On day three of our mini-holiday in East Yorkshire, the heatwave predictably broke, clouds returned, the temperature plummeted and the panic was all over. This is England not the Costa Blanca.
So we made the short car journey to nearby Bridlington. Bridlington remains a busy seaside resort because it still has a railway service and after the city of Hull is the second largest settlement in East Yorkshire.
We decided against the harbour and the beach because we had been there previously and quite frankly it is a bit too much English seasidy for us and the seagulls are a nuisance and went instead to the old town. Free Parking! Where can you find Free Parking these days? Answer – Bridlington Old Town.
The historical centre of Bridlington is absolutely wonderful.
A cobbled street of rapid decay locked into a bygone age, the original Georgian shop windows are grubby, the displays are many decades out of date, the window frames are flaking and pock-marked, no wonder then that they choose this location for filming the remake of the comedy series ‘Dad’s Army’ in 2014. Being a huge ‘Dad’s Army’ fan I was really happy about wandering along this special street and made a note to watch the film when I was back at home. And I did!
We parked the car close to the Bayle Museum, the original fortified gatehouse to Bridlington Priory. It had free admission so I wasn’t expecting a great deal but as it turned out it was well worth almost an hour of time spent exploring the seven rooms and the history of Bridlington. So good in fact that I didn’t have to think twice about paying a voluntary contribution on the way out. That is unusual for me.
Next we visited the nearby Priory. In the days of its medieval glory Bridlington Priory was one of the great monastic houses of England. Its wealth and possessions made it a key monastery in the North, one of the largest and richest of the Augustinian order. The Priory is just a church now and a fraction of its previous size courtesy of the insistence of Henry VIII that it should be demolished in 1537 to remove the potential Catholic pilgrimage site of Saint John of Bridlington. Henry didn’t like Catholic Saints and Pilgrimages as this challenged his new self-appointed role as Head of the Church of England.
Saint John of Bridlington, it turns out is one of the most famous of English Saints and I am ashamed to admit that I had never heard of him before now.
A little about John courtesy of Wiki…
Born in 1320 in the village of Thwing on the Yorkshire Wolds, about nine miles west of Bridlington, educated at a school in the village from the age of five, completing his studies at Oxford University and then entered the Augustinian Canons Regular community of Bridlington Priory. He carried out his duties with humility and diligence, and was in turn novice master, almsgiver, preacher and sub-prior. He became Canon of the Priory in 1346 and was eventually elected Prior in 1356. He served as Prior for 17 years before his death on 10 October 1379.
During his lifetime he enjoyed a reputation for great holiness and for miraculous powers. It is claimed that on one occasion he changed water into wine. He brought people back from the dead and restored a blind man’s sight. On another, five seamen from Hartlepool in danger of shipwreck called upon God in the name of John, whereupon the prior himself walked on water and appeared to them and brought them safely to shore.
It seems that anything Jesus could do, John of Bridlington could match.
So good was John at performing miracles that according to legend he continued to perform them even after he had died of the plague and he continued to bring people back from the dead for some time. That’s a very good trick if you can do it. These days I imagine John would be admitted to the Magic Circle.
John of Bridlington was canonised and declared a Saint by Pope Boniface in 1401, he was the last English Saint before the Reformation and the dissolution of the Monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII.
A Saint has to be a patron Saint of something and although John is associated with fishing the patron saint of fishermen had already been bagged by Saint Andrew (I will make you Fishers of Men and all that stuff) so Saint John needed something else. The Spanish Saint Raymond Nonnat is the patron saint of pregnancy and childbirth but Saint John is very specifically the patron saint of difficult childbirth. I kid you not. You could not make it up.
The best bit about the church was a side chapel reserved for prayer where people are invited to leave a note requesting a prayer (or a miracle). This one was my favourite…
Other Unlikely Saint Stories…
Saint James and Santiago de Compostella
Saint Janurius and the Miracle of the Blood
The Feast of Saint Paul’s Shipwreck