An hour ago I discovered the writer, J.R. Tolkien, lies in a cemetary about a mile from where my kindred, Fair Rosmond Clifford, lie at rest, somewhere on the grounds of Godstow Abbey. The author, Charles Dodgson came here with Alice, who was his model for Fair Rosamond, my distant kin. The Pre-Raphaelite Artist, Dante Gabrielle Rossetti did a painting of Fair Rosamund. Lewis Carrol took a family photo of the Rossettis, who he was close to.
I am kin to Shakespeare and Ian Fleming. I declared myself a Pre-Raphaelite in 1969. I show these artists to my late sister, Christine Rosamond Benton, and she took up painting when she was twenty-our. Joaquin Miller had dinner with the Rossetti’s, and tried to get Michael to publish a book of his poetry. The Miller Brothers helped build Eugene. My ex was married to Thomas Pynchon, and David Seidler. I am kin to Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor and all the actors she married. I am kin to the Getty family. Here is a good read.
Two days ago I solved the riddle about no having an Heir. My daughter is not creative. She turned down the legacy I offered her on several occasions. Before my grandmother died, Rosemary told me she wanted to see me, just me. I was leery of having another gauntlet passed to me. What I realized, is, it is only once in a great while does a child care about the creative gifts that can be handed down in our DNA. She, wanted me to be – the one! She wanted me to carry on the bond of……..Royal Rosamond, and, Mary Magdalene Rosamond, who I now title ‘Fair Rosamond’. Mary gave birth to four beautiful daughters that could have found Shakespeare and Fair Rosamond in their family tree, but, they did not own the means to look. I did own these means. I looked. I am – the one!
Woodstock and Blenheim Palace with labyrinth is a mile and half away. Alice and Lewis just have been aware of the Rosamond legend. Fair Rosamond meets the Jabberwocky in the maze. Walter Scott wrote ‘Woodstock’. He corresponded with Henry Brevoort and touched bases with Washington Irving.
Godstow is about 2.5 miles (4 km) northwest of the centre of Oxford. It lies on the banks of the River Thames between the villages of Wolvercote to the east and Wytham to the west. The ruins of Godstow Abbey, also known as Godstow Nunnery, are here. A bridge spans the Thames and the Trout Inn is at the foot of the bridge across the river from the abbey ruins. There is also a weir and Godstow lock.
Godstow Abbey (see detailed history below) was built here, starting in 1133. It housed an order of Benedictine nuns. Rosamund Clifford, the mistress of King Henry II, retired here and died at 30. Her grave is somewhere in the grounds but now lost. The abbey was suppressed in 1539 under the Second Act of Dissolution.
The abbey was then converted into Godstow House by George Owen. It was occupied by his family until 1645, when the building was badly damaged in the English Civil War. After this damage, the building fell into disrepair and was used by the locals as a source of stone for their buildings.
This stone bridge was in existence in 1692 and an earlier one was probably that held by the Royalists against Parliamentarians in 1644, during the Civil War. Godstow House itself was fortified as part of the defences of Royalist Oxford against the Parliamentary army at the Siege of Oxford.
By the Thames at Lower Wolvercote and Godstow is a 17th-century public house, The Trout Inn, close to Godstow Bridge. The bridge, in two spans, was built in 1792, the southern span being rebuilt in 1892. Godstow Lock was built here in 1790.
History of Godstow Abbey
Godstow Abbey was built on what was then an island between streams running into the River Thames. The site was given to the foundress Edith, widow of Sir William Launceline, in 1133 by John of St. John and built in local limestone in honour of[clarification needed] St Mary and St John the Baptist for Benedictine nuns; with a further gift of land from him, the site was later enlarged. The church was consecrated in 1139.
The abbey was again enlarged between 1176 and 1188 when Henry II gave the establishment £258 (which included £100 for the church), 40,000 shingles, 4,000 laths, and a large quantity of timber. Because the abbey was the burial place of his mistress Rosamund Clifford, Henry, who received patronal rights from the nuns, paid special favour to the Abbey.
In 1446 Alice Henley became the abbess and she served until 1470. She is remembered because a “poor brother and admirer” of the abbess created the “English Register”. Its purpose was to explain the accounts, in English, to the nuns but it contained other descriptive material and today it illustrates “keeping and understanding records” in English in the 15th century.
The abbey was suppressed in 1539 under the Second Act of Dissolution.
The site consisted of a guest house; a nunnery; an outer court containing a range of buildings; lodging for a priest; St Thomas’s chapel, which appears to have been used a church by the Abbey’s servants; and the Abbey church, which contained cloisters along with associated buildings. The precincts were entered from the Wolvercote–Wytham road, which ran through the outer court. Here there was a two-storey main gatehouse with a large gate for carts and a second smaller one beside it for foot traffic.
George Price Boyce, the Victorian watercolour painter associated with the Pre-Raphaelite art movement, visited and painted the nunnery in 1862. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the ruined abbey was used for collecting livestock during the annual rounding up of animals on Port Meadow.
Rosamund Clifford’s death and grave
The abbey was the final burial place of the famed beauty Rosamund Clifford (died c. 1176), a long-term mistress of Henry II. Henry’s liaison with Rosamund became known throughout court in 1174; it ended when she retired to the nunnery at Godstow in 1176, shortly before her death.
Henry and the Clifford family paid for her tomb in the choir of the convent’s church at Godstow, and gave an endowment for it to be tended by the nuns. It became a popular local shrine until 1191, two years after Henry’s death. Hugh of Lincoln, Bishop of Lincoln, while visiting Godstow, noticed Rosamund’s tomb right in front of the high altar. The tomb was laden with flowers and candles, demonstrating that the local people were still praying there. Calling Rosamund a harlot, the bishop ordered her remains removed from the church. Her tomb was moved outside the abbey church to the cemetery at the nuns’ chapter house next to it, where it could still be visited; but it was destroyed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII.
… Adorent, Utque tibi detur requies Rosamunda precamur.
(“Let them adore … and we pray that rest be given to you, Rosamund.”)
Followed by a punning epitaph:
Hic jacet in tumba Rosamundi non Rosamunda
Non redolet sed olet, quae redolere solet.
(“Here in the tomb lies a rose of the world, not a pure rose; She who used to smell sweet, still smells — but not sweet.”)
I saved the greatest art and literature dynasty in America, if not the world, from utter ruin! I did this while living on $750 dollars a month. This is the BIG STORY that needs to get out of the prison the very rich put it in. I am going to suggest to Karl Schwarzenberg that he assist me in making this Dynasty a part of the European Union. We creative people REFUSE to have our creativity swallowed up by a Greedy Egregious Liar, and, Grabby Hollywood Moguls, that includes Amazon. We Poor Bohemians and Hobbits are being dwarfed by uncreative souls – whose money makes money! We want Our World back! Fork it over, or we will take it back!
Come along with me on a lovely walk I took last July While I was staying in Oxford. I was determined to go for at least one walk near Oxford while I was there. I really wanted to pay a visit to JRR Tolkien’s grave in Wolvercote and then when I discovered that not far from there, there was a ruined abbey along with a pub featured in Inspector Morse, the plan was sealed.
So, on a sunny afternoon in July, I got a taxi to Wolvercote Cemetery and had one of the best experiences I had my entire trip. I went for a walk. And it was a long walk, and I’m very glad I made myself do it. My life is generally very sedentary, I work from home, and now that it’s winter, I don’t get out much. So, one of the things I love the most when we make our trips to Britain is the chance to go for a walk in the countryside.
This post will follow a new photo essay format – I hope you like it! If you do – I will do more. Please leave a comment if you liked this.
The taxi dropped me off right outside the gates to the cemetery. There were helpful signs along the way to point you to this special place. I’ve been a fan of Tolkien’s works since I was a teenager so this was a pilgrimage I’ve always wanted to make. I practically had the cemetery to myself, which is an odd thing to be pleased about. I found the grave and smiled that other fans had adorned it with LOTR related stuff.
You’ll notice that the gravestone says Beren and Luthien. This is a reference to a story from the Lord of the Rings about an elf-maiden who sacrifices her immortal life to be with the mortal man she loves. It’s a beautiful and lovely story, and it was largely based on Tolkien’s own love for his wife (which is an interesting story as she sacrificed much to be with him). Their gravestone is a monument to their love and the stories he created. If you’re in Oxford and a Tolkien fan, I recommend stopping by this.
After I was done at the cemetery, I began my proper walk. At first, I was walking through a residential neighborhood, and it wasn’t really anything special. The roads were very busy. Wolvercote is basically a suburb of Oxford so many people who live there either work in Oxford or commute into London. I didn’t encounter any people – it was late afternoon, everyone was at school or work! It was pleasant!.
This is Port Meadow and the Wolvercote Common. This is a large area of land, just north of Oxford that has been common land since before William the Conqueror (1066). Commoners have the rights to graze their animals to this day. There’s also allotments and walking paths. Standing on the railway bridge below, you get expansive views of the whole of Port Meadow, and it’s magnificent to behold. It’s amazing to think that this land has been like this for so long and its history is so protected. I stood on that bridge for quite some time and watched the ant-like figures walk across the common. It was very peaceful and stunning to behold.
I like trains. I’m not a trainspotter, but I do like them a lot. This is the busy line in and out of Oxford, so there was a train going by every few minutes. I couldn’t help but stand and wait for a few to go by. Coming from America and a busy area for trains, I was surprised at how fast the trains were moving – even the freight trains. Ours are so slow in comparison (and I know why).
As I was walking along the road into Wolvercote, I stumbled upon this beautiful pond that you wouldn’t even know was there unless you looked closely. When I stood on the dock and gazed over its beauty, hidden away in a corner of Oxfordshire, I couldn’t help but think I’d stepped into a children’s storybook. I expected to see Peter Rabbit jumping into the water to go for a swim or Winnie the Pooh climbing a tree looking for honey. You can see why Tolkien was so inspired by the countryside surrounding Oxford.
I can’t resist stopping to photograph and beautiful thatched cottage. Perfect in the late afternoon glow.
The Trout Inn is a very popular pub on the Thames. It’s been featured in Brideshead Revisited and Inspector Morse (episode The Wolvercote Tongue). The building dates back to the 17th century. It’s a bustling pub, but it wasn’t too crowded when I visited on a Thursday afternoon. I was able to get a table. By this point, I’d walked almost 2 miles, so I was ready for a rest and a nice meal. This was the point of the trip when I missed Mrs. Anglotopia the most as she would have loved the waterside location.
Oddly, I found myself surrounded by lots of Americans. This pub is clearly popular with tourists. And that’s fine.