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Ancestral places

This entry really belongs to last May, when we were on holiday in England and visited ancestral homes in the south-west of England. My father's father's family had come from Somerset and Devon, and my mother's father's family had come from Cornwall, and we spent five days in May visiting some of the places they had lived, and meeting living relatives.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWe took my second cousin Mary Jane Conway, who lives in Bristol, to Winscombe, Somerset, where our great great great grandparents Simon Hayes and Rachel Allen were married in 1814, and took photos of the church, and got copies of the parish magazine. The Church was quite a way from the centre of the village. We then went to Axbridge, not far away, to see where our great grandfather William Allen Hayes had spent the latter part of his life as landlord of the Red Lion pub, after retiring as a builder in Bedminster. My grandfather Percy had grown up in Axbridge before coming to South Africa in the 1890s.

The Red Lion is no longer a pub, but is now a private house. Nevertheless, cousin Jane, bold as brass, knocked on the door and asked if we could have a look inside. It is now owned by an American couple, David and Juliet Maclay. David's family were from Boston, and he does historical restorations, and he was restoring the building, and offered us a cup of tea and showed us the library he had built upstairs, which was very kind of him to do for absolute strangers. One of the most interesting things was a kind of icon of Ronald Reagan in what had been the bar. Reagan was making a speech, with Henry Kissinger and others floating round his head like demons to tempt him, and side panels showing American atrocities in various parts of the world.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWe went to the square, and took some photos of the church, and a woman was coming to lock it just as we got there, but let us look at it. She said she locked it because she was the one who lived closest. We drove up the Cheddar Gorge, and then took Jane home.

The next morning we drove down the Cheddar Gorge from the top, and took a last look at Axbridge, There was a field full of Somerset sheep, which seemed fatter than the Merinos at home, and at the other side of the field there appeared to be two llamas lying down, but they were so far away we could not see them very well. We called at Wookey Hole, but did not go in to the caves. My wife Val's family had a tradition of calling the navel a "Wookey Hole", and it was close enough to Axbridge to suggest a sort of ancestral umbilical connection. But her family were from Cumberland, and so it's a bit of a mystery why they called a part of the body after a Somerset cave.

We drove through Glastonbury, and saw the Tor, which was not nearly as numinous and mysterious as it has been touted to be, and the whole place looked fairly ordinary and rather disappointing, after all we had read about it in novels, academic papers and the like.



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But we then drove down the narrow lanes lined with basket willows on the Somerset flats, and that did seem numinous and mysterious and quite otherworldly. The basket willows were quite different from the weeping willows we have back home in South Africa, and seemed like guardians of the road. We turned off to North Curry, where my great great great grandfather Simon Hayes was born. We went to the church, and that was too numinous and mysterious, and had a tremendous atmosphere. The sky was overcast, and it was quite chilly, and there were many different kinds of birds calling, the harsh cries of crows, and some that sounded like owls, all alien and unfamiliar. The church with its octagonal tower was grey and crumbling and covered with lichen, and looked like an abandoned building from Elidor, something from another time and place. Inside it was also impressive, though in a different way. It seemed to be a lively and active parish. There was an ikon of St Peter & St Paul, and we lit candles in front of it. We had lunch in the Bird in Hand pub, ham eggs and chips, which was expensive, but much better than English food as I remembered it from 40 years ago.

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We went on to Devon. William Allen Hayes, of the Red Lion in Axbridge, had married Mary Barber Stooke, and she came from a family who had farmed in the Teign Valley for several generations, going back to 1548, and perhaps earlier. We turned off the highway to Dunchideock and Doddiscombesleigh, and the sun came out again as we drove down narrow country lanes with high banks and hedges, so one could see very little other than the narrow sunken lanes ahead. We saw nothing more of Dunchideock than a sign on a hedge, and Doddiscombesleigh seemed to be little more than the pub and the church. The pub was the Nobody, and I remembered someone on the British Genealogy newsgroup saying one could get a good meal there, but we'd just had a very adequate meal at North Curry, and so were not hungry enough. We went on to Ashton, where the Stooke family had lived. The church seemed much deader than the one in North Curry, and was locked. There was only one monument to the Stookes that we could find in the churchyard. We then went to Trusham, where Stookes had also lived, and the church was a bit better maintained, and there were several monuments to the Stooke family inside the church. We went on to Chudleigh, where my great great grandfather Thomas Stooke had been born, and parked outside the library, where some kids were skateboarding in the street. I tried to listen for their accents to hear what local accents sounded like, but everywhere we have been we have heard Estuary accents. We then drove through Bovey Tracey, where a Stooke had been minister in the Commonwealth period, and ejected at the Restoration of Charles II, after which he had started a Presbyterian meeting house in a barn.

We crossed Dartmoor, which looked a lot like the South African highveld. We drove up to the A30, and crossed Bodmin Moor and turned off to Blisland just past Jamaica Inn, and stayed at a bed and breakfast place at Trewint Farm near the hamlet of Waterloo. We drove in to Bodmin, and had supper at the Weavers bar in the middle of town. They had Cornish steaks on the menu, but no Cornish pasties, so we had ham omelets. And they too spoke with the ubiquitous Estuary accents. The town seemed noisy, with lots of small motor bikes running around.

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Next morning (5 May) we set off to explore the Bodmin Moor villages where the ancestors had lived. We went first to Cardinham, where William Growden and Elizabeth Sandercock had married in 1792, and the first of their children were born. Just over the road was the village hall, where they were setting up the polling station for the general election. The grass in the churchyard was dewy, but we found a number of tombstones of Sandercock and related families, and took photos of them with the digital camera, and also of the interior of the church, where the pews were very ancient indeed, and it was quite a thought that ancestral bums had sat upon those seats more than two centuries before.

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We went back to Bodmin, and saw the Growden family home at 3 Higher Bore Street, and also went to Scarlett's Well, where my great grandfather, William Matthew Growden, was born in 1851. The well was a holy well, reputed to have healing powers. Next to it was a cottage that could well have been where the family lived, because it was the only dwelling in the vicinity. Though there had been some modern additions, the basic house looked very old, and it also made sense of his occupation as a "woodman".

After having a look at the south coast, we drove through St Neot where other Growdens had lived, though we have not managed to find a link between them and our lot. We went past the Dozmary Pool, where King Arthur's sword was supposed to have been thrown after his death; it did not look much different from the much more recent Colliston Lake on the other side of the road. It was lunch time, and we went to Jamaica Inn nearby, but it looked too touristy, so we went to look at the parish of Temple, where another ancestor, Mary Ann Tilly, had come from. It was a tiny village, but there were lots of cars there, and at first we thought it was the entire population come to vote all at once, but then we saw strangely dressed people, looking like druids or something. They seemed to be coming up from the church, and it turned out to be a medieval wedding, as we spoke to some of the guests, some of whom were dressed as friars or knights in suits of armour. We later met some of the people who had been at the wedding in the pub at Blisland, and chatted to them.

It was interesting to visit these ancestral places, and to see where my family had come from. It was also interesting to discover which places had the most sense of "place". For me, those were North Curry church and its approaches, and Scarletts Well near Bodmin. I'd read about North Curry in guide books, in old topographical dictionaries and similar publications, and they made it sound rather dull and dreary. I was quite unprepared for the real thing, which was wild and other-worldly.

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Scarletts Well, too, was an evocative place, not just because my great grandfather had lived there as a child, and it seemed a wonderful place for a child to grow up with the woods and the stream, but because it was a holy well, and it seemed right that it should be a holy well. In studying missiology I'd read about the early Christian missionaries in Cornwall, some of whom were reputed to have sailed across the Irish sea on millstones, and established themselves at existing holy wells or created new ones. It all seemed so long ago and far away. And then, 10 years ago, I interviewed a Tanzanian student at the Orthodox seminary in Nairobi, Kenya, to find how his parish had started. He said a priest from a place 8 km away knew a family in the village, and visited them occasionally. They had no water in the village, and women used to walk daily to a stream 5 km away to fetch water. One day when the priest was visiting the village he prayed, and a spring appeared. That had been 25 years previously, and the spring had never dried up. As a result, virtually the whole village had become Orthodox. It suddenly made those stories of 6th-century Cornish saints come alive. And there I was drinking water from Scarlett's Well, linked not merely to my great grandfather as a boy, but with spiritual ancestors many more generations further back.

On our holiday we travelled to Wales, to Cumberland, to Girvan in Scotland, and then back down the eastern side of England, and visited Holy Island. We saw many baeutiful and interesting places, including many where ancestors had lived, but none stood out quite as much as North Curry and Scarletts Well.

Comments

Posted by: +Seraphim (seraphimsigrist)
Posted at: October 26th, 2005 04:07 am (UTC)

Glad your photos found a home...they
are wonderful.
I think Glastonbury is many things to many
people, for me it was very numinous indeed
I wrote of it at:
http://www.livejournal.com/users/seraphimsigrist/44253.html
but I think it, or probably any place really ,is not
for everyone, but for each there will be places
just as with books this or that is closed or open
to this or that person.
well so you come to Scarlett's Well and find a holy place
and thank you for sharing it!

Posted by: Methodius Hayes (methodius)
Posted at: October 26th, 2005 05:32 pm (UTC)
Glastonbury
dennilton gates

Perhaps we did not spend long enough in Glastonbury, and maybe it deserved a longer stay, but more time there would have meant less in other places.

I've mentioned Phil Rickman's novels in other contexts, but your note has moved me to reread his Glastonbury one, Chalice. But my impressions have perhaps been too much shaped by someone I first encountered about 20 years ago, when I was first becoming Orthodox. I came across a magazine called Anglo-Orthodoxy, and received several issues. One of the contributors was Paul Inglesby, alias Eric Vorenburg, who belonged to one of the smaller and more extreme Old-Calendrist groups.

When he heard I was interested in becoming Orthodox he worte to me saying that one of the most important questions to decide was that of jurisdiction. For me, that was not a question at all. I lived in Africa, and the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa was the original Church in Africa, and there could be no question of joining a recent schismatic sect. In spite of this, we remained in touch, and he seemed to go through a series of enthusiasms, founding the "King Alfred Christian Centre" and a few other things besides. Then he moved to Glastonbury and became interested in UFOs (which he called "You foes"). And it was in the middle of that enthusiasm that he came to visit us, and was obviously sold on and eager to sell conspiracy theories about abductions by visitors from outer space. The Old-Calendar issue had paled into insignificance compared with this, which was less an enthusiasm than an obsession..

Phil Rickman's book, which I read a few years later, gave some of the background to all this, and helped me to understand it. It is, of course, a novel, but I think the general descriptions of the setting are accurate enough.

So perhaps that has given me a somewhat jaundiced view. If we can ever afford to pay another visit to the UK, I hope we'll have more time in the south west, and perhaps will be able to spend more time in Glastonbury.

Posted by: +Seraphim (seraphimsigrist)
Posted at: October 26th, 2005 07:52 pm (UTC)
Patriarchate of Glastonbury

He sounds like...an Avalonian
as they say(Glastonbury as Avalon) the fellow
with the UFOs . the Patriarchate of Glastonbury
a small Orthodox sort of jurisdiction with also
some curious roots in the Catholic Apostolic Church
or Irvingites, joined the Coptic church. Their
center is not really in Glastonbury at all but
they did have a priest there when I visited, a
former Anglican whose wife had been a circus
acrobat(nothing wrong with that at all but
the whole a bit avalonian).

Posted by: Methodius Hayes (methodius)
Posted at: October 27th, 2005 03:20 am (UTC)
Re: Patriarchate of Glastonbury

Such places seem to collect harmless eccentrics, at least when they gain a popular reputation.

I have a friend who went a bit overboard the other way, though. In his youth he was an earnest Evangelical, and his his MS dissertation on the kind of people who were attracted to Glastonbury -- at that time mostly hippies. And he came to the conclusion that they were all Tolkien fans, and therefore crypto-fascists. He's now a professor of religion at a Canadian university.

Posted by: +Seraphim (seraphimsigrist)
Posted at: October 27th, 2005 03:30 am (UTC)

Well Tolkien did say of Lewis that he
thought his objection to Roy Campell was
not that he was a fascist but that he
was a Catholic :) Of course the inklings
were all more or less on the right, as in
some respect I suppose I am and yet not
in others and so with them too and with
all of us ,we are mixes of things...
trouble begins when people shift their
voice from "I" to "we" in the sens of our
faction etc.
heard this at Gmiexno recently in voice of
a very pleasant muslim speaker who became
harsh as he demanded the "rights" for muslims
and spoke of their power etc...

rambling... but of course roy campbell as you
know better than I no doubt, for that matter
and the only real fascist in the lot, was no
simply bad person...
his voice harsh in talking bronco
but sweet when he sings with john of the cross.
+Seraphim

Posted by: Methodius Hayes (methodius)
Posted at: October 27th, 2005 04:45 am (UTC)
Glastonbury, Inklings and crypto-fascists

Perhaps this relates more to the Inklings community.

For what it's worth my friend's thesis on Gladtonbury is here:

http://www.ucalgary.ca/~nurelweb/books/glastonbury/glast-1.html

Perhaps I'll put something in the Coinherence group on this.

Posted by: +Seraphim (seraphimsigrist)
Posted at: October 27th, 2005 04:50 am (UTC)
glastonbury

and among the most diverting was welsey tudor-pole
(author of 'the silent way' etc) who discovered
what apparantly to all appearances was a bit
of venetian glass ware rather like a large
ash tray and determined it was the grail
and as such it was kept at chalice well
perhaps until this day...I have really lost
touch with things there in the last years...
I wonder if I will ever go again?

Posted by: +Seraphim (seraphimsigrist)
Posted at: October 27th, 2005 04:51 am (UTC)
first

I started my last with "and" but the and belonged
after an elided thought which I put now that
your friends article is interesting and the
distinction between visitors and local characters
is I am sure sound...

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: June 30th, 2006 01:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Paul Inglesby Orthodox Glastonbury Center

Can you say to me if Paul Inglesby, a subdeacon of the Church of True Orthodox Christians in Greece is alive and actif with his Center ? He was editor of a little magazine of orthodox position. I was visiting him before 20 years and I have never heard from him anything.+Archim. Nil E-mail: true-orthodoxy@hotline.com

Posted by: Methodius Hayes (methodius)
Posted at: June 30th, 2006 04:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Paul Inglesby Orthodox Glastonbury Center

I have not heard from him for some time. He did visit us in Pretoria about 10 years ago, but at that time was mainly interested in UFOs.

Posted by: +Seraphim (seraphimsigrist)
Posted at: June 30th, 2006 02:18 pm (UTC)
Reply to a screened comment from Archimandrite Nil

I am replying here Father because your
comment is screened for some reason and I
cannot reply to it. You ask about a Paul
Inglesby. Dont know if that is the name
of the former Anglican priest I met who
(in 1994) was Coptic[Patriarchate of
Glastonbury a vagante jurisdiction
accepted by the Copts] His wife was
petite and a former circus performer...
he may belong to what you call "the
church of true Orthodox Christians" now
but I have had no contact... or it may
be a different man of course.
There is an Orthodox group in Glastonbury
under Bishop Basil of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate Exarchate for Russians in
Western Europe.

Posted by: +Seraphim (seraphimsigrist)
Posted at: June 30th, 2006 02:20 pm (UTC)
footnote

I seem to be having to make corrections
see one above too...
but when I say "what you call etc"
I hope I did not intend to be
pejorative, just that I have never
heard of this jurisdiction.

Posted by: Methodius Hayes (methodius)
Posted at: July 1st, 2006 04:14 am (UTC)
Re: footnote

I think the reason for the screening is that the person who posted the query is not an LJ member, and I've got my comments set to screen non-LJ posters to avoid spammers and trolls who seem to abound. It should be unscreened as soon as I respond to it.

Paul Inglesby changed jurisdiction at least once in the time I knew him, from one small Old Calendrist group (Mathewites?) to an even smaller one, which I had not heard of before either, except from him.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: July 3rd, 2006 08:29 am (UTC)
Re: Reply to a screened comment from Archimandrite Nil

Tahnk you very much your request. Indeed it was Paul Inglesby, aformerly anglican priest and then subdeacon of the Church of True Orthodox Christians of Greece. I have no knowledge that he formerly under the so called "Glastonbury Patriarchate" (Coptic). I think he has left the Greek Church and is now specialist of UFOlogie. How sad.

Posted by: Methodius Hayes (methodius)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2006 12:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Reply to a screened comment from Archimandrite Nil

Have you had more recent news of him?

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: June 30th, 2006 01:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Glastonbury/Paul Inglesby

Here I find the name of Paul Inglesby alias Eric Vorenburg (why he has changed his name ?) with his Glastonbury Center. I met him before more than 20 years in Glastonbury where hes was a subdeacon of the Church of True Orthodox Christians in Greece. He was the publisher of a small orthodox magazine and now I hear he was fallen in UFO-occultism. Is he alive now ? +Archim. Nil e-mail:true-orthodoxy@hotmail.com

Posted by: Methodius Hayes (methodius)
Posted at: June 30th, 2006 04:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Glastonbury/Paul Inglesby

His name was originally Eric Vorenburg, and his ancestors were Dutch, I believe. He changed his name to Paul Inglesby, though I do not know whether he did that when he became Orthodox.

I was in correspondence with him when I was first beoming Orthodox, and then he was interested in King Alfred, and later his interests turned to UFOs.

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