St Mary's Church, Patshull (redundant)

St Mary's

Grey, I guessed, squarely Norman,
all a village church should be?
But the landowner rebuilt it
in seventeen-forty-three.
Did George Heayes, master wheelwright,
shape spokes for his grandson?
My grandfather’s grandfather, George
fed ten kids crammed in one
tied cottage. This, improbably,
still stands, though Patshull Hall
crumbled, snared by bankruptcy.
Yet Mr Brown’s Greek temple
looms before a hotel’s sprawl.
I ask, by screens and bedding,
for keys to the pale chapel where
a girl walked to her wedding.
Great-grandmother, Elizabeth,
eighteen and pregnant, short of breath,
passed churchyard blackbirds’ mocking calls.
The future kicked at her white walls.

Alison Brackenbury

‘Tied’ accommodation is provided by an employer. If the worker leaves – or loses – their job, they normally lose their home.
‘Mr Brown’ is ‘Capability Brown’, whose landscapes in Patshull Park have survived, mainly in a golf course.
Elizabeth, my mother’s grandmother, was married at St Mary’s. Her father, George Heayes, is buried there. I found no headstone for him

To be published in her new collection, ‘Thorpeness’,

by Carcanet in February 2022.

If you have any thoughts on this poem, Alison Brackenbury would be pleased to hear them.