Sunday, 22 February 2015
The local Catholic church, St Mary and St Walburga, is visible for miles around owing to its tall tower, topped with a statue. I had always assumed the statue (seen here from the back) was the Virgin Mary but I realise now that it might just as likely be Saint Walburga. I didn't know she was a woman.
Walburga or Walpurga is an unusual name. She was born in Devon around 710 AD and educated at a convent school in Wimborne, Dorset, where she then became a nun. She joined her brothers to evangelise in the area known then as Francia, which is now in south-west Germany and she later became abbess of a monastery there, established by her brother. She died in either 777 or 779. She was canonised in 870.
Quite why the Shipley church is dedicated to her, I am not sure. It was built in 1962, on a site that had been occupied by a large Victorian house that was demolished. Some of the stone was used in the new church. The new church replaced an older one nearby that had become too small for its congregation, originally mainly Irish Catholic immigrants but swelled by an influx of refugees from eastern Europe and Italy after the war.