Mystery Of Lucy Lightfoot

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  1. Susan Lynne Schwenger

    Susan Lynne Schwenger The Final Synthesis - isbn 978-0-9939480-0-8 Staff Member

    Mystery of Lucy Lightfoot
    Gatcombe, Isle of Wight
    Tantalising tale of romance
    and disappearance captured imagination
    of locals and visitors alike
    Claire Stares

    Tue 10 Feb 2015 05.31 GMT

    The 11th-century St Olave’s church in Gatcombe on the Isle of Wight. Photograph: David Oxtaby/
    Built for the Estur family in 1292 as the chapel to Gatcombe House,
    St Olave’s is one of the oldest churches on the Isle of Wight.

    Concealed in a shadowy recess to the left of the altar lies the lifesized effigy
    of a knight, carved in solid, coffee-coloured oak.

    The figure has crossed legs, indicative of those who went
    to the Holy Land and arrived in Jerusalem.

    He clutches a shield to his chest
    and grasps a dagger in his right hand.

    A diminutive angel cradles his helmeted head
    and his feet rest on a snub-nosed, slack-jawed dog.

    The effigy is said to depict Sir Edward Estur,
    who in 1365 left to fight in the crusades,
    later becoming the focus of a romantic mystery.

    Legend told of local girl Lucy Lightfoot,
    who became infatuated with Estur,
    spending hours praying over his effigy
    and daydreaming of accompanying him on his adventures.

    On 13 June 1831, a violent thunderstorm coincided
    with a total eclipse of the sun.

    When the storm abated, Lucy’s horse was found tethered
    to the church gate, but Lucy had vanished
    and despite extensive searches she was never seen again.

    In a dramatic twist to the tale,
    in 1865 a minister researching the history
    of the crusades unearthed a manuscript
    that made reference to an English knight
    by the name of Sir Edward Estur,
    who was accompanied by a brave
    and beautiful woman named Lucy Lightfoot.

    Capturing the imagination of locals and visitors alike,
    the story was presented as historical fact in numerous magazines
    and books.

    Fanciful theories of time slip were put forward
    to explain the tantalising tale,
    until it was revealed to be a work of fiction
    created by the Rev James Evans,
    rector of Gatcombe from 1965-1973,
    who wrote a pamphlet entitled
    The Mystery of Lucy Lightfoot
    as a lighthearted way to raise funds for the church.

    Although the carving is crude,
    there is something captivating about the burnished figure.

    Alone in the silent, dimly lit chancel
    I’m tempted to close my eyes
    and try a little time-slip experiment of my own.

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