Larry my brickmason was intrigued with the stonework, especially the way drainage was provided around the base of the church. Simple and effective.
Like so many buildings of that era, this church too was built of stone, both cut and what I would call cobbled. Some buildings used a material called clunch which, according to Wikipedia, is "a traditional building material used mainly in eastern England and Normandy. It encompasses a wide variety of items such as irregular lumps of rock either picked up from the fields, orquarried by being cut from the bedrock in regular-shaped building blocks. Clunch is predominantly chalk/clay-based and is bedded in mortar to form walls. It is a particularly soft building material. It can be cut by a saw when in its softer state; when it has been quarried out of the ground it still contains a large amount of water. When the stone dries out it becomes harder, and is not as easy to cut.
Stones old and new dotted the grounds. This one is for John Radford, one of my ancestors.
My grandfather's grave:
and the beautiful stone my granny chose for this young husband who left her so suddenly, so long ago:
My granny, I found, was a strong woman. After Thomas' death, she would lose her big house at Highfields. Although the farm owner offered to let her stay, she would not hear it. Instead, she moved the tenants out of the house she and Thomas had built and moved her five children and all their belongings there in a handcart, according to my Aunt Grace. She would have no part of charity. Some years later when my Aunt May was working for a doctor at Caxton, one room of Ashlyn was used as a surgery (doctor's office), which brought in a little money that was probably quite welcome. My aunt, and my Uncle Ted too, remembered seeing a cabinet full of medicines in the room, which they never touched.
Julie and I were mystified as to who might have cleaned the grave and the stone. She had wanted to get to it but with her father's poor health and her mother's needs, along with her own family, she had not had time. We later learned that another cousin, Robert, had been out to care for it. I wonder if it was also Robert who put these flowers in the little window at the church's entrance?
We were not able to enter the church, sadly; it was well locked up so that pleasure will await my next visit. I was happy just to wander the grounds and admire the stonework of the building.
I heard Julie give a little yelp of pleasure; under a tree in an area of the graveyard not as well cared for, she had found the grave of Susanna Radford which she had been looking for. The stone was barely readable. I thought how odd it was that my mother should have chosen the name "Susanna" for me. She had expected me to be another boy after three boys in a row and planned to name me Stephen. She ended up picking my name from a name book. And here in this cemetery I find that what she chose was a name that appeared twice in our family history.
A murder of crows cried overhead while we walked the grounds, somehow in keeping with the feeling of going back in time here.
An intriguiing design on this headstone caught my eye. A sleeping angel, perhaps?
Just on the other side of the hedge was the parish hall. I believe Julie said this used to be the school and would have been where my mother attended classes.
And so our day ended; it had been a full one from start to finish; I had much to think about, much to try to remember, and I am so grateful to my cousin for taking the time to show me places that have placed my mother's memories and stories in context.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.