Its funny how something you happen to hear by chance sets off a chain of thought which leads to you linking in your mind something that happened a long way away to something much more local which is just what happened to me recently.
I had the radio on and someone was recounting how a terrible event had taken place on some ground where people were going about their business completely unaware of what had happened in that place so long ago.
Along with two old friends I had taken a trip to London and we had chosen to go by train from our local station which is named Castle Station due to the fact it is situated on what was the site of Northampton Castle, the Castle is long gone but the events that took place there are well documented.
After we had purchased our tickets and were deciding on a plan of action I wondered how many of my fellow travellers were aware that in 1612 the Northampton Witch Trails were held very close to where they were now going about their various business and as these people thought about the journey ahead, perhaps about people who would meet them at their destination in the same place others hundreds of years before had contemplated their own particular fate.
Six of these unfortunates were accused two of them being Mother and daughter Agnes and Joan Browne, their misfortune was to offend in some way a gentle lady one Elizabeth Belcher and her Brother William Avery, Elizabeth apparently took a dislike to Joan, who knows what lead to this probably something quite petty, but Elizabeth accused Joan of putting a curse on her. Miss Belcher fell ill and her Brother was dispatched to lift the curse but he testified that as he tried to approach the cottage of the two accused he was held back by an invisible force.
The two women were incarcerated for some time before being hanged in what is now Abington Park, which again is the last place you would expect such things to have taken place with children playing and their parents relaxing in what is a beautiful park in the middle of the town.
The internet is a wonderful thing when you are looking for information, very often you will come across little nuggets which astound you, this was the case when I started to look further back to Northampton's origins.
Not far from the railway station in the town sits a Church which during the course of a day many people will have passed on their way from or to the station, its a fine looking building and its origins go right back to the times of the Saxons.
St Peters Church contains a little secret that transports us back to when the Saxons were trying to hold back the Danes a task which would have been a bloody business with no mercy shown by either side, and at this time Northampton was known as Hamtun.
A few weeks ago a friend of mine had posted a picture of a very large excavation which had taken place between 1973 and 1976 by the then archeology department of the Northampton Development Corporation, it shows that a very large Saxon Palace had existed right next to where St Peters is located. The excavation site is shown above with St Peters shown in the background.
Our Saint is Ragener who I have to confess I knew nothing about but his remains are said to have been discovered within the Church.
The link below will tell you more eloquently than I can about St Ragener, who met a terrible fate at the hands of the Vikings.
Came across this article on twitter this morning which caught my attention and it contains a little more information about John Clare and his time living as a pauper. Its unusual to see Clare in the press so I thought it worthwhile to post this.
Clare unlike some of the other authors mentioned did not have the luxury of being able to go back to a comfortable life, his mental illness ultimately destroyed him.
My inspiration for writing this stems from something I saw on Facebook a few weeks ago and of which I was completely unaware up to that point, somebody had posted a picture of All Saints Church and included a picture of one of the alcoves together with some information about John Clare.
John Clare was a poet born in 1793 who grew up in Helpston, Northamptonshire, educated up till the age of 11 after which he was pretty much self taught, he had a great love of the rural environment with which he was surrounded. In his lifetime he was to witness huge change in the countryside he loved both to the people who worked the land and to the land itself, with the move away from agriculture to factory based work for the populace which caused great hardship and misery for many. The destruction and misery he witnessed was a cause of great sadness for Clare and he suffered depression which lead to him spending time in an asylum, we can only imagine what hell a place that that would have been in those unenlightened times.
Clare ended his life in Northampton again spending time in an asylum but to get back to where I started he supposedly wandered around the town sometimes sitting in one of the the alcoves of All Saints Church pictured below.
You can see a reference to the great fire of 1675 in the picture above right, All Saints had to be rebuilt after the fire and here an interesting fact emerges.
Northampton during the civil war was a Parliamentarian town so much so that King Charles 11 on taking the throne had Northampton Castle raised to the ground, however the Earl of Northampton who was a friend of the King persuaded him to donate no less than 1,000 tons of timber from the royal forests to aid the rebuilding of the church, no mean feat considering the emnity that had existed between the warring parties.
This fact is recorded in lettering just above the supporting columns and underneath a stone statue of Charles, but which is not really visible in my pictures, in fact it reads -
"This statue was erected in memory of King Charles 11 who gave a thousand tun of timber towards the rebuilding of this church and to this town seven years chimney money collected in it"
Autumn by John Clare
The thistledown's flying, though the winds are all still,
On the green grass now lying, now mounting the hill,
The spring from the fountain now boils like a pot;
Through stones past the counting it bubbles red-hot.
The ground parched and cracked is like overbaked bread,
The greensward all wracked is, bents dried up and dead.
The fallow fields glitter like water indeed,
And gossamers twitter, flung from weed unto weed.
Hill-tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,
And the rivers we're eying burn to gold as they run;
Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;
Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.
August the 9th was the anniversary of the birth of the famous poet and playwright John Dryden, born in the village of Aldwincle Northamptonshire in 1631.
He wrote the poem "Happy Man"
Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.
And reading this its relevance for us today is obvious, how many of us have thought "If only I had the time to do this or that" as we rush around in a vain attempt to keep up with the demands places on us.
The last line "But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour." resonates with me because lately I have been drawn to the conclusion that all our lives really consist of is our experiences. Forget all the stuff we strive to own that will eventually disappear and become meaningless,
The things we see, people we meet, friendships, places that we go to, everything that makes up the fabric of our lives, these are the really important things.
Mostly because a friend of mine has been told they have limited time to live and it bought me round to thinking what I would do in the same position.
My friend and me it turns out have vastly different thoughts on this as my position is do everything you can and have great experiences for whatever time remains to you, I won't dwell too much on this as it may seem depressing but reading the poem only convinced me of the sense my own position,
However that may sound arrogant and I know it is an easy thing for me to say as I myself am not in the same boat as my friend, and who knows how I would actually deal with a situation like that. ?
Anyway last weekend I took a drive out to Aldwincle and stopped at the Church in the village and took a few pictures.
I travelled on from Aldwincle to Fotheringhay, a village with vast amounts of history which I encourage you to research yourselves, whilst there I took more pictures of the Church in the village which is in the process of some restoration work, so the pictures are not the best.