Friday, August 21, 2009

My "star" letter to BRITISH ARCHAEOLOGY magazine

In response to an article by Mick Aston about unlocked churches in Anglesey, Wales, I wrote a letter to the editor of British Archaeology, one of the archaeology magazines to which I subscribe. My letter was published in 2007.

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.



  1. Woot, congrats on making star letter, Christy! I must read that article about Anglesey, as I'm off there in a few weeks.

  2. Ha, thank you. My last trip to UK was in September 2007, and I carried the magazine with me on the trip. (Very proud.) My friends were not impressed, though, as they don't have the same interests.

    I tried to find the Anglesey article in their online archives so I could link to it, but was unsuccessful.

    With the exchange rate and my personal dys-economics right now, I've let my BA subscription lapse for the first time. It's about US$75 a year including air postage. Bummer. If I'm extremely lucky, I might find the current issue at the Barnes & Noble book store.


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