In 2011 a party of six members of the George Herbert in Bemerton Group visited St. Mary's in Leighton Bromswold, Little Gidding, and various churches and Trinity College in Cambridge.
In 1626 George Herbert was made Prebend of the church of St. Mary the Virgin, Leighton Bromswold. At this time the church was in a poor state and Herbert raised the money for its restoration from his friends and family. The work was supervised by the Ferrars of nearby Little Gidding, and by Arthur Woodnoth (a friend of both the Ferrars and the Herberts). Although there have been subsequent alterations, including the addition of the West Tower, the general look and feel of the interior is still largely as Herbert intended. Of particular note are the very wide nave aisle, and the matching pulpit and reading desk. For the members of the Group, it was very satisfying to visit a building so closely associated with George Herbert who, as far as is known, never actually went to see it himself.
The community at Little Gidding was established in 1626 by Nicholas Ferrar, George Herbert's dearest friend and the man who published his English poetry. A family grouping of about twenty people, they all wanted to live a simple life founded in Christian religious observance. Although clearly an Anglican foundation, some of their practices were in what would now be called the 'high church' tradition and eventually attracted severe critism from the puritans. Ferrar himself died in 1637 but the community survived until the late 1850s. Little Gidding church is still much as it was at that time, but the manor house in which they lived is no longer standing. In its place is Ferrar House, a small quiet retreat centre where the Group stayed overnight and was made to feel most welcome. It was good to see the bond between Herbert and Ferrar still being confirmed by contacts between the Bemerton group and The Friends of Little Gidding
George Herbert was associated with Cambridge from 1609, when he matriculated, until 1627 when he resigned from his post as the university's Public Orator. A tour of various sites linked to him was arranged very kindly by Elizabeth Wade, a Cambridge resident and good friend of the Group. Starting at Little St. Mary's church, with a verse from 'The Elixir' etched on its glass door, the group passed the Senate House on the way to Herbert's college, Trinity. Although the college chapel was closed to the public for renovations, the Group was able to see the architecture from the Great Court. The tour culminated in a visit to All Saints church, to view the stained glass window dedicated to Herbert, which includes a picture of a very familiar building - St. Andrew's church, Bemerton. Despite the rain, this was a most worthwhile and informative tour, enabling the Group to identify more directly with some key events in Herbert's life.