Sunday, 30 January 2011

Tales from a Churchyard...

As many of you know, we live in an old church square...the graveyard is our front garden...and I so love seeing it from the windows, stepping out into it's quiet peace every morning...
I thought that you might like to see a little more of what I can see...so come with me for a walk up the cobbled path...
through the wrought iron gate and past the WW1 memorial on the left. Originally the whole churchyard was enclosed by high wrought iron railings...but these were removed at the beginning of WW2, and melted down for the war effort. Never replaced, there is now a low, ancient wall running around the perimeter instead...

the old church door usually stands open during the day so that anyone can wander in...the inside (apart from the stained glass windows and some monuments) isn't so special any more, sadly. In the 1970's, the ancient old wooden pews were removed to make a large, open space. Plastic chairs are now set out for services and concerts. Although this means that the church can be used for a wide range of community activities, I always feel a little sad when I enter the stone magnificence of the exterior and the interior doesn't match up to that promise.

Back outside, and most of the houses ranged around the square date from the Georgian period...my favourite time...and have that elegance that the 18th century architects so often provided...the rest are early Victorian. One side of the square has very small, slightly dark cottages..these once included the town workhouse and some of the others belonged to poor lacemakers (once a famous skill in our county)

the graveyard (which incidentally hasn't been used for burials since aboiut 1870, when the large town cemetery was built on the outskirts...and is still in use today) is also a bit of a haven for nature as it's largely left alone except for essential maintenance. Can you just see the mass of snowdrops emerging beneath the skeleton of the laburnum? Signs of Spring are everywhere...

soon, soon the bright yellow daffodils will be nodding their beautiful heads again. But for now, the bright green of their shoots do their job and gladden my heart!

As walk through on my way to wherever I'm going, I often visit my 'favourite' gravestones...

Such as this one, on the grave of Elizabeth Jenkins who died aged 35. A 'most faithful servant'. The inscription reads 'This stone was erected by those who for many years reaped the benefits of her valuable service' Which, in 1830's England is the nearest they got to saying that they loved her, I think. A comforting thought, despite her youth when she died.

And these are very special to me, as they mark the graves of the family who once lived in our house. Way back then, it was a farmhouse (unthinkable now, it's very much a townhouse!) and this large extended family were one of the richest in the area...

apart from the obvious link, it makes me reflect that, despite our very human quest to 'own' things...in the end, we're just guardians for future generations. This family once owned and loved the house we live in...as we do now...but so little remains of them nearly 200 years later. So it will be with us. That doesn't frighten or depress me. It makes me determined to do as much as I can, to make a mark and hopefully be remembered.

Some people ask whether we find it 'scary' to live so near to the dead. I find it to be quite the opposite. I feel that it's a calm and tranquil place, a reflective and serene reminder of the truth in the old saying 'This too shall pass....'

Enjoy Sunday...the sun is shining as I write, and the world looks bright.

With love xo


12 comments:

  1. Oh, Rachel, you lucky duck to be living near an old grave yard! Oh, how Daniel and I would love that - we visit old graveyards wherever we go and I always wonder about the stories behind the gravestones. Such a beautiful place you live in!! Love, Silke

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  2. What a beautiful post Rachel. I really enjoyed reading it and taking a tour through the wonderful church square. I find it a very peaceful setting and don't find it scary at all. Beautiful and serene are more likely to describe it. Loved seeing the snow drops!! We only see those here in March! You are so lucky to see them coming through in January. Spring is near for you! Enjoy the beautiful sunny day! xo

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  3. What a beautiful cemetery! One of my favorite pastimes in the summertime is to visit old burial grounds and read the weathered inscriptions. How lovely it must be to live in England where you have graves that go back centuries!

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  4. I looove old chirches and churchyards. So atmospheric.

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  5. Ohh how lovely to read and see all that. You sound like the master of Downton Abbey! Much more of a sense of the passage of time and the temporary place we play in the total scheme of things living in such an old place.

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  6. Just found your blog and what a treat it is. What a lovely place to live. I don't find graveyards scary either; I find them very peaceful and incredibly interesting ... :0)

    Shirl x

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  7. Thank you for showing us around the outside. I would love to be so near to the graveyard. They really are facinating especially when there is a connection to your house.
    Like the new colours too!

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  8. Living in such a place can't help but nourish your spirit. It must seep into your soul and fill your heart. Wonderful!

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  9. Oh Rachel..what a lovely walk we just had...thank you...My DH was mesmorized too... We both love old cemetaries, they have so many wonderful stories and memories to tell.. We lived just down the road from a cemetary and yes...people also thought we should be scared living so close to the dead..but we never were as it is just part of the 'circle of life'.

    Blessings...
    xoxo gert

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  10. I've just found your blog via Cafe Chatelaine, and it's lovely.

    I know what you mean about living near a cemetery. I seem to have lived near them my entire life! As a young girl when I look out our front door through the yard across from me I could see the graves, and if I looked at the top of the street from my front door there was another cemetery. When I got married there was a cemetery at the top of our street. And from my kitchen sink window I can see the old section of our town cemetery.

    I agree with you, it is calm and peaceful to live near a cemetery and a great place for a walk and discovery.

    My husband and I were amazed to find a veteran from the Civil War who fell at Fredricksburg, VA, and another veteran from the American Revolution.

    Stop by for a "visit" when you have a moment, I love company!

    Mary

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  11. Your lovely tour only endears your town to my heart, Rachel. When we visited New England, we were charmed by the old 'burying grounds'...it is history and gives one the sense of place. Enjoy the place, the walks, the beauty and the peace. With love, Sherry xx

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  12. What a wonderful blog. Thanks Rachel, it is so beautiful to see England starting to wake up a bit after that hideous Winter! I love the graveyards too, and it's really fascinating that people that lived in your house are buried there. It's true, we are too far removed from death nowadays. It shouldn't be scary, it's part of life (although not too soon for any of us I hope!) That's the beauty of living in an ancient country. Thanks. xxxxxxxxxxxx

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