Saturday, March 18, 2023

A Night for Knights and Greensleeves

As I've mentioned in previous posts, one of our favourite places to walk locally, is the Enville Hall Estate.  Enville offers everything you could wish for in a walk; lung busting hills, rewarded with incredible views, glimpses of pleasure gardens past (if you know where to look) and on the return, you have refuelling choices; village cafe or real ale pub.  

Enville is mentioned in the Domesday Book compiled in 1086 for William the Conqueror.  Overlooking the village of Enville, (previous designations, Evenfield, Enfeld, Envil or Enfeild) from a spur of land, is the Church of St Mary the Virgin dating back to the early 12th century.  The current St Mary's has a Norman nave, 13th century chancel and a Victorian tower added in 1871.  Today, the church prides itself as being "A 12th Century Church with a 21st Century Welcome."

As an atheist, my interest in churches is relatively superficial.  I can appreciate the history and skills utilised to erect houses of worship and marvel at the details, but if I'm honest, I'm more interested in them on a human level, preferring to seek out old graves and learn more about the figures associated with them or entombed within, like the incredible alabaster chest tomb we spotted in the east end of the south side of the church, belonging to "Thomas Grey of Enveld esquire & Anne his wyfe, daughter to Sir Ralph Verney of Yeardley in ye Countie of Bucks..."  Thomas passed on 31st December 1559 (see below).

Thomas Grey

So, the recent discovery of not one, but three graves belonging to the ancient order of The Knights Templar, demanded a visit.  Impulsive as we are, we had a family chat about it and in spite of the darkness, driving rain and blustery wind, we headed out there and then.

We immediately sought shelter from the rain inside and took in the atmosphere and natural, rapidly fading light of this historic church.

The impressive organ came from St Leonard's church, Bridgnorth and was dismantled in Bridgnorth and rebuilt at Enville by Messrs Longstaff and Jones of Dudley and given to the church in the 1970s.

The church boasts a fine set of four misericords or mercy seats, which rival the famous sets found at Ripley and Ludlow, with scenes depicting bear baiting, a lute playing angel and Arthurian legend, Sir Yvain trapped by a portcullis when trying to get through the gate upon entering an enemy castle.

Whilst it's not known when they were installed, they could well be the ones recorded back in 1697 in the church records, in which case, it's conceivable that they came from a neighbouring abbey at the time of the Dissolution of the monasteries on Henry VIII's watch.  To think these were around when Greensleeves was penned!

However, there was no denying our key mission, to find the Templar graves.  Given their recent restoration, they weren't hard to locate, but I decided we needed to visit in daylight to capture the details.

The Knights Templar were a powerful military organisation of devout Christians in the medieval era, formed in 1119 and tasked with providing safety to pilgrims to Jerusalem.  

They created a different model of knight, one in which members were monks, sworn to poverty, chastity and obedience and committed to fighting "infidels" in the Holy Land.  Promising to serve the Christian cause, they received papal recognition at the council of Troyes in Champagne in 1129.  

Highly disciplined, the knights were required to live austere lives.  Chastity was a must, so no kissing, even their own mothers.  Fur and fancy clothes were forbidden, as were pointed shoes and shoe laces, which were deemed pagan.  They could have meat only 3 times a week (which doesn't strike me as particularly austere).  

In reality, the knights being sworn to poverty meant very little.  The Order as a whole became astonishingly wealthy.    Pope Innocent II exempted them from paying any taxes.  The Templars collected donations from all over Europe.  Kings and Queens gave them huge estates.  Even ordinary people would leave donations in their wills, leaving the Order small plots of land that added up.

The knights were highly trained and known as fierce fighters who refused to surrender.  But they were also strategic thinkers and would not pick a fight they didn't think they could win.

Some scholars believe that the Knights helped import Muslim ideas that transformed Western legal and educational systems.  For example, the Inns of Court in London, legal institutions formed in the medieval period with ties to the Templars, have some striking similarities to madrassas built around  mosques, where Sunni scholars debate the law.

Photo Edward Tenny

Don Croner

Falsely charged with heresy, the order ultimately disbanded in 1308/9.  To think that three of the knights ended up resting for eternity just a few miles away from us, forgotten and overlooked for so many years, just blows my mind.  Here they are, captured on our daylight visit.

The three graves are believed to be around 800 years old, each bearing the Templar cross within double circles in a standard Templar design and one of the graves also includes a Crusader cross indicating the knight was a Templar and a Crusader of the ancient military order.

Templars were believed to attach themselves to churches dedicated to St Mary the Virgin and so, it is the belief of local researcher Edward Dyas, that Enville Church was a Templar Church.  

Edward also believes that one of the graves is that of a Templar Chaplain of a Templar Preceptory - most likely in Staffordshire, whose Commanderie was at Onneley, near Leek, the other two being acolyte assistants.  His research continues.

As to why the graves were not noticed before, according to Dyas they were, but back in 1588 in a local survey.  For some unknown reason, the descriptions of the cemetery in the 18th and 19th centuries completely overlooked the graves.  It's thanks to Dyas, who, with the permission of the vicar, cleared away the physical remnants of time; earth, moss and lichen, to reveal the three crusading Templars.

I'm not sure the knights would have approved of my other hunt, for the perfect corduroy dress - ongoing for over 12 months.  Even worse, it's green, which, if one of the theories about the old English folk song Greensleeves is to be believed, green women's clothing had negative sexual connotations.  Perhaps they would cut me some slack for being frugal and purchasing one that is decades old, albeit a perfect specimen.  I spotted this beauty in a vintage clothing unit in a nearby Antiques Centre.  It stood out to me, even on the cramped and cluttered clothes rails.  It was love at first sight.  Here's a glimpse. 

I instantly felt better about the £30.00 price tag (I'm much more used to charity shop prices) when I returned home and discovered that its burgundy twin sold for £175.00 on Etsy.

Designed by 60s model turned dress designer Fiona Browne for Spectrum of Gloucester Road, London, the maxi dress is a beautiful muted shade of moss green, although as this blog title might have you believe, there are no sleeves.  But it is exquisite!  It's currently too long for me.  The hem has been clumsily altered in the past and is uneven - longer at the back.  However, my knight with shining thimbles, Vix, is coming to the rescue and has offered to alter it for me.  Watch this space!

Finally, as we're talking about the thrill of the hunt, this huntress is catching up on some much needed sleep after spending the best part of Thursday night attempting to wake me from my slumber. For no good reason, I might add. She has discovered a novel way to disturb my sleep which entails leaping from the window ledge onto the bed and running heavily across my back, chirping with wicked pleasure as she does so. 

Have a good weekend!

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Head Space

The double whammy of work and weather has resulted in very little to report, with much of my time spent indoors, holed up like Miss Haversham.  I think as a result of this state of stir craziness, I have felt a calling to see the sea again.  It feels like a long time since I heard the roar of the waves.  Maybe as island dwellers, we need that every once in a while.

Sitting by lamp light in the recent snowstorm, notebook in hand, my thoughts wandered from the latest (at times) troublesome wedding shoot I'm planning, to that famous literary bride, Lorna Doone.  If you've never read the book, it's a romance novel set in 17th Century Exmoor, also encompassing a number of gothic themes...innocent victim, good versus evil, romance and death.  Parts of the Victorian novel were written by author R.D. Blackmore in one of my favourite places in the UK, Lynmouth, the picturesque fishing village on the North Devon coast and the story is set no more than 5 miles away, taking in the stunning landscape; the purple clad moors and watery valleys of Exmoor.

If you don't know the story, I won't spoil it, but it is a tale of the forbidden romance between Lorna Doone (a member of the outlaw Doone family, but not by blood) and farmer, John Ridd, whose father was murdered by the head of the Doone family, Carver, some years before.  It is Carver's will that Lorna should ultimately become his bride, so there are no prizes for guessing that John and Lorna's journey is not a smooth one.  Their romance begins at the "water slide" a water fall in the "Doone Valley" near the hamlet of Oare.  I will say no more, although, to be fair, you've had plenty of time to catch up, given that the book was published in 1869!

So, as a stop gap until normal blogging activity resumes, here's the resulting poem from one snowy night in March.

She fell like water

Her feared and sullied namesake

Cleansed by a promise for freedom

The renewal of daybreak

Old blood, John's blood

Time 'n' turmoil ploughed in earth

Love binds, takes root

What grows in the mirk?


Forlorn Lorna

Run to the sea

The waves are whispering

"Come see me."

Out to sea, Lynmouth

Bad bloodletting in the valley

In the shadow of Oare

No love match, a vengeful watch

Weeping like a festering sore

Valley of the Rocks

Forlorn Lorna 

Run to the sea

The waves are gathering

"Come see me."

A wedding like no other

A woman upon high

Forbidden, chastened, a ghost in waiting

A vision all in white

Forlorn Lorna

Run to the sea

The waves are roaring

"Come see me."

A crack on the wind

Glass on the altar

Carver's stain, crimson on silk

She fell like water

Oare Church

Oare Church

Forlorn Lorna

Run to the sea

The waves are lapping

"Come see me."

A heart breaks and hooves race

A violet, violent end

Possessiveness and dark desire

Returning to the mire

Forlorn Lorna

Breathing still

The sea is calm now

True love's will

Taking flight, Exmoor

A Balancing Act

  I always find myself in a reflective, pensive mood at this time of year.  Life moves at pace and I'm finding it increasingly difficult...