Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Doomed Romance

If I'm a little shirty this morning, i hope you'll forgive me. It was a disturbed night. Even round here, it's unusual for me to be waken at 1am by a bunch of Beaker Folk with flaming torches, demanding we get in an exorcist immediately.

It was when Abelard went to bed last night. He says as he dried himself, shivering (I've switched the hot water off now we're past Beltane), he felt a presence in the room - from somewhere behind the wardrobe. Naturally he went straight down the White Horse for a restorative.  When he described his experience, Weird Erica from the village told him the history of the Great House.

Erica told him how, before Cromwell's men closed it down and gave it to my family, it had been a convent. And before it went single-sex, it had been - by a remarkable piece of historical coincidence - a coenobitic community - one with both monks and nuns.

Well, that was always going to cause trouble. It's bad enough with my bunch - and they don't take vows. Burton is, I assume, celibate but probably not through choice.  And a monk and a nun fell in love over the screen that was down the middle of the chapel, and their relationship bloomed right up to the point when Abbess Eileen caught them at it, one balmy day in the vineyard.

Naturally the Abbess acted severely.The monk had all his privileges cut off. And, if that were not punishment enough, he was bricked into the walls - just behind Abelard's wardrobe. The nun pleaded her belly, and after her confinement went on to be the mistress of Henry I. Their son was taken in by the Russell family of Woburn, married a daughter of that family, and his descendants (my ancestors) took the convent, in an ironic twist, at the Dissolution. The monk's spirit has hung around the place, keeping an eye on his descendants, ever since.

It's a lovely and touching story, spoiled only by being completely untrue. My great-grandad built the Great House after he made all that money in beetroot. Our connection with the Rusells consists of a random encounter between the"Randy Duke" and a milk maid in the 18th Century.

And the "Presence" behind the wardrobe turned out,  on investigation, to be a badger on the lawn outside. The speed the Beaker Folk went off, you'd think they'd have preferred a ghostly monk.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Drop a thoughtful pebble in the comments bowl