Monday, 25 May 2009

A Little Known Pilgrimage

Today I walked the same path as many centuries of Catholics before me. The village of Long Lawford near my home town unlike its neighbouring village of Church Lawford did not have a church until 1839 when John Caldecott had a church built as a Chapel of Ease to the parish church of St Botolph, Newbold Upon Avon, and was intended mainly for the use of the servants from Holbrook Grange where John Caldecott resided.. The church is now unfortunately structurally unstable and redundant and the villagers have had the neighbouring hall converted into a church.

St John's Church (Long Lawford)

The history of worship in Long Lawford however, goes back much further than this. For many centuries people from Long Lawford walked across the fields to Newbold Upon Avon church to worship.

This is the very same path I travelled today and the one I wish to invite you on if you continue to read on. (Path of travel indicated by black dots on photograph above)

Today you begin the walk by passing through a small housing estate before exiting out onto open fields. It is easy to see in which direction to head as having been walked along for centuries the slight contour in the field shows a path which is easily visible even on the photograph above. (Area indicated on photograph by red dot).

After walking through two fields you come to a field divided by the meandering river Avon which by using the narrow foot bridge you are able to cross to the other side. (Area on photograph indicated by blue dot).
Once across the river keeping the farm house to your left and small cluster of trees to your right you walk towards the railway line where you find a short tunnel which you go through. At this point you are walking on the farmer's drive way and need to remember to be respectful of his property and watch out for cars. After passing through the tunnel you continue along the farmer's drive way for about 20 yards before you veer off left through an area of small trees and brushes, again you can see the path to take as the growth of vegetation has been kept back my walkers. (Area indicated by yellow dot on photograph).
You then pass over a small pig sti and bridge covering a ditch and enter a field where right before you is the piece de la resistance ... an avenue of huge old Oak trees flagging your path. An inspiring view which really brings home for how long this path has been travelled as these huge old Oaks would have been but small saplings when the very first Catholics walked this path to church. (Area indicated by purple dot on photograph).
Upon reaching the other end of this field by walking through the trees you reach the village of Newbold Upon Avon and the Church of St Botolph. (Area on photograph indicated by green dot).

St Botolph's Church (Newbold Upon Avon)

The current church dates from the fifteenth century but it is built on the site of an earlier church. An interesting feature of this church is that it has two porches one on the south side and one on the north side. Back when the church was used by parishioners from both Newbold Upon Avon and Long Lawford the parishioners from Long Lawford used only the south side entrance and sat only on the south side of the nave whilst the parishioners from Newbold Upon Avon used the north door and sat on the north side of the nave! Even now story has it that as late as 1990 at an Induction Service one person from Newbold Upon Avon, was shown to a seat on the south side refused it!

St Botolph's Church being a historical place of worship has an extensive graveyard and many of the older graves are naturally Catholic and so having only recently discovered the Society of St Justin I offered up Pater Nostor, Ave Maria and Gloria Patri before making my way back home.

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