Night B4 3, St Mary’s

The 3rd block of Night Before Christmas is completed.

I’ve had a companion while I’ve had to sit still hand sewing.
Still these little elves are now sewn.

But let me show you St Mary’s Church, Witney, Oxfordshire. Nice pics in link.
More can be found out about Witney here.
See the plane by the spire? I think Brize Norton flight path has changed a little since I was last here. During WW2 a plane crashed into it and the top was rebuilt.
There is a fair bit in this link about Witney too.
Click to read.
Alms Houses to the left. This is where the poor of the parish could live. They date from the times where the parish you were born in was responsible for keeping you if you were unable to work for your own living. I have read a record of a homeless woman heavily in labour who was forced to walk in the snow over the parish boundary so her child would be born in the neighbouring parish and be their responsibility. This all came to light when the neighbouring parish took the other parish to court about it. Not to complain about the inhumane treatment but to get back monies which had had to be spent on the woman and baby!
So lets have a look at the building itself. Many gargoyles and faces as was the fashion in 1243AD.
This door was the perfect size for me as a child.
Witney town got rich because of wool. Cotswold sheep wool was very valuable so like Burford the merchants put their money towards building the best church in the area. The taller the steeple the more prestige to them. (Oh and God of course.)
When I see carved faces I wonder if the mason was carving from life or just a set person.
This one is wearing a crown possibly.
There is a big house to the right of the church so I can only show this side in 3 pics LEFT
The graveyard lies behind the church.
See how the graves are a mix of styles not just just headstones.
I like how there was a fashion for such things.
But now I will share the story like my Grandmother told it to me. I have asked a historian about it and was poo pooed. There is nothing about it in the church literature so I just thought it was a story. Since finding out that my Grandmother’s ancestors were baptised in Burford church 7 miles away from Witney as far back as 1122AD I wonder if there could be something in it. So here goes and I’ll let you decide for yourselves.

Picture the scene Medieval Witney 1243AD the church is completed and a celebration is held on The Leys (lea= open ground, pasture, meadow) behind the church. A number of stalls and entertainments are on offer. ( Those who watched Cadfael by Ellis Peters know what I mean.) One of the stall holders has a small monkey which takes fright and runs off. It climbs the scaffolding which is still in place outside the church. Up up in climbs until it gets half way up the steeple. From there though there is nowhere to go and the poor thing slips and falls to its death. The masons are still around finishing off bits and being a superstitious lot think this is a bad sign. To ward off any bad luck for the new church they carve a monkey and place it on the steeple from the place where it fell.
See the silhouette on the right? This was the best shot hubby could get. I am so glad I could share this story with my children. When something may have been passed by word of mouth for that many years then you definately don’t want the story to stop with you. They now know where to stand to see the monkey. 🙂 Job done Grandma!
This is The Leys now. Witney Feast is held here early September. The fair folk come from doing St Giles Fair in Oxford and have 2 days here with all the big electric rides, candyfloss, lights and grab a duck competitions. It was the biggest highlight of the year other than Christmas.
But now in February it is peaceful as we carry on walking round.
Beautiful trees make a lovely atmosphere.
See the golden cockeral at the top of the spire? It’s just reminded me of a big marble I used to have as a kid only the cockeral was silver coloured. It was my fav marble. 🙂 This is such a trip down memory lane for me.
View from behind the almshouses.
And now we are back on church green. I’ll show you a little of the town next time. Miss Read wrote about it in her Thrush Green books as the town of Lulling.

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