Category Archives: Literary Connections

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, Helpston, nr Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

Clare Cottage Tablet, Helpston,

Tablet on The Wall of Clare Cottage

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 Bell Inn, Helpston, nr Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

“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, Helpston, nr Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

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, Helpston, nr Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

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, England

John Clare’s Grave, St Botolph’s Church, Helpston, nr Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

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, SomersbySt Margaret’s Church, Somersby, Lincolnshire, England

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 TennysonThee 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, SomerbyThe 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 EnderbySt 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 HallHarrington Hall, Harrington, East Lindsey, Lincolnshire,

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, HarringtonSt 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 HallGunby Hull, Spilsby, Lincolnshire, Engalnd

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


Campton In Search of Robert Bloomfield

It has always been my intention to pay my respects and visit the last resting place of Robert Bloomfield in Campton Bedfordshire having visited the place of his birth and youth, Honington and Sapiston in Suffolk back in the summer of 2013.

We almost made it a reality some months ago when passing through Shefford, Robert’s last place of residence, but my geography let me down and I was too lazy to re-program the Satellite Navigation.

This time I was determined not to make the same mistake as dear old John Clare regretting forever a missed opportunity, not that I had anything like his excuse.

Therefore we set off one bright Sunday morning in April 2014,with a meticulously planned route down to the last hundred yards we soon found ourselves outside All Saints Church in Campton as the last of the congregation were tumbling out of the Palm Sunday Service.

All Saints Church and graveyard Campton was the burial ground for the village of Shefford until the present century as Shefford only had a chapel at ease. Today Campton and Shefford are divided today by the busy A507 road .

RobertBloomfied_Campton-04

All Saints Church, Campton, Bedfordshire.

RobertBloomfied_Campton-05

Memorial Plate to Robert Bloomfield in All Saints Church

RobertBloomfied_Campton-01

Robert Bloomfield last resting place sitting to the north west of the church.

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Robert is buried next to Thomas Inskip of Shefford

who was friends of both Robert Bloomfield and John Clare.

John Clare on Robert Bloomfield:

“He is the most original poet of the age and the greatest Pastoral Poet England ever gave birth to” John Clare.

RobertBloomfied_Campton-06

One of The Stained Glass Windows in this historic church it is to the memory of one of the Osborn family who’s memorials adorn the church.


Web Links:

Campton Website and Robert Bloomfield Link

Thomas Inskip and the Pastoral Poets


Titchmarsh

The River Nene (Pronunciation is a mater of local preference) makes its way through the Northamptonshire countryside before entering Peterborough and then on in to the flatlands of The Fens, ending its journey at The Wash near Peter Scott’s lighthouse in Lincolnshire.

Sir Peter Scott Lighthouse, The East Bank of The River Nene, The Wash, Lincolnshire

Sir Peter Scott Lighthouse, The East Bank of The River Nene, The Wash, Lincolnshire

It boast its origins from three sources one of which is near the village of Nasbey where Charles I was defeated by Oliver Cromwell’s army in 1645.

It  passes on its west the village of Aldwincle the birth place of John Dryden and on the east Titchmarsh where John spent his formidable early years.

Church of St Mary The Virgin Titchmarsh Northamptonshire

Church of St Mary The Virgin Titchmarsh Northamptonshire

His Mother and Father are buried in the church of St Marys Titchmarsh and there is a memorial to John Dryden and his parents  in the north transept.

Memorial to John Dryden and his parents.

Memorial to John Dryden and his parents.

Titchmarsh has a long connection both with the Dryden’s and Pickering family’s. Colonel John Pickering  was a parliamentarian army officer who fought at the battle of Nasbey, baptized at Titchmarsh in 1615, he was the second son of Sir John Pickering and his wife, Susannah daughter of Sir Erasmus Dryden.

Their eldest son Gilbert Pickering was an MP in Oliver Cromwell’s parliament. At the end of 1657 he was appointed Lord Chamberlain to the Protector and he employed John Dryden who was his cousin as his secretary.

Sir Gilbert Pickering was given a pardon by Charles II just before his restoration and John Dryden was appointed poet Laureate in 1668.

Samuel Pepys visited Titchmarsh to attend the marriage of Gilbert’s daughter in 1688.

Church of St Mary The Virgin Titchmarsh Northamptonshire 1

Church of St Mary The Virgin Titchmarsh Northamptonshire

“Happy the Man, and happy he alone,

He, who can call to day his own:

He who, secure within, can say,

To morrow do thy worst, for I have liv’d to-day.

Be fair, or foul, or rain, or shine,

The joys I have possest, in spight of fate, are mine.

Not Heav’n it self upon the past has pow’r;

But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.”

John Dryden


Aldwincle Northamptonshire Revisited

In a time gone by there were two Aldwincle Parishes, Aldwincle St Peters and Aldwincle All Saints they were joined together in November 1879.

Aldwincle Village Sign

Aldwincle Village Sign Northamptonshire

To all appearances it is St Peters that is now the center of village life as All Saints sits a world apart opposte Dryden house on the way to Thorpe Waterville across  Harper’s Brook and over the Nene river by Brancey Bridge.

All Saints Church Aldwincle Northamptonshire

John Dryden poet, playwright and critic was born in the house that sits in the shadow of church on the 9 August 1631. Dryden House Aldwincle Northamptonshire

Dryden House Aldwincle Northamptonshire

Son of Erasmas Dryden and Mary Pickering of Titchmarsh he was Christened in the Church of All Saints where his grandfather Henry Pickering was Rector were there is a tablet commemorating the event.

20130807_Northamptonshire-13-331

Church Commemorative Tablet

All Saints Church is now in the care of The Church Conservation Trust as it is no longer needed for regular worship but remains as consecrated buildings and is of historical importance, it is a delight to walk round and has always been open when ever we have visited.

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All Saints Church Striking Interior

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All Saints Church Stained Glass Window

Samuel Johnson summed up the general attitude to John Dryden with his remark that

 “the veneration with which his name is pronounced by every cultivator of English literature,

 is paid to him as he refined the language, improved the sentiments,

and tuned the numbers of English poetry.”

and tuned the numbers of English poetry.”

And T. S. Eliot wrote that he was

‘the ancestor of nearly all that is best in the poetry of the eighteenth century’,

and that ‘we cannot fully enjoy or rightly estimate a hundred years of English poetry

unless we fully enjoy Dryden.’