Archive for Visitsto Goudge related sites – Page 2

Conversation Piece

Excerpts from an email conversation about Elizabeth Goudge
Between Carol McDonough and Lorender Freeman, Australia
LF             Climb the stairs to the upper floor of the Bendigo library [regional Victoria, Australia] and there is The Stack. These are the books no longer in demand, but which the library, fortunately, considers too good to be discarded. They may be borrowed and include many fine novels published in the 1940s, 50s and 60s and now largely forgotten. They have a generous collection of Elizabeth Goudge.

I first encountered Elizabeth Goudge (1900-1984), when my father read The Little White Horse to my brothers and me. When I left home I became the guardian of our family’s copy of this book and read this ever-delightful story to my own children, but it was only about fifteen years ago that I began to read her many adult novels, realizing that these apparently genteel stories were passionate and revelatory.

CMcD       Ah! The Stack! That is where I first read The Valley of Song, one of her children’s books which profoundly speak to adults. An inspirational book, written during WW2 in a chaotic, despairing time for Elizabeth, it is not one of her favourites. For me it speaks to “See how they love one another” as foundational for a town or a Christian community to live in poured-out resourceful harmony close to the inter-penetrating “king/queendom” of heaven. A long meditation created as delightful evocative story, I always think the pre-text for that book is “unless you become as a little child you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Tonight I found myself saying to a friend that Elizabeth Goudge is as deep, broad and wide as her contemporary Evelyn Underhill, as theologian and spiritual guide in the English spiritual tradition. Her over half century opus of children and adult novels, stories, poems, prayers, and collections, concluding with her autobiography, was published from 1919-1974. Who is Elizabeth for you?

LF       If I look into a novel I consider among her best, The Herb of Grace,  I’m reminded that yes, Elizabeth Goudge is a spiritual guide, and in the English tradition, or rather, my view of the English spiritual tradition, deeply coloured by the Arthur Mee Children’s Encyclopedias and English poetry. Beneath the patterns of admirable and satisfying romance, and the deep sense of place, lie simple structures of necessary goodness. Goudge needs the pleasure of the stories as much as this reader and she needs to instruct. How much do you think this goes back to her childhood, part of it lived in the shadow of Ely Cathedral?

CMcD   Her childhood was spent first in the Cathedral Close of Wells Cathedral in Somerset, then the family moved to the great fens where her family lived in the Cathedral Close of Ely. Her father, Henry, whose silk weaver family back ground was Evangelical, and who in his teen years immersed himself in the Catholic tradition of the Church of England, was priest, theologian and author. In his Theological College Principal positions, he took the family to Wells, Ely and subsequently to Oxford where he was Regis Professor of Divinity. By virtue of her being, her father’s scholarship and devotion profoundly formed the young Elizabeth. As did her mother, Ida Colette, daughter of St Peter’s Port, Guernsey, whose weaving of myth and legend into vibrant story was a passionate gift to Elizabeth. She says in her last book, an autobiography, The Joy of the Snow:  I began to write…as a child at Wells and have hardly left off since…  First published when still living at home, she speaks of her father and her sitting on the floor wrapping copies of that first novel, “They are our children”, he said.”  And of Ely:

How can one describe the place? Wells was fairyland, in my memory a diaphanous Cathedral and a city so hidden from the world that is seemed to have dropped out of the world, but Ely had the hard strength of reality. The cathedral leaped on you like a lion, taking you captive beyond hope of escape, but the lion was Aslan the divine lion. Once the bondage had been accepted, the pursuer became protector…  Without it one might have felt lost and desolate in the vast flatness that lay helplessly beneath the huge dome of the sky, but with it, one was safe, tied to it by an invisible cord.

Cords are a recurring thread in her novels. Good heavens! I just picked out the award winning, and filmed, Green Dolphin Country. I had forgotten that her beginning quote A threefold cord shall not be broken is by Evelyn Underhill! It is oft quoted in the text and is the theme of that longest novel where she, not claiming mysticism as her home, personifies the qualities Elizabeth describes in the “cord” between her three primary characters, Margeurite, Marianne and William.

Three deep cravings of the self…which only mystic truth can satisfy. The first is the craving, the longing to go out from the normal world, which makes him a pilgrim and a wanderer…The next is the craving of heart for heart, the soul for its perfect mate which makes him a lover. The third is the craving for inward purity and perfection which makes him an ascetic, and in the last resort a saint.

In her epic storytelling, Goudge gently, explicitly, unfolds the growing of these from one “natural” element in each as a child towards the wholeness of the three elements expressed in them all in stimulating old age; a life journey to which she inspires each of us, without preaching.

As her thought and expression unfold through, as you say, the “goodness” of her works, in the mystic and other elements of the English spiritual tradition, “shot through with brightness” of her life experience, do you find these or other qualities maturing to wholeness as she journeys into God?

LF  A big question. The Herb of Grace is about movement toward wholeness. Each character must pass through the flame which burns away self-delusion and ignorance. They work at their own fates, but their fates are dependent on each other and on God, and the story provides all manner of revelation, sometimes confronting, sometimes beautiful, sometimes deliciously outrageous as Goudge imposes her necessary order. (Not to mention her inevitable loving portrayals of houses and dogs. Being a cat person I find the dogs wearying, but the detailed evocations of houses, and their importance to the story, is deep and satisfying).

If I look into The Herb of Grace as a child might, I’m almost immediately confronted by piercing dilemmas of love and self-knowledge, as disturbingly relevant as the other times I’ve read this book. How does she know all this stuff?! In The Joy of the Snow she lets little slip about these aspects of her own life. Or am I obtuse?

CMcD      How does the entering into intimate piercing dialogue with her world enable us to penetrate ours in the increasingly different (or is it?) twenty-first century?

I wonder…..What words most encapsulate her opus for you? At present, the words, which seem similar to yours, are “yearning towards wholeness”. That, in all or most of her works, as she traces the relationships with place, time, animals and people, she is unfolding that desire in the human spirit for integration, for dynamic harmony within and with all…..for peace. Consciously or unconsciously or both, might she be charting her own journey? The long slow times; the sudden leaps forward in understanding and knowledge which, when reflected on and lived into, might lead towards wisdom. While delighting in the healing balm and inspiration of beauty in all its forms, in the natural world and in relationship, she endured the transformation which comes, when given to God, of the suffering of her dark times, both inner,  from which she certainly suffered and gained great insight- and outer, on the stage of world history as she experienced it. She lived consciously, sensitively, painfully and reflectively in the domestic, local community and church spheres through two world wars, impacting in her immediate present, and beyond.  Might she “know all this disturbing stuff” because she took time to observe and reflect; she took time to be still; she took time for exploring and growing into a deep and deepening relationship with her God. Though life circumstances moved her around southern England, she took time in each place to put down roots and source stability. She reveled in beloved poetry. All these were, for her, sources for the “dearest freshness deep down things”, as George Herbert tells it.

LF To enter into dialogue with her world… unavoidable in the reading of her, I don’t  think that it makes any difference, 20th century or 21st, the problems of living honourably are the same,  to fully stand in the realities of her world is to acknowledge our responsibilities to creation. Which is wonderful , as in exciting and pleasurable  and wonderfully demanding, for in that heady atmosphere float the implicit questions,

“Can you change? can you be fully human? can you act from your higher self?”

In wondering about her knowledge of love and its follies, I’m also being curious, looking between the lines for gossip. I remember my surprised delight when the estranged husband in The Scent of Water goes into the bedroom and tells his wife to shove over, yet my low curiosity about Elizabeth Goudge’s experience of fleshly delights soon fizzles out in the face of her greater preoccupations.

A story. The last few weeks I’ve been reading a lot, and went to look for Goudge’s in Book Heaven, finding two “juveniles” – Linnets and Valerians and, never sighted before, Smoky-House – which I immediately read from beginning to end. The last chapter is titled Happy Ever After, and me being mildly sick, I no doubt read it as a child, wholly entranced and bemused. And was drawn back into childhood…

In the 50s my parents would often push their boys into the car on a Saturday morning and drive to the old lending library in La Trobe Street, Melbourne, then part of the grand State Library, Museum, and NGV building. We’d borrow a pile of books and park in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton, Mum and Dad disappearing into Jimmy Watson’s wine shop (in its original humble shop front) while we settled to our fate of being stuck in the car with naught but brothers and books for an hour or two.

Around this time I read a book which bowled me over with its rich sense of possibility, I’d never read anything like it before, where the events in the book were so obviously right and wonderful and magically fateful. Sometime after the book was returned I wanted to read it again, and began a long and hopeless search. I never found it, I didn’t remember the title or author, it seemed that I’d had a glimpse into another world and would never again enter that portal. As time passed my memory of the book diminished to a vague memory of a ship, a cove, possibly pirates. I’ve thought about it over the years, and come to the conclusion that even if I came across the book now I wouldn’t, couldn’t, know whether it was the one.

Deep into Smoky-House, in the chapter The Ship in the Cove, I come to a striking illustration by C.Walter Hodges of a boy gazing upon a sailing ship that seemed made out of night and sunshine… This may be the lost book, well, I think it is. But can never be certain.

CMcD Children! I watch my growing exploring granddaughters with delight. Reading with the eyes of a child…fractalled through the eyes of the adult…  I have just reread her trilogy of Henrietta, growing through nine to eleven,  A City of BellsThe Sister of the Angels: A Christmas Story, and Henrietta’s House, which maybe, even more than The Scent of Water, tells us of her journey. Henrietta is modelled on her “child”, in her formative life in Wells, celebrated in A City of Bells. For purposes of this novel, Wells is renamed Torminster, bringing together Wells and mystical Glastonbury Tor, Avalon. The dedication of Henrietta’s House, time slipping, moving between what might be fantasy and reality, as does Avalon, commences

There were once two little girls, and one had fair hair and lived in the Cathedral Close of Torminster and the other had dark hair and lived up in the Blue Hills above the city, and they were friends….

At the end of this tale she excessively concludes

So this is the end of the story of Henrietta’s house, and even though it is not strictly speaking a fairy tale –  because except for the possible exception of the disappearance of the motor car nothing out of the ordinary happened on Hugh Anthony’s birthday, it can be turned into one by saying that everybody lived happily ever after.

Outrageous! The disappearance of the car is the easiest thing to justify a simple theft! The rest of that afternoon birthday party, nothing out of the ordinary? Well! Through entrancing story we do learn of the power of prayer and the triumph of good over human inadequacy and intentional evil.

I wonder…. in many of her books, both so called “children” and so called “adult”, which all ages can read for delight and personal profit, she intimates the interpenetration of the world of the senses and the worlds of “intuition”, “spirit”, “faery”, “the kingdom of God”, all “working together for good for those who love…”

As in Herb of Grace (and the whole Damerosehay trilogy), in the outworking of Lucilla’s family over three generations, here she is searching piercing dilemmas of love and self knowledge, through the heart-wrenching inspiring stories of Henrietta, a supposed orphan, becoming reconciled and accommodating to her painter father’s odd lifestyle, whilst living with Hugh Anthony, his grandparents [a priest, canon and his wife] and their surrounding adults.

When one’s child’s heart becomes Love-pierced by Mystery through life’s hard knocks and redemptions, what might there be of possibilities in the child soul for movement towards wholeness for the adult person one is becoming? Elizabeth Goudge asks and explores this mystery, for her, “shot through” with the English “Anglican mind”, culture and tradition.

“To fully stand in the realities of her world is to acknowledge our responsibilities to creation,” you say. I broke into sparkling-eyed smiles. That’s IT! She was immersed in the natural world and the place of human beings within, not over, as ways of the unremarkable responsible relationship with all creation we humans used more to live. We don’t see the more recent kinds of self-critical, self-obsessed or its opposite, denial, about Earth, scourging us who have reaped the benefits, and the escalating bane of earth’s resources exploitation to the cost of future generations and even our own.

[DELETE IN BRACKETS MAYBE coz too many allusions to the Anglican style genre? Here are excerpts of her prayers from A Diary of Prayer, rhythmically swinging through the Anglican liturgical year. It took me forever to realize the unacknowledged ones in her prayer diary are her own….

A prayer before starting any work.

Lord in union with the Love which made Thee deign to occupy Thyself in work,     I Elizabeth Goudge Thee to unite my work with Thy most perfect acts and make it perfect;         as a drop of water, poured into a great river, does all that river does.

What intrigues me here, for her prayer for union within and with the work of Christ is similar to many of the greats, in century order among them Benedict, Teresa, Ignatius, Wesley, Charles de Foucauld – is her phrase “does all that river does” not the river; implicit is “River”. She communicates the sense, not only are we one with the great River of Life of the visions of Ezekiel and John the Divine, in time before and after Christ and fulfilled Christ Consciousness,  but also that River is entity-in-itself, with life, honored place, essential purpose in creation. ]

LF   11th February, 2009, windy, cool, sunny, far from tragedy but not far.

Nearby donkeys call into the bright and wild air. Last night, visiting Samantha and Sid, reading a poem Sam had just written about the last week , the heat, Eli’s first days at school, the fallout from the fires,  I felt the poem was about our collective immaturity, the fires (like global warming) a manifestation of our over-abundant emotional outpourings and needs, untempered by reflection and empathy. Yes, we can be sentimental and expressive, but how we deny the laments of nature, the demands on sanity and clarity, how easily feeling becomes violence.

Yesterday morning, Father Ken led a little requiem mass for the 173 bushfire dead on Black Saturday 2009. It was moving and deeply shared I think by those present. One of the readings was from Job, as used by Elizabeth Goudge to introduce and title The Scent of Water. A few weeks ago I re-read this book, the story of a late middle-aged woman’s, impulsive but conscious journey into her past, the wonders attending her decision to experience the real England before it vanished. It’s an odd, messy book, too many people, too many ship shapely resolutions, but beautiful in its discoveries and range, thrilling in its vitality. And again, the question of Home, such a big thing in Elizabeth Goudge’s writing, and of course her life, as in the way Mary, in The Scent of Water, approaches the cottage that has been left to her; indeed the whole book is, on one level, a very slow journey through that cottage, like something out of Tarkovsky, just as The Herb of Grace is most wonderfully about the bit by bit revelation of a house (and Home), and the depth of hospitality that a building can hold. I’ve always been perplexed by these things, I grew up with notions of the English village and cottage as ideal, but my first visit there, at 32, found me overwhelmed by the sense of past lives, the feeling of history palpably underfoot, almost claustrophobic. Yet reading The Little White Horse to my children provoked an epic sense of enfranchisement, the coming to Moonacre Manor and all that that involves.

CMcD 16th May 2010

Elizabeth Goudge’s opus fills nearly two bookshelf meters. Nearly all out of print, from op shops and second hand bookshops, it has taken decades to collect all but the first rare two. My joy, when I found her hardbound Damerosehay Trilogy in Castlemaine itself, for the vast sum of $6!  Over the last few years Elizabeth Goudge has been “found”. Partly because of internet bookselling? Partly because of the website Or, truly, as I would believe, because her time has come?  As I wrote those words, I had a small flash to our twentieth century re-finding of twelfth century “my friend, Julian of Norwich”, also much beloved by Elizabeth Goudge. Might it be, in such a short time from mid-twentieth to twenty-first century, as we contemplate the vast problems of our time, too big for mind to compass, she is a necessary antidote: a teller of how life in its mutual loving and mutual service in right relationship in community and all creation ought be, held in Trinity, in the resurrected life of Christ. Her descriptions of the people who pray in her novels teach us greatly about the life of prayer faithfully lived day in, night out. Others of her novels teaching about the ways of prayer and of growing in love and forgiveness include The Rosemary Tree, The Dean’s Watch, Gentian Hill. [To be continued in our conversation?] A visionary, a prophet, a storyteller of goodness and wholesome community and family relationships, through the medium of story she gives us invitation, pathways and wells of quiet. Very often I turn to the works of my “friend and companion” Elizabeth Goudge in the night hours and am comforted, inspired and given depth to live the next turning of life’s wheel. Thank you, Elizabeth.




I just discovered your web site!!  How wonderful to find a place where Elizabeth Goudge’s works are so appreciated and remembered.  There are several of us in Phoenix Arizona who love Elizabeth Goudge and we meet from time to time to discuss her books.  Is there another convention planned?  How would be go about finding out more about taking an Elizabeth Goudge pilgrimage?  It would be a dream come true for some of us to travel to her home and see many of the places that are the settings of her books.

Thanks for your help and time.


Marcia Kuyper

Dear Marcia,

How wonderful to think of you all reading and appreciating Elizabeth Goudge’s work in Arizona, such a different world from the one she writes about.

The Convention was a great success, and I’m sure there will be others in the future.

There would be several “pilgrimages” you could take if you came over to England. One would be the Oxfordshire one that we did this year taking in Rose Cottage, Henley-On-Thames, Turville where Scent of Water is based, and of cause Oxford itself where she lived for a time when her father was made Professor of Divinity there. Towers In the Mist is set where she lived in Tom Quad.

Or you could go to Hampshire where the Eliot novels are set and visit The Hard, the sea marshes and the church where Elizabeth is buried with her parents in New Milton.

Then again Devon is the county that Elizabeth wrote about most. She lived there with her Mother during the Second World War in Providence Cottage Marldon. Here you could visit not only the village but Compton manor where The Moonacre Manor of The Little White Horse stands, see Smokey’s House in the wooded Westerland valley, and the wonderful vista of Torbay setting for much of Gentian Hill. Pomeroy Castle ruins are also open to the public, the “Castle On The Hill”, reputedly one of the most haunted castles in this land of haunted castles.

Finally there is Ely set in the Cambridgeshire fens her “home of homes”

All these tours can be found in Sylvia Gower’s book “The World Of Elizabeth Goudge.”


Elizabeth Goudge Convention


Once away from the busy main road, a village emerges through the scent of wisteria and roses, a few streets that have matured gracefully with age. Somewhere that has the quality of light associated with water.

Henley Evening

Henley is a village still, and once off of the main drag, the red tiled streets of houses would have been familiar to Elizabeth, making the perfect setting for her novel ” The White Witch”. Many of the houses have underground tunnels linking them together and running down to the river, easy to place Yoben in an Under croft as Priest. The low sun stage lit the houses, making shadows of every uneven surface and softening the colour of the roof tiles, which slipped over windows latticed against the light. There were few people about, and it was soon apparent that the few people that were , were caterers getting ready for their evening shifts, having a quiet smoke and chat in the cool of the shadowed streets before the heat of the kitchen and the bustle of the dining room. They spoke in foreign tongues, Greek, Indian, Polish, bringing a flavour of the cosmopolitan to the back streets.


The Thames, river from Elizabeth’s beloved Wind in the Willows, complete with earnest rowers, small cruisers and water fowl. Fleets of swans, zig-zagged by coots, as loudly insistent as the children playing in the waterside park. As dusk deepens, lights come on. illuminating the buildings as in a stage set. How many people must have passed over this bridge in it’s long history?

The Red Lion, a venerable location for the Elizabeth Goudge Convention. Complete with its shawl of wisteria, settling down for the night. Across the river the steel structures for the Henley Regatta were taking shape, and the smooth green lawns were carrying the last of the rowers towards the club house.


Morning, the business of the day begun. Greetings and a getting to know you session with the first coffee of the day was held in The Orangerie. Seated at the tables are; in the foreground, Sally Bullock and Dr Rosemary Mills, behind them on the right hand table are Paul Gray, Maggie Donnelly, Marion & Brian Sheath, Joan Portsmouth and Rosalind Robinson. Seated in front of the window Alan & Audrey Piddington.

The Talk and group discussion was on the use of poetry in Elizabeth’s work and was led by Deborah Gaudin. We talked about the influence poetry had had on Elizabeth’s characters, the places and homes she wrote about. We touched on the use of poetry as she used it as an introduction to her novels, the anthologies she had edited and the poetry Elizabeth wrote herself.  By this time the wet morning weather had dramatically improved for our afternoon visits. First stop was the Dog Inn and a short walk down to Rose Cottage. Karen & Ken, the cottage’s present owners, showed us round the garden in the sunshine, nothing like it had been when Jessie gardened there, but pleasant and secluded. Then we drove across the common to the Church of All Saints where Elizabeth had worshipped and  we were met by a lady called Sylvia Seymour who was there to answer questions and show us round the building.

Everyone enjoyed the freedom and quiet of the churchyard, the shadowed church as peaceful and un-remarkable as last time I had visited. But it was good to talk to Sylvia who remembered taking the Parish magazine to Elizabeth & Jessie, when they became to frail to make it to church regularly. “She always asked after the family, particularly the children, “ she said, “ she was very fond of children.”

Elizabeth’s memorial service was held here on April 6th 1984.

Blessed are the Peace Makers. Sunlight through stained glass. An oasis of quiet in a busy world. Time to pause and reflect.

Audrey & Alan In Dog Lane

Audrey and Alan lead the way up Dog Lane, accompanied by Donna Hartwell and  Rachael Mackenzie. Joan Portsmouth behind them and Dr Rosemary Mills in the background. The weather was still glorious.

The lovely and courageous Marion Sheath and her husband Brian. Thank you for all your kind words and support for the web site.



IMG_8477 - Copy

Paul Gray an old friend and supporter with Maggie Donnelly outside Rose Cottage.

The day was spent very pleasantly and enjoyed by everyone. Thank you to those who have written or emailed to say how much you enjoyed the event and a big thank you too to Audrey, Sally and Jessica whose input and help on the day contributed to the success. The whole day was spent with like minded people, celebrating the life & work of Elizabeth Goudge.









Goudge’s Ghosts


June 2009’s website article


On our recent visit to Rose Cottage, we took the opportunity to visit places in the vicinity that Elizabeth had been to and written about. I love to think of her tramping the lanes with her dogs, getting to know the aspects of her new home as she approached it from different angles and routes. Then later maybe, being driven by Jessie through the changing seasons of this gentle landscape.

The land here becomes much more intimate; a long thin ribbon of hills stretching away towards Bedfordshire, which are covered in little woods and spinneys with open farmed land in-between. The soil looks almost white because of the large quantity of stones, chalk and flint, which litter the surface of the fields. Scratch a slope and find the chalk, white ribbons ascending hills. Tethered above almost every field was a Red Kite, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many in one county, banking and billowing just like the fields they flew over, same colour as the winter woods falling away behind us. The air was raw, and a grey mist concealed all distances, enhancing the remoteness of this place, set apart from the corridor of man’s development ,which trails into London and out to the ever growing towns in the country.

Avenue of Limes

We came upon Turville, Elizabeth’s template for Appleshaw, by surprise, and drove to park under the avenue of Limes. They had grown into small spinneys either side of the lane and were not in leaf. But their supple tops still swayed and gossiped to each other, while their feet were pooled in the azure of blue bells. We walked the lane under them towards the village hearing the wind in the branches and little else except the call of birds.

The village is lovely, all red brick warmth and steep tiled red roofs grouped around a green, with footpaths leading up to the Chiltern way and the wonderful black and white windmill which was filmed as Truly Scrumptious’s home in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The church of St Mary the Virgin, used in the television series The Vicar of Dibley, sits to one side of the green and has the loveliest of the flint and stone cottages in its demise, an old fashioned briar rose rambling over its front. One enters the church by descending three steep stone steps and inside it has a pure simplicity that delights. Wooden barrel roof, dark painting of the Madonna and Child in one chancel, and heraldic glass from the former Vicarage in its windows. Outside the graves slope peacefully, like pillows propped up in a bed, and the trees dip and sway on the edges.

The house which could be the model for The Laurels was close to the church, if not opposite. It had a walled garden with a door in the thickness of its stone, but it was called uninspiring Orchard Cottage, and I couldn’t see the tunnel of wisteria which led to the front door, just a gate and a gravelled drive. Probably another instance of Elizabeth transposing a childhood memory to some where else.

The cottages where Paul lived with his bitter wife Valerie are opposite the pub he used and are as compact and charming as Elizabeth describes them, with colourful front gardens and sparkling windows, they are named Wisteria, Windmill and Chiltern their back gardens tucked under the steep green bluff. They are tiny indeed, and you can’t help remembering Valerie’s friends being nonplussed at her complaints about housework, they would be considered small apartments today.


Walking back through the village, we heard the sound of an approaching pony and trap and stopped to watch it pass. Shades were conjured of the two Mary’s coming to the village, one to seek peace and respite from a hostile world and another, a small child come to visit an Aunt, both of them drove with the unaware horse’s handlers. They passed us driving away through the Limes as little Mary would have done, tearfully hoping to return some day to see her Aunt, in her strange house, set apart as if in a painting.

Pony & Trap Turville

Job chapter 14
verses 7 to 9

  1. for there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.
  2. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;
  3. Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.

This sense of renewal is something Elizabeth experienced again and again through out her life, and it is one of the precious gifts she won, struggling with her own personal demons.

The scent of water was in the air today, misting through the trees and slicking the horizon with the promise of proper rain. It gave to this pretty little village glamour, a soft beauty the harsher light of summer with its compliment of tourists would have destroyed.

We too drove off the same way, and were soon climbing a steep coombe through a magnificent beech hanger wood, whose roots resembling elephant’s trunks held the banks apart so that the road could pass. We stopped at the top of the rise to watch the still sleeping woods slip into the valley and a Golden Pheasant stroll around a field, the Chinese lantern of yet another kite cruising overhead. We passed through Nettlebed, a place of old boundaries and brick kilns which produced clay bricks for local use. This is the village in The White Witch to which Froniga takes Will to be cured of the “King’s Evil” ,the skin disease scurvy. Charles I was staying at The White Hart. Today it is more recognisable as the setting for The Midsomer Murder’s series.

We headed towards Peppard Common and the church of All Saints that Elizabeth had attended during her life in the village. She like Mary wanted the chance to experience the last dregs of country life before they vanished. The village is spread out, more a series of hamlets than a village with a centre, a throw back to ancient times when it was surrounded by extensive common land. Its name is derived from an old word for cattle lands and the Pipard or Pypard family who once held the local manor at Blount’s Court, The Court famous for a tulip tree which was planted by Charles I.


From the outside the church is sturdy, built of local flint and brick with a distinctive red tiled steeple. It’s surrounded by a large church yard bordered by mature trees. Inside is surprisingly spacious, white walled, early arches and good wood. The stained glass is varied, of a high quality and depicts unusual themes; such as the west window showing the Northumbrian saints St Bede and St Aidan, all stormy seas and misted islands against which the saints are resting. The central window in the north aisle shows a memorial to Nicholas John Cottle licensed Reader of this Church, incorporating the figure of the intellectually brilliant 5th century Bishop St Augustine of Hippo, last seen on our visit to Ely cathedral. I’m sure as an avid reader Elizabeth would have enjoyed this particular window. But my favourite is a small slim window situated in the south side of the chancel which has the words “Blessed are the peace makers” on its jewelled colours. A kneeling knight offers the hilt of his sword to make a cross, and his hand is being shaken by another who stands to one side. The figure of Christ dominates the background. The alter is one of the loveliest pieces of marketry I’ve seen, and is a representation of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, with the faces of the disciplines vivid under a well placed spot light. I can see why Elizabeth came to love and venerate this church; it contains enough beauty to satisfy the soul without being pretentious or distracting.

I sat for a while towards the back of the church where I thought Elizabeth might have sat and remembered poor Mary in her Christmas church feeling dark and separate until the walls cracked and the fire came out, and Lucilla lighting up the morning for Hilary when she attended the morning service, and John Wentworth, Parson Hawthorn, and even Adam Aylescough in Ely, all stumbling their way towards God, all reaching for the bliss of perfect communion, and just for a moment, I felt close to them too and therefore to Elizabeth, a moment of connection.

Her memorial service was held here on Friday 6th April 1984 and attended by her family and friends, a thanks giving for the life and work of a great lady. Traherne’s prayer that she quotes in Scent of Water was recited as part of the service.

Interior of Elizabeth's Church

Lord have Mercy
Thee I adore
Into Thy Hands.






A Rose Cottage Afternoon


An Account of the Blue Plaque Ceremony

The afternoon was grey and overcast with mean spits of rain in the keen wind, not the kind of day one would have wished for an event so long anticipated. We arrived outside the whitewashed bulk of the Dog Inn which that same day was re-inventing itself as an Italian Restaurant, and found the verges and car park overflowing with vehicles. Some had come for the restaurant opening but a surprising number were going to the Blue Plaque ceremony.

Dog lane tottered off to the left and disappeared between sodden trees, it looked much as it probably had before tar macadam roads made travelling a pleasure rather than an adventure. Rose cottage is set right on the lane, but invisible from the highway, making it seem set apart.

On first appearances it bears little resemblance to the home portrayed in Elizabeth’s auto-biography, until you notice the thick strength of the chimneys and the rippled red roof line, with windows peeking out from under the eaves. You realize then what a long time it’s sat there, watching and absorbing all the changes that have occurred to it and its surroundings. It would have been very rural when Elizabeth and Jessie moved there in the early fifties. The Blue Plaque was high up under the eaves to the left of the front door, and had been hidden by drapes.

About fifty people had come to share in the event, a good turn out for a gloomy afternoon. It was so good to begin to meet people who had so far just been names and a friendly email or two, that the first ten minutes or were like a family reunion, everyone appearing vaguely familiar. Mark and Liz Dutton, Elizabeth’s heirs, had arrived with their son and a box of books which he was generously giving to any who wanted them; they had also brought a painting of a young Henry Goudge which in the past had hung in the cottage.

Goudge Gathering

Sylvia Gower and her husband George arrived at the same time we did after a long and tiring drive, it was to an extent as much her day as Elizabeth’s, the culmination of all her hard work was finally taking place. Sonia Harwood’s son Andrew and his wife Hilary were present, his mother had been a close friend of Elizabeth. A regal elderly lady called Betty in a wheel chair had already arrived; she had known both the cottage before Elizabeth lived there, and Elizabeth and Jessie after they moved in. Others had known her too, such as Shirley who had looked after them both in their old age.

The deputy head of the Oxfordshire Civic Society gave a short speech on the Blue Plaque organisation, and how many and varied had been the plaques that had gone up in the county and how now Rose Cottage too was on the map. Then the Sub-Dean of Oxford spoke to us about his knowledge of Elizabeth’s writing, and how he remembered Green Dolphin Country and the quote from Ruth in the book .”for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” which had stayed with him all his life, a trait which readers of her work will empathise with, Elizabeth was good at finding an appropriate quote to emphasise her work. He managed to unveil the plaque with a flourish of episcopal purple just before the rain really started to come down and the umbrellas to go up and we were all ushered into the arms of the cottage.

Rose Cottage

The entrance hall was narrow and the stairs to the upper floor rose steeply on the right. On the left was a step down into the main living area, and ahead the new extension and kitchen/diner. Everywhere was clean and bright and the sound of voices emanated outwards to greet us. The main living room was long with a low ceiling and windows in two of its thick walls, an enormous fireplace took up the end wall. Sofas and chairs had been set out around the perimeter, and people were talking animatedly to each other. Elizabeth’s quote about the hospitality of the house sprang instantly to mind. “The great and Christian virtue of hospitality is a rather weakly plant in myself and Jessie; it needs a lot of nurturing; but in the cottage itself it is so strong that the moment the front door is opened to a guest I can feel the delight that rises up from its hospitable old heart. I once entertained thirty writers in our sitting room and even above the noise of the thirty all talking at once I imagined I was aware of the contented cat-like purring of the cottage. It liked it. This cottage knows in its wisdom how much human beings need each other.” (Goudge 1974 p 255). Karen our hostess had laminated the quote and placed it in the dinning room where an army of her friends and herself had prepared a gorgeous buffet.


After a short speech from Sylvia in which she introduced us all to each other the company went in search of hot drinks and the talk of Elizabeth and her life in this amazing place flowed between us. There is never enough time to speak in depth at parties to all the people that you wish to speak to, and that was the only slight disappointment of the day, I wanted to talk to everyone at once and more importantly, to hear what they had to say. I tried to picture Elizabeth sitting by the fire listening to all that was going on but I could not find her in the crowd.

I circulated through the house, listening to conversations about people that Elizabeth had known in the village. Mr & Mrs Baker, not their real names, she took and used in Scent of Water, and how kind and generous an employer she had been, how the garden had benefited from Jessie hard work, and I was shown the small downstairs room in which she had died, not being able to get up the stairs in her final illness. How sad I thought that was for someone who had grown to deeply love the atmosphere and changing views from the room they came to call the captains cabin, due to its size and shape.I spoke at length to the lovely Liz Dutton who had brought a photograph of the Little Things to show us. The glass cabinet contained all the miniatures. A wise lady called Lois who accompanied me upstairs said, “imagine the power of imagination, thought and prayer that must have seeped into the walls of this place, it must have soaked it up like blotting paper.” Suddenly I realized she was right, Elizabeth’s ghost had long been laid to rest, but the power of her mind and thoughts were evergreen and always accessible to those who wanted them. I had so wanted to feel her presence, but of cause Elizabeth would have laughed knowing that it was just a room. Suddenly I was glad that it wasn’t a museum piece, a sad replica of how it had been, it had changed, been transformed as she had.

Front Room Rose Cottage

We wandered back down to find that people were beginning to leave; it was already over. The cottage glowed and I realized that the gloom of the day didn’t matter either, the warmth and light had been contained inside, it came from the people who had gathered to celebrate the life and achievements of a great lady.

The friend who had introduced her to Jessie had found this poem in a Devonshire cottage and copied it out. She sent it to her, as she thought it appropriate to her new home. It shows what the village and cottage were like when she moved here. Then she would have been only a few years older than I am. Like me one of the great joys of Elizabeth’s life was poetry, it seems a good way of ending the account of the visit to her home.


My room’s a square and candle-lighted boat
In the surrounding depths of night afloat.
My windows are the port holes, and the seas
The sound of rain on the dark apple trees.
Sea-monster-like beneath, an old horse blows
A snort of darkness from his sleeping nose,
Below, among drowned daisies,
Far off hark,
Far off, an owl, amid the waves of dark.

Elizabeth had been unable to discover who wrote this haunting and appropriate verse but with a little research I’ve found her.

Rose Cottage from Dog Lane

Frances Cornford (1886-1960) was born and lived for most of her life in Cambridge. She was the granddaughter of Charles Darwin, and on her mother’s side was related to William Wordsworth. In 1909 she married the classicist Francis Cornford, who was to become Professor of Ancient Philosophy at Cambridge, and they had five children. Frances Cornford published eight books of poetry and two of translations. Her Collected Poems (1954), the year Elizabeth moved to Rose Cottage, was the Choice of the Poetry Book Society, and in 1959 she was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

Elizabeth Goudge Joy Of The Snow 1974 Hodder & Stoughton.


Rose Cottage Event

Dear Karen,

Thank you so much for making us all so welcome, it turned a grey day into a golden one. The cake was delicious; we nearly came back for another slice!

Nick has some lovely photos of the event, some of which will be a permanent feature of the site, and others of which will accompany the article I’m writing.

Like all social events, there is never enough time to speak to all the people one wishes too and I would love to return one day and see you again.

The work you have done on the house was beautifully done, sympathetic and made it look as if it might last another 200 years or so.

A lot of people have enquired about the possibility of a future Goudge event which sounds a great idea, as long as they don’t expect it too soon!

Thank you again for your hospitality, you helped me achieve a major ambition in being able to see Elizabeth’s former home.

regards Deborah


Deborah – lovely to hear from you – and it was so nice to meet everyone on Saturday.  Names and faces together at last.

I am so glad that everyone enjoyed the day – despite the weather (understand this weekend is going to be blissful!).  The last to leave (about 6 p.m.) were Elizabeth’s family members and it was very interesting to get their insight on Elizabeth and their comments on what we have done with Rose Cottage (favourable thankfully).  We enjoyed it immensely – and it certainly made us get a move on with some of the work.

Someone has sent me a photo of Ken trying to get the tea bags out of the thermo-jug with chopsticks!  I would like to make a photo-board up of the day in due course.

I will send you a photo taken of myself and my team of friends – without whose help I could never have managed on the day – at the end of the day.  The power of women to get things done eh?

regards Karen


News From Rose Cottage

News From Rose Cottage

We are the current owners – having purchased the cottage some 8 years ago from Jessie. The gardens were already beginning to become overgrown and the cottage was desperately in need of renovation and repair.

We have been ‘ lovingly ‘ restoring the cottage to its original features but have added an extension to give us the comforts of modern living. Regrettably, this means the well has been built over and some of the garden. From the front – the garage was built in Elizabeth’s day and we have simply joined it to the house with a single storey extension. During this period the gardens have become severely neglected but we spent last autumn working on them and continue what will be quite a lot of work to restore them to their former glory. The hedge will be cut much lower and we are re-instating the original entrance to the front of the cottage which was lost during Elizabeth & Jessie’s time.

The golf course we can do nothing about I’m afraid but it does save us from the inevitable development that surrounds many areas these days.

I hope those that attend the Blue Plaque Ceremony in April will be able to report that Rose Cottage is in good hands. I do appreciate that there is little , if any recognition , of Elizabeth’s time in the Henley area but we hope that the Blue Plaque, which will face on to what is a much used public right of way/bridle path, will help to raise her profile. We certainly do our bit in that region and I know that many of the people living in Peppard are aware of and remember both Elizabeth and Jessie.

Karen & Ken.

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



Visit to Ely

Visit to Ely

From: Deborah Gaudin
Category: Category 1
Date: 12 Nov 2006
Time: 10:47:24 -0000
Remote Name:


Ely Cathedral was nothing like I remembered. All I could feel last time we came, was this dark brooding presence, who was not at all welcoming. But this time, no threat, no looming gloom, just light, that’s what I remember first, light. From the car park The Cathedral looked so insubstantial as if about to take flight. Inside the highly painted ceiling demanded attention, followed by awe as one’s eye took off up and up into the most wonderful lantern, high above the aisle and alter. The first tier had flowers and leaves climbing up towards Royalty, then the saints in their beatitude, then angels, then Christ in glory right in the middle at the apex, one of the great lights of the Western World. Something I hadn’t known about Ely, and Elizabeth doesn’t mention either, was that it was founded in the 5th century by a woman St Ethelred. She established a nunnery and monastery combined which lasted until the 10th century. The city’s history begins in the Dean’s Watch with Duke Rollo and his castle, which must have ousted poor St Ethelred and her nuns. I lit a candle and said a quiet prayer at her shrine. A statute had been erected at the spot where Her shrine used to be.

In her autobiography “Joy of the Snow” however she does tell us about her favourite saint’s day at Ely, which is the Feast of St Ethelreda. Elizabeth writes that the city gave thanks that day, to not only St Ethelreda herself; queen, Abbess, and Patron Saint, but for all benefactors of the Cathedral. Every one stripped their gardens of their loveliest blooms, and then decorated the Cathedral with, “armfuls of Michaelmas daisies, dahlias, Japanese anemones, and the first chrysanthemums, and the treasures of the last roses”‘ After all the tombs, chantry and aisles etc had been decorated with flowers, there was a festival service and the choir then proceeded around the Cathedral singing “For All The Saints”. Then in splendid Edwardian fashion, they all trooped off to High tea at The Deanery. I can only think that Elizabeth must have taken part in these parties with reluctance. Not only was she shy in company, but her figure was always so slender!

Elizabeth grew up in this sheltered city in the Fens. She and her family spent twelve very happy years here. Even being send away to school was muted by the glory of the homecoming. Her father was a canon at the cathedral and a principle of the theological college here, and for her mother it was a light airy place, with sea like views over the Fens. Here, in the hard heart of the fens her creative mind expanded and took flight. The austerity of the sweeping winds, the vast expanses of sky and cloud, the small, secure social rounds that build up a community were all vastly appealing to Elizabeth. I went and sat outside Bishop West’s Chantry Chapel. Inside I could hear the hum of women talking and holding a prayer meeting. Eventually, two ladies came out. One, who was quite elderly but very smartly dressed, helped the other even older woman into a wheelchair. They both set off down the aisle twittering softly to each other like small brown birds! Very Goudgian!When the rest of the ladies had left, all of whom smiled or greeted me in passing, I went inside.

The stone had been carved and fretted until it resembled a giant wedding cake, a wedding of the Soul and mind. From the windows obscure saints stare down at me. The dominant colour was dark blue, very striking. All the hassocks have been embroidered with a Tudor Rose. The ceiling has ornate angels, blowing trumpets, praying, all in a very elaborate Italianate manner. The sun came and went on the page and I felt an affinity with Elizabeth Goudge I had not looked for last time I came. Psalm 84:10 arrested my attention as I was leaving the chapel. I would rather be a Doorkeeper in the house of My God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness. Although the tents of wickedness sound quite fun!

The sentiment is one I concur with. Our last port of call was The Lady Chapel. Again the first impression was one of light. It had been the brunt of Parliamentarian anger, as it was dedicated to Mary, an idol, as they saw it. All the statues and frescos portraying the life of Jesus and Mary had had all their heads smashed off. No carving was left intact. The windows were smashed, which lost all the medieval glass, but did let the light in. A new statue of the Virgin Mary has been commissioned for the millennium. She is large, very blue, and has Her arms held aloft and empty. Her son has already been taken from Her. But She has more left to give. Although She looked a little Disneyeque, She was very striking. The whole place appeared to be scoured out. It reminded me of a woman after her menopause, not ready for death, with life still in her, children of her body gone, ready for children of the mind to take their place. Again, I don’t know why, Elizabeth seems to miss out all mention of the Lady Chapel. I know that she wasn’t anti catholic, and indeed writes movingly about their faith. Like all truly spiritual people, she does not differentiate between faiths. It is the love of God and the striving for right motive which she depicts. Work men were renovating the Processional Way to the chapel and had already completed the chapel ceiling. With the aid of a wonderful mirror on wheels, we were able to see all the bosses. There were two dragons curled up asleep, like cats. The Way had been repaired using lovely wood and gold headed angels, putti, as in Henrietta’s bedroom in Wells.

Hampshire Pilgrimage

From: Deborah Gaudin
Category: Category 1
Date: 22 Sep 2006
Our first adventure was a pilgrimage I had wanted to make for a long time. It was in fact one of the chief reasons for choosing to come to this part of the country. Elizabeth Goudge went to school here, wrote her Eliot Saga based in this area, and was passionately fond of it. I’m not sure why she didn’t come and live here, instead of Oxfordshire, which she had to learn to love.  We drove through the New Forest, heath land covered in gorse and heather in its dormant state, but groups of beautiful, ponies and small new forest horses, some with young. Very cute! The woods closed back in and we drove past a cluster of houses around a lake with swans, and then the road turned under some dark trees, a short drive along a lane and we were at Buckler’s Hard. This was the point on the coast that I wanted to start at. Many of E.G. characters, especially the Eliots were always visiting. It was obviously one of the places E.G. visited when at school. Although I was slightly miffed at paying to get in, it was well worth the small charge paid. As Nick said, it had ensured its survival. It surpassed all expectations. A quiet street of red brick houses sloping down to the waters of a tree lined estuary. We were enchanted. The weather had kept most people away, and we virtually had the place to ourselves for the first two hours. We walked along the water front admiring the boats, sparkling water, and tree clad shores. Nick was in his element, snapping away at views and piles of cut timber, some of which looked like baby Crux. We walked a little further past King George’s Son’s Bath house, a thatched covered salt water swimming pool, built to help alleviate the pain of his arthritis, past the dry docks of the marine, through the woods for a way until, we decided that we would rather go on a trip down the estuary than walk further.

We got back to the jetty in time for the 11.30 boat trip. 11.30 came and went and we were the only people aboard, so the obliging crew of two took Nick and I all on our own on a cruise down the river to the estuary and back to Buckler’s Hard. It was beautiful. Houses of great wealth and beauty were sited here and there, glimpsed through trees or up lawns where herds of deer grazed. George and Nadine wouldn’t have stood a chance of buying an Inn on the river now, unless they were multi millionaires. I did see the ghost of Damerosehay serene behind a mini oak wood, large porch gazing out across the estuary waters. One could imagine hearing the plover greet the dawn here. One of the stranger sights was a series of slender, mast like trees, presumably alder, swaying above the tidal flow like the masts of drowned boats. The view of Buckler’s Hard from the water as sailors and workmen would have seen it, an atavistic pleasure. Like them I wanted to go straight to the chapel to say a prayer of thanks for a safe journey. So we shook hands cordially with the crew, who had been fascinated by Nick snapping away and wanted to know if he had got the shots he wanted.

The slope up from the river is quite steep and the slapping of the water passed into silence, as I stood outside the oak door of the chapel. It had been the cobbler’s shop and a dame school, before being converted to a chapel mainly by Lady Poole, who certainly made it beautiful. It is panelled in oak, carved and plain, with a statue of the Black Madonna in a lit niche. The alter cloth embroidered by and for a local family with symbols that meant something to them. I sat in silence and said a prayer for Kate and Sylvia.   The wind sighed under the loose fitting door, the only other sound the Tink Tink of the sail ropes against the metal masts, that sad, haunting music of the foreshore. I felt blessed. I had finally made it to one of the places E.G. loved best. A question had been answered, thanks and praise given.

It was time to leave. We left to twist slowly along country lanes, keeping the salt marshes and the sea on our left, while overhead, banked masses of clouds scudded along in a deep blue sky. The lanes led us to the awe inspiring totally unexpected sight of a ruined Abbey, church, called St Leonard’s, which was built into the walls and structure of a farm. A mare and her blond foal were IMG_4962grazing the verges, and a stocky fawn coloured stallion came to inspect me and see if this strange human had any food. Happening to meet a man, before I got into the village, I, pointing with my whip, across towards the Abbey, said to the man, ‘I suppose there is a bridge down here to get across to the Abbey.’ ‘That’s not the Abbey, Sir,’ says he: ‘The Abbey is about four miles further on.’ I was astonished to hear this; but he was very positive; said that some people called it the Abbey; but that the Abbey was further on; and was at a farm occupied by farmer John Biel. Having chapter and verse for it, as the saying is, I believed the man; and pushed on towards farmer John Biel’s, which I found, as he had told me, at the end of about four miles. When I got there (not having, observe, gone over the water to ascertain that the other was the spot where the Abbey stood), I really thought, at first, that this must have been the site of the Abbey of Beaulieu; because, the name meaning fine place, this was a thousand times finer place that where the Abbey, as I afterwards found, really stood. After looking about it for some time, I was satisfied that it had not been an abbey; but the place is one of the finest that ever was seen in this world. It stands at about half a mile’s distance from the water’s edge at high-water mark, and at about the middle of the space along the coast, from Calshot castle to Lymington haven. It stands, of course, upon a rising ground; it has a gentle slope down to the water. To the right, you see Hurst castle, and that narrow passage called the Needles, I believe; and, to the left, you see Spithead, and all the ships that are sailing or lie any where opposite Portsmouth. The Isle of Wight is right before you, and you have in view, at one and the same time, the towns of Yarmouth, Newton, Cowes and Newport, with all the beautiful fields of the island, lying upon the side of a great bank before, and going up the ridge of hills in the middle of the island.

Here are two little streams, nearly close to the ruin, which filled ponds for fresh water fish; while there was the Beaulieu river at about half a mile or three quarters of a mile to the left, to bring up the salt-water fish. The ruins consist of part of the walls of a building about 200 feet long and about 40 feet wide. It has been turned into a barn, in part, and the rest into cattle-sheds, cow-pens, and enclosures and walls to enclose a small yard. But, there is another ruin, which was a church or chapel, and which stands now very near to the farm house of Mr. John Biel, who rents the farm of the Duchess of Buccleugh, who is now the owner of the abbey-lands and of the lands belonging to this place. The little church or chapel, of which I have just been speaking, appears to have been a very beautiful building. A part only of its walls are standing; but you see, by what remains of the arches, that it was finished in manner the most elegant and expensive of the day in which it was built. Part of the outside of the building is now surrounded by the farmer’s garden; the interior is partly a pig-stye and partly a goose-pen. Under that arch which had once seen so many rich men bow their heads, we entered into the goose-pen, which is by no means one of the nicest concerns in the world. Beyond the goose-pen was the pig stye and in it a hog, which, when fat, will weigh about 30 score, actually rubbing his shoulders against the little sort of column which had supported the font and its holy water. The farmer told us that there was a hole, which, indeed, we saw, going down into the wall, or rather, into the column where the font had stood. And he told us that many attempts had been made to bring water to fill that hole, but that it had never been done. Mr. Biel was very civil to us.

As far as related to us, he performed the office of hospitality, which was the main business of those who formerly inhabited the spot. … So much for the abbey; and, now, as for the ruins on the farm of Mr. John Biel, they were the dwelling-place of Knights’ Templars, or Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. The building they inhabited was called an Hospital, and their business was, to relieve travellers, strangers, and persons in distress; and, if called upon, to accompany the king in his wars to uphold Christianity. Their estate was also confiscated by Henry VIII. It was worth at the time of being confiscated, upwards of two thousand pounds a year, money of the present day. This establishment was founded a little before the Abbey of Beaulieu was founded; and it was this foundation and not the other, that gave the name of Beaulieu to both establishments. The abbey is not situated in a very fine place. The situation is low; the lands above it rather a swamp than otherwise; pretty enough, altogether; but, by no means a fine place. The Templars had all the reason in the world to give the name of Beaulieu to their place. And it is by no means surprising, that the monks were willing to apply it to their abbey.

This description of St Leonard’s was written by William Cobbett in his Hampshire Rides and certainly can not be bettered by me. I was thrilled to find out the ruins were so important, more so than the Abbey which we ignored. Summer’s angels, the swifts and swallows were haunting the walls, flying in and out of windows and doors, tracing their flight routes where roof beams once straddled the ether. I had a strong conviction at the time and do so even more now, that E.G. had seen these ruins too and that she had used them as inspiration for “Herb of Grace” She loved the old writers so much and adored Hampshire, so I can not believe that she hadn’t read Cobbett.

We too had lunch over looking the Solent and Island, at a place called Needs Oar Point, which had been an advanced landing ground during the war. The ruins of the Templars behind us we started off refreshed to Keyhaven and the Salt marshes. The rain was misting across the fields and Hurst castle barely visible, obscured by rain and sea spray. It did a very good job of brooding. The shingle bank still hides some of the caravans that so offended E.G. What it also does, as well as being an excellent sea defence, is hide an incredible view of the Needles. E.G never mentions them in her description of the Island. Perhaps they located it too precisely for her comfort. One is down in the saltings right on the shoreline at this point, no colours reflecting from the sky but greys no birds visible except the ever hungry gulls. I did notice sea lavender and poppy and holly though. I think this is part of the coast line that she played around with a bit, Damerosehay and the Inn being her two points of the compass. We didn’t seek out Lavender Cottage, the third point, as Big Village doesn’t really exist.

Next stop New Milton and the final resting place the Goudge family chose. After circling around like pigeons we finally found the church of St Mary Magdalene and its HUGE grave yard. Nick left me to wander around for a while looking at bluebells, archaic grave stones, forlorn graves, desecrated crosses, dark dripping yews, and listen to the sound of traffic, coming muffled by trees from the passing road. I couldn’t imagine how I would start looking for the grave itself or what on earth E.G was doing being buried here. I remembered from S.G. that it was a cross and a flat slab, but nothing to indicate whereabouts it was. I wandered towards the edge of the cemetery where it was bounded by a brick wall. A path lead off through the trees towards the newer part of the ground. Then suddenly there it was, under the boughs of a shading dark fir. The only green on it the fading leaves of some snowdrops that had once been planted there. For the rest, grey of marble, the simplest of slabs recording the bare fact of her being, and that she was a beloved author, and the rusty bronze of dead fir needles. I felt a genuine grief that she was not more feted and celebrated. Later on in the holiday, I was to find this a minor reoccurring theme. It puzzled me for a long time, why the family chose to be buried here. Apart from it being where they lived at the time, and where Rev Goudge ministered. Now I think it was also he’s last tongue in cheek to he’s strict Calvinist up bringing. Reading E.G.s auto biography again, the incident of his parents finding the Catholic Literature in his bedroom caught my attention. To be buried at St Mary Magdalene, how delightful! I found the whole day insightful, thrilling, enthralling, and emotionally draining.

There is no doubt that the shade of E.G. was at my shoulder for parts of the day, gently nudging me in the right directions. Later, at home, I realized I had even been sitting in the same seat she used at the Chapel Look at this view, experience this peace, marvel at this wonder The eternal verities are still here, even if jets roar over head, and there are more cars than ever. .The ruins a point in question, and the finding of her grave, well that was almost as if she had directed me there. Not to pay homage you understand, but because she knew it was important to me.