For as much as I would’ve loved hanging out at The Ebrington Arms for the rest of the day, we had a (loose) schedule to keep and needed to move on.
Fortunately, these Cotswolds villages are all nice and compact, and our next target was only a few lovely steps down the road. Bidding the owners “farewell, for now”, we left the cozy confines of the local pub and walked back out into the beautiful spring air.
The traffic circle in front of the pub was actually more triangular in shape (unusual!), but due mostly to the preservation of the trio of huge trees in the middle. A very helpful sign points us to our next destination – St Eadburgha’s Church.
The path that we follow actually goes between two rows of houses. Barely wide enough to allow two people to walk side-by-side, this path is framed by a house exterior on one side and a dry-stack garden wall on the other. The owner of the back garden beside this path has their springtime efforts on full display, as the many different flowers are in bloom and spill over the garden wall. It’s really lovely — I would be quite satisfied to enjoy an afternoon cup of tea there.
A small wooden gate welcomes visitors to the churchyard. Unlike the pub, however, dogs are not allowed. 🙂
One thing that has struck me about all of the English village churches that I have visited is the state of the grave markers. The ancient stones are different in style, depending on the importance (and riches) of the deceased, the era in which they were interred, and (in all likelihood) size of donations to the church itself. Made of the same Cotswold Stone, they have a coordinated appearance – regardless of the differing styles and sizes. The older the stone, though, the more worn-off the inscriptions tend to be.
A number of the inscriptions are easily back to the 1600s, and we think some are probably older. As it turns out, we’re correct! There’s one old burial marker – barely visible above the thick grass – that is actually a stone coffin lid. The cross carved into the stone seems to indicate some importance, with the church literature implying that it may be the burial place of a Knight Crusader, which of course would lend to a far earlier date than the other more visible burial markers.
As we enter the main entrance, we pick up a booklet of information, in which we learn about the church’s patron saint:
ST. EADBURGHA is the patron saint. Not much is known of this Saxon saint, but what little we know is of great interest. She is patron of Pershore Abbey and, more locally, of the ‘old’ Church at Broadway and a few others in the Worcestershire / Gloucestershire area. It is known that Eadburgha was a daughter of King Edward the Elder – a son of King Alfred the Great and, at an early age, she was sent to the Abbey in Winchester founded by King Alfred’s widow. In due course she became an Abbess, and therefore a woman of great power and prestige in her day. Her relics were preserved at Pershore. St. Eadburgha’s patronal festival is held annually on the Sunday nearest to the 15th of June.
Like most ancient Churches, St. Eadburgha’s in Ebrington has been altered, enlarged and restored many times. It is believed that the Tower and the south (main internal) doorway of the present building date from the 13th century. The Church consists of a chancel, a nave and three bays with a south transept aisle, south doorway porch, a blocked north door and an embattled west Tower.
Once inside, the light from the church windows give an almost heavenly (pun intended) glow to the honey-hued Cotswold Stone columns, walls, and ceiling. Combining with the rich wood pulpit, pews, and red seat cushions, the entire ambiance almost demands a silent reverence. We’re the only ones in the small village church, so we have time to enjoy and explore without interrupting any daily prayers or activities.
I do, however, make sure to take a few moments to sit in silence and offer my own humble, yet earnest, devotion. It’s a truly special and cherished moment.
It just reinforces my desire, bordering on need sometimes, to visit *ALL* the local Cotswolds villages … and spend the day exploring the pub and the church … and whatever else those charming locales offer.
If you ever have the chance — I can’t recommend the experience enough.
It’ll be worth your time. Trust me.