Neil Pickford’s mind roams freely.
Liberated as I was by last week’s epistle in which I allowed speculation to enter the hallowed columns of the Beverley Advertiser, I appear to have unleashed a flood of fantasy. Borne on this tide I can only float where folly takes me.
I’ve always been drawn to the space behind the high altar – some call it the retro-quire or Lady Chapel but it’s had a variety of names and functions over the centuries. It was originally the area where very, very special (i.e. rich and powerful) people could get up close and personal to the remains of St John.
The box containing his relics was on the platform above and, underneath, were three little chapels where the favoured individuals could spend quality time pleading almost directly into God’s ear (as they believed) for the miracle of their choice. The carvings in this area are incredibly fine and wonderful, as befits the rank of society who were coming here. But that’s not my focus.
Virtually all our mediaeval glass is in the giant east window overlooking this site: the blue bits are surviving fragments from 13th century coloured glasses in the nave that were blown in during incredible storms in 1606 and 1607, then patched into the damaged 14th century window. The colours are still rich and vibrant; putting to shame much of the relatively recent Victorian glass in the rest of the church. But that’s not my focus either.
It’s at ground level where my little fancy is taking shape. In the floor are many inset metal squares with single letters impressed therein. When asked, we inform visitors that these mark the spots where the remains of various members of the Warton and Pennyman family were interred during the 18th and 19th centuries.
There’s a lot of supporting evidence for this claim: around the adjacent walls are various elaborate memorials to members of the extended Warton family, from the first Sir Michael (“of Beverley Parks”) – died 1725 – to Jane Elizabeth Warton who died in 1918.
It became virtually the private chapel or mausoleum of the Wartons in this period because, in the 1700s, it was the wealth of Sir Michael that saved the Minster from total collapse. In effect he underwrote the costs of restoring the walls, roof and structural integrity of the whole building after it came within months of catastrophic failure.
It was, as modern jargon has it, ‘A Big Give’ and, not surprisingly, the church responded by giving special privileges to the family over subsequent generations – i.e. first dibs under the floor in the Lady Chapel.
They’re no longer there, by the way. Back in the dying days of Victoriana all the bodies in the Minster were exhumed and reburied where there wouldn’t be a risk of spreading diseases into the public water supply, but their little identifying metal tags were left behind.
OR SO ‘THEY’ WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE.
You know ‘They’. The mysterious and secret ‘They’ that rule the world on behalf of whatever conspiracy theory your mind accepts. I personally believe that these seemingly random letters are, in fact, a secret message; an essential link for a worldwide conspiracy that is even bigger than the Da Vinci Code, and twice as lucrative. And ‘They’ keep trying to stop me deciphering it. ‘They’ send mind waves to stop me even thinking about it, which I have to fight to bring it back into focus
You don’t believe me? Well, just consider this. Every single time when I’ve finally fought their mental powers and remembered to bring a pen and notepad with me, ready to record the letters, the telephone rings or someone interrupts me with a query. EVERY SINGLE TIME!
Now, is that spooky, or what?
By the way: If I should mysteriously disappear you will find my archive of previous piffle here at www.vestryview.wordpress.com. Study it well – I have scattered various clues throughout that reveal the truths ‘They’ don’t want you to know. But be careful, alright?