St Mary’s Church, Staindrop Flower Festival, 25th August

The church itself stands at what was once the easternmost end of the village next to Langley Beck, near Raby Castle.
It is a mediaeval gem, based on an 8th Century Saxon foundation with some of the earlier Saxon churches incorporated into the ‘newer’ building. It is really worth a visit if you get the chance, to marvel at the wonderful tombs and its incredible history.
The first Church dates from the time of Alhred, King of Northumberland, with a Saxon building dating back to 771.

Its recorded history doesn’t begin however until the early 11th Century, when Staindrop was the home to a Manor of King Cnut (Canute II). This church would have resembled the church at Escomb.

Interestingly, in 1336 John de Cameva is recorded as hermit of Staindrop.
In the South West corner is a large alabaster tomb of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmoreland who died in 1425, and his two wives – Margaret Stafford, daughter of Hugh, Earl of Stafford, and Joan Beaufort, daughter of John of Gaunt and half sister of Henry IV. It was their daughter Cecily known as the Rose of Raby who married Richard Duke of York and was the mother of Edward IV and Richard III and from whom every British monarch is descended.

I found particularly beautiful the tomb of William Harry Vane, 1st Duke of Cleveland, whose effigy was sculptured in white marble by Richard Westmacott president of the Royal Academy.

But back to the Flower Festival itself, there were a large number of spectacular and creative flower arrangements based on the theme of “My Favourite Poem” and at the preview evening these poems were beautifully recited by a group from the Castle Players, many of who are members of Teesdale U3A. The poems ranged from My Lady of Shallot to “Twas the night before Christmas”, with odes to gardeners, miners and an Apache Wedding Blessing to name but a few.

My personal favourite was “Warning” by Jenny Joseph, which starts… “When I am Old I will wear purple with a red hat that doesn’t suit me” and the fabulous flower arrangement that went with it, including the Red Hat, fabulous shoes and a bottle of Champagne.

A fantastic effort by the congregation at St Mary’s with delicious canapés and fizz making it a most memorable night out and I hope they raised a lot of money to help them maintain this gem of a church.

Lusia McAnna