Saturday, 3 September 2011

A Little Bit of History

One of the things I love about England is that there are reminders of human history everywhere. The best spot I know for picking plums is near this sweet church in Croxley Green, Hertfordshire.

Inside of the church the walls are white and the ceiling on one side is this shade of cornflower blue, the colour in the background of the sign . The other side of the ceiling is painted a burnished, brick red, to match the floor tiles pictured below. The colours highlight the dark wooden beams and pews.

Note the Tudor looking floor of the church. The Victorians wanted new churches to look like medieval. Do you think they succeeded here? 

These are the foraged plums. A crumble was made and enjoyed. 

Outside of the church, in the middle of the sidewalk, there is a standard planter. In fact, it was originally a trough designed to give horses and people clean drinking water.

The green part is the water spout and the circle in the middle of the green piece turns the water on. The green ring on the right hand side used to hold a cup that you would use and put back. Many of these fountains are still working. Not this one, but there is now lottery funding to restore these fountains for working use. Charming, I think.  

Even in 1901, public services such as sewers were not yet developed in London suburbs like Croxley Green, near Watford. Beer was widely drunk as it was cleaner than water. Equally, it sounds like a wonderful myth for the men to perpetuate to their wives. The scene went something like this:
[Uttered in your best, old-fashioned English accent.]
ELEANOR:              Dear, you seem thirsty. Shall I get some water from the well?”
HORATIO:              No, thank you dear, you wouldn’t want me to get sick from the water, would you? It’s terribly contaminated, you know. I do think I must go to the pub and get some proper beer. Mustn’t get sick now. 
ELEANOR:             [Concerned] Heavens no! You mustn’t. You will look after yourself, won’t you?  
HORATIO:              [Deadpan] Yes, I’ll try. [Pause] Bye, bye then. [Horatio exits, leaving for the pub]

Quite young by English standards, as it was built in 1870, All Saints Parish Church, reminds one of the recent history of the community. The pews are virtually all engraved with a name, back when people would have had a family pew. On all of the pews are these embroidered cushions. The dates mark the passing of a loved one.
Who do you think MPE was? My money is on Mary Phillippa Edwards.

You can imagine the committed church ladies spending hours embroidering them, careful not to make a single mistake. Hundreds of cups of tea later, you would be finished one and you would tell Rose excitedly. "Oh, that's lovely. Doesn't that feel good? Alice had already produced five."

Near the entrance of the church, is this “Roll of Honour” or War Memorial. Poignantly, it was given to the church with names inscribed in June 1917. You wonder how many more men died before Armistice Day 1918. Names were added after the Second World War too. I picture one widow, whose husband died in the Great War, now also seeing her child’s name inscribed on the Roll of Honour.

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