Tuesday, 16 March 2010
What's In A Name?
My ultimate destination on this leg of my journey was the church of St Peter, in the village of Tewin. So I was poodling along through the leafy byways of Hertfordshire -well given those byways were still very much in the grip of winter they were more stark and skeletal than leafy, which, I suppose, is more in keeping with the theme of Haunted Britain - when, lo and behold, I saw the name Robbery Bottom Lane on a sign.
What a great street to live on! Imagine phoning up a call centre to order something and then when they ask for your address proudly announcing "44 Robbery Bottom Lane." There'd be that brief pause then, "can I just place you on hold Sir whilst I suppress the urge to giggle." Or perhaps I'm just being puerile and Robbery Bottom Lane isn't in the least bit funny? In which case I offer a thousand apologies and promise to grow up. Still here's a photo of it just on the off chance.
Anyway this was a pleasant diversion as I headed through Herts on route to Tewin and, before you could say Robbery Bottom Lane, I was driving up the drive to St Peter's Church where I hoped to reacquaint myself with Lady Ann Grimston.
You approach the church along a fairly long drive, which curves into a circle, that is surrounded by trees, just in front of the church door. This posed something of a problem as I couldn't work out where I was meant to park. So I pulled over to the side of the circle and got out of the car.
The last time that I visited Lady Ann was in 1999 when I was writing my first book on Haunted Britain and Ireland, but since she's been dead since November 1780, I wasn't expecting her to have changed a great deal, and nor did she disappoint. The reason I wanted to visit her again was that the last time I was here I had photographed her grave on film, yes film, that's how long ago it was. So I wanted to update my collection by obtaining a digital image of the grave.
Now Lady Ann Grimston was a Sadducean who lived on Robbery Bottom Lane. I'm just kidding about where she lived, just wanted to try and get it into the blog again. Being a Sadducean meant that she didn't believe in the Resurrection of the dead. As she lay dying, in November 1780, she point blank refused to recant her heresy, even though the vicar implored her to do so. "If, indeed, there is life hereafter," she told the vicar, "trees will render asunder my tomb."
When she died she was buried in St Peter's Churchyard. Now whether what happened next was a divine response to her death bed challenge, or was the vicar's attempt to prove that he had been right and she was wrong, is uncertain. But her tombs has indeed been rendered asunder by several trees that have sprouted and grown up through it, causing the stone to crack and shatter.
So, there I was happily photographing the tomb when a lady with a spade suddenly appeared as if from nowhere. "Is that your car?" She asked. I confessed that, indeed, it was. "You're not meant to park there, it's against health and safety, we need to keep that clear for fire engines," was her reply. I looked nervously at the spade, wondering if she might be the local traffic warden and the spade was the implement by which Tewin enforces a zero tolerance response to parking violations, one strike and you're buried sort of thing. But no, it transpired she was simply working on the churchyard. "And we've got a funeral at 2.30," she said "so we need it to be kept clear for the hearse."
Apparently, when you visit St Peter's you are meant to park between the trees, not on the path - so now you know dear reader.
Anyway, I offered my profound apologies and asked if I could quickly photograph the tomb. So I quickly snapped a few photos as she headed to the corner of the churchyard and commenced tidying around a few of the graves.
As I walked back to the path, I noticed another car reversing into the gap between the trees and arrived at my car just as a very tall, gentleman got out. of the other vehicle. "Is that your car?" He asked. "You're not meant to park there." I explained that I'd already had the conversation with the lady over there and pointed to where she had been standing, except - yes you've guessed it - there wasn't any lady there!
Just as I was contemplating the prospect of making a cameo appearance in my own book, she appeared from the other side of the church. "Hello vicar," she said to the gentleman. Whereupon, I climbed back into the car and head further into the Hertfordshire countryside. Till the next time...