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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.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Heritage Open and Not So Open Days

I love Heritage Open Days, but often fail to nosy around places that are usually out of bounds by getting myself booked up to do other stuff the same weekend. Not so this year. I noted the dates in my diary in May, and came up with a packed schedule of Places To Visit that made even seasoned jaunter, the Friend-Formerly-Known-As-'Er-Over-The-Road, baulk.

But then I was asked to be poet-in-residence at the Methodist District Synod in Bath on the Saturday. And I said yes, which necessitated a rethink. Several of the places I'd put on my list were only open on the Saturday. The main thing was to get to the graveyard of St John on the Wall in the centre of Bristol, which hadn't been opened to the public since 1968. The other place I really wanted to visit was St Saviour's in Coalpit Heath, which I'd failed to get inside on two previous attempts. So that's where the F-F-K-A-E-O-T-R and I decided to visit on Friday.

Except when we arrived there was no one about. No signs. No tell-tale bunting. And the door was locked. We walked around the church. No one there. I fished out my phone and googled. THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED. Gah. 

Saturday's events at the Methodist Synod weren't that photogenic, but very enjoyable all the same, and included lots of connections made with people through poetry, which was brilliant. 

Sunday morning found me and the Northerner in town, ready to visit the secret, perpetually shut churchyard of St John on the Wall, between the railings of which I've pressed my face for years. 

I could see the gates were open as we wandered down Tailors' Court and felt quite emotional walking through them at last. 

Once inside, there's a feeling that you're treading on the bones of the dead. An average of 13 burials a week were taking place by the mid-18th century, when it was declared full and closed.  And since the church was built in the 14th century, that's a lot of corpses. 
The juxtaposition of the very old and the modern was striking ... 
... and I was fascinated by the views of the familiar lanes from a new perspective. 

Best of all, though, the ruinous, the decayed, the overgrown. 

Memorial of the merchant Edmund Browne, who died in 1635

The mausoleum of  merchant-venturer Hugh Brown (died 1653) and his wife

Detail of mausoleum ceiling

Disappointingly, the church itself was shut and the crypt, though open, was full of modern stained glass that was displayed for sale on cloths spread over the tombs so you couldn't see them.

I consoled myself with the knowledge that I'd seen it all before anyway and we went for a drink in one of our favourite pubs, the Seven Stars, instead.

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