Sometimes information jumps out of a page and makes your heart skip. Information that you never thought would come out of a regular document and hit a note with you. As regular readers know, I love capturing history, being close and personal to buildings with incredible architecture, and standing near last resting places of people whose historical lives are well read and inspiring. As I read a document at work, the words of "the final resting place of Oliver Cromwell's wife, Elizabeth, are buried here" jumped out at me and I knew I had to arrange to see this. It took a while for me to continue reading the remaining pages. So, are you ready for a history lesson and some visual proof of where she lays? ... and an incredible look at where a certain Queen lost her head towards the end of this post? Well, let me take you by the hand and let's start our journey through history...
Oliver Cromwell, The Lord Protector, used to visit his daughter Elizabeth and son in law, John Claypole, at Northborough Manor for his Christmas. After Oliver's death in 1659, John Claypole provided shelter for his mother in Law, also named Elizabeth, until she died in 1665. She was buried at St Andrews Church in Northborough, which is just across the road to the Manor (currently for sale and if you have £1.5 million to spare, the link to this amazing Manor is here). St Andrew's Church was originally erected at the end of the 12 century and measured around 22 feet square with a lofty double bell-cote which is one of the only three surviving local churches with this feature (others at Peakirk and Werrington). The original Norman West Wall can be seen both inside and outside the building and the church has had additions throughout the centuries with the South Porch added in Tudor times and the two bells, the treble bell dated 1611 and the tenor bell c. 1360.
Once inside, we were taken to Elizabeth's stone that marks her tomb, which is in the centre of the floor of the Chantry. Its words worn away over time but a feast to our eyes that a few letters were still visible such as the two 'l's' for I presume 'Cromwell'.
Her slab is set into the walkway, and obviously so many people over the years have walked over her not realising her importance to such a notable man of British history. However, this is what I love about the tactile side of history and rediscovering things that are just the ordinary to others.
Above the plaque to Elizabeth Cromwell are two wall Canopies of Caen stone with pedestals beneath which may have been for statues. The Canopies were used as a design for the Choir Stalls in Peterborough Cathedral.
Also within the Chantry against the wall is the tomb of Martha Claypole, the grandaughter of Oliver and Elizabeth Cromwell (interesting document on the Claypoles here). The church has monuments to the Claypole family who were passed the Manor of Northborough through James Claypole (Cleypole) who bought this for the sum of £500. The estate was passed down the line of the family through the years and eventually most of the family emigrated to America and many Claypool or Claypoole's living in America today are descended from James Claypole. Cornelius and Reginald Vanderbilt were descendants of Alice Claypoole and Reginald married Gloria Morgan and their daughter was Gloria Vanderbilt.
One of the churchwardens that were kindly giving us this tour was also the organist, so we were treated to admiring the rare organ that was built by John Avery in 1783. 1783!! This was obtained for the Church from Apethorpe Hall which is in the vicinity.
Looking up (as I do) the wood above us, so old, so telling, the heads that it has protected over the centuries.
A beautiful and friendly church with two churchwardens who were incredibly knowledgeable and patient with us and our thirst for history.
Outside and more history lover treasures... the gravestones of some of the family of the poet John Clare. Clare was a troubled poet who eventually died in an asylum. He was born in nearby Helpston and his wife, Martha (Patty), is buried here, who died accidentally in a house fire.
AND NOW... after lunch in Stamford at the London Inn (very apt for me!), a nice surprise of a drive to Fotheringhay... the place where Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded!!
It would be very easy to miss, and we did at first, but if you ever go to the village, as you approach the bridge over the river, look to your right and you will see a mound. Park up in the village and then it will be a little walk to this site that was Fotheringhay Castle.
Only this mound remains of the castle grounds along with the earthworks and some protected masonry which is a monument to the execution of Mary. More information is written here which is fascinating. Stone from the Castle was used to build The Talbot Inn in Oundle.
I always find it heartwarming when a monument still has people leaving flowers and this place, desolate, peaceful next to the River Nene was incredibly atmospheric.
This masonry, marking a specific spot, somewhere that history lovers read about, a significant moment in history. Mind blowing, incredible, tactile. A quiet atmospheric place. The extraordinary in the ordinary.
The memorial showing just how deep the walls were to this Castle/Prison.
Imagining her last moments before she gave her life.
This beautiful, tranquil place, the River Nene lapping against the bridge...
Fotheringhay Church beginning to reflect the impending sunset...
The landscape so calming and incredible.
A beautiful and inspiring place and one that was just perfect to watch the sunset take place before our eyes and reflect on the day and the history we had seen and experienced.
A wonderful, wonderful day, and gone far too quickly!!
I hope that you have enjoyed this history lesson as much as I did capturing the moments and writing them for you.
Have a wonderful weekend and week ahead dear Readers.