Cross the meandering River Tees from N. Yorkshire into Co. Durham at its southernmost point, before the river starts to head north again on its way to Teeside and its arrival at the North Sea, and the first village you come to is the very lovely Hurworth-on-Tees.
Yes, the great and mighty HURWORTH!
The village stretches along a road parallel to the river, and is really everything that a quaint English village can be ~ a long line of beautiful cottages and houses of all shapes and sizes, a few large manor houses and stately homes, a village green covered in daffodils each spring, a Methodist Chapel at one end of the village and All Saints Church at the other, and a few shops, schools, housing estates etc in-between.
Quaint indeed, but not without its share of tragedy in times past. On the village green is a notice saying: “In 1665 plague devastated Hurworth and the surrounding villages. 1500 plague victims were buried under this Village Green. Only 75 Hurworth residents survived the plague.” Must have been terrible.
These days though, Hurworth is a bustling place, and some of the people I know originally came to live in the village cos they were working at the nearby ICI plant on Teeside. Though ICI is no more, they’ve stayed on and now work elsewhere in the area, including Darlington, only a few miles away. Just down river is the sprawling village of Middleton St. George, and in the last few years, the village of Hurworth has been joined with Middleton St. George, plus Girsby and Dinsdale, all under one vicar, Rev. Adrian Thorp. Helen, his wife is also ordained and for many years worked at Cranmer Hall, Durham’s theological college. He comes from Huddersfield and she from Batley – some of my favourite places where I also have great link churches! Adrian and Helen are such a lovely couple – and they invited me to stay with them this past weekend for my CMS link church visit to Hurworth.
I’ve been linked to Hurworth since I first joined CMS in 1989, a fact which dear Barbara, one of the Hurworth congregation reminded me of this past weekend, when she said how she fondly remembers being at my commissioning service all those years ago. In those days, the vicar was Rev. Roy Graham, now in his second retirement with his wife Margaret in the Yorkshire Dales, and a few weeks ago they kindly invited me there for lunch. On display in their home is a cup showing that Margaret has won first prize at the Wensleydale Show for the best Yorkshire Pudding, a great achievement! After Roy retired from Hurworth, Rev. Michelle Ferguson, my good friend from Heighington, became vicar, then Rev. Adele Martin. The diocese reorganized the parishes and amalgamated them here and there, and about 2 years ago, Adrian and Helen arrived, and clearly everyone loves them to bits! This is Adrian and me, then Helen and Valerie…
On Saturday evening, Adrian and Helen invited a large group of Hurworth people to their home for dinner (see the top photo). There were 12 of us in total, and at least 2 more couples told me they’d been invited but had to send their apologies. It was such a fun evening, with delicious food and lots of discussions and laughs. Some of what goes on in village churches is really worthy of a book, they had me in stitches! Great to reconnect with everyone again, and such wonderful hospitality at the rectory.
On Sunday morning, I went with Helen to the 10:30am service at Hurworth while Adrian went off to the other churches. The Hurworth service was led by the Lay Reader, Paul Mallett, and I gave the sermon. Very pleasantly surprised to see my friend and former colleague, Stephanie turn up to the service too, she’d come over from Darlington, and Andrew, from the church in Heighington, he also came. Last time I visited Hurworth in April 2015 (see my blog post here for that report and all the photos), I’d heard that one of the congregation worked in Taiwan, and I was so happy to meet Adam this time, though he no longer works there. In fact the church seems completely full of interesting people, all faithful supporters of me and CMS. My photos here are mostly of those good people I’ve known for years, though of course there are others, of all ages, in the church. After the service, we had lunch, brought by everyone in the congregation. Delicious!
Thank you to Adrian and Helen and everyone at All Saints Church, Hurworth for such a great welcome, and your faithful support over the years. One member of the choir was celebrating her birthday on Sunday and we sang to her. Later she introduced herself and her husband and told me their surname was ‘Saint’. I gather it’s a French name, and their ancestors probably came over with William the Conqueror. Of course they’re not the only real saints at All Saints, but hey, yes, there really are Saints at All Saints Church, Hurworth. Saints and saints ~ and I love ‘em all to bits!