Strange folk in Baldock
… and Cottered.
Happy New Year.
More photographs than usual for this post. It’s one of my favourite churches – St. Mary’s at Ashwell, a beautiful village where two rivers rise. The graffiti in the church is touching, sobering, an emotive bridge to distant forbears. In this year 2020, it is particularly redolent, an obvious link between past and present and a reminder that we haven’t – so far – had it so bad.
It translates: There was a plague in 1350. Pitiable, fierce, violent, it departed. A wretched populace survives to witness and, in the end, a mighty wind – Maurus – thunders in the world in this year 1361.
During the Black Death, some 30-40 percent of England’s population died. A great storm did indeed devastate eastern England on St. Maurus’ day.
Near to these lines of dog Latin is a hatchwork engraving, at first indecipherable but, once you know, clearly a representation of the old St. Paul’s cathedral, burnt down in the Great Fire of London.
There is more graffiti on the pillars. And the whole church is worthy of inspection.
The church at St. Paul’s Walden dates from the 13th or 14th century and retains some early features. Ancient graves discovered close by indicate much earlier religious activity of some ilk. The church was refurbished in Georgian times. While much may have been lost then, the result is still pleasing. The soft Hertfordshire stone used as a material for parts of many local churches has proven ideal for graffitists over the ages, as other posts will demonstrate. While many are signs of devotion, such as medieval pilgrim crosses, others are profane, some hinting at older beliefs.
Not all graffiti is carved into the clunch. A leaded window at St. Paul’s Walden carries this minor historical note:
In 1775, Sir Lionel Lyde, a local landowner, tore down much of the 12th century church at Ayot St. Lawrence, leaving what remained as a ‘feature’ while he built a Palladian style church in a nearby field.
The new church is pictured above and below are two shots of the remains of the old.