12 September 2008

Sandford and Faber and Mamma

Sandford on Thames, that is, and not the Dry Sandford where una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro Benedicto et Antistite nostro ANDREA lives. At the Thamesy Sandford the church has a marvellous piece of undamaged medieval sculpture which survived by being carefully buried face-downwards so as to look like a paving stone in the Churchyard. Discovered in 1723, it is Maria Assumpta, her aureole clutched by some very determined angels and at the bottom two angels holding a carved stone reliquary (empty). I wonder how many churches in England tried to protect their treasures in this way, and when. We shouldn't assume that it had to be in 1546/9; there is evidence that a great deal survived until the Civil War.

The officiating priest in 1839 was that admirable (why is there no cause for his beatification?) missionary for Jesus and hymnographer, Fr Faber, composer of so many of the lovely hymns in the English Catholic Hymn Book (which I have brought back into use at S Thomas's). I suspect he may still have been an Anglican at the time he was at Sandford. A devoted client of our blessed Lady, it is recorded that after one particularly moving Marian Extravaganza he asked, in tears, 'Do you think Mamma was pleased?'

He is now interred in the Brompton Oratory, which he founded; the only church in London where I feel really at home. I wonder how his spiritual journey was affected by his years at Sandford, looking at that early sixteenth century carving of Mamma's Glory; and whether, amidst the Baroquery which he assembled for his Oratory (built after his death), he ever thought back to his days under our Lady's care in a little church by the Thames.

1 comment:

William Tighe said...

The Lords of the Manor of Sandford-on-Thames from 1541 onwards to the family's extinction in the male line (in the persons of two brothers, both of them Franciscan friars) in the 18th Century were successive members of the Powell family, originally Cardiganshire yeomen who rose to gentry status as stewards of th manor of Ewelme under Sir Henry Norris (one of Henry VIII's Privy Chamber, executed in 1536 for supposed adultry with Anne Boleyn).

Edmund Powell (d.1591), grandson of the Welsh yeoman, was a student at the Middle Temple in Queen Mary's reign, and in 1559 became a Gentleman Pensioner at the new queen's court -- a position he lost in 1571 when it emerged (in the course of the investigation of the Ridolphi Plot) that he had been involved in discussions with servants of the Earl of Arundel and Arundel's son-in-law, Lord Lumley, about how to break the Scots Queen from her captivity and spirit her away to France. although convicted of treason in 1572, he was released and pardoned in 1574, but had moved over to outright recusancy by 1577; and his family remained recusant until their extinction.

Perhaps the Powells may have added their assistance to the preservation of these Catholic memorabilia.