Friday, 24 July 2009


Average time of walk: 2-3 hours.

I have constructed a walk to include some of Birmingham’s architectural treasures and haunted locations. The walk begins in Centenary Square outside Baskerville House.

1. Baskerville House, built in 1939 is designed by T. Cecil Howitt. There is an impressive entrance porch with two ionic columns rising up towards a semicircular arch at the roof level. Ionic columns also feature at the sides of the building. The house stands on the site of the former Baskerville House, home of John Baskerville (1706-1775) the printer.
After John’s death, the house was owned by John Ryland who took ownership on 14th July 1791 – a day that saw rioting on Birmingham’s streets, which would be known as the Priestly Riots. On that day, a mob ransacked Baskerville House and three rioters, unaware that the building was on fire, broke into the wine cellar. The three men died in the flames and these three souls still haunt Baskerville House to this day!
Also, note the domed octagonal building in front of the house – The Hall of Memory, designed by S N Cooke and W N Twist and built in 1923-4. The inside carvings are by William Bloye and there is a Book of Remembrance on a marble plinth to commemorate Birmingham’s War dead. The four bronze statues around the Hall are by Albert Toft and they represent Army, Navy, Air Force and Women’s Services.

From Baskerville House now make your way to Chamberlain Square.Notice the Museum and Art Gallery built 1884-89 by the architect H R Yeoville Thomason; with its clock tower, (the gallery houses the world’s largest collection of works by Edward Burne-Jones). Also note the Chamberlain Memorial fountain in honour of Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914), MP and three times Mayor of Birmingham. John Henry Chamberlain (no relation) designed the fountain and Thomas Woolner sculpted Chamberlain’s head.

Now make your way the short distance to Victoria Square. The next haunted site is the Town Hall.
2. The Town Hall is by the architects Edward Welch and Joseph Hansom (who also invented the Hansom Cab) and the design is based on the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum. Work started in 1832 and finished in 1849, (further work was completed in the 1880’s and an additional gallery added in 1927). Charles Dickens gave his first reading of A Christmas Carol at the Town Hall on Boxing Day of 1852, and a Victorian man can still be seen in the gallery or walking along the corridors. Two notorious ghosts are those of two workers who lost their lives on 26th January 1833 during construction – John Heap and William Badger. Heap and Badger were working on the external carved pillars from a wooden scaffold, just below roof level, when a rope snapped and a large block of stone fell onto the scaffold. The workers are buried at St Philip’s churchyard, and they are said to still haunt the Town Hall.
Also, notice the sculpture of Queen Victoria, a bronze cast by William Bloye in 1951 of an original in marble by Thomas Brock R.A. in 1901. There is also Anthony Gormley’s Iron: Man sculpture, a feature of the square since 1993, and one cannot fail to notice the sculpture of a large reclining woman called ‘River Guardians, Youth and Object (variations)’, which is affectionately known as the ‘floozie in the jacuzzi’ by Dhruva Mistry in 1992.

3. The large Renaissance style building behind the ‘floozie’ that dominates the square is the Council House, built in1874-9 to a design by H R Yeoville Thomason. Above the portico is a projecting pedimented arch with a sculpture of Britannia. Behind this is the central dome that looks down upon the grand staircase. The Lord Mayor’s office is situated on the corner of the Council House, where Victoria Square leads into Chamberlain Square. It was the office of Joseph Chamberlain, or ‘Brummagem Joe’ as he was affectionately known, and it is said that his ghost still haunts this office, as a shadowy figure has been seen on numerous occasions behind the glass, accompanied by a strong smell of cut flowers, which Joe used to insist upon in his office. There are also accounts of a ghostly monk and a floating spectre, that of a former councilor who hung himself in the entrance hall of the building.

Another impressive building is visible from the entrance to the Coucil House, looking down the steps and beyond the sculpture of the sphinx-like creature, towards the right – the former Head Post Office building. It is in the French Renaissance style, built in 1891 and designed by Sir Henry Tanner. There are many architectural features to admire, including a domed tower, two lantern style domes, stone urns and Corinthian pilasters and pillars.
You may notice a sign upon the wall of a walkway from Victoria Square linking Waterloo Street to New Street, which is called ‘Christ Church Passage’. This is the only reminder that Victoria Square was once occupied by Christ Church, built 1805-13 and demolished in 1899. Our old friend John Baskerville, the wandering corpse, was secretly deposited in the crypt of Christ Church after several years in storage at a warehouse (his body was removed from his garden at his home ‘Easy Hill’, now Baskerville House, to make way for the canal). When the church was demolished, Baskerville’s corpse was removed once more, this time, to the more permanent resting place of Key Hill Cemetery.

Following the passage will take you to New Street where New Street Railway Station is situated.
4. New Street Station was opened in 1848, and to do so, an area of the city which was full of slum housing, known as the ‘froggary’ had to be demolished, including a Jewish Cemetery. The station is host to many ‘spectral visitors’, including suicides and the departed spirits of a fatal train crash in 1921. Platform 4 seems to have the most activity, with at least four deaths occurring there.

Now walk along Stephenson Street and down Navigation Street to John Bright Street, and to the Alexandra Theatre.
5. The Alex Theatre opened as the Lyceum in 1901 and closed in 1902; it was re-opened as the Alexandra Theatre. One of the ghosts reputed to haunt the building is that of Leon Salberg, manager of the Alex until his death there in 1937. Another ghost is that of the Master of the Wardrobe Department who also died in the building; there is also a military man in a top hat and a previous stage manager named Dick Turner who likes to jingle his keys, but there are other countless phenomena at this very haunted location.

Now continue along Station Street to the Old Repetory Theatre.
6. Built in 1912-13, the Old Rep was the first theatre built specifically as a Repetory theatre in England. Sir Barry Jackson (1879-1961) who designed the theatre for his company of actors ‘The Pilgrim Players’, is said to haunt the Old Rep, and he seems to prefer the staircase from the front Reception to the balcony as this is where the most activity is recorded. However, the top floor offices also have a ‘strange’ atmosphere. Footsteps and shadowy figures, doors opening and closing are just some of the other activity.

Now walk to Hurst Street and to the Hippodrome.
7. The Hippodrome first opened in 1895 as assembly rooms and in 1899 a stage and circus ring was added. It became the Tivoli in 1900 and then the Hippodrome in 1903. The exterior was rebuilt in 2001.

Now continue your walk to Edgbaston Street, and to St Martin’s Church.8. St Martin’s Church is built on the site of a 13th century Parish Church. The church was rebuilt in 1883-5 and designed by J A Chatwin. The tower and spire date from an earlier church of 1781. The South Transept has a Burne-Jones stained glass window (1875-80) made by William Morris.

From here, you may choose to detour from the walk and continue along Digbeth High Street to the Old Crown Inn, Deritend. The building is a timber-framed wattle and daub, two-storey structure dating from the sixteenth century. There have been sightings in the cellars of a man and a young boy and a woman with a long flowing dress, near the well in the courtyard (now a covered passageway between the bar and the restaurant). In fact, there are numerous accounts of sightings at this decidedly haunted location.

Re-join the walk from St Martin’s Church and continue through the Bull Ring Shopping Centre to Queensway and then to New Street.The Victoria Law Courts (Magistrates’ Court) on Corporation Street are also worth visiting. The red brick and terracotta building, 1887-91 by Sir Aston Webb and Ingres Bell is in the French Renaissance and Arts and Crafts style; above the main entrance arch with its octagonal turrets, is a statue of Queen Victoria by Harry Bates. On the other side of Corporation Street, you can also see the Methodist Central Hall of 1903 by the architects E and J A Harper. Also, notice the House of Fraser on Corporation Street, which has a ‘haunted lift’ that has a will of its own and does not seem to like stopping at the 5th floor.

Walk along New Street and turn right into Temple Street.
9. The Trocadero – behind this beautiful fa├žade walks the ghost of a former manager, Henry James Skinner, who was shot dead by a former employee named Herbert Allen in the building on 5th December 1895. The Trocadero was then known as the Bodega at the time, and it became the Trocadero in 1902.

Now continue along Temple Street to St Philip’s Cathedral.

10. St Philip’s Cathedral was built between 1711 and 1715 (the tower was completed in 1725) and it is the seat of the Bishop of Birmingham. It is built in the Baroque style by the designer Thomas Archer and is the third smallest Cathedral in England, after Derby and Chelmsford. The structure is a seven bay rectangle with an apse at one end and the tower at the other capped with an octagonal dome. The church has two internal side galleries. In the churchyard, notice the monument to Heap and Badger (whom we met at the Town Hall) and nearby is the grave of Sarah Baskerville, wife of John Baskerville.
After being bombed on 7th November 1940 the church was gutted and not restore until 1948. There are several stained glass windows by Burne-Jones. It is one of the jewels in Birmingham’s crown!

Now cross Colmore Row into Church Street and on the corner with Barwick Street is the former Grand Hotel.11. Built in 1875, the Grand Hotel replaced an earlier building from the mid 18th century, built on land used for paupers’ graves, which were often the prey of grave robbers! It is no wonder the Grand is haunted by shadowy figures, who one can only guess are the souls of those disturbed graves.
Also on Church Street is the former Birmingham and Midland Eye Hospital.
12. Built in 1883 by Payne and Talbot with its distinctive Oriel window, the building has two recorded ghosts. One ghost is that of a little child heard crying in the night and the other is a doctor who hung himself in the chapel on the top floor. It is said he removed a patient’s ‘good eye’ by mistake when he should of removed the diseased eye!

Continue along Church Street to the junction between Queensway Great Charle’s Street and Ludgate Hill.

13. It was here where public executions took place and one such hanging was that of Phillip Matsell on 23rd August 1806. Matsell was a criminal who worked the Snow Hill area. He became acquainted with Kate Pedley, a member of a rival gang who on the evening of 18th July 1806, wearing Matsell’s clothing, she shot and killed a town watchman. Kate fled the scene but eyewitnesses noted the clothes she wore and it was not long before Matsell was in the frame for murder! After his execution, rumour has it that his body was ‘secretly buried’ in consecrated ground, in the graveyard of St Philip’s Church. Does the spirit of Matsell still haunt the site of his hanging?

Continue along Ludgate Hill to St Paul’s Church.

14. St Paul’s Church is a rectangular building built in 1777-79 and designed by Roger Eykyns of Wolverhampton. Architect Francis Goodwin added the tower, with its belfry and spire in 1823; the East window designed by Francis Eginton in 1785 is inspired by Benjamin West’s painting ‘the Conversion of St Paul’. The grave od PC Moses Barber who died in 1853, aged 40 and said to haunt an area just off St Paul’s Square, can be seen in the churchyard.

Continue along Caroline Street to Warstone Lane, turning left to the Chamberlain Clock. From the clock, you will see Vyse Street.It was here, in Vyse Street, in 1896 that a terrible crime was committed, the murder of a child. May Lewis, who was ten years old, failed to return to her home in Smith Street, Hockley, from school on 10th March 1896. A search was mounted and early the next day, workers walking through wasteland next to Vyse Street, found little May’s body – her face was battered in and she had been raped.
Frank Taylor, a twenty-three year old labourer lived in Vyse Street and was under suspicion. Witnesses said they saw him lure May into his house while his parents were out for the night. Later, on the night of the murder, he had tried to drown himself in the local canal but was pulled out by a passer by. Taylor was hanged on 18th August 1896 in Winson Green Prison, Birmingham.

Continue along Warstone Lane and enter Warstone Lane Cemetery.
16. The Cemetery was opened in 1848 for members of the Anglican Church. James Hamilton designed the chapel, mortuary, entrance Lodge and catacombs in the Gothic style; the chapel was demolished in 1958 but the terraced catacombs and Lodge have survived, though now sealed up (I was informed by a man connected to the cemetery because of ‘black magic’). Some of its more celebrated inhabitants include that of our familiar friend, the printer John Baskerville, and Major Harry Gem, the founder of lawn tennis. One ghost said to haunt the area is that of a woman, a ‘grey lady’ accompanied by a smell of pear drops (to those who don’t know, it is the smell given off by arsenic after swallowing, so it is presumed the spectre died of arsenic poisoning, some time in the 1930’s).
Warstone Lane was known as ‘Dead Man’s Lane’ in the early 18th century so it is possible, that where the Lane meets Icknield Street, there would have been a gallows or place of ‘un-consecrated’ burials, which is usual at crossroads. The former Birmingham Mint is situated here, and it was later expanded, taking up some of the cemetery land. It is no wonder the building is haunted. Bodies were removed from site and re-buried – or so we are led to believe! There are many cases of ‘sightings’ in and around the cemetery, so I would advise caution and not to go there after dark – human monsters like to lurk there too!

Our last stop on the walk is Key Hill Cemetery, which can be reached via Vyse Street, and Hylton Street.17. Key Hill Cemetery was known as the General Cemetery and was opened for burial to all denominations in 1836. Casting sand was quarried in part of the cemetery until the 1930’s, which helped to fund the cemetery. The mortuary chapel, designed by Charles Edge, was demolished in 1966. He also designed the catacombs, in four stages between 1840 and 1862. Some of the cemetery’s ‘occupants’ include – Joseph Chamberlain, John Henderson, the builder of Crystal Palace, Alfred Bird of eggless custard fame and Joseph Gillott the famous maker of pens. The cemetery closed for burials in 1982.

Here the walk ends and you can return to New Street by returning down Vyse Street to the Chamberlain clock on Warstone Lane, down Frederick Street, along Graham Street into Newhall Street down to Bennett’s Hill, which leads onto New Street.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Eye On The Summit


The brain distracted by sleepless sight,
And the body beaten day and night;
Blown about like seeds in flight:
Damn the darkness, pray for light!
Tear down the temple and torch the tomb -
Eyes that spy within the gloom...
O Saint, O Saviour, this storm of love,
Aches with pain - I follow Thee!

Master, whether Thou knewest me,
My life, my love, is one long spree,
To taste, and touch, and follow Thee
Through barren desert and holy sea!
Upon my boat, a prayer, a word
Lingers dull in strength, though heard,
And demon pangs upon my helm:
Accursed, I follow Thee!

In the battle of the blackest will
Are endless dark gods of infernal
Incantations - the Mage is still,
Ravished by the midnight madrigal.
And in the words, the heart resounds
To damnation's desire, it pounds -
Destroy false gods and ceaseless, hunt
To an end - I follow Thee!

Fill the heart of the savage, pray,
Prostrate thyself let no-self stay,
And at the dread hour, turn away -
Strike hard at midnight, force and slay
The earth-born, and destroy the soul,
And from the void, depart, no whole;
Form an image in thy mind,
And in that image - follow Me!

Spectral lights about me, glow,
As if to point which way to go;
And starlight's uninterrupted flow
Lies like white flowers in the snow!
Lift thy gaze and kiss my lips,
Where the blood of the Saviour drips -
My Master, cloaked in mystery -
Dark this love! - I follow Thee!

Stop a while and stay with me;
Forget all thoughts of the soul's journey,
Look to yourself - from thine infancy,
The Light has long been there with thee!
Higher, towards that golden veil,
With steadfast steps upon the trail,
And see the wise man and the fool
As guardians of eternity!

Duty, for duty's sake - error of way:
Count my tongue and the words I will not say!
With the heart and head eclipsed, time now to pray
And blessings be poured forth on thee this day!
And as known, thy mortal self has died,
Forever now a part of the eye within the void!
Divine, eternal, a star cast in the night;
A flame within the chamber of the heart that's burning bright!

Yet, beyond this, yea, still lies your goal:
Sink into black thought, let consciousness roll
Over the embers of your uplifted soul,
Like a sea of 'no space' on the shore of 'no whole'!
And in this, doubt is conquered and rid
To that vast self, the eye in the pyramid -
Naked, you stand, the battle's near won -
Your sweet soul swiftly to Babalon!

Poor Pharaoh, blinded, his sight hath fled
And the Rose dripped blood on reaching God-head;
Even the Chiefs and the Saints have bled,
Staining the Cup, deep ruby-red!
No-self and not-being, gave all to become it -
O wonder of wonders - the eye on the summit!
Nothingness governed by nothingness - see,
There is no Law but Love, within me!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

The Song Of The Salmon Of Bree

by Barry Van-Asten 

There was a young salmon of Bree:
Both brave and bold was he!
And when swimming upstream
His fish heart would dream
Of the warrior-fish in the sea,
He’d dream, of the warrior-fish in the sea!

One day, by the shade of a mill
While the river was gentle and still,
He thought it great sport
To pretend to be caught:
‘By fin and by gill! Yes I will!’
He thought, ‘by fin and by gill! Yes I will!’

So he gasped and he gurgled his last
On a line that was so squarely cast.
‘I’ve a bite!’ the man said
But the salmon, he fled
To the depths of the river so vast,
He did! To the depths of the river so vast!

And old Ned, the fisherman, flew
Through the air with his broken rod too!
And his head hit a tree
As the fish laughed to see
The wickedness that he could do!
Indeed! The wickedness that he could do!

And old Ned shook his fist and turned red
And his hair stood on end as he said:
‘You wicked young thing!
I’ll have you come spring!’
And he walked away rubbing his head!
He did! He walked away rubbing his head!

Many months came and went and still Ned
Kept that wicked young fish in his head!
‘I won’t be deterred,
By God and my word:
I won’t rest till that salmon is dead!’
Said Ned, ‘I won’t rest till that salmon is dead!’

By the river, all beard and red nose,
Sat slumbering Ned in repose;
With one eye, he squinted
At the water that glinted
While he was pretending to dose!
It’s true! While he was pretending to dose!

And along swam the salmon of Bree
Through the rushes as he chuckled to see
Old Ned fast asleep,
With one eye a-peep:
‘Fins and gills! You’ll never catch me!’
He laughed, ‘fins and gills! You’ll never catch me!’

So old Ned with a mirror and string
Attached to a beautiful ring,
Sat by the side
Of the river, to hide:
‘Now who’s a silly old thing?’
He said, ‘now who’s a silly old thing?’

And the mirror was lowered below
The water, an inch or so;
And the salmon was hooked
By himself, as he looked,
For he was a vain salmon you know,
You know! For he was a vain salmon, you know!

Then old Ned, whom motionless, struck
By fortitude and by good luck,
As the fish, unaware
Of old Ned, and his snare,
And a mirror was all that it took!
Quite right! A mirror was all that it took!

And old Ned placed the fish in a bucket
And said: ‘there’s nowt much to ‘im, I’ll chuck it!’
But the salmon, he spat
At old Ned, just like that!
‘Blast that damn salmon: I’ll cook it!’
Said Ned, ‘blast that damn salmon: I’ll cook it!’

So said Ned: ‘I have you now fish:
May I grant you your very last wish?’
But the fish thought it funny
To see butter and honey
Spooned over him, sat in a dish!
Yes! Spooned over him sat in a dish!

So old Ned, he laughed with such glee
To eat tender young salmon for tea;
A salmon so bold
Yet not wise, to grow old:
What a silly young salmon of Bree,
Was he, what a silly young salmon of Bree!

The Early History Of The Van Asten's Of Haarlem, in the Netherlands


researched and compiled by
Barry Van-Asten

Arie van Asten was born circa 1762 and died 20th February 1793, in Haarlem at the age of 31. He married twenty-two year old Lena de Nijs on 21st September 1777. Lena was born in Haarlem on 10th December 1754 and died there on 27th February 1838 at the age of 83. Lena was the daughter of Jan de Nijs and Aaltje Hopman who were married in Haarlem on 23rd January 1752.

Arie and Lena had the following children: Hendrik van Asten born 28th December 1777 and baptised on 1st January 1778; Alida Aaltje van Asten baptised on 9th January 1780 and dying on 16th January 1860* ; Arie (Arend) van Asten born 1783; Govert van Asten born 1785; Johanna Elisabeth 'Anna' van Asten 1788-1865 and Aaltje van Asten baptised 20th July 1791.

*Alida Aaltje van Asten 1780-1860 married Arie van Duijn, born 1774 in Haarlem and dying on 23rd April 1862 aged 87. Arie was a timber buyer and merchant and he was the son of Arie van Duijn and Elizabeth lammerts Ziewerts. They had the following children:

a) Lena van Duijn, born 1803. Lena was a servant and she married Helmeg Stenvers on 6th April 1825. After his death she later married Peter van den Bink on 27th April 1853.
b) Arie van Duijn, born 1805.

c) Alida van Duijn, born 1812. Alida was a seamstress and she married Johannes Rikstel Joris on 10th June 1846.

d) Jacob van Duijn, born 1819 and dying in 1891. Jacob was a factory worker and a road mender. He married Johanna Hendrika Krouwels on 13th June 1849 and they had two children: Jacobus van Duijn, born 1854 and Elisabeth van Duijn, born 1862.

e) Elizabeth van Duijn, born 1822 and dying on 5th September 1882. Elizabeth was a seamstress and she married Leonardus Wilhelmus Sleeman (1820-1862) on 26th April 1843. They had the following children born in Haarlem: Adriana Elizabeth Sleeman, born 1851; Bernardus Sleeman, born 1854 and Johannes Christoffel Sleeman, born 1859.
After her husband's death, Elizabeth married Hendrik Nieuwenhuijsen (born 1822) on 23rd April 1862 in Haarlem and they had a child named Hendrika Nieuwenhuijsen, born in 1863.

f) Anna van Duijn, born 1825. Anna was a servant and she married Abraham van Gelder (born 1823) on 31st May 1843. They had two children named Abraham van Gelder, born 1845 and Dirk van Gelder, born 1853.
Arie (Arend) van Asten was born in 1783 and baptised on 26th January 1783 and he worked as a weaver. He married Maria van Elswijk (born 15th June 1783, Haarlem) on 3rd August 1806 and they lived in Haarlem and had a child named Arend (Arie) van Asten born in 1807 and baptised on 1st November 1807 and a daughter named Maria van Asten baptised on 25th February 1810. After the death of his wife Maria on 1st February 1837, Arie married Alida Turin, (born 1785, the daughter of Gerrit Turin and Alida Bensinck) in Haarlem on 1st December 1841. Arie died in 1862.

Johanna Elisabeth 'Anna' van Asten was born in Haarelm on 24th October 1788 and she died on 31st October 1865 at the age of 77 in Haarlem. 'Anna' married when she was twenty-five, to a weaver named Govert Stammers (b: 1st December 1788, d: 28th March 1860 age 71). Govert was the son of Peter Stammers and Ariaantje Everaars and he and 'Anna' were married on 21st July 1814. They had the following children all born in Haarlem:

a) Johanna Elisabeth Stammers b: 3rd April 1815, d: 31st January 1816.

b) Johanna Elisabeth Stammers b: 11th May 1816, d: 11th August 1827.

c) Govert Stammers b: 11th July 1818, d: 6th March 1894. Govert was a wine merchant.

d) Alida Stammers b: 24th April 1820, d: 20th April 1898. Alida married Adrianus Fortgens on 17th August 1842.
e) Adriana Helena Stammers b: 21st March 1823, d: 4th October 1865. Adriana married Laurens Fortgens on 14th May 1845.

f) Adriana Helena Stammers b: 30th October 1824, d: 15th August 1825.

g) Helen Stammers b: 7th November 1826, d: 10th November 1893. Helen remained un-married.

h) Johanna Elisabeth Stammers b: 12th August 1828, d: 28th December 1901. Johanna married Adam Hermanus van der Steur on 22nd August 1855.

i) Cornelis Stammers b: 4th february 1830, d: 21st June 1830.

j) Mat Stammers b: 10th July 1831, d: 26th August 1831.

Arend (Arie) van Asten (b:1807) was a weaver and he married Anna Hilegonda Bruigom, born in 1806 (daughter of Hendrik Bruigom and Adriana de Jong) at the age of 26 in Haarlem on 5th February 1834. In 1872-3 he was living at Lange Heerenstraat, 6; in 1878-9 Voorkamp 21, and in 1884-5 Essenstraat 21. They had three children: Arend van Asten b:1834 and marrying Dorothea van der Laan on 26th November 1856; Hendrik van Asten b: 1838 and marrying Gezina Hermina de Beer on 11th June 1862, and Maria Louisa van Asten b: 17th October 1846 and marrying Pieter Christiaan on 24th May 1871.
Arend later re-married in Haarlem on 4th September 1861 to Apolona Nanette van der Meulen, born 1827, the daughter of Hendrik van der Meulen and Geertruij Aachen.

Arie and Maria van Asten had another child named Gerrit, born 28th September 1812 (also in Haarlem). Gerrit also became a weaver and he married Sophia Cornelia Steenmeijer (born 25th January 1812 in Haarlem, daughter of Willem Steenmeijer and Everdina Rumpff) on 4th February 1835.

Gerrit van Asten's birth certificate. 1812

Gerrit and Sophia's marriage certificate. 1835

 In 1872-3 Gerrit and Sophia lived at Lange Lakenstraat, 4. They had the following children all born in Haarlem:

a) Maria Sophia van Asten born 12th March 1835. She married Johannes Jacobus Magielse around 1865 in Haarlem. Johannes was a wagon-maker, born in Haarlem on 25th January 1833 and dying there on 21st April 1877. They had the following children: 1) Jacobus Phillipus Magielse, born 21st August 1866. He married Alida Kolfschoten (born 12th November 1866) in Haarlem on 11th August 1897. 2) Maria Sophia Magielse. 3) Carel Hendrik Magielse and 4) Johannes Jacobus Magielse.

Maria Sophia also married Peter Vervoort who was a blacksmith born in Amsterdam on 7th May 1854.

b) Sophia Cornelia van Asten born 2nd August 1837. Sophia became a seamstress.

c) Anna Elizabeth van Asten born 21st December 1838. She married the wine merchant Jacob Ferdinand van Musscher on 13th November 1861. They had the following children all born in Haarlem: Jacob Ferdinand born 30th November 1861; Anne Elisabeth born 4th June 1864 and Jan born 17th May 1866. Anna died in Haarlem on 13th August 1888 at the age of 49.

d) Gerrit van Asten born 1843 and dying on 16th March 1848 aged five.

Gerrit van Asten's death certificate. 1848

e) Christina Everdina van Asten born 25th May 1845. Christina married Pieter Smit (son of Pieter Smit and Elisabeth van der Schellingen) on 1st January 1870 and they had a child named Alexander Cornelis Smit, b: 1881 in Amsterdam.

f) Cornelius George van Asten born 24th September 1847; he later became a painter's assistant and he died of pneumonia at the age of 48 on 5th February 1896. His address in 1884-5 was Kort Doelstraat 2a. In 1891 he was living at Brouwerstraat 116.

Cornelius George van Asten's birth certificate. 1847

g) Gerrit van Asten born 13th September 1850. Gerrit worked as a lithographer and he married Catherina Gruenwald on 20th November 1872. They had a child named Gerrit van Asten, born 15th May 1874 in Amsterdam who also became a lithographer and he married the twenty-one year old Cornelia Elisabeth Muijderman, born 6th November 1879, (daughter of Charles Frederick Muijderman [lithographer] and Elisabeth Magdalena Landzaat) on 29th August 1901. They had a child named Gerard van Asten born in Haarlem on 10th April 1908.
Another child of Gerrit's and Catherina's was named Johannes Hendrik van Asten, born 18th September 1880. Johhanes worked as a barber and he married Maria Petronella Serne, born 14th April 1882 (daughter of Hendrik Nicolas Serne and Maria Petronella Overmeijer) in Haarlem on 15th August 1907. Johannes and Maria were living at Spaarnrijkstraat, 5 in 1946 and after Johannes' death on 27th April 1962, his wife remained at the address and was still there in 1969.

Arie and Maria van Asten also had three more children:

Albertina van Asten born 1819 in Haarlem and marrying Johannes Labaar (born in 1817, the son of Johannes Labaar and Sara Catherine Bosman) on 19th May 1841 in Haarlem. Albertina and Johannes had three children all born in Haarlem: 1) Maria Albertina Labaar, born 30th july 1841 and dying on 23rd August 1904 in Haarlem. She married Hendrik Rozenheart (born 4th July 1836 in Haarlem) on11th February 1903. Hendrik died on 11th March 1905. 2) Alida Wilhelmina Labaar, born 1845. Alida was a maid at the time of her marriage to the shopkeeper Johannes Franciscus Koks (the son of Pieter Koks and Elisabeth de Graaf, born in 1834) on 4th May 1871. They had five children all born in Velsen: Engelmundus Petrus Koks (born 21st June 1871); Alida Elisabeth koks (born 26th January 1873); Maria Margaretha Koks (born 4th May 1875); Elisabeth Wilhelmina Koks (born 30th June 1877) and Petrus Wolterus Koks (born4th March 1879).
Alida Wilhelmina Labaar also married the labourer Leendert van der Mije (born about 1857) on 13th december 1883 at Velson. 3) Maria Albertina Labaar, born 1847. Maria, a servant, married the bricklayer and Lutheran Dirk Lodewijk Pieters (born 23rd December 1843 in Haarlem and dying aged 51 on 12th March 1895 also in Haarlem) at the age of 27 on 5th May 1869. They had three children named: Dirk Lodewijk Pieters; Maria Albertina Pieters and Jan Pieters.

Lena Wilhelmina van Asten, a servant born in 1822 in Haarlem and marrying Jan Albers (the son of William Albers and Cornelia Margaret Counts, born in 1826) on 16th May 1855 in Haarlem.

Johannes van Asten, a ribbon weaver born in 1824 in Haarlem and marrying Cornelia Bouman (the daughter of Gerrit Bouman and Mary Timmers, born in 1830) on 25th June 1851 in Haarlem.

The van Asten's belonged to the Dutch Reform Church and in 1847 they were living at Lange Lakenstraat, 4, which is close to the Nieuwe Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church), a rectangular, brick church dating from 1645-1649 to a design by Jacob van Campen. The tower was built in 1613 by Lieven de Key, in the Dutch Renaissance style. Later at the time of Cornelius's death in 1896 their address was Brouwersstraat number 116, close to the Leidse canal, and not far from the Kathedrale Basiliek Sint-Bavo, which is Roman Catholic and was built between 1895-1906.

Cornelius George van Asten married Maria Elizabeth Becker on 12th August 1874 in Haarlem. Maria was born on 23rd October 1852 in Amsterdam, the daughter of jacobus Becker, a blacksmith and gun maker born in Delft on 6th June 1815 and Alida van Egmond also of Delft born 23rd October 1815. The Beckers were married on 25th August 1841 in Delft and they had five children: Johan Gerrij born in January 1841 in Delft; Jacoba Maria born in December 1843 in Haarlem; Cornelius born in May 1845 in Haarlem and Maria Elizabeth and Jacobus both born in July 1857 in Haarlem.

Marriage certificate of Cornelius George van Asten
and Maria Elisabeth Becker. 1874

Signatures on marriage certificate of Cornelius George van Asten
and Maria Elisabeth Becker. 1874

Cornelius and Maria van-Asten had ten children all born in Haarlem:
Maria Elizabeth van Asten and the children
after the death of her husband Cornelius

Addresses and family details

a) Jacoba Maria van Asten born 14th November 1872 and dying on 10th May 1926. She married the painter Johannes Christiaan Boeree (son of Pieter Boree and Mary catherine Seel, born in 1869 and dying in 1945) on 16th May 1894. They had two children: Pieter Boeree born 15th January 1896 and dying on 22nd November 1955, and Cornelius george Boeree, born in 1897 and dying on 29th january 1931. Cornelius married Elisabeth Maria Tijman (1899-1963) on 24th September 1919 at Schoten. [Cornelius and Elisabeth had a child named Johan Christiaan Boeree (1920-1976).

b) Cornelius George van Asten born 16th April 1875. Cornelius worked as a printer and he married Anna Catharina Maria Pennarts (daughter of James Hubert Pennarts and Anna Maria Mols, born in 1875) on 12th Septemebr 1900.

c) Jacobus van Asten born 17th July 1877. He became a bookbinder and married Louisa Wilhelmina Bieman (daughter of the mason and merchant William Bieman of Alkmaar 1820-1899 and Mary Louisa Voges, born 13th December 1875 in Alkmaar) on 17th July 1901 in Haarlem and he died there on 2nd February 1945. They had a daughter named Maria Louisa van Asten born on 17th December 1896 in Haarlem and dying on 31st July 1914.
 Jacobus van Asten and his family

Addresses and details concerning family members

d) Maria Elizabeth van Asten born 25th September 1879. She married the clerk Hendrik Damiaans (son of Dirk Damiaans and Hendrika Petronella Steenks, born 12th October 1883) in Haarlem on 8th October 1908. They lived at Leidsche plein, 10 from 1910-1917. Maria and Hendrik separated and divorced on 27th July 1927. She married Jan W. Roobol in Haarlem on 18th February 1932. Jan was an office clerk and they lived at Rozenprieelstraat, 69 from 1934-1949. In 1960 they were living at Grote Houtstraat, 144j. Maria Elizabeth Roobol (nee van Asten) was still at the same address in1972-3.

Maria Elizabeth and Jan Roobol
Jan and Maria Roobol


e) Sophia Cornelia van Asten born 29th January 1882. She married Dirk Boerkoel ( the son of Dirk Boerkoel and Anna kerkman, born in 1881) on 10th June 1908.

f) Alexander Cornelis van Asten born 28th June 1884. Alexander worked as a carriage painter and he married Marijtje Snel ( the daughter of Cornelis Snel and Trijntje Koster, born in 1887) in Haarlem on 30th January 1907. In 1913-14 they were living at Rolsteeg, 16; in 1917-18 at Oude Raamstraat, 17. From 1929-30 they were at Oosten de Bruijnstraat, 216 and from 1939-1957 at Faradaystraat, 9. They had two daughters: Catharina Maria van Asten born 25th February 1907 in Haarlem and Johanna Alexandra Maria van Asten born 25th march 1909 also in Haarlem.
Alexander Cornelis van Asten and his family

 Addresses and details of the family

g) Alida Catharina van Asten born 13th November 1886. Alida married a carpenter named Gerrit Zandstra (the son of Klaas Zandstra and Bauke dijkstra, born 2nd November 1882) in Haarlem on 19th May 1909. They had a child named Gerrit Zandstra born 11th May 1911 in Haarlem. They lived at Gasthuislaan, 169 in 1910-11 and at Westergracht, 93 in 1917-18.

h) Christina Everdina van Asten born 11th May 1889. She married Jan Heeren (son of Cornelis Heeren) on 1st July 1914.

Four van Asten sisters: top left, Alida,
top right, Christina, bottom left, Sophia,
bottom right, Maria  

i) Wilhelm van Asten born 12th May 1892. Wilhelm became a bookbinder and he died at the age of 22 on 24th March 1915.

Wilhelm van Asten's death certificate 1915

Cornelius George van Asten's death certificate 1896

j) Johannes George van Asten born on Friday 4th October 1895. The address at the time of his birth was still Brouwersstraat, 116. Four months after Johannes was born, his father Cornelius died of pneumonia, leaving Maria Elizabeth van Asten to look after the children: Cornelius (almost 21), Jacobus (18), Maria (16), Sophia (13), Alexander (11), Alida (9), Christina (6), Wilhelm (3), and Johannes (4 months).

Birth of Johannes George van Asten 1895

Some time prior to December 1918 Johannes George came to England. In Haarlem he had been working on the cargo ships crossing the North Sea to England. He left quite suddenly as he did not inform the authorities.

Detail from the document showing Maria Elizabeth
van Asten and her children. This note refers to Johannes
George van Asten leaving for 'Birmingham, England.'

In Britain Johannes came to be known as John van-Asten. John married Clara Beatrice Shipley on Saturday 21st December 1918 at St John's Church, Sparkbrook, Birmingham. John was 25 years old and his occupation was coal merchant; Clara was also 25 years old and they lived at number 1 Shakespeare Street in Sparkbrook.

Marriage certificate for John [Johannes] van Asten
and Clara Beatrice Shipley, 1918.
John and Clara had the following children all born in Birmingham:
1. Clara B. van Asten, born 1919 and dying Saturday 30th May 2009. She married Frank H. Williams in 1941.
2. Marie Elizabeth van Asten, born 2nd April 1921 and dying in 1986. She married George McBride in 1943.
3. John George van Asten, born 4th November 1922 and dying in 1970. He married Mary Elizabeth Thomas in 1944 in Liverpool.
4. George van Asten, born 23rd October 1923 and dying in 1994. He married Ethel Cabb in 1950 and in 1960 the family moved to Melbourne, Australia.
5. Marjorie C. van Asten, born 12th January 1925 and dying in 2008. She married Edward Burrows in 1949.
6. Winifred J. van Asten, born 1926. She married John R. Gallagher in 1950.
7. Dennis van Asten, born 1930 and dying in 2005. He married Jean M. Sweaney in 1950.
8. Enid van Asten, born 1932. She married Eric Preston in 1954.
9. Jean van Asten, born 1933. She went to Sydney, Australia from Glasgow in 1951 and returned to England around 1957. She married Badruddin Z. Usmani in 1971 and went to live in the United States.
10. Gordon Richard van Asten, born 15th June 1934 and dying in 1995. He married Betty Layton in 1967.
11. June van Asten, born 1936. She died aged 4 on 19th November 1940 during the bombing of Birmingham.

John and Clara van Asten in Birmingham
with children Wilfred Shipley (1916-1996),
Clara van Asten (1919-2009) and Marie
van Asten (1921-1986)

Death certificate for Clara Beatrice van Asten
John van Asten (1895-1969)
John van Asten
Death cerificate for John George van Asten

The Shipleys

Clara was one of five children: William Arthur Shipley born 1884 in Aston, Birmingham, [William worked at Farden's Vinegar factory in Glover Street, off Great Barr St/Watery Lane, where he made barrels]; Charles Henry Shipley born 1888; Albert Shipley born 1890; Clara Shipley born 3rd September 1893 and May Shipley born 1897.

Birth certificate of Clara Beatrice Shipley (1893-1963)

Their parents were: Arthur Shipley born 1857 in Staffordshire [he died in 1926] and Elizabeth Beach born 1860 in Birmingham. They were married at St Gabriel's Church in Birmingham on 23rd October 1882. At the time of Arthur's marriage in 1882 his profession is listed as 'watchmaker'.

Marriage certificate of Arthur Shipley and Elizabeth Beach

In the 1901 census his occupation is given as 'brewer's engine driver' and the family are living at 6, 13 court, Upper Trinity Street, Aston, Birmingham. In the 1891 census they are living at 25 Great Barr Street, Aston, Birmingham. In 1881 Arthur is 22 and living at 32 Glover Street, Aston, Birmingham, with his Uncle Charles Russell aged 47 whose occupation is 'trotter dealer'. In 1871 the Russell's and Arthur Shipley aged 13 are living at 28 Upper Canterbury Street in Coventry. Young Arthur is working as a 'loom turner'. In 1861 Arthur is 3 and living with his Grandparents Isaac Smith born 1802 in Drayton Staffordshire, an agricultural labourer and his wife Ellen Smith born 1800 in Erdington, Warwickshire. They are living in Edingale, Staffordshire. Next door to the household is William Shipley, 'the boy's father', a widow and a lodger to the Smiths. He is also an agricultural labourer.

Isaac Smith in his eighties, ended his days at the Union Workhouse in Burton Road, Lichfield.

Arthur's father, William Shipley was born on 23rd March 1828 in Staffordshire and he married Mary Smith (born 12th October 1828, in Tamworth) on 17th December 1854 at the Church of Croxall in Derby. Mary, Arthur's mother probably died around December 1859 leaving William to look after young Arthur, which it would seem he fails to do, and so Arthur is looked after by Mary's sister Elizabeth Smith (born 5th June 1836) at Edingale, Staffordshire with her husband Charles Russell born 18th February 1834 in Exhall, Warwickshire.

Marriage certificate of William Shipley and Mary Smith

William, Arthur's estranged father later married Ellen Dawson (born 6th August 1837, St Matthew, Walsall, Staffordshire) on 26th January 1862 at Ogley Hay in Stafford. They had a child named Emma Esther Shipley born 15th March 1863 in Dunstall, near Burton in Staffordshire.

Elizabeth Beach was the daughter of Edwin Beach born in 1838 in Birmingham and his wife Mary Ann Beach. Edwin was a military gun maker and he later married Hannah Freeman in 1871, in Aston, Birmingham. In 1871 they are living at 15 court number 3, Aston Road, Birmingham. Elizabeth is 12 years old and a 'button maker'. In 1881 the Beaches are living at 27 court number 4, New John Street, Birmingham.

Present at the wedding were William Arthur Shipley aged 34 and May Shipley aged 22, Clara's brother and sister. Clara's father, Arthur Shipley was an engine driver. At the time of the wedding Clara already had a child born out of wedlock named Wilfred Eric Shipley, almost three years old, born on Friday 24th March 1916 in Birmingham. They lived at Shakespeare Street above a grocer's shop; Clara's parents lived in the front room while John, Clara and the children lived in the attic room. Albert Shipley, Clara's brother lived in the back room.

In the 1911 census the Shipleys are living at 65 St John's Road, Sparkhill. Elizabeth Shipley is 48 and 'looks after the home'. Albert Shipley, her husband is not present but she is still shown as married and not widowed. Arthur Shipley her son is 27 and single. He is a 'labourer vinegar worker'. Albert Shipley her son is 20 and single and 'out of work'. Clara Beatrice Shipley is 17 and works as a 'press hand'. Little May Shipley is 14 and her occupation is shown as 'carding boot protectors'.

Charles Henry Shipley born 1888 was living with the Homer family during the 1911 census at 54 Lea Road, Sparkhill, Solihull. Charles married Alice Amelia Homer (born circa 1888) at St John's Church, Sparkhill on Monday 28th June 1909 and he is listed under occupation as 'wire drawer'. At the address in 1911 were Alice's parents Edward Homer aged 45, a brass worker born in Birmingham and Fanny Homer aged 45. The parents had been married for 25 years and with them at the address apart from Charles and Alice were two other daughters: Elizabeth aged 14 who does bicycle work and Gladys aged 7 who is a 'school girl'.

Charles joined the Army in 1914 to fight in the Great War


Saturday, 4 July 2009

The Forgotten Poets - Sister Agnes

by Barry Van-Asten

St Peter, St Paul – Bugger you all!


It was the year of our Lord two-thousand-and-seven and Sister Agnes had been asked to attend the home of the Laird of Glencairne, in West London, on matters of ‘spiritual guidance’ (1). Sister Agnes was a little apprehensive as the Laird was a known diabolist and rumours persisted that he was also the ‘demon baby-eater of Kensal Green’ but there was no substantial proof to confirm this.
The good sister made many visits to the Laird’ and found his ‘beliefs’ distasteful and attempted to ‘turn him on to Christ’ – but the battle was long and arduous and the Laird budged not from his demonic practices, until finally, the sister agreed to the Laird’s terms: he would conform to the Christian way on one condition, and that was that the sister should send to him two young novice nuns to show him the errors of his ways and ‘put him right with God!’ At first the sister complied but after much thought and deliberation she sensed wickedness in the Laird’s terms and would not be tricked by the devil! She went back on her word and the novices were not forthcoming!
“You promised me young flesh! You are a liar!” the Laird would say, for he had lusted after the young novices or ‘strumpets of Christ’ as he referred to them, like a vampire, tired of devouring mutton suddenly hungers for spring lamb! And so, in the heat of spiritual battle, the Laird damned the sister and he forced his wicked lust upon her ‘unspoilt body’ at his home (2). The sister, shaken to her very core, was not only the victim of the Laird’s dreadful and sinister lusts but she found she had been awakened to the pains and pleasures of Sado-Masochism!
In the coming weeks the sister would make excuses to return to the Laird and he would implore upon her for the ‘young flesh’, to no avail.
She learnt more about the unnatural ways of sexual intercourse in those short weeks than a lifetime spent at the Vatican would teach her. In fact, the Laird invented some of his foulest deeds upon her God-curst body, for she was but a feather in his filthy bed of debauchery.
After many days of doubt and prolonged attacks upon the church from the Laird, the sister ceased her visits and the Laird could be heard, late into the night, wailing “you promised me young flesh, sister!”

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sister Agnes was born Rosemary Mason in 1959, North Leigh in Oxfordshire. She was an only child and when her mother Violet died she went to live with her Aunt Joan, Uncle Selwyn and their daughter Cousin Dora. Rosemary became very close to her Cousin Dora and would later say that she was her first love.


Behold! the blossom of thy bruised lips, no less,
Find my own as sweet and soft… I bless
The perfection of thy lustfulness
As we embrace and as we undress –
Time ceases in the hour of our gentleness
As my lips to thy beating bosom, I press…
And by moments and measures, it seemed, I guess
I was soon nestling softly in thy darkness;
And here didst I tend the garden, kiss by kiss –
Yes, there is certain loveliness
That soothes the heart in all of this.
But to love thee, is beyond such bliss;
To drink the wine of thy nakedness
Like some Witch Queen or pale Princess,
Swan-soft and elegant in lunar caress!

Forgive and heal us.


Rosemary’s love for Dora remained unrequited and at the age of sixteen, Rosemary entered the Eyes and Ears of God Convent as a novitiate and later took her vows – Rosemary was now Sister Agnes.


At the convent, Sister Agnes devoted her life to Christ and in her spare moments she wrote poetry. She became particularly fond of a young novice named Maria and so a relationship quickly formed. During this period of her life her poems begin to develop and speak less about the outside world of nature and more about the inner world of love, for her poems radiate with the joys of lesbian love –

Christ hath given thee to me,
Sweet child, in thine infancy!

[‘To a young novice’]

Gloria, Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Gloria, Gloria in excelsis Deo.

When Maria took her permanent vows she was given a position at a convent school and Sister Agnes was very unhappy to be parted from her. In fact, Agnes referred to this separation as a ‘death’ in her poems and in her ‘Mass for Maria’ her sadness is overwhelming:

Those young eyes hath yet to see
The horror of this hunger for thee!

This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.


That the relationship between Sister Agnes and Maria was a physical one there is no doubt. In her poem ‘Night Tears’, Agnes describes the closeness that the two sisters shared:

A single tear rolls down your face
And down your perfect pale breast, my dear;
To be that tear, to find that place
That’s snug with warmth – that keeps me near!

Glory to you, O Lord. Alleluia!

During her time away from Maria, Agnes published her first poetry collection called ‘Of Foolish Ways I Hath Known’, under the pseudonym Eva Hoare. The introductory poem ‘Girl in a red dress’ seems to be her acceptance of her cruel desires –

Girl in a red dress – I know your name:
I want to fasten my lips to your feverish flame!
I want to dare in the silence of your shadow, that’s cast
Upon the road of my future and the road of my past!

I dream the long lashes and imagine your thighs
Wrapt in red silk… the ecstatic joys
Are mine, oh beautiful girl, I adore –
Kiss me for ever and hurt me no more!

Girl in a red dress – I secretly pray
For your sweet lips pressed to my lips all day!
To be bathed in your sweat and baptised by flame –
Girl in a red dress – I know your name!

Hear our prayer. Amen.


In her next collection ‘A Silent Love’ the voice of doubt and despair speak louder and her longing and loneliness whisper through her verse –


Soft was your hand in my hand,
As your lips parted gentle and red;
And our kisses were ecstasy, fanned
Beneath the bright moon of the dead;
Our embraces girdled a band, Veronique,
Beneath the bright moon of the dead!

And here the veil of long ago
Was drawn in the silvern surprise,
By fingers that flickered white as snow
Like the moonlight caught in your eyes...
And suddenly the song did grow, Veronique,
Like the moonlight caught in your eyes.

Silver-skirted, in the glade...
Your sweet lips towards September, flow
As your long pale legs dance in the shade
Where the light of moon fears to go -
You are ecstasy perfectly made, Veronique,
Where the light of moon fears to go!

All night in the woods, you danced -
I suffered your beauty, and sighed;
I was struck by your form and entranced,
O sweet maiden where moonlight died;
And I stood for all time as I glanced, Veronique,
O sweet maiden where moonlight died.


Sister Agnes grew tired of her duties at the convent and entered the Convent of the Holy Heart of God and the Sacred Light of Christ, where she taught literature. But before long she found herself falling hopelessly in love with a young girl of fourteen named Angela Maltby-Jones. It is a dark time for Agnes and her doubts grow, but eventually Angela returns Agnes’ love and a physical relationship begins.


In her poem ‘Artemis’, Agnes describes her first sensual moment with Angela – ‘You slip your hand into my wetness; / we sigh and moan beneath the moon. / I kiss your hair and eyes with kindness; / I felt your soul begin to swoon. / And tenderness sang deep and deeper, / deeper than this love, new-born. / I kept you in my arms, my sleeper; / sleep and I’ll keep you safe till morn. / And you awoke to our caressing; / I kissed your lips and sang your name. / I kissed your neck as you sat dressing - / nothing shall ever be the same!’

And so it wasn’t!

Hosanna in the highest.

Agnes was delirious with happiness and she wrote a series of fourteen sonnets (fourteen for Angela’s fourteen summers upon the earth) entitled ‘Sensual Songs for a Young Girl’. The first lines to the sonnets are:

I. I give thee all of this…
II. There in the darkness of your heart…
III. I want the ways of our love to unfold…
IV. I pray at the altar of your veiled joy…
V. In the name of our Lord, I adore you…
VI. In death, our bodies shall be one…
VII. Your flesh, like a flower, folds over me…
VIII. Our tongues trace time’s desires…
IX. Angel heart – my soul sings to your touch…
X. The Lord has blessed our love, and gives…
XI. Come dear child, rest upon my heart…
XII. This is sacred and secret, like the seasons swell…
XIII. And now you are here with me, this night…
XIV. I watch you sleep and kiss your pillow…

Lamb of God,
You take away the sin of the world:
Have mercy on us.


Agnes is besotted with Angela and her obsession grows as she believes that Christ himself has rewarded this love –

And in that hour, you understood
That our baptism was blessed by blood!

This of course is a reference to Angela’s menstruation which Agnes sees as a divine sign that Angela is hers alone and that this ‘wine’ can heal the sick and perform miracles when taken during Communion.
In her private diary, Agnes talks about those ‘semen obsessed men in the church’ but fails to note her own stifling love for Angela as being anything less than pure and natural. In fact, she is falling into the black pit of insanity and her vows are but a vacant memory –

How sweet was the taste, how warm was the flow
That I drank down and near lost breath –
I sank into delicious death!

[‘Temptress in tights’]

To him be the glory both now and for ever. Amen

I am bound to you by more than this
Dark departure and a kiss!
My insides tingle to your hand
And the cruel dimensions we command
Pulse like ghost lips, bubble blowing:
My vagina weeps with over-flowing…
There is no other love as this –
Sweet sister of the clitoris!


Twelve months later and the relationship had soured. Angela left with her parents for France and Agnes was distraught. She eventually left the convent and went to London where she entered a convent school for the blind – The Son of the Blessed Lord, our God and the Un-Seeing, in Kensington. After her short affair with the Laird of Glencairne no more is heard of Sister Agnes. Her final poem seems to be repentance for her ways –

Wet with kisses – I shall come
And strike the lesbian heart that’s numb;
To rip the womb of false desire
And Christ shall brand my heart with ‘Liar!’
Let this lust of sisterhood burn with fire
For I have made my sorrows known –
To love the passion that you have shown;
To love with lust the awaiting grave;
To love with prayer all that I have,
All that I am, all that I can be…
I have awoken from the hell of my misery,
And ask forgiveness of my Lord. Amen.

Thanks be to God!

1. Sunday 7th January 2007.
2. Tuesday 20th November 2007.

Books by Sister Agnes:
‘Of Foolish Ways I Hath Known’. (Eva Hoare). Pirouet Press. Oxford. 1979.
‘A Silent Love’. (Eva Hoare). Pirouet Press. Oxford. 1981.

Further Reading:
‘Convent Dust – Limericks for Lunatics’. Clancy Press. Oxford. 1983.
‘Clitoris Blossom’. Virago. 1985.
‘A Mass for Maria and Other Poems’. Ed Sylvia Strongbower. Pan Books. 1989.
‘Collected Lesbian Poems’. Savage Tongue. Cambridge. 1990.
‘My Life with Sister Agnes’. Angela Maltby-Jones. Samson Small Press. 2008.

The Forgotten Poets - Lucien Taylor 1908-1998

by Barry Van-Asten

Unwilling of time and change – Heaven knows!
Why something strange and stupid grows!

Love Lyrics.

It was in that great year of nineteen-eighty-nine that I first became acquainted with the celebrated scholar and antiquarian Lucien Taylor. Born in 1908 in the Welsh town of Caerleon, the son of the Reverend Mckenzie Taylor, Lucien was a delicate boy and from an early age he was ‘seized by a religious awe and wonderment’, and thus he was destined for a promising career in the Church. In adolescence, Lucien was deemed ‘sickly’ and ‘not prepared to propel himself into sport!’ Instead, Lucien, a solitary boy with an enquiring mind read voluminously on all subjects and became an enthusiast of archaeology and all things ‘Egyptian’, later becoming a member of the British Archaeological Society. He also showed a great interest and aptitude for chemistry. In fact, History and Science were the two loves of his life and he went up to Cambridge to take his degree in these subjects. It was at Cambridge that he became ‘gripped by a spiritual mania’ and he joined the Christian organisation known as the Illuminated Order of Man, reaching the rank of Minister Superior in 1934. He then spent a year preaching to the ‘unenlightened inhabitants of Birmingham’ which caused within him a crisis of faith which became a great spiritual hiatus in his life, whereby in the following year, the year of his mother Constance’s death, with much dissatisfaction and disillusion, he became an agnostic. But it was not until he chanced upon a copy of Gerald Gardner’s ‘High Magic’s Aid’ (1949) that his eyes were opened to the true course of his life’s path – witchcraft!

I curse the eyes of Christ
And Hail the fornicating God!

A keen investigator of the paranormal, he had on many occasions accompanied the great ‘ghost hunter’ Harry Price on his ‘ghost watches’ and remained a loyal friend until Price’s death in 1948. He also became acquainted with James Turner, the ‘farmer poet’ who lived at Borley cottage in Suffolk, and ‘shared many an afternoon smoking and talking of the poets’.
After several attempts at marriage Lucien gave up its pursuit, declaring it a ‘grave and malevolent mistake made manifest by a monstrous and terrible God on mere mortals!’
He enjoyed playing the cello in his local chamber orchestra; was an amateur water-colourist and chess player and he described himself as a ‘profound sceptic awaiting proof of alien advancement!’ He lived a simple life and was a connoisseur of fine cigars and a collector of rare books on Science, poetry, alchemy and fly-fishing. In fact it was through my own love of the latter that I encountered Lucien in the Highlands of Scotland and I found him a charming and knowledgeable personality.
Many of the early poems were written while he was living the life of a ‘charmed ascetic’ in Paddington, questioning his existence, his sexuality and his spiritual journey. They were dark and dreadful days and madness seemed never to be far away! But Lucien crossed an abyss in that room he liked to refer to as the ‘hermitage’ and it was here that he wrote his ‘Sonnets to Sebastian’ that ‘drips with gloom, for the vacant tomb of Sebastian.’ The verse tells of the downfall of Oscar Wilde through the eyes of Sebastian Melmoth, with his

Tempest triumphant ‘twixt his thighs
That oft’ in secret sadness lies!

There has been much controversy over Lucien’s latter years and many misunderstandings, for it is said that he developed an ‘abnormal affection for Lillah McDonald, the thirteen year old daughter of his housekeeper, Mabel. The scandal haunted him until his death in 1998 at the age of ninety. But the truth is that he found a soul to love and ‘age was of no consequence’ for ‘it matters not, for she had already lived through centuries…’

Tonight, the shake of sadness shall take your love away;
The darkness grows upon my rose that blossomed through the day.
I pierce your Christ-like passion with my spear of wood:
That your glorious wound shall comfort me in this hour of blood!

Long-legged Lilith

The High Priest and his Priestess were later joined in the traditional way within the craft, and he referred to her as his ‘golden-haired Aphrodite’ and she coursed through his blood much as she coursed through his poems, for he adored her:

Our dreams were given to us
In this suffering and renown;
And my dark heart bleeds tears
At the sweet love you have shown;
Wrapt in the blissful energy of your ways:
I was iron forged in the Ancient of Days!

To Lillah

And again


I have poured all my life’s love upon the mountainside,
That the temple’s wind should fan my mind this way;
My journey has been dark with no light upon the tide;
My shadow shifting silently from the lone night to the day…
And you in your soft honoured gaze gave all and more than this:
The parted perfection and sweet aroma of your youth unfolds to me
Your sanctity, your beauty, your blossom-blown forgiven kiss –
I was blinded in a wilderness and now am blessed to see!
My child, I have sworn, not from your side to stray
Nor hunger for the kiss of Hell in any known abyss…
The elements have formed this world, and in this world I pray
That this love divine between our souls shall never go amiss:
I have sought you in the pain of life, and our spirits now are set
To course this cursed earth of ours with no heartache or regret!

We disagreed on many things, but may his poems be a testament to his sweet and delicate genius, alas unrecognised in life and greatly misunderstood in death!

Rev. A. E. Dunn.