Sampford Peverell Church from Great Western Canal
Probable site of Margaret Beaufort's residence is on the left of the church
I’m in Sampford Peverell, looking over the Tiverton canal where swans are casting curious shadows over the water. Not long ago, when I was in the Post Office (which at the time was my local), I’d idly picked up a leaflet about the local church and leafing through its pages, had discovered that in the early C15 the village had been graced with the presence of probably the most powerful and influential woman of her period, the Countess of Richmond, Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII's mother, Known for her work as an assiduous early literary translator, keen reader, early promoter of printing,[i] generous benefactor and patron, the Countess has left her permanent influence in the church and rectory. Archives record that the countess travelled to Sampford Peverell several times, where she’d stayed at Richmond House, a property which is still here, and which nowadays is sited looking over the canal. I’ve read that the house still apparently retains the frame of its original solar window.
One of the Countess’ visits followed a tour round her estates at Curry Rivel and Langport, in October 1467, when accompanied by her second husband, Stafford, Margaret arrived at her residence in Sampford Peverell, which was said to have a 'splendid parlour'; 'beds were hired and rushes collected for the lord's and lady's chambers'.[ii] The couple were known to ride out together, touring their other outlying Devon estates, including those at Holbeton and Flete, Bovey-Tracey, Torrington Manor and Fremington. Margaret Beaufort's once presence in the county is part of our hidden literary historical heritage. I wrote a poem about her as one of a sequence about individual women writers with Devon links.
Imagining Translation was first published in The Exeter Flying Post and then in the sequence Tessitura, in 2014/ The poems are not included in the non-fiction text of Women Writing on the Devon Land.
(Please note the poem is not displayed here in its original layout; I cannot present it properly unless I use a pdf format).
click click click)
Moving through space virtually frame by frame, tubular
tunnels, phrase by phrase, through textual palimpsests
year by year to the void of the past, where spatially
her story perhaps began. Even the Book
was then as good as new.2 She lived and worked
with Latin texts;3 once dissected, selected the equivalent felicitous phrase.
by the first print press were stored in vaults at old
archival sites. They’re ISP lit up from that
original source. Now, imagining translation
her textual lines are sifting in, snatched
from gaps in this shifting chimera,
its parchment pages, rich medieval illumination
words written between the covers of her book of blacke velome
She knew the sign of her corrupted nature the battle that will crown her son is to the East and only years away she is Grandmother of later
her estates on this peninsula space as rich as royalty her stays in the county were perhaps brief
yet her influence spreads far and wide
Not her own words no voice of her own solely translation linguistic insights chasing into future generations.
[i] In 1503 and 1506, Lady Margaret demonstrated her interest in English printing with the commissioning of two French translations of devotional works, Book four of the The imytacyon and folowynge the blessed lyfe of our sauyour Cryste by Thomas à Kempis and the The mirroure of golde for the synfull soule.
[ii] Michael K Jones and Malcom J Underwood, The King's Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby (Cambridge University Press, 1993), 141.
 1. Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, 1450-1509; Henry V11’s Mother.
2. Printing was still a new art; William Caxton set up his printing press under her protection and printed books at her request and expense. One of the earliest of these was Blanchardine and Eglantine.
3. Margaret Beaufort had a love of literature and herself translated several texts. These included The Mirroure of Gold.
4. She owned many large estates in the South West; in Devon these included Holbeton and Flete, Bovey-Tracey, Torrington Manor and Fremington.