Sunday, July 02, 2006

Back from researching


I've just returned from the heart of Wiltshire where I've been walking the ground of the Kennet Valley and researching material for my work in progress on John Marshal. We were staying in a cottage on a working farm just outside Devizes and on the edge of Salisbury Plain - so were treated to the occasional noise of 'fireworks' from the gunnery ranges, plus the frequent sight of Hercules aircraft from the RAF base at Lyneham, very close to where John is buried.
Places visited during the break included Winchester, where John had two houses, Marlborough, where he was castellan for about 20 years, Rockley on the Downs where he had a manor, which he gave to the Templars, and Wherwell, site of the hard battle between his troops and those of William D'Ypres during the flight fromWinchester. John's task was to prevent D'Ypres from encircling the Empress as part of a pincer movement by the royalist troops. John had to buy her time to let her make her getaway and he made his stand at Wherwell. He did so, but at great cost to himself and his men. His last stand was made at Wherwell Abbey, now in ruins and on private land. D'Ypres' men set fire to the church with John inside it. He survived and lived to tell the tale, but he lost an eye when melted lead from the tower roof dripped on his face. D'Ypres left him for dead and John emerged to walk, injured as he was, the twenty five miles to Marlborough.
Wherwell today- see photo - is a pretty, thatched village that looks as if it belongs in a cartoon from Thelwell Country (for those who've never heard of Thelwell, his whimsical sketches of English country life are an absolute and amusing joy). You would never guess, looking at its chocolate box prettiness that a battle so bloody and desperate had ever taken place here.
We also went walking in Savernake Forest and got lost (!). Fortunately we found our way out but had to walk back the long way via the road. However at least there was a pub en route. I thought about John Marshal. I was knackered after four hours pottering in the woods. He walked twenty five miles with a facial burn bad enough to cause permanent trauma and disfigurement. I don't know how he did it!


6 comments:

Carla said...

Extraordinary story. He would presumably have been very fit, so in normal circumstances walking 25 miles would have been all in a day's work. Doing it with a severe injury would be a combination of adrenaline and the willpower of an exceptional man. It reminds me of Joe Simpson (Touching the Void) climbing out of a crevasse and crawling for three days across a glacier with a badly broken leg - the sortof incredible feat that most of us can only marvel at.

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, those men really were alpha males back then. :)

Winchester is on my autumn tour list. I only hope nothing won't get in the way again; I had planned it for last year.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Carla, I'm certain he would have been in the SAS had he been around today. As a youngster of around 20 he had to fight a trial by combat at court to prove he was up to the job of being the King's Marshal. The job of Marshal in itself required a brain that could take in both the big picture and the small detail, plus a high level of fitness and military training. As Gabriele says, definitely an alpha male!
I think you'll find Winchester interesting, Gabriele. I got more or less dragged through at speed by my menfolk and the dog, but managed to take in Wolvesly Palace and the museum. Didn't go inside the cathedral, although I walked the grounds. It really did seem to me like an alternative England of the kind that appears in books by Thelwell or shown on TV cosy crime murders. The impression was compounded as soon as we arrived by the sight of a middle-aged chap riding a bicycle. He had tight grey curls and was wearing a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches. As he passed us, he shouted out to an aquaintance with words to the effect of 'What ho old chap!' There were several other characters like this along the way and we really felt as if we'd walked into an alternative reality.

KC said...

A while back I mentioned that my son would be traveling to England (his first time to travel abroad). You asked if he could take pictures of the effigies at Temple Church. He did, but I'm not sure if they will be of any help to you. Here is the link to his England photos. He had a great time in your lovely country! I hope to one day travel there myself.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

KC,
Thank you and thank Ian so much for this - and I loved visiting his slides too! We were at StoneHenge (well drove past it) last week. Although the pics aren't that clear, they do show 2 lines of script under William Marshal II, which strongly suggestes that his effigy placard has been restored. Effigy Of A Knight would only fill one line. So mission accomplished, thanks so much!
Incidentally, my eldest son is called Ian - for which he can blame Roberta Gellis' second Roselynde Chronicle and the gorgeous Ian de Vipont!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful forest, savernake, I used to go there at dawn to take pictures of the deer, the forest is full of them :)