This article is a part of the Eustace collection - aimed at helping others create counter-narratives to threats to our historic environment.Learn more about Eustace
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I’ve been bound to this patch of earth, in one form or another, for almost a thousand years. Since then, I’ve layered and crustated with materials from these parts. They define me like the rings of a tree.
For most of that time, I’ve had a single purpose. Alongside the rise and fall of the Thames, I’ve convened the ebb and flow of people from west to east.
Before things silted, they tickled my foundations when their barges scraped the wharf. The barges brought the timbers for my tower - a beacon of their faith.
And then they ripped out my fripperies and whitewashed my walls until, in more recent times, they tried to take me down. Somehow, I hung on, and from that point onwards, there was a twist in my DNA. They moved from east-west to north-south; coming through the north door and leaving through the south.
"And then they ripped out my fripperies and whitewashed my walls until, in most recent times, they tried to take me down."
I sense their flow at first-light every morning, when they arrive with their animals. I hear the same words over and over again: Dolly, Bonny and Patch. From monastic chanting to pedigree panting. They pause, amidst the coming storm, and my oaken bones creak with delight in the knowledge that I still give respite.
One thing they all have in common is a need to make their mark.
I am a totem to them. Without me they feel rudderless. They have imprinted me with their hopes and fears, their gains and losses, their happiness and sorrow.
And now, out of respect for my age, they make their mark with pen and paper.
Through their marks they find succour and correspondence with the natural world around them.
Their marks stretch out upon my surface like a ticker-tape through time.
I am a Time Machine.
Without me there’d be no gasp or remark, as my leaning tower rises from the mists on the Thames. Without me there would be no perspective. Without me, no-one would know these parts or know themselves.
I came about for a single purpose, but now, I am many things to many people: all faiths and none.
I still have my secrets, like the Virgo Virginium on the timbers, and the bottled hair in my walls.
But, my biggest secret, I call my Northern Lights.
On the sharpest of dawns, my corsetry of flint - like tiny, time-burnished mirrors - echoes the gentle lapping of the Thames, and my walls shift and shimmer with joy.
Photographs and words by Andy Marshall (unless otherwise stated). Most photographs are taken with Iphone 14 Pro and DJI Mini 3 Pro.