Category Archives: Poems about Abingdon

The Bridge Builders


The patron said ‘Use my own features for both
Jefforye Barbur and John Howchion –
my rugged chin and chiselled cheek.
Have them dressed as merchants in gowns,
passing a bag of gold, tenderly, so all is done
as God commanded for the advancement of Abingdon.

Master Painter, with your art, show how their munificence
transformed the muddy treacherous River Thames,
bringing masons and skilled artisans from afar
to cut rocks, mix mortar, and fix stones
to create the many arches from the Causeway
to uphold the Burford and the Abingdon Bridge.

Show St Helens and St Nicolas Church, where we worship.
Show the Long Alley Almshouses, recently transformed,
with the bright cupola that our gold has wrought,
bringing light upon the panelled meeting room
where this painting will hang in perpetuity,
beside Sir John Mason, Thomas Tesdale, and Edward the King.’

Note: Abingdon Bridge was built around 1416-17. The Bridge Builders painting is from about 1607. The print above is taken from Christ’s  Hospital Abingdon by Arthur E. Preston. All Right Reserved. A colour image, without the historic frame, can be seen on the Town Council Website.

Poem made of snippets from the 1994 Trinity Toddler Group diary

(This is another possible poem for the proposed book – Ten Poems about Abingdon – to be published in October 2021.)

We will make a weather book with snow on the front,
frost and rain inside, sunshine on the back.
We will make a cotton wool and toilet roll snowman,
Sing Incy Wincy Spider in January.

We will make toilet roll birds with flappy wings.
Teddy bears’ pancake day, Biscuits with sprinkles.
NO CRAFT on the day that it snows.
Sing the wheels on the bus in February.

We will make paper cup faces with cress hair,
Mothering Sunday cards with doilies and daffs,
yoghurt pots with chickens and straws.
Sing two little birds in March.

We will make paper blossom on branches with eggs,
Easter Cards with fluffy chicks,
a house and garden from catalogue cut-outs.
Sing Hickory Dickory Dock in April

We will make butterflies out of all-coloured scraps,
rainbow streamers for ABINGDON ALIVE,
smiley face plates saying LETS BE FRIENDS.
Sing What a friend we have in May.

We will make round and round the garden on a plate
with Teddy Bears on split pins,
fishes from gold and silver milk bottle tops.
Sing two little rabbits in June.

We will make a clock face with moving hands,
sandcastle, spade, bucket, boat with sails.
At Teatime Praise on the lawn
sing the wise man built his house in July

We will make Mr Men shapes: round – happy, noisy, and clever;
oval – nosey and bumpy; square – strong and grumpy.
We will put felt vegetables in a basket for harvest.
Sing Old McDonald had a farm in September.

We will make roundabouts with horses on card,
squirrels with a big pile of nuts in October.
We will make a night sky – black paper, shiny stars,
fireworks and rockets that whoosh in November.

We will make a doily angel and baby Jesus
and Mary and Joseph from playdough.
Everybody will have a part this year.
Sing The Calypso Carol in December.

Abingdon – a poem

Leigh has sent in this poem about Abingdon for the 10 poems about Abingdon blog project. Thankyou to her. I hope you enjoy it as I did.

On St Helen’s wharf I stand
To watch the water flow
Reflecting lives lived long ago
Closing my eyes, I feel the sun grown strong within my soul
I sense the strength of the church behind me

Across the water, a monk catches my eye
His cassock filled with holy treasure
Hours spent in scripture and pleasure
Like a kingfisher he weaves through the reeds
Flashes of crimson on a somber breeze

Make haste, the King’s men come tomorrow
We must not let the Abbey fall
We cannot let them have this all
We must listen to Our Father’s calls
And he is gone, I fear not long destined to be in his earthly world

Now here are the boats, the Thames is alive
A clamor of passengers and cargo arrives
The drinking begins, there are merry goings on
A large group of locals break into song
The smell of Morland ale overwhelmingly strong

A young boy approaches
Little blond curls, a laughing face
A familiar imprint in an unfamiliar place
Twirling his wool cap, he is clearly enjoying the day
He looks at me from years away

I bend down to speak, what is this jubilee?
He looks at me, wide eyed, I must know!
It is Michaelmas Fair
Sweet treats and games, not Latin and prayer
He skips away floating on cobbles of air

Change has come, bitterly cold
The square filled young and old
Soldiers parading
A whole town commemorating
Falling silent for those lost before today

Prayers for our men
They bow their heads and line the Thames
A war to end all wars they said then
Yet the bells tolls not once, but twice
Amen

And finally I hear
Morris men approaching near
With bells and music and Oxfordshire cheer
A whole town celebrating, salivating
Whilst buns burst down from the sky

An apricot sun sets deep over Rye Farm
Painting brushstrokes across the sky with its arm
I bid a farewell to those who have passed
And I turn to wander home
Restful at last

For this is where I hold my own memories near
And cherish those I love most dear
Where a part of me will forever be
Woven with ghosts of whispered history
Abingdon

Leigh Hogan – All Rights Reserved 2021

P.S Blogging may be a bit patchy in May as I am coming and going a lot for family reasons. So please send in what you can to help fill out the month.

Independents in Abingdon

They found their way in ones and twos –
a quiet tree-shaded place
beside the River Thames,
or a clearing in Tubney Woods.
Langley – the last to arrive,
announced the opening hymns.

They lived life by a higher law
than the Act of Uniformity
that prescribed how they should pray.
They felt no need of polished stones
or painted glass. ‘Light shines
in hearts new born in God’s own way’.

The Toleration Act gave license
to meet at Langley’s house
until a hall was built beside the Square
in Abingdon. Men stood apart
from women, crowded galleries,
families in pews as one in prayer.

An old ship’s mast held up the roof.
Some claimed the Pilgrim Fathers sailed
through storms in that same craft,
chancing all on God. More probably,
salvaged from a North Sea wreck,
tailored to keep them strong and fast.

A long week’s work, a long walk down,
villagers stood, in long smock coats, –
lest tiredness rob them of a crumb of truth.
Fisher, a farm labourer; aged man Doe,
‘So long as legs can carry me,
I will worship as the days of youth’.

Poem suggested by reading Two centuries young : Abingdon Congregational Church 1700-1900 by Dr John Stevens.