(Photo: Ballista: Wikipaedia)
Great Coxwell’s Barn
Off Hollow Way stands this vast, vacant barn:
huge receptacle for Cistercian tithes,
garnered from tenant farmers – a dry store,
where the granger checked accounts; did not trust
his hired servants. Here Cotswold riches
were protected from thieves and from decay.
Christ had warned disciples about decay
and storing up of surplus in a barn.
Christians were always meant to share riches
and not to extract profit from fat tithes.
The parable’s ‘fool’ was he whose whole trust
was in possessions. He had wrath in store.
Henry VIII would plunder a marked store
and most abbeys were subject to decay.
Monastic wealth was held in deep distrust.
Though Morris praised this cathedral-like barn,
Pre-Raphaelites would not restore tithes;
they venerated aesthetic riches.
We coveted colonial riches
and viewed the whole world as potential store,
compelling other countries to pay tithes;
forgetting moth and rust would cause decay.
What were the treasures we stored in our barn?
We’ll reap what we sowed: we abused faith, trust.
Joseph, in whom Pharoah had put his trust,
managed underground silos of riches
and, when his brothers came – not to a barn-
but to the pits where corn was kept in store,
did they recall they’d left him to decay
in such a space? (He who asked no tithes.)
This massive hulk, once packed with peasant tithes,
now supported by The National Trust,
mouldered with neglect; died of decay,
until ‘heritage’ was seen as riches.
What are the values we would like to store?
Should we maintain the past? Convert the barn?
Some build barns with their family riches,
but tithes benefited community,
as long as mutual trust did not decay.
affrontee gules, Alex Salmond, Auchentoshan, Bannockburn House, bauchle, beeswax, Bohemia, Bonnie Prince Charlie, chamber candlestick, chatelaine, Clementina Walkinshaw, dexter and sinister, Faberge egg, Game of Thrones, Gardy Loo!, King of Cumbria, lion sejant, Lost Middlelands, manflu, mizmaze, Nemo Me Impune Lacessit, Pele Tower, reivers, Rory Stewart, The National Trust, The Proclaimers, The Young Pretender, Tindall, Tyndale, Walter Scott, Wyvern Mote
Drusilla and Murgatroyd sipped their Auchentoshans simultaneously
and gazed at the faux Faberge egg sitting on the coffee table.
Sorry to have disappointed you, said Murgatroyd. It isn’t one of the missing
ones. Bless Aunt Augusta. She was trying to bestow something on you,
but it is practically worthless.
The Tindall Jewell, on the other hand is priceless. I wonder if it had any
connection to either of the Tyndales who turned down the throne of
Bohemia? I must do some research. But I suppose it is earlier than
that. Looks medieval.
The strange coincidence is, as we discussed earlier, that a branch of the
Tindalls owned this pele tower at one time. So, in a sense, you might be
coming home. I’ll dig out the charters tomorrow. I was going to frame one
or two for the Great Hall.
I’m not going to drag Gus through a lengthy process of establishing rights.
The insurance on the jewel would be a liability and a nightmare. It should
remain with The National Trust at Wyvern Mote, Dru stated firmly.
I think you are right, Murgatroyd nodded sagely. I get in a tizzy over the
security of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s communion chalice. I hated getting it
marked by ultraviolet, but it is alarmed in that niche by the fireplace. One
day it will be yours, my girl. Come to think of it, you do resemble
Clementina Walkinshaw a tad.
Well, thanks for that. I have no intention of escaping to a convent just
yet. Do you think it came from Bannockburn House when Clementina was
nursing The Young Pretender from a nasty bout of Manflu? He probably was
demanding the Last Rites histrionically- you know- the way all you guys do
when you catch a cold!
So the story goes, but Walter Scott and his ilk tended to embellish things
as you can imagine. It does come from the Rebellion period and has a very
good maker. I won’t take it out now, but it bears the motto: Nemo Me
Impune Lacessit and the lion sejant affrontee gules, crowned, holding in
dexter paw a sword and an erect sceptre, proper..
Whae dare meddle wi’ me? A motto I would gladly adopt as my own ,
smiled Dru. Well, I must go up the spiral stair to bed. My head is
spinning with all this history, the Auchentoshan, or losing myself in the
mizmaze this afternoon.
I’m sure it is a combination of all three, speculated Murgatroyd, handing
her a beeswax taper in a pewter chamber candlestick. The hive has
been busy to light you on your way. I’ve only been stung twice. You can
taste the honey at breakfast, my sweet.
She felt a renewal of filial affection which wasn’t diluted by being shared
with her biological pater.
The embers were dying, so Murgatroyd placed the fire-guard in front of the
glow and rolled back the rug, lest a spark should catch. He was turning into
a fussy old chatelaine. Dru left the egg on the table. If there should be a
raid by the reivers, they were welcome to it. The egg, not the table!
She dreamt of Border tussles: mafia bosses fuelled by proxy wars, with
visages remarkably like Rory Stewart. She briefly counted sheep in Cumbric,
that language, Stewart claimed, of The Lost Middlelands. She thought she
saw the face of the last independent King of Cumbria who vanished in the
11th century and screamed as it morphed into the heavy-browed, jowly
phizzog of Alex Salmond. Clearly she had watched too many Game of Thrones
episodes. Or he had.
Thank goodness the tower was fortified! Any snatch of The Proclaimers
which might herald the approach of The First Minister and penetrate the foot
thick walls and she would be tipping the contents of her chamber pot out of
the window. If Alex was stationed below with his troops and that wee
bauchle, the standard bearer, who shall remain nameless, Dru would not even
give them the warning: Gardy Loo!
Recusancy, said Dru.
Sonia looked blank and Ginevra said, An aversion to authority.
It runs in our family, Diana.
I detached myself from that particular set of genes. They weren’t
part of my DNA. Actually, they weren’t anything to do with us at all.
Not Dru, Augustus, nor myself.
It was the family who owned the Wyvern Estate who were recusants.
That’s why they had a priest hole, Mum, Dru commented, as she read the
rest of the tale of the missing boy from Ginevra’s tablet. Anthony Revelly
had a brainwave. He had been teaching the boys about The Civil War and
he suddenly thought that Lionel might have found the idea of a secret hiding
Was Lionel the nasty boy? I asked.
Yes. Anthony told the estate staff to knock along the panelling in the library.
The walls were so thick that no one had heard Peregrine’s frantic tapping.
They were able to find a hollow sounding area and then they discovered a
section of book shelving which was metamorphic and turned around. The
poor child was shocked and dehydrated. He had been in darkness and the
only bottle he could find was a Bellarmine which contained bones and nails
and nothing else.
Ginevra looked stunned at the thought of a bottle which contained
How had he become trapped? I asked.
It says that Lionel had deliberately enclosed his brother, or immured him,
to be precise.
How awful! What happened to him? How was he punished? He was old
enough to know better.
I think his mother sent him away to a boarding school.
Well, that explains why Peregrine’s mother thought so much of Anthony,
Yes, she would, wouldn’t she? observed Ginevra. I hope she disinherited
that awful elder son. I know I would have. I wouldn’t even have left him
I wonder what happened to the two boys in later life? I deliberated.
We had some drinks and Dru continued to search while the tablet’s
battery was charged.
Oh, that’s sad, she said.
What? we all chorused.
Lionel amassed gambling debts, dropped out of university and went
What? said Ginevra.
It’s a place in Thailand, Dru elucidated. I’ve just called up his obituary.
He seems to have developed a drug habit and died in his early thirties.
His mother must have passed away by then as it only gives Peregrine as
kin. It says an estranged brother was resident in Vancouver. The boys
were designated ‘of Wyvern Mote’, before its gifting to The National Trust.
I wonder if Peregrine is alive? I ventured.
Apparently not. There is a eulogy to him in his old school magazine,
under ‘Old Boys’ which says that he perished in a ski-ing accident and
left no issue.
So, how was Anthony able to remain in the stable block apartment for
life? I mean, the family had revoked any right to ‘demesne’, I think it’s
called, I enquired.
Their mother must have arranged a codicil or something which gave him
the privilege, in recognition of his outstanding services as a tutor, said
And all I ever got was someone’s mother’s bath oil from the previous
year, I protested.
Well, that’s one more votive offering than I ever got, replied Dru.
But anyway, one should beware of cretins bearing gifts.
Cretans, I corrected. Honestly, my daughter’s Classical Education
leaves a lot to be desired. She only did Class Civ. It’s as well Gus
didn’t hear her.
Actually, if my memory serves me right, it is timeo Danaos et dona
So, that would be a warning against Greeks. The Cretan admonition is
about lying, I think.
Mum! Are you paying attention? Dru brought me back to earth.
Yes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, nodded Ginevra sagely.
Not even a free drink!
And she looked somewhat downcast at this reflection.
I’d better go, said Dru. I’ve got such a backlog of marking to deal
with before Monday morning. Dad’s floated away, but mine is very
present and unless I hide in a Trojan Horse, or a priest hole, the girls will
be after me first thing to know if they have got stars on their A’s.
We used to have stars in our eyes, said Ginevra. Now they only have
them on a piece of paper. How sad.
And we all agreed.
I was so pleased that Dru HAD got the Classical reference after all.
Thanks, guys, she said as she rushed off. I appreciated the hospitality.
I bet Anthony Revelly appreciated his too. Only he had it for a good few
years longer and the accommodation did seem to be rent-free, lucky man.
I wonder who is paying his nursing home fees? Probably you and I, if he
has no savings. Some people do get free lunches! But it is never likely to be
Dru or myself. We just get snarled up in bureaucracy like poor old Laocoon
and his snakes, so it isn’t worth the struggle.