Thursday, 24 April 2014

Alive Here In Death Valley

Last week, I managed to get out of the house for an hour or so to do a spot of local exploring. I hadn't left the house in ten days and was developing a bad case of cabin fever, so my older sister picked me up and drove us to one of the nearby country villages for some fresh air.

We had intended to potter around the shops in Burford, but on our leisurely stroll from the car park we got side-tracked and ended up paying the church a visit instead.

I have lived locally to Burford, a beautiful, historic village in the Cotswolds, all of my life and even though I've passed the church hundreds of times over the years, I had never visited it before; at least not to the best of my memory. 

The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and it was a gorgeous, hot Spring day- perfect weather for acting like tourists! I doesn't look so warm in these photos, but it felt like a Summer's day, and I was boiling in a dress, short-sleeved cardi, and opaque tights!

Even from a distance, the church is impressive. It's a 15th century Methodist church built between 1160 and 1475 called St. John the Baptist, and as I soon found out, it's steep in hundreds of years of history. Far more than I realised before hand.

The church is surrounded by a well tended graveyard, and many of the headstones close to the path were so old and weathered I couldn't read the inscriptions. We stopped to read the grave stones along the main path to the church, but didn't wander around to see them all. (Although I would've liked to).

These headstones caught my eye. The shape and floral design at the top of them are really interesting; although I have no idea if they mean something or are purely decorative.

Inside, the church features high ceilings, exposed beams, and huge ornate arches that almost seem to section the church in to rooms. The architecture of the building is so beautiful, and it's so large that it seems more like a cathedral than a village church.

One of my favourite features were the huge stain-glass windows

I was amazed by how intricate the windows were. Each tiny pane had so much detail and they really were stunning. I can only imagine how much time and effort must've been put in to each one. (These windows were high above my head, so apologies for the unlevel photos).

I'm not sure what this gizmo is exactly, but it looked pretty.

On each chair were these hand-stitched cushions, each with a different design. I presume they're kneeling pads for prayer, as there weren't any on the floor. (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

This is a memorial to King Henry VIII's barber-surgeon, Edmund Harman which shows some of the earliest representations of South American Indians. It's believed to be of an Indian tribe living along the Amazon that Edmund Harman may have traded with. The inscription in the centre is written in Latin. The sign says he was King Henry's barber-surgeon between 1533-47, was made Lord of the Manor of Taynton in 1549, and died in Burford in 1577 (although it might say 1572; I can't quite tell).

I've completely forgotten what this sculpture related to. It may have been the bottom part of Edmund Harman's memorial, or something completely different. I just thought these praying men looked interesting.

There are many bodies buried underneath the flagstone floor of the church, marked with marble and stone gravestones. Many of the gravestones I paused to read were written in Latin, and dated back to as early as the 1600s! I found them really fascinating because I had never seen a gravestone written in Latin before; well, not that I can remember, anyway.

I didn't have time to stop and read each grave as I would've liked to, but I skimmed over as many as I could. This one caught my attention. A man called John Pryor Gent was murdered and found hidden in the priory garden in April 1697. I hadn't heard of his story prior to reading his gravestone, and sadly it seems that nobody alive today knows much about this man, either. I wonder who he was and why he was murdered.

(Apologies for the crap photo. There were overhead lights reflecting on to the marble, and no matter which angle I tried, the lights ruined the shot).

Deeper in to the church, there is a canopied tomb where the bodies of Sir Lawrence and Lady Tanfield lie. Sir Lawrence Tanfield was an English lawyer, politician, and Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, an elected Member of Parliament for Woodstock on at least six occasions, a sergeant-at-law, a puisne judge of the King's bench, and a Knight of the Shire. From what I can gather from Wikipedia, I think this man was a very big deal! He sure looks impressive and intimidating in this picture.

I think this was the first time I'd seen an elaborate tomb from another era than the ancient Egyptians. It's quite substantial and detailed, and surrounded by a wrought iron fence that I almost impaled my arm on trying to take a photo! I hadn't noticed the spiked rails until my arm slipped and I stabbed myself on one. Oops. Luckily the arm could be saved. The positioning of the fence made it difficult to take good photos, but it's a beautiful piece. Can you imagine being laid to rest in something like this?!

Ornate lion pillars.

And an ugly looking angel plaque from 1668.

The church is so large it's impossible to get the entire building in to a photo, no matter how far away you stand as there are walls, buildings, and trees surrounding it. It's a beauty, though.

When we came back outside, we had a rest for a little while so I could recover, and we sat on a bench in the graveyard. It was so peaceful sitting there in the sunshine with little noise but the sound of the birds singing.

I had a quick peek at some of the graves and headstones to the left of the grounds as we headed out.

Next time I'll have to go for a wander around the back of the church and see what else there is to explore.

I didn't know until afterwards that in 1649, during the Civil War, 340 Levellers were imprisoned in the church by Oliver Cromwell and were forced to watch as three men (considered the ring-leaders) were executed. Apparently the bullet holes remain in the walls to this day, and graffiti one man carved on the font is still visible. The village is such a quiet and peaceful place that it's hard to imagine a time when it was anything but.

While we were there, my sister snapped a few photos of me on her phone. I haven't cropped them in too close as I looked a mess with my fringe pinned back and no eye make up on. (My fringe needed a trim and my left eye was swollen as it hadn't stopped streaming in a week). As we weren't going to be out for long and I didn't expect to have photos taken, I hadn't worried too much about my appearance, but I wish I had. I feel so frumpy when my hair and make up aren't done!

I was wearing my heart print Alice & You skater dress again. I can't stop wearing this dress! The fit of it is so perfect that I keep returning to it regularly because it makes me feel fantastic. I really hope that they bring out other prints in this design because I'd buy them all. I love it!

I'm wearing it with black opaque tights from Evans, my studded Simply Be boots, a pink cropped cardi from New Look, my Russian doll bag from Accessorize, and a pearl / cameo necklace I won in Rachel's giveaway last year.

Outfit Details

Dress-Alice & You // Cardigan-New Look // Tights-Evans // Boots-Simply Be // Bag-Accessorize // Necklace-Giveaway Win

We parked down by the river in Burford, and it was so tranquil. I'm jealous of the person whose house backs on to the river bank!

When I think about it, it's shocking how little exploring I've done of places close to home. People come from all over the world to visit The Cotswolds, and I live in it, close to so many beautiful places and rarely explore anywhere new. I love visiting new places, but usually stick to places I know at home and look further afield for new experiences. I've wanted to start exploring more of Oxfordshire and The Cotswolds for years, and hopefully over the Spring and Summer I'll be able to get out a bit more and see a little more of what my area has to offer. It really is a beautiful region, and if you like pretty country villages with a lot of history then Burford (and the church) are well worth a visit.

Do you enjoy exploring cemeteries and old churches like I do?



  1. Such a beautiful old church! I would love to explore places like these, but all the buildings here are quite "young" (300 years is considered old!). As soon as I can afford to travel, I want to visit the UK and Europe and marvel at all the history!

  2. Strangely, as I'm not religious at all, the architecture of ecclesiastical buildings really does fascinate me, so I'd be likely to look around them anyway. I'm definitely guilty of not appreciating the local area; there are so many lovely places near me as well which I just don't visit.

  3. I do find a serene quality in Churches and I much prefer a chair to sit in than hard wooden pews - the tomb was incredibly elaborate, the couple must have been important, definitely! I've never seen a painted tomb, ever! I'm with you on hair and make-up being done, I don't feel myself if I don't - you looked gorgeous, such a pretty dress and cardi, and ankle boots? love 'em! x x x

  4. What a beautiful church! Absolutely stunning. I'd love to go there one day. x x

  5. I love visiting old cemeteries, unfortunately not too many in my part of the world (New Zealand only officially became a country in 1840!) but this one looks just incredible. The church inside is phenomenal too! If and when I visit England I will have to come and visit you :) I'm glad you're able to get out and about a bit and I think you look wonderful in the outfit pictures - even if you don't feel that great xoxox

  6. Churches and cemeteries make for some GORGEOUS sightseeing and photographs! You look lovely, and live in such a beautiful area!

  7. You look so cute that dress really suits you :) xx


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