Locked out – Star letter
Christy K Robinson
In Anglesey Revisited (Nov/Dec 2006) Mick Aston wrote that "there is much of interest in many of the churches on Anglesey, as elsewhere in Britain". Amen to that. He continued, "Sometimes the churches are not open to travellers". Last September I put 3,500 miles on a hired car, zipping around England and Wales between cathedrals, ruined abbeys, and medieval parish churches, looking for stone tomb effigies of my ancestors (my third such trip). Some churches were open, and I left a few pounds in the offering box as thanks. Then, inexplicably, I was unable to enter others in which I was assured by internet research that my ancestors "resided". It was heartbreaking to be a few feet away from my goal and not able to enter.
At Merevale Abbey near Atherstone, Warks, the manor owner dug up a key and the farm manager's wife let me in to visit my de Ferrers ancestors. At Coverham Abbey in Yorkshire, the property owners allowed me walking access to their beautiful farm, and took a photo of me between my 12th century ancestors' effigies. At Tutbury, Staffordshire, an octogenarian tending her husband's grave not only found a key to the church, but had me in for tea: the quintessential English "thing" this American will long remember. It lessened the sting that one snippy secretary refused admittance to let me take exterior photos of my ancestral castle during business hours on a weekday.
Mr. Aston concluded his article by saying that the "wealth of history, sculpture, architecture and archaeology to be seen in our parish churches makes them an important part of the cultural tourist industry". In a couple years I'll have enough savings to return (the dollar-to-pound exchange is brutal). Like California's "Governorator" Schwarzenegger says, "I'll be back" – investing in your economy via airline and train fares, accommodations, car hire and petrol, admission fees, purchasing books and antique china, and leaving my vat/gst money there, too. By all means, keep those churches unlocked.
Christy K Robinson, Redlands, California
PS As the editor of a 30,000-circulation Christian ministry magazine, I salute Mike Pitts's chutzpah in publishing the interesting assortment of letters in the Nov/Dec issue.