THE VENERABLE BEDE
I went back to Thebus and wanted to sit still and think for a bit in the quiet of the breaking dawn (well as quiet as it ever gets in Gateshead), then suddenly remembered the traffic would soon be building up and I hadn’t sorted out where to next.
I quickly googled Whitby and Jarrow two of the places I intended to visit. To my surprise Whitby seemed not far away and north of Jarrow (I know you smart Alecs) Only later in the day did I find there is not only a Whitby Bay there is a Whitley Bay.
Anyway it looked as though I was headed was straight back through the middle of Gatehead and over that bridge AGAIN.
No time to lose, and off we set. Managing to get lost at the confusing junction YET AGAIN, I finally found the road and Whitby (or what I thought was Whitby) surprisingly quickly though it looked nothing like I expected. Where was the harbour? where was the town? Well seventy five miles away to be precise, assuming I didn’t get lost in Gateshead again.
But Jarrow was much closer, and Saints be praised there was a tunnel so I didn’t have to go all the way back and over the BRIDGE AGAIN. But sometime ago I had told Strict Lady that I preferred not to go on any toll roads. I didn’t mention toll bridges, but, well you can guess the rest. Before I knew it we were heading back towards the bridge, and yes I managed to miss the road AGAIN. Then back all the way up to the island for The Angel of the North, and round in a huge loop
When I first saw Newcastle and Gateshead in the distance about a week ago I turned straight back as it looked too big and full of traffic. Having got in and out again, I had thought to myself - well interesting though that was it is one place I will not need to tackle again. I am not sure exactly how many times I eventually crossed the Tyne Bridge as I lost count, but I think it was around five!
Still we pulled up to the large carpark at Jarrow just before a very nice lady, who turned out to be the Museum Curator came to open them. She asked if I had come to visit Bede’s World, and I apologised and said it was my intention to simply visit the church to which The Venerable Bede’s monastery had been attached, and I had not intended visiting Bede’s World. (I had checked their site on the internet before arriving and it sounded a bit like a theme park aimed primarily at children). But thankfully I was told it was still fine for me to park in their carpark. And St. Paul's church was right next to Bede’s World, and often part of the children’s visits.
I had checked the hours of the church services and knew I would be there in time for Communion, and thought it would be remarkable to be able to worship and pray where so many had done so before me. The church itself was founded in 685, and amazingly still has the original dedication stone contained within the central arch of the church, the chancel of the church being an almost complete Anglo Saxon chapel, once free standing but surrounded by the monastery buildings in which The Venerable Bede lived and worked in the 8th C.
The monasteries of St Peter and St Paul were founded by Benedict who bought with him books and learning from his travels, and had these monastery churches erected as first stone built eccesiastical buildings in Britain There is also an exceedingly rare 7th C stained glass window - in fact it is the oldest stained glass window in the world, but the morning light was streaming through and the photos don’t show.
After the service I stopped for a cup of coffee and chat with some of the locals and the combined opinion was that Bede’s World was well worth a vista so I set off next door.
It is a huge resource and full of interesting information, though plenty to entertain and occupy children as well, including a replica farm complete with animals and birds. Though it was the more serious side which grabbed my attention. The Venerable Bede had entered the monastery as a child and would have had access to the learning and all the books in the library which he put to good use in his many writings, his most famous book being An Ecclesiastical History of the English People, and from that he is generally regarded as being the father of British history. Although many of his facts may now be challenged it would appear he did his best to thoroughly research his topic before committing it to paper and was meticulous in not including ‘facts’ which could not be proved to his satisfaction. His use of A.D. as a dating system in these books also helped establish this as a recognised way of counting time.
Due in large part to his willingness to share his knowledge the monastery there became a great centre for learning and book production, but not long after Bede’s death in the late 8th C the monastery buildings became vulnerable to attack from the Vikings who were raiding all down the coast, and both the monasteries were finally destroyed by the Danes in 860 and seem to have then been abandoned
After a most interesting morning I headed for a cup of tea at part of the site which was Jarrow Hall, and though having got inside I changed my mind about the refreshments I did have a look round at the small exhibition room which stirred my interest in the troubled past of Industrial Jarrow