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Bristol , United Kingdom
I am co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Unexpected Poetry at Little Malvern Priory and Ledbury

And so, post walk on the hills, to Little Malvern Priory for a quick fossick while the man- and dog-folk waited in the car park. Very lovely it looked too, despite the drilling noise emanating from the kitchen area, where a man was hard at work re-fitting. 


And very compact, having never housed more than ten or twelve monks at any one time.


Here's all the displaced kitchenalia stacked around the font, which is apparently of no special interest though I like the fact that an old column has clearly been recycled in its making.  
There was specially interesting stuff there too, though, like the 14th century tiles that were made in the grounds of nearby Great Malvern Priory.




And the glass. I liked the glass very much. Here's the East Window of 1480-82 ... 


... with its depiction of Elizabeth of York ...


... and her son, King Edward V (of Princes-in-the-Tower fame).




I also loved the combination of mediaeval and modern glass in the window on the north side of the nave ... 


... where you have a fragment of 14th century glass, thought to represent God the Father ...  



... and the day's first unexpected onslaught of poetry, in the form of roundels of modern stained glass, depicting the priory ... 


... the 14th century poet William Langland (who, it turns out, might even have been a monk here) ...


... and the eponymous hero of his poem 'The Vision of Piers Plowman'.  

'Learn to love and leave all other'


I also found the dimensions of the building intriguing.
It turns out that much of the original building has disappeared, including the side chapels, the ruins of which are still visible. 


The effect is of a building that is Saxon in shape, although it's a fair bit later, having been constructed in the 12th century. I absolutely loved it.


And this is where the visit took a downturn. 

'The garden is NOT open,' a cross posh person shouted as he advanced from the direction of the Court, 'even though the MAN doing the WORK in the KITCHEN has LEFT THE GARDEN DOOR OPEN. He SHOULDN'T have. Because it ISN'T OPEN TODAY.'

Now, I understand the concept of days off, but there are kindlier ways of giving someone their marching orders. 


And let's face it, if the privilege of living in places of historical importance were allotted according to merit, all the nurses, teachers, carers and cleaners in the country would be holed up courts and castles.

In any event, I left swiftly, pausing only to make sure the door was still open.   


Back in the car we decided that in view of our early start and subsequent exertions, coffee and tea cakes were in order, so we headed over the Worcestershire/ Herefordshire border to Ledbury. 



Not having planned to come here, we found ourselves wandering up the nearest picturesque street. 


Now, Ledbury is famous for poetry because of its poetry festival, but that takes place in July, so we weren't expecting more happy poetical accidents. 


But look! John Masefield!

Yes, it turns out that the erstwhile Poet Laureate came from these parts. Rather a long way from The Sea he used to Must Go Down To, if you ask me.


The lane terminated in the grounds of the parish church of St Michael and All Angels so I had a Quick Pop Inside ...

... only to discover another treasury of stained glass, which rather delayed me. 


My favourites were the Morris & Co windows. (No surprises there then.) The Good Shepherd window was made in 1913 to a design by Edward Burne Jones ...


... with The Nativity in the Sanctuary also dating from the early 20th Century. 


I also loved the nonchalant St Michael and the dragon in Christopher Whall's beautiful window, which reminded me of St George and the dragon in East Harptree Church ... not surprising, perhaps, given that Karl Parsons, who designed the latter, was a pupil of, and assistant to, the former.  


I wished I could get a better look at the Whall window depicting St Martin of Tours, who features so heavily in the Arts and Crafts Heaven that is St Martin's in Scarborough, but visitors are asked respectfully not to enter the Sanctuary, which is fair enough. Here's the glimpse I had. 


There was also some glass by Charles Kempe, and some mediaeval glass, as well as the usual skulls and tombs and so on. I only really had time for a quick skim around but it was all quite magnificent.


 The Skynner family tomb, c1631


More Skynners


Tomb of the infant John Hamilton Martin who died in 1851


I asked the steward if there was any connection in the church with John Masefield. She said that she had heard a story that the family had been asked whether they would consent to the baptistery being renamed the Masefield Chapel, but refused permission, having fallen out with the vicar. 


John is buried in Westminster Abbey. 
The 17th century font which is much more pleasing than the 19th century one currently in use 


Time to go ...


... but there was one more poetic encounter on the way back to the car park, this one with Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who made her home in Ledbury for a time. This is the Barrett Browning Institute, which is a memorial to her. 

'Earth's crammed with heaven. And every common bush afire with God. And only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.'

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