Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fakenham, 4.5.06: Lemon Posset, Women's Rights, and Lessons for Pilgrims

Writing now from Fakenham in Co. Norfolk. The last two days rather a blur.

After Chris left us on the morning of the 2nd, Steve and I went to the library in Canterbury and found its local history section to be closed until the afternoon. So some aimless knocking about Canterbury

To find a travel kit of multicolored thread for Trudie Reed, who says she’s found this no place else but in England. So off to Marks and Sparks, which didn’t have it. But we did buy things for supper—egg salad and watercress sandwiches, chicken and ham, ploughman’s. Found nice juices—raspberry and orange or strawberry and orange. And tomatoes and a mix of greens—rocket, watercress, and spinach.

We did find the thread at a sewing shop. Turned out it’s called a plait.

And suddenly I look up to admire an elephant—some cast metal; the b and b lady has many of them—that’s catching the morning light in our breakfast nook. And see the lampshade above it, which says, “Beatus vir qui no abiit in consilio impiorum et in via peccatorum”: another pilgrim moment.

We are definitely in via. And the way I seek on this pilgrimage—should seek—is that of the righteous and just . . . .

And back to Canterbury. Found that scented shelf paper we’ve seen only in the British Isles at the sewing shop. Got some lavender-scented boxes. Nice to go out of one’s way to fulfill the needs of someone else and happen on what one needs oneself: pilgrim, take note.

Then on to have a bit of lunch at a Cornish pasty place off the High Street. The day was close, and the air at the outside tables felt good. We sat and talked. To talk with fellow pilgrims often tiptoeing through a minefield. I must learn to be more aware (ware: Warten, watch?) of the needs and feelings of others. Another gift for which I pray on pilgrimage.

Then several hours of research in the local studies room of the library. It was mostly misspent time, except that I was able to obtain the originals of Dorothy Gardiner and Gregory Whatmore on William Watmer the mayor.

And they had bits and pieces of information no one had abstracted, which fill in gaps re: the Wynnes. E.g., once Robert and his wife died of plague, it was confirmed within three weeks and the house was sealed, a guard placed at its door. William Watmer had apparently removed the children by then. Their clothes had to be burned—hence the details in some family histories about local merchants providing clothes (for which the estate paid).

And that Watmer’s papers have survived and are in the Dean and Chapter library of the cathedral. The house on the north side of the High Street west of Mercey (from “mercer,” I find) Lane was owned by the Dean and Chapter.

That the “Scottesden” referred to in the Watmer lineage for arms is Stottesden in Shropshire. William Watmer left there as a young man to go to Canterbury, evidently because—Whatmore suggests—Robert Wynne had preceded him, going with William’s sister Frances. Whatmore says the Wynnes were from Canterbury.

The papers of William Watmer form the bulk of Consistory Court records of Canterbury in the early 1600s, and of dispositions from that period.

Picture emerging: when Charles was killed, there were riots in Canterbury in 1647 when extreme Puritans sought to suppress Christmas. In 1648, more riots. The man who ended up with the Wynne house—his name is in one of the articles; they’re not in front of me—was a Puritan who sought to mollify the extreme faction and was consequently arrested. The 1648 riots were caused by the court returning no true bill found in his case.

He became a Royalist in reaction and died within the year. Surely all of this—coupled with the fact that the mayor Robert died in debt—forms the background to Robert Wynne’s decision to head to Virginia.

And then there are the ties to the Randolphs, multiple ones, through both the Wynne and Epps families, that would have helped him in Virginia. The Randolphs seem to have had connections both to Massachusetts and Virginia, and a turbulent career in the former, which leads me to think that they were not thoroughgoing Puritans.

The picture I get of Kent is of a county much divided in the war. Hardline Puritanism throve in east Kentish places like Biddenden. Canterburians had a vested—an economic—interest in the business of pilgrimage and some must have run afoul of Henry when he sought to suppress the cult of Beckett.

It was a divided area that, by the end of the 17th century, was a bare ruined choir—something on which Pepys comments.

Well, what more to say? A nice meal—the sandwiches, raw vegetables, and crisps—in our room that evening. I was excessively tired—heat, constant walking, lingering jet lag.

Next day, a quandary. There’s an Epps tomb in St. Clement’s church, Old Romney I’d have dearly loved to see. There’s Ashford, where the Slomans and Epps lived.

But that would have been to take us south when we needed to go north, and we found the Kentish Studies Society archives—to which the Canterbury library kept nudging us—was in Maidstone, east of Canterbury and on our way to Walsingham.

So we forewent Romney and Ashford and went to Maidstone. Where I found a baptism record, 1620, Ashford, for a Mary Sloman who has to be Mary Poythress Wynne.

And where I found the 1619 and 1663 Watmer pedigrees. The first is when William obtained a coat of arms by tying into the Watmough family of Ecclestone.

The second is his son Giles’s pedigree, showing the Randolph connection. I found in both books the Randolphs, Epps, Petts, etc., and copied multiple pedigrees. Amazing, the extent to which those Virginia families were—and would have known they were—cousins.

As we walked to the Kent archives—we’d managed to park only three blocks or so from them, not knowing we were close—we passed a house that had a statue of a nun in old habit holding a cross, facing out the ground floor windows.

On our return, Steve photographed her. As he did so, I saw in the upstairs window a Virgin Mary. As Steve snapped photos, I saw a shadowy presence looking out the window, and then a witch-like face glaring as she opened the door.

Pilgrims: beware. What appears to be a sign may be conveyed by a “witch.” Things are never as they seem. And grace may arise from unexpected places.

Then on—an interminable trip. We hit terrible traffic, a slowdown, skirting London. Only to find the M11, our main road north, was closed. So on to unexpected byways (pilgrim, take note), wending and winding, anxious about a bed to sleep in and a meal, since we’d had only breakfast earlier in the day.

Then, after driving through scrubby and slightly forbidding forest, past barren-looking fields of sheep, and into Fakenham, we stopped at the first b and b we saw. They had no room, but called a place called Smith’s Cottage on Smith’s Lane.

They recommended a pub at Colkirk (pronounced “coker”) for a late supper. Steve had steak and ale pie, Chuck and I fish and chips and peas. We finished with a lemon posset so buttery it was like eating butter beaten with lemon and sugar. Otherwise, food not distinguished, but the pub was very restful, clean, quiet, in a quaint little village I’d love to explore.

Interesting conversations. A woman, two men, the barkeeper (a woman). Woman at bar tells the group she’s half Spanish. The older of the men says he’s a typical English mongrel, too: he’s half German and partly Scottish.

One thread seemed to be about a soap opera they were watching, which has a repressive Christian character—a vicar?—who thinks the Jews should be killed. That led them to a conversation about how the Christians often betray Christian values. And that led to a protracted discussion of women’s rights and how women (barkeep’s contribution) have no option in today’s workplace except to defend themselves.

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