Sunday, April 26, 2015

English Lakeland and a hymn of two Kingdoms

1. Ullswater and the Lakeland fells, Cumbria
A view from the road near Gowbarrow Park

[Just above a footpath leading to Aira Force waterfall]
2. The War Memorial in the form of a Celtic cross
(All Saints' Churchyard, Watermillock, Cumbria)

[Commemorating the war dead of the two World Wars]
3. The WW1 memorial inside Watermillock Church
4. Memorials to brothers Gerald and Cecil Spring Rice
(Inside Watermillock Parish Church, Cumbria)

Gerald Spring Rice was in the Lonsdale Battalion (WW1)

Cecil Spring Rice was Ambassador to Washington (WW1)
He also wrote the words of this hymn:
"I vow to Thee My Country"
 For additional information click on 'Comments' below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information


The landscape of Watermillock in English Lakeland has inspired generations of painters, writers, poets and musicians. Since the age of Romanticism it has increasingly been a place for those with a love of the countryside: walkers, climbers, sailors, rowers, etc. While the resident community of Watermillock has never numbered more than a few hundred souls it has attracted many well-known artists and writers over the years especially from the Age of Romanticism to the modern day.

One of the central themes of many of the works to come out of this place are the twin beauties of the heavens above and the landscape below existing in a common unity. When the time call came that men and women should come forward to answer a call to arms at the time of the World Wars from this area took the memory of their home with them and several made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives and would never return.

These are the underlying themes that will be considered in the remainder of this article, with particular reference to the remembrance of those who died in the World Wars.

Sunday, 26 April, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

A place of inspiration in the Victorian era

J.M.W. Turner, R.A. (1775 – 1851), the Romanticist landscape artist and contemporary of the Wordsworths, also visited the area and painted scenes of Ullswater including at least one from Gowbarrow Park. In the late Victorian and Edwardian eras views of the heavens above and the earth below in the English Lake District continued to inspire writers, poets and landscape artists, such as the writer, poet and Church of England minister Canon H.D. Rawnsley (1851 – 1920), the Victorian landscape artist Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863 – 1929) and the diplomat and poet Sir Cecil Spring Rice (1859 – 1918).

It is widely believed that it was a heavenly and earthly poetic vision of Ullswater that inspired Sir Cecil Spring Rice to write his best known poem “Urbs Dei’ (“The City of God” or “The Two Kingdoms”). After Cecil Spring Rice’s death in Canada in 1918 the words of “The Two Kingdoms” were set to a tune by Gustav Holst and published as the patriotic hymn of Remembrance time “I vow to Thee My Country”.

A modern view of Ullswater from the path above Aira Force waterfall on the western side of Gowbarrow Park that inspired this hymn can be seen above [Photograph No.1]. Further information about Sir Cecil Spring Rice and “I vow to Thee My Country” can be found below.

Sunday, 26 April, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Watermillock War Memorials

“I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns;
I haste to thee, my mother, a son among thy sons”
[Sir Cecil Spring Rice, ‘Urbs Dei’ / ‘The Two Kingdoms’ (1908)]

In the early 20th Century the population of Watermillock was about 450 – 500. There were a number of large country houses for the gentry which provided work for gardeners, bailiffs / gamekeepers, coachmen / chauffeurs, domestic servants. Other employment was provided on the local farms and in some of the local quarries and nearby lead mine.

Although Watermillock has always been sparsely populated nevertheless many of the men linked to the parish served in the Armed Forces during the World Wars – some of them making the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ and laying down their lives. In the churchyard of All Saints’ Church, Watermillock stands a memorial stone in the form of a Celtic cross remembering the ‘Fallen’ of the two World Wars [Photograph No. 2].

The memorial stone was originally erected following the 1914 – 1918 war and amended following the 1939 – 1945 war, which explains the following wording on the plinth:

“In memory of
The men of Watermillock
Who fell in defence
Of their country in the Great Wars
1914 – 1918
1939 – 1945”

At the time of writing, there was no separate memorial listing the names of those who died in the 1939 – 1945 war. However, there is a brass plaque inside the church listing those from the parish who died in the 1914 – 1918 war (11 names) [Photograph No. 3]. The wording on the plaque reads as follows:

‘Erected by
The parishioners of Watermillock
In proud and loving memory of
Those men who went from this parish
And gave their lives in the Great War
1914 – 1918’

Lieut. Stanley Heywood
Gallipoli 1915

Lieut. Gerald Spring Rice D.L.
France 1916

Corpl. John George Trimble
France 1916

Sapper John William B. Hodgson
France 1916

Private Leonard John Heywood
France 1916

Sergeant William Sidney Stockdale
France 1917

Corpl. Wilson Ridley
France 1917

Private William Henry Hunter
France 1917

Private John William Hetherington
Salonika 1917

Private John Thompson
France 1917

Private Herbert George Robinson
Belgium 1918

“Rest in Peace”
In addition, there is a memorial plaque commemorating another soldier with a family connection to the parish but whose name is not included on the main WW1 memorial. It is to the memory of Private Charles Henry Nicholson, 8th Battalion Canadian Infantry, whose maternal grandfather was Rev. Isaac Todd of the parish and who died at the age of 51 on 26 September 1916.

Sunday, 26 April, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The Spring Rice family memorials

Inside the church are a number of memorials remembering the Spring Rice family one of the local landowning families of yesteryear. A brass plaque remembers Charles Spring Rice (died 1880) and his wife Elizabeth (nee Marshall) (died 1883) and one of their sons, Stephen (died 1902). The stained glass window above (the “Spring Rice window”) remembers their daughter, the Hon. Mrs Evelyn Mary Farrer (nee Spring Rice) (died 1899) and was erected by her sisters, whose property was the Old Church on the lake shore.

Two further memorials to the Spring Rice family can be found inside the church near the pulpit [Photograph No. 4]. One of these is to the memory of Lieutenant Gerald Spring Rice, D.L. (killed in action in France in 1916) while the second remembers his brother, Sir Cecil Arthur Spring Rice (died in Canada in 1918).

Lieutenant Gerald Spring Rice held a wartime commission in the famous ‘Lonsdale Battalion’ (11th Battalion The Border Regiment) of the First World War. The 11th Battalion was a ‘Pals Battalion’ raised mainly from the traditional counties of Cumberland and Westmorland (now both in the county of Cumbria). It took its subsidiary of ‘Lonsdale’ after Hugh Lowther, 5th Earl of Lonsdale who raised the battalion in September 1914 with the famous poster headed by the slogan “Are You a Man or Are You a Mouse?”

After training initially at Carlisle Racecourse in late 1914 and then at various centres during 1915 the ‘Lonsdale’ Battalion was based at Salisbury Plain in the autumn of 1915 when it was finally placed under orders to proceed to France. The battalion embarked at Folkestone on the ‘Princess Victoria’ and sailed for Boulogne on at 1 a.m. on 23 November 1915. It formed part of the 97th Infantry Brigade in the 32nd Division, The C.O. of the ‘Lonsdales’ was Lieutenant-Colonel P.W. Machell.

Lieutenant Gerald Spring Rice, then in his 50s, was the transport officer. He would not see home again as he was killed in action, aged 51, on 27 May 1916. The memorial plaque inside Watermillock Church (seen on the left in Photograph No. 4) reads as follows:

“In Loving Memory of
Of Mell Fell House.
Lieutenant 11th (Lonsdale) Battn.
The Border Regiment
Aged 51 years
Killed in Action 27 May 1916
Buried at Authuille in France”

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,
Do it with thy might.” [Eccles. Ch.IX, v.10]

Sunday, 26 April, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The memorial seen on the right hand side of Photograph No. 4 commemorates the life of Sir Cecil Spring Rice, P.C., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O. Although he was born in London, partly because of a long term childhood illness Cecil Spring Rice spent much of his childhood at the Cumbrian family home near the Ullswater lake shore (now the Old Church Hotel).

Nevertheless, Cecil Spring Rice he went on to be educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford and went on to enter the British diplomatic service. He was a close personal friend of Theodore (‘Teddy’) Roosevelt (1858 – 1919) who served as President of the United States (1901 – 1909). In fact, Cecil Spring Rice was best man at Theodore Roosevelt’s second marriage to Edith Kermit Carrow which took place in London on 2 December 1886.

In 1904 Cecil Spring Rice married the well connected Florence Caroline Lascelles, a cousin of the Duke of Devonshire, with whom he had two children, a daughter (Mary Elizabeth) born 1906 and a son (Anthony Theodore Brandon) born 1908. President Theodore Roosevelt was the godfather at Anthony Spring Rice’s baptism.

Between 1912 and early 1918 Sir Cecil Spring Rice was British Ambassador in Washington. When Britain declared war against Germany in 1914 Cecil Spring Rice’s main objective was to persuade President Woodrow Wilson and the United States to abandon neutrality and join Britain and her allies in the war against Germany. Eventually, on 6 April 1917 the United States declared war on the German Empire. It was a victory for Ambassador Spring Rice’s diplomacy.

Sir Cecil Spring Rice continued as British Ambassador to Washington until early in 1918 when he was recalled to London. While returning home Sir Cecil and Lady Spring Rice journeyed via Ottowa (Canada) and stayed with the then Governor-General of Canada, the Duke of Devonshire. As referred to earlier, the Duke was a cousin of Lady Spring Rice. It was here at Ottowa, on 14 February 1918, that Sir Cecil Spring Rice died suddenly. He was 58 years old.

Sir Cecil Spring Rice was laid to rest in Ottowa’s Beechwood Cemetery. One 7 June 2013 an additional memorial plaque was unveiled to his memory, with some of his relatives present.

The memorial plaque installed inside Watermillock Parish Church to commemorate Sir Cecil Spring Rice (seen on the right in Photograph No. 4) reads as follows:

“In Loving Memory of
P.C., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O.
His Majesty’s Ambassador to the
United States of America 1912 – 1918.
Born 27 Feb 1859
Died at Ottowa 14 February 1918.”

“I will lift up mine eyes to the hills
From whence cometh my help.” [Psalm 121, v.1]

Sunday, 26 April, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

A poem set to music becomes a hymn

Let us now consider the hymn “I vow to Thee My Country”. Most written accounts about Cecil Spring Rice’s original two verse poem ‘Urbs Dei’ (‘The City of God’) state that it was written while he was based at the British embassy in Sweden. That may well be so. However, according to the poet’s granddaughter, Mrs Caroline Kenny, Cecil Spring Rice completed the original two verse poem in 1912, by which time he was in Washington in the post of British Ambassador.

Also, according to Mrs Kenny (Cecil Spring Rice’s granddaughter) the first verse of ‘Urbs Dei’ was rewritten in December 1917, a few days before he left the post of Ambassador. This new verse was intended to replace the original first verse of the poem and not make it a three verse poem. Later, when the poem was set to music to become the well-known hymn of Remembrance it is usual to sing just two verses – the rewritten first verse from 1917 and the ‘original’ second verse.

The first verse refers to the earthly kingdom and especially the great sacrifice of those who died in the so-called ‘Great War’ of 1914 – 1918. On the other hand the second verse of the hymn, beginning with the line “And there’s another country” refers to the kingdom of heaven. In this one hymn are the “two kingdoms” that first inspired Cecil Spring Rice when growing up by the lakeshore of Ullswater in English Lakeland.

In 1921, the composer Gustav Holst adapted the music of ‘Jupiter’ from the ‘The Planets’ suite (Opus 32) to fit the words of Cecil Spring Rice’s poem. The hymn became known by the first line of the rewritten first verse (“I vow to Thee My Country”) and the hymn tune has the title ‘Thaxted’ (after the Essex town where Gustav Holst lived). The hymn was included in a new edition of ‘Songs of Praise’ (1926) which was edited by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a close associate of Gustav Holst.

Although the hymn is most associated with Remembrance and Armistice Day services in the English-speaking world it has increasingly been sung on other occasions. For example, in 1965 it was sung at the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill who was British Prime Minister during the Second World War. It was also sung at the funeral of another former British Prime Minister, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, in 2013. The hymn was also a favourite one of Diana, Princess of Wales. It was sung at both her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981 and at her funeral in 1997.

Sunday, 26 April, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

“I vow to Thee My Country”

This is the ‘original’ (1912) first verse of Cecil Spring Rice’s poem ‘Urbs Dei’ which is not usually sung in the hymn:

“I heard my country calling, away across the sea,
Across the waste of waters, she calls and calls to me.
Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,
And around her feet are lying the dying and the dead;
I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns;
I haste to thee, my mother, a son among thy sons.”


By way of conclusion, below are the lyrics of the two-verse hymn “I vow to Thee My Country” by Cecil Spring Rice (sung to the tune ‘Thaxted’ by Gustav Holst):

“I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there's another country, I've heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.”

To see the hymn “I vow to Thee My Country” being sung at a Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall (12 November 2011), click on the following link:
‘I vow to Thee My Country’ (RBL Festival of Remembrance)

Monday, 27 April, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Aira Force waterfall and the Spring Rice family

Aira Force waterfall above the lake is arguably the best known and most beautiful waterfall in English Lakeland. This is due in no small part to its close association with the local poets William Wordsworth and Cecil Spring Rice and the many artists who have painted here.

The beauty spot of Aira Force will always be linked to the Spring Rice family. Two stone bridges either side of the main force of the water have been constructed by friends and family of the aforementioned Spring Rice brothers. The stone footbridge above Aira Force is dedicated to the memory of Stephen and Gerald Spring Rice. Below the main waterfall is another stone bridge dedicated to the memory of Cecil Spring Rice.

The waterfall, the bridges and much of the nearby land is owned and maintained by the National Trust. Each year, many thousands of visitors come to look at this beauty spot and the surrounding countryside which inspired one of the traditional hymns of Remembrance, “I vow to Thee My Country”.

Additional reading

To read the official British Foreign and Commonwealth Office ‘Blog’ about the unveiling and dedication of a new memorial to Sir Cecil Spring Rice in Ottowa in June 2013, click on the following link:
Cecil Spring Rice: Singing the Unsung Hero (F.C.O., June 2013)
Further details about the 11th (Lonsdale) Battalion The Border Regiment during the 1914 – 1918 war can be obtained at the Regimental Museum, Carlisle (Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life). This is a link to a brief history of the Lonsdale Battalion on the museum’s website:
11th Service Battalion The Border Regiment (Lonsdale)

Monday, 27 April, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...


All Saints Parish Church, Watermillock,
North Ullswater Churches, Cumbria.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office,
(F.C.O. Blogs. UK in Canada, Ottowa)

Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life
Alma Block,
The Castle, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA3 8UR

Cumbria County Archives and Local Studies Centre,
(Whitehaven Records Office),
Scotch Street,
Cumbria CA28 7NL

Monday, 27 April, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The memorial stone at the lower bridge at Aira Falls wrongly records the death of Sir Cecil Spring Rice as 1919, correctly (as in the church) 1918.

Saturday, 02 January, 2016  

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