Little Gidding

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Little Gidding is a tiny village between Cambridge and Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, England, made famous by TS Eliot and Nicholas Ferrar

Understand[edit]

Little Gidding is the site of a former religious community in the early 1600s, established by Nicholas Ferrar. Ferrar was originally from London and studied medicine at Clare College Cambridge. He spent a few years abroad, travelling through Germany, Italy, and Spain, where he no doubt encountered the spiritual revival that was going in Catholic areas during the Counter-Reformation, and the writings of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross. He returned and direct the Virginia Company before it was suppressed by the King. After this, he left with his family and established a lay religious community in Little Gidding.

Get in[edit]

The village is located between Cambridge and Peterborough off the A15. More specifically, it is between Great Gidding and Steeple Gidding; Great Gidding is between Winwick and Glatton. By car, one would take the A15, get off on the Great Northern Road towards Glatton, and turn left in Great Gidding, then right. There is no public transport; if you have a bike, you can take the train to Peterborough, then cycle south through Farcet, Yaxley, Holme, Glatton, and Great Gidding. Its a 14 mile cycle.

Get around[edit]

See[edit]

There isn't very much in the way of sights. Ferrar's house was destroyed during the civil war, the present Ferrar house is modern and not of much interest, except for purposes of hospitality. The Ferrar House Warden staffs the house, which is principally a Retreat Centre, and runs a bed and breakfast. The house also sells light refreshments, and the Warden be happy to tell you a bit more about the Ferrars.

The church is very old, but is largely a restoration. It was restored first in the 1620s by the Ferrars and then again in the 1700s. After the reformation, the church was used mostly as a hayshed until the Ferrars restored it. It was then sacked, looted, and damaged by the puritans during the civil war, and restored into basically its present state later. Its a very small church; architecturally, not nearly as interesting as the Cathedrals in Peterborough and Ely or as King's or St. John's college chapel. What makes the place worth visiting is its history with Nicholas Ferrar's spirituality, and TS Eliot's visit in 1936.

Inside the church are typical choir benches; again, nothing of any great architectural interest. The only stain glass is family coats-of-arms. There is no crucifix in the east window, except a very small altar cross. Behind the altar is a brass engraving of the ten commandments and the lord's prayer. There are also more recent wall hangings with lines from TS Eliot's poem Little Gidding, as well as from George Herbert.

Do[edit]

The great part of the experience is sitting in the choir reading TS Eliot. One really gets a feel for what Eliot must have felt. This is really something every Eliot fan ought to do. It was Little Gidding where the issues of the self and history that had plagued him since The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock and The Waste-Land came together for him, and it is worth a visit.


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