Archive for Child From The Sea

Seeking Lucy

Dear Deborah
I have just been researching Elizabeth today (after receiving our 2nd hand copy of The Child from The Sea that our son posted to us in Australia from UK on our request).
We also received the book that Elizabeth used for historical research from Lord George Scott – descendent of Lucy – Lucy Walters Wife or Mistress.
It has been a long path that started some years ago when I took my father’s ashes to rest with his mother’s (she had died shortly after he was born and he was extremely close to her all his life). I did some research when I was in the town library which uncovered the house name of my grandmother’s (Lucy Waters) house when my father arrived. This then led me back to Roch Castle and slowly more and more of this incredible history.

I did travel to England last year and travelled in Wales and it was very emotional as I traced my grandmother’s life and yet I didn’t get back far in records to see whether we are related to Lucy of old. However, I have felt very strongly drawn to continue discovering as much as I can – and have read a good deal online about these histories (that could be my family history). Then today I started reading Elizabeth’s very spiritually focused ‘romantic novel’ – I just started somewhere in its middle to get a taste – after reading a larger portion of about 4 chapters of Lord Scott’s book, and I was immediately captured by how deeply Elizabeth had tapped in to Lucy’s spirit to document this account.
The little I know about Elizabeth this far (from researching a bit today) has shown me that she has likely been able to intuit Lucy’s story and thus continue in the intention of Lord Scott’s to redeem her maligned character and thus bring light and comfort to this family – and Lucy herself.
I’m very deeply grateful to her for this and only wish I had known what I know now – back in the seventies and early eighties when Elizabeth was still with us in person.
When I have read the books through I will write again
Fiona McAllan

The Historical Document of the Interrogation of Anne Hill

The Historical Document of the Interrogation of Anne Hill

The further information of Anne Hill, late servant to the lady Lucy Walter, otherwise Barlow, taken upon oath the 2d day of July, 1656.

Vol. xl. p. 37.

Middlesex.

Who saith, that in August last she came first into the service of the said lady Lucy Walter, and went over with one of her children into Holland to the Hague, where the lady then lived; and saith, that Mr. Thomas Howard, gentleman of the horse to the princess royal, did much frequent her company there; and saith she continued there seven months, and then came over into England. And saith, that this informant never heard, that the said lady had any husband in Holland, or any other place, but that those children she had were begotten by Charles Stewart; and saith that Justus Walter, her said lady’s brother, told her this informant, that the said lady, together with the said Thomas Howard, went from the Hague to Flanders, and then immediately they came from thence to Flushing, and so for England, as she hath heard them say. And this informant further saith, that the said lady told her this informant, that the very same night, in which she came to Antwerp or Brussells, Charles Stewart came thither; whereupon this informant asked her in these words, Did your honour see him? to which she answered, Yes, and he saw your master too (meaning one of her children, which is usually called master.) And this informant saith, she knows not who came with the said lady into England, besides Thomas Howard and Justus Walter aforesaid, neither any thing further of their actings beyond seas; and saith, she heard the said lady and her said brother confer together about a necklace of pearl, which the said lady intimated to him she had bought; and that they discoursed it must cost about 1500 l. And the informant saith, she heard the said lady say, she had bespoke a coach, and that she would have it lined with red velvet, and have gold fringe on it within three weeks; and said, although they lived but closely in their lodgings, yet very plentifully in clothes and dyet, and had a coach to attend them continually from week to week. And this informant saith, while she lived with the said lady, she this informant was kept up so privately, that she had not scarce liberty to come down for a cup of beer, which she really believes was, that this informant might not have opportunity to discover them. And saith, the said lady gave her a charge, not to tell who she was, but to say she was a Dutch captain’s wise, whose husband is dead; which she this informant observeth.

The mark of Ann [] Hill.

 

From: ‘State Papers, 1656: July (1 of 6)’, A collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, volume 5: May 1656 – January 1657 (1742), pp. 173-86. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=55532. Date accessed: 02 October 2007.

Child From The Sea

 

Child From The Sea

 

I find it interesting that all the Celtic fringes acknowledge the likelihood that Lucy Walters and Charles I were married, while the “official” history doesn’t give them any credence what so ever. Who said History is written by the conquerors?

I am certain that it was thoughts such as these that started Elizabeth off on the long, often arduous journey that all authors take when they begin a new work. She wrote some of the book in the beautiful county of Pembrokeshire, in a low, long house over looking the sea at Newport. She found out about the family who had lived in the romantic castle, seen on the skyline of Newgale, by being given a copy of a book by a friend “who was one of the leaders in the fight to defend the beauty of Pembrokeshire from modern development” (Goudge 1970 p259). She insisted that Elizabeth read it and then write a story in keeping with the book, something which Elizabeth was inspired to do after only reading a few chapters.

The story begins at Roche Castle, one of the Pembrokeshire homes of the Walter family. It is the only book that Elizabeth wrote that doesn’t start with a quote or poem to set the scene. It does however describe in vivid detail the setting of Lucy’s childhood, a place that had overwhelmed Elizabeth with its wild beauty. On my visit I saw no sign of the stream running down to the sea, although the old part of the village was still heavily wooded, so I don’t know if a certain liberty has been taken with the site, or whether it has altered greatly in the last 400 years. There is in fact a place called Roch Bridge, which crosses a stream that runs into the bay at Newgale. It is only a few fields away from the castle, and maybe the route that Lucy took to the sea. But the castle, unlike the cover illustration of the book is not on the coast.

The first section entitled The Child, sets out the background that Lucy grew up in and frames the possible meeting places that could have been used the first time that Charles and Lucy met. Most Historians feel it likely that they met at Golden Grove, as Charles I visited the Earl there, and Lucy would have visited often as a near and dear relative.

We live with Lucy in Pembrokeshire, her natural milieu of freedom from convention and the delights of rural life, and share with her the discovery of the Sin Eater and the sadness and mental anguish she shares with Old Parson in his distress. Here she is brought into contact with the precarious state of children born out of wedlock, as her much loved half brother and sister are packed off back to the servant girl’s family on a Welsh hill farm, a lesson which she was to take to heart in later life.” The departure of Dewi and Betsi left a scar on Lucy or some thing more than a scar, for the wound never quite healed. That two good people like her Father and Mother could throw two babies out of their nest as though they were of no more worth than a couple of sparrows shocked her deeply, and frightened her too. For the first time she was aware of sin as something that tangled up all human life, even the life of her father and mother and their children. She was never entirely a child again after Dewi and Betsi went away.” (Goudge 1970 p 113)

But for some reason, Elizabeth decided to make their meeting place in London, possibly because it was an extremely unhappy time for them both; with Lucy’s parents going through an acrimonious divorce and Charles having to witness and be a party to the trials and recriminations that lead up to the Civil War. His Mother, Queen Henrietta Maria had fled to France, close friends and advisors to his family were put on trial, and in some cases executed.
It also enabled Lucy to be acquainted with Old Sage, in one of those synchronicity of plots that Elizabeth so delights in and which occur more frequently in life than we suppose.
So, two lonely frightened children meet who are both finding out that life doesn’t always work out how one would want it to. They share the same group of friends, have similar backgrounds, and both have a charisma and charm that would ignite the other. “Something or someone, some day, would pull her as moon and sun pull the tides and larks and she would go.” (Goudge. 1970 p19)

We must remember that the age of consent for marriage in the 17th century was 14 for boys and 12 for girls. They grew up fast and died young. John Evelyn the diarist calls her “the daughter of some mean creatures”( Lucy Walters, Wife or Mistress 1947 p 27) But Lucy’s father was directly descended from Sir Rhys ap Thomas about whom was said” though never more than a knight, was never less than a prince” in South Wales. He facilitated the march of Henry Tudor to Bosworth Field, and is credited with finding the fallen crown and placing it on the head of Henry Tudor. The three Ravens on his heraldic Arms were held in high esteem and fear in the Tudor court. On her maternal side her mother was related to the Earl of Carberry, the Vaughans of Golden Grove, who owned just about all of Carmarthenshire. The Earl had been the Comptroller of the King’s Household, during Charles I reign, and from her maternal Grandmother Mary Rhys, Lucy was a descendant of Lady Catherine Howard, aunt to both Anne Boleyn and Queen Katherine Howard. So Lucy would have been a good match for any future Monarch. The act of Parliament that forbids Royalty to marry commoners was not past until 1772.

At Golden Grove, she begins to understand the fascination she can have over the opposite sex, as she beguiles the Earl with her good looks and charm. “I think you may have difficulty in the upbringing of that child Elizabeth said Lady Carberry gently. I have seldom seen my husband so infatuated.” (Goudge 1970 p 125).

We follow her on her sad journey to London and to her new home with Mrs Gwinne, her Grandmother, who lives in the “village” of St Giles. Here Lucy is brought onto the stage of National History, meeting people such as the eminent Dr Cosins, Master of Peterhouse and Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, Tom Howard, whose brother was the Duke of Suffolk, Algernon and Robert Sidney, friendships deepened by family connections that would eventually lead to her meeting Charles.

In some ways this is my favourite part of the book, Elizabeth is able to communicate the atmosphere of 17th century London so well, that not only do we peer up narrow alleys, saunter down wide fashionable streets, and travel the broad sweep of the Thames, we can smell the stinking kennels and open drains, and rejoice in the peace and perfume of Old Sage’s herb stall. Her description of Covent Garden is typical.

“Lucy and Jacob went warily past the open doors lest a bucket full of slops, flung in the direction of the open kennel, should catch them. When they reached the Garden it was full of activity. The flower girls and fruit and vegetable men were at their stalls, spreading out their wares. Nan’s big red hands moved so quickly in posy-making, bunching the flowers together and twisting long grasses round their stalks, that the posies fell from her fingers to her lap almost as though she were shelling pease, but she allowed a few extra seconds to Lucy’s choosing the flowers with care so that Lucy had a variety of pinks, frilled white ones, white ones stitched with scarlet round the edges, pale pink, a couple of sops-in-wine, and one deep red clove carnation in the centre. Lucy leaned forward and kissed Nan’s rough cheek which smelt of carnations. Nan was steeped in her flowers and smelled of them from head to foot, as did Old Sage of his herbs” (Goudge 1970 p170/171) How different from the brightly coloured but scentless blooms we now purchase, wrapped in cellophane from a supermarket bucket.

Elizabeth likes to root her characters to a place, and Old Sage fits his perfectly. Old Sage had his stall as close as possible to St Paul’s church because he kept his main supply of herbs in the church loft.     There were trees at his end of the Garden and it was sheltered from the sun by a great yew tree which must have been growing here in the days of the monks……Old Sage sold herbs of every sort, bunches and packets of dried herbs, fresh bunches of mint, lavender, rosemary and marjoram, and also cloves and peppercorns and oranges stuck with cloves to keep away infection.         when he moved herb dust sprayed from his person like pepper from a pot.” (Goudge 1970 p 171)

Elizabeth’s father’s side of the family had lived in London, and indeed were part of the French immigration of silk weavers that came over to live in London at the time of the French revolution. They probably planted Mulberry trees in their gardens to facilitate their trade, which would have been old and venerable to young Elizabeth’s eyes, she would have noticed the way that towns and cities have their green and pleasant spots. London although bigger and brasher in Edwardian times, wouldn’t have been that different from the London of 200 years earlier. It’s changed rapidly of cause in the last 50/60 years.

She also manages to bring personal remembrances into the story, memories of her Father’s study for example are used to describe Mr Gwinne’s, Lucy’s Grandfather. “Lucy knocked on the library door and receiving no answer lifted the latch and walked in. Mr Gwinne’s library resembled a clearing in a forest, but the open space was by no means uncluttered, having a minor undergrowth of books piled on the floor, like stumps of felled trees. Around the clearing great bookcases loomed from floor to ceiling, dark but yet alive with a glint of gold or crimson here and there, as though light shone faintly through massed leaves, and ominous with a motionless power.” (Goudge 1970 p 151)

“the narrow doorway of the study and on entering found a wall to the right and on the left the ominous darkness of that invaluable bookcase, Somewhere round on the other side of it was my father at work, but it was very dark between that wall and the bookcase.” (Goudge 1974 p103),being a description of her father’s study at Ely.

The plot flows on, in and out of sadness enriched with flashes of joy, as Lucy and her brothers come to terms with their parents divorce, the deaths of Besti, and her beloved Nan-Nan, the loneliness of William, showing her the separateness of the human condition, and the history of Old Sage, which will prove a vital link in the narrative of the story later on, pulling us right up to the execution of the Earl of Strafford. Lucy sees Charles met the Mayor of London and finds a chance to throw him her present of the dark webbed purse she had made him. It would be the last time they met for years.

The middle section is entitled The Idyll, and as such is the shortest part of the book, as it was the shortest of Lucy’s life. It opens in Devon where Lucy is living with her father’s parents, and Dewi. Roch Castle has been almost destroyed and Algernon Sidney has been badly wounded in the fighting. The Civil War is raging, and she is safe at the moment deep in Royalist held Devon. After a further meeting with the Prince cements her feelings even further than the childish passion she had started with, Lucy travels with her father and Dewi back to Pembrokeshire, to make a home for them in the shadow of their broken castle. It’s as good a place as any to wait out the war.

The meeting and marriage of Charles and Lucy is part of Welsh myth, which is why Elizabeth allows them to meet at the romantic and symbolic place of St David’s cathedral. In reality it is unlikely that he would have had the time or opportunity in the midst of civil war, to go to the west of Wales for four days.
It is a clever devise to have them unwittingly married by a de-frocked or at least un-ordained priest, because of cause; no one has been able to produce a marriage certificate. There were however persistent rumours that they had married before the Prince went to France. Sir Edward Hyde writes in the march of 1646/7 ” I am far from being secure, for many reasons, that the intelligence from London of the Prince’s marriage may not be true; we were apprehensive of it before he went, and spoke freely to him our opinions of the fatal consequences of it.” (Hyde, 1646/7 p 346)

What ever the historical niceties, the second part ends with Charles re-joining the war, and Lucy doomed to wait it out in Pembrokeshire. Elizabeth must have known many young women who sent their men off to war, wondering if they would ever met again, hoping that there would/wouldn’t be a child to comfort them, or concerned with bringing one up alone.

The third and longest part of the story is The Woman, and chronicles Lucy’s travels around Europe and her fight to be accepted as Wife of the Prince and Mother of his child, the future Duke of Monmouth. Part of the problem was that the Royal family had no personal income at all and were reliant on the generosity of other Royals, who after the glamour of the situation had wore off, and Cromwell had won the Civil war with the hearts and minds of the British behind him, found other things they would rather spend their money on. So, the enlarging of the household was most unwelcome. Charles’s mother was extremely angry and begged him not to tell people, as she still hoped for a moneyed match to be made, helping them out of their poverty. I suspect that she hoped Lucy would fall victim to any number of fatal diseases prevalent at that time, thereby freeing Charles from his youthful mistake.
There is evidence to suggest that the Marriage Certificate was stolen from her, during the debacle of her misguided and ultimately self-destructive journey to England with her young son.

This part of the book has been the subject of much conjecture and discussion. Why did Lucy decide to travel to England, taking Jackie with her? She must have realised how dangerous it was and the advantage to the Commonwealth if she was captured. Surely she was frightened about the safety of her son, as a future King of England. The reason given in the book is the bequest left to Lucy by her Mother. “Our Mother left some money for you too. There is still some legal business to be done and it would be a help to Richard and to me if you would come back to England with us and stay for a while. You know what London is like in the spring and summer; a jewel girdled by the little villages among their meadows and flowers. Will you come? You and the children and Anne.”(Goudge 1974 p 663). Justus implores her to return to England with him, and finally she accepts. But I don’t understand why she took the children with her, unless she thought that on her return to the Continent they would have been taken away from her, Charles had tried to kidnap “Jackie” before.

But really I think that Lucy privately gave to much credence to her brother Richards’s position in Cromwell’s staff and Government. She was used to her family being in a position to ensure her safety. She also trusted Tom Howard as an old friend and distant relation, not knowing that he was a double agent, and would be only to happy to hand such a prize over to Cromwell to smooth his own path.

The fact that Cromwell didn’t try and execute them speaks of the sensitive nature of the situation. Killing the Grand father was one thing, but to murder a royal child and his Mother, no such thing had been done since the bad old days of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower.

The relationship between Lucy and her personal maid Anne Hill has caused considerable debate among Goudge readers as it appears to be one of almost Saintly Scapegoat and Judas kiss complexity.

Elizabeth had a deep reverence for the relationship between servant and Master, or as is more politically correct today, Employer and Employee. It was something she had seen and experienced all her life. To our modern comprehension it seems as out dated as clubbing your woman over the head and dragging her cave-wards, but to Elizabeth it was one of equality through the act of service and acceptance. It is the Path for all those of Christian faith to try and live by the example of Christ, and Lucy realised that Anne was truly repentant of her former disloyalty. She would have wanted to believe so, as whom else did she have to turn to at this, the lowest point of her life. Anne had become the stable pivot of her and more importantly of her children in an increasingly chaotic life.   click here for the record of the interrogation of Anne Hill

I find the weakness and politically motivated cruelty and neglect with which Charles treated Lucy, hard to understand. I suppose that the desire to be accepted by his peers, his family and his subjects after decades of war, flight and fight was too beguiling. as well as the old adage about Power and corruption. How convenient poor Lucy died before he became King, thereby side stepping the issue completely.

I will finish the article with a quote from the diary of Samuel Peyps, the famous Restoration Diarist, and two from Historical websites, one chronicling the History of Scotland the other from a west country town.

At that time the restoration of the monarchy looked unlikely, and the Stewarts were not the most eligible of bachelors. Charles’ brother James (later James VII) married a commoner, Anne Hyde and Charles II married Lucy Walter, while Louis XIV of France married Françoise d’Aubign, after the death of his first wife. Charles’ mother, Queen Henrietta Marie, was furious when she heard of the marriage and threatened to have her brother, the King of France, cut off Charles’ pension if he did not repudiate Lucy Walters and her child. Charles accepted and went on to marry the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza in 1662, four years after the death of Lucy Walters. Charles died in 1685 without any acknowledged legitimate children and was succeeded by his brother, James II.

‘What is whispered about is that young Crofts is lawful son of the King, the King being married to his mother. How true it is, God knows.’
Samuel Pepys Diary, October 1662.

Taken from the Scottish Politics web site by Alba Publishing, Scotland.

Monmouth was the illegitimate son of King Charles II, born to Lucy Walters in 1649 during Charles II’s exile at The Hague. Monmouth was much loved and favoured by his father and despite his illegitimate status was given a place of great authority within English society. In 1674 Monmouth was made ‘Commander in Chief’ of the army; gaining great respect as a soldier among the English people.

 

Charles II

Shaftesbury urged King Charles II to recognise his son by the legitimisation of his marriage to Lucy Walters. Charles refused declaring he had only ever been married to the Queen. Monmouth later confessed that his father had told him in private that he would have no legal right to the throne. Rumours abounded about a black box being discovered in which the marriage papers of Charles and Lucy Walters were hidden but these were never produced as evidence.
Deborah Gaudin

Goudge.E. 1970. Child From the Sea Hodder & Stoughton
Scott.G Lord 1947 Lucy Walters: Wife or Mistress. Harrap & Co Ltd
Lamford T. G. 2001 The Defence of Lucy Walter The Better Book Company.
Samuel P 1662 The Dairies of Samuel Pepys
Rev C. P. Brown Minehead On Line
Goudge E. 1974 Joy Of The Snow Hodder & Stoughton

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Re Pembrokeshire Pilgrimage

Re Pembrokeshire Pilgrimage

Thank you so much for your articles which I always enjoy. I remember my two visits to St David’s; one was when I joined the Easter Day morning worship at the Cathedral. The other was in the summer when we stayed at Tenby and had a trip to Caldy Island. It was also my first time view of the Cathedral, and we walked along the cliff top, with stunning views, and saw that little sanctuary in the rock where a monk once lived. I had EG’s book The Child From The Sea but had not read it so Roch Castle was not foremost in my thoughts then. Since reading the book, (only in the last two years I have to admit, and after many attempts) I particularly appreciated the pictures you put on the site and your article. Perhaps one day we might get to visit again who knows. The vicar at the Church  I attend  was once the vicar at St David’s Cathedral, I ought perhaps to ask him if he has heard or read The Child From The Sea. Probably not heard of it – many years my junior.

 

Marion

Answer to Quote Query

Answer to Quote Query

Goudge Talk

The quotation on the “talk” page of your Society web site is from The White Witch, hard cover edition, p. 296. It refers to Froniga who finds herself unexpectedly happy when she is busy treating people during an outbreak of plague. (Brag note: I did that by memory, not by Google.) I’m that familiar only with those of Goudge’s novels that I’ve read repeatedly, which doesn’t include Child from the Sea and Green Dolphin Street. Though those are so famous, I’ve read them each only once.

Lydia McGrew.

Pembrokeshire Pilgrimage

 

A day of high blue skies saw us chasing the perfect chess piece of Roch Castle all through the twisted wooded lanes. In gaps in the hedges we could see pieces of sky which turned into sea with ships on them; rather like Elizabeth describes the frescos in The Herb of Grace.

The castle had hidden from us for days, appearing dark and ominous on the skyline, then disappearing into a dip of the fields and a belt of woodland. In fact it shelters modestly behind the new face of the village of Roch being approached through a small housing estate.

Once reached, one wonders how it could have been missed. It rears up proudly on its base of volcanic rock, surrounded by lawns, trees and shrubs, and a stone boundary wall, built to contain the gardens

I leaned on the gate and gazed up at the home of the tragic Lucy Walters, the most famous member of the family which had inspired Elizabeth to undertake her final and longest novel. The book, (The Child From The Sea) is set in the Civil War, a period of history that Elizabeth was already familiar with. But this time she was to take the Royalist perspective, writing about Charles II, his relationship with Lucy, and their ill fated son the Duke of Monmouth.

It is a miniature castle, boasting a strong corner turret and curtain wall, with high up slits for arrows and windows. My palms felt damp thinking of the young Walters climbing from them down the walls to the woods. There was one larger window which I think must have belonged to her mother’s solar, part of the modernization that poor William spent all his money to build in a vain effort to please his wife.

A legend tells of the castle’s founder, Adam de Rupe, whose fear of a prophecy that he would be killed by a viper’s bite led him to choose this isolated site. Apparently he was unable to avoid his fate, for a viper, concealed in a bundle of firewood, found its way into the castle and fulfilled the prophecy.

The main reason for it being in such good order is that it has been renovated into a high class holiday let, so access wasn’t possible on an ad hoc basis. I opened the gate and walked the first few yards up the drive, but there seemed to be no one about I could ask, so reluctantly I left. I don’t know what I hoped to see that couldn’t be seen on their web site, and it seemed unlikely that any of the family remained.

The castle was greatly neglected after the Civil War, but in 1900 Viscount St. David began extensive restoration, and subsequent owners have continued this. It is therefore considerably altered, but the tower is unmistakable for miles around, and traces of the old earthwork bailey can be seen at the foot of the outcrop.

The church however was open. It was just across the road from the castle and with Manorbier farm make up what is obviously the heart of the old village. Was the farm the one that Williams’s bailiff lived in? It looked old enough and its name implies that it was part of an estate.

The church is dedicated to St Mary, a Norman trait and had been built on a much earlier earthwork. The inside has been recently renovated and is white washed except for the wall separating the body of the church from the choir and alter which has been left as bare stone. The font by the door is old and the Ten Commandments were still painted in black on the alter wall. I remembered how the new paint on the vii commandment had enraged William, who thought the parson had done it on purpose; he left his hat on in protest.

There was no sign that the family had ever worshipped there, no grave, tomb or memorial to the house of Walter. Their entire lineage from Rhys ap Thomas, all the pride and ownership they had taken in their home was brushed away, so much dust in the long years since their tenancy.

Standing under the lynch gate as Lucy and Charles must have done after their marriage had taken place, the view in its autumnal quietness looks much as it would have done then, except that the Union Jack and Welsh flags fly from the keep, its roof now intact, no longer roofed with the glory of storm clouds as Lucy had seen it on first visit back home.

Following in the footsteps, or more accurately the hoof prints of Lucy and Old Parson, we made our way to St David’s, travelling up and down the switch back coastal road, through the pebble barricades of Newgale, where the thunderous surf was being utilized by surfers, canoeists and dogs, passing finally through the narrow streets of the smallest city in Britain.

The cathedral is contained in a bowl of land, called the Valley of the Roses, and unusually is lower than the surrounding city. Most cathedral sites derive some of their sense of separateness from being built on higher ground, here the reverse is true. Sited beside the stream is the Bishop’s palace, which is undergoing renovation. The stone and brick work are varied and beautiful, and have been crumbling since the bishop, as Elizabeth tells us, sold the lead roof to pay for his daughters dowries in the 16th century. One oriole window had had its stone tracery completed and showed the green of trees and clouded blue sky through itself like stained glass.

The stream is one of the site boundaries and is crossed by the span of a stone bridge. I think that for me this was one with the description in Elizabeth’s book, and I could quite easily conjuror up the ghosts of Lucy and Charles meeting there at the beginning of his stay with her. The grounds seemed timeless, set apart from the concourse of people in a way that the buildings couldn’t be.

The cathedral is rock like, grey and a little forbidding at first, even in the bright sunlight. Unsound foundations or an earth tremor have made one end subside a little, so that it really looks from one angle as if its about to spring.

The inside is plain, a cave hewn out of the rock, with the usual tree trunk pillars soaring to the carved and painted ceiling. To the left a Lady Chapel, to the right one dedicated to St Nicholas. The walls are lined with recumbent figures of Bishops, Knights and men of renown. The Lady Chapel had its quota of dragons and a simple, effective sculpture of a slate dove, wings spread ascending, between two upheld hands.

I couldn’t find the pilgrims way that Lucy and Old Parson had walked, but behind the alter is the medieval casket which contains the bones of St David and St Justine. It is a wooden box bound with ornate iron work and sits in a niche, flanked by prayers in English and Welsh. The casket and original shrine were stripped of gold and jewels during the reformation to dissuade people from the cult of idolatry. Even at this time of year the place was crowded, and I got very little impression of the quiet peace that Lucy and Old Parson received. The clergy were moving around in packs avoiding eye contact, seemingly to absorbed in church matters to notice the laity.

It is easier overall to slip back in time in Pembrokeshire than it had been in Hampshire, because so much has been preserved. The country lanes are still the main roads linking small hamlets, villages and towns. The intrusion of the motor car is inevitable, but kept to a minimum. Horses clip clop everywhere, and the fields are smaller with mixed farming as were most places even in my childhood in the fifties.

Yet, the area is not a museum, rural life goes on the same way it always has, even if tractors and other farm machinery make it less back breaking work. The churches ring their Sunday bells, the children pour out of their local schools, the post office and the Bakers still occupy the heart of the community. It would be one of the few places that Elizabeth would be comfortable revisiting. As she so eloquently says:

 

 

 

Here in the country’s heart
Where the grass is green,
Life is the same sweet life
As it e’er hath been.

Trust in a God still lives
And the bell at morn,
Floats with a thought of God
O’er the rising corn.

God comes down in the rain
And the crop grows tall~
This is the country faith,
And the best of all.

Deborah Gaudin

 

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