Yesterday afternoon I took a bus down to Steventon, walked down that magnificent (and unique?) 'Causeway' with its Medieval houses and the church, then round to the site of the old Railway Station. Why? Not mainly because it is the spot halfway between Bristol and London, where the Directors of the Great Western had their Board Meetings, those from each town coming in their respective trains to convene in the solid early Victorian buildings which still survive. No; I went principally because, in the days when the University was strong enough to maintain its veto on the railways coming to Oxford (for obvious reasons; in my time the last train back to Oxford on Sunday evenings was still called the Flying Fornicator) Steventon is where one got off and took horse transport back to the University. It is through Steventon that Newman's Charles Reding made his emotional last visit to Oxford before his reception into full communion. The site of the actual station is now occupied by a bathetic building called Kingdom Hall of J******'s Witnesses; Yuk.
Then along country bridleways to Milton Manor, a recusant house with an evocative chapel in Strawberry-Hill Gothick and with good medieval glass from Steventon and elsewhere. Bishop Challoner often stayed there with his friend Squire Barret, and Mass (EF) was said yesterday using his Altar, Chalice, and Missal, in recollection of his birthday on Tuesday. He was buried in the Squire's vault in the Village Church, until they hoiked him out and reinterred him amid the preposterous 'Byzantine' absurdities of 'Westminster Cathedral'. I wonder if the splendid old gentleman would have preferred to remain among friends in the gentle Berkshire countryside (happily, it never occurred to them to kidnap Mrs Manning from her peaceful grave in the shadow of the everlasting hills, by the South Downs in Sussex, and transfer her to beside her husband under his Cardinal's Hat at Westminster. I wonder why ...).
And I wondered whether Challoner said Mass with the pronunciation we Italophiles use, or whether, like a proper Englishman, he said "Tee ijjita, Clementissimee Payta ...".
Good blackberries along the paths. But they seem to be nearly finished in most places.