Will you hear a Spanish Lady,
How an English man she woo'd.
Tho' he held her as his captive,
Ever gentle was his mood.
Tho' by birth and parentage of high degree
Much she wept when orders came to set her free.
"Gallant captain, shew some mercy
To a lady in distress,
Leave me not within this city,
I shall die of heaviness;
'Tis an empty mockery to set me free
While my heart in prison still remains with thee...etc
Sometimes you don't have to travel far to find a good story. This tiny, greenstone and chalk church is about two miles from our village. It is surrounded by horse paddocks, with a manor house right next door, and a handful of cottages dotted around. The church is still a place of occasional worship. Luckily for me it is left unlocked, so I was able to explore it at my leisure.
This is one of the tales it has to tell...
The year was 1594 when a force of 150 ships and some 8000 soldiers set sail from England, their aim was to lay siege to the Spanish Navy in the port of Cadiz. Among the soldiers was Sir John Bolle of Lincolnshire, a captain in the army of the Tudor Queen Elizabeth I. John Bolle was 34 years old, handsome, and chivalrous, a gentle man.
|image of Sir John Bolle borrowed from flickr|
The Spanish fleet was destroyed and the town was taken.
Hostages were seized, and among those prisoners assigned to the care of John Bolle was an exceptionally beautiful young woman of noble birth and great wealth, thought to be Donna Leonora Oviedo.
During the 13 days of the siege John Bolle treated her with such courtesy and kindness that she fell deeply in love with him, although, (so the story goes) he remained faithful to his wife.
Upon her release, beautiful Donna Leonora threw herself at his feet, professed her love and begged to be allowed to travel with him to England. John Bolle explained that he had a wife and family waiting in England.
Heartbroken, Donna Leonora presented him with many gifts, including jewels for his wife, a bed and bed coverings, caskets of plate, and a portrait of herself wearing a green dress and black veil. Donna Leonora then took herself off to a nunnery, where she spent the remainder of her days...
This sad story has been retold in the ballad 'The Spanish Layde's Love' which was composed shortly after the fleet returned...(see top tab).
John Bolle and his family lived at Thorpe Hall in Louth...much altered and added to over the centuries.
|Image of Thorpe Hall borrowed from allseasonsuk.co.uk|
The gifts which Donna Leonora showered upon Sir John were brought back to Thorpe Hall. Unfortunately the portrait was sold many years ago, but Louth museum purchased a beautiful red velvet coverlet, with silver lace borders, which is said to have been among the gifts. Sir John's family is said to have felt her presence at the Hall and his heir, Sir Charles Bolle always had an extra place set at the dinner table for her.
It is still said that the 'Green Lady' haunts Thorpe Hall, she is supposed to sit near a particular tree in the grounds, waiting for her love.
Sir John Bolle died in 1606, aged 46 years. He is buried in this little church, along with other members of the Bolle family.
The manor house next door was built in the mid 1500's, it was the home of the Bolle family until the much grander Thorpe Hall was built.
St Leonard's Church has its origins in the 10th century, although there have been many alterations and additions since. These days it is suffering badly. Great chunks of plaster have fallen from the walls, green damp marks are everywhere, there are lots of bird and bat droppings inside and it feels neglected. I'll post about it another time.