GUILDFORD | THE SILENT POOL
Graphite and collage on plywood board
22” x 32”
For those of you old enough to remember Basil Brush (the original, far superior version voiced and puppeteered by Ivan Owen) I feel I ended the last post on a distinctive ‘what, you can’t stop there Mr. Derek’ note and I think it only fair to open the story book once more and finish the tale.
After the poor Emma had met her watery fate (with her brother, possibly, following shortly behind her) word of the dastardly act by King John reached the ears of none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton who, suitably appalled by the King’s disrespectful behaviour towards a young lady, avowed to bad mouth the monarch at every available opportunity and, having gathered a well sized gang of Barons around him, ultimately caused the King so much trouble that his majesty agreed to the signing of the Magna Carta. Well done Archbishop!
There was, apparently, more to this tale than the rightful avenging of a poor girl’s death. The Archbishop himself had been the victim of King John’s thuggery when they were both young men and John was still a prince. At the same location as Emma’s unfortunate meeting with the King, the Archbishop, free at this point of the restrictions of the church and happily in a relationship with a girl named Alice, had accompanied his beloved on a walk through the woodland around the Silent Pool. At this point our villain of the story made his appearance along with a gang of ruffians who beat the teenage Stephen Langton unconscious and made off with his girlfriend. Although both victims recovered from their ordeal they had remained separated and each assumed the other had met an untimely demise. As a result they did what any self respecting bereaved lover would do in such circumstances and joined the church.
The ghostly form of Emma has apparently been witnessed on a number of occasions, usually walking into the pool without creating so much as ripple and, obviously, making no sound. Once in the water she then vanishes.
All this is makes for a fabulous piece of dramatic history with the slight problem that none of it’s true. The whole thing was fabricated (with the exception of the use of real historical figures) by the poet Martin Farquhar Tupper in 1857 by way of attempting to make the area more interesting (presumably he ran some sort of tourism business as a sideline) and bestowed his own seal of credibility upon the tale by claiming that it ‘may be depended upon for historical accuracy in every detail’. Yeah right, and the Loch Ness Monster uses the pool as a holiday get away so keep your cameras handy.
What is true is that the area became the focus of the disappearance in 1926 of Agatha Christie. Almost as though she had slipped into the imaginings of one of her own novels, her car was discovered abandoned with its headlights still on and the celebrated author was nowhere to be seen. An extensive manhunt of Guildford and the surrounding areas ensued, which included the dredging of the Silent Pool. No body (of either Agatha or Emma) was found and the mystery of the lady vanishing barely left the newspapers until, eleven days later, she was finally located living it up in a hotel in Harrogate.
Although she couldn’t provide any details as to how she got there it seems fairly clear that the recent request by her husband for a divorce had all been a bit too much for the poor woman and travelling over 250 miles north was clearly the best way to deal with it. It was significant that she had booked into the Swan Hydropathic Hotel using the name Mrs Teresa Neele, the surname matching that of the young woman that her husband was leaving her for.
Our tale concluded (you’ll be relieved to know I shan’t be singing a song) I can get back to some artwork. I’ve started yet another version of Brigantia which I’m determined to finish and I’ll include a photo of the drawing in my next blog post.
Original Artwork : £290.00
And if you’d like to share that would be fab…