Supposing that someone who resided in this parish 350 years ago could return, what difference would he notice in the church he knew well? The exterior would look much the same, though the palm tree to the east of the porch might have caused a raised eyebrow. Once his eyes grew accustomed to the dark interior, he would wonder where all that stained glass had come from. Then he would notice that all the box pews have gone, and spot that the font was unfamiliar (dated 1667, it came from Eaton Bishop church in 1885). A real surprise to him would be a stained glass window on the south side of the chancel, a gem this, covered up for many years at the Reformation. It has figures of two bishops — St Thomas à Becket and St Thomas Cantilupe, painted around 1310 — the surprise is deeper because our visitor is also named Thomas. And he would be amazed to see a monument to himself, erected in 1908, over 200 years after his death.

Thomas Traherne was Rector of Credenhill from 1657 until shortly before his death, aged 37, from smallpox, the scourge of the times, in 1674. During his short life, he wrote poems and also his best-known work, for his friend Mrs Susanna Hopton, though Centuries of Meditations so nearly was lost. It is a treasury of profound meditation, witness:

`Love is the true means by which the world is enjoyed: Our love to others, and others’ love to us. We ought therefore above all things to get acquainted with the nature of Love. For Love is the root and foundation of nature: Love is the Soul of Life and Crown of rewards. !f we cannot be satisfied in the nature of Love we can never be satisfied at all. The very end for which God made the world, was that He might manifest His Love’.

Read Centuries, and also Denise Inge’s introductions to Traherne, notably Happiness and Holiness. Pray for the repose of the soul of Denise Longenecker Inge, who like her subject met a premature death.

Map reference: S0450439

Simon Cotton