Charles Lamb was born on 10th February 1775 and died on 27th December 1834. For him, Widford was a very special place; for us, the church of St. John the Baptist, the village street, the house once known as Goddard’s School, are all holy ground to the lovers of Charles Lamb. Here in this parish he dreamed and played as a child, and it was here at the closing of his life that he would sit drinking and making merry at “The Bell” until closing time.
His grandmother, Mary Field, was the housekeeper at Blakesware (now demolished) and many of his childhood and his happiest memories date from the times spent with her at this old house. It was on 31st July 1792, when Charles was seventeen years old, that the “granddame” died. Her funeral was attended by both the poor and the gentry, who had all gathered in the little village church to show their respect for her memory.
We think of Charles Lamb as we follow in his steps from Blakesware and climb the winding slope to the church. If you turn left on entering the gate, in a retired and shady spot you will find her grave. Time has eroded the carving on her tombstone, but armed with the knowledge below, you may still make out the words:
“On the green hill top, hard by the house of prayer, a modest roof, and not distinguish’d from its neighbour-barn save by a slender-tapering length of spire, the Grandame sleeps.”
Charles Lamb in his many and varied writings has left us much to celebrate, but perhaps the following quotes will be sufficient to whet your appetite for this brilliant writer:
“When I consider how little of a rarity children are, that every street and blind alley swarms with them, that the poorest people commonly have them in most abundance, that there are few marriages that are not blest with at least one of these bargains, how often they turn out ill and defeat the fond hopes of their parents, taking to vicious courses which end in poverty, disgrace, the gallows, etc., I cannot for my life tell what cause for pride there can possibly be in having them.”
“The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth and have it found out by accident.”
“Martin, if dirt was trumps, what hands you would hold.”