Sunday, 11 October 2015

From Stonehouse to Daglingworth and a Mystery by James Pentney

Turn To The Wall - a Daglingworth Mystery
or Pin The Tale On A War Horse
Hanging on the high wall that faces the canal beside St Cyr’s church, a banner proclaims Afternoon Tea.    Alice-like through a low arched door, lo, a lawn unfolds leading up to the Lutyens architecture of Stonehouse Court, thankfully hidden from the main road, where the forecourt draws be-suited business people and wedding party planners.
From the tea tables on the terrace the view of heights of Coaley Peak and Uley Bury is marred only by late twentieth century brick development on either side of the garden. We are told vineyards grew here in Prima Romana days and the estate appears in Domesday as the property of one William D’ Ow, cousin of William the Conqueror.
 The waiter indicated a passage in the recent brickwork. “William the Conqueror’s horse is buried there.”
What? Surely not, yet a huge worked stone leans at an angle with a carved cross, quite possibly Norman. How intriguing, just my cup of tea.
So to Daglingworth near Sapperton; “Have you seen the Saxon stone reliefs?”
"There are three in remarkable condition almost modern."
 “An influence on Gill,” observed one who would know.
The stones were discovered during restoration of the Saxon church in the nineteen century. They had been turned inward to disclose the images of Christ enthroned, Saint Peter with the key of heaven and the Crucifixion: An attempt to protect them from the vandalism of the Reformation?  Not so. The in situ archaeology means they were hidden no later than 1100.
Look more closely at the faces of St Peter and Jesus and they both have those lush Saxon moustaches. So what could be the story?  
It’s Normandy circa 1035. Two boys, cousins both called William. One called the Bastard, the other Ow. Perhaps because that’s what he would cry when playing with his cousin. “Ow, you bastard.”
At the tender age of eight William the B succeeded his brutal father Robert as Duke of Normandy. Thirty one years later he was William the C, king of England.
 The psychiatric diagnosis of choice for our time, OCD can easily be pinned on William by historians, among others. What made him cross the Channel with his Norman knights and war horses to put an end to Anglo Saxon England? Usurped by Harold, having once been promised the throne by the Confessor?   Occupational Conquering Desire was the job description. It goes with the territory.     Like all of us, he carried baggage and phobias from childhood experience. Did something happen when he was young leaving him hating the moustache? The Bayeaux Tapestry shows cavalier moustached Saxons routed by round skin headed Normans.    
Victory on Senlac Field, eradication of the Saxon nobility and the redistribution of their estates to his Norman clansmen saw his cousin, the knight that said Ow, get Stonehouse.                                        On route to deal with Exeter on his trusty, battle worn steed, did he stop at Daglingworth, where in the church Jesus Christ and Saint Peter supported the moustache!
“Mon Dieu, zout alors … get them out of my sight,” he ordered in Norman French.
That night at Stonehouse, the old war horse that had carried him through the battle, lay down.

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