Irene (Dame Quilterosity) is very aware that she has been neglecting this blog shamefully and asked me to take over just for today. I’m your guest blogger, William by name. I’m an Augustinian priest (and administrator) at Lanercost Priory, right near the border of Scotland.
Being an Augustinian means I’m committed to bringing the values of the monastery out into the world. I took a vow of poverty, and we say prayers all hours of the day and night just like regular monks, but the other priests and I live right in the neighbourhood of the “real” people. Of course, since we Augustinians are usually associated with royalty, we got us a pretty nice little priory, if I do say so myself. So nice, in fact, that last Michaelmas (September 29, 1306 A.D.), King Edward (the first one by that name) came for a visit, along with the Queen … and 200 of his closest friends.
I remember the exact date, because six months later, the king was still here. Yep, along with his two hundred followers, each one expecting to be treated like royalty. Every single day. For six months. Between that and the constant harassment and thievery by those godforsaken heathen Scots, we are just about flat broke. We had to go to the king personally and ask for help, and he did promise us, what did he call it, “relief.” But of course, not in cash. Even then, God knows if he will actually make good, knowing kings….
Anyways, I was going to tell you more about me and this place. I speak Latin, English and Gregorian chant. Har, har, that was a little joke, that chant bit. I couldn’t carry a tune in a reed basket.
We’ve built this amazing church and all the outbuildings, starting in the year of our Lord 1169. It’s massive. I’m just willing to bet a thousand years from now, someone will be sure to make it a UNESCO world heritage site.
We’re lucky to have our own Home Depot Supply Store at hand. That’s it over there – that huge old stone wall. It’s about a thousand years old now, so I don’t think Mister Hadrian Is coming back for it any time soon. All we have to do is pop out to the wall, loosen the concrete, and there we are – a fine building stone. You can tell the recycled ones because they’re square instead of rectangular. Don’t they look nice in the church walls? Maybe they should make us into TWO world heritage sites, lol!
This is my favourite spot – the warming room, which we use as our common room. Baking is done here, and it’s a great place for humans to warm up as well. Here’s where I scratched a game of “Nine Men’s Morris” into the window ledge (you can just barely see the lines) and next to it is the “Fox and Geese” game. Not that we have a lot of free time, mind…
I’m most proud of this book we’ve made – the Lanercost Cartulary. It’s an organized list of all the lands and properties we’ve bought and sold in the area over the years. Hopefully the King will give us a few more properties that I can add in here! But the best part is that some of the fellows here are very talented artists, so we’ve got them to decorate it with pictures in the margins. There’s nothing else like it any where. Priceless.
Aw, you have to go so soon? Do you want some pottage of turnips before you leave? I’m afraid the king ate all the venison and swans. Ah, well, then, just be sure to look out for those pesky wild Scots just the other side of the wall! I swear, they’ll be the death of us yet.
Kirby Hall was built to impress. All Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor to Elizabeth I, wanted, was for his Queen to come and visit. The grand entrance and courtyard was entirely for her benefit. He built a whole suite of rooms and had them reserved for her use alone.
The huge hall, the first reception room a visitor would come to, contained two huge fireplaces for warmth, and a minstrel gallery to keep the musicians discreetly out of sight, and he could just picture himself dancing there with the Queen. He was well known for his love of dancing, and his shapely legs were famous for looking very nice in tights and garters. It’s mentioned in all his biographies, so it must have been one of his better-known qualities. And Elizabeth was also known to be very fond of dancing. And the two of them, court gossip said, were very close. VERY close. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
Called “the grandest Tudor House in England,” Hatton finished Kirby Hall in the modern new Italian style, which meant plenty of decoration, and everything had to be perfectly symmetrical and all matchy-matchy.
Sadly, Elizabeth never did visit. Even though Hatton said all he wanted was for the “holy saint to sit in (Kirby Hall), to whom it is dedicated.” Which I think is a bit overdone. Would the Queen have been flattered, or would she have said, “Oh, puh-LEEZE.”?
Elizabeth didn’t visit, even though Hatton spent a huge fortune on a formal garden, best viewed from the second story windows of the rooms set aside especially for Her Majesty; which he filled with the most exotic plants he could find, including 300 almond trees, pomegranates, narcissus of Japan and a “hyacinth of Peru”. In fact, he spent so much time gardening, that the House of Lords called him up on the carpet three times for non-attendance. (Does that remind anyone of recent stories from the Canadian Senate?)
But by the mid-1800s, there was only a shepherd and his flock living in the partially ruined house. Inheritance taxes and a lack of heirs meant that even the fancy wallpaper was sold off the walls. Now the estate is managed by English Heritage, which has restored the garden with the help of horticultural archaeologists. Who knew there even was such a thing?
As we walked the paths that Queen Elizabeth never did, the poem Patterns by Amy Lowell came to mind. I think in the end I would prefer a garden just a little less than perfect, as life in general is less than perfect.
Of course, I had to scour the grounds until I found some old graffiti carved into the stone:
I absolutely cannot resist one final story about Sir Christopher Hatton. His personal “logo” was the golden hind (deer), and he was so proud of it, that he had a very fine image of a deer carved over the doorway to Kirby Hall. He was also rich enough to help finance Sir Francis Drake on his voyage of exploration.
Now, because he had so much money involved in the expedition, Hatton decided to send along his personal secretary, a man named Doughty, on the voyage with Drake to make sure everything went well. It turns out Doughty didn’t like some of Drake’s decisions, and organized a mutiny.
Of course, Sir Francis Drake couldn’t put up with that, so he executed Doughty by beheading him and throwing both parts of the corpse into the sea. Afterwords, it apparently occurred to Drake that maybe it had been a bad move to execute his sponsor’s representative. So in order to appease Sir Christopher Hatton, he changed the name of his ship in Hatton’s honour – to the Golden Hind.
Today we said good-bye to the lovely Walsh family at Walton-on-Thames. It’s been a while since we last lived through the fun (and panic) of school homework, music practice and family games. Thanks, Kelly, Nathan, Jacob, Jordan and Madison – we miss you!
Sarah returned today from her quilting pilgrimage to Paducah, Kentucky, and we picked her up at Heathrow Airport in London, happy, exhausted, and suitcases filled with fabric and sewing goodies.
We stopped for lunch in Kimbolton, the home of Kimbolton Castle, which is where Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, died in 1536, of natural causes. As she was “The Princess Dowager” and not the queen, she was buried at Peterborough Cathedral with very little ceremony. Mind you, Anne Boleyn, who WAS the queen, was buried later the same year without any funeral at all.
Since it’s now used as a school, we could only see it from a distance.
So instead we took a look inside St. Andrew’s Church, right off the other end of the High Street, and found – the only Tiffany stained glass window in all of England!
The story (from one of the church ladies busy at work inside) is that a member of the local aristocracy had married an American woman in the 19th century, and they had twin girls. When the girls were about twelve, they both died – one from illness, and the other from an accidental drowning.
The grief-stricken mother ordered this Tiffany window to be made in New York City in 1901 as a memorial to her girls, who are depicted in the window being greeted by Jesus.
There is also one piece of very old glass left in this church. It was somehow overlooked when King Henry’s reformers smashed all the glass in the church during the Reformation.
I love old things, as you all know – but I prefer the beautiful Tiffany glass!
The other unusual feature of St. Andrew’s is an oak screen separating the chapel containing the Tiffany window from the rest of the church.
In 1937, the then-vicar discovered something bright red under four layers of dark brown paint. Careful removal showed 14th or 15th century painted panels. The first one shows the Virgin Mary being taught to read by her mother, then there’s St. Michael driving out the devil from heaven, King Edmund of Anglia who was killed by Vikings in 810, and Edward the Confessor, who died in 1066.
The colours have not been retouched, and really were this bright!
And, just a little tip – if you ever visit Kimbolton, the pub on the High Street serves a really nice Ploughman’s lunch, with home made pickles and bread to go with local cheese. As usual, DH says the beer is tasty too…