Brighid, Goddess and Saint
Places in England
Cumbria is the most northerly county in England and one of the most sparsely populated. It is best known for the spectacular Lake District National Park. Cumbric, closely related to Old Welsh was spoken until the 12th century. On the coastal plain of Cumbria between the Lake District and the Solway Firth there are five historic churches dedicated to St. Brigid. They are at Beckermet, Bridekirk, Brigham, Kirkbride and Moresby.
This village “At the meeting of the becks,” Black and Kirk Beck, is close to the Neolithic Settlement at Ehenside Tarn (a beck is a stream and a tarn is a mountain lake). The new church in the village is dedicated to St. John and the old church of St. Bridget can be found down a narrow road about a mile from the village (OS NY015061 Postcode CA21 2XP). This beautiful, timeless, church is built on the site of a monastery founded in the 6th or 7th century. It was under the care of Calder Abbey between 1262 and the dissolution of the monastery in 1536. The lovely simple interior contains an ancient sandstone altar. To the south of the church there is the remains of a cross shaft with runic inscription and a date, 1103. It is open during daylight hours
The beautiful churchyard at Bridekirk (OS NY116337 CA13 0PE) contains the ruined chancel of the old church which was built in 1130 on the site of an earlier wooden chapel. By the mid 19th century the old church was in a poor state of repair and a new cruciform church was built in 1868 incorporating the 12th century font and two Norman doors from the old church. In the south transept there is a stained glass window depicting St. Bride with her eternal flame.
The Church of St. Bridget at Brigham (OS NY086309 CA13 0XH) was founded as a convent church. The oldest part of the present building dates to the 11th century and the tower dates to 1220. t counts amongst its clergy the poet William Wordsworth's son. The churchyard contains many carved stones from the 17th to 19th centuries set amidst yew trees. Fletcher Christian, the Bounty mutineer was baptised here.
St. Bride's, Kirkbride (OS NY 230573 CA7 5HR) stands on a hill to the north of the village. It is open most days. It is also known as “Kinjka Bride”. It dates to Saxon times and first appears in the Pipe Roll of 1189. It is built in the North West corner of the site of one of the most distant Roman Forts from Rome - A 30 acre site forming part of the Stanegate Frontier. The site was also a preaching station for Celtic missionaries. The interior of the church is full of atmosphere. At the East End there is a stained glass window depicting the Celtic Saints, Patrick, Bridget and Columba.
The 19th century church of St. Bridget at Moresby was built in 1822 on the site of an earlier church first mentioned in records of 1291 (OS NX982210 CA28 6PJ). The Chancel Arch of the old church remains. The church is on the site of the Roman Fort, Gabrosentum where an altar stone to the god of forests, groves and wild places, Silvanus was found.
The Brigantes (The People of the goddess Brigantia) were a Celtic people of the whole of the North East of England except the area just north of the Humber. Claudius Ptolemaeus was a famous geographer and astronomer, who lived in the second century. In his Geography he writes, “Below the Selgovae and Otalini are the Brigantes extending to both seas.” The Annals of Tacitus mentions Cartimandua, leader of the Brigantes, who was granted a clientship with Rome in 43ce. She ruled with her armour bearer, Vellocatus as her consort. Some see Brigid and Brigantia as the same goddess. They certainly share the appellation "Brig" which means High One. The Romans identified Brigantia with their own goddess, Minerva; a goddess of crafts and skills. But maybe it is best to see them as related in some ways.
Stanwick Iron Age Fortifications
Stanwick is open during daylight hours (Forcett, North Yorkshire, DL11 7RU). An important trading post and a major centre of Brigantia. The defences enclose an area of 310 hectares. The original enclosure dates from around 400bce. After the Roman conquest the Brigantian centre moved to Aldborough.
Aldborough Roman Site
Aldborough is open at weekends from April to October ( Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, YO51 9ES). The roman name is Isurium Brigantum. It has been dated to the Flavian period (69–96 ce). It was designated a civitas an important civilian administrative centre. Today there is a museum, two well preserved Roman mosaics and a section of walls and earthworks. A Roman carving of the god, mercury was used in the building of the church in the village.
There are many Bridestones in Yorkshire. The local historian and editor of , John Billinglsey, writes:
"it is generally thought that Bride place-names derive from the old Celtic goddess, Bride, also known as Brigit. She is probably the same deity as Brigantia, the matron goddess of the Brigantes tribe, who occupied the whole of northern England from the Iron Age into the Roman Occupation period. Her name means 'of the high places', and the Bridestones we can see in West and North Yorkshire are all appropriate places to worship such a goddess… The likelihood is, then, that the Bridestones were a sacred site in Celtic times; and they still are today. There are many people today who revere Bride herself or other manifestations of the Earth Goddess and go to the Bridestones to make contact with Her. One of these, the artist Monica Sjoo, later wrote 'It is as if the goddess Bride, herself of the moors, as a supreme artist, shaped these rocks in her hands. It is something entirely eerie and otherworldly about not only the forms of the rocks but also their darkness, intermingling with streaks of golden ochre... I felt that the Bridestones have a special and uncanny power, and they have since come back in my dreams'".
Todmorden, West Yorkshire
The Bridestones at Todmorden are open at all times (Eastwood Rd, Todmorden OL14 8SA). Outcrops of millstone grit famous for the Great Bridestone that resembles an up-turned bottle.
Bridestones, Crosscliff and Blakey Topping
These Bridestones in Dalby Forest are open dawn until dusk (OS SE 873915 Staindale, Dalby, Pickering, North Yorkshire, YO18 7LR note that access is by the Dalby Forest toll road) are impressive, mysterious natural sandstone outcrops set above Bridestones Griff (steep valley) in ancient woodland. A 2.5 km footpath takes you on a circular tour through Low Wood to the Bridestones and back via Dovedale Wood.
The High Bridestones are located on the road from The A169 at Pen Howe to Grosmont on stunning open moorland near Whitby (OS NZ850046). The large upright stone of the group is clearly visible to the left of the road. Many of the stones have fallen or have been pushed over. They may be the remains of two small stone circles. Offerings of coins have been left in the crevices of the largest stone over the years. The Low Bridestones are located a short walk to the North West of the High Bridestones (OS NZ846048). The tallest is only about a metre so they are not easily visible from the road but the walk is well worth while as they appear much less damaged than the High Bridestones. They form an arc in the heather.
Sheffield Goddess Temple
The Sheffield Goddess Temple (239 London Road, S2 4NF) opened at Imbolc 2014. It is located above Airy Fairy. It is open weekdays from 1230-1330.
St. Bridget’s Church, Bridstow (South Street, HR6 8JH) Open during the summer. It is thought that the earliest church was a wattle and daub structure decicated to San Ffraid. A Norman church was built soon after the conquest. The oldest part of the church that stands now is the 14th century tower.
William of Malmesbury c1120ce in his History of the Kings of Britain and John of Gastonbury in his The Chronicle of the Ancient Church at Glastonbury both claim St. Brigid visited Somerset and lived for a while at Beckery near Glastonbury. She is said to have left memorials of her wonder working power including her wallet, collar, bell and weaving implements. There is a local legend that St. Brigid died in Somerset and was buried in Glastonbury Abbey. The Abbey is a famous place of pilgrimage and before the Reformation was one of the richest in England. It would have well suited the abbey to circulate such stories to attract pilgrims. However there is historic evidence of Irish religious at Glastonbury and there was certainly many Irish visitors to the town.
St. Bridget's church at Brean (Church Rd, Brean, Burnham-on-Sea TA8 2SF) Open during the summer. There has been a church on this site since the 6th century. The present church dates from the 13th century. It was designated as a world heritage site in 1961.
St. Bridget's church at Chelvey (Chelvey Rd, Chelvey, Bristol BS48 4AA) 12th century.
Bride's Mound, Beckery is situated just to the South West of Glastonbury Nearby there is a stone that marks the site of St. Bride's well. In the 1920s a thorn tree stood upon which people would tie rags.
St. John the Baptist Church (BA6 9DR) is a large imposing building situated on the High Street. It was founded in the 950s and mostly rebuilt 500 years ago. There is a stained glass window in St. George's Chapel, off the south aisle of the church, depicting St. Brigid, a wolf companion and St. Michael's Tower on the Tor. There is now a walkable seven circuit labyrinth by the main entrance to the churchyard with a celtic cross honouring Brigid.
St. Patrick's Chapel, Glastonbury Abbey (BA6 9EL) was built in 1512 by Abbot Bere as a chapel to a block of women's almshouses. The Chapel has recently been restored with new stained glass by Wayne Ricketts Stained Glass of Bristol and murals designed by local artist, Fleur Kelly giving an indication of its original splendour.
Glastonbury Tor A 16th century hagiography tells us that the king of the underworld, Gwyn ap Nudd, appeared to St. Collen on the Tor in the 7th century. St. Michael's Chapel on the Tor was destroyed in an earthquake in 1275 and rebuilt in 1323. A tower was added in the 15th century and this is now all that remains it bears a lovely bas relief of St. Brigid milking her cow.
The Goddess Temple is situated in the Courtyard on the High Street and is a sacred space abounding in love, creative energy and the joy of the Goddess. It was the first Goddess Temple to open in England and is set aside for the exploration and celebration of the Divine Feminine.
St. Bride's Well, St. Briavels near Cinderhill. Sacred spring rising in a stone arched niche within site of the castle.
Devon and Cornwall
St. Bridget's Church, Bridewstowe (EX20 4EN) There have been three churches on this site. The present church was built in 1450ce and renovated in the 19th century.
St. Bridget's Church, Bridgerule (EX22 7EL) sits on the border between Devon and Cornwall. The font survives from the Norman church.The earliest parts of the present church date to the 13th century. There were extensive restorations in the 19th century.
St. Bridget's Church, Virginstowe (EX21 5DZ) The 12th century font survives but the church was completely rebuilt in 1851 with restoration to the chancel in the early 20th century.
St. Bride's Well, Lezant This ancient holy well (OS SX350796) is to be found on a private estate at Landue near Lezant. A chapel dedicated to St. Bride once stood nearby and may have been on a pilgrim route to Bridestow in Devon. Cheryl Straffon, editor of Meyn Mamvro, has an account of her Search for Bride's Well.
St. Brides London
St. Bride's (Fleet Street EC4Y 8AU) is built on the site of a Roman house, close by the River Fleet, a tributary of the Thames which rises from two springs on Hampstead Heath. The district between Fleet Street and the Thames is known as Bridewell from the well of St. Bride. There has been a church dedicated to St. Bride on the site for over 1,500 years. The first stone church was built in the 6th century and there have been eight altogether. After the Norman Conquest it became an important church and King John held a parliament there in 1210. The Great Fire of London began on Sunday, 2 September 1666. St. Bride's was completely destroyed. In 1671 the churchwardens took Christopher Wren to the Globe Tavern, hoping to convince him to rebuild the church. St. Bride's re-opened in time for the Christmas services of 1674 but the tower was not completed until 1703.