At 2am on Sunday 27th. October, clocks were put back an hour in the UK to correct the hour of daylight saving time when they were put forward in April.
Returning home that evening from a preaching engagement at Luton we entered Northampton and drove past the illuminated Eleanor Cross. Seeing this grand Historic Monument prompted a comment to my wife regarding the many such interesting ancient sites in the town. Just down the hill from the Cross is a district known as Far Cotton. The website, <cottonites.co.uk/history/queen_eleanor> carries the following information. ‘King Edward I was devastated when his Queen, Eleanor of Castille, died at Harby on 28 November 1290. What had started as a marriage of political convenience became a marriage of love. The nation mourned as the funeral cortege set off for Westminster Abbey, Eleanor's burial ground Eleanor was 45 when she died of a slow fever. After three days of mourning at Harby, she was taken to Lincoln where her body was embalmed. The cortege set off from Lincoln and passed through Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Hardingstone (Northampton), Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St. Albans, Waltham, West-Cheap, to the final stopping place at| Charing, London. This somewhat unusual route allowed her corpse to pass through more frequented areas where she was well known and loved - news traveled fast that she had saved her husband's life during the Seige of Acre in 1272 by sucking poison from his arm from an assassin's dagger.’ More text and photographs are on this site and Wikipedia has expansive details of each stopover of the cortège. The three locations in bold type are the only crosses that remain and Geddington near Kettering is the most complete, near the bridge over the river Ise, circa 1250 and still in use.
Continuing our journey home through Northampton we came to traffic lights at the junction of two roads, St. Peter’s Way and Marefair, that half a square mile area contains rich history from Roman times. Putting the clock back to the 11th. Century the Castle was built N/W of the junction. Only a small postern gate remains of the Castle, a few yards from the traffic lights, a railway station stands on the site today. Early in the 12th. Century, St. Peter’s Church was built S/W of that crossroad. A hundred yards from the Church is another place, Oliver Cromwell allegedly stayed the night in mid-June 1645, the night before the Battle of Naseby. King John of Magna Carte fame spent the festivals of Easter, Whitsun and Christmas at the Castle, at least thirty times he came, and he also moved the Royal Treasury from London to the Castle. John’s son Henry 111 continued his father’s connection with Northampton, as did Edward 1. 11 and 111 who held Parliaments and Tournaments in the Castle.
In the late 17th. Century, Christians at Castle Hill purchased land on the edge of the Castle grounds to build a Chapel where Phillip Doddridge preached, in the early years of the following Century. He wrote many hymns (O Happy Day) and had a Bible Academy for young men to prepare for the mission field. He also commenced the first Infirmary in the town. This good man gave John Wesley and George Whitfield opportunities to preach the gospel at Castle Hill, with many of the common people in attendance. My grandparents ran a public house in Castle Street, next door to the Chapel. My mother used to call that area ‘The Boro’s’; (Spring Boroughs). A burial ground for about 3000 bubonic plague victims (1348 to 1350) is located there.
If we put the clock back further to Joshua’s day when the children of Israel crossed the river Jordan to enter the Promised Land. Joshua ch.4:5 says, “And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel. That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.”
Their deliverance from captivity in Egypt began on Passover night when a lamb was slain and its blood applied to the lintel and doorposts of their houses. This personal act of faith secured their salvation. The power of God seen at the Red sea and the Jordan demonstrated that their salvation makes them absolutely safe. It is God who saves; it is God who keeps safe those that believe.
It is good when children enquire about their heritage and that they are told of the deliverance that God has made for sinners through the Cross of Christ. Other crosses pale into insignificance, other king’s fade when compared to the King of Kings. Jesus bore a mocking crown upon the cross. Soon, those things that we have told our children about crossing over into Promised Land will take place. Then believers will see Him in all His glory, crowned with glory and honour. Many of my town dwellers daily pass by Cromwell House, St. Peter’s Church, the Postern Gate, in haste as they rush to catch a train at the station, little wondering about local heritage. They need to take a time check, to put the clock back and enquire what it all means. Ultimately, that faith in Christ is worth standing for and worth dying for.
An early edition of Foxes Book of Martyrs tells of a man, ‘his name was John Kurde, a shoemaker, late of the parish of Syresham, in Northamptonshire, who was imprisoned in Northampton Castle for denying the popish transubstantiation, for which cause William Binsley, Bachelor of Law, and Chancellor unto the Bishop of Peterborough, and now Archdeacon of Northampton, did pronounce sentence of death against the said Kurde, in the church of All Saints, in Northampton, in August, anno 1557. And in September following, at the commandment of Sir Thomas Tresham, Sheriff then of the shire, he was led by his officer within the North Gate of Northampton and in the stone pits was burnt.’ I salute the memory of such a man. God bless.
Written by a guest contributor for FTMP.