|The church at Little Gidding has
attracted pilgrims - ordinary folk and royalty - for many years but in this century, it is
perhaps the work of the poet T.S. Eliot which has drawn people to visit the church deep in
the Huntingdonshire countryside.
The hamlet of Little Gidding centres on the church and, until recently, a religious community lived in the farmhouse and neighbouring buildings.
A community was established in 1636 by the Ferrar family. The founder, Nicholas Ferrar was inspired both by the Catholic and Protestant teachings of the time - but wanted to create a community where the best of both could be used in harmony. He also wanted a community in which married people with children could live alongside those committed to the single life - each feeding and balancing the other.
When the family arrived, the hamlet was deserted - the previous inhabitants being victims of the Black Death. The first few years were, therefore, a time of rebuilding and restoration.
There were many debates about how the church should be ordered - along Catholic or Puritan lines . In the end, the community blended both - the church was decorated with tapestries and flowers - but the altar was simpler and served as a table around which people could gather for communion rather than a high altar separated from them.
Although the community sought seclusion from the world. people were interested in the way of life they had established. Others found refuge there - or in nearby houses - including Catholic priests and even King Charles I shortly before his arrest..
The community declined but, during the last century, new interest in community life was reawakened and Little Gidding was again the focus of a new ecumenical community. T.S. Eliot was a prime mover in creating the Friends of Little Gidding and wrote a poem inspired by his visits to Little Gidding in his "Four Quartets".
It is a long mystical poem but he describes a visit to the church in these words...
"...You are not here to verify,
Little Gidding does not - as yet - have its own
so we have compiled a few short pages to whet your appetite!
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