Measurements of Carbon Dioxide concentrations in a church

The measurements reported in this post were made by colleagues of the School of Engineering at the University of Birmingham – Dr David Soper and Dr Mike Jesson – whose help is gratefully acknowledged.


Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has understandably been increased concern over ventilation within buildings and on buses and trains etc. This has been reflected in church circles where church ventilation has also been much discussed. Whilst more modern churches will have been specifically designed with ventilation in mind, with proper ventilation paths between windows and doors, the same cannot be said about older churches. For many such churches the only ventilation is offered by the opening of doors, and by leakage through windows and roofs. Because of the large vertical size of such buildings, this lack of ventilation is ameliorated by the ability of any pollutants of pathogens to diffuse throughout the large church space.

One such church is St. Michael on Greenhill in Lichfield (figure 1 below), which is essentially two large, connected boxes – a nave, and a chancel, with a main door in the north wall of the nave and a smaller door into the choir vestry on the south side, and internal doors between the vestry area, the nave and the chancel (figure 2). A though ventilation path is rarely established however as the external and internal doors are seldom open at the same time. There are plans to build new parish rooms to the south of the church, on the grassed area of the figure below.

Figure 2. Plan of church (the measurement positions are indicated by red circles)

This brief post outlines a short series of measurements to measure carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in St. Michael’s. CO2 is produced naturally by people during breathing and CO2 concentration levels are often taken to be an indication of pathogen levels when the population is infected. These measurements were made on Sunday May 15th 2022, when the service pattern was somewhat different from normal, with the normal 8.00 and 10.00 Holy Communion services supplemented by the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) at 11.15 and a 4.00 service at which a new Rector was Instituted by the Bishop and Archdeacon. As such it gave the opportunity to look at the effects of different congregation numbers (10 in the chancel for the 8.00 service, 50 for the 10.00 service and the APCM, and 150 for the Institution). A screen shot of a video of the Induction service is shown in figure 3 to give some idea of the density of the congregation.

Figure 3. The congregation during the 4.00 service

The measurements

Carbon Dioxide measurements were made with small transducers and data loggers at different points around the church. These were attached to pillars of left on suitable window ledges. These sampled automatically every minute and the results were transmitted wirelessly to a Raspberry Pi computer and from there to a University of Birmingham web site from where the data could be accessed in real time. These measurements were supplemented by measurements of temperature and pressure using further transducers with built in data loggers.

For the sake of simplicity only the results from two of the CO2 sensors will be shown, as the results from them all were very similar. The location of these are shown on the plan of Figure 2 – one on a pillar in the nave, and one on a window ledge in the chancel. The photographs of the instruments shown in figure 4 indicate that they are quite small and discrete and indeed were barely noticed by the congregation. The results will be presented from midnight on Saturday May 14th to midnight on Sunday May 15th.

The results of the trials

The weather on May 15th was quite pleasant with early morning temperatures of 10°C rising to around 20°C in the late afternoon and evening. The external humidity varied from 20% to 100% throughout the day. Inside the church however there was far less variation with temperatures between 16 and 21°C and humidity between 55 and 70%. The was a light southerly wind in the morning, with a somewhat stronger easterly wind from mid-afternoon onwards.

The results of the CO2 measurements are shown on the graph of figure 5. These are shown in terms of parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by volume and are relative to a general background level of around 400 ppm.

Figure 5. The carbon dioxide concentration measurements

The church was opened at around 7.30 am for the 8.00 Holy Communion service held in the chancel, which went on until till around 8.45. Around 10 people attended. There can be seen to be a small increase in CO2 levels in the chancel over the course of the service (A). Later in the morning there was a 10.00 Holy communion service in the nave with around 50 in the congregation, with a small choir of 4 or 5 in the chancel. This was followed immediately by the APCM from 11.15 to 11.45 in the nave with about the same number attending. During this period there can be seen to be a steady increase in CO2 levels both in the nave and the chancel (B). At 12.00 the church emptied and the doors were closed. This led to a steady decrease in concentrations (C) till about 2.00 when people started to arrive at the church to set up for the major service of the day – the Institution of the new Rector by the Bishop of Lichfield. At this point both the main door and the choir vestry door were opened (as Gazebos were being set up to the south of the church for refreshments after the service), and a ventilation path was opened through the church, with major CO2 concentration reductions (D). Around 3.00 the congregation for the 4.00 Induction service began to arrive and the church rapidly filled with around 150 attending, including a choir of around 20 in the chancel. There were significant increases in CO2 concentrations during the course off the service through till around 5.30 (E). When the service was over, both the main door and the choir vestry door were again opened, and there was a rapid drop in concentration levels till around 7.00 when the choir vestry door was closed (F). After some clearing up, the church emptied by around 8.00 and there was a gradual fall off in concentration levels (G).

Two main points emerge from these measurements. Firstly, and quite obviously, the levels of CO2 increase with the number of people in church and with the time they spend there – B and E on the above figure. Secondly it is clear that there are two different types of ventilation – the slow diffusion of CO2 throughout the building and leakage through the building envelope – roof, doors, windows etc. (C and G); and the rapid lowering of concentration levels when there is a direct ventilation path through the building between the two doors (D and F).

Now from the slope of the graph for the times when concentrations are falling, it is possible to get estimates of the time it takes for the concentrations to fall by 50%. For C and G these times are around 2.5 hours, whilst for D and F these times are between 10 and 30 minutes. Thus the through ventilation reduces the carbon dioxide levels much more quickly than simple diffusion and leakage.


The results show firstly that the method that was used is a simple and viable way of assessing the main ventilation parameters in a church. Colleagues from the University of Birmingham recognise that there is still work to on improving the frequency response of the sensors but overall the method has much promise. Secondly there are some implications for St. Michael’s itself – that large congregations in the church for lengthy periods of time can result in significant CO2 concentrations (and thus pathogens in times of infection), and that through ventilation is much more effective in reducing these concentrations than simply relying on diffusion and leakage. In the Parish Rooms developments that are under consideration for the area adjoining the choir vestry, it may be worth investigating if it is possible to design through ventilation paths through the church and the new development.

Train services on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways

The March / April 2022 service pattern

There are ongoing discussions, which at times are becoming quite heated, within the wider Ffestiniog / Welsh Highland Railway community about the nature of the services planned in this post pandemic period. On the one hand, the company sees the need to maximise train loadings and thus reduce the unit costs, to cope with huge increases in fuel and staff costs. This leads logically to the need to continue the successful pandemic style timetable of booked tours – from Porthmadoc to Tan–y-Bwlch / Blaenau Ffestiniog / Beddgelert / Caernarfon and back, with one train journey being filled before another is timetabled, and with no intermediate stops. The service pattern for late March 2022 shown above reflects this and consists of a number of named and themed trains. Without a doubt this meets the needs of most passengers, who are not necessarily railway enthusiasts, but simply want a good day our for them and their family, and is cost effective in that trains are maximally loaded. On the other hand, there is a strong, and as I perceive, growing, feeling amongst Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Society members and supporters that a more normal scheduled timetable with intermediate stops should be reinstated, to restore the railways to what are perceived as their true selves as service providers. I have sympathy with both points of view – the financial challenges are certainly significant and need to be addressed, but the provision of specific tours simply does not meet the needs and aspiration of many. This includes myself, as I nearly always use the railway for journeys to intermediate stops, with walks of varying length between stations and “tours” hold no attraction at all for me. As things stand I, along with others, have no real reason to travel on the railways. As I write there are, I understand, proposals are being worked on to reinstate intermediate stops on some journeys, although it is not clear if this will approach anything like a regular service pattern.

The purpose of this post is to raise just one issue that is of potential significance. Last year I had the privilege of being an examiner for a University of Birmingham PhD thesis by Robin Coombs entitled “The sustainability of heritage railways”. I quote from the thesis abstract.

………In particular, the thesis explores the necessary condition(s) for the successful operation of a heritage railway in terms of governing their sustainability as expressed through consideration of their life cycle trajectory around the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, economic and social. The hypothesis proposed in the study is that good governance of railway assets and management is the key determinate of the sustainability of a heritage railway. This hypothesis was tested through a survey of 39 Directors and General Managers and 252 heritage railway enthusiasts of 104 heritage railways, semi-structured interviews with 15 Directors and General Managers, and the author’s recorded field observations and participation in 52 heritage railway visits and events. The research shows that the longevity of heritage railways does not simply arise from ‘good governance’ but is in fact the product of multiple interlinked variables and processes. Indeed, many heritage railways have survived and prospered despite poor governance, rather than because of ‘good governance’. One of the most significant of these explanatory variables is social capital, a hitherto under-researched governance variable in heritage railway studies. Through case study examples, social capital is demonstrated to have compensated and mitigated for failures of organisational governance and weaknesses in operational conditions on heritage railways. In this respect, heritage railways are argued to be similar to charitable and other public-good organisations. On this basis the hypothesis was rejected, and an alternative hypothesis proposed: that social capital (of which philanthropy, reciprocity and trust are key constituents) is a key determinant of the sustainability of heritage railways.

Robin makes a very strong case for the importance of what he calls social capital in the long-term sustainability of heritage railways – supporters contributing financially and materially and through voluntary activities. To my mind this is of very great importance in the current Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland context. A robust approach to income and expenditure through a business plan is certainly required in these financially constrained times, but if in doing so the relationship with volunteers and supporters is fractured, through the provision of a service pattern that does not meet their needs or their aspirations for the railways, this could potentially have a serious effect on the provision of social capital and thus on the long-term future of the railways, as supporters direct their time, efforts and money elsewhere. This simple fact should not be forgotten as future service provision is considered. I would thus suggest that conserving and expanding the social capital that the railways have built up over the decades is as important for the future of the railways as a financially robust business plan.

Robin’s thesis will in due course appear on the University of Birmingham’s ethesis web site at . In the meantime he can be heard describing his work in this podcast.

The Petits of Ettingshall and Lichfield.

This post appeared in the April 2022 edition of the St. Michael’s church magazine. It is a selection from a number of earlier posts that discuss the Petits that can be accessed here and here.

The monument commemorating Louis Hayes Petit is very prominent at the front of the nave in St Michael’s, and recently a display board commemorating the life and work of his nephew, John Louis Petit has been erected in the graveyard close to the tomb of him and his siblings. But who were the Petit’s? In this short article I will give a brief history of the family from the time they first left France up to the death of John Louis and his siblings in the late nineteenth century.

The monument to Louis Hayes Petit in St Michael’s church

The first of the Petit family to arrive in England was Lewis Petit (1665-1720), a member of the ancient Norman family of Petit des Etans, who, with many other Hugenots, fled to England from Caen on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. He served in the British army as an engineer, rose to the rank of brigadier-general and was appointed lieutenant-governor of Minorca from 1708 to 1713. He was later involved in the suppression of a revolt by Highland clans. He had two sons, John Peter Petit and Captain Peter Petit. The former married Sarah, daughter of John Hayes of Wolverhampton, the owner of the Ettingshall Estate near Sedgley, and they occupied the manor of Little Aston from 1743 to the early 1760s. John Hayes died in 1736, and left Ettingshall to his son, another John Hayes. This John himself died in 1745 and the estate went to Sarah and her sister, and thus ultimately to John Peter Petit. Ettingshall was a large, originally arable estate, that even at that stage was beginning to be exploited for its coal and ironstone reserves. It is from that estate that much of the Petit wealth derived.

John Peter and Sarah’s only son, John Lewis Petit (1736-1780) qualified as a doctor in 1767 and was physician to St. George’s Hospital from 1770 to 1774, and to St. Bartholomew’s from 1774 until his death. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society from 1759 and was clearly regarded as a leader in his profession. He and his wife Katherine had three sons John Hayes Petit (1771-1822), Peter Hayes Petit (1773-1809) and Louis Hayes Petit (1774-1849), but clearly lacked imagination in the giving of names. Peter Hayes was a lieutenant-colonel of the 35th Foot and died of a wound received at Flushing in Holland during the Napoleonic war. Louis Hayes (he of the monument) became a barrister and, from 1827 to 1832, was MP for Ripon. He bought property at Yeading, Middlesex, and a house in Tamworth Street, Lichfield. After ceasing to be an MP, his remaining years were largely devoted to literary and philanthropic pursuits.

The eldest of the three brothers, John Hayes Petit (1771-1822) inherited the Ettingshall estate, but also followed an ecclesiastical career. He was ordained priest in Chester in 1798 and served a curacy at Ashton under Lyme near Stalybridge in Cheshire.  During his time there he married Harriet Astley of the nearby town of Dukinfield. Harriet was born in 1779 to the painter John Astley (1724-1787) and his third wife Mary Wagstaffe (1760-1832). John Astley had a colourful life, painting portraits of many 18th century notables, arousing strong passions of admiration (mainly in women) or distaste (mainly in men). His first wife was an unknown Irish lady who died in 1749. The second was Penelope Dukinfield Daniel (1722–1762) widow of Sir William Dukinfield Daniel, 3rd baronet, and a daughter of Henry Vernon, former High Sheriff of Staffordshire. John and Penelope were married with some rapidity after she intimated that the original of the portrait he was painting of her would be available if he wished. On Penelope’s death, and the death of his stepdaughter, Astley inherited the substantial Dukinfield and Daniel estates in Cheshire and was able to lead a life of some luxury and idleness thereafter.  Harriett was one of three sisters, known as the Manchester beauties, and her marriage to John Hayes would have brought him both a beautiful wife and a substantial supplement to his already considerable income.

In 1811 John Hayes Petit was appointed Curate of Donnington, and then in February of that year he was also appointed as a Perpetual Curate at Shareshill, to the north-east of Wolverhampton. Around 1817 he leased Coton Hall at Alveley in Shropshire from Harry Lancelot Lee, which was a very substantial property that once belonged to the Lee family. In 1636, Richard Henry Lee had emigrated to the US, and the family became rich through the ownership of tobacco plantations with a large slave population, and from whom the US Confederate General Robert E Lee was descended. It would not have been a cheap place to lease. After John Hayes Petit’s death in 1822, Coton Hall was bought by James Foster (1786 -1853), the very successful and wealthy ironmaster and coalmaster of Stourbridge.  After his death his wife Harriet and her unmarried daughters moved to the house in the house in Tamworth St, Lichfield that was owned by her brother-in-law Louis Hayes Petit.

John Louis Petit

John Louis Petit, the artist, born in 1802, was the eldest of  John and Harriet’s nine children. He inherited the Ettingshall estate on the death of his father in 1822, and also inherited the bulk of the estate of his uncle Louis Hayes Petit when the latter died in 1849. In total they formed a very substantial estate in the Wolverhampton area, that was being heavily exploited for coal, iron ore and limestone. He and his sisters also had a less tangible inheritance from his mother and his grandfather – the passion and the ability for painting and sketching.

After he graduated from Trinity College in Cambridge in 1825, John Louis Petit firstly pursued an ecclesiastical career being curate at St Michael’s in Lichfield from 1825 to 1828, under the Perpetual Curate Edward Remington, and then curate at Bradfield and Mistley in Essex from 1828 to 1834. During his time at St. Michael’s, the registers tell us he carried out 61 baptisms, 35 weddings and 163 funerals, as well as presumably leading the Sunday worship – a not inconsiderable load. He married Louisa Reid, the daughter of George Reid of Trelawny in Jamaica in 1828. The Reid family derived much of their wealth from slave plantation ns in Jamaica and the family received considerable compensation for their lost income when slavery was abolished in the 1830s.He gave up his post in Essex in 1834 and from the mid-1830s onwards he devoted his time to his painting and architectural criticism, and his story is told elsewhere. His artistic career is well described on the website of the Petit Society –

The Petit tomb in the churchyard hold the remain of John Louis and his siblings. The inscription reads

LOUISA PETIT sixth daughter of the Rev. HAYES PETIT deceased and HARRIET his wife. From a life of almost uninterrupted suffering which she bore with true Christian patience and cheerfulness she was released by a merciful providence on the 30 day of November in the Year of our Lord 1842 aged 30. Also of LOUIS PETER PETIT of Lincolns Inn, Barrister at Law, third and youngest son of the Rev. JOHN HAYES PETIT, and HARRIET his wife. He died on 28th May 1848 aged 32  years. PETER JOHN PETIT Lieutenant Colonel of Her Majesty’s 50th Regiment died February 15th 1852 aged 46 years. ELIZABETH HAIG daughter of JOHN HAYES PETIT born September 11th 1810 died July 5th 1895. Hic J acet quod mortal e est viri Reverendi JOHANN LS LUDOVICI PETIT AM, died 2 Dec. 1868 aet suae 67. EMMA GENTILLE PETIT born August 7 1808 died January 30 1893. SUSANNA PETIT died February 12 1897 aged 83.

The Petit Tomb

Football leagues – development sides and lower divisions

From time to time, the coaches of Premiership football clubs call for their development teams (usually for under 23s with a limited number of older players) to be allowed to play in the Championship or League 1 to give them more competitive games. Such proposals are usually strongly resisted by the lower leagues, as an attack in the integrity of their divisions. In this short post, I will try to show that league competitions can be constructed in a way that allows for the needs of the higher league Development teams and yet retains the integrity of the lower league competition and perhaps even enhances it. The method outlined is not just applicable to the football Premiership and Championship, but could be applied to other sports at all levels where there is a similar of “second” trams playing those in lower leagues.

Suppose we have 20 higher division developmemt teams and 24 lower division teams (the current numbers in the Premiership and Championship). We divide each group into two – HD1 and HD2 for the higher division development teams (10 in each group) and L1 and L2 for the lower league teams (12 in each group). The teams would play each other as follows.

  • L1 teams would play all the other L1 teams home and way (22 matches), the L2 teams once, half home and half away (12 games) and the HD1 teams once at home (10 games), giving 44 games in total (27 home, 17 away).
  • L2 teams would play all the other L2 teams home and way (22 matches), the L1 teams once, half home and half away (12 games) and the HD2 teams once at home (10 games), giving 44 games in total (27 home, 17 away).
  • HD1 teams would play all the other HD1 teams once, half home and half away (9 games) and the L1 teams once way (12 games), giving 21 games in total (4/5 home, 17/16 away).
  • HD2 teams would play all the other HD2 teams once, half home and half away (9 games) and the L2 teams once away (12 games), giving 21 games in total (4/5 home, 17/16 away).
  • L1 and L2 teams would be ranked separately on the basis of all games played, with the winners of each playing for the L title of that division. Both would be automatically promoted to  the league above, with the second and third place teams in each section playing off for other promotion places.
  • HD1 and HD2 teams would be ranked separately on the basis of all games played, with the winners of each playing for the title of the HD section of that division .

This format thus ensures the following.

  • The lower league teams and the development teams of the higher league teams would be ranked in separate divisions, even though there is some cross over on the teams that are played.
  • All teams would be ranked only alongside those teams that have played the same opponents the same number of times, ensuring integrity of competition.
  • The lower leagues teams would play a similar number of games to those that would be played in a conventional competition (44 as against 46), but with an increased number of potentially attractive home games against the higher league development teams.
  • The higher league development teams would play a significantly smaller number of games than the lower league teams, which conforms with current practice for such sides (for example on the Premier 2 league, teams play around 14 to 15 games in a season). All the games they play against the lower league sides can be expected to be very competitive.

The World Test Championship

The cricket World Test Championship is perhaps one of the most impenetrable of all sports competitions, with playing regulations and points coring systems that are not all easily understood by any except those who devised it and those with advanced statistical training. Details can be found here for those interested. The result of this complexity is to make it poorly understood by media and public, and it does little to generate interest (and perhaps financial sponsorship) for the test match format. But it needn’t actually be so. In this short post I describe a simple format for a World Test Championship that would be easily understandable; would result in meaningful matches and series; and would produce an undisputed champion every year. There is a snowball in hells chance of anything this sensible being implemented by the ICC, but its formulation has proved to be intellectually satisfying at any rate.

The basic principle would be to divide test playing countries into divisions of three. Based on current rankings (January 2022) these would be

  • Division 1 – India, New Zealand, Australia
  • Division 2 – England, Pakistan, South Africa
  • Division 3 – Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh
  • Division 4 – Zimbabwe, Ireland, Afghanistan

Given the current political climate Afghanistan’s position in Division 4 might be untenable, and it might need to be replace by another side (perhaps Netherlands or Scotland).

The basic principle would be that the sides in each division each year would play each other in a three-match series – one home series and one away series. The position in the division would be determined by giving 2 points for a series win and one point for a draw, or, if these points are equal, on the number of matches won. The top side in each division would either be declared world champion for the year, or be promoted to the next division, whilst the bottom side would be relegated. It would be no more complicated than that.

Essentially this would give a baseline for the number of test matches per year of six per team, which ought to be achievable. It does not preclude other series (such as the Ashes) being played as required – and indeed the world championship games could be designated tests in, say, a five-match series.  Each team would play different teams in succeeding years, apart from the top two in Division 1 and the bottom two in Division 4.

 The main requirement would be a need for flexibility in arranging fixtures on an annual basis, rather than as part of the longer-term future tours programme. This may be easier if designated periods were kept free from other series. The real advantage of such a method would be that it would greatly increase the profile of the long form game, with each of the series that are played being meaningful in terms of promotion and relegation, and gives the possibility of the championship finding a significant sponsor.

The memorial inscriptions in St. Michael’ churchyard in Lichfield


The churchyard of St Michael-on-Greenhill in Lichfield is one of the largest and possibly one of the oldest in the country and has long served as the last resting place of the people of the Lichfield parishes of St Michael and St. Mary. Unsurprisingly it is rich in grave memorial inscriptions that give a glimpse into the life and times of those whom they commemorate. This post will consider a number of aspects of these memorials, although space constraints mean it will inevitably be somewhat superficial and will leave much more to be said.


But first some context. The churchyard is effectively divided into two – the old (full and closed) churchyard around the church with an area of around nine acres, and the new churchyard to the west that is still in use, although space there is becoming limited. This post only considers the former. In the late 1960s, a major re-ordering of the old churchyard was carried out, prior to responsibility for it being taken by the local council. This involved moving many headstones into clusters and either grassing large areas of the churchyard for the purposes of maintenance or encouraging the growth of scrub and trees. This has led to it becoming something of a wildlife haven, with very many different species of plant and tree and it is highly valued as an outdoor resource by those who live locally. Before the re-ordering a survey was carried out of all the graves that were visible and 2084 graves were identified, and the names of those they commemorated were recorded dating back to the 16th century. In the 1980s the Birmingham Society for History and Genealogy carried out a major survey of all the monumental inscriptions in the graveyard, and transcribed 1562 inscriptions. Sadly, the effects of time have meant that many of the inscriptions identified in the 1960s and 1980s are now very difficult to read, and a considerable debt is owed to those who undertook the surveys and recorded the information for posterity. Indeed some of the inscriptions below can no longer be located due to the headstones being moved, and these surveys are the only record we have.

There is however some reason to think that the recorded graves and inscriptions represent only a small proportion of the burials in the graveyard. Between 1813 and 1905, there are 9128 entries in the church burial register. For the same period the 1960s survey identifies 1729 burials in 1099 graves and the 1980s survey of inscriptions identified 1623 burials in 1018 graves. Doubtless some burials and graves have been lost due simply to degradation over the course of the years – both due to the effects of the climate and to human action. With regard to the latter, pictures of the church from the 1830s in the William Salt Library show a number of gravestones that seem to have been done away with in the church rebuilding in the “gothic” style in the 1840s. The Victorian restorers were far from being historically sensitive. But the large number of recorded burials in relation to the number of graves does suggest that the major proportion were in unmarked graves, which is perhaps not surprising. This number of such burials was swollen by the fact that St Michael’s was the burial ground for Workhouse residents. Thus the grave inscriptions that we have only tell us something about the levels of society that could afford the services of a stonemason.

The nature of the inscriptions

The bulk of the inscriptions have a very simple biographical form – a dedication (In memory of / In remembrance of / Sacred to the memory of etc.) followed by the full name of the deceased, an indication of where they were from, a description of death (died / fell asleep, entered into rest etc.) and a date and age of death. A typical example is that of Maria Webster.

Sacred to the memory of MARIA WEBSTER of the City who died Jan. 16 1873 aged 78 years.

 This can be repeated a number of times depending on how many are buried in the grave or commemorated on the memorial, which is not necessarily the same thing. Apart from giving names and death dates, such inscriptions are not terribly informative. Where there are numerous burials in one tomb, the inscriptions can become very complicated. For example, those the Bird family tomb has the following set of inscriptions.

SUSANNA BIRD died October 28th 1754 aged 34 years. HENRY BIRD many years an Alderman of this City died November 1st 1783 aged 65 years. ANN BIRD wife of WILLIAM BIRD died May 28th 1778 aged 28 years. WILLIAM GUEST BIRD Esq member of the Corporation of Lichfield who died after an illness of two days in the Faith of Jesus Christ on the 5th day of September 1833 in the 46 year of his age at Margate in Kent where his remains are interred. Be ye therefore ready also for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not. SlJSANNA MARGARET SALT daughter of WILLIAM & ANN BIRD died November 28th 1851 . She was a Christian of rare excellence. WILLIAM BIRD of this City died the 9th of September 1817 aged 72 years. MARY BIRD relict of WILLIAM BIRD died April 7th 1821 aged 74.

The Bird tomb

However, some memorials contain more information. Some of this is an extension of the biographical, describing the role of the deceased or the nature of their demise. In the above example Susannah Margaret Salt is described as

a Christian of rare excellence

The biographical style is particularly common for military casualties. For example, that of James Henry Thorpe which is part of a larger family inscription

……..  Also of their youngest son JAMES HENRY THORPE, Sergeant 1st South Staffordshire Regiment who fell in action at Kleine Zonnebleke, October 26th 1914 aged 26 years……….

Instead of, or as well as, such biographical information, around 180 graves give inscriptions of a pious or religious nature. These are of three forms. The first, and earliest, is in the form of a verse (I hesitate to use the word poetry, since many of the inscriptions represent crimes against the English language!) such as that for Thomas Lee.

Sacred to the memory of THOMAS LEE who departed this life December 15th 1829 aged LXX. No flattering titles deck this humble stone. This verse is sacred to the truth above. Here lies exceed the character who can. An upright Mason and an honest man…

The second is a verse from the bible, often a verse used in the funeral liturgy – such as “In the midst of life we are in death” or “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord”. The third type is a simple vaguely religious, but non-scriptural sound phrase such as “Peace, perfect peace”, “Rest in peace” or “Reunited”.

Interestingly these three types can be distinguished by the age of inscription. The bar chart below shows the raw number of each type of inscription in 25 year periods – the non-uniformity of the data is such that I have not attempted a more rigorous statistical analysis. It is clear that the verse form has maximum popularity between 1826 and 1850, the biblical text between 1876 and 1900, and the simple phrase between 1926 and 1950.

Inscription types by date

In what follows, we will first give a few of the more interesting examples of the “biography” type of inscription, and similarly give some examples of the verse form.

Biographic inscriptions


There are a number of biographic descriptions of soldiers’ lives – both those who died at an advanced age and those who dies on active service. Perhaps the most visited of the memorials is that of Trumpeter John Brown, who served in the Crimean War.

Near here is the grave of Trumpeter JOHN BROWN 1815—189B who sounded the trumpet for the 17th Lancers at the Charge of the Light Brigade, Balaclava 25th October 1854.

Trumpeter Brown Memorial

More details of Trumpeter Brown can be found here. A number of Lichfield soldiers were killed in the first and second world wars and these are memorialized both on individual gravestones and on the Commonwealth War graves memorial. These include the following.

….. In Ioving memory of FRANK STANDLEY BUTLER 1st/ 8th Royal Warwicks who fell in action in France August 17 1917 aged 20 years.

…… Also FRANK LARKIN his brother Lance Corporal 1st North Staffs. Regiment who fell in action at Ypres July 9th 1915 aged 31 years. Also of MERVIN GODFREY LARKIN brother of the above born September 22nd 1888 who fell in action in France March 14th 1917.

,,,,Also his brother L/Cpl GEORGE WOLFE 6th North Staffs. Regt who made the supreme sacrifice at Caen Aug 15th  1944 interred in Grand Aunay British Cemetry France aged 23 years.

It is hard to imagine how the deaths of two sons affected the parents of Frank and Mervin Larkin.

Civic officials

A number of civic officials are buried in the graveyard, including former Mayors of Lichfield. The memorial to Alderman Joseph Raby from 1916, Mayor in 1915 also contains memorials to his wife who dies in 1938 and to his son who died in action in an unspecified location in 1918.

In loving memory of Alderman JOSEPH T. RABY, J.P. , F. J . I. Mayor of Lichfield 1915—16 called suddenly to rest May 30th 1916 aged 62. Also HANNAH his beloved wife died April 22nd1938 aged 86. Also Pte. HORACE S. RABY beloved son of the above who died November 8th 1918 aged 26 years.

The memorial to Robert Bridgeman, a sculptor by profession, contains both his biographic details, a short non-scriptural phrase, memorials to the death of his son in the first world war; and also the memorials to another son who was also mayor, and to that son’s wife, and is a good example of how complex the inscriptions can become.

ROBERT BRIDGEMAN, Sculptor. Sheriff and twice Mayor of this City departed this life March 1st 1918 in his 73rd year. After life’s fitful journey may he rest in peace. ROBERT GEORGE BRIDGEMAN Serge. Royal Engineers killed in action in France Nov. 5th 1916 aged 24. SARAH ANN wife of JOSEPH HENRY BRIDGEMAN died April 18th 1948 aged 83 years. JOSEPH HENRY BRIDGEMAN twice Mayor and also Sheriff of this City died February 24th 1951 aged 80 years.

Church officers and clergy

A number of church officers and clergy have memorials in the churchyard, The oldest of these is to the father and the son both named William Clarke, long term clarkes of the church. The death dates assigned when the stone was restored in 1870 were 1525 and 1562, although I have argued elsewhere that this is probably a misreading and they should be a century later.

Here lyes the body of WILLIAM CLARKE who was clarke of this church 51 years and buried March 5th 1525(?) aged ??. Here lies the body of William Clarke clarke of this church 71 years who died September 26th 1562 aged 86. Restored 1870

The two churchwardens that are explicitly mentioned are George Andrews and William Treadgold, the latter being warden at St. Mary’s rather than St. Michaels. There are however others buried in the churchyard who are not so identified – for example William Durrad, Lichfield’s first Station Master.

In loving memory of GEORGE ANDREWS sometime churchwarden of this parish born December 31st 1828 died July 24th 1905. Also of CATHERINE ANDREWS his widow born April 20th 1826 died April 24th 1909.

In loving memory of EMMA wife of WILLIAM TREADGOLD who died April 2nd 1935 aged 75. Also of WILLIAM TREADGOLD Churchwarden of St. Mary’s, Lichfield, who died September 1st 1944 aged 81.

Four of the first five rectors of the parish are buried in the churchyard – Thomas Gnossall Parr, James Serjeantson, Otho Steele and Percival Howard. The inscriptions on the graves of Parr, Steele and Howard are given below. Only the names of the Serjeantson grave were recorded in the 1960s survey and tnis was not recorded at all in the 1980s.  The story of these rector’s is told elsewhere.

THOMAS GNOSALL PARR died March 13th 1843 aged 68. ANNE his wife died May 31st 1839 aged 61. ANNE PARR their eldest daughter died Aug…. 1862 aged 59. THOMAS GNOSALL  eldest son of THOMAS GNOSSALL and ANN PARR…years, incumbent of this parish  ………and Deans Vicar of Lichfield Cathedral died December 23rd 1867 aged 68. RICHARD PARR died at Worksop May 19th 1862 aged 56. WILLIAM SEPTIMUS PARR died at Welshpool June 16th 1862 aged 47. BENJAMIN  & EDWARD PARR died in their childhood.

In loving memory of OTHO W. STEELE died 25th May 1922 aged 83 years. Rector of this Parish 1893-1913. CICELY MARY ANDERSON daughter of the above born 11th June 1877 died 2nd Sept. 1972. HENRY STEWART ANDERSON, C.M.G. , R. A.M. C. born 15th April 1872 died 12th May 1961.

PERCIVAL HOWARD born 7 July 1875 died 16 October 1955. Rector of this Parish 1913—1947.


Of the different types of inscriptions, those in memory of children are the most poignant, and given the high incidence of child mortality up to the start of the twentieth century, the most common. A few illustrations are given below. The first, for Tabitha Morley, quotes a saying of Jesus, that refers to a dead child he brought back to life. The second and third record multiple childhood deaths in the same family.

Sacred to the memory of TABITHA the only and dearly beloved child of SAMUEL MORLEY Vicar of Warslaw—cum—Elkstone in this County and SARAH his wife. She died in her infancy 15th day of July 1861. She is not dead, but sleepeth.

In affectionate remembrance of the beloved children of JOSEPH and ANN ALLTON. JOSEPH who died June 12th 1855 aged 14 years. ELIZA ANN who died December 22nd 1856 aged 3 years 8 months and WILLIAM ALFRED who died June 7th 1862 aged 18 years. Also of three others who died in their infancy.

In memory of dearly beloved children of HERBERT & HARRIET LARKIN. AMY born October 24t  1872 died September 24th 1896. KATE ELLEN born September 30th 1877 died March 23 1897. WILLIAM HENRY born June 11th 1875 died April 8t 1876. FLORENCE born December 23rd 1878 died September 23 1879. LUCY DOROTHEA born September 21st 1885 died October 26 1886.


There are a number of other interesting biographical descriptions in the churchyard. Firstly that of Elizabeth Logan. Her story perhaps to be told more fully.

Sacred to the memory of ELIZABETH LOGAN who died February 28th 1878. Having acted with MISS NIGHTINGALE in the Crimea on her return she followed the profession of sick nurse for which she was eminently qualified by her skill and experience. A strong sense of duty and great kindness of heart. No one who witnessed her self—denying exertions in aid of suffering humanity could ever forget them. Well done good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.

The Corfield memorial is at first sight a simple family biographical memorial, until one realizes that nearly all of them died on the same day. This was the result of a fire in a house on Breadmarket Street in 1871 (next to the Johnson House) that resulted in William Corfield, his mother, his wife and his four children all suffocating due to smoke inhalation. A large crowd attended the funeral and the whole incident was covered in detail by the press.

In memory of MARGARET CORFIELD age 81. Also of WILLIAM her son age 47 and THERESA MARY his wife age 35. They died January 14th 1873. Also of their children WILLIAM JAMES age 5 years and 5 months. MARY THERSA age 4 years and 2 months. JOHN aged 3 years and 1 month. ELLEN age 6 weeks. They died January 14th 1873. THOMAS died May’ 27th 1871 age 17 days.

The Corfield Grave

Family Groups

There are a number of family groups of graves in the churchyard. The most prominent of these are those of the Treadgolds, with thirteen burials in six graves between1894 and 1971, the Gilberts, with thirty two burials in nineteen graves between 1790 and 1904, and the Larkins with forty three burials in 18 graves between 1827 and 1977. These include the grave of Sidney and Eva Larkin, the parents of the poet Philip Larkin, who famously once said of Lichfield ‘God, this place is dull’.  Behind Sidney and Emma’s grave is the memorial to another Philip Larkin who died in 1878. The story is told that when the 18-year-old poet came across this gravestone, he was understandably perturbed and wrote to a friend, ‘I reeled away conscious of a desire to vomit into a homburg hat’.

Verse inscriptions

A number of verse inscriptions are given below. It is very easy to be rude about the quality of both the rhyme and the rhythm of these verses – and indeed I have been so above. But nonetheless they were chosen by relatives of those who are buried in the churchyard and must express at least something of what they wished to say.  So, whilst 200 years on, we may be amused by what is written, it is perhaps important not to be too critical and scornful.

Early deaths

A number of the verse inscriptions refer to early and sudden deaths – often as dire warnings for those who follow to prepare themselves for a similar fate.

Sacred to the memory of ANN RILEY who died October 28th 1838 aged 75 years. Also of ROBERT RILEY who died May 24th 1843 aged 81 years. Sacred to the memory of SARAH RILEY who died September 18th 1825 aged 28 years. Lost in the bloom of life lamented maid. Sweet by thy slumber in death’s dreary shade. And when thou leav’st thy lowly bed of rest. O may’st thou mount and mingle with the blest.

In affectionate remembrance of WILLIAM HITCHINS who died December 27th 1867 aged 21 years. He sleeps in Jesus. Also of JOHN HENRY HITCHINS who died October 5th 1869 aged 23 years. Weep not for me my mother dear. I am not dead but sleeping here. My end you know, my grave you see. Prepare therefore to follow me.

In affectionate remembrance of HARRY ALLEN MOONEY who died June 30 1883 aged 20 years. Death to me no warning gave. Therefore be careful how you Iive. Prepare in time make no delay. For no one knows their dying day.

Sacred to the memory of SUSAN daughter of WILLIAM and SUSANNAH ROGERS who died Feby 28 1843 aged 19. Also of two sons and one daughter who died infants. Ye, who with youthful steps, now lightly tread. O’er these green hillocks of the unconscious dead. Pause a few moments at this lowly tomb. And learn — an early death may be thy doom. Sacred to the memory of WILLIAM ROGERS who died July 29th 1864 aged 82. Also of SUSANNAH his wife who died April 3rd 1866 aged 83.

Husbands and fathers, wives and mothers

The verses for family members are often quite sad and reflective whilst describing the attributes of the deceased.

Sacred to the memory of JOHN HILL late of the Scales in this City who died April the 27th 1809 aged 66 By sudden death, he was deprived of life. Left years, son and daughter, and a faithful wife. Who mourn his loss and hope his sours on high. With Jesus Christ above the starry sky. His near relations do his fate bemoan. And to his memory have placed this stone.

In affectionate remembrance of WILLIAM BOOTH who departed this life April 5th 1876 aged 67 years. Dear wife and children do not weep. Whilst with the dead do sleep. A troublesome world I left behind. A crown of glory I hope to find.

In memory of ANN the wife of GEORGE GILBERT who died November 2 1824 aged 57 years. and of two children who died in their infancy. A faithful wife in silence slumbers here. A tender mother and a friend sincere. While living just, industrious and kind. A loss to all her friends she’s left behind.

Sacred to the memory of HANNAH wife of JAMES DABBS who died March 15th 1834 aged 48 years. A long affliction I do bear. Physicians were in vain. Till God did please to summons me. And ease me of my pain. Sacred to the memory of PHILIP SALT who departed this life January 29th 1823 aged 46. Also SARAH his daughter who died May 16th 1834 aged 23.

A new rail connection for Blaenau Ffestiniog?

In a 2019 issue of the Ffestiniog Railway Society magazine, a brief article described the early days of a project to restore the Dinas branch at the Blaenau Ffestiniog end of the line, thus reconnecting the town centre with the area in the midst of the slate heaps to the south of the Conwy Valley line tunnel (see the above map from Wikipedia which shows the complex FR layout around Blaenau). A useful history of the branch is give here.  It was lifted in the 1950s but the trackbed remains visible and accessible to the west of the Conwy Valley line south of the Ffestiniog tunnel. The main driver for the project would have been to provide a connection between the town centre station and the Llechwedd quarry, to the east of the Conwy Valley line near the tunnel portal, which has become a major tourist attraction, both in terms of its mining heritage but also as a mountain cycling and zip line venue. Unfortunately, with the advent of the pandemic, this project seems to have dropped from view, which is hardly surprising. The idea was raised recently once again on the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways Insider Facebook page, and the large potential costs of re-opening the branch against the potential income was again emphasized as the main barrier to taking this idea further.

Whilst I quite understand why the project has not progressed, it still seems to me that the initial reason for the proposed re-opening still remains. The centre of Blaenau has been transformed in recent years, but it is still an area that requires much investment in its future. To have its major tourist attraction an inconvenient mile and a half out of town with no public transport links, does little to help with the development of the town itself – indeed visitors to Llechwedd have no real need to stop off in the town centre at all. And of course the lack of any public transport connection simply encourages what is being increasingly appreciated as the unsustainable use of the private car. Thus in this brief post I suggest a way in which this project could be taken forward in what might be an affordable fashion (although I present no sort of cost benefit analysis at all).

The basic idea is simple – instead of relaying the former Dinas branch, the existing track formation of the Conwy Valley line should be used instead. With the current level of service provision on the line, in normal times the section from Roman Bridge just north of the  tunnel is occupied for only 45 minutes every 3 hour period. With a little imagination in the development of a signaling system to ensure safety, I would suggest that the line between the town centre and Dinas could be used for a shuttle service to take visitors between the town centre and the quarry complex when that section of track is not occupied. This could be done in two, relatively cheap, ways – either through the use of (lung destroying) standard gauge heritage DMUs, between the Conwy Valley line platform and a new platform at Dinas (which could be positioned on the eastern, Llechwedd side of the track and would avoid the need for a foot crossing that would be inherent in the relaying of the FR Dinas branch) and an access road to the quarry. More interestingly, a narrow-gauge track could be laid within the standard gauge track, with switches to allow narrow gauge trains to access these rails from the FT station, and a short station branch at Dinas. This would of course allow existing FR stock to be used.

Both these alternatives should be much cheaper than the relaying of the branch and could provide an attractive link between town and quarry. Realistically however they are likely to meet with strong opposition from the very conservative Network Rail culture, with its massively inflated approvals procedure, and great determination would be required to take forward these or other similar ideas.

At some stage in the future, I will write another blog post on the development of public transport links within the World Heritage Slate Landscape region – there is much to be said about transforming the current private vehicle dominated system into something that could be accessed by public transport. But that is for another day / week / month / year.

Eschatology, environment and evangelism.


The astute reader of my blog posts will know that I rarely post on theological or ecclesiastical matters, even though I am an Anglican clergyman, a role that consumes much of my time. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, most of my church-based output is in the form of sermons, which, being delivered to specific congregations at specific times and places, do not lend themselves to a written blog post format. For those interested in that sort of thing, some videos of my sermons, particularly from the lockdown period, can however be found here, along with those of others. But my main reason for not posting much in this area, is something of a feeling of inadequacy. Whilst I consider myself to be more or less on top of the recent literature and developments in my technical fields discussed on other pages on this site, and also to have a good grasp of the local history issues that I study, I really do not feel the same degree of comfort when considering biblical or theological sources – where my knowledge and reading barely scrapes the surface of what is after all a two thousand year old body of literature. There are however perhaps areas where I can contribute something to theological or ecclesiastical discussions. One of these is in the field of environmental issues, and it is that area with which this post is concerned.

In this post I will argue that a consideration of the overarching story of scripture of creation / fall / redemption / new creation, and in particular the eschatological aspects, has considerable implications for how Christians should regard environmental issues such as biodiversity and climate change, and, at least for a portion of our society, is a potentially useful tool for evangelism. In what follows I thus look at the big picture of the biblical narrative, come to what can only be a limited and provisional view about the overall purpose of God in creation, and discuss the implications for environmentalism and evangelism.

The big picture – the scriptural narrative

Although not often emphasized in ordinary church sermons and teaching, scripture as we have it presents a coherent overall narrative, through its multiplicity of literary forms. It begins with the creation of all that there is by God, culminating in the creation of humanity.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters… So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1,1-2,27, NIV)

This is followed by the narrative of the fall and, throughout the Old Testament, the unveiling of God’s “rescue plan” as Tom Wright would put it, through the covenant with Israel, the giving of the law and the message of the prophets. This plan finds its fulfillment in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as outlined in the gospels and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit onto the church. The narrative culminates in the eschatological visions of Paul and in particular of John of Patmos, the writer of the book of Revelation, and his vision of the new heaven and the new earth.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (Revelation 21, 1-3, NIV)

Clearly the core of this narrative is in the events that surround the life of Jesus. Different parts of the New Testament focus on these events in different ways. The earliest gospel, that of Mark, simply concentrates on Jesus’ life and death, his teachings and healings, and of the miracles that accompanied these. For him and the writers of the other synoptic gospels, this teaching is summed up in Jesus’ summary of the law.

‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12,29-31, NIV)

In Matthew and Luke, the field of vision is wider with the story of his birth and resurrection from the dead. Luke expands this a little more in Acts to describe the Ascension of Jesus to heaven, the coming of the Spirit and the outworking of that in the life of the early church. In John’s gospel the field of view becomes markedly wider. At the opening of the gospel we read

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1,1-3, NIV)

which takes the Jesus story back to the creation itself.  Later in the gospel we read how Jesus is described as coming from heaven, to where he will return.

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. (John 3.13)

This broader vision is further elaborated by Paul who gives little emphasis to the earthly life of Jesus, but rather views him as the eternal son of God, through him all things were made, who is now exalted with his Father in heaven, and through whom all things will be made new. He writes the following in the majestic words of the letter to the church at Colossae.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1.15-20, NIV)

In talking of God reconciling all things to himself through Jesus, Paul implies that Jesus’ death and resurrection were not just concerned with the salvation of individuals. He also writes in his letter to the Roman church, words that are of considerable importance for the discussion of environmental issues, explicitly including the whole of creation in the redemptive work of Jesus.

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans  8.19-21, NIV)

Finally, John of Patmos, in the visions of the book of Revelation, describes Jesus at the culmination of the biblical narrative.

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. (Revelation 22.12-13, NIV)

But why?

This overall narrative is a stirring one indeed – but the story stops at the description of the new creation, heaven on earth. Perhaps that is all we are meant to contemplate. But I am left with a nagging question. Put simply, why was the created order, both physical and biological, so important to God that it merited the extreme intervention of the incarnation, death and resurrection of God himself as revealed in Jesus? And this is my starting point on the reflections that follow in this post.

Now I freely admit that my perspective on all this is not the divine one, but it seems to me utterly unsatisfactory that the narrative of scripture should be an end in itself, leaving us with the rather static picture of humanity and God together in the new creation into eternity. I am reminded of my least favourite carol which describes the fate of the redeemed in the words “where like stars His children crowned, all in white shall wait around”. There must be something better than that! I am thus led to conclude that the purpose of God in creation is to bring it, in its entirety, to a point of perfection, as outlined in the visions of Revelation, where it is fit for whatever purpose might follow – not as an end in itself. I am unable to suggest anything further as to what that purpose might be, but it does seem to me to suggest that there is something very, very special about the created order – something that cannot be achieved in any other way than through the physical and biological processes inherent within it.

Following on from this, I would suggest that the uniqueness of creation lies in its complexity and diversity, and that this could not be achieved in any other way than through what we know as the evolutionary processes. The laws that govern the physical creation are both deterministic and stochastic, and it is this inherent stochastic component that leads to the observed complexity that we see around us in our physical world and its geological, atmospheric and oceanic processes. The stochastic element arises from the essential element of chaos that lies at the heart of creation, chaos being used here in its scientific sense where it refers to the sensitivity of physical processes to small changes in the initial conditions, rather than its theological sense. This same mixture of deterministic and stochastic processes is found in the biological creation, with the main mechanism of its outworking being through the genetic / sexual reproduction process, resulting in the massively wide variety of plants and animals (including humanity) that comprise our biosphere. Taking this further, from the biological genetic variation in humans flows the immense variety of intellectual and cultural achievements that make our society what it is. My suggestion is that it is this very variability and complexity that is important to God – and the created order has been specifically designed to have this characteristic for some future purpose that is yet to be revealed.

Now, however one interprets the story of the fall, it is clear that in some way, the creation has been marred and become less than perfect. How this occurred is a matter for further speculation – through external agency or simply because this was always a possibility through the operation of the stochastic processes within it. The effects of the fall show themselves in what theologically is described as sin – the tendency to selfishness and self-interest, both individually and corporately, that mars our humanity and makes it incompatible with its continued existence beyond the grave. As such, Jesus, through his death and resurrection, can be thought of as removing this incompatibility in some way, through taking the human condition in its imperfect state, into the Godhead (perhaps here I am verging on one of the old heresies!). In doing so it was made possible for humanity to pass through death and to play whatever future role it might have in God’s ongoing purposes.

Sin also of course has wider effects and injures the wider human community and the whole of the created order. The injuries caused to society and to creation at any one place and at any one time, then spread throughout the physical and biological creations through the normal evolutionary and stochastic processes within the physical, biological and social creations. However, through Jesus’ earthly life we were given an example and the moral resources to live the sort of life that is a true reflection of our humanity, based on the love of God and neighbour as outlined in Jesus’s summary of the law. The giving of the Holy Spirit to his disciples was the act by which we are enabled to live the eternal life of our restored humanity in the present. In the verses from Colossians and Romans quoted above, there is the strong suggestion that one aspect of living this restored life is to take the needs of God’s creation seriously and work for its restoration in all its forms. Creation has been badly degraded by the actions of humanity and it is our responsibility to reverse that process – to begin the process of restoring creation in a specific time and at a specific place, that this restoration might then spread more widely, again through the stochastic evolutionary processes, so that the wider creation too might become fit for whatever future purposes God has for it.

A model for evangelism?

I wrote above that the scriptural big picture of creation / redemption / new creation is not often presented in traditional church teaching. However, I am struck how many of the younger generations are quite happy with such “big picture approaches”. Overarching narratives occur time and time again in fantasy fiction (many tracing back to Tolkien’s work of course) and many TV series will have a “series” arc that connects individual episodes. There is also an increasing environmental consciousness of the young, as has been evidenced by their approach to the recent COP talks and to other environmental issues.

Now Christianity has perhaps the greatest and most exciting narrative arc of all, and one in which care for our created world is of the utmost importance. If the argument I made above is accepted, then the physical and biological creations are of vital importance to God for his future purposes and need to be preserved and enhanced in all their amazing diversity. I would suggest that not really using these concepts in our apologetics, evangelism and overall mission is a quite significant omission. Properly presented, they could provide a way into the church for a wide sector of the currently unchurched society in which we live – with environmental concern and activism being used as a way to bring them to Christ, and thus to personal transformation and discipleship. Some would say of course that this is the wrong way round – and that personal transformation should come first, and then lead to service and mission. To counter this, I would simply argue that there are many ways of reaching the same end – and is the disciple who prioritises service to his community and world over his individual experience of God, eternally any less well off than those who experience an inner conversion and transformation that never fully finds its way into a life of discipleship and service?

Ten of the best – a personal choice of Train Aerodynamics papers from 2021


In January 2020 and January 2021, I posted quite lengthy blog posts that attempted to collate all the published papers in train aerodynamics over the previous year  – see here for the 2020 post and here and here for the two part 2021 post. . These were intended as supplements to the book “Train Aerodynamics – Fundamentals and Principles” published in 2019. These blog posts have been quite widely read. At the time of writing (mid-January 2022) the 2020 post has had 190 views and the two parts of the 2021 post 129 and 70 views. It had been my intention to do something similar for the papers published in 2021. However, I have changed my mind on this, and instead will take a different approach in this post. My reasons for this are twofold.

  • The number of papers in the field continues to proliferate and, quite frankly, many of them are of poor quality. This seems to be driven by the need, in some jurisdictions, for research students to publish papers in order to be awarded a PhD. This inevitably encourages a low standard of output. Also, I have noticed an increasingly disturbing trend, whereby when a paper is rejected by one of the higher quality journals, it is submitted in much the same form to other journals with less impact.  I have seen a number of such papers sent to me to review by different journals – and on two occasions in 2021 I have been sent the same paper by three journals. Obviously I have little influence on how researchers submit papers, other than through the normal reviewing process, but there seems to me no reason to give such papers the benefit of a mention in any comprehensive annual compilation.
  • The use of CFD techniques in train aerodynamics, which is proliferating at the same rate as the number of papers, is giving me increasing concern. CFD techniques ranging from RANS to LES are exceptionally useful tools in all fluid dynamics research and the same applies in the train aerodynamics field. But they are as much tools as any physical model tests and need to be used and interpreted very carefully. There are many investigators who do just that, including colleagues in my own institution. However, I fear that that is not always the case Specifically, the use of such techniques is in many circumstances becoming divorced from practical reality. There is a tendency to apply quite high level, but inflexible, CFD methods (such as IDDES) to look at quite trivial problems where much simpler methods could have given equivalent answers over a wider parameter range. And in the consideration of the results from these calculations, there is often little appreciation of the uncertainty that is attached both to the CFD results themselves (for example I have seen the percentage changes in predicted drag given to two decimal places) or in relation to full scale reality, where the uncertainties are multiplied by an order of magnitude or more.  Further the results of the CFD calculations are often massively over-analysed. For example, in studies of cross wind effects on trains, I have come across papers where the predicted wake systems are analysed in very great detail, with little realisation that any such systems cannot exist in reality due to the (unsimulated) large scale turbulence in the approach flow field – as of course is the case with many wind tunnel tests. The same can be said of the analysis of many other applications. Again, there is little I can do to influence these trends, but I see no reason to publicise such work any further in blog posts.

In the light of such developments, in this post I will not present a comprehensive compilation of all the train aerodynamics papers from 2021 but will rather choose a much smaller number (ten in total) which I believe are of particular significance and likely to influence the field in the future. These are spread across the range of train aerodynamic applications including train drag studies, trains in tunnels, crosswind effects and emerging issues. The choice of what to include is of course to some degree subjective and mirrors my own interests, but I hope that readers find it of interest.

Train drag studies

On the influence of Reynolds number and ground conditions on the scaling of the aerodynamic drag of trains. Tschepe et al (2021)

Very often the effect of Reynolds number on train drag measurements or calculations is broadly ignored provided that the Reynolds number is “high enough”. This is of course not adequate, as the skin friction component of drag must vary with Reynolds number throughout the parameter range – see for example my historically rather crude analysis of the problem from 1991. This paper, drawn from the doctoral work of Tschepe) presents the results of a thorough experimental and analytical investigation into this effect, using the results from water towing tank experiments. These experiments are quite novel and deserving of attention in their own right. The three-dimensional nature of the train boundary layer is clear, and the effect of ground roughness (ie sleepers and ballast) is shown to be of some importance (see also my blog post here). A simple analytical approach, based on flat plate theory, allows a correction method to be developed for extrapolating low Reynolds number results to full scale conditions.

A field study on the aerodynamics of freight trains Quazi ei al (2021)

This paper presents the results of full-scale measurements of the pressure drag of a freight container during a typical journey. As such it provides a basic benchmark for further studies. The technique is of interest in its own right, but the basic result, that, despite the container not having other containers immediately in front and behind it, the drag coefficient is much lower than that found in other full-scale, physical model and numerical calculations is of considerable interest. The authors suggest that this is because of the container position much further down the train than in other measurements, as well as other modelling issues. The results perhaps give pause for thought about the measurement of train drag from wind tunnel tests or CFD calculations.

Tunnel aerodynamics

Influence of air chambers on wavefront steepening in railway tunnels. Liu et al (2021)

The phenomenon of micro-pressure waves (sonic booms) emitted from tunnel portals has been much studied in recent years. These are caused by the steepening of the train nose pressure wave as it passes along the tunnel, resulting in a steep wave at the tunnel exit that is not wholly reflected with some energy being transmitted out of the tunnel in the audible frequency range. The standard method for the amelioration of such effects is through the use of tapering tunnel entry portals, that reduce the initial (and thus the final) steepness of the waves. Such portals can be quite long and extend some way out of the tunnel, and indeed can be quite expensive. This paper investigates an alternative to such portals – the distribution of air chambers along the length of the tunnel that in principle reduces the steepening of the pressure wave. Using a relatively straight forward gas dynamics analytical model, the authors show that suitably designed chambers can remove the dependence of the exit wave on the steepness of the inlet wave. Guidance is given for appropriate chamber volumes and the resistance of the connectors between the chambers and the tunnel. Overall, the method has much potential for future tunnel design.

Virtual homologation of high-speed trains in railway tunnels: A new iterative numerical approach for train-tunnel pressure signature. Brambilla et al (2021)

The standard methodology to investigate the passage of pressure waves along tunnels is to use full-scale measurements to measure the pressure wave system on train entry, and then to use data from those measurements to predict the pressure wave along the length of the tunnel using one dimensional gas dynamics methods. The latter can be run many thousands of times to investigate a range of operational conditions. Clearly the required full-scale tests are expensive and complex. Recently some full CFD calculations of the flow along tunnels have been published using sliding grids, which are again highly complex and computer resource requirements limits their use to just one or two conditions. This paper presents a combined methodology where CFD calculations using a standard fixed grid are carried out to measure the pressure characteristics at train inlet to the tunnel, and these are then used in one dimensional methods. The methodology has been validated against an extensive full scale data set. Its relative cheapness and flexibility means that it has the potential to become widely used within the industry.

Semi-empirical model of internal pressure for a high-speed train under the excitation of tunnel pressure waves. Chen et al (2021)

This paper looks in detail at the development of internal pressures within train cabins in tunnels. Using a combination of commercial CFD and finite element analysis, together with simple models of internal ventilation flow, the authors looked at pressure changes due to body deformation, pressure transmission through gaps in the train envelope and transmission through the air ducts of HVAC systems. Body deformation has little effect (unsurprisingly in my view) with the balance between gap and duct transmission varying depending on the degree of opening of the latter. Whilst the analysis is complex, the results should be of interest in describing a methodology that could ultimately be applied quite straightforwardly in design.

Pressure fluctuation and a micro-pressure wave in a high-speed railway tunnel with large branch shaft. Okubo et al (2021)

This paper describes an extensive experimental programme using a moving model facility that looked at the micro-pressure waves that occur as a result of the junction between the main tunnel and large branch tunnels with similar diameter (which would be used for passenger evacuation). The results are skillfully interpreted through the use of analytical models and show that in some instances the micro pressure wave emitted from the branch tunnel can be of greater magnitude than that omitted from the main tunnel. Both the physical and analytical modelling methodology have potential use for the design of complex branching tunnel systems.

Trains in crosswinds

Influence of the railway vehicle properties in the running safety against crosswinds. Heleno et al (2021)

I include this paper with some temerity, as I am named as an author – albeit the last one. However, my role was very minor, and mainly involved discussions on some technical details and proof reading the final draft (although they all contribute to my long term aim of getting to 200 journal publications before my demise!). This paper considers the effect of various railway vehicle properties on the overturning risk of a rail vehicle. It uses realistic vehicle dynamic and track roughness models and generates realistic time series of wind speed from wind statistical parameters. It is more rigorous in its modelling than the current method used in the CEN code, which uses a very simplified wind gust model. A thorough parametric analysis of the various vehicle parameters is carried out. In my view the major point to emerge is the lack of sensitivity of the calculated overturning wind speeds and safety risk to variations in the train suspension parameters. In principle this could lead to much simpler models for the CEN safety assessment than are used at present, where full dynamic modelling is required. This is personally satisfying as I have been arguing this very point for the last 10 to 15 years – see the discussion in this post from 2020.

Emerging issues

CWE study of wind flow around railways: Effects of embankment and track system on sand sedimentation. Horvat et al (2021)

I include this paper because it contributes to what I believe to be an important emerging issue as railways are developed in arid conditions – sand sedimentation over railway tracks. It is a straightforward CFD study of flow patterns over different railway track geometries that calculates wall shear stresses and used these to define potential regions of erosion and sedimentation. It lays the foundation for future work – possibly to integrate sediment modelling into the CFD calculations.

Investigation on flow field structure and aerodynamic load in vacuum tube transportation system. Zhong et al (2021)

This paper is a detailed CFD analysis of the flow around vacuum tube vehicles using IDDES techniques. Because of the enclosed nature of the vehicles and the well-defined geometry, this is a case where one would expect good accuracy from such calculations. Also of course the issues cannot be easily addressed by physical modelling techniques. Both subsonic and supersonic flows are considered, the nature of the flow field elucidated, and vehicle drag calculated. The results form a useful addition to the publicly available body of knowledge about the flows around such vehicles that can be used in further development of the concept. That being said, it is my firm view that, fascinating as the aerodynamics of the system might be, vacuum tube systems will not meet with wide adoption due to simple operational constraints – primarily the low capacity in comparison to conventional high speed rail systems.


Railway applications – Aerodynamics – Part 7: Fundamentals for test procedures for train-induced ballast projection. CEN (2021)

This is not a paper, but rather the latest offering from the CEN working group on Aerodynamics that looks at the issue of ballast flight beneath high-speed trains. It contains a wealth of information of the issues involved, economic aspects of the damage caused by ballast flight, current national practices and possible ways forward in terms of homologation. It is well put together and forms a very useful basis for further work in the field.

The English domestic cricket schedule


Following the recent Ashes debacle, there has been much talk of why the England cricket team’s performance has been so poor. One of the reasons (but by no means the only one) seems to be the lack of emphasis given to the red ball game in the domestic structure.

Ben Stokes bowled at the MCG

In addition the fact that red ball cricket has been increasingly pushed to the margins of the season to accommodate more and more white ball cricket, and in particular the abomination called the Hundred (and here I let my prejudices show clearly), and thus not allowing the development of batting skills in dry, hot conditions – which are the normal conditions in most other cricket playing countries. Thus in this blog post I set out a possible programme for the domestic season that, whilst allowing the financially lucrative white ball cricket proper exposure, also allows for red ball cricket to be played in the high summer months. I think it would be workable, but, inevitably, others will disagree.


In setting out the proposal, I adopt the following principles.

  • The domestic season should have a clear, identifiable structure that allows for each of the three formats to take the limelight at appropriate times.
  • All formats should be contested by the existing county teams, rather than by multi-county franchises based on the larger grounds, thus allowing for equitable treatment of all counties based on performance, and thus acknowledging the importance of history and tradition.
  • That there should be space in the high summer months for both red ball and white ball cricket.
New Road Worcester

What I propose is for the men’s game – I am afraid I simply don’t know enough about the structures, resources and finances of the women’s game to be able to make coherent proposals. That being said, it would seem to me that something mirroring the proposals below might be quit feasible, albeit with a reduced number of teams and matches.

Fifty over format

  • Three groups of six county teams, perhaps geographically based, playing each other twice (10 games) with quarter finals, semi-finals and final.
  • First round of five group matches to be played in last two weeks in March in southern hemisphere countries, and perhaps marketed as a cricketing holiday to county members and the public.
  • Second round of five group matches to be played in last two weeks of April in England (which will thus give an interesting variety of conditions overall).
  • Quarter finals on the Friday before May Bank Holiday. Semi-finals a week afterwards.
  • Final on Late May Bank Holiday Saturday.

Two innings format

  • First division of eight county teams, each playing each other twice (14 games) with bottom two relegated to second division.
  • Second division of ten county teams, split into two groups of five, which may or may not be geographically based. Each team to play the others in the group twice and those in the other group once (13 games). Top team in each group promoted, with play off for the divisional championship.
  • Games to be played from Sunday to Wednesday from first week in May to second week in August (15 weeks) with some exceptions to accommodate the twenty over format (see below). This would allow games to be played in high summer conditions.

Twenty over format

  • To be played in two stages. County teams in first stage to be divided into three geographical groups of six, each playing each other twice (10 games), with games on Friday evening or Saturday afternoons between the start of May and end of July. Games would thus not be spread through the week which might not please broadcasters. There might need to be some slight modification of the schedule for two innings games to accommodate two games on one or two weekends. Top two in each group and two best third place teams to Premier league, and others to National League.
  • The ECB to give contracts to twenty or more overseas players with different skills, who would be allocated to the Premiership counties at the start of August, based on the county’s requirements.
  • The Premier league would run in the last two weeks in August and the first week in September, with each team playing the others once (7 games). It would be desirable for their to be no international games during this period to allow England players to compete. A “hundred” format could be used if felt desirable (although I can think of no reason why it should be so). Finals day on the second Saturday in September would consist of a play off between second and third place teams, and a final between the winners of that tie and the first placed team.
  • The National league would consist of ten counties, play six franchise teams composing those displaced from premiership squads, second eleven, university and academy players etc. over the same period. These would be divided into two groups of eight, and each play each other once (7 games). The franchise teams would be based at holiday destinations, or conurbations normally without top level cricket as a means of widening audiences. The top teams in each group would contests the final, on the same occasion as the Premiership finals day.

Final thoughts

I would suggest that the advantages to such a system would be as follows.

  • The format would thus give a structured approach to the season, with the three formats contented sequentially, with manageable overlap between the formats.
  • There would be three high points in the season – the fifty over final on the late May Bank holiday; the climax to the two innings game in early / mid-August; and the short form finals day in mid-September.
  • The international / domestic structure for the fifty over competition would both be attractive in its own right for at least the more affluent spectators, would give players experience of a range of conditions, and would also take some scheduling pressure off the domestic season
  • The structure would allow two innings games to be played in high summer conditions. The proposed second division structure would enhance the integrity of the competition with teams only being judge against teams that have played the same number of games against the same opponents.
  • It would also maximise audiences for the short form game on summer evenings and during the last two or three weeks of the school holiday period.

As a final point, such a schedule would also allow space in late September for a regional championship between, say, teams drawn from northern south eastern and south western counties with three four day matches over a two week period. This would give the players some experience of cricket between county and international level. But this is not an integral part of the proposal.