At last we’ve gone through our pictures, and I’ve finished the blog post I started while at Heathrow! Here are the details of our last day in beautiful England….
We packed up our belongings Wednesday morning and loaded the car around 9:30. Melissa and I dashed into some of the shops in Bakewell to see if we could find some more gifts for family and friends. There are so many charming little stores in this tiny village. What interested us the most was seeing how vastly different the fashions in the windows are compared to those in London and Bath. There we saw much more avant garde clothing–lots of trendy, skimpy things. Up here, where the temperature is a good 10-15 degrees lower already, the fashions in the windows are far more sensible! Here you find woolen shops with tweed jackets and long skirts. We admired lots of beautiful sweaters made locally and further north. After picking up a few things, we headed back to the car and set off for Chipping-Campden, which is where Melissa’s father’s family came from.
The day started out overcast and windy, but as we approached Gloucestershire, the clouds scattered, revealing a bright blue sky and brilliant sunshine. By the time we reached Chipping-Campden at 2:15, it was warm enough to leave off our jackets for our walk about town. This place immediately won our hearts as our favorite village. Its buildings are of a yellow limestone even warmer than the color seen in Bath. There are doorways in shades of royal blue, forest green, and deep red, and flowers hang in abundance from wrought-iron baskets. Melissa’s third cousin, Barry, waved at us as we drove up, then greeted us warmly with kisses on the cheek and a handshake for Matt. We immediately liked him and felt at home. Melissa’s father visited Chipping-Campden almost a year ago and took the “grand tour” of Keen family sites, and Barry had offered to give us the same tour. We started out at the Eight Bells, a B&B and public house that served lunch. Unfortunately, we were too late by half an hour for lunch, so we walked down High Street to a small bakery that served lunch until 3pm. Barry treated us to a delicious meal and afternoon tea.
When we finished, we began our tour by stopping to look at a building that used to be the Live and Let Live Pub, which Melissa’s great-great-grandfather owned in the early 1900s. It now houses an antiques shop. We decided to return later to look through the antiques. Further down the street we visited the town’s market stall, built in 1679. It is an impressive edifice for a “stall!” Melissa’s great-grandfather etched his initials somewhere inside the building, but there are so many carvings that it has proven impossible for Barry to locate those particular initials! We gave it a good try and saw carvings dating to 1737–others without dates were deeply worn and had no doubt been there much longer. The uneven floor was made of worn stones and dipped in the center of each aisle, showing where years of foot traffic had gone.
Next to the market stall is a tall memorial for WWI. Melissa’s great-grandfather designed and carved the memorial. He had apprenticed as a woodcarver and stone carver in a town guild and used his skills to ornament altar pieces for local churches as well as gravestones. We walked across High Street and headed back toward the town center to see the house where Melissa’s grandfather was born. The house is called the “twine house,” since it is next to an alleyway where men made ropes. Below you see the house, then Melissa standing in front of the house with the alleyway to the side.
After taking several pictures, Melissa and I decided to visit the antiques store before it closed. Matt and Barry walked on to St. James’s Church, which is where many members of the Keen family were baptized and buried. The antiques store proved to be one of those that you cannot skim! Melissa and I browsed all around the upstairs, which was filled with all kinds of fine china, silver, pewter, and more. Then we spied the stairs to the basement and headed down. There were three rooms jam-packed with more china and pewter, with scads of mugs and cups hanging from the rafters. It was unbelievable. Boxes on the floor held mismatched saucers and cups at 30 pence each. We poked around quite a while, then went upstairs to make our purchases. By then, the shop was closing, so we hurried on our way once we had our bags in hand and saw Matt hurrying toward us from the opposite direction. The churchwarden was on the way to lock up St. James’s, so we’d have to dash if we wanted to see the inside.
This beautiful parish church was built by Sir Baptist Hicks, who also built the market stall and a huge estate in Chipping-Campden. His name shows up all over the town, in fact, and plays a large part in the history of the area, as do the names of his parents. Inside the church is a tomb for his parents, who lie in marble effigy atop. Next to this are statues of Sir Hicks and his wife, along with a bust of their daughter, Penelope, who “died a mayd.” Sir Hicks’s wife commissioned the sculptures after the death of her husband and had them portrayed holding hands:
On the left you see the bust of Penelope.
The interior of the church is lofty and grand. We spoke with the churchwarden (who was actually running late–very fortunate!), and Melissa was able to look up her Keen ancestors in the church’s record book. Barry told us he had not been able to find the grave of Thomas and Elizabeth Keen, since its marker had been moved some time in the past. But as Matt walked out of the church, he saw the marker opposite him in the low stone wall next to the walk! Here is Melissa next to the tombstone:
We walked through the churchyard, marveling at the many stones (some of which may have been carved by Melissa’s great-grandfather), then we looked across a field to the ruin of Sir Baptist Hicks’s grand estate. The great house burned down a long time ago, and several gate houses are all that remain behind the high wall of the estate. The gate houses themselves are so huge that they’d easily contain a large family! Some mullioned windows stand partly open, and you can see remnants of curtains inside. Torture for the truly curious! Wouldn’t we love to see what was inside those 400-year-old houses! Here is the main gate into the estate, which stands next to the church:
We finally wended our way back down to town proper, passing the church’s almshouses on the way. These are as neat as a pin and beautifully kept, a testimony to a church that cared for its poor and widowed parishoners. Would that the modern church shared the same vision! It was now nearing suppertime, and we hoped to grab a bite before heading back to Heathrow, but the Eight Bells did not serve food until 6:30. Melissa took some last-minute pictures of the inn, which was originally built to house the men who built the church’s bell tower. It is a beautiful place, so warm and inviting! These pictures can’t do it justice, since a flash takes away from the warm glow of its atmosphere.
We bade Barry a fond farewell, hoping we’d see him again in the future. It really is amazing how you can “go home to a place you’ve never been,” but that’s just how we felt in Chipping-Campden and in Barry’s company. He is a delightful English gent, and we were so glad Melissa was able to meet one of her Keen relations across the Pond! We drove back to Heathrow through Oxford, finally reaching our hotel around 8:30pm. Thankfully, they were still serving supper until 10pm, so we were able to get a bite to eat! Then we repacked all our luggage to cram everything in, did some blogging, and took a brief nap. The hotel desk forgot to call our room to wake us up at 3am, so I awoke with a start to see 3:45 on the clock and leaped out of bed! Thankfully, they had called Melissa, who was already up and had gotten a cart for our luggage. After some wrangling to get things down the narrow hallways, we managed to get into our taxi and made it to our gate well in time. Security in Britain is far more strenuous than it is in the US (and you thought it was bad here!), but we made it through and boarded our flight without any delays. An uneventful flight across the Atlantic brought us back to DC, then to Atlanta, where Melissa’s mother picked us up and drove us home. It has taken until today (Monday) to get over the jet lag, which is far worse coming back than it is going over! But now we are happily settled back into our regular routine, enjoying memories of wonderful days in England and hoping for a return visit in the future.
Thank you to everyone who has left kind comments on the blog! It has been a pleasure to share the trip and all our fun with everyone. What a blessing to be able to go on such a journey with so many friends cheering us along!
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P.S. – Yes, I will upload the rest of our pictures and post links to them — watch for those in the near future!
P.P.S. – Someone wanted to know what kinds of “sculptures” were on the grounds of Chatsworth, but we didn’t waste camera memory on them! Just as an example, here are some brief descriptions: An upside down “boot” that looked like it was made of melted and burned marshmallows; a tall, skinny bunny beating a tambourine with a stick (looked like the Energizer Bunny after a diet–LOL!!!); various pieces of twisted metal painted bright, obnoxious colors; a waxwork (or latex or something) sunburned woman in a bikini lying on a lawn chair (I kid you not). We just tried to airbrush them out of our sight as we viewed the otherwise heavenly scenery all around! Perhaps some day the grounds will be returned to their former splendor and rid of the silly pop “art!”