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Thursday, 14 July 2016

Looking through the key hole.

If you squint through a key hole you get a partial view of the room on the other side of the door.It is by no means the whole story - its distorted by the angle you are obliged to look at it.
I felt a bit like that yesterday.
So, I and the saxophonist are at Aldeburgh, sitting on the shingle ,eating fish and chips  .He takes a swig of cloudy lemonade and gazes out at the boats and yachts bobbing past."Bramfield has a detached tower,a medieval wall painting and a fifteenth century rood screen with original paint and decoration on it"he says.
He is talking about an ancient church and he has done the research.
I am impressed but he need not know that.
"ah"I say "but does it have an alabaster or marble monument of someone".
"Yep" he says screwing up his empty fish and chip papers.
Now he knows and I know that I am as much a sucker for all these features as he is.He also knows that monuments are an especial favourite with me.
I grin from ear to ear,he grins back (the saxophonist finds enthusiasm attractive ).We pick up our belongings and the remains of lunch and sprint back up the shingle.A black headed gull cheers us on.

There is a detached tower and a ghostly wall painting they have uncovered. The rood screen does indeed have the rich dark green,red and blue they painted on in the 15th century.All are glorious.What a treat.

I sit on the alter steps of the silent and empty church looking at the life size monument. A woman in farthingale and ruff holding a predeceased baby in swaddling bands.Impressive and melancholy it is too.
I glance down.
There are some gravestones flat on the floor. Unusual in their detail.

Angela: "Want to know the story?"

You: "Go on then."

Three related stones .
First, the father.Mr Nelson,gentleman. Accomplished but missed out on preferment at court through his reticence.
Second,the husband .Arthur Applewhait .Bayliffe and "favourite" to five named plus later unnamed owners of Hevingham Hall.Died aged 39 and left no will on his fathers instruction "thus leaving his elder brother and his wife" (from whom all the money came by the way )"to engage in a chancery suit"
Third,the wife.Her story is best told by your reading the stone word for word.Here it is.

Here lies the body of Bridgett Applewhait
Once Bridgett Nelson.
After the fatigues of a married life,
Born with her Incredible Patience,
For Four Years and three quarters baring three Weeks:
And after the Enjoyment of Glorious Freedom
of an easy and unblemished widowhood,
For Four years and Upwards,
she resolved to run the risk of a second marriage-bed
but death forbad the banns -
and having an Apoplectick Dart,
(The same instrument with which he had Formerly
Dispatched her Mother)
Touch't the most vital part of her brain;
She must have fallen Directly to the ground,(as one Thunder strook,)
If she had not been catch't and supported
by her intended husband.
Of which invisilble bruise,
After a struggle for above Sixty Hours,
with that grand enemy to life,( but the certain and merciful friend to helpless old age,)
In Terrible Convulsions plaintive Groans or stupifying sleep
without recovery of her speech or Senses,
She Dyed on the 12th day of Sep in year of our lord 1737 and of her own Age 44

Well ,what are we to make of that.
Was father weak and spoiled her?Was Father a really good Dad?
When did mum die of an Apopletick Dart"?In Bridgett's childhood or later? Did Bridgett think/know she might go the same way?
She had money and married someone without,is this relevant?
Her husband was not just doing the bayliffes job but was a perpetual "Favourite" .What do we make of that?
Why such a high turnover of owners of the hall?
What of the will and the father in laws instruction?
Also what do we make of the strange way her widow hood is described ?

Sorry,is your back giving out from bending over all this while ,peering into the keyhole?

I would love to know your interpretation of this shadowy soap opera.

If it helps you can look at the church at:


  1. Angela, although many words bearing information have been carved into the stone, I agree that many facts are unexplained. Who wrote those words and had them carved? I'd like to think that Bridgett did have some enjoyable years, particularly during her widowhood. It's likely that she did fear dying in the same way as her mother, whether because of a doctor's words, warning messages from relatives or just premonitions.

    Some of the key words in the inscription are not easily understood, as you wrote. Perhaps "perpetual Favourite" was once a common description? It is tempting to overlay contemporary thoughts about marriage, inheritance, happiness and women's lives on to the story behind the description.

    Somehow, I think it is even more interesting to hold on to your metaphor of the keyhole. Mysteries are intriguing.

    Back to weather. As I was reading this post and typing my comment, we were treated to a very dramatic late afternoon thunderstorm. Now, as I raise my eyes from the laptop screen, I notice the sun has returned and the sidewalks are dry.

    Best wishes.

    1. You have a "very measured tread"as these people might have said.
      Incidentally,would it be possible to have the pickle recipe you mentioned in previous "comments".Also what do you like to pair it with?
      I think(not necessarily with this recipe)that recipes from the US are sometimes more authentic than some UK ones.Recipes here transmute over the years but if they travelled over with settlers stay true as people wanted to keep and pass down what was for them (then at least)a taste of home.

    2. This is not really a recipe, but this is how I made the pickles. I poured several tablespoons of rice vinegar into a little bowl, added some sugar, a bit of salt, some dill seeds and some black sesame seeds. Stir the mixture up until the sugar dissolves.

      I used one kirby (seedless) cucumber. I gave it a good wash and sliced it thinly. No need to peel it. Put the slices in a
      bowl and pour the vinegar mixture over the top. Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for an hour or so.

      Your tasting will help you to know how much sugar and salt to use. I just eat the slices as snacks on hot summer days. You can always add another sliced kirby to the bowl if there is "leftover" vinegar mixture left after you've gobbled down the kirby slices. All very simple to do.

  2. I found you! Yay! Looking forward to getting to know you through your blog.

  3. Right now, I am almost more intrigued by you having removed your own replies to Frances' and Birdie's comments than by the words on the stone!
    I don't think you have known my blog long enough to have read this post, which I wrote based on a tombstone in my hometown's oldest cemetery.

  4. I don't know why but I am thinking that the apopletick dart was a stroke or a brain haemorrhage. There's a certain unhealthy obsessiveness with the moment in these inscriptions... as if the stone mason's customer was unable to get things in proper perspective. In the end, life's tittle tattle doesn't really matter.

  5. What an intriguing post - and a fascinating but mysterious inscription. I agree with Yorkshire (above) in that the apopletick dart was a stroke.

    I would have to ponder this mystery much longer in order to establish a rational interpretation.