On 19 May it was time to get on with more of our drive around England, so we set off to do the three hundred miles from the tiny village of Kier Mill, where we had stayed, to the very slightly less tiny village of Troston, Suffolk, three hundred miles south, our next stop. On the way we called in at Gretna Green, Ely Cathedral and, a different sort of experience, at a motorway stop called Moto Wetherby, near Kirk Deighton in Yorkshire.
Gretna Green of course is famous for elopements. The 1754 Marriage Act required couples under the age of 21 marrying in England or Wales to have their parents’ consent, but as it was still legal to marry without this in Scotland, couples began crossing England’s northern border to evade the Act.
My 5th great aunt Eliza Champion Crespigny (1784 – 1831) was one of these elopers. In 1804, at the age of twenty, she ran off with an army major named Richard Hussey Vivian (1775-1842), and on 14 September they were married at Gretna Green. For his gallantry, or perhaps not, Vivian was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel a week later. He went on to become a Lieutenant-General and was raised to the peerage. Vivian was devoted to his wife and took time off from his career to care for her when she was ill.
After a brief tour of Gretna Green – which really didn’t have much to look at – we got on the motorway again, for entertainment listening to Stephen Fry read Jeeves. We had lunch at Moto Wetherby, a giant petrol stop and food court, very busy. Australians are supposed to enjoy gambling, but really, slot machines and a betting arcade in a motorway pull-over! Oh for a virus pandemic to put the lid on this sort of nonsense.
We reached Ely Cathedral about four o’clock, at Evensong, or anyway, during a choral service. Ely’s lantern and vaulting are superb, and I took many photographs. What a pity it is that digital photographs are free. With old-fashioned cameras where you paid for the film, you got a real sense of how important it was from how much it was costing you.
The Cathedral was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, with scientific exhibitions and an enormous model of the moon, seven metres across, suspended above the nave. Our rocky celestial neighbour is a neat bit of God’s handiwork, I suppose, though I can’t see any direct relevance to Jesus’ message. ‘I am the light of the world’, perhaps, at least at night, for part of the month.