This afternoon we all (minus Sara, Adrian and Bob) took a trip to Burford, Gateway to the Costwolds, with Genevieve Hawkins. Genevieve, you should know, has been part of the Shimer in Oxford Program for almost as long as the program's existence. She started tutoring Shimer students in French in 1973, and has had tutees on pretty much every one of Shimer's trips to Oxford since then, including two this term - Katy and Eugene. She also has a penchant for parish churches. In fact, she's on a quest to visit a thousand of them in England. She's currently up to 953. So I asked her if she would take us to one of her favorites and she very graciously obliged.
Our trip didn't add to Gen's tally, but she chose well in taking us to see Burford's Church of St. John the Baptist. It bears revisiting. It's one of those places (of which Oxfordshire has more than its share) where historical time gets foreshortened, in which the long, complex past becomes intimately vivid. The stones speak: on the baptismal font there's a bold graffito scratched in by "ANTHONY SEDLEY 1649 PRISNER" (yes, his spelling was thus, and his Ns were backward). Sedley was a "Leveler," a democratically-minded member of the republican forces of Cromwell's New Model Army who refused marching orders against the Irish. As a result, he and a small party of others were locked into St. John the Baptist to await their fate only months after King Charles I had lost his head to Cromwell and Parliament. Sedley reportedly watched from the roof as three fellow prisoners were executed in the churchyard. In fact, the church's stones seemed to bear a litany of dark moments, including this one further on in our tour:
But all in all, Burford has been just as prosperous and peaceable as any town its size, if not more so. It did a rich trade in wool and was at the center of hiving quarries of the golden Cotswold stone that built much of Oxford and the surrounding towns. Now it keeps up appearances mainly through the bursting tea and knickknack shops along its steep High Street, lined mostly with upscale medieval houses that give the whole place a charmingly diminutive stateliness. Burford is also an old center of Quaker worship; past resident Friends include the forebears of John Hancock (he of the Declaration) as well as Genevieve's uncle. The latter was an antiques dealer, and donated more than one of the items in the fascinating collection to be found in the local history museum to which we went following our tour of St. John's. But - enough of me nattering - here are some more pics of the day.
Genevieve and Ari at the tomb of Sir and Lady Tanfield.