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Monday, July 25, 2016
The End of the World
July 21, 2016

On our third day in England, Jonathan, Marion and I took a long journey to Alford in Lincolnshire, birthplace of my ancestor Anne Hutchinson. We took a train from Liverpool Street Station in London, near our flat, to Cambridge, where we rented a car for the two hour drive to Alford. To be clear, that’s two hours when you don’t get lost.

Driving in the rain, and on the left side of the road, making the occasional wrong turn, made for a grueling journey. Alford is a long way from London in many ways. Whereas London is bustling and filled with energy, Alford feels like something of a ghost town. It wasn’t easy to find a place to eat lunch.

St. Wilfred’s, the local parish, memorializes Hutchinson’s birth and baptism in that community with a framed notice and picture on the wall of the sanctuary. Anne was 14 when her family moved to London (quite near to our flat).

While today Alford seems a small town pro Brexit backwater, in the early 17th century it was a center of Puritan revival in large part because of its location across the North Sea from Holland. Anne moved back to Alford as an adult and found herself in the middle of that energy. John Cotton became the charismatic pastor in Boston (for which the city in Massachusetts was named), twenty miles away from Alford.

Anne herself was gentry on both sides of her family. Her maternal grandparents built Canons Ashby, a manor house in Northhamptonshire. (Princess Diana and her children are included among their descendants). Anne did not marry well in terms of the standards of English aristocracy, but she did marry money. William Hutchinson was a merchant of considerable wealth and able to fund the migration of their large family to Massachusetts, including fifteen surviving children and all the servants required to live comfortably in those days.

Traveling through Lincolnshire one gets a sense of the land. Clearly the sea was the primary means of transportation. Anne and William regularly traveled the twenty miles to Boston to hear Cotton preach. Like Anne, William, and their families in 1631, I am traveling across the North Atlantic, destination Boston. I am going by way of New York, where Anne died.

If you are interested in learning more about Anne’s life, one of her biographies, American Jezebel, is on the sabbatical shelf in the CMC library.