William the Conqueror, Charles Darwin and the Parsons ancestors

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Battle Abbey gate house

We finally were able to go see Battle, where William the Conqueror changed English history in 1066. We had been waiting for good weather, which has finally arrived. Sunny days at 68 degrees are marvelous! The battle was fought between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy (now known as William the Conqueror) and an English army under King Harold II. William assembled a large invasion fleet with cavalry, infantry, and archers or crossbowmen. Harold marched the rest of his army (entirely infantry) south to deal with the threatened Norman invasion and took a defensive position at the top of Senlac Hill. The battle opened with the Norman archers shooting uphill at the English shield wall, to little effect. The William sent the spearmen forward.  The infantry was unable to force openings in the shield wall, and the cavalry advanced in support. Eventually Harold was killed and his army overwhelmed. Battle Abbey was founded by William at the site of the battle, and historical sources state that the high altar of the church was placed at the site where Harold had fallen.

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Painted organ at Hellingly (pronounced Helling-lye) parish church

After Battle we visited some castles and then some parish churches where Sister Young’s PARSONS family was christened/buried. The most impressive site was the organ at the parish church in Hellingly, which was painted and very beautiful. We had never seen an organ with the pipes painted before. We were able to go into each of the churches as well as look at the headstones for family names. Most of the surviving stones that could be read were from the 1860’s and later. Any family names we found were for people buried in the 1900’s, way after her ancestors came to Utah.

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Parish church at Brede, Sussex, England where James PARSONS was christened.

After touring Battle Abbey and grounds, we visited several castles in the area and then some of the parish churches where Sister Young’s PARSONS family were christened/buried. We read all the tombstones at each church, most of which were from the 1860’s or later. The few family names were dated in the early 1900’s, way after her ancestors came to Utah. However it was great to tour the churches and villages where they had lived.

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Herstmonceux Castle

One of the castles was Herstmonceux Castle, where we were surprised to learn that it was an alternate location for the observatories and scientists when Greenwich became too busy and too many city light. The castle is not open to the public because it is being run by a Canadian university which does research there. But the grounds were beautiful and had a wonderful “Magic Garden” that made us wish our granddaughters were here to explore it with us!

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The grounds of the castles were lovely with many gardens and unique flowers. This particular flower was a large sphere, at first with spiky points which then opened up into little blue flowers.

Sister Young had been having more problems with pain in her arms and hands, and a day at the temple was very uncomfortable even with a pain pill. The next day we participated in a service project with the Orpington Ward, where she was on the crew clearing out the orchard at a Girls Guide Camp. Did you know that stinging nettle helps you with pain? For two days she felt like her arms and hands were shooting out electrons constantly (note to self: wear gloves). But the pain was not noticeable, and has been better since.

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Downe House, where Charles Darwin lived

On Monday we went to Downe House with the sister missionaries on their p-day. This house is where Charles Darwin and his family lived to 40 years. It is only a few minutes away from our flat, and was very interesting. We toured the house and the gardens, which were extensive. This is where he wrote his famous books and did his experiments and research. His ten children grew up in the house, which had been restored on the first floor to look like it was when they were there. The second floor was a museum and interactive exhibit hall. The vegetable and flower gardens were extensive and beautiful.

As a wonderful end to an eventful week, we were able to skype with our ward in Corpus Christi for their third hour combined adult meeting. The theme was “Hastening the Work” and they asked us to talk about serving a mission. It was fun and the technology behaved very well. Hopefully what we shared was of interest to them.

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