April 29th, 2017


We stopped for petrol at the tiny petrol station/village shop in the tiny village of Shottermill in West Sussex and the sun came out for the first time that day. The cottage in the background stands on the bank of one of two artificial ponds that provided waterpower for the mill- Shotter's Mill- down in the valley. Wikipedia informs me that George Eliot wrote most of Middlemarch in a rented cottage in the parish. Much of the land round here- including the ponds- belongs to The National Trust.


My grandmother called her last home- the house she died in- "Frensham". It must have had a meaning for her but I don't know what it was.

The original Frensham is a village to the South of Farnham- and as isolated as anywhere in the Surrey Hills can be. We passed through yesterday and, of course I stopped to take a look at the church. It's a pretty church- especially on the outside- where it has it has the patched look of a much-loved piece of rustic furniture. The interior, on the other hand, is very dark and comprehensively worked over by the Victorians.

And because it was so dark inside I managed the miss the church's main oddity- a huge cauldron that has been there since any one remembers and which historians say was used to brew ale.

It has a story attached to it- or rather a cluster of variants of a story. It's known as Mother Ludlam's cauldron and in the best known variant Mother Ludlam was a good natured-witch who lived in a cave and used to lend things out to the neighbours on condition that they were returned within a certain length of time. Of course things eventually went wrong. A man borrowed a cauldron and forgot to return it so Mother Ludlum magicked the cauldron so it came alive and followed the man everywhere he went- a constant, maddening reminder of his act of bad faith. Eventually it chased him into church where he had a seizure and died- and the cauldron- like a faithful dog- settled itself down to keep constant watch over his grave. In the earliest variant- recorded by the indefatigable 17th century antiquarian John Aubrey- the objects were lent out, not by Mother Ludlum but the fairies- and there was no worse outcome to the breaking of their business terms than that they shut up shop and never lent anything again. Mother's Ludlum's cave still exists. In the 18th century it became a place where wealthy people went to sit around and take the waters and size one another up.