Monday, September 10, 2012

Gresham Church

Gresham Church – reminder from a photograph

So thick-sturdy is the tower that a thousand years from its building
I could pluck a stone from its thousand stones without it crumbling.

The church attached belongs to a much later time, while the
porch and the chancel have much in common with each other,

and they plainly aren’t kin to the church, which is not, as is
common in these parts, built of pebbles from Sheringham beach.

The church proper is something that’s replaced a forebear – who knows when? 
The porch and the chancel are pebbled with beach stones, as though the

waves had washed up against the building and left their mark in a
stonewall offensive; the stones in the tower are altogether different:

dragged perhaps to the site by the Normans, in carts, and then formed into a
round tower, rounder somehow in diameter at the bottom than at the

top.  And of course on the top is that typical castle turret – you expect
flags to be flying, or archers hiding in waiting (though they’d have to be

dwarves to hide up there).  The roof of the church is slate, while the
chancel is tile.  God alone knows what’s on the roof of the tower.

The stones in the tower aren’t round; they’re rough stones somehow
formed to roundness.  The stones on the porch and the chancel are

roundly round, as the pebbles from Sheringham always are:
big, fat, hard under the feet pebbles, that chock and chuckle against each

other when the waves come and try, day by day, to shift them.  Only a
storm such as old fishermen know will shift them; the young men have only

heard of such storms, have only seen in the Museum the lifeguard boats that
risked every fisherman’s life for the sake of one single fisherman.  The tower is

far from the pebbles, the stones, the beach, the fishermen, the
rescues.  Such storms as it’s known it’s survived for a thousand years while its

brethren, the porch and the chancel and the newish church have been added and
contracted and remodeled and removed and are even now in yet another process of

renovation.   What has stood a thousand years deserves such generous attention,
even when the congregation, or the parish, or the diocese, or the whole of the

Anglican world can’t afford it, paying as it is for a thousand other such
churches, each with changes and improvements and histories of a dozen

different ages soaked into their walls.  Out in the green sward – what else can it be
called? – are gravestones, some managing to keep their hold on the vertical, but only

just; some precarious at an angle that threatens toppling at any moment, though toppling
isn’t what these stones do in public; some flattened by time, and becoming

themselves buried beneath the grass, until it becomes a regular nightmare for the
mower to mow his way safely amongst them.  Once it was a concern that a grave might be

disturbed.  Now the only disturbance is a fine wind cutting through the ancient trees, a
once-in-a-blue-moon stone falling from its place in the tower, a gravestone flatlining, and

some new person, newly dead, fitting themselves in amongst those who have long since
sighed their last sigh. Barbara, Edna, Geofrey George – Gresham is your earthly home,

though a place much more homely is yours in some measure eternal that

can’t be fathomed this side of the midwinter, bright, and piercing sky. 

My wife in front of Gresham Church in 2007.  Her parents, George and Edna, have been buried there for some years, and in 2012, the ashes of the younger of her two older sisters were interred there. Various other Goodson ancestors are also buried in this churchyard.

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