It felt almost mystical, like some scene taken from a fairy tale and given form. The long shadows at the end of day will do that.
Giving weight to that quest-like feeling was the reason that I was there. I'd been close by and seen the village on the map, then took a detour to visit it. There was history between my family and this place. I wanted to see for myself what they had seen nearly two centuries ago.
On June 18th 1815, a baby named Frederick Harrington was baptized in St John the Baptist Church. His father was William Harrington, a coachman, and his mother was named Ann. She was a local girl - born and bred in Horningsham, Wiltshire. Presumably this was the church where her family worshipped.
As for William, I don't know where he came from. He died before any census could tell us.
Before Frederick was ten years old, the family up and left for the industrial north. They ended up in the wool town of Wolverhampton, where William and Ann Harrington took possession of the Red Cow pub in Dudley Street. Their daughter Sarah was born there in 1823, and died a month later. Another daughter, Caroline, was born in 1825 and she survived. She married a Black Country man named William Beech and had many children.
As for Frederick, his marriage to another incomer to Wolverhampton - Mary Pragnall - eventually resulted in me. He is my gt-gt-gt grandfather.
So now I stood in the churchyard where my ancestors had most definitely stood nearly two hundred years before. I looked out over the lands of Longleat House, the estate meeting the horizon in a panoramic view. The sunlight still leaving long shadows from gravestones and buildings. You could see for miles up there. All green, fresh and clean, the sort of scenery that you could dream upon for hours.
They left this for Wolverhampton, at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. They swapped those rolling hills and idyllic country for a region which was grimy, noisy and crammed with people. "Black by day, red by night," is how the Black Country was described back then. Slums and tenements were thrown up overnight, the population erupted with the factories, foundries and pits.
I couldn't imagine it. I couldn't grasp why a young married couple would take their baby into that, leaving an area so pristine as this. Horningsham blew my mind, because I couldn't fathom the rationale. Until later, that is, when I looked into the history and found famine here back then.
They Christened their baby at St John the Baptist Church, then moved north into the grime to ensure that he lived. It was a plan that worked, because I was there to return to the beginning; the gt-gt-gt-gt grandchild of those who took that decision to thrive.
I'll raise a toast to that!