An Evening with the Curator Speed to the West: A Railway Journey in Art

‘Speed to the West:  A Nostalgic Journey’ by Paul Atterbury and Richard Furness

‘Speed to the West: A Nostalgic Journey’ by Paul Atterbury and Richard Furness

This Thursday, 24th March at 7.00pm at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester, Richard Furness will talk about the development of the humble railway poster, and give a tour of the West Country using a series of stunning railway posters to coincide with the Museum’s extensive poster exhibition which runs until January 2017.

The talk will cover the historical development of railway posters over 130 years from the early Victorian lithographs through to modern digital images.  It will be based on the five south-western counties of Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, which will be used to illustrate the enormous change in styles before we tour the region with some of the finest pieces of commercial art ever produced in the UK.

The talk is a stunningly visual introduction to the extensive poster exhibition being hosted by Dorset County Museum, which the BBC Antiques Roadshow expert Paul Atterbury and the Speaker have jointly curated.

Available to buy on the evening at £9.99 will be the brand new book ‘Speed to the West:  A Nostalgic Journey’ by Paul Atterbury and Richard Furness.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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Museum launches a new exhibition of stunning railway advertising posters of the 20th Century

Nothing is more evocative of the golden age of travel than the railway poster, and Dorset County Museum is thrilled to be staging an exhibition featuring over 50 famous examples that opens on 19th March. These beautiful works of art were created between 1916 and the 1970s with one aim in mind: to encourage holiday makers to escape the humdrum of every day life and travel by train to the resorts, towns, countryside and special places of Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.

A truly classic railyway poster advertising the trip to come: GWR poster from 1938 by Charles H. J. Mayo

A truly classic railyway poster advertising the trip to come: GWR poster from 1938 by Charles H. J. Mayo

The posters conjure up a bygone age of steam engines and old fashioned bathing suits, sunny beaches and the gentle clinking of boats in harbours. There are stunning and iconic landscapes too, immediately recognisable, painted in wonderful colours and promising days out filled with sunshine and relaxation. Town and city views are populated with elegant people, a streamlined locomotive heads a Pullman train – these images bring together the excitement, spectacle and nostalgia of the age.

On display alongside the wide range of posters are some 21st century items that use classic poster design principles, locomotive nameplates, old station totem signs and diverse railway publicity materials and ephemera celebrating the great holiday routes in the West of England. Together they will, without doubt, provoke many nostalgic travel memories.

Speed to the West has been curated by Antiques Roadshow expert and writer Paul Atterbury and Richard Furness, collector, writer and publisher of the Poster to Poster series that have become the definitive books on the subject, supported by the staff of Dorset County Museum.

Paul Atterbury said “During the interwar years the ‘Big Four’ railway companies found that art sold tickets, and between them commissioned an astonishing range of posters from the leading artists and designers of the day. This tradition was maintained, even expanded, in the 1950s and 1960s by the newly nationalised British Railways, whose legacy is a second golden age of posters. This is a wonderful collection that is well worth coming to see, and I’m very pleased to be involved with this exhibition.”

Richard Furness said “Dorset is a beautiful county whose coastline is the subject for some wonderful artwork. Having been studying, collecting and writing about railway art for many years, I am delighted to be playing a part in bringing this unique collection to Dorchester. This exhibition brings together posters spanning a century, and is rounded off with the latest GWR poster which demonstrates that the slogan ‘Speed to the West’ is still actively in use today. Visitors should have a lot to see and reminisce over. Do come and see us!”

Dr Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum said “I’m really excited about this exhibition. The posters and railway memorabilia we’re exhibiting are within living memory for many people, forming a direct link to the past. Added to that, the posters are, of course, things of beauty in their own right and it’s great that they will be here in Dorset for people to see all year.”

A book, illustrating in colour the posters in the exhibition plus others that enrich the story, will be on sale throughout the exhibition priced at £9.95.

  • The exhibition ‘Speed to the West’ A Nostalgic Journey opens at Dorset County Museum on Saturday 19th March 2016 to Saturday 7th January 2017

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Related Links:

The Naming of the Shrew: A Curious History of Latin Names by John Wright

The Naming of the Shrew:  A Curious History of Latin Names  by John Wright

The Naming of the Shrew: A Curious History of Latin Names by John Wright

This talk at Dorset County Museum takes its name from speaker John Wright’s book, and promises to be interesting and amusing in equal measure. Have you ever wondered about the Latin names given to flora and fauna? Well, now is your chance to come along and find out just how fun taxonomy, the science of classification, can be!

John Wright explains, “Latin names are frequently unpronounceable, a puzzle to unravel and often extraordinarily rude. In short, surprisingly hilarious. You’ll never have guessed taxonomy could be so much fun!”

John Wright is a Fellow of the Linnean Society, a passionate natural historian and author of several River Cottage handbooks including Mushrooms, Edible Seashore, Hedgerow and Booze. After the talk, he will be signing copies of his book The Naming of the Shrew: A Curious History of Latin Names.

This FREE talk is open to all. To cover costs, a small donation of £3 is encouraged. The talk will take place in the Museum’s Victorian Gallery on Wednesday 11th November, 7.00pm (doors open at 6.30pm).

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

The Harvest Customs and Traditions in Dorset

Harvest HomeExtract taken from the Chambers Book of Days August 1st 1864, details the traditions of Lammas.

LAMMAS – This was one of the four great pagan festivals of Britain, the others being on 1st November, 1st February, and 1st May. The festival of the Gule of August, as it was called, probably celebrated the realisation of the first-fruits of the earth, and more particularly that of the grain-harvest. When Christianity was introduced, the day continued to be observed as a festival on these grounds, and, from a loaf being the usual offering at church, the service, and consequently the day, came to be called Half-mass, subsequently shortened into Lammas, just as hlaf-dig (bread-dispenser), applicable to the mistress of a house, came to be softened into the familiar and extensively used term, lady. This we would call the rational definition of the word Lammas.

There is another, but in our opinion utterly inadmissible derivation, pointing to the custom of bringing a lamb on this day, as an offering to the cathedral church of York. Without doubt, this custom, which was purely local, would take its rise with reference to the term Lammas, after the true original signification of that word had been forgotten. It was once customary in England, in contravention of the proverb, that a cat in mittens catches no mice, to give money to servants on Lammas-day, to buy gloves; hence the term Glove-Silver. It is mentioned among the ancient customs of the abbey of St. Edmund’s, in which the clerk of the cellarer had 2d.; the cellarer’s squire, 11d.; the granger, 11d.; and the cowherd a penny. Anciently, too, it was customary for every family to give annually to the pope on this day one penny, which was thence called Denarius Sancti Petri, or Peter’s Penny.’—Hampson’s Medii AEvi Kalendarium.

What appears as a relic of the ancient pagan festival of the Gule of August, was practised in Lothian till about the middle of the eighteenth century. From the unenclosed state of the country, the tending of cattle then employed a great number of hands, and the cow-boys, being more than half idle, were much disposed to unite in seeking and creating amusement. In each little district, a group of them built, against Lammas-day, a tower of stones and sods in some conspicuous place.

On Lammas-morning, they assembled here, bearing flags, and blowing cow-horns — breakfasted together on bread and cheese, or other provisions—then set out on a march or procession, which usually ended in a foot-race for some trifling prize. The most remarkable feature of these rustic fetes was a practice of each party trying, before or on the day, to demolish the sod fortalice of some other party near by. This, of course, led to great fights and brawls, in which blood was occasionally spilt. But, on the whole, the Lammas Festival of Lothian was a pleasant affair, characteristic of an age which, with less to gain, had perhaps rather more to enjoy than the present”

Dorset Folklorist, John Symonds Udal wrote about the customs and traditions of Harvest Home in Dorset in his book ‘Dorsetshire Folklore’ published in 1922:-

HAY-MAKING

Haymaking

Haymaking in Dorset – DCM © 2015

The season of hay-making would seem never to have been such a period of gaiety and festivity in Dorsetshire as was the case with the “harvest-home” gatherings later in the year. The success of the hay harvest, however, was a very important matter to so large a pastoral community as the county comprised; and without doubt some celebration by way of reward for and appreciation of services loyally rendered, often in long extended hours of work when the weather was uncertain, was indulged in at the conclusion of that harvest. Extra money payments, as in the corn harvest, have largely taken the place of social gatherings and festivities amongst the labourers in which their employers once freely joined. Still in many places at the ingathering of the hay an extra jar of cider or ale would be brought out, and the men would sit down and have a chat amongst themselves and, perhaps, a song or two ; whilst at the close hats would be raised and ” hip, hip, hurrahs ” would be given.

In later years, both in hay and corn harvesting, machinery has taken a very active part in reducing the amount of manual labour employed in these operations, which at its introduction went sorely against the conservative feelings of the Dorset peasant. This feeling was just as strongly expressed as in the great industrial centres in the North where labour-saving appliances were ever on the increase; and sometimes took the form of reprisals by way of burning hay and corn ricks as well as the occasional destruction of the offending machinery.

Under these influences in course of time the very names of the old haymakers’ several occupations would be lost. In William Barnes’s early days—a century ago—these were numerous and distinctive. We are fortunate in having him to record what they were. Here is a description which he gives in his Glossary (1863) of what haymaking was like in his time (s.v. Häymeäken).

“Hay-making consists of several operations which with fine weather, commonly follow each other in Dorsetshire, thus : The mown grass—in zwath, swath,—is thrown abroad—tedded, and afterwards turned once or twice ; in the evening it is raked up into little ridges—rollers,—single or double, as they may be formed by one raker, or by two raking against each other ; and sometimes put up into small cones or heaps, called cocks. On the following morning the rollers or cocks are thrown abroad in passels—parcels,—which, after being turned, are in the evening put up into large ridges—weals ; and the weals are sometimes pooked, put up into larger cones—pooks,—in which the hay is loaded. In raking grass into double rollers, or pushing hay into weals, the fore raker or pickman is said to rake in or push in, or row or roo, and the other to close.”

Barnes had already preserved many of these terms in two of his charming dialect poems, one on “Häymeäken “, and the other on “Häy-carrén” (pp. 51-2), which afford so delightful a picture of rustic life in the hay-field that one feels inclined to say, too:

“I do long to toss a pick,
A pitchén or a-meäkén rick.”

HARVEST HOME

The celebration of the ingathering of the corn harvest is common to all our counties and to most countries. Full accounts of these festivals and their significance may be found in Brand’s, Hone’s, and Chambers’s works, as well as in those of less known writers.

It is to the late William Barnes that we might expect to look for a fitting description of a Dorset harvest-home feast, or supper, and we find it in an account,—as particular and as life-like as a painting of an old Dutch interior—of what usually took place on these occasions, which he contributed to Hone’s Year Book (p. 586), from which I take the following extract:—

“Harvest Home, formerly celebrated with great mirth but now a declining usage, was a feast given by the farmer at the end of harvest, or when his hay and corn were got in … Some years ago the ‘ harvest home ‘ in my native county, Dorset, was kept up with good old English hospitality.

Harvesting

Reapers gathering the harvest – DCM © 2015

“When the last load was ricked the labourers, male and female, the swarthy reaper and the sun-burnt hay-maker, the saucy boy who had not seen twelve summers and the stiff horny-handed old mower who had borne the toil of fifty, all made a happy groupe, and went with singing and loud-laughing to the harvest-home supper at the farmhouse, where they were expected by the good mistress, dressed in a quilted petticoat and a linsey-wolsey apron, with shoes fastened by large silver buckles which extended over her foot like a pack-saddle on a donkey.

“The dame and her husband welcomed them to a supper of good wholesome food, a round of beef, and a piece of bacon; and perhaps the host and hostess had gone so far as to kill a fowl or two, or stick a turkey, which they had fattened in the wheat-yard. The plain English fare was eaten from wooden trenchers, by the side of which were put little cups of horn filled with beer or cider. When the cloth was removed one of the men, putting forth his large hand like the gauntlet of an armed knight, would grasp his horn of beer, and standing up on a pair of legs which had long out-grown the largest holes of the village stocks, and with a voice which, if he had not been speaking a dialect of the English language, you might have thought came from the deep-seated lungs of a lion, he would propose the health of the farmer in the following lines :—

‘Here’s a health unto our miaster
The founder of the feast,
And I hope to God wi’ all my heart
His soul in heaven mid rest;
That everything mid prosper
That ever he tiak in hand,
Vor we be all his sarvants,
And all at his command.’

“After this would follow a course of jokes, anecdotes, and songs, in some of which the whole company joined, without attention to the technicalities of counterpoint, bass, tenor, and treble, common chords and major thirds; but each singing the air and pitching in at the key that best fitted his voice, making a medley of big and little sounds, like the lowings of oxen and the low beatings of old ewes, mixed up with the shrill pipings of the lambs at a fair.

“The conversation commonly turned on the incidents of the summer ; how the hay-makers overtook the mowers, or how the rain kept the labour back ; how they all crept in a heap under the waggon in a thunderstorm ; how nearly some of them were crushed under the load that was upset; who was the best mower or reaper in the village ; which field yielded the best crop ; and which stack was most likely to heat.”

Later Barnes devoted two of his charming dialect poems to a similar description, which form such a delightful complement to the whole subject that I have no hesitation in reproducing them here in full. They are to be found at pp. 78-80 of the first collected edition of the poems published by Kcgan Paul & Co. in 1879, and again in 1888. (The first edition of Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect was in 1844, whilst the earlier edition of Hone’s Year Book in which Barnes’s contribution first appeared was published in 1832. A change of spelling in some of the dialect words,—particularly the ‘”vowel sounds “,— (e.g. ” ia “, in ” miaster “, or ” tiak “, to ” eä, “) will be noticed in the earlier and later editions of the poems ; a scheme not involving so much a change of pronunciation» perhaps, but, as justified by Barnes in the preface to the third edition of his ” first collection” of poems, published in 1862, on the ground that ” while it affords the Dorset forms of the words to Dorset readers it may make them of more English look and more legible to others “.)

HARVEST HWOME

The vu’st peärt. The Supper.

“Since we wer striplèns naïghbour John,

The good wold merry times be gone:
But we do like to think upon
What we’ve a-zeed an’ done.
When I wer up a hardish lad,
At harvest hwome the work-vo’k had
Sich suppers, they wer jumpèn mad
Wi’ feästèn an’ wi’ fun.

At uncle’s, I do mind, woone year,
I zeed a vill o’ hearty cheer;
Fat beef an’ puddèn, eäle an’ beer,
Vor ev’ry workman’s crop
An’ after they’d a-gie’d God thanks,
They all zot down, in two long ranks,
Along a teäble-bwoard o’ planks,
Wi’ uncle at the top.

An’ there, in platters, big and brown,
Wer red fat beäcon, an’ a roun’
O’ beef wi’ gravy that would drown
A little rwoastèn pig;
Wi’ beäns an’ teäties vull a zack,
An’ cabbage that would meäke a stack,
An’ puddèns brown, a-speckled black
Wi’ figs, so big’s my wig.

An’ uncle, wi’ his elbows out,
Did carve, an’ meäke the gravy spout;
An’ aunt did gi’e the mugs about
A-frothèn to the brim.
Pleätes werden then ov e’then ware,
They ate off pewter, that would bear
A knock; or wooden trenchers, square,
Wi’ zalt-holes at the rim.

An’ zoo they munch’d their hearty cheer,
An’ dipp’d their beards in frothy-beer,
An’ laugh’d, an’ jok’d–they couldden hear
What woone another zaid.
An’ all o’m drink’d, wi’ woone accword,
The wold vo’k’s health: an’ beät the bwoard,
An’ swung their eärms about, an’ roar’d,

Enough to crack woone’s head.

Second Peärt. What they did after Supper.

Zoo after supper wer a-done,
They clear’d the teäbles, an’ begun
To have a little bit o’ fun,
As long as they mid stop.
The wold woones took their pipes to smoke,
An’ tell their teäles, an’ laugh an’ joke,
A-lookèn at the younger vo’k,
That got up vor a hop.

Woone screäp’d away, wi’ merry grin,
A fiddle stuck below his chin;
An’ woone o’m took the rollèn pin,
An’ beät the fryèn pan.
An’ tothers, dancèn to the soun’,
Went in an’ out, an’ droo an’ roun’,
An’ kick’d, an’ beät the tuèn down,
A-laughèn, maïd an’ man.

An’ then a maïd, all up tip-tooe,
Vell down; an’ woone o’m wi’ his shoe
Slit down her pocket-hole in two,
Vrom top a-most to bottom.
An’ when they had a-danc’d enough,
They got a-plaÿèn blindman’s buff,
An’ sard the maïdens pretty rough,
When woonce they had a-got em.

An’ zome did drink, an’ laugh, an’ roar,
An’ lots o’ teäles they had in store,
O’ things that happen’d years avore
To them, or vo’k they know’d.
An’ zome did joke, an’ zome did zing,
An’ meäke the girt wold kitchen ring;
Till uncle’s cock, wi’ flappèn wing,
Stratch’d out his neck an’ crow’d.

To these Barnes has added ” A Zong of the Harvest Home ” (p. 80), of which the refrain to each of the six verses is:

“The happy zight—the merry night—
The men’s delight—the Harvest Hwome.”

Again, many years later, in his ” Fore-say ” to this work, Barnes speaks of the decline of the old-time celebrations of this festival. He says: “The feasts of Harvest-Home in which the work-folk were invited to

‘the hall
where beards wagged all,—'(Thomas Tusser: Five Hundred Points of Husbandry)

to share of mirth and meat under the smiles of the master and mistress, as tokens of approbation of their work, are now less customary than they formerly were, as in these commercial days it seems to be felt that the clock measures all the workman owes his master and the paytable all that the master owes to him.”

As Brand says (i, 443), ” Different places adopt different ceremonies ” ; but that which seems to me to conform most to the Dorset ritual on these occasions is that of ” crying the knack “, or ” neck “, in the neighbouring counties of Devon and Cornwall, and in which there seems not only a strong affinity but traces of considerable antiquity. (Conf. Shropshire Folk-lore, pp372-3)

In 1873 I contributed an article to Notes and Queries (Ser. iv, xii, 491), describing ” A Dorsetshire Harvest-Home ” in West Dorset, which I had recently attended, and this I now reproduce :

“It was my good fortune to be present in September last at one of those old-fashioned gatherings in the West of Dorset, a harvest-home, and I thought that perhaps an account of such a quaint and time-honoured custom might not be unacceptable to some among the readers of ‘ N. and Q.’, especially as these congenial meetings are becoming scarcer year by year and ere long bid fair to rank amongst the things that have been. Small sums of money are now in many places given to the men, women, and boys instead of the usual supper, a practice that I am sorry to say seems to be on the increase, and which I here offer up my voice to protest against.

” I say ‘sorry’, first, because it denotes a departure from old customs, and, secondly, because the purpose for which the alteration is intended is, it seems to me, but very imperfectly carried out. At the time of such a general holiday in the parish the labourers of one farm do not seem willing to disperse quietly to their own homes and husband the few shillings they may have received as ‘largess’, whilst their fellows are enjoying themselves on another farm ; but rather to keep up a harvest-home of their own in the village ale-house, though, I need scarcely say, not of so orderly a character as that of the bond fide supper ; and which, to tell the truth, they themselves much prefer, for a ‘ Dorsetshire labourer ‘, though he may be poor, is none the less Conservative.
“On the day appointed for the celebration of the harvest, the labourers from the several farms attended afternoon service in the parish church, dressed in their best clothes, the church being decorated in the usually seasonable manner. The entrance-gates of the principal farms were likewise decorated with an arch of evergreen, flowers, corn, etc., crowned with a sickle and scythe swathed in bands of wheat barley, the whole surmounted by appropriate mottoes.

“In the evening tables were laid out in the kitchen of a size sufficient to accommodate the men, women, boys and girls employed on the farm, the ‘ master ‘, assisted by such members of his family as might be, sitting at their head and carving a grand rump of Old English beef.

“As soon as the company had partaken of as much beef and plum-pudding as was considered desirable an adjournment was made to a large tree that stood near the homestead, where the following quaint custom—peculiar, I was informed, to the west of Dorset—took place. (it would seem to be somewhat similiar to the custom of ‘crying the knack’, which obtains to Devon and Cornwall)

“The men formed themselves into a circle, and each taking off his hat and holding it out in front of him, stooped to the ground; then, led by one standing in the centre, chanted the words : ‘ We have ’em ‘ (or ‘ ‘en’). The first word, ‘ We/ is commenced in a very low tone, the men the while slowly and gradually raising themselves up, and so prolonged till they have almost reached their full height. They close the sentence by saying ‘ have ’em ‘ more quickly. This is done three times. They then shout ‘ Huzza ! ‘ once. Again they stoop down and go the same performance ; finishing up this time with two ‘ huzzas’. This is repeated once more, and finally wound up by huzzaing three times. As soon as the men have finished the women come forward and go through the same ceremony. This, when well performed, a not altogether unimpressive or unmusical effect. The words, I believe, bear reference to the conclusion of the harvest and the sheaves of corn being satisfactorily ‘ had ‘ in.

“The discharge of small cannon, (the peculiar care of the boys) likewise gave considerable éclat to the whole proceeding. This over, the party returned to the house and entered upon a course of singing and drinking, not unmixed with dancing in the back kitchen.

“The first song was, of course, in honour of the ‘ meäster ‘, and unenriched by the Dorset vernacular indulged in by the toast-master, was in the following words :—

‘Here’s a health unto our master,
The founder of the feast,
And when that he is dead and gone,
I hope his soul may rest.
I wish all things may prosper,
Whatever he takes in hand.
For we are all his servants
And serve at his command.So drink, boys, drink!
And see that you do not spill.For if you do,You shall drink two,
“Tis by your master’s will.’
“This song is repeated till everybody present has drunk the health.

‘Here’s Mrs’ (or Mr’s) good health !Let the glass go roundAnd the trumpet sound,— Huzza ! huzza ! huzza ! Down fall all the re-bels,We long to see the day,—Con-fusion unto themThat set ’em up again ! Huzza I huzza i huzza !Confusion etc.’

“This, like the last, was repeated till all had drunk.

“Then followed the curious and laughable custom of’ drinking to your love over the left arm ‘. Each man, while the following verse was being sung, was obliged to drain his mug or horn-cup of ale by holding it in his right hand, and passing it outside of and over his left arm, which would be thrown across the chest. Great merriment was afforded when some of the older hands, through age or other infirmities failed to accomplish this in a satisfactory manner. The words sung were the following :—

‘ As I was a-riding over a mountain so highI saw a pretty girl that plea-sed my eye,She plea-sed my eye, but pla-gued my heart;From this cup of liquor we never will part;’Twill do us no good,—’twill do us no harm.”Here’s a health to my love, over left arm, over left arm! “Here’s a health etc.’

“This was continued till all had satisfactorily passed the crucial test. Songs of a more general character and sundry speeches followed; and eventually the proceedings were brought to a close about midnight by the whole company joining in the National Anthem, ‘ God Save the Queen.’ ”

The following version, similar but less ornate, of the ” whooping ” ceremony,—as it was called in the district,—was given me as having been performed at a farmhouse in the same neighbourhood as the last. At the end of the harvest a jar of cider or ale and two small cups were taken just outside the yard, when all the labourers would gather in a circle round the jar, which is presided over by the oldest man amongst them, and, taking off their hats and standing in a stooping position, would bow slowly down to the ground, whilst singing in a low, guttural, drawling tone, ” We-e-e-e have ‘en ! ” They then stand upright again and holloa ” hurrah ” once. This is gone through a second time, when the ” hurrah” is given twice. Again, a third repetition, when three ” hurrahs ” are given. They then have a drink all round; after which they return mostly for songs or dances after supper. I have been told that these cheers were often heard at a distance of a mile or two!

At the time I sent the above account to Notes and Queries I was not acquainted with Jacob Grimm’s Teutonic Mythology—or, rather, Stallybrass’s translation of it,—in four volumes, which were not published till 1880-8. After I had read it I was struck by the very strong resemblance to the Dorset ” whooping “, as it is called, that exists in the custom of the people in Lower Saxony invoking their great god Woden at the conclusion of the harvest. Grimm states (i, 154) that it is usual to leave a clump of corn standing in a field to Woden for his horse.

Mr Wellen of Charlton Marshall at a Harvest Festival, taken 1940

Mr Wellen of Charlton Marshall at a Harvest Festival, taken 1940 – DCM © 2015

He then describes (p. 156) a custom in Schaumburg where the people, having finished the mowing of the corn, or having purposely left only a small strip standing which they could cut down at a stroke, then at the finish would raise their implements aloft, beating the blades three times with the strop, while each would spill a small quantity of beer on the ground and then drink himself. They would then wave their hats and beat their scythes three times and cry aloud, ” Wôld-wôld-wôld” which, Grimm says, a Schaumburg man pronounced as ” wauden “. They would then march home shouting and singing. If the ceremony were omitted the next year would bring bad crops of hay and corn.

It is a pity that Grimm did not know of the custom as existing in western Dorsetshire, which I have described above. I wonder whether he would have agreed with the suggestion that I now venture to make, that the Dorset labourers’ cry in this corner of old Wessex of “We hav’en “, repeated three times, is but a survival of the old invocation to the great god Woden of their Saxon ancestors, still continued from time immemorial at these harvest celebrations but of which the real significance and meaning have been lost.

Shortly before I left England in 1889 I was anxious to test this resemblance still further, so I invited certain of the farm labourers belonging to the same West Dorset parish—Symondsbury— in which the ceremony had been performed in 1873, after they had attended the now usual harvest festival service at the old parish church, to do their ” whooping ” on the lawn in front of the Manor House close to the church. They went through it all in much the same way as their predecessors had done, and again the close affinity to what Grimm had related was borne in upon me. Out of compliment to him I added a further Teutonic association that was by no means unacceptable to the performers. I made the men drink the healths from a tall seventeenth century pewter tankard, or loving-cup, with covered lid (of which there were one or two similar ones in the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington), of a capacity of several quarts, which had formerly been the property of some civic company or guild in some German town (to judge from the inscription), this being the first opportunity I had had of putting it to anything approaching its former use. It would be a strange but not inappropriate incident if it should again, after so many years, have assisted in the survival of an ancient Teutonic festivity.

I have since obtained from locally printed sources and otherwise a few songs or verses that were sung at harvest-home gatherings. Several of these, as I have already pointed out, may also have been sung at sheep-shearing feasts in the days when these feasts were more worthy of the name. The main toasts were evidently the same. In particular the one sent by Mr. T. H. Garland to the Dorset County Chronicle (which had reprinted my paper from Notes and Queries), wherein he added that he was a West Dorset man and had for many years witnessed the old customs to which I had alluded.
The following verse appeared in the Bridport News in 1874 as having been sung at the same place as my account referred to:

“When the wheat is all ripe the harvest begin,The farmer the fruits of the earth gather in ;In the mornings as soon as the reap hooks are grindWe repair to the field for to reap and to bind.”

Another couplet ran :—

“When the harvest is over to our master’s we will steer, And wet a good supper with a drink of strong beer.”

The following toast was given by a farm labourer at a harvest home at Blandford in 1849 (” N. & Q.,” Ser. v, x, 306. For a more correctly rhyming Worcestershire variant see the same volume, p. 375) :—

” Drink, boys, drink, and see you do not spill;
If you do you shall drink two,
For ’tis our master’s will.”

“Horses strong, sheep healthy,
Barns full, money plenty.”

A correspondent in Notes and Queries in 1878 (Ser. v, x, 375) speaks to his having heard, some forty years previously, the same refrain

” Drink, boys, drink, and see you do not spill;
If you do you shall drink two,
For ’tis our master’s will.”

at a sheep-shearing feast in the lower part of Dorsetshire, when each man was supplied with a small cup of about the third of a pint to drink the customary healths in.

Forfeits.—Amongst the amusements at harvest home suppers forfeits appear to have been sometimes indulged in (though such games were usually set apart for Christmas), when songs or rhythmic jingles were sung with the object of entrapping the unwary. The following were given me as having been used at harvest homes in the parish of Stoke Abbott, also in West Dorset.

One of the company leads off with the following rhythmic jingle, followed by the others :—

“Green grow the leaves on the hawthorn tree,Some grow high and some grow low; With my ringo and my jingoWe seldom disagree,And the tenor of my song goes merrily— And the tenor of my song goes merrily.”
The leader alone then sings :

” Twenty, nineteen, eighteen—”
The next one in rotation :
” Seventeen, sixteen, fifteen—”
The next, in their order :
” Fourteen, thirteen, twelve—”” Eleven, ten, nine—”” Eight, seven, six—”
The last in rotation chimes in with ” Five, four, three “—and they all add:
“And the tenor of my song goes merrily.”

When this is done the person next to the leader begins it over again, and it goes on as before, except that when he comes to the figures he starts with ” Seventeen, sixteen, fifteen “—the next to him taking it up as before, and so on to the end. This over, the third person in rotation commences the strain, beginning the figures at ” Fourteen, thirteen, twelve “—and so on as before until the whole is exhausted.

Should anyone make a mistake in repeating his portion he must pay forfeit, which, on these occasions, generally consists in being made to drink something.

Here is another one from the same place :—

“O splice the cable-rope,
The rope it is so fine;*
And with a sugar loaf we’ll have
A glass of currant wine ;
And if the wine is sharp
The sugar makes it sweet;
What greater joy in all the world
When two sweethearts do meet!
With my Rider, Ready, Rum,
My Rider, Ready, Rum,
So drink half your liquor, boys,
And say no more than ‘ Mum’.
So drink off your liquor,
boys,And say no more than ‘Mum’!”

  • *Possibly a covert allusion to the excellent quality of the hemp grown in the neighbourhood. So highly was it esteemed that a statute, 21 Henry VIII, provided that cables intended for the use of the Royal Navy should be made from hemp grown within a certain radius of Bridport, within which radius the parish of Stoke Abbott is situated.

The above rhyme is sung by all the company together, after which the leader, and any one who may be initiated in the game, endeavour to entrap the person sitting next them into answering more than the permitted ” Mum ” by accusing him, truly or otherwise, of having made a mistake in singing or in drinking more than half the liquor at the wrong time, so as to entail a forfeit. The verse is then gone through again, and the next person is interrogated with the like object, and so on in rotation until all have been subjected to the ordeal.”

An Englishman’s Home – a play by Major Guy du Maurier

An Englishman’s Home – a play by Major Guy du MaurierA dramatic play reading provides the final event associated with Dorset County Museum’s current exhibition, A Dorset Woman at War. On 16th October The New Hardy Players will be reading a play originally published in 1909. An Englishman’s Home caused a sensation when it came out anonymously under the name, A Patriot. It later came known to be the work of Captain Guy du Maurier, a British officer. An uncle to Daphne du Maurier, his play was said to have influenced her famous novel, The Birds. An Englishman’s Home went on to be a long-running success and was later made into a film.

“This play was politically provocative and was deliberately designed to frighten its audiences” says Jon Murden, director of Dorset County Museum. “Writers like du Maurier were frequently criticised as scaremongers by leading politicians of the day, but unfortunately their fears were ultimately proved correct by the outbreak of the First World War.”

The semi-staged play will be performed with some costumes and props and is set almost entirely in the sitting room of a suburban house in Essex. It tells the story of a fictional attack on England by an unknown enemy (generally assumed to be Germany). The alarming nature of the story, at a time of increasing tension between Britain and Germany, served to highlight the unreadiness of Britain to repel such an attack and was credited with boosting army recruitment in the years immediately prior to World War I. It also influenced Mabel Stobart, the subject of the Museum’s current exhibition.

Tickets for the play reading cost £7.00 and include a complimentary glass of wine or a soft drink. The event starts at 7.30pm on Thursday 16th October and all are welcome. Tickets are available now from the Museum Shop on 01305 756827. For further information see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

Brickosaur Workshops at Dorset County Museum

Brickosaur Workshops at Dorset County MuseumThis summer, there is a unique opportunity for LEGO® fans to join in with two fantastic workshops in the Victorian Gallery at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.

On 12th and 20th August, children between the ages of 5 and 11 can take part in special workshops at the Museum run by certified LEGO professionals, Bright Bricks. The sessions will be led by Ed Diment who will help the children create a giant mosaic of a Megalosaurus out of LEGO bricks. The events are being organised by the Jurassic Coast Museums Partnership to broaden access and understanding of museums and collections on the Jurassic Coast.

Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum said, “These sessions will be great fun and are an opportunity to work as part of a group on a much larger scale project than you can at home.”

MegalosaurWhen the mosaics are finished, participants will be able to get a bird’s eye view of the whole scene from the Dorchester Gallery above. At the end of each session, each child will be given their very own Megalosaur model to build at home – these limited edition models have been produced in very small numbers and are not available in the shops.

Each child must be accompanied by an adult at the sessions and the cost is just £10 per child. Book in good time to secure your place on 01305 756827. There are two sessions on each day – 10.30am to 12.00pm and 1.30pm to 3.00pm. Don’t forget – each child will also receive a special Megalosaur model kit to take home.

Other museums along the Jurassic Coast will be running their own Brickosaur events over the summer – watch out for further details. For more information on the Dorset County Museum workshops please Tel: 01305 262735 or visit our website at www.dorsetcountymuseum.org.

Jurassic Coast Creatures – Build a Brickosaur! Events

Free LEGO DinosaurFrom August there are new displays and inter-actives for you to discover and enjoy in a string of museums stretching from Swanage to Sidmouth.

Why not start your own Jurassic Journey and find out more about the strange and sometimes scary forms of life that inhabited our world millions of years ago?

Dorset County Museum in Dorchester is creating a brand new display in its Jurassic Coast Gallery showcasing some remarkable 140 million year old footprints.

Skip across to Swanage Museum to play at being a palaeontologist and piece together some real dinosaur bones to produce part of an Iguanodon.

Pass over the Purbecks and head for Portland Museum to meet the mighty Megalosaurus and find out more about the island’s unique geology.

If you dip into Devon, you can dig for fossils in Sidmouth Museum’s children’s activity area and discover the new display on the remarkable story of the Red Rocks.

A short hop away is the picturesque Fairlynch Museum at Budleigh Salterton, with fresh and fun displays on mountains, rivers and the ancient reptiles that once roamed the landscape.

BUILD A BRICKOSAUR!!!!

Weird and wonderful creatures once roamed the lands and seas which now form the Jurassic Coast. Their fossil remains are displayed in museums across Dorset and Devon.

Ichthyosaur

At Lyme Regis Museum you can find the incredible Ichthyosaur, a huge and predatory “fish lizard” which cruised through the sea at a staggering 36km/h.

PlesiosaurBridport Museum is home to a super streamlined Plesiosaur which used its
serpent-like body and crocodile teeth to hunt its prey in warm Jurassic seas.

Megalosaur

The frightening footprints of the mighty meat-eating Megalosaur can be found at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.

Rhynchosaur

 

 

 

And in the museums at Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton there are the curious remains of the strange and ugly Rhynchosaur which thrived 240 million years ago when Devon was a desert close to the equator.

This summer you can build these dinosaurs and marine monsters from LEGO® bricks and create your own pint-sized Jurassic World by taking part in workshops being held in museums across Dorset and Devon.

The Jurassic Coast Museums Partnership have teamed up with LEGO® artists from British company Bright Bricks and the Dorset based artist Darrell Wakelam to produce a range of holiday activities guaranteed to entertain and inspire.

Choose from the lists below and be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment.

At each workshop children should be accompanied by an adult. Suitable for children aged 7-11 years.

Every child coming to a LEGO® event gets to take home a FREE LEGO® kit – not available in the shops!

Tickets £10.00. Book in advance to secure a place by contacting the museum where the workshop is taking place.

Don’t forget to find the real thing whilst you’re visiting the museums. They’re packed with lots of fantastic fossils for you to discover including beautiful brittle stars, terrifying teeth and even dinosaur poo!

BRICKOSAUR WORKSHOP EVENTS
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– Wednesday 30 July 2014

Create a Jurassic World for a Prehistoric Plesiosaur at Bridport Museum

  • Workshop 1 : 10.00am – 12.00pm
  • Workshop 2 : 2.00pm – 4.00pm

Bridport Museum, 25 South Street, Bridport, Dorset, DT6 3NR.

From the Romans to ropemaking. Discover Bridport’s unique history in a Tudor building. Check website  for opening times – Admission: FREE

Tel: 01308 458703 – Website: www.bridportmuseum.co.uk __________________________________________________________

 – Friday 22 August 2014

Create a Jurassic World for an Ichthyosaur at Lyme Regis Museum

  • Workshop 1 : 10.00am – 12.00pm
  • Workshop 2 : 2.00pm – 4.00pm

Lyme Regis Museum, Bridge Street, Lyme Regis DT7 3QA.

Jurassic Coast fossils, Lyme’s maritime past and famous literary figures are featured in this beautiful old building overlooking the sea. Check website for admission prices and opening times

Tel: 01297 443370 – Website: www.lymeregismuseum.co.uk
__________________________________________________________

MegaLEGOsaurus

See the Megalosaurus created by Ed Diament of Bright Bricks and on display at the Dorset County Museum

– Tuesday 12 August

Make a giant Megalosaur Mosaic at the Dorset County Museum with certified LEGO® professionals, Bright Bricks and take home your very own model

  • Workshop 1 : 10.30am – 12.00pm
  • Workshop 2 : 1.30pm – 3.00pm

– Wednesday 20 August

  • Workshop 1 : 10.30am – 12.00pm
  • Workshop 2 : 1.30pm – 3.00pm

Dorset County Museum, High West Street, Dorchester, Dorset DT1 1XA.

The award winning museum of Dorset. Exciting galleries and displays explore 6000 years of Dorset’s history. Check website for admission prices and opening times

Tel: 01305 262735 – Website: www.dorsetcountymuseum.org
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– Wednesday 27 August 2014

Make a Giant Rhynchosaur Mosaic at Sidmouth Museum with LEGO® professionals, Bright Bricks, and take home yourvery own model.

  • Workshop 1 : 10.00am–11.30am
  • Workshop 2 : 2.00pm–3.30pm

Sidmouth Museum, Church Street, Sidmouth, Devon EX10 8LY.

Something for everyone from Jurassic Coast fossils to local lace. Check website for opening times – Admission: FREE

Tel: 01395 516139 – Website: www.devonmuseums.net
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– Friday 1 August 2014

Create a Jurassic World for a Monster Megalosaur at Portland Museum

  • Workshop 1 : 10am–midday
  • Workshop 2 : 2pm–4pm

Portland Museum 217 Wakeham, Portland DT5 1HS.

Museum houses many of the artifacts associated with the history and culture of the Island and Royal Manor of Portland and tells the story of local industry, the Sea, the Prisons and the People. Check website for admission prices and opening times

Tel: 01305 821804 – Website: www.portlandmuseum.co.uk
__________________________________________________________

– Friday 29 August 2014

Make a Giant Rhynchosaur Mosaic at All Hallows Museum with LEGO® professionals , Bright Bricks, and take home your very own model.

  • Workshop 1 : 10.30am – 12.00pm
  • Workshop 2 : 1.30pm – 3.00pm

All Hallows Museum, Honiton, High Street, Honiton, Devon EX14 1PG.

Discover Victorian curiosities, Honiton lace and pottery, and a truly ancient Honiton Hippo! Come and see our Jurassic heritage. Check website for opening times – Admission: FREE

Tel: 01404 449668 – Website: www.honitonmuseum.org
__________________________________________________________

– Saturday 30 August 2014

Make a Giant Megalosuar Mosaic at Wareham Town Museum with LEGO® professionals, Bright Bricks, and take home your very own model.

  • Workshop 1 : 10.00am – 11.30am
  • Workshop 2 : 2.00pm – 3.30pm

Wareham Town Museum, Town Hall, East Street, Wareham BH20 4NN. Wareham Museum tells the story of the geology, archaeology and history of the Wareham area. Check website for opening times – Admission: FREE

Tel: 01929 553448 – Website: www.wtm.org.uk
__________________________________________________________

– Thursday 28 August 2014

Make a Giant Rhynchosaur Mosaic at Fairlynch Museum with LEGO® professionals , Bright Bricks, and take home your very own model.

  • Workshop 1 : 10.00am – 11.30am
  • Workshop 2 : 2.00pm – 3.30pm

Fairlynch Museum, Budleigh Salterton, Fore Street, Budleigh Salterton, Devon EX9 6NP.

Explore the history of Budleigh Salterton and the lower Otter Valley. Check website for opening times – Admission: FREE

Tel: 01395 442666 – Website: www.devonsmuseums.net/fairlynch
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 Related Sources:

The Black Death in Dorset

Black Death in Dorset From the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society’ Volume 43 1923, an article written by the Rev. Canon J. M. J. Fletcher, M.A. entitled ‘The Black Death in Dorset (1348 – 1349)’

It has frequently been pointed out that the middle of the fourteenth century appeared to be the time of England’s greatest glory. France had suffered a crushing and unexpected defeat at Crecy in 1346. In the following year Calais was taken. And when Edward III, in the height of his triumph, landed at Sandwich on October the 14th, 1347, the whole country seemed to be carried away with excitement at the success of their King. To all appearance an era of glory, of peace, and of plenty had arisen. It was the golden age of chivalry. And, in various parts of the country, tournaments were held to celebrate the establishment of the Order of the Garter, which appears to have been instituted by the King in order to hand down to posterity the memory of his martial prowess.

Such was the England upon which the great pestilence fell in the summer of 1348. It has been described as having been

“a turning point in the national life. It formed the real close of the mediaeval period and the beginning of our modern age. It produced a break with the past and was the beginning of a new era. The sudden sweeping away of the population and the subsequent scarcity of labourers raised, it is well recognised, new and extravagant expectations in the minds of what are called the lower classes; or, to use a modern expression, labour began then to understand its value and assert its power.” (F. A. Gasquet, The Great Pestilence, p. xvi.)

For two years or more, previously, there had been rumours of a mysterious disease which had been raging in the distant east, and by which, in a brief space of time, whole districts were depopulated. China and India more especially suffered. Tartary, Mesopotamia, Syria and Armenia were depopulated. Cairo lost daily, while the plague was at its height, from 10,000 to 12,000 persons. (Hecker, Epidemics of the Middle Ages (translated by Babington) 2nd Edit., 1835, p. 21.)

Its specific causes are unknown. The opinion of the time connected its appearance with contemporary physical phenomena of a remarkable kind. Parching droughts were
succeeded by convulsions of the earth and crackings of its surface from which a fetid and poisonous vapour was projected into the atmosphere, the corruption of which was afterwards increased by malarious exhalations from swamps caused by incessant deluges of rain. To the panic-stricken imagination of the people, the pestilence seemed to be advancing to their destruction in the palpable form of a thick stinking mist.

The Death CartThe pestilence found its way to Europe along the great trade routes, being carried by the trading caravans which brought spices and gums and silks and other produce of the eastern markets. An Italian writer (|Gabriele de Mussi, Ystoria de Morbo. quoted by Gasquet, Op. cit.. pp. 4, 17, &c.) tells how the infection was brought to Genoa. Some number of Italian merchants had resorted to a place called Tana, north of Constantinople and under the rule of the Tartars. Tana was besieged and taken by the Tartars; and the Christian merchants, who were violently expelled from that city, were then received, for the protection of their persons and property, within the walls of Caffa, which had been built by the Genoese in the Crimea. This, too, was attacked by the Tartars, and the inhabitants were hard pressed. Suddenly the plague broke out amongst the Tartar host. At first they were paralysed with fear; and then, turning their vengeance on the besieged, and, in the hope of communicating the infection to their Christian enemies, by the aid of the engines of war they projected the bodies of the dead over the walls into the city. As far as possible the plague-infected bodies were committed to the sea. Before long, however, the air became tainted, and the wells of water poisoned. In this way the disease spread so rapidly in the city that few of the inhabitants had strength to fly from it. From the Crimea the plague seems to have found its way to Constantinople, which, at that time, was the great centre of communication between the Asiatic and European countries. It reached Italy in the early days of 1348, being brought from the Crimea to Genoa and to Venice. Boccaccio (Boccaccio, Decameron, Introduction) tells us graphically of what happened at Florence. All classes were affected. Magnificent dwellings were rendered desolate, sometimes to the last inhabitant. Riches were left with no known heir to inherit them. People of both sexes dined, apparently, in the best of health, and at supper time were lying dead. Stricken children were forsaken by their parents. The poor languished on the highways, in the fields, or in their own cottages, and were dying like animals. Flocks and herds wandered unwatched through the forsaken harvest fields.

The pestilence reached France about the same time that it reached Italy. From Genoa it was brought to Marseilles, where in a month 57,000 were carried off by the sickness. It reached Avignon, where Pope Clement VI held his court, in the early days of January, 1348. Here, in the first three days, 1,800 people are said to have died ; and in the seven months that the plague lasted no less than 150,000 persons in the surrounding territory died. The Pope found it necessary to consecrate the Rhone, that bodies might he thrown into the river without delay, as the churchyards would no longer hold them. He himself lived in seclusion in his palace at Avignon, keeping up constant fires and allowing no one to approach him.

Weymouth Harbour

A view of the harbour as it appears today. At the time of the Black Death Melcombe Regis Harbour was to the right and Weymouth Harbour to the left

The pestilence first attacked England in the summer of 1348. It was probably brought from Calais, being conveyed by fugitives who came to England in hopes of escaping from it. It appears certain that the first place attacked was Melcombe Regis, or Weymouth, which at that time was apparently almost as important a port as Bristol or London.

” In the year of our Lord 1348, about the feast of the translation of S. Thomas (July 7th),” writes the Author of the Eulogium Historiarum, (Eulogium Historiantm, Vol. Ill, p. 213.) a contemporary monk of Malmesbury, ” the cruel pestilence, terrible to all future ages, came from parts over the sea to the south coast of England into a port called Melcombe, in Dorsetshire. This plague, sweeping over the southern districts, destroyed numberless people in Dorset, Devon and Somerset.”

The plaque on Custom House Quay which records the part that Melcombe Regis played in the story of the Black Death

The plaque near ‘The George Inn’, Custom House Quay which commemorates the event when the Black Death entered Dorset

Bristol more especially suffered. Other dates given for its first appearance in this country are July 25th and August 1st, while another contemporary monkish chronicler (Henry Knighton, Chronicon Ltyccstrcusis (Rolls Series), Vol. II, pp. 58, &c.) states that it began in the autumn of the year 1348. News of its actual presence had not apparently reached the Bishop of Bath and Wells (Ralph of Shrewsbury, Bishop, 1329-1363.) on August 17th, for on that date he sent letters throughout his diocese ordering processions and stations every Friday, in each collegiate, regular, and parish church, to beg that Almighty God would protect the people from the pestilence which had come from the east into the neighbouring kingdom. The same bishop, a little later, issued a mandate which he ordered to be read clearly and distinctly in the cathedral on the 10th of January, 1348-9. (Wilkins, Concilia Magn. Brit, 1737, Vol. II, pp. 745-746 (Ex reg. Wellen., fol. 333). In it he speaks of the pestilence having left many parishes destitute of spiritual care and without a priest. Numbers of people were dying without the Sacrament of Penance, in consequence of the infection, and through dread of the disease. And he directs that it shall be made generally known that, if a priest cannot be found, confession of sin may be made to a layman, or even in case of necessity to a woman; though, if the penitent recovers his health, confession is again to be made to a priest. Moreover, in the absence of a priest, the Sacrament of the Eucharist may be administered by a deacon. And if no priest can be found to administer the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, then, as in other cases, faith in the sacrament ought to suffice.

It is said that from June 24th until Christmas it rained either by day or by night almost without exception. And no doubt the abnormally wet season,’ unhealthy as it naturally was, would aid the development of the sickness.

Black Death VictimThe Pestilence appears to have been some form of the ordinary Eastern, or bubonic, plague (Gasquet, The Great Pestilence, p. y; Hecker, Epidemics of the Middle Ages, pp. 4-27; Villani, quoted by Dr. Jessopp in The Black Death in East Anglia; Chronicon GalfricU le Baker de Swyhebroke, Oxford 1889, pp. 98-100). It showed itself in swellings and carbuncles under the arm and in the groin – sometimes in size as large as a hen’s egg, at others smaller and distributed over the body; but in addition there were special symptoms, from one or more of which the patient suffered, which seemed to differentiate it from the common type, viz.:

  1. gangrenous inflammation of the throat and lungs,
  2. violent pains in the region of the chest,
  3. the vomiting and spitting of blood,
  4. the pestilential odour coming from the bodies and breath of those affected.

Though many recovered from the carbuncles and glandular swellings, it is stated that none did from the blood spitting. Sometimes the patient died within a few hours, though more usually the sickness lasted from three to rive days before death.

From the absence of contemporary statistics it is impossible to tell what proportion of the population was swept away by the plague. Platina, of Cremona, (B. Platina, Lives of the Popes (Clement VI) who lived about a century later, conjectures that, during the three years that it raged in Italy, ” scarce one man in ten escaped.” The same proportion is given for England by some of the Chroniclers,( Galfridus le Baker, Op. cit., p. 98; T. Walsingham, Historia Anglicana (Rolls Series), Vol. I, p. 273; Annales Monastici (Rolls Series), Vol. Ill, p. 475. ) who are followed by Stow and Barnes. (Barnes, History of Edward III (Cambridge, 1688), p. 435; Stow, Survey of the City of London, Vol. I, p. 129, Vol. II, 61. 62.) This must of course be an exaggerated conjecture. But, in all probability, the population of the whole country before the plague was somewhere approaching rive millions, of whom perhaps the half perished in the fatal year. A certain amount of evidence, however, can be obtained from various ecclesiastical documents, such as the records of institutions to vacant benefices, lists of ordinations, &c. And, if I seem to deal mainly with ecclesiastics, I would point out that it is because such statistics are to a certain extent available; and, what is more, that they are practically the only ones that are, with the exception of what may be surmised from the Court Rolls. I propose for the most part to confine myself to the county of Dorset, merely stating beforehand that, in January, 1349, Parliament, which was to have met at Westminster, was prorogued until April, (Rymer, Fcedera, Vol. V. p. 655.) in consequence of the deadly pestilence having broken out and daily increasing in severity, so that grave fears were entertained for the safety of those attending. In the early spring it was again found necessary that it should be prorogued indefinitely. (Ibid, p. 658.)

A scene from the former Weymouth attraction 'The Timewalk' shows a plague victim receiving the last rites from a priest while his distraught family look on

A scene from the former Weymouth attraction ‘The Timewalk’ shows a plague victim receiving the last rites from a priest while his distraught family look on

Dr. Gasquet gives the number of Institutions in the county of Dorset during the seven months from October 1348 until April 1349, as 5, 15, 17, 16, 14, 10, and 4, or a total of 81, whereas the previous average had been only one a month. That is to say that during those months there were more than eleven times the usual number of Institutions. The learned Doctor must have dealt, I think, only with Institutions to benefices conferred by the King or by some monastic or other quasi-public body; for from the episcopal registers, which are preserved amongst the muniments of our own Cathedral at Salisbury, and which I have examined carefully, the number of actual Institutions to Dorset benefices will be found to be 4, 17, 28, 21, 12, 12, and 6 – making a total of 100. And furthermore in these numbers are not included Institutions due to vacancies which had been caused by resignation or exchange. The pestilence still lingered on during the next four months, May to August, when the Institutions, owing to death, numbered 9, 3, 11, and 5.

West Chickerell appears to have been the first parish to be deprived of its Incumbent, for his successor was instituted on September 30th, 1348. His oversight of the parish, however, was but a short one, for another Institution to West Chickerell was necessary on the 6th of the following March. During October, 1348, there were Institutions to Warmwell on the 9th, and to Wool, Combe Keynes (Wool and Combe Keynes, however, were held in plurality by John Glanvill in succession to Richard Palmere. Consequently the loss by death was only one and not two.) and Holy Trinity, Dorchester, on the 19th. From then the deaths of Dorset clergy followed one another in quick succession. The parts of the county most affected were the districts within a short distance of the coast, and the villages through which the Winterbourne passes before emptying itself into the Stour. Bincombe changed its Incumbent both in November and in March; Worth Matravers lost both Rector and Vicar; at East Ringstead (Osmington) there were two changes in a short space of time; Tyneham suffered early in November ; Warmwell, Combe Keynes and Wool have already been alluded to; Winterbourne Monkton, Winterbourne Houghton, Winterbourne Came, and Radipole doubtless caught the infection from Weymouth or from Dorchester. At Wareham the Incumbents of Lady S. Mary, S. Martin, S. Michael, and S. Peter (two ?), as well as the Prior of the alien Priory, (Onginalia Roll, 22 Edw. Ill, m. 4.) were amongst the victims; There were new Incumbents at Milborne S. Andrew in November and again in February. Between November 17th and November 20th there were eight Institutions, seven of which apparently were due to the death of previous Incumbents, viz.: — on the 17th at Kingston Russell, (Here, as elsewhere at implies for, or on behalf of . Xo doubt the clergy were usually instituted at Salisbury, or wherever the Bishop might be at the time.) on the 18th at Cerne Abbas, East Lulworth, and East Morden (as well as one at Catherston Leweston, through resignation), on the following day at Toller Porcorum and Winterbourne Zelston, and on the 20th at Langton Long, Blandford, of the Chantry Priest. At Langton, although the Rector lived through the visitation, another Institution to the Chantry followed in June. Then there were Owermoigne, Aff puddle, Chalbury (twice), West Chaldon (now united to Chaldon Herring) both in December and May, West Knighton, and Stafford. Along the Valley of of the Winterbournes, Clenston S. Nicholas suffered most severely, there being fresh Institutions on December 7th, March 6th, April 8th, and yet again on May 3rd; while Winterbourne Houghton had three changes, viz. : on December 18th, March 5th, and June 7th. The Winterbournes Steepleton, Stickland, Whitchurch, and Zelston all lost their clergy, as, too, did Sturminster Marshall, which lies near the junction of the Winterbourne and the Stour. Not far away is Spetisbury, which lost two of its Rectors as well as two Vicars. Lytchett Matravers and Hilton, two other sufferers, are in the same neighbourhood. Lower down the Stour from Sturminster Marshall we come to Wimborne Minster, (Close Rolls, 23 Edw. III. January 31 and June 17.) two of whose Deans died in quick succession. Here the Win, or Allen, joins the Stour; and along the Win there were fatal cases amongst the clergy at Witchampton, Wimborne S. Giles, and Wimborne All Saints.

Blandford Forum, on the Stour, so far as its clergy were concerned, seems to have escaped the ravages of the disease; but Blandford S. Mary, Pimperne, Tarrant Monkton, Tarrant Rushton, Okeford Fitzpaine, Shillingstone, Farnham, Iwerne Courtney, Hammoon, Fontmell Magna, Iwerne Minster, Ibberton, Marnhull, Thornton (early in December and again in the middle of April), and Stour Provost all were bereft of their parish priests.

On the other side of Dorchester, of the coast towns, Bridport was one of the first to suffer, the institution taking place on November 9th, 1348, while the new Incumbent
himself succumbed just three months later. From the Bridport Corporation Records (Historical MSS. Commission. Appendix to Report, p. 475) we find that there were two Bailiffs of the town in each year; but in the 23rd year of Edward III (1349-50) four bailiffs are named, as having held office, Edward Stone, John Grey, William Hichecoke and Richard Laurenz in tempore P&stilcntice. The Abbot of Abbotsbury fell a victim quite early to the ravages of the disease, and, before his successor was appointed, the Vicar also died. Portesham, Puncknowle, Litton Cheney, Askerswell, Compton Valence, Allington, Bradpole (twice in the space of three months), Pilsdon and North Poorton were deprived of their clergy, as were Maiden Newton, South Perrott, Hooke, Toller Porqorum, Chelborough, Chilcombe, Chilfrome, Broadwinsor and Buckland Newton.

The northern part of the county was not nearly so much affected, though Gillingham lost one of its Chantry Priests at the beginning of December, 1348. Shaftesbury, however, suffered most severely. The Abbess herself, fell victim to the terrible disease, which also proved fatal to the Incumbents of S. Peter and S. Andrew, S. Martin, S. Laurence (both in November and in May), S. Mary and S. John, and later in the year S. Ronald. In addition to these, the Monastery lost its Chaplains, both at the altar of S. Nicholas and at that of S. Curas, while the House of S. Thomas was bereft of its Custodian.

For Sherborne, there were Institutions for the Free Chapel of S. Thomas on January 12th; and on the 18th of the same month a new Abbot was elected. Castleton, hard by, had previously lost its Vicar before December 21st. At Bradford Abbas, not far away, a new Vicar was instituted on December 1st. He can but have lived for a few days, for just twelve days later, on December 13th, in consequence of his death a successor was instituted; and about eight months afterwards, on the 20th of August, 1349, the death of this successor is noted, and there was yet a third Institution. Chardstock, farther S.W., on the borders of Devon, saw changes of Incumbents on March 8th and on December 8th.

Enough has been said to show how widely spread the ravages of this terrible disease were in the County of Dorset.

Although our own Bishop, Robert Wyvil, was spared, for his episcopate lasted from 1330 until 1375, yet two of our Metropolitans died of the plague. John de Ufford was elected Archbishop of Canterbury upon the death of John Stratford, and received the temporalties on December 14th, 1348; but he died of the plague before his consecration, on the 20th of May, 1349. He was succeeded by Thomas. Bradwardine, who was consecrated on the 19th of July, 1349. This great and good prelate, writes Dean Hook, (W. F. Hook, Lives of the Arclibisliops of Canterbury, Vol. IV; p. 106.) who had known how to administer

“the consolations of religion to the wounded in camp, and to the dying on the field of battle, regarded the post of danger as the post of honour. He hastened to England, prepared to lead the way to the abodes of sickness, sorrow, and death.”

He landed at Dover on the 19th of August, and after doing homage to the King, who held his court at Eltham, on the 22nd, he proceeded to London. At once he sickened of the plague, and died on the 26th of August.

There was a return of the plague in 1361, and, great as had been the mortality amongst the clergy of Dorset in 1348-49, at this later visitation it was, if anything, greater. Amongst the victims of this second pestilence was Thomas de Brembre, Dean of Wimborne Minster, and founder of a chantry in that Collegiate Church. Wimborne had lost two Deans during the time of the preceding visitation. And this was not all, for the Bishop of Worcester, Reginald de Bryan, who had formerly been Dean of Wimborne, died in his Cathedral City of the plague. Amongst other Dorset Incumbents who died were those of Canford, Lytchet Matravers, Moor Crichel, Hinton Martel, Chalbury, Gussage All Saints (two), West Aimer, Iwerne Minster, West Parley (two, viz. on August 27th and on September 6th), Pentridge, Edmondsham, Tarrant Gunville (two), Long Crichel, Belchalwell, Pulham, and Buckland Newton; and at Shaftesbury, S. Peter (two), S. Martin, and S. John.

It will be interesting just to look at the comparative numbers of deaths amongst the clergy in the neighbouring counties of Wilts and of Hants.

In Wilts, the Institutions, according to the Registers of the Bishop of Salisbury, in 1343 were 15; in 1347, 29, which number would be above the annual average. In 1348 they had risen to 72, and in the following year to 103. In 1361, during the second visitation of the plague, they were 128. At Ivychurch Priory, in Wilts, a house of Augustinian Canons, the ruins of whose abode are still to be seen some three miles or so to the east of Salisbury, the whole community was carried off with one single exception.

In Hants, the number of Institutions in December 1348 was 7; in January, 12; in February, 19; March, 33; April, 46; May, 29; June, 24; July, 18; August, 11 ; and in September 12; or during the ten months, 211, which would be about ten times the annual average.

What has been said of the mortality amongst the clergy will imply that there must also have been a terrible mortality amongst the people in general; although no doubt, in the exercise of their office amongst the sick and dying and with the dead, the clergy would be more especially exposed to the risk of infection. It is quite evident that the ranks of the clergy must have been very seriously diminished. And consequently, steps had to be taken to supply the places of the parish priests and chaplains of the religious houses who had died in such great numbers. The regular times of Ordination, at the Ember Seasons, had to be disregarded; and not infrequently men who had only attained to the minor orders — deacons, and even acolytes — were instituted to vacant benefices before being raised to the priesthood. Over and over again we read of permission being given for considerable numbers of men to be ordained priest who were under the canonical age. And sometimes they were passed very quickly through the various orders to the priesthood. It has generally been considered that it was partly due to this that there was a marked decline in the spirituality, as most certainly there was a deterioration in the intellectual attainments, of the clergy.

“So great,” writes the chronicler, (Henry Knighton, Chronicon Leyceslrensis, Vol. II, p. 63.) “was the dearth of clergy that many churches were deprived, and were wanting in divine offices, masses, mattins, vespers, sacraments, and sacramentals. It was difficult to get a chaplain for less than £10, or 10 marks, to minister in a church, instead of for four or live marks, or two marks with board (cum mensa), as before the pestilence when there were plenty of priests. It was difficult to get anyone to accept a Vicarage for 20 marks or £20. But in a short time a great multitude whose wives had died of the plague, many illiterate and mere lay- men, barely able to read, still less to understand, became candidates for orders (conjiuabant ad ordines).”

There was a natural reaction upon the religious life of the nation. One good result, however, was the foundation of Winchester College, of which the plague was the proximate cause, the ultimate cause being the wish to have a learned clergy to carry on the duties of the church and the business of the state. And in the first clause of the Statutes of New College, Oxford, William of Wykeham’s other great foundation, the munificent Founder sets forth with great clearness the objects of his foundation, and shows that what he intended was to provide educated clergy, who were not monks, but seculars, to fill up the gaps caused by the Black Death.

And the recurrence of the pestilence, in some places at any rate, drew attention to the advisability of better sanitary conditions. In one of the Close Rolls (Lit. Clans, 35 Edward III, Feb. 25, quoted in Stow’s Survey of the City of London (1720), Vol. I, p. 129.) is a King’s letter relative to Butchers’ Hall Lane, or Stinking Lane, London (25th February, 1361).

“Order that all Bulls, Oxen, Hogs, &c., should be led as far as to Stratford or Knightsbridge to be slain, instead of being killed in the city, and the putrified blood running down the streets, and the bowels cast into the Thames, whereby the air is corrupted and sickness and other evils have happened.”

Although at first the scourge fell most heavily upon the labouring classes, it was not long before it produced a marked improvement in their social status, and eventually a general enfranchisement of servile labour. In numberless manors so many of the peasants had been swept away that the land could not be tilled, but lay fallow and neglected. The old method of farming by bailiff gave way firstly to the system of stock and land lease, (Thorold Rogers, Six Centuries of Work and Wages, pp. 277-280, &c,) and gradually to that of ordinary tenant farming. And, partly from lack of labourers, and partly because it was found to be more profitable to “grow” wool than corn, large tracts of land which had formerly been cultivated were converted into pasture. And, indeed, labour was in such request that it could make its own terms; and, in spite of statutes and enactments and branding and fines and imprisonments, men were not content to be bound down as in past days to reside always in their old neighbourhood and to work for a mere pittance. The Statute of Labourers was passed in 1349, immediately after the first visitation of the plague, with the idea of compelling labourers to work for the wages formerly accustomed to be paid, and confining them to their own counties. This and subsequent laws passed were but imperfectly obeyed, and eventually,

“under the dread of servile war, the abolition of compulsory service and all the other demands of the populace were tacitly but surely accorded. Thus, within fifty years of the visitation of the Black Death, serfdom and villainage were practically abolished in England, and the labourer, released from his bondage to the land, was free to carry his thews and sinews to the best market” (W. Warburton, Edivard III, p. 144.).

In addition to the authorities noted, the following works may be consulted.

  • Seebohm, Articles in Fortnightly Review, Sept. 1, and 15, 1865.
  • Creighton, History of Epidemics in Britain, Vol. I.
  • Victoria History of Dorset, Vol. II, pp. 20, 21.
  • English Historical Rcvieiv, July, 1890, p. 524.
  • Stubbs, Constitutional History ,1875), Vol. II, p. 434.
  • Dr. Jessopp, Nineteenth Century, Vols. XVI, p. 915, and XVII, p. 599.
  • Stow, Annates, 384.
  • Thucydides. History of the Peloponesian War, Bk. II. sect. 47 — 57.

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