Monday, September 22, 2008

Travel journal -- Sept. 19-21

Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Audrey’s job took her to Reading today, about two hours’ drive from Gloucester. Reading Abbey, where King Henry I was buried, was on my list of visits to make, and I got to save a tank of $7.20/gallon gas by riding with Audrey. Her co-workers gave me instructions on how to get to the Abbey, so I took off down London Street to Duke Street, etc., and found my way to the ruined abbey grounds. This abbey is where Henry I and his second wife Adeliza of Louvain (I'm not descended from that pairing, but from her marriage to de Warenne of Arundel) were buried in the church. It was destroyed in the Dissolution of the 1530s. (Sigh of despair...)
It’s surrounded by office buildings, but part of the grounds are preserved in a park. A few walls still stand, including the gatehouses and the chapter house. It was very pleasant. I mosied back to Audrey’s office via some shops and a shopping mall. I bought lunch fixin’s at Marks & Spencer, so I had a broken-off hunk of Gloucester cheese on a small baguette, some pine nuts, and a little skimmed milk, while sitting on a bench, and being stalked by pigeons.
In an Oxfam (charity thrift) shop, I found music books and manuscripts, old copies of oratorios, etc. I purchased a book of English lute music, written in treble/bass so I can play it on my keyboard. When I got back to Audrey’s office (about a mile away from the abbey), I worked on updating this journal, on my own computer I’d brought with me.
We got back to Gloucester about 7 pm, and then rushed to help her son Marcus get his apartment ready for his fiancée. Audrey dropped me back here, then went and worked with Marcus until 12:30 a.m.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006
I started the day at Gloucester Cathedral. I’d been there before, but only for about 30 minutes before they closed on a Saturday evening. At least then I could get a good picture of Edward II. This time they had scaffolding in front of the tomb, for some archaeological restoration and cleaning. I got a shot of his face. I also took some pictures of stained glass, listened to an organ rehearsal, and had a pot of tea in the shop.
Next stop: Llanthony Priory Secunda, where about 10 generations of de Bohuns (eight of them named Humphrey de Bohun!) and others were buried. This Llanthony (see Sept. 23 entry) is located very near Gloucester’s historic docks, and quite near Audrey’s house. There’s not much left of the property but a few tithe barns and outbuildings. The church, where all those de Bohuns were buried, was obliterated at Henry VIII’s Dissolution, and again in 1810 or so, when a canal and rail line were built through there. In 1810 they found human remains, which they then burned. The site is now protected as a historical monument. Among the ancestors buried at Llanthony:

  • Maud de Braose (wife of Humphrey VI de Bohun)
  • Humphrey V de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, 1208-1275
  • Maud d'Eu, (wife of Humphrey V de Bohun) 1208-1241

  • Miles fitzWalter of Gloucester, Earl of Hereford, 1100-1143

  • Sybil de Neufmarche d. 1143

Then I drove through scores of tiny villages, on some A-roads through Gloucestershire, toward Malmesbury Abbey. I was expecting a ruin, but this is a working church. I think most parts of it have fallen or been destroyed, but the church remains there, having been rebuilt several times over the centuries. It has been restored in Victorian and modern times. Aethelstan, the grandson of King Alfred, has a large effigy there. Aethelstan wasn’t a direct ancestor, but I believe he’s an uncle or brother of Edward the Confessor. They also had an exhibition of some illuminated manuscripts that seemed to be 12th or 13th century Bibles.
Last stop of the day was in the tiny village of Bradenstoke, which you really have to be looking for, to find. It only has one road in, and the same road back out after you turn around! I stopped at what looked like an old church in the center of the village, and the gate was open but the church was locked. I heard someone knocking on a window, and looked around to see an old man gesturing at me. I walked around to his front door, which was a post office and general store, and he appeared with the keys to the church. But this was a Victorian-built church, made to look Norman, so it would not have held ancestors’ remains. The store owner invited me in. His name, no kidding, was John Smith. The only plainer name could have been John Doe, I suppose.
Mr. Smith lives and works in a building that had low, bowed ceilings, with rough oak timbers across the ceiling. It looked very old, and he said that it had been appraised by a historical architect as being built roughly 1350-1380, not like those (sniff!) new buildings down the street which were Tudor half-timbered.
"The time of King Edward III," I said.
He was incredulous that I would know that, as he’d just clipped a newspaper article last April (five months ago) which said that Edward III lived in the mid-14th century, the same time as his building was put up, what a coincidence. (Um, yes, Edward III was my ancestor, but I didn’t bring that up.) I was trying to get Mr. Smith to talk about the priory/abbey down the road, but he talked about lots of stuff around the village, particularly what a huge coincidence that he should look out his window at the time I was rattling the lock on the church door, considering that his store wasn’t open, as he is semi-retired and this was his half-day, and that little girl on the bike always wanted to get into his store for 20p worth of sweets, and he wanted to keep the lights off so people wouldn’t try to come in on his half-day and buy groceries, so could we use window light to look at his 1820s poster of an auction that included his building. Then he mentioned that the abbey was taken apart by that American newsman, you know the one (William Randolph Hearst, I guessed, and he nodded vigorously), and the stones shipped to California…. I should talk to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas, who acted high and mighty and better than other people, but maybe they’d let me see the abbey bits left on their land… Et cetera.
That was my cue to exit. It was a bit after 5 pm, so I was worried that it was awfully late to be seeing the site and driving all the way back to Gloucester. I drove another half-mile down the road and turned in at a farm that had a number of very old stone buildings on it. I parked in the gravel driveway and walked around to the “front” door of the house, and knocked about four different times, but no answer. I walked back to my car, and a Toyota Land Cruiser had parked behind me. “Are you Mr. Thomas?” I asked. He said yes, and I said I’d move my car so he could get in, that I’d just been knocking on his door. I explained that my ancestors, Edward of Salisbury and others, had granted the land to found the abbey, and at least one had been buried in the church here. These are the other ancestors I know were buried at Bradenstoke:
  • Walter fitzEdward, sheriff of Salisbury, 1100-1147
  • Edward d'Evreaux of Salisbury, 1060-1130
  • Sybil de Chaworth, 1082-1147
  • Patrick de Chaworth/Chaources, earl of Salisbury, 1120-1168
  • Adela/Elia de Talvas
  • Sibilla de Salisbury, mother of William Marshall
Mr. Thomas was not at all high and mighty, but instead took me around to see where the church had been, the abbot’s quarters, and a tower. Many of the church stones had been taken away long ago to be used to build houses, farms, walls, etc., in the village. And the building that Hearst had taken apart in the 1930s was a tithe barn, which was reassembled in San Luis Obispo, California. (Probably near Hearst Castle.)
Anyway, Mr. Thomas was very friendly and helpful, and as nice as could be. He and his wife keep about 50 sheep (for sale as meat, as there’s no value for wool these days), two cattle, some horses, and three dogs. (I think I also saw a peacock.) They work away from home and do the extra farm things on the weekend. He said that over the last hundreds of years, most of the abbey’s land remained in one large piece until the second World War, when about 1500 acres were taken for the RAF base close by. Many planes were taking off and landing while I was there. I don’t know if they were bombers or cargo planes. They didn’t look sleek and fast, so maybe the latter.
It had taken me hours to get to Bradenstoke on all the twisty-turny A and B roads from Gloucester to Malmesbury to Bradenstoke, so I decided to take motorways home, even if they were miles out of the way. I don’t relish driving 30 mph on dark, winding roads for hours. It was still a long drive, but at least it was safer. The thing was, I needed to be home before Audrey because I had her house key. The car was on fumes, and the indicator said I had about 34 miles before empty, but it was 50 miles to Gloucester! At last I found a services pullout for petrol, and I actually beat Audrey home by half an hour.

Thursday, September 21, 2006
This was the day to do Wiltshire. I went to Urchfont village via the West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill A-road, which was an unexpected sight! Those are Neolithic earthworks that are associated with Avebury complex and Stonehenge. I saw Avebury in April 2004, on a rainy day. This day was extremely windy and very hot. Strange, for the first day of autumn in this northern clime.
At Urchfont is an old church that would have been the parish church for nearby Wedhampton. My Eyre/Ayars ancestors lived in those two villages for several hundred years before they moved to Salisbury (to be mayor), and that was their church. After I purchased a postcard and a drink from the post office ladies, I used the restroom, jumped in the car, and took off for Amesbury, then Old Sarum, where the Eyre family had emigrated. On the way to Amesbury, I stopped for Wood Henge, which I’d seen on a map but never in person. It was a bunch of modern metal posts stuck in the ground in the pattern that some wooden posts had been in, presumably. But that is where I discovered that my purse, with my camera and credit cards, was missing. I’d left it in the restroom at the Urchfont post office. Oh, was I steamed. I sped back the 20 miles along tiny winding roads, and retrieved my untouched purse. They’d not noticed it at all. But I’d lost about an hour and plenty of expensive gas!
Back along the same road (there are no other choices), I next turned off at Stonehenge. I’d been there for about 45 minutes with the tour in 2001. I didn’t get the headphone tour, as I’d heard that before. But I did go see the stones again. You see the pictures, and they look so mammoth. But where you’re there in person, they don’t look particularly huge. Maybe I was comparing them to all the castles I’ve seen. It’s still an awesome place, considering that ancient people (about 3000 BC) dragged them and knew the astronomy to set them up with the season. The other unusual thing that no one seemed to remark upon was that I was there on the autumn equinox. I don’t remember hearing much about astronomical alignments on the equinox, as the designers seemed more interested in the midsummer and midwinter dates.
A few miles away is Amesbury, and I found the abbey church (also used as a parish church today) where Eleanor of Provence, wife and queen of Henry III, was buried. There is no grave marker or sculpture of her there, although I have a photo of a statue of her from somewhere. I took some interior pictures.
Next place: Old Sarum, which was first an Iron-Age hillfort, then a Norman church, and then Henry I built a castle there. All the dressed stone was carried off to make buildings in Salisbury a few hundred years later, so what remains is the flint inner walls of some of the buildings. This is the place where Eleanor of Aquitaine was incarcerated by Henry II for a few years, when she supported the rebellion of their sons. And it was used by John and Henry III, possibly by Edward I.
Lastly, I went to the city of Salisbury, where at the St. Thomas church (not the giant cathedral), there are monuments to and burials of my Eyre ancestors. (The ones who'd moved here from Urchfont and Wedhampton.) It was about 5:15 when I walked in, and a prayer service was scheduled for 5:30. The pastor asked if I’d come for the prayer service, and I said that I’d come for the monuments, but would very much like to join the prayer service. It was a really beautiful liturgy, and there were four of us there to enjoy it. In the prayers, the vicar prayed for members of the church, the community, and for visitors from overseas. (Me.) Later he told me that the two carved memorials, which are very dark brown and not well-lit, were originally white alabaster, and that probably some Victorian decided to paint them brown along with the screen below the two sculptures. Yuck. White would have been so pretty, not to mention picturesque.
There was a floor plaque for Jane Eyre, who may have been the inspiration for the Bronte novel, but also, she could be some far-distant cousin of my Eyre ancestors. The church was also restoring a mural high over the altar, of the Judgment. It had been painted over in the Puritan times (of which my ancestors were undoubtedly part, as one could read that they were dead set against Catholicism), to eradicate all the popery of saints and demons. The painting being uncovered and restored is very detailed and fascinating.
Since I had a parking spot, and I was a quarter-mile from the Salisbury city gate, I decided to walk over there. Well, then it was only a half-mile more to the cathedral. So I kept walking. Then I had to walk inside because the doors were open. They were about to start a boys’ church-school program, so I looked around the outside aisles, gave a respectful nod to William Longespee, Earl of Salisbury, my ancestor, and left. (William's sarcophagus and effigy lie in a raised area down the center of the nave.) There were some interesting stone sculptures on the exterior structure, so I took a few pictures of those after sunset, walked the long distance back to the car, and wearily got in for the drive back to Gloucester. Again, I went miles out of my way to find motorways instead of small country roads.


  1. I'm really enjoying your posts, Christy! Fascinating stuff, and it's great that you've seen so much of England (far more than I have, and it's my native country)!

  2. That's what my friend in Gloucester says. On my 2007 nine-day buzz-through of England (on the way to Ukraine/Russia), Audrey drove me around so I'd save the car-hire. EVERYPLACE we went was new to her. The downside was, I wore her out and I didn't get to really explore my educated hunches -- and find the prizes. You know, the stuff that's better than chocolate!


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