My family have been in Bramham for generations. My brother was born in Milnthorpe Cottage. Our mum and dad got married at All Saint’s Church. And now our father and grandfather are buried in the churchyard. However when I was about three, Mum and Dad split up and we moved away. It was more by accident than design that I returned to Bramham in my mid-thirties, with my wife and our children to buy a family home.
And now I do a lot of wandering around Bramham, and the footpaths that run alongside farmland, and woods, and Bramham Park. The Church was built around 1150, in the times when Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine and expanded the Norman British empire into France and Ireland. Just downhill and alongside the church runs Bramham Beck. Though just a stream, the volumes of water it carries are vast – water it transmits into the River Wharfe which in turn drains into the River Ouse and out into the North Sea. Presumably this beck has been flowing continuously since at least the time when construction of our church began all those centuries ago. Those early generations, peering into this beck, wouldn’t have known of the existence of the Americas, and knowledge of China or India would have felt barely more real than of myth and legend.
Since that time then we might expect around thirty generations of families to have dwelled in our little village. Thirty recurrences of youth, love, coupling, endeavour; thirty recurrences of old age, transmission of property and wisdom, decline and decay. In one respect those meaning of life were really very simple, and I’m fascinated by that recognisability – it's interesting not just to think about the ways in which life was different but the ways in which the patterns of our lives have been continuous.
Walking along county roads, admiring the land. Scenes that bear no sign of 21st century. Wind rustling in the leaves - time travel through the centuries. I was here before I died. As I walk down Bowcliffe Road I discover Bowcliffe Wood and then a public footpath that runs alongside it and South down the Great North Road. The woodland floor is carpeted in white flowers that I do not know the name of, so I take a photograph.
(Looking at a book on British nature later I believe they are Ramsons, which may also explain the smell of garlic!).
The church is one patch surrounded by our little patches here in this village – we have a yew tree in the garden just as in the graveyard. Our little village is in orbit around the church (and our church may be considered to be in the orbit of the Church of England). I consider historic tensions between the church, the Crown and parliament. But less important than the particular narratives preached in the church, or the particular bloodline that sits on the throne, is the materiality of these institutions – that they have stood at the centre of our village and of our nation, providing structure and a transcendent sense of purpose.
Here are some photographs I took at the Lych Gate, where Mum and Dad stood forty years ago when they got married:
The inscription on the gate reads: Hanc porta memoriam eorum quos vivos amavit et in spe bona futuri posvit J L Wharton AD1902
This translates as ‘This gate in memory of those who loved living and in the hope of good things to come’ by JL Wharton AD 1902