Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Behind the Pig-Sty


So, while the light fails / On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel / History is now and England. T.S.Eliot wrote these lines in 1942, a tiny fragment of the poem Little Gidding that became the fourth of the Four Quartets- ..."turn behind the pig-sty to the dull facade...". This tiny eponymous church was his inspiration, out in the fields of lonely Huntingdonshire. It wasn't winter on my visit, but the light was thinking about failing until I arrived at the door and the sun found its way around the clouds and through a tiny gap in the trees in order to light the west front and the single bellrope, or 'sally' as I now know it's called.Here was once a ruinous medieval church, restored by the religious community founded by Nicholas Ferrar in 1624. Much taken with hand-writing books and embroidery, they kept having to put down quills and needles in order to troop in here three times a day for services. Charles I came here three times, but by the 1650s it was all over. The west facade is of 1714, with a bellcote designed by someone who must have looked at Hawksmoor's London churches. Inside are collegiate-style pews facing the tiny aisle, and a visitors' book with biro'd comments from Eliot afficianados. Here, the intersection of the timeless moment / Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

5 comments:

Ten Inch Wheeler said...

That's a lovely shot of the bellrope. Er, 'Sally' I mean.

Fred Fibonacci said...

Peter: Unmitigated England at its very best. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Having just spent the best part of the day trying to lodge some plans with London Borough of Hounslow Building Control at, of course, Hounslow Civic Centre (Architect and Director General Mr F Kafka)my spirit soared to read your post and view the photos. The Church and 'sally' might just as well be on another planet, let alone the same island. Chew, spit, grizzle, hiss.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Marvellous sense of history seen in what's still there now - which was what Eliot was on about too.

Diplomat said...

Quite - and along those very lines - at Diplo hall we have the milk decanted from those unspeakable plastic containers into wide topped '50s 1 pint Unigate botles to compliment the Oxford Jar and Colman's Tin at the breakfast table. Carry on.

Peter Ashley said...

Do you really Diplo? I never knew that.