In the 1930’s unemployed men created the trails and planted all of the trees in Hamsterly Forest. The men were housed in what was called instructional centers which were basically work camps. These centers closed in 1938 as the war efforts began to increase.
This church was built by the larger congregation of St. Margaret's Church in Britain in the 1890's. St. John's initial role was as a “Mission Church” and it originally stood surrounded by open green fields.
One of the unique features of the church is the 1930’s “Mouseman” wooden pews. Robert (Mouseman) Thompson lived from May 7, 1876 until December 8, 1955. He was a British furniture maker and he worked primarily with oak wood.
He explained when he was asked about the mice that this motif came about accidentally after having a conversation with someone in 1919 about “being as poor as a church mouse”. After this conversation, he decided to use the mouse as his “signature” on his furniture as well as smaller crafted objects such as wooden boxes.
The carving above is an example of the mouse symbol Robert Thompson carved and it was on every pew in St John’s Church.
Music was another important part of worship at the church. The church still has the organ built by the internationally-renowned firm of Harrison & Harrison that dates from 1912. It is considered to be in perfect condition.
A War Memorial stands in front of the Church and is dedicated to those who died in both world wars. Its’ design, which is a standing cross, is reminiscent of the medieval landmark called Neville’s Cross. Parishioners and residents of the community leave wreaths there every year to honor those who died.
Between 1939 and 1945, there were more than 400,000 prisoners of war from Italy, Germany and the Ukraine in Britain. They were scattered around the British countryside in camps.
Harperley POW Camp 93 was built to accommodate up to 1400 people. The location was northeast of England in County Durham. It was built on a hillside that overlooked Weardale.
After the camp closed in 1948, it became a displaced person’s camp. Had the men returned to their homes in countries occupied by the Soviet Union, they might have ended up in labor camps.
As a result, many of these men were allowed to stay in Britain providing they agreed to work for a few years in agriculture or in the local mines.
Although they are in various stages of disrepair, the 49 buildings that were part of Camp 93 still remain today.
In fact, Harperley is reported as only one of five camps within Britain that is intact. Camp 93 had garden plots and even a recreation area.
An outer barbed wire fence enclosed the compound and there were no guard towers since the prisoners held there were considered to be low risk.
There was an 8 – 11 piece orchestra and the instruments were believed to be mostly donated by the local residents. This orchestra often played in the town of Weardale by popular request. In fact, in the 1940’s, Officers and British Guards as well as residents of towns in the area came out to the camp for performances. Visitors to the camp today are able to see some of the programs from these various productions.
This area is known for its high-quality fluorite crystals which come in a variety of colors. The fluorite coming from the Weardale Fluorite Mine is considered to be some of the finest in the world. Fluorite carries a calm vibrational frequency and supports spirituality, focus and the ability to have balance in every aspect of life.
The trio was able to find very small pieces of these crystals allowing them to transport them easily on their trips. They gave them to every person they spent time with as a reminder of their visit. Each color was symbolic for the lesson the person was learning.
The blue fluorite given to Mr. Wagner by the trio in an earlier visit to Mt Pleasant represented “change and personal growth". Mr. Wagner had been sad and often angry since the death of his wife and the blue fluorite helped him to accept his loss and grow in the understanding of his purpose in life.
The yellow fluorite given to Brian was representative of unity, intellect and creativity. It would increase Brian’s intellectual abilities while additionally boosting his imagination. This crystal also promotes a positive outlook on life by helping the recipient see the connection between love and all of life. The trio knew the yellow fluorite would be very beneficial to Brian for the remainder of his life.
This is a typical scene from the Weardale area.
Sheep once grazed everywhere and they still do. Local farmers also have dairy cows whose milk produces wonderful handcrafted cheeses.
One of these cheeses is Gloucester Cheese which the trio greatly enjoyed when Brian gifted them with it on their visit with him.
Gloucester cheese has been made in this part of England since the 16th century. At one time, it was made only from the milk of the Gloucestershire cattle.
There are two types of Gloucester cheese. One is called a Single Cheese and the other is the Double Cheese variety. They both have a natural rind on the outer layer. The Double variety ages for a longer period of time and is much firmer. They both come in round shapes.
The Gloucestershire farms today still produce these unique cheeses and each year there is a “Cheese Rolling” Contest. Strong athletes chase an eight pound round of double Gloucester cheese down a hill. The athletes are often injured because the hill is so steep.
Weardale was a medieval hunting ground for County Durham’s Prince Bishops.
This area was unique in that it once existed as an independent state ruled by “Prince Bishops” who acted as the Kings of County Durham. This feature actually goes back to the Anglo-Saxon times when Great Britain was several kingdoms rather than just one.
According to historical records, St John’s Chapel is a village in County Durham which is 7 miles from the village of Stanhope.
Originally it was a medieval hunting stop. In the 1600’s, it became a center for lead mining. This area was also the main stop for the Weardale Extension Railway which opened on October 21, 1895. The railway carried limestone, iron ore and fluorspar, which is a common name for fluorite, to the industrial areas in Northeast England.
High House Chapel in Weardale, England, holds services every Sunday making it the oldest purpose built chapel still in continuous use.
This is a picture of High House Chapel which was built in 1760. It’s the oldest “purpose built chapel” to still be in continuous use. Unfortunately, it will close in the fall of 2019 due to repairs and renovations that are beyond the scope of the current worshipping community. The Museum of Weardale is trying to raise the funds to purchase the chapel and make it a part of their museum.
The picture above is a part of the folk museum and represents what a minister’s home might have looked like
in 1912. The entire building is packed with artifacts and information making it a wonderful tourist destination.