After I left this quiet place behind me, by a bus which only runs once every hour on Sundays (thus supporting our countryside feeling) I passed by another church with a small old churchyard and a larger extension in Keston village, which has a connection with William Wilberforce, the famous abolitionist, who visited his friend, Pitt the Younger in his nearby country house upon several occasions. There is even a so-called Wilberforce Oak on Keston Common in honour to him and to his commitment to end slavery.

  Leaving Keston, the last place of that day's visit is a nearby village and its church, Hayes (not to be  confused with the one in North-west London, near Harlington and Heathrow).
  This little village (and in fact the whole area) has a connection with the Pitt family, whose two members (the elder and the younger) were Prime Ministers of  Britain in the late 18th-early 19th century. The church just near to the local library sits in front of a row of houses where a blue plaque reminds us that the former home of the Pitt family (called Hayes Place) was lying just about where those houses are situated now. From this comes the fact that the Pitt family was a regular in the church, the elder worshipping there and the younger being baptised in it. Behind the core of the churchyard there is a more modern (late 19th -early 20th century) extension, and at one side of the churchyard, in the garden is an old yew tree, which-according to the church description- is about 1300 years old.

Many churches claim that they have the oldest (or one of the oldest) yew trees in the country. I think, as it is very hard to establish the exact age of a yew tree, there is not one single winner of the “oldest yew tree” competition. But it is for sure that the one in Totteridge (mentioned in the previous article) must be in the first three.

The church tower, and in fact the whole church from outside bears a resemblance to the one seen in Downe.

At the wall of the church, we can find two 18th century stones, of which one is the gravestone of a nine year old boy. This in itself is not a big curiosity, as those days infant mortality was high, but this boy was a native Indian and is thought to be the servant of Pitt the Elder. We can read as following on his stone:

“In memory of John Panis of the Tribe [unreadable] in North America who Died January 14th 1763 Aged Nine years”

The inscription is very simple, no expression for the hope of a resurrection or about any divine care. . .It might have been it`s because he was only a child and a servant but it might have also been because he was a native American. . .  




This historically rich little village just on the outskirts of London means the end of the places I`m guiding your through in this article.

We have met this time Prime Ministers, a scientist, servants ,and young men and women who all have come from a different social background and whose lives all tell us a different story.

But there is one thing that they share in common. All of them are lives from bygone eras, and all their hopes, joys, sorrows, everyday matters have become standstill in a moss covered gravestone just like ours will one day. Before that what we can think of while walking among those bending, empty-centred stones is to realize that “all losses are restored and sorrow ends”1 one day, and in this conscious we can leave their sacred memories hoping of a joyful resurrection. Let`s leave them this hope even if we know that once they have put down their bones under the greenness of the grass and the greyness of the graves, there is no waking up.
For their body.

But their spirits haven't died.

And that's what we can hear when we sit around on a quiet Sunday and breath in their fresh, country-smelling messages of happier fields, of a place “beyond fear and desire”2.

Notes:  

1 from Shakespeare, Remembrance of Things Past (Sonnet 30)
2
from Jeremy Clarke, Praise

 

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