Gatcombe – the mysterious spot of Isle of Wight.

gatcombeSt Olave's Church at Gatcombe, Isle of Wight (Photograph by David Oxtbay)

Whether you’ve visited the Isle of Wight or not, when you hear or read its name, it is more likely that in your mind automatically emerge the images of the sugar-alike Needles, Queen Victoria’s cherished Osborne House or Carisbrooke Castle, infamous for once having been the place of imprisonment of Charles I. But in the shade of any popular place, quite often are hidden none the less intriguing places that have a couple of curious stories up their sleeves. One of such places is the village of Gatecombe, which is in the centre of the Isle of Wight and only 3 miles from Carisbrooke Castle. With the population scarcely more than 500 residents, Gatcombe seems to be yet another ordinary English village: just an old church with a sprinkling of houses scattered around it. But back in the 19th century a bizarre story happened in this secluded corner…

In the Gatcombe church you can still see a carved wooden effigy of Edward Estur, the 14th century local knight, who took part in the Alexandrian crusade, in 1365. It probably will not grasp your attention for long, but there was something in that statue that fascinated Lucy Lightfood, a farmer’s daughter, who used to live in a nearby hamlet in the beginning of the 19th century. She reportedly could spend hours in the church scrutinizing the wooden knight, answering to having been curious fellow-villagers that she was accompanying that noble man in her dreams. One day she, as usually, tied up her horse to the church’s gateway and headed to the building for giving herself up to the reveries. While she was in, a forceful storm swept over the island, bringing massive damages to the district. It soon abated though, but 20-year-old Lucy disappeared as well. Her parents scoured the village and its vicinities for their daughter – to no avail, as if she had vanished, leaving her frightened horse outside the church.

Lucy’s trail was discovered 35 years later, but definitely not there where anyone would expect. The Reverend Samuel Trelawney, the clergyman from the Scilly Isles, having been doing research on the Alexandrian Crusade, stumbled across the manuscript with the mentioning of all its participants, including Edward Estur.
st olave's churchEffigy of Edward Estur in St Olave's Church, Gatcombe (Photograph by John Salmon)
According to the manuscript, Edward’s mistress called Lucy, hailed from Isle of Wight, was travelling with Edward to Cyprus, where he left her and continued his way to Alexandria, his final destination. It looks like the time slip helped Lucy to reunite with her soul mate, but unfortunately just for a brief time. In Alexandria Edward was gravely injured in his head and spent a couple of months hovering between the life and dead. He recuperated eventually, but the trauma affected his memory, so Edward came back to Gatcombe without his pretty time-traveller. Lucy Lightfoot, as the story tells, after having been spent about 3 years in Cyprus waiting for her unlucky knight, moved in to Corsica, where she married a fisherman and, as likely as not, lived long and happily ever since after.

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