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Sight Seeing in the United Kingdom

Category Articles
Date February 1, 2000

This letter arrived from Paul Williams, the pastor of an Evangelical Church in Swindon, which triggered off a chain of thought.

Yesterday Ruth and I had some time off and went to Bristol. We were taken by friends to the George Muller museum there, and also saw for ourselves the vast orphanages. What a joy to see his Bible, without a single space unfilled by his notes. I was given a photocopy of his last sermon preached three days before he died, at 93 years of age — on Isaiah chapter 6. It came home to me what a radical transformation his conversion had been, from the moment he was convicted by the sight of earnest men in prayer, until his last breath. The last century was an age of giants wasn’t it?

Then we were taken to Little Sodbury, outside Bristol, to see the Manor House where William Tyndale taught, and then to the little church of St. Adeline’s, with the memorial stone to this great man. The church was open and inside there is a very old pulpit to one side which is referred to as William Tyndale’s pulpit. The Vicar of that church is thoroughly evangelical, in his eighty’s now I understand, and from a glance, his parish newsletters are a plain setting forth of the gospel.

Again, from William Tyndale, a reminder of our gratitude to God, that we have in our hands a copy of God’s Book.

Those paragraphs reminded me of the November 1978 edition of the Banner of Truth magazine (Issue 182) where Iain Murray suggested the following eight day itinerary which might be of some interest especially to American visitors to the British Isles.

A Suggested Eight Days’ Itinerary for Visitors to the UK

We are often asked by overseas visitors (particularly from the USA) for advice on an itinerary. We gave the following recently to one correspondent and print it here for general interest, but would readers please note that we cannot answer further enquiries on this subject. Obviously different things will appeal to different visitors and most benefit from a tour of this kind will be obtained by those who have done some reading of church-history and biography beforehand. A good starting-point would be J. C. Ryle’s Christian Leaders of the 18th Century.

Day One: Arrive in London. To catch up on some rest at the beginning of a visit, although in the excitement of arrival you may not feel like it, is generally the best way of enjoying the later stages of the visit!

Day Two: In London. There are the usual tours arranged for visitors including such things as boat journeys on the Thames, Westminster Abbey, etc.

Among places of evangelical interest worthy of visiting there are Bunhill Fields (the Puritan burial ground where John Bunyan, Owen and Goodwin, etc. are buried). Nearest tube station is Old Street. Across the road from the Cemetery is John Wesley’s house. John Newton‘s church, ‘St Mary Woolnoth’ may be of interest; also the Evangelical Library at 78 Chiltern Street, and Spurgeon’s grave which is at a cemetery in West Norwood in South London. Of course, much more than one day could be spent in London and its surroundings.

Day Three: Visit Kelvedon, Essex, Spurgeon’s birthplace in East Anglia, where what was once his parents’ home still stands in the main street. This whole area which Spurgeon called ‘the Galilee of England’ is worthy of exploration. John Owen ministered at nearby Coggeshall, and William Gurnall at Lavenham. Places such as Lavenham still have their 17th-Century atmosphere. Not far from Lavenham there is also Helmingham where J. C. Ryle began his ministry in Suffolk.

A visit to Dedham (in the same area) could combine interest in the preaching of one of the greatest Puritans, John Rogers, who is buried in the churchyard, and in John Constable the artist who did so much painting in this area.

Day Four: Go either to Cambridge or Oxford — both rich in evangelical history. At Oxford, for example, the place can be seen outside Balliol where Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley were martyred in the 1550’s; Pembroke College where Whitefield was a student; Christ College and Magdalen where John Owen and Thomas Goodwin were respectively heads in the 1650’s. (Bunyan enthusiasts might also want to visit Bedford and nearby Elstow, and lovers of John Newton might choose Olney (13 miles from Bedford) where William Cowper’s home is open to the public.) From Oxford proceed the same day to Bath arriving in the evening.

Day Five: Bath was a Roman town and the Roman baths are well worth visiting. Bath became an evangelical centre after the 18th-century revival. John Wesley and George Whitefield often preached here and Whitefield opened what is now the United Reformed Church. There is also William Jay’s chapel.

Between Bath and Gloucester to the North there lies some beautiful countryside, particularly around North Nibley where a monument exists to William Tyndale (the first man to print the English New Testament and one of the greatest figures in English Church History). The Manor House at Little Sodbury where Tyndale was a tutor also still stands and it is sometimes possible to visit there if prior arrangements have been made.

Day Six: Travel to Edinburgh or to Wales (see ‘Day Seven Alternative’).

Day Seven: Sightsee in Edinburgh. Of particular evangelical interest the spot in Grassmarket where many Covenanters were executed. Also their common gravestone in the North-east corner of Greyfriars churchyard (which is close to the Grassmarket).

Also off the Grassmarket about 20 yards is the Magdalene Chapel (now part of the buildings of the University of Edinburgh and it is entered through an ordinary door in the Cowgate). This is a more genuine Reformation building than St Giles and it is the probable place where the Confession of 1560 was drawn up. Brief visits will also be welcome at the Trust’s main office, The Grey House, 3 Murrayfield Road!

Day Seven (Alternative): Visitors of Welsh ancestry will prefer a visit to the Principality — a much shorter journey to the journey North! Perhaps two hours from Gloucester will take the car driver to Talgarth, home of Howell Harris (still to be seen) and farm which Whitefield, the Countess of Huntingdon and others once opened as a College. Lovers of the hymns of William Williams may visit his home at Pantycelyn and, further afield, Llangeitho (Cardiganshire) and Bala (N. Wales) are memorable scenes of the ministries of Daniel Rowland and Thomas Charles.

Day Eight: As one of the previous days will, of course, include the Lord’s Day upon which, it is hoped, visitors will not travel, a further day would be needed to complete the above.

The preceding suggestions could, of course, be greatly expanded if more time is possible. In the London area, for instance, a visit to Knole House, Sevenoaks, would be interesting. It once belonged to Thomas Cranmer, the English reformer and has a reformers gallery.

If another day could be made in the Bath area, Gloucester and its beautiful Cathedral would be worth a visit. Here Whitefield was born and commenced his ministry. Also not far from Gloucester is Tintern Abbey in the Wye Valley.

In the North East of England there are various places connected with the early establishment of Celtic Christianity, the Island of Lindisfarne, for instance, and the great Cathedral of Durham, although, of course, that is later than the Celtic period.

Again, from Edinburgh interesting journeys could be made to various sites — Blackness Castle near the Forth Road Bridge; St Andrews, closely connected with the Scottish Reformation where John Knox commenced his ministry; and St Peter’s Church, Dundee, where Robert Murray M’Cheyne ministered.

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