The need for a new Visitors’ Book in the church has, by giving us the chance to study the old book, made available a previously unsuspected historical reference source. Covering the period from the 14th March 1978 to the 14th July 2003, the entries provide us with a quarter of a century of details of people who have visited our church. Many visitors have commented on the beauty of its setting, and feeling of tranquillity that prevails, while others have noted the reason for their visit. Although we are appreciative of the complimentary remarks about our church and its venue, it is the reasons for the visits, which are of major interest to us.
Many of these people have made several visits. Their ages cover a wide range, and they come from near and far – local, national and international. Their reasons for coming are manifold, varying from grieving relatives, those tracing ancestors, former residents, ex-servicemen who were stationed here in World War I, children evacuated to Fovant during World War II, to those who were born, christened, confirmed, or married here. Many Australians come either seeking the grave of a soldier relative or friend, or who come just to remember the 14–18 Aussies who did not return home. Quite a few ex-Fovant Children, when grown up, have brought their own children to the church. Several local children, perhaps at a loose end during school holidays, have visited more than once.
A selection of the remarks in the ‘comment’ column illustrates the variety of reasons for the visits: –
- ‘Again red roses for my beloved’ – four successive annual visits at about the same time of the year, thereafter no more.
- ‘Rest peacefully now you are home in Fovant’ – three daughters remember their mother.
- ‘My great, great, great grandfather was married in this church’ – visitors from Australia.
- ‘I was a child here and love to come back’ – now living in America.
- ‘I miss it’ – child whose parents moved away.
- ‘I was stationed here in 1916’ – this entry was made in the early 1970s.
- ‘My father may have come this way in WW1’ – visiting daughter.
- ‘Memories of our wedding day in 1944 – Now living in America, a local girl who married an American serviceman?
- ‘Evacuated here during the war’ – Three ladies from London.
- ‘Came to find an old Digger’s mate’s grave’ – visitor from Australia.
- ‘Brought some Australian gum tree leaves to put on the Australian graves – visitors from Australia.
Finally I come to the children. I have left them to the last because, having lived here for many years, I know who they are and have watched them grow up, and return with their own children. Their repeated visits and accompanying comments follow the progress of their maturity.
Innocently earnest as small children, in impeccably neat childish writing we get such remarks as ‘I prayed for my sister’ or ‘a very nice place’ . A few years later the writing has gone haywire, naughtiness has set in and, having entered their own name in the right place, they sign silly names in the comment column! Later still comes the anguished adolescent with ‘please make it come right God ‘ or ‘I won’t come to church again’ . Finally, they come as adults, with their own children.
All life is there between the covers of one small book.