‘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.