Tuesday, 16 November 2010

High Laver, Essex

At All Saints lies the body of  John Locke, the philosopher and educationist who spent the last years (1691-1704) of his life at Otes, the home of the Masham family. His writings inspired, among many, the founders of the United States of America. A memorial inscription, written by himself, is on the south side of the Nave, where it was brought from outside the church in 1932 to protect it from the weather. Locke is also believed to have written the inscription on the tablet on the north wall of the Chancel to the memory of Damaris Cudworth, the mother of Damaris Masham who, by having Locke as a paying guest for fourteen years, made Otes one of the most important intellectual centres in Europe.

However my interest lies in the Mashams and Sulyards as both appear in my family tree on my wife's side and Otes, since it became connected to the Barringtons who are in my side of the tree. There's a great Brass of Edward Sulyard and Mirabel Copdowe with their children and a host of Masham ledgers and tombs.

There's so much wrong with this church, look at the tower and the porch for a start, that I should hate it but I think it was helped into my like list by a charming elderly couple who were doggedly clearing leaves - it also helps that a shed load of ancestors rest here!

ALL SAINTS. Norman nave with E quoins of Roman brick and one original N window, E.E. chancel with renewed lancets, at the E end a group of three. C14 W tower with Dec two-light window, but much renewed in brick in the C18. Battlements and short recessed spire. C14 also the chancel arch, a broad four-centred arch on responds which run on into the arch without any capitals. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with traceried stem; bowl with quatrefoils carrying shields. - BRASS. Edward Sulyard and wife, c. 1500, the figures 18 in. long. - MONUMENT. John Locke, the philosopher, lies buried at High Laver. The tablet with Latin inscription composed by him is no longer outside the church. It is now on the inner S wall. 

All Saints (1)

Edward and Mirabel Sulyard (2)

Edward and Mirabel Sulyard (4)

Masham graves
Masham Graves

I'll leave Arthur to fill you in on Locke:

HIGH LAVER. Here lies a quiet Englishman whose fame lives for his gentle virtues, John Locke. He lived for ten years in the home of the Mashams here, and in the church is this rare epitaph to his memory:

Stay, traveller; John Locke rests here. Do you ask What manner of man was he? He replies that he lived content with his own middle rank. Had he good qualities? They are less than can serve for praise to him or an example to you. Let his faults be buried with him. If you seek an example in morals, you have it in the Gospel. Would that no evils existed.

He lies by the porch of a church that has been made what it is through the centuries, with bricks from Roman houses in its walls, put there by the Normans. The 18th century tower has still the tiny sanctus bell which rang 600 years ago; here is the font at which children were being christened then. There is a 15th century family portrait in brass showing Edward Sulyard in armour, his wife Myrabyll in a flowing skirt, and their four boys gazing at a sister. The old chest has a heavy lid which must often have been lifted by Samuel Lowe, whose monument is on the wall; he was the rector who buried John Locke.

In the altar tombs of the churchyard lie the Mashams, Locke’s friend Lady Masham among them. She studied under him, and Locke said of her, "You will not find many men to whom she is not superior in wealth of knowledge and ability to profit by it." Close by her lies the notorious Mrs Masham of the court of Queen Anne.She built up for herself tremendous influence, supplanting the great Duchess Sarah, and intriguing with  such power that she overthrew a Government and sought to restore the Stuarts. Succeeding in one plot, she happily failed in the other, and she lies here forgotten after all the fame of her day, while fame has come to quiet John Locke sleeping a few yards away.

The Philosopher of the Quiet Life

He was a Somerset man, born at Wrington in 1632, son of a Puritan lawyer who held a captain’s commission in the Parliament army. Passing from Westminster School to Oxford, he was lecturer there in Greek and Rhetoric.

Studying medicine, and declared by Sydenham to be one of the most gifted doctors of the age, he was denied his medical degree, largely for political reasons, but acted as physician to Lord Shaftesbury, who procured him public employment, made him tutor to his son and grandson, and involved him in his own fall. For four years Locke lived in France, then returned with Shaftesbury’s new lease of power, only to seek fiight afresh when his patron was finally overthrown.

Making Holland his home, Locke had the company of illustrious sympathisers. By an illegal order he was deprived of his status at Oxford, and had to go into hiding to escape arrest on political charges. It was while he was a fugitive that he wrote his first Letter on Toleration. After six years of exile he returned, following the Revolution in the train of Queen Mary and Dutch William, and now, but for his incurable asthma and the constant threat of tuberculosis, he might have held high office in the State.

A Fellow of the Royal Society and friend of Sir Isaac Newton, he lived for the last 14 years of his life at High Laver with his friends Sir Francis and Lady Masham. By this time his fame was firmly established. He had published two Treatises on Government, the first demolishing the doctrine of the divine right of kings, the second a declaration of the social compact as it seemed to him, the government of the people in the interest, and for the good of, the governed. In these he laid the foundations of civil liberty, as in Toleration he had laid the foundations of religious liberty. It was on the philosophy of John Locke concerning these vital issues that the British Empire grew to political and spiritual freedom.

The Essay on Human Understanding came at about the same time, when he was 57, the fruit of twenty years of study. It was the most brilliant exploration of the mind and its processes that had then been attempted. He shows that knowledge is not innate, but is derived from experience, which he vindicates by our ideas of space, time, infinity, substance, power, identity, and so on, leading to the conclusion that knowledge is limited to two certainties - of our own existence, by Intuition, and the existence of God by Demonstration, intuitive certainty making it plain that creation is the work of an eternal God.

His masterpiece was followed by treatises on the Reasonableness of Christianity and on Education, the second of which is the foundation of modern educational reform, seeing education as the formation of character, as that which moulds or modifies the soul or the mind.

His closing hours were solaced by the presence of Lady Masham. To the clergyman who had administered the last communion in his room he said that he died in perfect charity with all men, and in communion with the Church of Christ, by whatever name it was distinguished. Lady Masham was reading the Psalms to him when he gently interrupted her, saying that the end was come, and a few minutes later he fell asleep.

Flickr set.

1 comment:

  1. Dear David, I am an Italian undergraduate. I wanted to compliment you for your blog, thanks to it I managed to find the burial place of the philosopher John Locke. For me it was a great thrill.
    Best Regards