Bishop Family (continued)

The Kidnapped Bridegroom

Usually in stories of kidnappings, lost love and elopements, it is the young girl who has been whisked off by her lover or her lover’s family. But in the case of Alice and John, it was entirely the reverse.

The Bracebridge family was an old and honourable one, who settled in Warwickshire when Peter de Bracebridge came from Lincoln to Warwick to be married to the beautiful Alicia, granddaughter or Turchill, Sherriff of Warwickshire. They took as their seat Kingsbury Hall at the northern end of the county, and here on land overlooking the river Tame, they settled, built, fortified, flourished and prospered.

In the 15th century, the heiress of the Bracebridge family was Alice , fair of face, very young, dreamy and romantic, and the apple of her ageing father’s eye.

Next door to the Bracebridges stood Park Hall, the home of the Ardens , an ancient family of higher status, a family full of pride who owned vast estates, and who always sought by judicious marriages to improve themselves still further. Compared to the Ardens , the Bracebridges were comparative newcomers, and all the current hopes of the Ardens were centred on their eldest son, and the heir, John Arden.

John Arden and Alice Bracebridge fell in love, and this didn’t go down well with either family. The Ardens looked for a much more high flown union that this for their son, and Richard Bracebridge was inclined to consider the Ardens a bit soft and would have preferred a more soldier like husband for his daughter.

The young couple were forbidden to see each other. John was confined to the family estate, and Alice wandered around the bounds of Kingsbury Hall. John was miserable. Alice pined.

The amiable river Tame ran through both the adjoining estates, and John would drop wild flowers onto its shining waters, hoping they would be gathered up by Alice as they were carried through the meadows of Kingsbury Hall. Alice did indeed gather up the sodden blossoms, knowing John had picked them.

Richard Bracebridge was devoted to his daughter, and as she wandered aimlessly around, he hated to think of her so unhappy, he feared for her health since she grew more and more wan and pale. He wondered why John Arden did not take more positive steps to woo and win his love, but the cautious side of his nature realised that in so doing, John could well lose his inheritance. To Richard Bracebridge inheritance was of considerable importance, just as it was to the Ardens .

However, he began to find Alice ’s tears and sighs very wearing and eventually he decided he could bear it no longer.

Early one morning, before the household was astir he called together a few trusty retainers, and together they rode towards Park Hall. It was a simple matter to capture John Arden from beneath his parent’s noses, and to ride off with him back to Kingsbury Hall. John put up no resistance, and allowed himself to be handed over to Alice, who instantly stopped sighing and weeping, to the great relief of all around her.

John Arden remained a complacent and happy prisoner within the strong fortified walls of Kingsbury Hall, while his parents lamented their lot at Park Hall. To abduct a daughter was bad enough, heaven knows , but to make off with a son and heir was unthinkable. The Ardens went to the law, to the Lords of the land, and right up to the King, Edward IV himself, demanding justice, restitution and compensation.

The Lords debated at length, but the young couple happy at last in each others company, didn’t really care what was being said on either side. The lengthy legal battle waged above their heads.

Eventually a decision was reached. The pair were to be married in February 1474, and Alice was to have 200 marks settled upon her as her jointure. Richard Bracebridge was severely reprimanded for his trespass, and ordered to give Walter Arden, John’s father, the best horse that could be found from the Kingsbury Hall stables.

Ultimately, as in all good stories, the Ardens and the Bracebridges became better friends, and when Walter Arden died in 1502 Richard Bracebridge was the executor of his will.

John and Alice Arden settled down to comfortable wedlock and were members of the family who produced William Shakespeare through his mother Mary Arden.

55

Wren Chapel Chelsea Hospital

Built between 1681 and 1687 the chapel is a rare example of Wren’s pure ecclesiastical work, being carried out without site constraints.

It was designed to accommodate about 500 people, all the staff and pensioners, and rises 42 feet high.

The wainscoting and pews (originally for staff and Horse Guards) are by Sir Charles Hopson, the leading joiner of his day and deputy Clerk of Works at the Royal Hospital from 1691 to 1698. The choir stalls are modern additions. Backs have been fitted to the benches, and the three-decker pulpit has been dismantled to make the existing pulpit and reading-desk, otherwise the original plan is maintained. The plasterwork was carried out by Henry Margetts. The carving is by William Emmett, Master Carver before Grinling Gibbons and William Morgan. The organ case is the work of Renatus Harris, but his organ has been replaced by a modern instrument.

The painting of the Resurrection in the half dome of the apse is by Sebastiano Ricci, assisted by his nephew Marco, and dates from 1714. The work was probably paid for, as a donation to the Royal Hospital, by Queen Anne.
The Royal Hospital’s magnificent silver-gilt altar plate was made by Ralph Leake and is hall-marked 1687-8. It comprises a large alms dish, a pair of candlesticks with baluster stems, a salver, three flagons, four chalices and patens, and a straining spoon. The altar cross, the font and the coat of arms on the front of the organ loft date from 1955-6.

One of the original service books has been preserved. The old registers of baptisms, marriages and burials are now held at the Public Records Office. Burial services were discontinued in 1854, and weddings which were uncommon after 1753 were banned from 1815 to 1919.

The Chapel was consecrated in August 1691, and compulsory services held twice daily. Nowadays they are normally confined to the Sunday morning services before which the In- Pensioners parade in Figure Court.

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