Friday, 6 April 2012

Little Parndon, Essex

On the northern fringes of Harlow was rebuilt in 1867/8 though whether to a new plan or not I don't know. I can forgive this as a new build because of its apse which are all too rare round these parts. Again kept locked which is a pity since the interior sounds interesting with memorials and some furnishings from the old church being retained. My edition of Pevsner (paperback 1954) has no reference to Little Parndon but I understand later additions do cover St Mary.

St Mary (1.1)

LITTLE PARNDON. Here, in this tiny village in the lovely country by the River Stort, lies a slave, poor Hester Woodley, in a grave with elaborate carvings on its stones. She is, we think, only the second slave we have found in an English grave, the other being at Teston in Kent. She was apparently a black woman from Africa, and we have not been able to discover how she came to Little Parndon, but here she was a faithful servant of the Woodleys until she died in 1767. She lies outside the porch of the modern church, and it is explained that she belonged to Mrs Bridget until that lady died, when by reciprocal agreement she passed to her daughter. There is an hourglass on the stone to remind us that the sands of the time of slavery were running out when they laid Hester Woodley here to rest in her 68th year; even then there was living that poet who was to write with truth that slaves cannot breathe in England.

There lies in the church, with a marble monument on the wall, Sir Edward Turnor, who sat for Essex in the Parliament of the Commonwealth and kept his seat after the Restoration, when he was made a judge and took part in the prosecution of the men who tried the king. He became Speaker of the House of Commons. A little while after they laid him to rest there was born in the village another friend of the Stuarts, Charles Radcliffe, who took part in a Jacobite rising and was found guilty of treason. He was only 22 and would probably have been pardoned, but he broke out of Newgate with 13 other men and joined the Stuarts in exile on the Continent, becoming secretary to Prince Charles Edward. In 1745 he was captured on a ship carrying arms and in the following year was beheaded on Tower Hill under the sentence passed on him 31 years before. He bore himself courageously, and his dying speech was printed.

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