I’ve just bought a sword, as one does.
I’ve always had a yen for one, and over the last few years have left a number of bids at Gorringe’s, our local auction house in Lewes, to no avail: but at last I got one. Having Googled it, I discovered that it is an Infantry Officer’s Sword, dating c 1895-7. Its handle is pretty corroded, it has no serial number, maker’s mark or owner’s name (which explains why I could afford it) but I don’t care: I’m hugely pleased.
I know that an enthusiasm for steam trains is seen as a more appropriately clerical pursuit, but maybe an interest in swords speaks more to my inner Lord of the Rings/Game of Thrones Geek.
Mind you, it might be something in the local water. Anyone looking at Little Horsted today will see a delightful hamlet of some 200 souls with a 14th century church and breath taking views across the South Downs: in the 16th century, though, it was a centre of the international arms trade.
John Levett, a resident of Little Horsted in the 1530’s, was a pioneer of the Wealden iron smelting industry: when he died in 1535, he left his "Iron mylles and furnesses" to his brother John, who happened to be Vicar of Buxted.
“Parson Levett”, as the Privy Council called him, rapidly and unexpectedly developed into a major armaments entrepreneur, and by 1543 was the main supplier of cast iron cannons to King Henry VIII - all the while faithfully nurturing his flock as a country Parson.
No contradiction in vocation appears to have crossed the serenity of his mind.
Our faith can’t just be an interior spirituality: it must have a practical impact on how we live our lives, on how we relate to and care for the people and world around us.
Or, as James 2:26 puts it “ For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”
I wonder what Parson Levett made of these words?
Love, Fr. John
July Nature Notes
Martyn is undertaking the Camino de Santiago – the Way of St. James – and understandably is not in a position to write any July Nature Notes. I think it is more than probable that the weather would have featured in his monthly comments. .A few days before the D-Day, seventy-five years ago, a violent thunder storm resulted in torrents of flood water cascading down from the Moors and caused untold flood damage to the village of Holmfirth (better known to most of us as the setting for “Last of the Summer Wine”). Roads were ripped apart, bridges were swept away, houses and shops flooded and damaged, the dairy and mill partially destroyed, many families made homeless and three people killed. It became known as the “Forgotten Flood” because news of the flood, along with any weather forecast details, was censored during the preparations for D-Day. Certainly the weather during June was as unpredictable as ever – ‘cool breezes heavy showers possibly thundery in places’ still featured in weather forecasts towards the end of the month. Martyn would have had to contend with some of the effects of “Storm Miguel” as it tore across the northern parts of Spain, and I wonder whether he has been able to witness the nests made by storks. These birds are very adept at building nests in the most precarious of places i.e. on top of street lights and telephone poles, and in the recent violent storms many had their nest completely destroyed. However, they are resilient creatures and would have carried out rebuilding as soon as the storm had passed.
According to the Butterfly Conservation after the succession of poor weather years saw the number of butterflies bounce back to near record levels in 2018 and the mild sunny weather in early spring this year has seen some exotic butterflies and moths from the continent getting themselves established in Britain. Not such a good situation for the swallows and house martins. These migratory birds have declined significantly in numbers over recent decades. They have had to contend with huge variations in weather conditions in (southern) Africa causing a vast loss of their normal food supply of insects. The nightingale has also had problems with which to contend not caused by the impact of man and climate change, but the increased deer population commandeering their habitat and munching their way through the nightingale’s foraging and nesting areas.
If Martyn had departed his house in Casteljaloux in mid May, and assuming that nothing untoward had affected his progress, he should now be close to Santiago de Compostela. “Santiago” is Spanish for Saint James – know as Saint James the Greater one of Jesus’ first Apostles. St. James travelled to Galicia (northern Spain) in an effort to spread Christianity, and according to legend returned in AD44 to Jerusalem with two converts. It was not a happy return because the King – Herod Agrippa – had him captured and executed, and then denied permission for him to be buried in Jerusalem. His two Spanish disciples became so concerned that they engineered to have his body stolen and then undertook a perilous return boat journey to Galicia. They came ashore some distance up stream of the estuary of the Rio Ulla at (what is now called) Padron – supposedly named after the rock that enclosed the remains of the Apostle James. Now fast wind on to the 9th Century and King Alfonso II had become so impressed by the missionary work of James that he declared that Saint James will be the patron of the Spanish empire. To commemorate the event King Alfonso commissioned the building of a chapel and that place became know as Campus Stellae (Field of Stars),which morphised into ‘Compostela’, hence Santiago de Compostela. I look forward to reading about Martyn’s travels along the “Way of Saint James”.
Church Times - Diary February 2019
I’ve just experienced the longest Sunday Morning Service I’ve ever been to. I was on my usual post Christmas break in Barbados (the tourist police still haven’t caught up with me yet to say that vicars aren’t allowed in the Caribbean, which is a sneaking feeling I get every time I go) and I was in St James, one of the historic Anglican Parish churches on the island. It was the Parish Eucharist with the Baptism of four babies. Two & a half hours it took , including an edifying sermon a smidgeon under 35 minutes. A number of obvious visitors melted away, but the regular congregation took it breezily in their stride. I was impressed. If I tried the same approach in my own Parishes, there would be restlessness at the hour and twenty mark, with an intervention by church officials armed with Churchwardens’ staves at the hour and a half. Mind you, one morning in a spirit of mischief I might be tempted to have a go…..
Barbados is actually a hugely religious island. There are supposedly some 300 churches of assorted denominations dotted around the countryside, as numerous as the Rum Shops. Well, almost. That works out staggeringly as a church per 1000 residents, which puts our church numbers in the shade. As well as the main Anglican parishes (which are the chief administrative units on the island) there are Methodists, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists and pretty much any grouping you can think of. I remember being rather taken with a jaunty little pink hut that called itself the “Little Jerusalem Deliverance Center”- the spelling suggesting it’s American origin, I suspect.
But the presence of the churches is not just physical buildings, but everywhere. One day, a van cut in front of me; it’s back doors were decorated with the sentences “Jesus is coming. Are you ready?”, which took me by surprise. Similarly a number of bus stops have been adopted by church groups who have inscribed “Be still and know that I am God”, which on reflection is a splendid thought for people compelled to sit and wait in bus queues.
All the bells were purchased from the Whitechapel foundry of William Mears and bear the company’s name, the date 1779, and inscriptions.
Church Clock Restored – 10th November 2011.
|4th Jul 2011||
Five months after the Clock was removed (on the 4th July 2011) for cleaning and overhauling, the mechanism was reinstated, and together with the repainted, and re-gilded, clock faces the town has its landmark timepiece back in action.
|12th Nov 2011|
The clock was made in 1883 and although on the clock’s ‘setting dial’ it bears the name of a local man and the word Uckfield, it was, in fact, made by Thwaites and Reed of Clerkenwell in London. It is typical of their design at that time and very similar to their clock in the Knightsbridge Barracks in London. The clock features dials that are unusually placed, being on the out-built mountings on the four sides of the spire. Likewise the clock itself is also unusually mounted because it is above the bell-frame in the belfry and on a level with the base of the spire.