form and was over zealous for the Lord – nevertheless a number of girls came to know Him, both at school and other friends too. Miss Moore, the head at that time, asked me what I wanted to do and I said I didn’t mind as long as it was what God wanted! She called another teacher and I had to repeat myself. Later, I presumed they were both Christians.”

Just a bit later, with a new head, Miss Vale, interviewing Nana, she said, ‘I’d be alright when I got rid of the Youth for Christ’ nonsense. Mum says, “I was so thankful it was my mother, who was a Christian and not one of the other girls’ parents, who weren’t Christians.”

Mum organised a group of students who used to meet, before school, in the Physics lab dark room to pray once a week. She had three years in the 6th Form and then went to Stockwell Teacher Training College in Bromley, Kent to train for teaching. At that time is was a 2 year course.

While at college, she was involved with the Christian Union and held responsible positions both in the hostel (1st year) and then in college. During this time, the Christian Union booked General Dobbie to speak, but as he was such an important person, the Principal made it a compulsory lecture for the whole college, so everyone heard his testimony.

In the Summer holiday before the second year’s training it was expected that you’d do some teaching practice. However, if you were to help lead a holiday camp, that would count, so Mum opted to help at a Church Pastoral Aid camp in the South of England.

Following college, Mum started teaching Reception Class in West Park Primary, Plymouth and also took on responsibility for Plymouth National Young Life Campaign and she was baptised (by full immersion) and went to St. Budeaux Baptist to worship. As Garpe was not happy to use public transport on Sundays – the family used to walk to and fro to church. At this time, she was very involved with Open-air work and preaching on the Baptist Lay Preachers plan. Open-air work was Saturday night in the red-light district in Plymouth, while Sunday afternoons they hired p.a. equipment and went to beaches – Kings and Cawsand, etc.

After 18 months teaching, which Mum says she thoroughly enjoyed – sometimes 50+ in class. Mum applied to go nursing 18 months ahead, but live at home (her parents had never wanted Mum to nurse! She applied early so that they would get used to the idea). However, Mum failed the medical!! Although she was later accepted.

Proof that Mum worked as a nurse can be found in the Ladybird Book of Nursing! In this picture, Mum is on the left holding the lantern over the piano. [4]

Mum says: “All except one person thought I was stepping out of God’s will in going nursing! It was not easy to start with, but again despite a lot of ups and downs, overall I enjoyed it. While nursing, often when I had an evening off, I would phone a friend of ours at the Royal Engineering College near home, and invite any Christians to come round for a time of fellowship (prayer, bible study and refreshments). I’d collect any nurses interested as well. It was at this time that Fred first appeared.”

Mum moved round from different hospitals and wards, for experience, including the Fever hospital, sometimes having to walk several miles to start work at 7.30am! She completed her studies with the Gold Medal and a Nursing Prize. Later, she got the midwifery prize too. In those days for midwifery you did 6 months in different departments in the hospital and then 6 months on the district, working with a midwife and always on call.

Having done S.R.N. and S.C.M. Mum wondered what God would have her do. Mum says: “Church reckoned I was going to the mission field! I applied to go back teaching, but was turned down!! A job opened up to teach at a school for cerebral palsy children and they were thrilled to have me.”

Dad (Fred) appeared back on the scene (some years later now) and during late 58 and early 59, Mum says: “We felt we should marry – hence on 1st August 1959, we married and had Psalm 34:3 ‘Let us exalt his name together’ engraved in our rings as that was what we hoped our marriage would do.”

Mum and Dad set up home in a flat near Altrincham, buying a house in mid-December in Altrincham as well. They had folks staying for Christmas too!! Dad was working for Shell and Mum taught in a primary school at that time. Roger arrived in May 1960. He was born in the local hospital on Sinderland Road, just round the corner; as was Gill some 19 months later, on 27th December 1961.

At this time they worshipped at Devonshire Road Evangelical Church (which was Brethren based).Devonshire Road Evangelical Church in the early 21st Century. The old building which we attended and which abutted the old Ice Rink in Altircham has long gone.

Each Christmas from 1960 on, for 11 years, they had both sets of parents and Fred’s younger sister, Christine, to stay. Mum and Dad thought that they might change the pattern, but then one of them was not well, so the pattern changed anyway.

In January 1965, until the end of that year, Dad went to Bolton each day to study for a teaching certificate. It was 2nd May that year that David was born by Caesarian Section at Wythenshawe Hospital. Mum says: “He didn’t make his own way into the world as he had a broader head than Roger and Gill. Roger and Gill stayed with Fred’s Mum and Dad for the spring of that year.”

Amazingly, having had no income for the year, after Dad had finished at Bolton, Mum and Dad bought their first car – a Reliant 3-wheeler van, which Dad drove on a motor-cycle licence. There was no reverse gear in these Reliant’s and there were a few occasions on holiday in rural areas when some awkward moments occurred when on narrow lanes other drivers expected Dad to reverse out of their way.

Kingston-upon-Hull was Dad’s first teaching post, starting at the beginning of January 1966. We all moved house after Christmas, from Altrincham to Willerby, on the outskirts of Hull, just in time for Dad to start at the college at the beginning of term. This happene,” says Mum, “thanks to me ringing our buyer’s solicitor just before Christmas, as the solicitors were sitting on the papers and we could not move – the Solicitor’s comment to our buyers was ‘That woman rang me up!’ Our buyer was grateful anyway.”

Roger and Gill went to school further down Carr Lane, where we were living. It was in October 1966 that Ian was born at Beverley. He had been elbow and cord presenting, but was delivered breach under anaesthetic. The Doctors reckoned that Mum should not have any more children as she had been through most of the midwife’s textbook! (What would it have been like to have younger siblings after Ian?

While we lived in Hull we worshipped at Walton Street Gospel Hall. Mum was involved with an evangelistic team that visited Hull prison and the mental hospital in Willerby. The picture above shows Walton Street at the approximate location of the Gospel Hall which now seems to have been removed. It stood opposite the fairground where the Nottingham Goose Fair came each year.

It was in 1970 that we moved to Braintree, Essex. Dad had accepted a position as a Senior lecturer at the technical College in Chelmsford. We sold our home in Willerby and the furniture went into store. Dad started his job and looked for a property for us. Meanwhile, with the children, Mum moved in with Nana, in Tonbridge. We found a 5-bedroomed house and eventually moved in, in Braintree.

We applied to the primary school in Braintree, hoping that Roger, Gill and David would be admitted there. Ian was still too young for school. A letter arrived from the school and Mum feared they weren’t able to accept the children, but it was to ask her to teach a class of Junior age children. She didn’t really want to refuse in case it was what God had planned, but she did rather hope that the Education Authority would not accept her!!!

Manor Road Primary School, Braintree Essex. Roger can remember: playing in the playground; teachers names such as Mr West and Mr Broad; being forced by the school bully to suport Arsenal and then discovering that they had won the double.

In September of that year, Roger, Gill, David and Ian all started with Mum at the school. Ian in Reception class! Mum says: “Over all I think we coped until Fred accepted a post in Kings Lynn. That was after a couple of years. His post was for Head of Department – we weren’t sure what we should do as a family. However, we thought if I applied for a job in Kings Lynn and got it then we’d take it that we should all move.”

Sprite Major Caravan from the early 1970s.

Mum continues: “Then started a bit of a picnic!?! We couldn’t sell our house (that’s a story in itself). So we bought a towing caravan that would cater for 6 of us and moved to Kings Lynn on a caravan site in Pentney, outside Kings Lynn.”

From Monday to Friday we all lived in the caravan, going back to Braintree for weekends to get the washing done. After a few weeks, a memo came round the schools about a school house, available to rent at Terrington St. Clements. We rented it, taking our caravan with us and moving some furniture up from Braintree – eventually our Braintree house sold and we bought a new four-bedroom house on the outskirts of Kings Lynn, near the new hospital.During this time we worshipped at Seabank Chapel. Dad led the Covenantors and Mum was in the Sunday School. She was Area Secretary for Scripture Union and helped with Crusaders on Fairstead Estate and at Sandringham.Life continued quite busily. Mum and Dad offered for her mother (Nana) to come and live with us after her father died in 1968, but it wasn’t until 1980 that she felt that she’d had enough in Tonbridge. We had a Granny flat built and two extra bedrooms over the top – so that all the children had their own bedroom. Mum became a part-time teacher at Pott Row (before that she’d taught at Rosebery Avenue).Rosebery Avenue Primary School. [6]

After Pott Row, she taught for a while at a private school (where Princess Diana had been a pupil), and at the same time at a special school for ESN children, as the school hours were different.

Mum says: “Fred retired at the end of 1985, I think. I had already retired by then. We wondered what the Lord would have us do. After various opportunities, we left Kings Lynn and moved to rural Oxfordshire to look after 14 bungalows for Datchet Evangelical Fellowship. We had No. 12 and Nana, No. 11. They had been built for retired missionaries and full-time Christian workers.” The family had more-or-less all left home by then.The Red Lion in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, the village was dominated by thatched properties.

After about 6 months to a year after arriving in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, the pastor at the little chapel resigned as he had a nervous breakdown. Mum says: “We then led the little church for about 7 years until they appointed a full-time worker. About the same time, Datchet Evangelical Fellowship decided to sell the bungalows and Nana died at the age of 99.”

Mum continues: “What next Lord? … We moved to our little place in Didcot and worshipped at East Hanney Mission. In the meanwhile we were sorting out ready to go to Lusaka, Zambia with Africa Evangelical Fellowship, officially for Fred to be a Town and Travel Manager. I usually helped, but also, we provided meals for missionaries passing through Lusaka and did clinics and radio work when missionaries had gone home for furlough. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Africa.”

Part way through the time, Mum came back through the U.K. to Pakistan, as Gill was expecting their third child and giving birth in the Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi. They had a 2-bed room and Mum was able to sleep in the bed next to Gill. The surgery was good, but the nursing left a lot to be desired!

After Mum returned to Zambia, she was not well. In looking back, it was due to endeavouring to remove burglar wires and decorate our bungalow. Mum says: “At the time the missionary doctor thought I had a brain tumour. I came to the U.K. for tests, etc. and Fred delights to tell people that the Neurological Hospital in London could find nothing … no brain!! I did join Fred again in Lusaka and we completed our 2 year stint.”

Returning to the UK, Mum and Dad felt that they should look for a town, not to large, where there was a hospital and shopping centre and where they could do something useful. Retford seemed to fit the bill and they were able to help at Book Aid, part-time. They lived in Mattersey Thorpe and worshipped in Bawtry at the Evangelical Church.At this stage Mum and Dad were fairly active, but thought it was time to consider their Home-call (Mum’s words) and after much prayer and thought moved to a bungalow in Auchlochan – a Christian retirement complex, having several buildings catering for different stages of old age, including full care, if necessary. Mum and Dad had one of the bungalows at the right-hand side of the above plan.

Mum says: “We did enjoy it, but one problem was accessibility to hospitals in Glasgow or Edinburgh. So, when I was not well, we felt we should come back to England. From first thinking this to moving in at Royd Court in Mirfield (a Pilgrim Home) it was about 3 months. We sold the bungalow, got rid of loads of books, furniture, etc., bought a two-bedroom flat in a Pilgrim Homes Independent Living Complex! What a blessing – had an excellent doctor across the road who set the ball rolling for me to go to St. James’ Hospital in Leeds for major surgery for removal of a cancerous growth – a Whipples operation. This operation was really successful.”

Mum concludes her own notes by saying that they worshipped at Batley Evangelical Church and have been very blessed and encouraged there. Since Mum wrote those notes a few years ago, she has suffered from womb cancer and most recently from the effects of secondaries from the womb cancer on her lungs.

Once Mum had her diagnosis and had been told that there was little that could be done for her, she began to put her affairs in order and until very recently used the time God left her in ministry within the confines of Royd Court. Mum was greatly looking forward to what she called her ‘home-call’.

As a family, we have seen the love and care that Mum and Dad have experienced in the immediate communities to which they have belonged in the Mirfield area, at Royd Court and at Batley Evangelical Church. And we are grateful to all who have provided care for Mum in these last few months.


  1., accessed first on 1st August 2016.
  2. accessed on 13th November 2018.
  3., accessed on 13th November 2018.
  4., accessed on 13th November 2018.
  5., accessed on 13th November 2018.
  6., accessed first on 1st August 2016.



Mum and Dad – Part 1 – Dad

We lost my father in the Summer last year (2017) and as I write (11th November 2018), Mum is on her way to glory. Both of them had a strong Christian faith and were sure of their place with the Lord in heaven. Some of Dad’s last words to Mum were … ‘I go to a better, better place.’

I want to write a little about both Mum and Dad. I hope that you will indulge me in a couple of posts! The second of these posts tells Mum’s story and can be found at:

I have just said in sermons on Remembrance Sunday (2018) that we are rooted in who we are most effectively when we tell our own stories and as we hear the stories of our communities. …… So perhaps it is appropriate that I tell the story of two saints that I remember with affection.

The words below are predominantly those that Dad wanted to say about himself.

In the second post I’ll share Mum’s story too.  …

Dad was born on 29th September 1931 at Nelson Street, Horwich, to Wilfred and Hilda Mary (nee Carr) Farnworth. His Dad (Grandad) was a blacksmith at Horwich Loco Works and his Mum was a Cotton Mill worker prior to getting married. Dad’s first visit to church was when he was 2 weeks old. His family went to Horwich Gospel Hall. Apparently he was not interested in the message but was reported to be sucking noisily and had a good meal!

Dad was not sure of the date, but his family moved to 29 (I think), Crown Lane  when Grandad became unemployed. For a time Grandad worked for engine builders in the Salford area (possibly Beyer Garrett) before finding work at Derby L.M.S.  Loco Works.

Before moving to the Midlands they were living next door to Grandma’s parents and Dad had his first experience of death when his Grandma died. Dad was about 3 years old and was found sitting on the bed talking to the corpse. They also lived within 300 yards of Grandad’s parents who had a chicken farm. Dad said: “I was a regular visitor, primarily to get in on Gran’s cooking!”

Dad shares two things that he was reputed to have done. He said …. “I eloped to school when about 3 years old. All the kids down the row were going, so I just joined them!” and, “During a particularly dry summer, the women were asked not to empty their wash tubs so that local gardeners could use the water. I ended up in our’s and was fished out by my Grandad – very wet!”

Around 1935, Dad and his family moved to Derby for Grandad’s work. They lived at 768 Osmaston Road and went to church at Curzon Street Gospel Hall in the City centre. Dad says it was a “solemn assembly!”

He started school at Nightingale Road School which was next door to the Rolls Royce factory. “The nearest,” says Dad, “that I ever got to a ‘Roller’. He made a second attempt at drowning himself by falling through the ice on the frozen canal and being fished out by a passing stranger who took him home – again dripping wet! 

Around 1938 Grandad was, again, out of work until he found a job as a blacksmith working for Stanton (later Stanton and Staveley) Iron Works. They moved to 28, Shanklin Drive, Stapleford and went to church at Eatons Road Gospel Hall (another solemn assembly!). Church was made more solemn by all the younger men going off to war.

Dad attended Albany Primary School and Grandma worked at the local ‘National Feeding Centre’. Eventually, Grandad went back to Derby L.M.S. Works, mainly working nights, but we continued to live in Stapleford.

In September 1942, Dad went to Henry Mellish Grammar School, Bulwell and remained there until 1949,  for School Certificate and Higher School Certificate. He couldn’t remember the results. He was far more interested in rugby, swimming, cricket and athletics at school, and soccer (Stapleford Rovers and others) out of school. The round ball was banned at the grammar school! There were no more drowning incidents, but he did learn to swim in the local canal – warm, smelly and dirty!

In September 1949, Dad went to Loughborough College (as it was then, now Loughborough University),  staying there for 3 years. He studied Mechanical Engineering. It was an unusual arrangement – one week in lectures and then the next week in the extensive college workshops. He gained a 1st Class honours Mechanical Engineering Diploma. His priorities were quite clear. He says: “I went home most weekends to play football.”

While at College Dad had contact with a strong Christian Union, a number of members later became Christian Leaders and Missionaries.

After College, in 1952, Dad started working in Birmingham  for the General  Electric Company (GEC) as a graduate apprentice at their Witton Works. He was mainly working on heavy electrical machinery for the first year.

Dad was in digs with the Fletcher family at 47, Wheelwright Road, Erdington. Mrs Fletcher was the widow of the man who’d headed up the GEC Accounts Department. She was a rather presidential Victorian old lady who was rather domineering. Dad says: “Just imagine my reaction.”

Two of their 4 children had married and incurred disapproval, and so were never mentioned! The two remaining children were Kitty, who was a rather sour middle-aged spinster who taught at a Girl’s Grammar School; and  Theo who brought some reality into the setup! He worked at GEC in Research and was one of the leaders of the Erdington Boy Crusader Class. Interestingly, Theo married immediately after his mother died!i

The Fletchers had a live-in maid, an old spinster who was a very good cook. Dad says: “That enabled me to bear with the rest of it!”

Dad comments: “After an introduction to church at two weeks of age, and with biblical things running like blood through my veins it was not, however, until the time spent in Birmingham that Jesus became real to me and I was baptised at Charlton Road Gospel Hall.

In about August 1953, Dad was transferred to London (Erith) by GEC to Fraser and Chalmers – manufacturers of heavy  mining  machinery for a period of just over 12 months. He lived in Rostrevor Guest House, Belvedere and worshipped at Belvedere Gospel Hall – a happy family – a time of spiritual growth. He was involved as a Counsellor at the 1954 Harringay Billy Graham Crusade.

From November 1954 until November 1956, Dad did his 2 years National Service in the Royal Navy (RNVR). He says: “Initially, for basic courses, I was a Stoker at HMS Raleigh in Plymouth. Then as a Sub.Lt(E) for 3 months at R.N. Engineering College Manadon, Plymouth. It was during this time that I first met Phyl (and her very welcome cheese pies) at times of fellowship at her home with other naval folk and some nurses. I was then posted abroad.”

(You may have picked up a common theme in Dad’s autobiography …. food!)

Dad served in Malta on HMS Striker (a tank landing craft) and HMS Whirlwind (a frigate) around the Mediterranean, Northern Ireland, Spain, France and Bermuda – all for short stays Finally, he served on HMS Savage for trials of low noise propellers to avoid submarine detection.

Dad says: “These were times of spiritual growth and great fellowship, both with naval personnel an in the churches that I visited, particularly in Malta. I found my theological views being broadened!”

In November 1956, Dad found himself working with ‘Shell’ at Stanlow Refinery as plant maintenance engineer for major petrochemical plants. He lived in Chester and worshipped at Chester Gospel Hall.

In February 1958, Dad was transferred to ‘Shell Chemicals’ at Carrington as Project Engineer for the production of petrochemicals (polyethylene and polystyrene). It was at this time that he became a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Dad was living initially in Sale, and then later (1960) in Broadheath at 112, Lindsell Road. he says: “I married Phyl in August 1959 and we were worshipping at Hebron Hall, close to the ice-rink in Altrincham. For some of the time I served as an Elder. Over the next few years, Roger, Gill and Dave joined the family.”

In 1965, Dad gave up working for Shell Chemicals and studied at Bolton Teacher Training College.The family continued living in Broadheath. 

We moved, right at the end of 1965, to Hull. From January 1966 to 1970 we lived at 103, Carr Lane, Willerby and Dad was lecturing at Hull Technical College. We were worshipping at Walton Street Gospel Hall and Dad was an Elder for part of the time that we were there.  Ian, my youngest brother joined us in 1966 and  Dad says, “We became ‘F, P & Co. Ltd’!”

From 1970 to 1972 we lived in Braintree in Essex and Dad taught at Chelmsford Tech. (Dovedale) as a Senior Lecturer. We lived on Sycamore Grove in Braintree and worshipped at Coggeshall Road Gospel Hall in Braintree.

We lived in Kings Lynn, Norfolk from 1972. Mum and Dad stayed there until 1986. Dad was based Norfolk College in Kings Lynn as Head of the Engineering Department and later as Head of the Faculty of Technology until early retirement in December 1985.

We lived, first, for about 12 months in Terrington St. Clement and then at 5, Elvington in Gaywood in King’s Lynn We worshipped at Seabank Chapel and I led the Covenantor Group for several years. During this time, Nana, Phyl’s mum came to live with us in a Granny Flat extension to the house.

There is, perhaps, a lot more to tell about Mum and Dad’s last few years in King’s Lynn as they found themselves in the midst of difficult times at Seabank Chapel. Dad chose not to focus on this in his notes, but they really were difficult times for both Mum and Dad. By this time, I was living in Manchester and watching from afar. Dad and Mum showed great integrity and leadership during this time and suffered some significant levels of stress.

Dad and I had/have differing views about our shared faith and he struggled with my decision to become an Anglican priest, feeling unable to take Communion from me. However, he always acted with integrity and at times found remaining true to his convictions difficult, physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Mum and Dad moved to Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, in South Oxfordshire in August 1986 to manage a small estate  of 15 bungalows mainly provided for retired missionaries and Christian workers. There were some very interesting folk. Nana had her own bungalow. The estate belonged to the Datchet Evangelical Fellowship (later to be known as ‘Rural Ministries’).

Dad and Mum also had a small house in Didcot because their bungalow on site in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell was very small. They worshipped in the little free church (FIEC) in the village. After about 6 months of being there, the young pastor of the church had a breakdown and eventually resigned and moved away. Dad led the church for about 7 years until a new pastor was appointed. At almost the same tim as the new pastor was appointed, Nana died at the age of 99 years and the Datchet Evangelical Fellowship decided to sell the  complex of bungalows. Mum and Dad moved into their house in Didcot.

While Dad and Mum were in Brightwell they were involved not only in looking after the bungalows and leading the FIEC church, but also took part in various village-wide things like Lent Courses and a Men’s Prayer Breakfast.

Mum and Dad lived in Didcot for a further 12 months, worshipping and helping out in a small Mission Church in Hanney, Oxfordshire. At the end of that 12 months they rented out the Didcot house and set off for Zambia!

From 1994 to 1996, Mum and Dad worked for ‘Africa Evangelical Fellowship’ seconded to the ‘Evangelical Church in Zambia’. The brief said: ‘To work as Town & Travel Manager’. The job spec. included the phrase: ‘must be able to cope with a high degree of ambiguity’ – Spot on! The job involved virtually all of the mission business in Lusaka – immigration, customs, banking, post office, travel agents, technical shopping for folks up country, and airport duties (meeting people coming into the country and helping others leave.

Dad says: “I succeeded in losing the Australian Office Manager. Having delivered him to the airport at 5am om a Sunday morning for a flight to Namibia (2 hours), we received a call at 2pm: ‘Where is he?’ I guess that he got there eventually but I have never heard of him since.  Was this a case of lions at the airport?”

Meanwhile, Dad says, “Phyl did all kinds of things – helping him in Lusaka, standing in for folks who should have spoken on the radio, various clinics, etc.”

They lived at Chamba valley, 10 kilometres outside Lusaka and worshipped at the mission church on site. Occasionally they travelled in, on a Sunday evening, to worship at Lusaka Baptist Church. Their little car, a Subaru Justy, enabled them to travel out quite a bit on business and for holidays to:

  • North West and South West Zambia
  • Zimbabwe (several times) – to Kariba, Harare, Victoria Falls and the eastern highlands
  • Botswana
  • South Africa – to Johannesburg, Durban and the Kruger Game Park
  • Malawi – including a 4 day sail down the lake on a ferry as it carried local passengers and goods from port to port. 

From 1996 to 1997, after getting back from Zambia, Dad and Mum spent about 12 months living in Didcot before selling up and moving to Mattersey Thorpe, North Nottinghamshire.

From 1997-2005, Mum and Dad worked part-time with Book Aid, in their Ranskill Store, and  worshipped at Bawtry Evangelical Church.

In 2005, Mum and Dad moved North to Scotland. They lived in Auchlochan, a privately run retirement village built around 4 small lochs. It was a complex of Bungalows, flats, apartments and units for residential care. Mum and Dad bought a bungalow and worshipped at the fellowship on site. The complex is now operated by Methodist Homes.

In 2010, Dad and Mum moved South again to a flat at Royd Court, Mirfield, West Yorkshire, in a group of 56 flats run by Pilgrim Homes. They worshipped on site and attended Batley Evangelical Church as well.

We lost Dad in August 2017. Mum continued to live in their flat in Royd Court and often spoke longingly of going home …. She too is now at rest, at home with her Lord.


The Joys of Sunday 4th November 2018

What a wonderful day!!!!😇😇

Sunday 4th November has been a wonderful “full-on” day for this clergyperson!😇😇

Work started soon after 8am with time spent on final preparations for the day. Three sermons, written late in the week, needed reading through. I suppose you could call it a working breakfast!

The first two services of the day were in two of the five churches that I have responsibility for. ……… St. James Church was full for Lilly Isabelle Anne Smith’s baptism at 9.30am, (early doors!)Because our clergy have a good number of things to do on Sunday and, perhaps more importantly, because Baptism is about becoming a member of Jesus’ family the church, we have our baptisms as part of our usual church services.

At St. James the baptism took place in a service of Holy Communion. The reading from Isaiah (25: 6-9) led me to think and talk about how the sharing together of food is one of the most important ways in which we acknowledge the importance of our relationships.

At St. Peter’s Church at 11.00am we baptised Elizabeth Leavy. I baptised her older brother a few years back. We welcome all the newly baptised into our church families.St. Peter’s is increasingly seeing visitors from other countries many of whom are seeking asylum in the UK. Some stay with us over many months either until they are moved elsewhere by our government, or their cases are decided. We seek where we can to support people through the asylum process and we are about to set up a drop-in centre in partnership with the Red Cross.

By 12.15pm it was time to dash to St. Michael’s Church, the civic church in Ashton. A number of community organisations and schools have worked with the Ashton Branch of the British Legion to create a poppy wall in church for the period from 3rd November to 12th November. Standards were processed, the poppy wall was dedicated and we had time to remember and give thanks, as part of the Legion’s ‘Thank You’ Campaign, for all who have worked for the betterment of society during and after the first world war. I have the privilege of being Padre for the local branch of the Royal British legion and so am honoured to take services such as these. By now, the day was just getting going! ….

A close colleague has just moved on from our Parish – the Parish of the Good Shepherd, Ashton-under-Lyne. … Jules Mambu has served as a curate in the parish since he chose to move from the Roman Catholic Church to the Anglican Church. I have know Jules for 15 years. He was a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, having served there as a Catholic priest and having discovered that being a faithful priest put him at odds with the government of the day.

Jules left the Congo after serving time in prison after challenging the policies of the government of the country.

Part of Jules’ ministry, over the past 15 years or so, has been to lead Tameside African Refugee Association (TARA) based in Ashton-under-Lyne. Discernment of God’s plan for his life has led him into the Anglican church and to move on from TARA.

Jules now is licensed as Priest-in-Charge of St. Lawrence, Denton and will soon take on responsibility for St. Ann, Haughton as well. Both in Denton, both in Ashton Deanery, and both in Manchester Diocese. The licensing service at St. Lawrence’s was led by Bishop Mark Davies and Archdeacon Cherry Vann.Jules’ move to Denton leaves us (The Parish of the Good Shepherd) one member of clergy down. We wish Jules every blessing in his ongoing ministry in this new place and we pray for ourselves that we will revive additional resources for ministry in the centreof Ashton-under- Lyne. The church buildings which will fall within Jules’miniustry role ar e both really interesting structures!

Jules’ installation and licensing were followed by a Confirmation Service at which the Parish of the Good Shepherd presented two candidates for Confirmation. It was a real joy over the past few weeks to be able to do Confirmation preparation with Emma and Evie.

Check out @BishMiddleton’s Tweet:

A day in the llfe of a Manchester Diocese Clergy person!

Tramways de l’Aude – Thezan to Narbonne

To begin this next post we return to the junction station of Thezan. The station sits to the Northwest of the village and is covered in the post which can be found on the link below:

For the sake of completeness some of that post is repeated at the start of this blog. …The station location is clearly marked by the red circle on the map above. Some of the infrastructure remains, do the location can be accurately fixed. [2]The four pictures above all show the main station building at Thezan. [3][4] Thezan was a junction station receiving trains from a number of different routes and was one of the busier stations on the network. The two images immediately above show that the main station buildings are still in evidence in the early 21st century, in use as a road maintenance depot. [2]

The junction was to the South east of the town. Trains to Narbonne would bear off to the left.Here a train approaches from Narbonne. The picture shows the telephone booth for the pointman. Given the heavy traffic of passengers and goods, the role of the pointman in Thézan was a position of high responsibility. With the arrival of a train from Narbonne, he had to make sure that no train was due on the common stretch Durban – Port La Nouvelle, then telephone to the train station of Thézan to obtain the authorization to switch the points. [4] There is an excellent page written in French on the site which tells the story of the station. Auto translate in Chrome is a real boon! [4]

There was a small halt in the centre of Thezan at the beginning of Avenue de la Mer. The pictures below show the location early in the 20th and 21st centuries. [3] The tramway junction was to the Southeast of the town. This is the location in 2017. The large buildings on the right of the picture are the Wine Co-operative buildings. When the tramway was in use the D423 did not exist. The 1930s Michelin map show the tramway heading off across the fields towards Montseret and Saint-Andre as below. On arriving at Montseret, the tramway approached the village on Rue de l’Aussou. Its route across the open fields to Montseret is now the D423. It crossed the Ruisseau de Saint-Felix and then dropped away south of the Rue de l’Aussou taking its own route into the village. That route is now the minor road Rue du Tramway and can just be picked out on the South side of Rue de l’Aussou on the OpenStreetMap above.The old tramway bridge on what is now the D423 approaching Montseret. The bridge crosses the Ruisseau de Saint-Felix.The village sign on the Rue de l’Aussou. The ridge, on which Montseret Chateau, sits is just visible beyond the trees above the D423 sign. [5]Montseret Chateau from a distance. [5]The tramway route is the tarmacked narrow road on the right of this image. The Rue de l’Aussou continues in the centre of the picture.The tramway entered the village and then took a route to the north of the D423 through the village. That route is now the Rue de l’Eglise. The three images immediately above show its route. The Chateau can now clearly be seen above the village. The two images above show the approach to the old station site which was close to the Cooperative buildings.Montseret Tramway Station with the church behind. The view is taken looking West-southwest. [6]This view is taken in the same direction at the same location in 2016. The treeline obscures the view. The two images below are taken in opposite directions at this site. The second includes sight of the chateau. [12]The tramway found its own route out of Montseret to the East. The track bed has been tarmacked and is now the Rue des Bergeries. The chateau and its ridge can easily be seen to the North of the old tramway route. Two images taken from close to the Chateau on the ridge above Montseret. [5]The Chateau from the village of Montseret. [7]Should we be focussing on a chateau from the Cathar period in a blog about a tramway from the early 20th century? You might not think so. But this chateau played a significant but small part in the history of the tramway.

The chateau was built in the 10th century. It was an imposing castle, with keep and double ramparts. The name of Moun Séré resulted in its village becoming known as Montséret,. The name comes from ‘sereno’, a small migratory African bird (Bee-eater) which still today comes to nest on top of this rock. [8]In the foreground are the remains of the castle on the rocky outcrop of Roca Longua, and the new village in the plain. In the far left of the picture, the castle of St Martin de Toques, behind in the extension is the massif of the Fontfroide Abbey. [8]

What is surprising is that the crusade against the Albigensians (Cathars) spared the castle. It was not destroyed and indeed survived until around 1550 as a family home/redoubt. Possibly because of the plague, the chateau was abandonned at around that time.

As time passed, the stones of the chateau were used for the construction of the current village and for the low walls between the vines and in the early 20th century they were used to stabilse the embankments of the new tramway! [5]

To the East of Montseret the tramway meets the present D423 on its way towards Saint-Andre-de-Roquelongue.The tramway alignment was along the road to the right in the above image. This view looks back West towards Montseret village. The D423 is on the left.

The old Michelin map shows the tramway route following the old road between Montseret and Saint-Andre-de-Roquelongue to a point just to the West of the Ruisseau de la Caminade.It seems from the 1930s Michelon map and from evidence from aerial photography that the present D423 follows the old tramway route which ran a few metres to the South of the old road. The new alignment of the road can be seen in the 1950s aerial image below. [11]The old road and bridge were just to the North of the tramway and what became the present day D423. [11]The approach to the station site at Saint-Andre.

The tramway then headed straight for Saint-Andre along the route of the present D423. It by-passed the village to the southeast continuing along the line of what is now the D423. The line closed in the 1930s and by the mid-1940s it was a road.

The tramway route is approximately as shown by the pink line on the adjacent 1940s aerial photo. My sketching of the Iine seems to have it to the East of the present road. This is just a slip of the pen as the road follows the route of the old tramway. The station appears to have been sited close to the location of the Co-operative on the South side of the village. I believe that this view is taken looking Northwest through the station site. [13]The route from the centre of the village to the station was known as the Avenue de la Gare, it has a longer name in the early 21st century the Rue de la Cave Cooperative Saint-Andre-de-Roquelongue. The building on the right of the above image is still standing. [13]Two more views, above, of the station. [13]A derailment at Saint-Andre-de-Roquelongue, close to the station site. [13]

The tramway left Saint-Andre-de-Roquelongue along what is now the D423 en route to Bizanet. A short distance beyond Saint-Andre the road crossed the Ruisseau de l’Alvern at a ford and the tramway remained above the watercourse. The modern D423 now follows the route of the tramway.A very early 21st century image of the two routes., looking towards Bizanet. This shows the condition as much the same time as the satellite image was taken.More recently the two short routes have been brought up to the same surfaced standard. This view looks back towards Saint-Andre.The road to Bizanet crossed the GC12 at a staggered junction. The tramway is shown deviating from the road (VO1) south of the GC12 (D613) and rejoining the VO4 North of the GC12 on the 1930s Michelin map above. The staggered junction still exists in the early 21st century, as shown below on the satellite image. The old road reaches the D613 to the right-hand side of the image. The present road running through the middle of the image and reaching the D613 much closer to the road North to Bizanet is the route of the tramway.The picture above shows that the modern D423 crosses the old tramway bridge over the Ruisseau de Saint-Esteve as it approaches the D613 (GC12).

The tramway route to the north side of the main road has been obliterated by the extension of a vineyard across its route. As the adjacent satellite image shows, the route cannot be identified through the field. The red line is an approximation to the route of the tramway.This aerial image from the mid-1940s suggests that the tramway may have dog-legged along the old GC12, although there is some faded evidence in the mage of a route across the field from the portion of the road south of the GC12. Can anyone shed any light on which is the actual route?

North of the GC12 (D613) the tramway continued to follow the line of what is now the D423 across vineyards, around copses and across scrub-land. It passed isolated farms and farm buildings on a relatively straight course across level ground towards Bizanet. The small building in the first colour image below can be seen at the bottom of the adjacent aerial photograph. It is adjacent to the small bridge which appears to be the southern boundary of the grounds of the Monastere de Gaussan which can be seen in plan towards the top of the aerial image. The monastery was an interesting fortified structure as can be seen in the second colour image below.After passing the monastery the tramway continued across relatively flat ground to wards Bizanet.The modern road deviates from the line of the old road and tramway on the approach to Bizanet as the modern road has to climb over the A61 autoroute. The route of the old road and tramway are now lost under the construction of the A61.The tramway route into Bizanet.It appears that as the tramway approached Bizanet it slipped away to the west of the road.

As the aerial photograph shows the route of the tramway is a little unclear. It could have been either the red or green lines show in the photograph. In the early 21st century it is almost impossible to tel. The cemetery has been extended East to meet the road which follows the green line and also southwards over the red alignment.

It would be really helpful if someone with good local knowledge could confirm the tramway route!

The tramway flanked the old village of Bizanet on its western side, before crossing what was a minor road, now the D224 on the West side of the village and reaching the location of the tramway station. The route of the tramway can be picked out to the western edge of this aerieal image from the 1940s. At this time, two important buildings we a little outside the village limits to the West. The Co-operative building and the School(s). [16]

The school buildings are easily seen in these two old postcard pictures of the tramway station at Bizanet.Wagons wait to be loaded adjacent to the station building with the school behind. [14]The school buildings are more easily seen in this image. [15]The station buildings were off this image to the left. [17]

The station site has been lost under the building which survives on the site and which was built in 1935 – the cooperative cellar ‘La Corbière Bizanetoise’. The next three images show that building at different times over the years. [18]The tramway passed to the West of the school grounds and then curved gradually round to the East along the line of the road known in the 21st century as the Rue de la Mouline.This satellite image shows the location of the tramway station circled in green and the approximate tramway alignment in red. These have been imposed on an image from 2016 from Google Earth. Between 1944 and 2016 the village has expanded into the area encircled by the old tramway.The tramway followed the GC12 (D224) Route de Narbonne out of the village to the East.The tramway route slipped to the South of the GC12 (D224) so as to avoid a steep gradient on the road.It then followed the southern shoulder of the highway for a few hundred metres. Before diverting away onto its own route once again as the road began to climb.The line of the old tramway can just be picked out below the road in this image.The line of the old tramway through the campsite to the East of Bizanet.The thin red line shows the approximate tramway route to the East of Bizanet including the length through the campsite. The tramway stays both South of the road and at lower altitude.This 1930s map shows the line approaching the more southerly arm of the GC12 (D613) on the South side of the more northerly arm of the GC12 (D224). On reaching the southerly arm of the GC12 (D613) the tramway crossed the road and took up a position on the southern shoulder of the road. It remained there through the halt for Montredon until close to the junction with the N113 (D6113) where it cut off the corner between the two roads and then took up a place on the southern shoulder of the N113 (D6113) heading into Narbonne.The route outlined above is shown on a more up-to-date map from Google Maps.Looking back from the D613 along the SC113 which follows the line of the old tramway.A little further to the East looking across the vineyards towards Narbonne.The modern D613 curves towards the North as the route of the old tramway continues in a northeasterly direction. This is the approximate location of the halt which served Montredon-des-Corbieres.

The tramway stayed right at this location and ran on to join the N113 (D6113) to the East of Montredon and then crossed the standard gauge line which ran East into Narbonne.The original crossing of the mainline was via a level crossing which the road and tramway shared. The old alignment can just be picked out to the East of the modern D6113 bridge over the standard gauge line.Looking back along the D6113 to the railway bridge. The old route joins the newer road from the left and then follows the D6113 towards Narbonne and on onto the Avenue de Bordeaux as the city suburbs pass by.Avenue de Bordeaux on the way into Narbonne, courtesy of Google Streetview.A sketch plan of the centre of Narbonne showing the tramway network alongside the rail network. There were three tramway routes in Narbonne, our route enters from the bottom left of the sketch. The other two lines will be for a future post. [21]The centre of Narbonne, showing the route of the old tramway from Thezan, courtesy of Google Earth.The entrance of the promenade close to the Gare du Midi in Narbonne. [19]Porte Neuve. [20]The Gare du Midi, Narbonne. [22]The Gare du Midi, Narbonne. [23]A general view of Narbonne. [24]

In the next post we will look more carefully at the tramways and the railways in Narbonne. Suffice to say, today, that we have arrived in Narbonne!


  1. Michel Vieux; Tramways a Vapeur de l’Aude; R. Latour Editions 14 rue Sébile 09300 Lavelanet, 2011.
  2., accessed on 15th October 2018.
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  20., accessed on 1st November 2018.
  21., accessed on 2nd November 2018.
  22., accessed on 2nd November 2018.
  23., accessed on 2nd November 2018.
  24., accessed on 2nd November 2018.



Tramways de l’Aude – Les Palais to Ripaud

For this next post, we have travelled back on the line from Mouthoumet to Les Palais and are ready to explore more of the Tramways de l’Aude closer to the Mediterranean coast.

Les Palais station is in the middle of a triangle of tracks which allows trains to be directed between Fabrezan, the terminus at Mouthoumet and Thezan, This is not in an urban area, it is isolated and only a short distance from Saint-Laurent-de-la Cabrerisse, hence the legend of the postcard below. [1]The station building at Les Palais in the very early 21st Century!A schematic plan of the station. [2]This is not the best quality of image but it shows the station at Les Palais. [5]

Continuing eastward towards Thezan and La Nouvelle, the train passes in front of the Pech Maurel farm, through the junction with the minor road to Coustouge, Aude, not to be confused with Coustouges, Pyrenees Orientales, which runs via Parazols along the GC106 (D106) [1]

The tramway remains on the GC3 (D611), traversing wide open vineyards to a halt close to Villerouge-la-Cremade. I have not been able to find any information about this halt other than the fact that it existed and was close to the road to Villerouge-la-Cremade.The probable location of the tramway halt for Villerouge-la-Cremade.

Beyond Villerouge-la-Cremade, the trams would pootle along at a steady pace on the North side of the straight GC3 (D611) to the junction with the GC12 (D613) where the tramway and the main road turned to the Southeast. The present D611 bears the name Avenue de la Gare as it enters Thezan-des-Corbieres. The station location was just to the Northwest of the town, roughly where the picture below is taken.The location is clearly marked by the red circle on the map above. As will be noted later in this post, the location can be fixed exactly by the remaining station buildings. [3]The four pictures above all show the main station building at Thezan. [4][5] Thezan was a junction station receiving trains from a number of different routes. It was one of the busier stations on the network. The two images immediately above show that the main station buildings are still in evidence in the early 21st century, in use as a road maintenance depot. [3]

The junction was to the South east of the town. Trains to Narbonne would bear off to the left.Here a train approaches from Narbonne. The picture shows the telephone booth for the pointman. Given the heavy traffic of passengers and goods, the role of the pointman in Thézan was a position of high responsibility. With the arrival of a train from Narbonne, he had to make sure that no train was due on the common stretch Durban – Port La Nouvelle, then telephone to the train station of Thézan to obtain the authorization to switch the points. [5] There is an excellent page written in fench on the site which tells the story of the station. Auto translate in Chrome is a real boon! [5]

There was a small halt in the centre of Thezan at the beginning of Avenue de la Mer. The pictures below show the location early in the 20th and 21st centuries. [4]

The tramway junction was to the Southeast of the town. This is the location in 2017. The large buildings on the right of the picture are the Wine Co-operative buildings. When the tramway was in use the D423 did not exist. The 1930s Michelin map show the tramway heading off across the fields towards Montseret and Saint-Andre as below. We will return to the route towards Narbonne in a future post. For now, we continue Southeast towards Donos and Mont plaisir. As can be seen on the map above, the tramway follows the Northeastern shoulder of the GC3 (D611) all the way to Donos which is the location of a vinyard an little else in the 21st Century.

The tramway continues along the left-hand shoulder of the GC3 to Monplaisir. Over much of this length the tramway ran in a straight line and at a level grade. Monplaisir was another small hamlet and slipped quickly by as trams trundled on to the next junction/station at Ripaud.

The route to Ripaud was not initially demanding on trams, the terrain was flat and grades were shallow. The GC3 (D611) and the tramway followed the line of the Ruisseau du Ripaud towards the hills. As the hills began to close in around the river, road and tramway gradients still remained reasonable, as can be seen in the Google Streetview images below.At one location the road curvature was a little tight for the tramway and the bend was eased.The location in the Google image above is shown at the time of the tramway in this image. The tramway tunnel has been removed and a cutting provided for the modern D611. [7]

he image below shows the location of Ripaud Station in 2017. Our route from Thezan comes in along the D611 from the left. The route from Durban and the South comes in from behind the camera and the route to Portel heads of into the distance on the right side of the picture The station itself was a little way up the route to Portel as can be seen in the sketch plan below. [8]  A series of postcard images of the station follow below. The first two show the inn in the picture above. [8]The two tramway lines are evident in the image immediately above. [8]This image shows the station building on the North side of the road with the tramway tracks to the South side of the road. [7]

We are finishing this section of our journey at Ripaud because it is a junction station. We will return to it in the next post as we travel to it along the line from Durban. It is worthy of note that Ripaud is the subject of an excellent model of the Tramways de l ‘Aude made and operated by a team that take it around exhibitions in France, (Marie, Pascal and Christophe). [6]

Their website is really worth a visit – [6] They say: “The model of the Ripaud station is composed of two modules, 2 metres long and 60 cm deep. In order to respect the original layout, HOm scale was required. The left side, made by Christophe, represents the inn at Ripaud located in front of the River Berre, the way going left towards Tuchan and crossing a bridge and the one to the right to Lézignan. Pascal made the other module, the passenger building and the Ripaud depot overlook a large vineyard. Further on, towards Portel, a small house served as a dormitory for the staff. Marie created the backdrop of the two modules.”


  1. Michel Vieux; Tramways a Vapeur de l’Aude; R. Latour Editions 14 rue Sébile 09300 Lavelanet, 2011.
  2., accessed on 18th October 2018.
  3., accessed on 15th October 2018.
  4., accessed on 19th October 2018.
  5., accessed on 19th October 2018.
  6., accessed on 20th October 2018.
  7., accessed on 20th October 2018.
  8., accessed on 20th October 2018.

Tramways de l’Aude – Fanjeaux to Saissac and Saint Denis

We started by looking at the most westerly line of the Tramways de l’Aude and the story of the line from Belpech to Castelnaudary can be found in two posts:

The next most westerly of the Tramways de l’Aude lines was that from Fanjeaux running north through Bram to Saissac and then east to Saint Denis. This is a journey along the route of that line seeking to find any possible remaining evidence of its existence.

Fanjeaux is located west of Carcassonne. Between 1206 CE and 1215 CE, Fanjeaux was the home of Saint Dominic, the founder of the Roman Catholic Church’s Dominican Order, who preached to the Cathars in the area. It is a small town of under 800 people. [1]

Fanjeaux is an important Cathar site. It was a major centre, and in the 13th Century was a significant citadel with a population of over 3,000. [2] It was then surrounded by a moat and defended by ramparts with fourteen towers (tours). Two entries serve as reminders of the medieval gates which controlled entry into the town. Like most Languedoc castra it had a large castle (Château) within its walls. Almost nothing of it remains today.

In 1204 Esclaremond de Foix received the Cathar Consolamentum at the Château here in the presence of her brother, the Count of Foix. The site of the Château hall where the ceremony took place is now marked by a Catholic Dominican chapel, supposedly marking the site of one of Saint Dominic’s miracles. You can trace the old city walls and surrounding dry moat, now marked by a road. An outbuilding belonging to the new Château (13th century) also survives and according to a dubious Dominican tradition once served as Saint Dominic’s Fanjeaux residence. [3]

Bram is part of the old province of Lauragais. It was a centre of Cathar belief and that heresy brought the intervention of Simon de Montfort who, besieged the town in 1210. He succeeded in three days and took revenge on resistants by cutting off the top lip of all his prisoners and gouging out the eyes of all but one. For the last he gouged out only one eye so that he could lead the others out of the town to the château of Lastours.

By the 17th century Bram had outgrown its walls and expanded in concentric circles. It population in the early 21st Century is around 3,100. [11]The citadel and old town of Bram. [12]

Saissac is perched in the foothills of the Montagne Noires (Black Mountains) at an altitude of 467 m and boasts stunning views of the Vernassonne Gorge as well as the valley plain which stretches between Carcassonne and Castelnaudary. It first appeared in history in the 10th century, the name originates from the Gallo-Romain Saxiago. The history of the village is strongly linked the Château built in the 10th century. [13]

The Château de Saissac is a ruined Cathar Castle on a promontory at the southernmost tip of the commune of Saissac, in the Aude département located north-west of Carcassonne.

Saissac is mentioned in a legal document (an Acte) from the Abbey of Montolieu in 958, and again in a text of 960. The village is typical of the Black Mountains and is built between the ravines of the rivers Aiguebelle and Vernassonne, just above their confluence. Things to see in the village include the porte d’Autan, a lavoire built in granite, a second covered lavoire and a fine echauguette. Vestiges of the city walls (enceinte) are still visible around the ancient village. These walls date from the Fourteenth century, the same period that the castle of Saissac was restored. [14]

Saint Denis is a village of less than 500 people. [15] It is located in the foothills of the Black Mountains between the valleys of Alzeau in the west and Linon in the east. It is a little to the east of Saissac.

The tramway provided for the sharing of agricultural produce between the plains and the foothills of the Pyrenees, and trains of wheat and maize from the Lauragais plain also crossed those of milk and butter produced in the pastures of the Montagne Noires. [4]

The journey commences at Fanjeaux. A sketch plan of the station is provided below. The station was situated below the town and was on a long thin site with its main buildings strung out along the hillside. This can be seen in both of the postcard images below the sketch. [5]

The station facilities focussed more on goods than on passengers. The goods shed features clearly in the adjacent picture with the water tower and engine shed beyond. The second image is taken from a distance showing the station in its place beneath the town. It shows even more clearly just how far apart the various facilities were.

The track layout at the station makes far more sense than that seemingly provided at Belpech. It seems to have been spread out to allow it to occupy a place on the steep slopes of the town. An additional postcard picture shows the station and the village of Fanjeaux. [16]My wife and I visited Fanjeaux on 6th September 2018 and I was able to take a number of photographs. The first shows the top of the access road to the Station – Avenue de la Gare.The second is taken below the retaining wall visible in the black and white pictures of Fanjeaux and its station. This is where the station used to be!When trams left Fanjeaux Station, they followed a circuitous route around the village. The station was to the Southwest of the centre of the village and trams headed west, then north, then east, before leaving the environs of the village. The route can easily be picked out on the modern satellite image of the village below.  This map shows one of the advertised footpath trails around the town. It uses the old tramway for over 66% of its length. The station was at the location that I have highlighted in blue. The line continued its journey away from Fanjeaux along the pink line to the right of the map. The tramway ran round the north side of the village. [17]

On 6th September 2018, my wife and I walked the route marked in red above. I took a number of pictures as we walked around the village. A few will suffice here to give an impression of the current state of the old tramway route.The first evidence of the tramway to the east of Fanjeaux is the slip road approaching the roundabout at Prouilhe. The slip-road follows the old tramway formation. Prouilhe was the first halt on the tramway beyond Fanjeaux. Its claim to fame was that it was the location of the mother-house of the Dominican order, ‘Notre-Dame des Prêcheurs’. Evidence of the tramway halt is nonexistent but the monastery and the Covent buildings attached to it are still very much present.From Prouilhe, the tramway continued northeast towards Bram alongside what is now the D4. It passed through Taurines and Villesiscle on the way. There are long straight sections of single- carriageway road with no evidence of the old tramway.The station area at Villesiscle is still a flat open space with little indication of its use as a tramway station in the past.Perhaps clutching at straws here, but the alignment of the boundary fence to the memorial garden suggests that the tramway album alignment dictated its location back from the road.

Heading out of Villesiscle thev D4 approaches the modern motorway. The road was diverted to bridge the motorway and the old road alignment is still visible and not surfaced. It s possibly a good example of what the road might have been like when the tramway was in use?The old road into Bram. The motorway which crossed it can just be seen in the far distance.

The tramway entered Bram along what is now Avenue Georges Clemenceau and Avenue du General de Galle. In those days, ‘Route de Fanjeaux’. Bram, Route de Fanjeaux. The tramway tracks are just visible on the left. [8]The view from almost the same location in 21st Century.

In the centre of Bram, the tramway divided. One branch headed north, the other provided access to the Midi Station.I have found no indication of the actual track arrangement for the Tramway in Bram. The pink lines sketched on the satellite image are indication of the routes which are evident on postcard pictures. The line going north made for Saissac and Saint-Denis and crossed the Compagnie du  Midi line, along with the road at a level crossing which is still in place in the 21st Century.The first of a few images of the line heading towards the level-crossing. [18]

Bram, Avenue de St. Denis. The railway crossing gates can just be picked out in the distance. The view is taken north looking away from the town centre. [7]Bram, Avenue de Canal du Midi, or Avenue de Saint-Denis (today’s Avenue Paul Riquet). This tinted image is taken from a point a little further out of the centre of Bram to the north. The crossing gates for the Compagnie du Midi mainline are more easily seen. It is also possible to make out a point with a branch off the tramway heading in the direction of the mainline railway station. As we have seen above this ward not the main tramway access to the Midi station. [8]This picture is taken from a blog about Saissac written in French by Jean Michel of Saissac. The image shows the arrival of a train from Fanjeaux. A triangular arrangement of tracks existed in this square in Bram. The second arm of that triangle can be picked out running to the left of the train and behind the trees in the foreground of the picture. [18]Bram, Jardin Public. The image above of the arrival of the train is taken in the square behind the photographer of this picture. The road directly ahead is the Avenue de la Gare. [8]Another picture of Avenue de la Gare taken from a similar position. [18]Avenue de la Gare. [19]Avenue de la Gare (above). The goods facilities at the mouth of the combined station yard are visible ahead. [19] On 6th September 2018, I was unable to take a photograph, but I could confirm that the goods shed is still there.The entry of a train from Saissac into the station yard at Bram. [8]

The Mainline Railway Station at Bram was/is positioned to the East of the town centre.Bram, Compagnie du Midi Station. The tramway branch which led into the station yard can be seen in the bottom right of this picture. [8]Bram, Compagnie du Midi, Station Forecourt. [9]Bram, Compagnie du Midi Station Train-shed, 1910. [6]Bram, Compagnie du Midi Station, Train-shed Interior. [6]The Station at Bram from the East. [19]

The overall shed roof is now missing in the 21st Century. The tramway buildings and lines are long-gone.

Returning to the tracks which headed north out of Bram, we cross the level crossing and head out of town. At this point the tramway was on the east (right) side of the road.As we leave Bram behind the road is flanked by an avenue of plane trees. As we approach them, I imagine, without much supporting evidence, that the tramway switches from the East to the West side of the road. If this proves to be incorrect, please forgive the excessive use of my imagination!The cycleway on the left, on the West side of the road, may be on the formation of the old tramway.

We are heading for Saissac, and as the journey continues we pass through a series of different stops – Montplaisir-la-Leude, St-Martin-le-Vieil, Cennes-Monesties, and Cap-de-Port. We also cross the Canal du Midi. We cross the canal just north of Bram.The tramway continues North. The countryside north of the Canal due Midi is relatively flat and it ius likely that the route chosen for the tramway was dictated by the desires and dictates of various landowners. The tramway ran on the western shoulder of what is now the D4. The road seems to have been designed to work with the tram. Long straight sections are punctuated by relatively smooth and generous bends.This OpenStreetMap excerpt shows the route. The Canal is visible in the bottom left of the image. The tramway and GC116 (D4) then crossed the River Fresquel and the present D6113. The first halt north of Bram was at this junction – Montplaisir-la-Leude. North of the River Tenten the tramway/road diverted around the edge of a field before heading for St-Martin-le-Vieil.

Things changed as the tramway reached its next stop in St-Martin-le-Vieil. This was the main village in Canton immediately North of the Canton of Bram.

To access the village the tramway/road crossed the River Lampy on an ancient masonry arch bridge. The picture below is not of the highest resolution but sows the bridge early in the 20th century, perhaps while the tramway was still working. The adjacent 1930s Michelin map shows the tramway crossing the Lampy on a separate bridge to the road. The lie of the land and the road alignment suggest that this is very unlikely. No evidence exists to suggest that the tramway diverged from the road over this length.The bridge is just visible in this modern view of the village.

St-Martin-le-Vieil is a historic Cathar site with three significant elements: the castle; the church and the abbey; and a series of caves excavated by hand in the 9th Century. Its origins go back to the 8th century. 

The castle is mentioned as early as 1180. It was donated by Simon de Monfort to the Abbey of Villelongue in 1213. It was ravaged during the wars of religion (1578 ), rebuilt in 1676 as shown by the date inscribed on one of the faces of the small tower. It seems that by 1759 it still possessed its moat and three towers, the stone from one of which was used in the 1870s to build the town hall and school. [20]

The abbey appeared first in the twelfth century (1152 according to some historians). It became of significance in the crusade against Catharism in the thirteenth century. In particular, Simon de Monfort granted it all the lands of Saint Martin le Vieil. It was plundered by the Protestants in 1568 and saw a slow decline until 1789 when there remained only two religious. It was confiscated in 1792 and auctioned off. It was turned into a farm. Later, in 1916 it was listed as a historic monument and now receives aroun 6,000 visitors a year. [20]

The parish church is dedicated to Saint Martin, it is dated to the 14th century. It was built in the Gothic style and remodelled in the 15th century. [20]

The tramway ran along the GC116 (D4) through the village and continued alongside the road and river until close to Cennes-Monesties.The road to Cennes-Monesties diverges to the left. The tramway continued to the right still following the shoulder of the GC116(D4). There was a halt at this location for Cennes-Monesties. I have been unable to find any details.

For most of its length the Saint-Denis/Saissac line followed the route of the existing roads, but because of the road gradients, 8 kilometres separate lines were created. [18] These next few paragraphs and photographs trace the line as it meanders away from the road over the length between Cennes-Monesties and Saissac.

The first deviation is significant both in direction and length, leaving the road for some distance to the south before swinging round to the north and then following the road, but at a distance to the East as far as the next highway junction. The satellite images below confirm the route which appears only as alteration to the color of the ground or crops along its length. At points it is impossible to verify the line but those parts which can be established indicate the route elsewhere. The tramway leaves the shoulder of the road at this point. The tunnel through the undergrowth marks its most probable line. From this point it curves away to the south.The tramway swings away from the road through shrub-land. Its route is approximately marked by a line of taller trees. Once arable land is reach the route of the tramway shows on the satellite image as a wide curve as marked by the pink line.The pink line is only approximate. In the image above, from the route through the open field the line curves back again towards the East and follows the edge of the elongated copse of trees in the field.

In the adjacent image the north end of we features at the bottom of the picture. The line of the tramway snakes through the open field towards the point at which the two roads in the image meet. The route is most clear at the top of the picture. A small copse appears at the top of this picture. It becomes a much larger copse to the north of the side road as can be seen on the next picture.

The route of the tramway crosses the D4 at a point where the road bends eastward. It is difficult to identify the point at which the tramway began to turn back eastward. One possible location, suggested by some marks in the field to the north, is approximately where the first lighter free trees are to the northwest of the D4. I cannot be sure.. However, the alignment to the north side of that field, as the tramway returned towards the D4, is clear.

The pink line is again only approximate and the actual alignment can be made out crossing the field and turning north. The next halt at Cap-de-Port was adjacent to the building in the bottom right of the next image, not far from the road.

The tramway continued north a distance west of the modern D4. It turned this way and that, seemingly mirroring the changes in direction of the road until, at another junction with a minor road, it struck off away from the present D4 (GC116) and curved round to run along the shoulder of the GC103 (the modern D103).



The OpenStreetMap plan below shows the route of the D103 (and therefore the route of the tramway) into Saissac. Its route out of Saissac is along the D408.

The route of the tramway through Saissac is well preserved as a street – the Allee de la Promenade. The route is again shown in pink on the adjacent satellite image of the town.

The route closer into the town is called the Avenue Georges Clemenceau. It was not suitable as the tramway roue because of the narrowness of the street on the west side of the town and the steep drop, west to east, into the town and then the climb, west to east out of the town-centre. The Allee de la Promenade is shown on the OpenStreetMap plan below.Two postcard images of the station are immediately below.

Saissac [10]The old station of Saissac was built around 1904. The first tram arrived in Saissac on 10th May 1905. The station grounds were first used, after closure in 1932 as part of a sports field (1940). at that time, the station room served as a locker room for Rugby and football teams, eventually the land was used for the present gendarmerie. [22]

The tramway route leaves Saissac on what is now the D408. It was once the GC103. The final leg of the journey to Saint-Denis is short – just 5 or 6 kilometres. Initially the tramway ran on the southern shoulder of the road. It then crossed to the northern side just before entering the valley of l’Alzeau and remained there until reaching Saint-Denis.The bridge in the two postcard views above, taken in the early 21st Century looking back towards Saissac.Looking forward from the bridge, the old tramway formation can be seen on the left.

Very soon after leaving the valley of l’Alzeau the tramway entered Saint-Denis. The remaining pictures in this post show the station at Saint-Denis.

The final picture shows the location of the station in the 21st Century. The site has private dwellings built on it. The main identifying factor is the church tower which appears on the first postcard above.


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Choices: John 6: 56-69; Joshua 24: 1-2a, 14-18; Ephesians 6: 10-20

The right to choose. …. That phrase has been used in a whole series of contexts over recent years. It has become one to the defining characteristics of our society. We are told time and again just how important it is that we have the freedom to make choices. And rightly so, because the ability to make choices to make value judgements is one of the distinctive marks of being a human being.

I am sure you can think of examples – but here are a few …

A Woman’s Right to Choose – I am not going to enter the very complex debate about abortion. It is enough to acknowledge that a woman’s right of choice is an important issue in the ethical debate that surrounds abortion. This is the context that we most often talk of a right to choose.

The Right to Choose – is the title of a government advice booklet to agencies dealing with involved with handling cases of forced marriage. Each individual has a right to choose who they marry and an inalienable right not to be forced into a marriage for whatever reason.

The Right to Choose has recently been extended in the health service to mental health patients as well as those suffering physical symptoms. We can increasingly choose where we are treated and when we are treated. The Heath system is changing slowly to focus more on the patient than the clinician.

The withdrawal of the right to choose is also significant: Right wing totalitarian regimes deny freedom of choice to their subjects. Difference is frowned upon. Left wing/communist regimes value the proletariat above the individual, subjugating individual freedom to the needs of the masses.

In a very significant way, when we lose the ability to choose, we become less than human. Freedom and choice are really as fundamental to our lives as the right to shelter, food and water.

Successive governments have been right to emphasise freedom to choice.

Some of us might want to question whether we really do have freedom to choose. … So often, the right to choose a school for our children is limited, or perhaps negated, by the catchment area of the school. … Patients’ choice in the health service is often limited by our ability to travel to a hospital. … It is often almost impossible for a woman in abusive relationship to make the choice to leave, she feels completely trapped by her circumstances.

Nonetheless I feel so much better when I’m treated as an individual and given a say in the things that affect me. When I am given the freedom to choose.

Freedom of choice is so important. … Yet putting the two words “freedom” and “choice” in the same phrase is perhaps misleading. … For the very exercise of our freedom to choose restricts our freedom. When we choose to join a club, we are choosing to be bound by its rules, if not we very soon find that we are no longer welcome. When we choose to marry, we commit ourselves to one person, we are not free to play the field.

Choice, by its very nature restricts freedom.

Our readings set for 26th August 2018 seem to focus on that ability to choose.

Joshua actually uses the word. … “Choose this day whom you will serve,” he says. “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Paul in Ephesians encourages us to make the choice to stand firm under attack, to stand against evil, and he promises us that God’s armour, God’s resources are available to us as we stand firm.

Jesus presents his disciples with a choice. “If my words are too hard for you,” he says, “you don’t have to stay!” And we heard Peter’s response, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

All three passages leave us with a challenge: “What choice are we going to make?”

Are we going to do our own thing, follow our own instincts, in life? Or are we going to commit ourselves to God’s agenda? Are we going to stick with God even when the going gets tough?

God gives us the freedom to choose. He does not force us to accept him. Jesus doesn’t demand our allegiance. He offers himself to us as friend and as Lord, with every possibility of our turning our back on him.

Vulnerable love, love which was willing to die for us, love which does not impose itself on us but waits patiently for our decision. Love which is prepared to release us if we choose to turn away from him.

We are free to choose.  …. Yet as we exercise our freedom to choose, we make commitments which on the face of it restrict our freedom. We cannot make Christ ‘Lord’ and still give other things a more important place in our lives. Christ being ‘Lord’, means just that, Lord of our lives, our families, our work, our lifestyle. The free choice we have made, the one we continue to make as we commit ourselves to Christ each week in worship, seemingly limits our freedom.

And yet, here is perhaps the greatest paradox of all, when we commit ourselves to Christ as Lord we don’t feel trapped by our choices – we feel set free, set free to be who we really are. Here in the Christian family, when it is functioning as Jesus intended, we find our true freedom, our true dignity, our true equality as we worship the one who is worthy of all the praise that we can offer.

Contemporary society talks of human rights and ‘the freedom to choose’. In Christian worship, we confess that we cannot speak of ‘our rights’, for we have been given everything and forgiven everything and promised everything, not as of right, but of the loving grace of God who, as we freely give ourselves to him, as we chose his sovereignty, freely gives us all things.

When we come to Communion, we exercise our right, our freedom to choose, and as we take bread and wine into ourselves, we commit ourselves again to a choice to be God’s children and family. The end of August heralds a new cycle, a new academic year, it is a time for re-commitment re-commitment to God’s sovereignty in our lives. And as we make that renewed commitment we experience once again the release that comes from being who we truly are! … Those who are loved, accepted and redeemed, chosen ourselves by the grace of God.