A Cotteswold Shrine, England
Could Stephen Sagar, last Abbot of Hailes, revisit the beautiful scene once so familiar to him and to his brother, who now lie side by side in a far-off Yorkshire village churchyard, the sight of his Abbey would scarcely make him desirous to linger there. For, with the exception of some broken portions of the south wall of the Church and merely a shell of the Cloister, together with some of its doors, the House he ruled has vanished. The Shrine with its renowned Relic went already during his own lifetime, as also did the five bells and the lead from the long roofs. But now even the chever of pentagonal chapels, which formed a graceful crown above and around the 'Shrine of the Holy Blood,' can only be traced below the soil. It is level almost with the coffinless skeletons of Princes, Abbots, and noble Knights, whose tombs have been violated and ransacked at the Dissolution. But there, at least, the spade has discovered the complete foundations (as the plan subjoined shews,) and almost as clearly the mental eye can re-construct it, together with its elaborate groups of buttresses formed of the golden oolite from the neighboring hills. This it is that the aforesaid Abbot would need to do. The Infirmary, Guest-house, the far-extending Precinct-wall, and both Gate-houses, have likewise disappeared, together with, not merely the Dorter, Chapter-House. Warming-Parlour, and Prater, but that also which the Augmentation Commissioners spared — even the Abbot's own Dwelling-House located in what had once been the Cellarer's Building. He would find nothing above the green pasture of the rich and ancient meadow-land, appropriately called Hailes, Hayles, or better Hales (Cf . Hales-Owen and Sheriff-Hales: A. S. Healh, = meadow-land,) but the imperfect walls of the Cloister, containing the original entrances to various important domestic buildings, and through all which he (and greater men than he) must very often have passed. He would, moreover, learn that the country-maids fear to pass through the field after sundown, for dread of ghosts; that many believe a golden coffin lies buried somewhere in it — doubtless a reminiscence of the once-splendid sepulchre of Richard Plantagenet, King of the Romans; and finally, that there is a great subterranean passage leading to Coscombe, at the end of which sits a virgin mourning.
Battles have ceased among these green, beautiful hills. The clash of bronze and iron is heard here no more. The shaggy boars, that once haunted them, have vanished from their dark woods. But the clouds, tinged with western light, look down, as they silently pass, upon the very same prehistoric camps, upon the same high and lonely burial-mounds — where unknown warriors sleep and dry leaves still whirl around them — that crown bold crest and rugged escarpment; there, at Cleeve, across the vale yonder, lifted above Winchcombe; there, again, on the isolated pine-crowned hill in Toddington deer-park ; at superb Bredon, further off; or finally, here, at woodland Beckbury. Below the last the ancient manor of Hailes* is spread even as a green carpet, and patterned out into irregular pasture-fields.