Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Knuckle dusters & dreams of a faith restored - an insubstantial pageant?

A few "Anglican wanderings" of my own last week at the end of the school half term.
Firstly, a visit to Clevedon Court, just outside Bristol, the home of the Elton Family, now held by the National Trust. It's a very beautiful house in an idyllic setting, built by Sir John de Clevedon in the early fourteenth century and, despite additions and alterations over the generations, has survived with many original architectural features intact. In the later Tudor period, following the reformation, its medieval chapel was closed off and forgotten, but  was later rediscovered during building work and lovingly restored in the nineteenth century by the then devoutly Anglo-Catholic Eltons.
A curious item is displayed in a case in the Great Hall - the label says it all: "Knuckle Duster issued by the Vicar of All Saints against the Kensitites." It was never used: the Kensitites didn't descend with their axes and hammers upon Clevedon; but the defence of the Catholic faith against heretical thuggery was evidently rather more robust in those days!
The small Chapel  is worth a visit in itself, for its exquisitely simple altar, and its stained glass. The pascal candle stand was made by Sir Edmund Elton in his own pioneering pottery. I remember last visiting the house as a boy and seeing a copy of the English Missal on the altar - I wonder what became of it?
 Back to Chepstow on Friday night for an outdoor performance of The Tempest in Chepstow Castle. It was a lovely summer's evening, with a cloudless sky, swifts wheeling overhead and the valerian blooming on the castle walls catching the rays of the setting sun. The production by The Lord Chamberlain's Men was both reflective and fast paced and hugely entertaining.

It seemed somehow fitting at this time of great uncertainty, with many (as yet) unrealised hopes, but also the knowledge that in its present form our spiritual tradition is coming to an end,  after seeing a vision of the legacy of the Oxford Movement and a reminder of what might have been, to see again Shakespeare's own enforced (Clare Asquith in her book Shadowplay is quite persuasive on the matter) farewell to the stage and to public life.
"Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve;
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep."
The anti- Kensitite knuckle duster!

Detail from one the the chapel windows

Altar with original nineteenth century frontal

Home produced candle stand

The Tempest: The Lord Chamberlain's Men in full flow in Chepstow Castle

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