Written in Gedney Church of St. Mary Magdelene, on Thursday 12th September 2013 at approx. 4.45pm.
There is a loud, almost intimidating, silence flapping itself around these cathedral walls.
When I stop, I notice:
– My breath is quite short in here;
– There’s a high-pitched bird noise somewhere, like I’m hallucinating that a blackbird is here along with a forest of morning chorus;
– A tension simmers of things happening somewhere in the distance, and where I question whether, maybe, someone doesn’t want me here;
– The traffic from the nearby A17 is chaos, is what we came from;
And it stops.
I brought a lot here today. I have myself, one who is going through the anguish of dozens of stories pulling my insides in opposite directions. I feel like I’m in a perpetual tug-of-war: exhausting, but incredibly invigorating and fun. Then there’s the battlers, my mum and my brother, who are in a stand against each other.
This cathedral is majestic, in a massive sense. It reminds me of that cathedral in Normandy that you see in war films. It’s a bit beaten up. The stained glass is half-missing, so there aren’t even any complete depictions of people…it’s a colourful mess.
Very noticeably, there is a wooden roof to this all. It looks in good nick, but I imagine it falling down.
A massive, wooden with golden edges, crucifixion cross dominates the front and centre:- it is hoisted up on top of the fencing dividing the main church from the choir area.
I’m saddened that there aren’t pews here. Instead, they have the shelf-backed bible chairs that I see in smaller chapels and alternative coffee shops. Whoever patented these chairs clearly made a killing.
The walls are gloriously weathered, discoloured. I love when stone is allowed to do this, it normally gives the eerie undertone to abandoned castles and masonic pillars that are allowed to return to nature.
The bells chime five. The cathedral is due to close at this hour. The bell had that wonderful gap between the sound of the rope being pulled and the reflex of the reverberation of sound, when you know it’s a heavy and old ol’ bell.
There’s a niche in the wall on the south side of the cathedral that depicts a man and a woman either side of a wall but facing each other, both on their knees and presumably saying some prayers or something, as it looks like the book in front of them may be the Bible. Underneath is written about ‘Adlard’ and ‘Cassandra’ Welby, who died in 1570 and 1590 respectively. It is ambitiously curated, but is only missing a few bits. It says it was brought in under King James I. I later am pointed out the pompous carvings of corn on the bottom of the niche, which supposedly show a sense of self-glorification for the couple for corn was only brought in to Britain by Sir Walter Raleigh in around 1585. It is saying, “HAR! Look what we know about and you don’t know about!”.
I spend most of my time here looking for secrets; clues to something that I feel I should be looking for, but beneath the façade I have no idea of the meaning to or the linkage of. I walk around, finding uneven stone slabs that bump a little when I pass over them, and I investigate where exactly the bump is at its fullest depth. I look behind curtains, and between the lines on the walls.
There’s just this continual intensity here, and it feels like things aren’t exactly as they seem. Why here? Why is THIS the ‘Cathedral of the Fens’? What’s being hidden?
I just see shadows of the past; a monument buried in history.
I was later told that the Cathedral of the Fens holds prominence from when Boston, a nearby town, was the second most major port in Europe during the time of Henry Tudor. This area of Lincolnshire was absolutely massive in the wool trade, and the Cathedral of the Fens would be a central hub to it all. Much of the wool would be stored and passed on here. The super rich came here. The Welbys, though apparently not related to the new Archbishop of Canterbury, would have been hugely influential characters in Britain. The niche in this church depicts them as spiritual citizens of good faith, but, so I was told, it was most likely very different. They would have been the same slave-traders, murderers, exploiters, as the other super-rich of the time.
As for the current state of the church – I was told that about fifteen people are there for Sunday mass each week, but hundreds for the annual Christmas Carol concert. They hold regular orchestral concerts, and the venue is high in demand by different orchestras for its supreme acoustics. The vicar is leaving very soon, and so they are urgently looking for a new vicar. As with all churches/cathedrals across Britain, the upkeep costs are massive and they are always struggling to get by and rely hugely on donations by the general public. It cost £700 for a roofer to fix a small problem with the roof last time around.
Found shortly after the typing-up of this piece is a writing on the discovery of a secret vault in Gedney cathedral. Here is the link to this: http://www.churchmousewebsite.co.uk/gedney_vault.htm