Nothing says I love you like a window...

119 years ago today, Mariana Percy Belcombe passed away at the age of 80 in the home she shared with her life companion on 14 St. Mary’s in York.

 

I believe everyone comes to a point in life when they are willing to reflect on the deeper meanings of the world and allow inspiration to flood their very soul… or they look at an obstacle and think ‘oh I can’t be bothered.’ This is the life-changing dilemma I found myself in as I stared at the (possibly maybe) 500-year-old wrought iron fence that surrounds St. Olave’s Church, in Marygate, York and weighed my options.


Why was I about to have an existential crisis in front of a wrought-iron fence? I’ll tell you why. It separated me from what I thought at the time to be my waiting Stendahl moment. I had found what I believed to be an untold love story that righted the wrongs of our beloved heroines Anne Lister and Mariana Lawton. A love story that ‘defied logic’ and allowed two women to ‘make a conspicuous commitment’ to one another. A love story as close to our beloved Mariana Lawton as possible without it being Mariana Lawton’s love story. A love story that appeared to be hiding in plain sight from a world that just wasn’t ready to see the beauty that can thrive between the hearts of two people. I had found a window that was going to help me tell that story… and dang it, the church was closed on this 5th (attempted) visit to experience this window in all its glory.


Do I climb the fence like a fanatic and run to the window desperately trying to snap a blurry picture like an amateur Loch Ness monster hunter? Or do I collect my wits and resign myself to flying halfway across the world some other time just to see a window? PoTayto, PoTahto. I will let those in the CCTV office answer that question. I have a story to tell. Spoiler Alert: I do get to see my window, eventually.


I was first introduced to little Mariana, aka Little M, aka Percy, aka V2, aka Miss Belcombe when I read the 23-Jul-1821 [Newcastle] journal excerpt in Helena Whitebread's book The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister. Mariana Lawton's niece and goddaughter? A Mini Mariana? Absolutely sign me up! Not one but two M-s running around the planet? Could it get any better?! Come to find out, yes! And I’ll tell you why!


So, why does it get better?

Picture it: York, 1851.

It’s the first time we see the name Elizabeth Hopkinson and Mariana Percy Belcombe (V2) on the same document. Hashtag Team PerBeth? I think I need to let that one marianate. Haha! Get it?

For a quick primer on Percy and Elizabeth (and all the other Marianas) check out All the Marianas where you can hear the phenomenal voice of Mariana -- talking about the Marianas… I know, right?!


1851 Census - York - Minster Yard

Percy fascinated me on so many levels as did her aunt! She lived to be 80, just like M. She had a "lady friend" just like M. She was musically inclined and played the piano/organ just like M. And she served on the board of the York RSPCA for many years. How you doin'? Sounds like a catch! It’s no wonder Elizabeth Hopkinson and Percy "lived together" from sometime between 1841 and 1851 until Percy's death in 1901. Upon Percy's death, she left "her" home to Elizabeth in her will. Elizabeth lived there until her death in 1911. That sure is some ‘friendship’. I mean, I have a best friend but I couldn’t spend every day for 50+ years with him... he listens to Disney tunes and thinks Britney Spears is better than Celine Dion. We wouldn’t last.


Percy & Elizabeth's Home

Back to my window. In all, I tried to see this window a total of six times across four separate trips. What sort of games was the universe playing on me? All I was asking for was the chance to see this window up close and personal and have an epiphanic experience on a new plane of self-realization resulting in the evolutionary transformation of my life. No pressure right?


I finally get the opportunity to see my window on the morning of August 2nd, 2020. The church was back open and we’d already communicated our research intent and they were more than happy to assist. With masks on, and two of the most wonderful people on the planet by my side, we entered the church and I made my way to the front. I stood in front of the window looking up in awe thinking about its meaning and the feelings behind it and wondering what Mariana would have done for Anne if situations were different.


 
 

Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened

& the ears of the deaf unstopped, then shall

the lame man leap as a hart & the tongue of the

dumb shall sing

King James Bible - Isaiah 35:5-6


Tabitha

‘He hath sent me to heal the broken hearted’ KJV Luke - 4:18 Christus the Consolator

St. Luke


To the Glory of God and in loving memory of Mariana Percy Belcombe who died Aug11 1901

This window is dedicated by her devoted and sorrowing friend Elizabeth Hopkinson. RIP

 

This is a perfect window for Percy. Although she lived to be 80 years old, participated in multiple charitable organizations, and traveled the country extensively, Percy suffered from multiple health conditions throughout her life. Her child and teen years were blanketed with illnesses, at times being confined to bed for several months in a row. These episodes are documented in correspondence between M and Anne as well as mentions in Anne’s journals.


I wonder if Percy and Elizabeth planned this window together before she passed. Or if Elizabeth, in knowing Percy better than anyone else, handpicked each verse and image to truly memorialize the loss of her life companion. All the figures are related to charity and health or healing. Tabitha, also known as Dorcas, was a disciple of Christ focused on charitable acts. St. Luke was referred to as a physician. And the center of the window contains the image of Christus, emphasizing his role as the divine healer. You can just feel the love and dedication in the story this window tells.


6th time’s a charm, right? Did I get slightly misty-eyed but quickly blinked away? Yes, I did.

Did I have my life-changing, world-rocking experience that I had been relying on for so long? No, I didn’t. And it’s because I realized I’d already had.


A lot happened on August 11th in the Annedome world. I’ve seen all sorts of posts on social media. One of them was the passing of Little M. Getting to know her and her family and the adventures she (and her aunt #TeamMariana) has given me has already been life-changing. The window was just an added bonus.


#TeamMariana #TeamBelcombe #AlltheBelcombes #TeamLove

Percy and Elizabeth resting peacefully...together.