Saturday, 29 September 2007

A visit to East Hendred

Two of our daughters live in rural Oxfordshire and every so often we go out (with one of them at a time and their families) to a gastropub for Sunday lunch. I leave the bookings to them. From time to time I am vaguely aware that we are at a locale favoured by Roy Jenkins for lunch in his later life, e.g., The Fish at Sutton Courtenay.

I was therefore interested to find last Sunday that we were having a very good lunch (appropriately) in East Hendred where Jenkins had his main home. I greatly enjoy his biographies, especially the one of Churchill which was a masterpiece. I also admire his contrubution to reform as Home Secretary and the responsible way he acted as Chancellor. Being President of the European Commission is an impossible job, but he did his best.

I wouldn't say I was a fan of Roy Jenkins as a person. The only time I encountered him was at a 'degree in' for Nelson Mandela at Buck House. Our Chancellor, Sonny Ramphal, who had visited Mandela in prison, embraced him warmly. Jenkins made a long speech in flowery Latin which left even Prince Philip bemused. Jenkins was too much the upper class Oxbridge man for my personal taste.

Somewhat to the bemusement of my daughter, who did not know who Roy Jenkins was, we went off in search of his home and grave. Grumbling about possible damage to her Merecedes 4 x 4, we parked in the narrow lane by the church.

Inside the church looks like a typical 'broad church' C of E establishment, the only contemporary note being that the Rector is a woman called Rita and three of the four vicars in the pastoral team are women. By 'broad church', I mean no 'bells and smells' (stations of the cross in the most extreme cases), but no Evangelicanism either with speaking in tongues and all the other nonsense about which I might write at some time.

Now according to the DNB, Jenkins is buried in East Hendred churchyard. However, there do not appear to have been any recent burials there (one would expect his grave to be marked). I think his house was near the church, but I couldn't identify it. There was one that seemed similar, but it had a different name. I will have to check a video I have of a television programme about him when I have time. This was, of course, the house where Tony Blair went for mentoring lunches with Roy before he became prime minister.

East Hendred is a curious village. Near the Wantage Road, it is rather down market with some (former) social housing. As you progress down the long road through the village, it becomes more and more affluent with electronic gates controlling access. This was, of course, the area where Jenkins lived.

The road then continues up to The Ridgeway from where there are extensive views. Jenkins did not come up here to exercise, but followed a regime of walking briskly round his tennis court a predetermined number of times (there was, of course, also a croquet lawn).

From The Ridgeway you get an excellent view of the new particle accelerator at Harwell. One of my daughter's employees came up here with his girl friend in his white van and was rudely interrupted by the Thames Valley Police who suspected that he was a terrorist rather than engaging in the rites of Venus. When we were up there a police 4 x 4 circled around, demonstrating how extensive the terrorist threat is believed to be.

If anything can explain where the Jenkins grave is, please let me know. I don't think that there are two churches in East Hendred.


skipper said...

Agree Roy's biography of Churchill was his best. I met him once at 5.0pm in his room in the Lords. He seemed very happy and we shared a (half) bottle of claret together. The interview was virtually useless but I'm so pleased I did it, if only to share that drink with British politics greatest ever claret tippler.

OT said...

Well his funeral was certainly at St Augustine's in East hendred, but was he interred there (maybe cremated?) - why not ask the vicar?

The biography of Churchill is massive and i finally finished it in Skopelos this summer. It is a great work - my only criticism is i would like to have heard a bit more about his relationship with Clementine.

Roland Hulme said...

Beautiful old church there. I remember visiting it many times. It's a very pretty village.

Anonymous said...

Lord Jenkins' final resting place is in a separate graveyard close to where Cat Street merges with Fordy Lane. This isn't an act of afterlife elitism - rather that St Augustine's own patch is full, necessitating a new one elsewhere in the village...

Wyn Grant said...

Thanks for that information, when I go back I will know where to go.