At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Mary, Poslingford

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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south porch south porch

    It was the so-called summer of 2003. Three weeks of cycling in France had left me ill-prepared; I set off from Haverhill under a clear blue sky wearing shorts and a tee shirt. Within half an hour, ominous clouds began to gather, and as I climbed the long hill out of Barnadiston the sky had turned the colour of lead. It broke as I reached Poslingford churchyard. It was the first rain in weeks. I ran with my bike up the gravel path, and abandoned it against the spendid red brick 15th Century south porch. At the very least I'd find shelter there, even if the church itself was locked.

Not only was the church locked, the porch was locked too. I banged at the outer doors in frustration, and pressed myelf against them in despair in a fruitless attempt to avoid getting soaked to the skin. Honestly, this was so petty. Porches were designed as places of hospitality and refuge, somewhere strangers and pilgrims could shelter on their journey through life. But not at Poslingford, apparently.

The rain came in waves, and during a lull I searched for a keyholder notice. Well, there wasn't one. A faded, laminated A4 sheet with a picture of the church at the top might have had an address on once, I suppose. It might have had anything on. Shivering, I walked quickly back down the track to the road. A man was working in an open garage at one of the houses opposite. I called out to him, asking if he knew where I could find a key to the church.

He looked at me over the top of his glasses. "Why did you want to get in?" he asked.

"Because I'm soaked wet through and I'm bloody freezing", I wanted to reply. But I didn't. I just mumbled something about websites and photographs. He didn't know where a key was. Perhaps it was the wrong answer.

And what if I hadn't been soaked to the skin, what if I'd actually wanted to see inside? What might I have seen? Mortlock says that within this overwhelmingly restored exterior there are some good medieval survivals, including the screen and a 12th century font. He also observes that the lion and the unicorn on the James I royal arms are surprisingly well endowed. Kind of makes you want to go and have a look, doesn't it.So I left Poslingford, shaking the dust from my feet (it was more like mud by now). Later that evening, I took to my bed, still shivering. I told my wife that if I died she should ask our solicitor to sue the Poslingford PCC for dereliction of Christian duty. She told me not to feel so sorry for myself.

When I recovered, I wrote an e-mail to the Poslingford PCC. They replied fairly swiftly, telling me they'd put a keyholder notice up. I was welcome back any time.

But it was twelve years before I returned to this neat little village in the hills to the north of Clare. The church was still where I'd left it, set back above the road. And it was still locked.There was no keyholder notice, so either this had not happened or it has since been taken down again.

It's no use me complaining to the PCC, because there is no PCC anymore. St Mary is no longer a parish church, forming a chapel of ease within Clare parish. The otherwise reticent notice board down by the road reveals that there is one service a month, although it also gives a number to ring just to check that this is actually going to happen.

The church is in a poor state. Ivy climbs the walls, there's a hole in one of the windows, the roof tiles are broken. Surely it can't be long before it is declared redundant and turned into a private house.
  broken roof tiles

Simon Knott, July 2015


the ivy takes over the ivy takes over the ivy takes over

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