David Lynn, Professor of English and Special Assistant to the President, has published a nonfiction essay “Time and Continuity: An Ancient Inn Endures” in the Spring 2021 edition of The Sewanee Review.
Smiling and clearly nervous, Caroline Cheffers steps through the low threshold and down onto the floor of the Malt House. Only on special occasions does she typically draw the bolts on this great and dark room for airing and, if necessary, heating. And now the reason, the special occasion, does emerge immediately behind her: Queen Elizabeth II, serene and regal, pocketbook in the crook of her elbow, steps down as well and makes her way towards the video camera.
Even on the small computer screen, I recognize the passage from which they’ve just emerged. It seems unlikely. Narrow, dust-laden surely, even after a thorough wash, the route is filled with the moldy residue of centuries. It extends between the Malt House and a stone cellar where casks of various ales reside. This is the Bridge Inn’s inner and most ancient terrain, a route typically frequented only by staff. Yet Her Majesty is smiling in perfect order, seemingly indifferent to primeval grime. Her predecessor, the original Elizabeth, no doubt exhibited a similar sangfroid. That would have been some four-hundred years ago, when this inn’s timbers were already time-worn and weathered.