Storm Haiku

On far distant hills

Dark storm clouds are gathering

Threatening thunder.

May Hill seen from Prinknash Abbey grounds today

May Hill seen from Prinknash Abbey grounds today

Today’s haiku prompt at haiku heights is ‘Storm’.  It brought to mind the time when I worked at St Peter’s Grange, Prinknash Abbey, which I have described in earlier posts.  The view from Prinknash is amazing as the Abbey is set high in the hills near Cranham and Painswick.  Although there are wonderful woods behind the Abbey, the front has a clear view over the vale towards Gloucester City with its beautiful Cathedral.  One day I will write about my time working at the King’s School in Gloucester (founded by Henry V111) while Harry Potter was being filmed in the Cathedral.  However, today I will stick to the point of my blog!  On a clear day there is a wonderful view from Prinknash, of May Hill, with its clump of trees on the summit.  They were planted in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and are visible for miles around.  Beyond that there are the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains.

Having observed that view on a daily basis, the monks were very good at forecasting the weather merely from looking at May Hill.  If the hill looked a misty blue they knew there would be rain at Prinknash later.  If the crown of trees was lost in cloud there would be a storm.

Interestingly, I discovered while working at St Peter’s Grange that it was built in this position, sheltered by the hills and trees, as protection from the plague.  There is documentary evidence, as well as internal evidence in the Grange, that some parts were built in the 14th century.  In 1339 the Bishop of Worcester granted a licence “For the Abbot of Gloucester and his fellow monks to celebrate Mass or to have it celebrated by a suitable chaplain in an oratory within their manor of Princkenasch.”  So we know that there was a chapel on the site then.  By the time the Grange was built the Black Death had already swept through England and people thought it was carried on the wind.  Wealthy people therefore built their homes on the side of a hill sheltered from the wind in the hope that this would protect them.

St Peter's Grange at Prinknash Abbey on the side of the hill, sheltered by trees

St Peter’s Grange at Prinknash Abbey on the side of the hill, sheltered by trees

One of my jobs at the Abbey was to polish the Parker room.  This room was named after William Parker who was Master of the Works in the Abbey before he was elected Abbot in 1515.  He was responsible for many improvements to the building.  In July 1535 Abbot Parker entertained King Henry V111 and Anne Boleyn for a week.  They used St Peter’s Grange as a hunting Lodge as there were many deer around – as there are today nearby.  One fascinating snippet that appeals to me is that Abbot Parker had windows put in positions from which he could watch the monks about their work.  He used to spy on them.  I believe, contrary to what Wikipedia says, that this is where the phrase “Nosey Parker” comes from.

St. Peter's Grange, Prinknash

St. Peter’s Grange, Prinknash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At Prinknash the monks have long been known for their art and craft work.  They made beautiful pottery for many years from the local clay.  They still make Incense that is exported all over the world.  One of the monks who has sadly passed away created a wonderful painting for the millennium which was displayed in the Abbey Church.  he also painted and created stained glass.  Many of his pictures were made into lovely cards which were sold in the Abbey Shop.  Today there is a gallery displaying the artwork of a prolific painter monk, Fr Stephen Horton.  I was fortunate enough to buy some of his original paintings while I worked at the Grange.  They are my pride and joy.  The one I love especially is a watercolour of the Vale of Gloucester as seen from the roof of the Abbey.   When inspiration struck him for this painting he had no suitably sized paper on which to paint the panorama.  Being a monk and used to making use of whatever is available, he used two pieces of A4 paper side by side.  This painting speaks to me of so much more than the view.  It is creativity at its most basic I feel.  The painting had to be painted there and then using whatever was to hand.  The muse could not wait for a trip to the art suppliers!  It also speaks to me of the way of life of the monks.  They waste nothing and ask for nothing.  They live such a simple life yet produce beauty all around them from whatever is there to be used.

Painting by Fr Stephen Horton OSB

Painting by Fr Stephen Horton OSB

One of the saddest things that happened at Prinknash was the theft of  a statue of Our Lady of Prinknash in 2002.  There are many statues at Prinknash but this one was extremely beautiful and so special.  It was about 20 inches tall, carved of Flemish Oak, and had belonged to St Thomas More. After the Reformation, it was taken abroad but returned in 1925 when the Benedictine monks founded their new abbey at Prinknash.  Of course this means it was hundreds of years old and priceless in the truest sense.   The Abbey Church was always open for visitors and those who wished to pray, and the statue used to stand on a shelf to the left side of the church.  One day it just disappeared while the monks were at tea, stolen to order presumably as nothing else was taken.  It devastated the community in the abbey and the wider community, including myself, who attended mass there.  I almost believe it took the heart out of some of the monks and the community itself.  I have a picture of that statue and I often think that one day it will return to its rightful home.  Maybe when the current unrightful owner dies he will leave it in his will to be returned to Prinknash ~ after all he can’t take it with him!

  • Prayer (heavenhappens.wordpress.com)

15 thoughts on “Storm Haiku

  1. Love your haiku and your story that went with it. The view of Prinknash Abbey is my kind of picture. A painting on 2 A4s – wow! What a talent. Theft of art pieces makes me very sad too. I’m guessing (but I could be wrong; I haven’t checked) St Peter’s Grange is a National Trust property? I’ve always dreamed of working in one.

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    • Thanks for the comment x St peter’s Grange is not NT, it is still a working monastery with 12 monks living and working there. They still make incense to sell worldwide. They also celebrate Mass every day, vespers etc. When the renovation is complete of another building they will restart Retreats and Conferences. I have been going there since the 1960s when we used to hold teachers’ courses there. It is a very special and sacred place.

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    • Ah thank you x I used to love doing the housework there, I also did the cooking. It was a labour of love. I gave it up very reluctantly in 2004 when my mum had a heart attack and became very frail. At the same time my husband had renal failure and had to go on dialysis. I became a carer for my mum for the next 5 years until she was so disabled that I could manage no longer and she had to go into a nursing home. She died a year ago. My husband is still on dialysis and chemotherapy so I am pretty much tied to our home now but blogging gives me a wonderful outlet and contact with a wider community x Gosh what a long reply! Sorry!! x

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