Recently, St John’s Bedwardine organised and enjoyed two history-based events in their social calendar. Aspiring code-breakers piled on to a coach on a recent Saturday morning, heading (not so secretly) to Bletchley Park near Milton Keynes. During World War 2 (WW2), Bletchley Park was home to men and women who broke German codes (most notably the Enigma code) and the estate reopened as a museum in 2014 thanks to Lottery Funding. Congregation members from St John’s not only discovered much about code-breaking in WW2, but also about the lives of those who lived and worked there during the six year period. Many of the visitors were struck when they found out that approximately nine-thousand people worked there during the war, but that this remained a national secret for fifty years. Saddening personal stories of those who used to work there were also found to be very touching as the group moved around the museum.

Some congregation members also had the time to visit the National Museum of Computing, which is attached to Bletchley Park. The museum houses examples of Alan Turing’s machine which was used to break the Enigma code, Colossus (the world’s first electronic computer), and the world’s oldest working computer which was used to support the mathematics of building nuclear reactors in the early 1950s. It was shocking to realise the extent of technological development over recent decades, especially in that the 1950s computer would take 273 years to complete a task for which a modern iPhone takes one second.

Plague and Pestilence talk at St John's Bedwardine

Colin Nash, congregation member at St John’s Bedwardine, said, “Yet another wonderful trip organised by our great team and our thanks for their efforts in finding a place where I think people will be going back to again in the future.”

Travelling further back in time, seventy-five people from the church heard all about Plague and Pestilence at their highly entertaining March History talk, led by Paul Harding of Discover History. The congregation were dismayed to find out how the Plague was present in Worcester in the seventeenth-century, courtesy of the Civil War, in addition to the Mediaeval period. In the Mediaeval period, Worcester was one of the first places in the country to suffer from the Plague, as the city was a major inland port home to much trade. The parishioners of local churches St Cuthbert’s and Lower Wick are believed to have died out and it is at this point St John’s Bedwardine became the main church for the parish. 

Congregation during Plague and Pestilence talk at St John's Bedwardine

At this time, because people did not understand the disease, they gathered together to pray and this increased the spread of the illness. In their ignorance, people thought that they could ward off the Plague by completing pilgrimages and wearing talismans, neither of which worked. The site of St Oswald’s Hospital in Foregate Street is believed to be one of the main Plague burial pits in the city. Congregation members were grateful for another very interesting, gruesome talk accompanied by lots of props and artefacts which brought the local and national history to life. 

St John’s Bedwardine will host their next history talk on Friday 12th April, which will focus on the commercialisation of Easter. To read more about trips and other events at St John’s Bedwardine, visit their website: https://www.stjohninbedwardine.co.uk/news/