Category Archives: Literary Connections

The Last Place God Made

The Dun Cow, Christchurch

The Dun Cow in Christchurch on the Cambridgeshire Norfolk boundary where the author Dorothy L Sayers Father was rector until his death in 1928. At one time there was a total of three pubs in the area but today the Dun Cow is the only one left to feed and water the hungry.

Dorothy’s description of Christchurch is to the point and says it all;
“Christchurch is the last place God made, and when He’d finished he found He’d Forgotten the staircase!”

I like the idea of Dorothy and her Husband Mac visiting her Mother and Father in Christchurch and on Sunday mornings attending church, as soon as the Reverend Sayers had pronounced the benediction Mac would be seen making his way to the Dun Cow public house.

 

Jane Austen, Bath, A Church In Rutland and A Line From Northanger Abbey

Now I must own up to being partial to a Jane Austen story, I have a preference for the written rather than the celluloid but that does not mean that I have not indulged in watching Amanda Root in Persuasion.

It still remains a favourite although Northanger Abbey with Peter Firth comes a close second, not because it is a purest version or is faithful to any preconceived notions of how a Jane Austen novel should be represented, it is simply because Bath features in all its splendour and secondly due to the final declaration by Mr Tilney to Mrs Moorland ,

“I promise not to oppress you with too much remorse or too much passion; but since you left us the white rose bush has died of grief.”

Yes I know it is not Jane Austen and therefore not in the novel but it does appeal to my sense of the romantic or some would say the ridiculous.

The pictures Below are of St Peters Church, Brooke in the county of Rutland it featured In the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice staring Keira Knightley as Miss Bennett.

Leighton Bromswold Huntingdonshire

The House That George Built

St Mary’s Church, Leighton Bromswold, Huntingdonshire.

St Mary’s Church in Leighton Bromswold Huntingdonshire, in 1626 it was in a deplorable state of decay when the poet George Herbert was inducted as Prebend.

He made it his mission to raise the funds and restore the church along with the help of his friend Nicholas Ferrar and his brother John of Little Gidding.

THE CROSS.
By George Herbert

What is this strange and uncouth thing?
To make me sigh, and seek, and faint, and die,
Until I had some place, where I might sing,
And serve thee; and not only I,
But all my wealth, and family might combine
To set thy honour up, as our design.

And then when after much delay,
Much wrestling, many a combat, this dear end,
So much desir’d, is giv’n, to take away
My power to serve thee; to unbend
All my abilities, my designs confound,
And lay my threat’nings bleeding on the ground.

One ague dwelleth in my bones,
Another in my soul (the memory
What I would do for thee, if once my groans
Could be allow’d for harmony):
I am in all a weak disabled thing,
Save in the sight thereof, where strength doth sting.

Besides, things sort not to my will,
Ev’n when my will doth study thy renown:
Thou turnest th’ edge of all things on me still,
Taking me up to throw me down:
So that, ev’n when my hopes seem to be sped,
I am to grief alive, to them as dead.

To have my aim, and yet to be
Farther from it than when I bent my bow;
To make my hopes my torture, and the fee
Of all my woes another woe,
Is in the midst of delicates to need,
And ev’n in Paradise to be a weed.

Ah my dear Father, ease my smart!
These contrarieties crush me: these cross actions
Do wind a rope about, and cut my heart:
And yet since these thy contradictions
Are properly a cross felt by thy Son,
With but four words, my words, Thy will be done.

We have visited Leighton Bromswold in Huntingdonshire on many occasions stopping to look around the outside of The Church of St Mary’s as we have never found it open.

Well today was different, as we went to drive past on our way to who knows where, to our pleasant surprise there was a notice announcing that the church was open, hastily parking the car we were able to fulfil a long time ambition and were not in the least disappointed.

St Mary's Church, Leighton Bromswold, Huntingdonshire.

The Inside of St Mary’s Church, Leighton Bromswold, Huntingdonshire.

With its Pulpit and Reading Desk of the same size

St Mary's Church, Leighton Bromswold, Huntingdonshire.

St Mary the Virgin Church, Leighton Bromswold, Huntingdonshire.

 Its tower dominating the countryside.

St Mary's Church, Leighton Bromswold, Huntingdonshire

St Mary’s Church, Leighton Bromswold, Huntingdonshire

 


 

Helpston

Once Upon A Time In Northamptonshire

Looking for Robert Burns, Scotland’s national bard or more to the point the spirt of Robert Burns, you would have thought that searching the byways of Dumfries, Alloway or Mossgiel would be more appropriate than the English village of Helpston in Cambridgeshire once upon a time Northamptonshire, but “though this be madness, yet there is method in’t“.

The poet John Clare was born in Helpston on the 13 July 1793, some of the critics of the time complained that his work often imitated that of Rabbie and was often labelled the English Burns, but as he declares himself,

now the fact is that when my first poems was written I knew nothing of Burns not even by name for the fens are not a literary part of england

Like Burns he used to collect songs and in later life one of his many alter egos was that of Burns, perhaps it could also be argued that he had some Scottish blood running through his veins as his father’s father was an itinerant Scottish fiddler.

Clare Cottage Helpston,Clare Cottage

Clare Cottage Tablet, Helpston,

John Clare’s Birthplace in Helpstone his home for forty years.

He described it in the following way

“Our cottage was as roomy & comfortable as any of our neighbours & we had it for forty shillings while an old apple tree in the garden generally made the rent, the garden was large for a poor man & my father managed to dig it night & morning before the hours of labour.

Or described by one of his biographers

“their little cottage was among the narrowest and most wretched of the hundred mud hovels.”

MY EARLY HOME
Here sparrows build upon the trees,
And stockdove hides her nest;
The leaves are winnowed by the breeze
Into a calmer rest;
The black-cap’s song was very sweet,
That used the rose to kiss;
It made the Paradise complete:
My early home was this.
The red-breast from the sweetbriar bush
Drop’t down to pick the worm;
On the horse-chestnut sang the thrush,
O’er the house where I was born;
The moonlight, like a shower of pearls,
Fell o’er this “bower of bliss,”
And on the bench sat boys and girls:
My early home was this.
The old house stooped just like a cave,
Thatched o’er with mosses green;
Winter around the walls would rave,
But all was calm within;
The trees are here all green agen,
Here bees the flowers still kiss,
But flowers and trees seemed sweeter then:
My early home was this.

Bell Inn, Helpston,

The Bluebell Inn

“Francis Gregory our neighbour at the Blue Bell wanted a servant & hired me for a year I was glad & readily agreed it was a good place and they treated me more like a son than a servant”

The Exeter Arms, Helpston

Exeter Arms Inn

John Clare refers to the Exeter Arms in The Will O Whisp or Jack A Lanthorn

“I heard of the old alewife at the Exeter Arms behind the church often say that she has seen from her chamber window as many as fifteen together (vapours or what ever philosophy may call them) dancing in and out of company as if dancing reels and dances on eastwell moor”

Four days after his death John was brought home to Helpston, he was taken to the Exeter Arms where he remained overnight and was laid to rest the following day on the south side of St Botolph’s Church.

St Botolph Church, Helpston,St Botolph’s Church, Helpstone

I started for Wisbeach with a timid sort of pleasure & when I got to Glinton turnpike I turnd back to look on the old church as if I was going into another country. Wisbeach was a foreign land to me for I had never been above eight miles from home in my life

John Clare's Last Resting Place, Helpston, Cambridgeshire, EnglandJohn Clare’s Grave

A WISH
BE where I may when Death brings in his bill,
Demanding payment for life’s ling’ring debt,
Or in my native village nestling still,
Or tracing scenes I’ve never known as yet,
O let one wish, go where I will, be mine, —
To turn me back and wander home to die,
‘Mong nearest friends my latest breath resign,
And in the church-yard with my kindred lie,
‘Neath the thick-shaded sycamore’s decay,
Its broad leaves trembling to the breeze of day:
To see its shadow o’er my ashes wave,
How soothing will it be, while, hovering near,
My unseen spirit haunts its daisied grave,
Pausing on scenes in life once lov’d so dear.

John Clare Memorial, Helpston,


Web Links:

Clare Cottage

John Clare Society

Somersby, Bag Enderby and Beyond

Early Years of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lincolnshire Wolds

As far as I can recall from this distance in time, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott were the backbone of my early poetical education, Lord Alfred Tennyson played a very minor role in the form of The Charge of The Light Brigade but Scots Wha Hae, To A Moose, Tam O ‘Shanter and Lochinvar where written into the psyche by those who wrote the educational syllabus.

It was only later that the appreciation for Mariana, In Memoriam, Maud and The Lady of Shalott to mention just a few was developed.

There have been countless words written on Tennyson’s early years, his relationship with his father and The Lincolnshire Wolds he grew up in.

I have no desire to add to the tally, only to say if the opportunity presents itself it is well worth a visit to Somersby, Bag Enderby and beyond, I am sure you will find The Lincolnshire Wolds a delight.

I hope you enjoy the photographs below which may inspire you to visit.

St Margaret's Church, Somersby

St Margaret’s Church, Somersby, Lincolnshire.
George Clayton Tennyson, Alfred’s Father was rector of the parish,
from 1802 until his death in 1831
He lies at rest in the churchyard.

The Grave of Alfred's Father the Rev George Clayton Tennyson

The Grave of Alfred’s Father the Rev George Clayton Tennyson,
The eldest son who went into the Church and the second son who inherited the title.
St Margaret’s Church, Somersby, Lincolnshire.
Born in 1781. Died on 18 March 1831 at the age of 52

The Old Rectory, Somerby

The Birth Place of A Poet Laureate
Somerby Rectory, The Lincolnshire Wold

The Grange, Somersby,

 The House Next Door.
The Grange, Somersby, Lincolnshire.
Build for the Burton Family,
Sits next door to Somerby Rectory and opposite the Church St Margaret’s

St Margarets, Bag Enderby

St Margaret’s Church, Bag Enderby, Lincolnshire.
Lies a 15 minute walk to the east of Somersby
Alfred’s Father was also rector here from 1806 until his death in 1831

Harrington Hall

Harrington Hall, a 50 minute walk to the south east of Somersby.
It appears in Tennyson’s poems over the years along with its rose garden,
the Church of St Marys next door with its cross legged knight
and Rosa Baring a resident of Harrington Hall

“Yonder in that chapel, slowly sinking now into the ground,
Lies the warrior, my forefather, with his feet upon the hound.”

From Locksley Hall Sixty Years After by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

St Marys Church, Harrington

St Mary’s Church, Harrington, Lincolnshire

“She came to the village church,
And sat by a pillar alone;
An angel watching an urn
Wept over her, carved in stone;
And once, but once, she lifted her eyes,
And suddenly, sweetly, strangely blush’d
To find they were met by my own;
And suddenly, sweetly, my heart beat stronger
And thicker, until I heard no longer
The snowy-banded, dilettante,
Delicate-handed priest intone;
And thought, is it pride, and mused and sigh’d
‘No surely, now it cannot be pride.’”

From Maud by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Gunby Hall

Gunby Hall is a 4 hours 30 minute walk south east of Somerby
on the way to the seaside town of Skegness, it is today under the care
of The Nation Trust. In Tennyson’s day the owners were still the Massingberd Family,
Tennyson described it as “A haunt of ancient Peace”


Web Links:

Tennyson’s Birthplace 

Gunby Hall

In Search of St Paul’s Church Fenchurch St Paul

The Parish Church of Fenchurch St Paul which features in The Nine Tailors by Dorothy. L. Sayer’s is like Ely Cathedral it dominates the fenland landscape where the novel is set.

Ely Cathedral, Ely Cambridgeshire

Ely Cathedral, Ely, Cambridgeshire

In seeking what church was the inspiration behind St Paul’s in Fenchurch St Paul a cautionary approach is needed. If you take to literally approach you could argue, as Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter came to grief on a snowy New Year’s eve while crossing the Thirty Foot Drain at Frogs Bridge, therefore in reality if you turn left at Bedlham Bridge and traverse along the Sixteen Foot Bank you will discover that once upon a time there was an Inn called the Wheatsheaf on your right hand side, now a private dwelling.

If you continue a little further on you will find a turning to the village of Christchurch where Dorothy’s father was rector after leaving Bluntisham until his death in 1928.

Memorial To The Rev Sayers, Christchurch, Cambridgeshire,

Memorial To The Rev Sayers, Christchurch, Cambridgeshire,

“Bunter turned his torch upon the signpost and read upon the sign, Fenchurch St Paul, there was no other direction ahead, the road marched on side by side into an eternity of winter”

So it is safe to deduce that Christ Church in the village of Christchurch is a good choice but…….

The Christ Church, Christchurch, Cambridgeshire, England

Christ Church, Christchurch, Cambridgeshire.

Although as you can see it is a fine place of worship and has its own distinct charm it does not fit the description or the drawings by the Architect W. J. Redhead in the book, so we will have to look in another direction.

Hear lies the problem there are a number of good candidates, Walpole St Peters for example which was used in the 1974 TV adaptation, but still it does not quite meet all the criteria.

St Peters Church, Walpole St Peters, Norfolk, Englan

St Peters Church, Walpole St Peters, Norfolk, England

Rather than carrying on and on, perhaps if below I display a collage of pictures which could be listed as possibilities you can select your own preference.

It is more than likely that the Parish Church of Fenchurch St Paul is a composite of many or is it a church in the mind’s eye and imagination of the creator.


Web Links:

Past Offences Review of Dorothy. L. Sayers The Nine Tailors

Dorothy L Sayers, Cambridgeshire Connections

Keyston

The Church of St John the Baptist Keyston is a challenge,

  1. Getting there without setting tyre rubber on the A14.
  2. Taking a photograph that does the building justice.

Keyston lies on the very westerly edge of the county of Cambridgeshire or Huntingdonshire, if your preference is for the historic rather than the modern and are prepared to defy the 1974  Local Government edict.

It sits to the east of the town of Thrapston in Northamptonshire, which boasts connections with George Washington’s family, the first president of the United States of America  and west of Huntingdon the birth place of Oliver Cromwell.  In the North lies the village of Titchmarsh with all its associations  with the poet John Dryden and is with easy reach if you are prepared take your life in your hands and cross the A14 which carries its traffic incessantly between Felixstowe, the Midlands and beyond.

Our visit to Keyston in Huntingdonshire is purely of a metaphysical inspiration as John Donne, lawyer, renowned preacher, poet and soon to be become Dean of St Pauls Cathedral was awarded the living of Keyston  in the early part of 1616.  He held this post until 1621  when he resigned it shortly before he was appointed Dean of St Pauls.

The Church of St John the Baptist Keyston

The Church of St John the Baptist, Keyston, Huntingdonshire

“Thou hast set up many candlesticks, and kindled many lamps in me; but I have either blown them out, or carried them to guide me in forbidden ways.”

John Donne