May 2014


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Baddesley Clinton , is a moated manor house, located just north  of Warwick ; the house was probably established during the 13th century when large areas of the Forest of Arden were cleared and eventually converted to farmland. The site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the Hall is a Grade I listed building.

 

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In 1438, John Brome, Under-Treasurer of England, bought the manor, which passed to his son, Nicholas. Nicholas was responsible for the extensive rebuilding of the nearby parish church dedicated to Saint Michael, done as penance for killing the parish priest, a murder reputed to have taken place in the great house itself. The house from this period was equipped with gun-ports, and possibly a drawbridge. When Nicholas Brome died in 1517, the house passed to his daughter, who married Sir Edward Ferrers, High Sheriff of Warwickshire, in 1500. The house remained in the ownership of the Ferrers family until 1940 when it was purchased by Thomas Walker, a relative of the family who changed his name to Ferrers. His son, who inherited it in 1970, sold the estate in 1980 to the National Trust, who now manage it.

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Henry Ferrers “The Antiquary” (1549–1633) made many additions to Baddesley Clinton, including starting the tradition of stained glass representing the family’s coat of arms. Such glass now appears in many of the public rooms in the house. It is thought that he was responsible for building the great hall. In the 18th century the great hall was rebuilt in brick, and the east range was extended, though with great care to continue the style of the original building.

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The house was inhabited in the 1860s by the novelists Lady Chatterton and her second husband Edward Heneage Dering, both of whom converted to Catholicism. The house’s Catholic chapel was rebuilt, along with a general refurbishment of the house. Major interior changes took place up until the 1940s, with the first floor outside the chapel being completely altered. The house as it now exists has extensive formal gardens and ponds, with many of the farm buildings dating back to the 18th century. St. Michael’s church, which shares much history with the house is just a few hundred yards up a lane. Inside the house are a beautiful great hall, parlour and library, amongst other rooms, and there is a great deal of 16th century carving and furniture to be seen, as well as the 19th century accessories the later inhabitants used.

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I started my blogging life in 2008 partly as a way of capturing my experience of a sabbatical in America. In the spring of that year I spent a month in Washington DC followed by three months in Chicago. It was a rejuvenating and very significant time. I managed to get over to Washington for the annual American Society of Ageing conference and here is my blog from that day.

I kept the rather incidental comments about  the conference and meeting up  with an old friend as a way into  the profound effect that  this extraordinary woman had  on  me and hundreds of other people  gathered in that enormous ballroom.  What a legacy she has left ..

Picture the scene. 3,600 delegates crammed into the Ball Room of a Washington Hotel listening to a choir of ‘seniors’ as they call them over here. I am feeling the after effects of too little sleep and some jet lag having just flown from London yesterday. It is the Aging in America conference and the start of a sabbatical. I’m findng hard to unwind from work and home but the conference programme is 269 pages long and only covers four days!

I have already been taken on a journey through the demographic time bomb of China by a group of academics and bump into an old friend from Princeton Theological Seminary. We met eight or nine years ago and she still remembers Temple Balsall and the lunch I cooked all that time age ago. Abigal Evans is Professor of Practical Theology and we share an interest in health, ethics and death! Despite the queue lunch was good! I firmly resisted chips!

The first day ended with the most extraordinary reflection from Maya Angelou – she sat in a chair – and without a note talked about her life and especially the meanings and humour of ageing. Moving – tender – rich – honest – wise and deeply spiritual. Her love has been carved out of the rock of pain, rejection and deep oppression. She showed 3 600 people how to laugh at themselves and how important was the work of presence with older people. She reminded us of how badly we can treat older people but above all of the power and virtue of courage.

We listened to her poetry and she asked us to change the world through our influence. Her smile and eyes will remain in my memory for a very long time.

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a tree telling of Orpheus

 

he spoke, and as no tree listens I listened, and language
came into my roots out of the earth, into my bark
out of the air, into the pores of my greenest shoots
gently as dew and there was no word he sang but I knew its meaning.
He told me of journeys, of where sun and moon go while we stand in dark, of an earth-journey he dreamed he would take some day deeper than roots …
He told of the dreams of man, wars, passions, griefs,
and I, a tree, understood words – ah, it seemed
my thick bark would split like a sapling’s that grew too fast in the spring when a late frost wounds it.

Fire he sang, that trees fear, and I, a tree, rejoiced in its flames.
New buds broke forth from me though it was full summer.
As though his lyre (now I knew its name) were both frost and fire, its chords flamed up to the crown of me.
I was seed again. I was fern in the swamp. I was coal.

 

Denise Levertov

 From todays Church Times

James Woodward on the costs of trying to avoid the inevitable

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Should We Live Forever? The ethical ambiguities of aging
Gilbert Meilaender
Eerdmans £11.99
HUMAN beings generally desire life. Most of us are grateful for the good gift that is our life. Like other animals, we pass through a life-cycle from birth to maturity and then towards death. Every human society is organised to manage the changing desires associated with this life-cycle, which passes through distinct stages such as infancy, juvenility, adolescence, adulthood, and oldage.

The subject for this short, engaging, and wise book is the specific dimension of the stage of old age, and how we need to think about the particular shape and point of growing old. In six chapters, we are taken on a journey of exploration into a deeper and more reflective meaning of ageing.

The organising question that Meilaender asks us to consider is the nature of the desire to live and stay healthy and active longer. It is perhaps natural to want to postpone death and extend life. After all, life is a pretty good gift, and we do not want it to end. He affirms the desire for life, but he also points out serious concerns with our desire to live for ever.

We are asked to consider the nature of human life, the relationship between generations, and how the life-extension project may have arisen out of the old understanding of the soul as good and the body as evil.

Meilaender does not reject the rewards of medicine in the extending of life, but reminds us that there are costs; and that is the crux of the dilemma. By seeking more life, we change what a human life is, and inevitably lose aspects that make it desirable.

The book engages in theological wisdom and applies it. While it sympathises with our love of life, the ultimate hope is not for life extension but life divine. This is why the qualitatively different life for which Christian believers have hoped has not been thought to be in any sense simply an extension of this life – or the product of human ingenuity. We understand life (and age) as the gift of God, a new creation. It means being drawn into the life shared by Father, Son, and Spirit.

It follows that the key to our understanding of old age lies in a grasp of human life, in all its limits and vulnerability, which can remain open to the divine life, and within which we can begin to see the power and meaning of the virtue of hope. This is a core task of our narration of old age, with its extraordinary power for transformation and wisdom.

The Churches have yet to seriously face their own fear of age and the consequent (and sometimes shocking) ageism. This is a book that readers will find a thoughtful, careful and creatively theological study of the ethical issues that surrounds ageing and our desire to postpone death.

The Revd Dr James Woodward is a Canon of Windsor and author of Valuing Age (SPCK, 2008).

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DSC08987Tredegar House is a 17th-century Charles II country house mansion in the city of Newport that for over five hundred years was home to the Morgan family, later Lords Tredegar; one of the most powerful and influential families in the area. Described as “The grandest and most exuberant country house” in Monmouthshire and one of the “outstanding houses of the Restoration period in the whole of Britain”.

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The earliest surviving part of the building dates back to the late 15th century. The house was originally built of stone and was very grand indeed, grand enough for Charles I to visit. Between 1664 and 1672, however, William Morgan decided to rebuild the house on a larger scale from red brick, at that time a rare building material in Wales. The name of Inigo Jones has been linked with the building – but this not confirmed by sources, and it seems we will never know who the architect was. In his 1882 publication, local historian Octavius Morgan provides a plan of an intricate garden maze which was in place prior to the 1660s improvements and which probably dated from the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

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Tredegar’s name came from Tredegar Fawr, the name of the mansion or seat of the old Morgans, who were descended from Cadifor the Great the son of Collwyn; and the owners of the land upon which Tredegar stands. The earliest record of someone with the name Morgan living at Tredegar is 1402: a Llewellyn Ap Morgan. Today Tredegar House, set in a beautiful 90 acre park, is the finest Restoration house in Wales and for over five hundred years the estate (including Ruperra Castle) was home to the Morgan family, later Lords Tredegar; one of the most powerful and influential families in the area.

John Morgan was created a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre (possibly c.1448). Later, when Henry Tudor was crowned King Henry VII it was of great benefit to the Morgans of Tredegar who were great supporters of Henry. Sir John received reward for his early support, and on 7 November 1485 he was appointed by the new king to the office of ‘Sheriff of Wentloog and Newport’ and made ‘Steward’ of the Machen Commote. His elevation to officer of the Tudor crown placed Sir John Morgan’s influence and power at a new height. Around 1490, he commissioned the building of a new house at Tredegar. A wing of Sir John’s stone manor house still exists. It is now the oldest part of the present day Tredegar House.

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A cadet branch of the ‘Tredegar Morgans’, probably nephews of Sir Thomas Morgan, included three brothers, Thomas, Robert and Edward. Thomas became Major-General Sir Thomas Morgan, 1st Baronet(1604–79), served in the Commonwealth forces during the English Civil War 1642-9, was made Governor of Gloucester in 1645, fought in Flanders, was wounded and in 1661 retired to his estate at Kynnersley, Hertfordshire. Recalled in 1665 to become Governor of Jersey, he died at St Helier in April 1679. Married on 10 September 1632, he had nine sons, of whom the eldest, Sir John Morgan followed in his father profession. Robert Morgan, (born circa 1615) became a farmer in Llanrhymny, known today as Rhymney three miles from Tredegar, and was father of Henry Morgan (who would have a successful career in the Caribbean as a privateer, and pirate). Edward Morgan became Colonel Edward Morgan (born circa 1616 – Colonel after 1665), a Royalist during English Civil War 1642-49 and Captain General of the Kings forces in South Wales. After the King’s arrest and execution, he fled to the continent and married Anna Petronilla the daughter of Baron von Pöllnitz from Westphalia (Governor of Lippstadt, 20 miles east of Dortmund in Germany). They had six children, two sons and four daughters (including Anna Petronilla and Johanna). He was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica 1664-65.

During the civil war after the Battle of Naseby, King Charles I visited Tredegar House in 1645. In 1661 William Morgan (d.1680) rebuilt the house on a very grand scale, with the help of the huge dowry of his wife, Blanche Morgan. Their fortunes continued to flourish down the generations, tremendously enhanced by the foresight and business enterprises of Sir Charles Gould throughout the 18th century. Following his father’s financial successes, his son further expanded several commercial and industrial projects, and virtually established Newport as an important trade centre. Whilst consolidating their influence on the political and economic issues of the country, they secured a baronetcy in 1859.

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In 1854, Godfrey Morgan fought in, and survived, the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. Godfrey was 22 and Captain in the 17th Lancers. His steed, Sir Briggs, also survived and lived at Tredegar House until the horse’s death at the age of 28. The horse was buried with full military honours in the Cedar Garden at Tredegar House. The monument still stands there today. In 1905 Godfrey was created the first Viscount Tredegar. He never married and on his death the estate passed to a relation. In 1920, the Tredegar Park Polo Club was founded at Tredegar House.

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Later, extravagance, eccentricities, and weighty death duties seriously depleted the family’s financial assets throughout the next three generations. John Morgan, 6th Baron Tredegar died childless in 1962 aged 54. His death signalled the end of the Morgans of Tredegar. In 1951, Tredegar House was stripped, the remaining contents were auctioned, and the estate was sold.

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In December 2011 the National Trust signed an agreement with Newport City Council to take on the management of the building, as well as the 90 acres of gardens and parkland, on a 50-year lease from 2012. The Trust said that Tredegar House was of “great importance” as many similar properties had been lost in the past 100 years.The new arrangement allowed regular open access to the House.

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The moon is a sow
and grunts in my throat
Her great shining shines through me
so the mud of my hollow gleams
and breaks in silver bubbles

She is a sow
and I a pig and a poet

When she opens her white
lips to devour me I bite back
and laughter rocks the moon.

 

from Denise Levertov, Song for Ishtar

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Praises

 

I praise those things I always take for granted:-

The tap my sister turns on for my bath

Every time I stay, the safety pin –

And who invented it? I do not know –

The comb, the piece of soap, a shoe, its shine,

The name tape and the string, a leather purse –

How they all flock as I recall them now,

And Now I also praise with all its holds

Of nudges, hand-shakes, playing trains with children.

There is no end until I’m tired and think

Of craftsmen everywhere … O I forgot,

Cushions, napkins, stoves and cubes of ice.

All the world is praise or else is war.

Tonight the moon is almost half in shape,

‘Tomorrow will be hot’ say weathermen.

I praise the yawning kind of sleep that’s coming,

And where the spirit goes, the sheet, the pillow …

 

Elizabeth Jennings

 

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