The church receives quite a few enquiries and visits about the Root(e) family. Last month an entry in the visitors’ book made us aware of a visit by Joe Jansen from Fishers, Indiana. We followed up and Joe wanted to share a video
Thoughts on visiting Badby By Joe Jansen
20 July 2018 1526 words
We stepped off the West Midlands Train onto the platform at Long Buckby and looked around to get our bearings. Jill and I had taken our leave of London on this Thursday to ride the rail north into the English countryside. We were in search of Badby Village in Northamptonshire County, where my family’s people had lived in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The name on my mind was Thomas Roote, my 8x great-grandfather, who’d emigrated from here to America in 1637.
The train doors hushed shut and the West Midlands continued north to Coventry, Birmingham, and Liverpool. It was quiet, and sunny at midday. We were alone on the platform, save for a fellow traveler – a seventyish woman moving toward the stairs that led down to a small parking lot.
I reviewed the map on my phone: 1) exit the train at Long Buckby, 2) take a bus to Daventry, 3) take another bus to Badby Village. We had the basic plan in place, but for the details we were flying by the seat of our pants.
Where was the bus stop? Somewhere near the parking area.
Do we buy tickets at a window or pay the driver? We’ll figure it out.
I heard Jill say my name in her “your-attention-needed” voice. I looked up and followed her gaze. The older lady was on the stairs now and clearly struggling with her heavy suitcase. I put my phone in a pocket and walked to her.
“Would you let me help you with that, madam?”
“Oh? No, but thank you very much. I can manage,” she said.
“Please,” I said, sucking in my gut and trying to make my shoulders look wider than they are. “I’ve trained my whole life for this.”
She seemed amused by this cheeky American fellow and allowed me to carry her valise to the bottom of the stairs. We exchanged pleasantries and mutual wishes for a fine afternoon. She took charge of her suitcase and continued toward the parking lot.
I returned to my phone and the business of pathfinding. “Okay,” I said to Jill. “The bus stop… It’s gotta be around here somewhere.”
“Why don’t we ask the lady? She might be from around here.” That was a capital idea.
“Ma’am?” I called as I caught up to her. I told her we were trying to get to Daventry. Could she point us to the bus stop? As we spoke, her friend arrived to pick her up.
“Daventry?” she said. “That’s not far out of our way, is it, Bev? Come along, why don’t you. We’ll give you a lift.”
I felt the Flying-by-the-Seat-of-Your-Pants God smiling upon us. I threw our sails to the wind and accepted her offer. Jill tends to be more structured and cautious in her planning, though, and I could read her thoughts:
“A lift? I’ve read about these 70-year-old British serial-killer cannibals who abduct unsuspecting American tourists from countryside rail platforms. It was in People Magazine.”
Sandy and her friend Bev turned out to be a delightful pair of ladies, not at all interested in dining on human flesh. During the 15-minute drive to Daventry, Sandy talked about coming up here from London to visit Bev’s family for going on 40 years. Her brother used to live here, she told us. “Half-brother, really. I haven’t seen him in donkey years. Can’t tell you if he’s even still alive,” she said, wistfully, as if our presence had brought him to mind for the first time in a long time.
Bev and Sandy dropped us at the Daventry bus stop and wished us well. We found the connecting bus that took us the last three kilometers south to the village of Badby.
The Romans, the Saxons, and the Normans all had their times of domination in the land around Badby. On nearby Arbury Hill, one can still find an entrenchment said to be the remains of a Roman camp. In an Anglo-Saxon land charter dated 944 AD, this land was referred to as “Baddanbyrg” or “Baddan Byrig.” When the Normans arrived, their Domesday Book of 1086 made reference to Badby as land owned by the Croyland Abbey.
The Rootes are believed to have come to Badby from the Normandy region of France in the early 1500s, when they joined an exodus of Protestant Huguenots fleeing Catholic persecution.
Jill and I left the bus stop and meandered through the village, south on the main road in the direction of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, first constructed in the mid-1300s. We passed homes built of brick and fieldstone, the Windmill Inn with its three chimneys, and Malter’s Country Inn, ivy growing up its stone walls toward a whitewashed second and third story. As we walked up the hill toward the church, the houses seemed to be getting older and it was as if we were going back in time.
My thoughts turned to Thomas Roote, born here in 1605, and his parents John and Ann, who lived, died and were buried here. He had a brother John and sisters, Mary and Susanna. I tried to picture them living in this place 400 years ago, walking this same road up the hill to a church.
The Rootes would see a century of peace and land-owning prosperity here in this countryside before running again, this time for New England ahead of an impending English civil war that would see a king beheaded. Thomas would cross the ocean in 1637 aboard a ship called the “Increase.” Thomas and others of the Roote tribe arrived to the hostilities and dangers of a genuine wilderness. Some would be killed or carried off by Indians, some drowned in rivers, and others taken by disease. Yet the family would also propagate and prosper.
For several years now, I’ve been on the trail of Thomas Roote. I’ve walked his home plot on “the road to the cow pasture,“ which is now Main Street in Hartford, Connecticut. A monument in the middle of the Ancient Burying Ground there lists him, at age 32, as one of the founders of that town.
I’ve had my feet on the ground in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he moved around 1655 at the age of 50. Thomas was listed also as a founding member of Northampton. He and Sarah brought seven children into the world and he died there in 1694 at the age of 89. The land where his home stood is today bracketed by Acme Collision Repair and an electrical substation.
Now we were here in Badby where Thomas was born and raised.
St. Mary’s was easy to find, its bell-tower pinnacles reaching 72 feet into the sky above a church already the highest point in the village. We wandered among the gravestones, most made illegible by time and the elements. The quiet embraced us. At home in the US suburbs, sound is incessant: lawnmowers, a neighbor’s air conditioner, the perpetual hum of an interstate highway two miles south, a burble of voices passing on the sidewalk.
On this knoll above a country village, there was none of that. We heard no sounds other than of a mourning dove. No sounds until the bell tower rang for 2:00 PM, and we entered the church.
St. Mary’s has stood for nearly 700 years. While the roof was raised in the 15th century, some stained glass added or replaced, and pews changed out in the late 18th century, the pillars and the walls are original to the 1340s. Built of Marlstone Rock, this place was already 260 years old when Thomas was baptized here in 1605.
I put my hands on one of the stone pillars and wondered if, in the course of the 32 years he had worshipped in this place, Thomas had touched this stone, too.
Jill and I have been sitting in meditation twice a day, morning and evening, 15 minutes a session. What better place to sit than here and now? Next to each other in a pew near the altar, we closed our eyes. I let a mantra run through my mind: “They were here. They were here.”
I said his name: “Thomas Roote.” I wondered if he knew we were here now, sitting where he may have sat. I wondered if he’d been watching me as I’d followed him through time and across two continents: Massachusetts in 1690. Connecticut in 1640. Badby in 1620.
The ancient Egyptians believed that the perpetuation of one’s name helped ensure their continued existence after death. An Egyptian proverb holds: “He lives whose name is spoken.” So in saying his name, maybe we were helping continue his existence. Perhaps he does hear us, does see us.
The church bell rang. It was time to go. Time to catch the last bus to the last train back to London.
This village has a name, one that has morphed over centuries: Baddanburg, Baddan Byrig, Badbye, Badebi. Badby.
The name is thought to be derived from the Saxon bade for “a pledge in security,” and bye for “a dwelling or habitation.”
To my ears, that sounded like a name for “home.”