England 40 Years Ago — March 28, 1982

I love Kate’s phrases. As John was teasing her, she said, “Mommy! Can you behave him?”

It just doesn’t DO for me to stay up too late! We had a marvelous time at the home group, but got home at midnight. The following day, dinner was a disaster. The pastry slid willy-nilly off the meat, jello unmolded from the new bunny mold into a wiggly heap, and $ poured a pint (that’s 20 ounces here!) of milk onto the floor. It was almost enough to make one swear off church meetings! Thank heavens we didn’t have guests for that meal!

Canterbury, on a lovely warm spring day, has a magical busy-ness. I got the feeling of pilgrims bustling about, even though St. Thomas a Becket’s shrine was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1538. At right is an entrance to the cathedral area through the archway on the right.

We saw the place where the tomb had been and the deeply worn stone steps leading there. The Black Prince is buried there, as well as Henry IV, the only king interred in Canterbury.

John had as much trouble as I did finding a place to park in Brighton, with one difference – he found one! I finally got to see the elaborate inside of that exotic Indian/Oriental fantasy, the Royal Pavilion, built by the Prince Regent (later George IV). We even had a delicious lunch in one of the upstairs rooms. Most of the furniture was designed specifically for each room, so they matched in style and upholstery. The columns, wall decorations and gigantic chandeliers, called gasoliers by a guide, were fantastic. I was fascinated with letters on display of the Prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert, the widow he secretly married.

Brighton Pavilion
Pavilion from another angle

The Bible is right again – the more you ask for, the more you get. We were in the middle of an argument with a child when I sent a quick one up: “Lord, please solve this one and the ones to come when John won’t be here.” Immediately, with split-second timing, the phone rang! My brother Bob was on the other end saying he and his girls are coming to visit in June. That solved June for me, and when I turned around, the present problem flitted out the window in the excitement.

We had a gorgeous early summer day to drive near Bath to Longleat – the stately home of the Marquis of Bath. The house is 400 years old, a huge place, but the sizes of the rooms were livable. Even years ago people wanted souvenirs to take home, and the Thynnes were no exception. Displayed in the house was the shirt, complete with blood stains, that Charles I wore for his execution. I was very surprised when the guide pointed to two door facings from the Taj Mahal.

Longleat from our car

There were three dining rooms – one last used in 1923 where we saw the silver wired to alarms, another where the guide showed a dining room that the family uses when there are no guests. The present Marquis has celebrated two silver wedding anniversaries – 25 years with each of two wives. He still lives in the house, as do two sons and their families.

Longleat dome
Drawing room
Drawing room

The grounds were beautiful, originally landscaped by Capability Brown. We were fascinated by one large old tree with a plaque saying it was planted by George III when he came for a visit!

So many ancestral homes are in jeopardy because of the steep inheritance taxes, and Longleat is no exception. Behind the house is an amusement park with a railroad we had to ride, a garden center, maze, and shops. Across the valley is the safari park, Europe’s first. We were amused at the cartoons displayed in the great hall, all poking fun at a peer of the realm keeping animals.

$ was impressed with the giraffes, whose knobby knees we looked up at from our car. He’s still imitating the monkey that sat on our car. Just at feeding time we saw the lions, tigers, and wolves pounce on their pieces of meat.

Before going into Salisbury, we saw Old Sarum. It had the deepest moat we’ve ever seen, 11th century ruins of a cathedral, and a fort.

Old Sarum moat
Ruins of the cathedral
Old well at Sarum

We didn’t find out the extent of damage to the cathedral of Salisbury until after the evensong service. At 2 a.m. vandals had entered through a small window and set fire to the altar and a side chapel, though all we saw at first was the charred altar. In an effort to clear the vestiges of smoke, the huge doors were thrown wide open. The church had been closed all day and was reopened just before the service.

The church is renowned for three things – the tallest spire in Europe (404 ft.), one of the oldest clocks of its kind in England, and in the library one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta. We liked its setting in wide green lawns. Some cathedrals have other buildings so close that it’s hard to see the church, but not this one.

Salisbury close

[Forty years after we were at Salisbury, I have one other note to add for those of you who have sent or received on-line cards by Jacquie Lawson. She uses the singers from the choir of this cathedral on the sound tracks, and most big church drawings are based on the cathedral.]

We spent the night at the Red Lion Hotel – a medieval coaching inn with tiny passages that turn sharp corners and go up and down many levels. The rooms were cozy with many lovely touches. Sewing kits were little stuffed pillows fixed to the vanity, holding needles, thread, pins and safety pins. Attached to the walls were built-in electric kettles with a cabinet holding cups and the makings of tea and coffee.

Unfortunately, John became ill just before dinner and chose to go to bed rather than eat. The girls and I were leery of coping with $, but everything went smoothly in the hotel restaurant. Lisa took him to her room while Kate and I finished eating; the entertainment was brushing his teeth with Lisa’s toothbrush!

Sunday morning John’s innards felt better, but I can’t answer for the way he faced the world. I’ll leave it to your conjecture as to what happened to his razor blade.

Wells is a small jewel of a town with spring water gushing out of a fountain just outside the walls of the cathedral. We read that there are seven wells, though only this one is prominent.

Wells spring

The west entrance of the church can’t be seen because of scaffolding for restoration work, but the inside is exquisite. An unusual feature is the inverted arch work which holds up the central tower. We sat in the front row of the quire next to the boys – 18 of them and only one wearing glasses.

Vicar’s Close

Beside the church is the oldest complete street in Europe – Vicar’s Close – where all the houses were built in the 14th century. On the other side of the church was a moated enclosure for the bishop’s palace, still in use as a residence.

Bishop’s palace

We feasted on a traditional Sunday lunch of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding at the Swan Hotel nearby. Then we drove to Glastonbury to see the ruins of the Abbey where King Arthur is supposed to be buried.

Glastonbury Abbey
Another view of Glastonbury Abbey
Supposed site of King Arthur’s tomb

Legend has it that the Holy Grail is also there, brought by Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph had leaned on his staff, the staff sprouted into a thorn bush, and he knew he had to establish a church there. During the Civil War (England’s, not ours) the tree was cut down, but a new one was started from a cutting.

Family with new thorn bush

On the way home we drove through Cheddar, now as famous for a commercialized natural wonder (a gorge) as for cheese. With a speed limit of 70 miles per hour on motorways, we scooted home in three hours.

We’re leaving on our last continental holiday April 1 and won’t return until the 20th. Then we’re having guests almost till the date John is to return to New York to start work.

24 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — March 28, 1982

  1. There was a lot of history packed into this letter! I enjoyed all the photographs, and indeed, those arches inside the church were stunning. As always, enjoyed the photographs of the family, and the variety of facial expressions for the kids (and their antics!).


  2. Very interesting history in post I enjoyed it. All photos are so nice. Amazing chatedral & church. Beautiful place.


  3. Do you know Anne, Canterbury was the only place that took my breath away? Moved my soul. I expected it to happen in more than one place when I travelled but the Cathedral and believe it or not an old book shop that you could practically smell ancient books and dust gave me a profound experience. And I simply did not want to leave.


    1. We enjoyed Canterbury, but if we had gone back to England for a month, we would have stayed in Wells. That’s the cathedral that stole our hearts. The building was striking and the people very friendly.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I scanned the slides years ago, and the computer files haven’t faded! I’m kidding. There were one or two rolls of film from 60 years ago that had faded. The scanning job took several years, because the process was slow. I couldn’t stand to do more than five slides at one sitting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved Old Sarum when we visited in 1989. Salisbury Cathedral was covered in scaffolding at the time but the spire was impressive. You visited some wonderful places during your time there.


  5. My favorite picture of all was the end with the moated bishop’s palace and Kate and John. I have visited some castles in England but saw a moat, but it was not filled with water. I wonder why? So, this was a first for me. Interesting about the Jacquie Lawson cards and cathedral and choir … I think I remember a recent Christmas card with a queue of choirboys either exiting or entering the church.


    1. I suspect there would be a lot of upkeep for a moat filled with water. For one, it would be considered a danger for drowning. How would they keep it clean? Wouldn’t the water get murky and slimy??

      I remember Bodium Castle, a ruin, had water in its moat. I should look on line and see if there is a current photo.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That makes sense Anne and I am sure that back when the moat was built that they didn’t have tablets to drop in to keep algae from forming or some product akin to pool cleaner. Perhaps the moat was left with not-so-sparkling water as no one wanted to go anywhere near it for fear of falling into the murky water. Did you find out if Bodium Castle still has a filled moat?


    2. I think the last Christmas card had choir boys in it. Usually credit is given to them in notes about the music in the Advent calendar. Let’s see if I can remember to look next time. I’m not sure we’d see that in a card.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do remember the choir boys in a row and going up to the alter for Christmas. I couldn’t download the Advent Calendar for 2021 as I am on Windows 7 and the calendar cannot be displayed on Windows 7.


          1. I intended to download it on the Windows 10 laptop and never did. I do updates when I am in for the day on weekends – I do them every few weeks and some take forever to download, etc. Last weekend it said I had no internet, so no updates. So I went to the other Windows 7 laptop in the kitchen and had internet – went back to the new one – nothing, so turned it off for another time. It frustrates me and now that we can remote in using a VPN I don’t have to use it when Internet Explorer expired in June 2022.

            Liked by 1 person

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