THE BARNSTON MONUMENT


‘On the road to Chester, on the outskirts of Farndon, stands a monument to the late Major Barnston, raised in 1858 by his tenantry and friends. It consists of a grand obelisk, having at its base, four handsomely carved stone figures of recumbent lions.’

 History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, George Ormerod, 2nd Edition 1882.

 

The lions, positioned north, south, east and west –

encompassing the, now reduced, estates–

are lying, on their tomb chests, heads on paws

as if asleep. The Barnston family,

originally of Norman stock,

had been landowners in the parish

for six hundred years of unstinting service

to their estates, England, the monarch –

and had the church’s chancel named for them.

The monument – the design the result

of a competition – is, perversely,

sculpted in yellow not local sandstone

and cost the equivalent of £30k,

met entirely by public subscription.

A farm hand earned two shillings a day.

 

The inscription tells us the Major fought

‘In the Indian Mutiny campaign

in 1857; in which

he received a severe wound whilst gallantly

leading an assault at the relief

of Lucknow…from the effects of which

he died at Cawnpore…aged 31 years.’

He had, it seems, neither wife nor children.

 

This grandiose memorial surprises

on a country road and the landscape,

across the gentle Dee Valley into Wales,

appears much as the Major would have seen it

for the last time – orderly, productive,

agrarian. I note the irony –

a pitiless, criminal war for land –

and picture, from six thousand miles away

and more than a century and a half,

the noise, the blood, the hate.

 

 

 

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