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The Story of Lady Anne Grimston

Margaret Galitzin

The most popular tourist attraction on the grounds of St. Peter’s Church in Tewin, England, is a tree. The church dates back to Saxon times, and is an interesting structure in itself. But what people from around the world come to see is the massive single tree with four trunks that grows over the grave of Lady Anne Grimston, who was buried more than 200 years ago in the ancient parish churchyard.

Who was this English lady, and how did this strange massive tree take root and grow over her gravesite? It is a very interesting story, which I reproduce here for the benefit of TIA readers.

A denial of life after death

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Part of the ancient parish church of St. Peter's dates back to the 11th century
In a great house in Hertfordshire County, Lady Anne Grimston lay dying. She was a proud and obstinate woman who had enjoyed her wealth and lands as well as the society of her friends. During her long life, she had paid little attention to the more important things which do not pass away. And so, she died as she had lived, without faith and the consolation that comes to God-fearing men and women who leave this world prepared to stand before the dread Judgment Seat.

She believed that there was nothing else in this world except the life she had lived: her riches, her grand house, her friends, the fine dinners and elegant clothes she had enjoyed. After she passed away, there would be nothing, she claimed. There was no eternal life of the soul, no Heaven and Hell. Her friends tried to point out to her how terrible and impossible this was, how certain it was that she would live another life, just as the roses die back in the winter and then live again. Just as the trees and flowers in the field come to life again after their long sleep, so also, her friends told her, would she, Lady Anne Grimston, continue to live, and that the life that was in her would never end.

But Lady Anne Grimston was proud and unbelieving, and she said to her friends. “I shall not continue to live. It is as unlikely that I shall continue to live as that a tree will grow out of my body.” She went so far as to make a challenge to Heaven, saying “If, indeed, there is life hereafter, trees will render asunder my tomb.”

Heaven accepts the challenge

Lady Anne Grimston died, and was buried in a strong tomb made of marble – buried and forgotten. But not quite, for one day, many years after, the marble slab over her grave was found to have moved from its position. The builders fixed it firmly back in its place and left it, thinking it quite secure.

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A tree with four roots grows from site of Lady Grimston's tomb
Again the heavy marble slab tilted slightly on one side, and in the middle was a crack, with a tiny bunch of leaves bursting through. The crack was closed with cement, and the slab put back. But again the slab was lifted up, the crack opened wider than ever, and the thin trunk of a tree appeared. They repaired the crumbling tomb and built tall iron railings around it to hold the masonry together. But the young tree made its way, breaking the masonry in two, destroying the walls of the tomb, and tearing the heavy iron railings out of the ground.

And today, growing right from the heart of Lady Anne Grimston’s grave in St. Peter’s churchyard in Herfordshire County is one of the largest trees in England, with four trees growing from one root. The trunk of the tree has grown fast through heavy iron railing, which cannot be moved. The marble masonry of the tomb has shattered to pieces, and today Lady Anne Grimston’s grave is a heap of broken stone and twisted iron bars.

For over 200 years the trunks have forced their way through the tomb to raise their branches in a silent but powerful triumph.

Posted on September 8, 2007

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