St Alkmund’s Church Whitchurch

To my shame I only took one photo of this beautiful 18th century church in Whichurch, Shropshire. We were at a christening there and were late due to an over napping incident (my little one, not me, honest). So all I manged to snap was one of the pretty stained glass windows. I have included an alamy stock photo of the outside of the church for a sort of ‘this is what you could’ve won’ scenario. Apologies must be a better tourist/blogger/photographer in future. 😉

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‘White church’

Apparently the church that previously stood on the site was built from gleaming white stone, which is where Whitchurch gets its name. It is said to have been founded before 915 by Ethelfleda lady of the Mercians. This original church was demolished and the church as it stands today (with some 19th century alterations) was opened on the 8th November 1795.

Who was St Alkmund?

Alkmund was the son of Alhred  (king of Northumbria from 765 to 774) who in 774 due to warring factions in the kingdom was exiled to Scotland, while his mother Osgifu also fled from the kingdom taking Alkmund and his brother Osred with her. She sought protection in Northworthy (near Derby) in the Kingdom of Mercia. The young boys grew up in Mercia but their family’s claim to the Northumbrian throne wasn’t forgotten. Osred  was elected king in 788 holding the seat for one year before being ousted and murdered (by Eardwulf?). Ten years later and Eardwulf was king of Northumbria. At this time Alkmund was around 28 years old and he is thought to have fought alongside Wada, the latest contender for the throne, they lost. It was at this time Alkmund was killed. I’ve read differing stories of how his death came about, it was either in battle or a hit ordered by Eardwulf’s men. Either way his untimely demise, and the fact he was considered locally to be a good egg, made him perfect martyr material.

He’s a bit of a specialised saint so there are relatively few churches dedicated to him, I’ve found 6 (though I’ve read there are 10). For comparison St Mary has 2368 churches dedicated to her in England. There are three other St. Alkmunds in fairly close proximity to Whitchurch (see locations on my personalised Google map below).

You can see Alkmund’s intricately carved sarcophagus (below) at Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

800px-St_Alkmund_sarcophagus_
Photo by Kelly, 8.1.17

Fun fact the day of this blog post, the 19th March, is actually St Alkmund’s  feast day. 🙌

 

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