Edge of England by Derek Turner

Edge of England by Derek Turner

Author:Derek Turner [Turner, Derek]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781787386983
Publisher: Hurst
Published: 2022-06-24T00:00:00+00:00

North of Scunthorpe is another dimming power base—Normanby Hall, in its 300-acre estate. The Hall was built between 1825 and 1829 by British Museum architect Robert Smirke for the Sheffields, courtiers, poets, politicians and soldiers hereabouts since the time of Elizabeth I. There are political connections even today—David Cameron’s wife Samantha is the daughter of the eighth Baronet, and grew up on the estate—although the Hall has been owned by the council since 1964.

Not long after we came to Lincolnshire, we toured the Hall. The grounds have a herd of red deer, which in mating season attracts nearby wild stags, and the park has sometimes to be closed, lest walkers fall afoul of these impressive animals.45 The Hall is less impressive, in fact dispiritingly institutional with its roped-off, sun-shaded interiors and yellowing-labelled cutlery set out on dusty tables, as the guide says, ‘as if for a ceremonial banquet.’ In recent years, the council has tried to refresh the visitor experience, but using other exhausted clichés.

A different kind of burnout can be detected at Winterton, where an eighteenth-century resident called William Teanby carved his wife’s gravestone with what feels unpleasantly like gloomy relish, her ‘sordid atoms’ noted on the stone he used as his table, a cold companion-piece to his own coffin, which he used as a cupboard. The engraver William Fowler (1761-1832) was working in Winterton about the same time on spectres of a different kind, his painstaking colour representations of locally found Roman antiquities. Martial and other Roman satirists would have been amused or irritated by the unusual apparition at Winterton Old Hall, described by mystified early 1800s ladies (or, more likely, ladies’ maids) as ‘a ghostly powder-box,’ with a powder puff that, however often it was removed from a particular dressing table, would eerily reappear—a ghost ephemeral even by ghostly standards.

Winteringham, where Romans crossed the water on boats from a timber jetty sometimes still visible, had another significant visitor in 672—Northumbrian queen turned saint Etheldreda (St Audrey), who crossed the Humber here on her way south to avoid distasteful conjugal duties, and seed Christianity and English unity. She founded a church at nearby West Halton and farther away at Stow, and ultimately an abbey at Ely, whose Cathedral eventually arose around her sordid atoms. Through an unjust transmogrification, Etheldreda/Audrey, exemplar of purity, became associated with almost opposite ideas. Her cult sparked a hugely popular annual fair, and the poor quality of cloth sold at this event—this ‘St Audrey’s lace’—ineluctably became ‘tawdry lace’ and then just plain ‘tawdry,’ doubtless to the delight of iconoclasts. But there is nothing tawdry about the view of the Humber as seen from the north-westernmost corner of the county.

Small roads wind round for miles to Alkborough, and the meeting of many waters, and an enticing enigma. This is the tip of the high Cliff, the end of the Edge, overlooking the great commingling of Humber, Ouse and Trent in a glittering blue-green-white hugeness. Alkborough is a place of inchoate excitement. The sea-going yachtsman shows


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