Dark Dorset Online Scrapbook is an archive of current and past events relating to local history, folklore and mysteries that can be discovered in the English county of Dorset.

Search the Dark Dorset Scrapbook Archive

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Dorset's Weird and Wonderful Year of 2013

From Big Cats to a strange Monkey creature, Dragon skulls found on beaches to Haunted Houses. This 2013 has been a busy year for weird and wonderful news in Dorset.

Dark Dorset looks back with a selection of twelve stories taken from our blog scrapbook and facebook page.

JANUARY - Thursday 3rd January 2013
  • News Clipping: JRR Tolkien’s fireplace attracts £50k bid on eBay

A fireplace from the Poole home of Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien has attracted a £50,000 bid days after being listed on eBay.

READ MORE - Source:
FEBRUARYFriday, 15th February 2013

  • News Clipping: History coming alive at Civil War re-enactment in Weymouth

History comes alive in Weymouth this weekend when musicians, historians, authors and re-enactment troops come together for a military festival.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo - Friday 15th 2013

MARCH - Tuesday, 26th March 2013
  • News Clipping: Dorchester monkey sighting makes national news

A Monkey-like creature sighting in Dorchester has made national headlines. As reported in Saturday’s Echo, student Terri Leigh Cox, 17, captured a photo of the mystery creature from her window in Fordington. She claimed the ‘monkey’ scampered across Salisbury Fields and up a tree on Thursday afternoon. The sighting has been reported in a number of national papers today.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo, Tuesday 26th March 2013
APRIL - Monday, 8th April 2013
  •   News Clipping: More sightings of mysterious county beast

More sightings of the mysterious Dorset big cat have been reported after a sighting near Dorchester last week.  Lorry driver Kevin Paul Fillary told in the Echo how he saw a ‘large black panther’ on the prowl in a field near Monkey’s Jump roundabout.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo, Monday 8th April 2013

MAY - Tuesday, 30th May 2013
  • News Clippings: Palmers to convert 'Haunted' Angel Inn at Lyme Regis into flats

Palmers Brewery is set to convert the Angel Inn at Lyme Regis into flats.  The Bridport-based brewery will be applying for change of use for the pub in Mill Green, which has been closed since January 2009.

Bridport News, Tuesday 30th May 2013
 JUNE - Thursday, 6th June 2013
  • News Clipping: News Clippings: Dino Jaws! Meet the terrifying 150m-year-old ocean monster that weighed 12 tons (and his name's Kevan)

It's the most fearsome  creature that ever lived and could have devoured a Tyranosaurus-Rex for breakfast… and it is called Kevan. The Pliosaurus kevani, to give it its proper name, ruled the oceans 150million years ago. Equipped with a massive jaw studded with 12in teeth, the ‘sea rex’ had the biggest bite in history.
READ MORE - Source: The Daily Mail, Thursday 6th July 2013

JULY - Monday, 15th July 2013
  • News Clippings: Skull created to mark Games of Thrones screening

Dog walkers, residents and holiday makers had a shock when they awake to a massive dragon’s skull on Charmouth Beach.  With massive teeth and a spine that disappeared into the sand of the Jurassic Coast beach, passersby could be forgiven for thinking they had stepped back in time to the land of the dinosaurs or walked into a fantasy realm.
 READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo, Monday 15th July 2013
AUGUST - Saturday, 10th August 2013

  • News Clipping: Secrets of the Christchurch ducking stool revealed

    Visitors to the replica ducking stool at Christchurch can now find out more about the history of the device with a new plaque installed there thanks to Christchurch Antiquarian Society and Christchurch Council. Members of the Antiquarian Society were carrying out archaeological digs in a garden on the other side of the stream from the ducking stool and were able to hear visitors coming to view the stool asking questions about it.
READ MORE - Source: Blackmore Vale Magazine, Saturday 10th August 2013
SEPTEMBER - Wednesday, 4th September 2013
  • News Clipping: 'Dead bodies and heads on spikes' 

Nowadays you are likely to see bunting hanging in the streets of Dorchester.But during the time of the Bloody Assizes it would have been dead bodies and heads on spikes.Sound gruesome? It was – deliberately so. And it’s left its mark on Dorchester.Because even now, 328 years after the judicial bloodbath, the name ‘Judge Jeffreys’ can still evoke fear and fascination in the heart of Durnovarians and is recognised throughout the world.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo

OCTOBER - Monday, 21st October 2013
  • News Clipping: Is this Dorset’s most diversified haunted house?

Just for starters: a cat, a monkey, two duellists, a barrel maker in the cellars, a Grey Lady, a priest dressed in black – and there are probably lots more, given the age of the house. The place is Athelhampton Hall, near Dorchester.

READ MORE - Source: Western Gazette, Monday, 21st October 2013

NOVEMBER - Saturday , 9th November 2013
  • News Clipping: Fairies, mermaids, angels and witches - enchanting creatures captured in new Russell-Cotes exhibition
Mythical they maybe but that hasn’t dimmed our fascination with fairies, mermaids, angels and witches. Maybe it’s their other-worldliness. Or their supposed magic powers.  But with internationally recognised artworks that feature all manner of make-believe creatures, Bournemouth’s Russell-Cotes Museum has been well-placed to notice our enduring interest in the subject. Now they’ve turned that attraction into a new exhibition.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo, Saturday 9th November 2013
DECEMBER - Saturday 7th December 2013
  • News Clipping: Weymouth's revamped museum opened

    Volunteers and councillors were invited to take the first look at the revamped Weymouth Museum.  At an event ahead of the official opening next Wednesday, dozens of people got to take a glimpse at the new facility telling the story of the town’s history.

    READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo, Saturday 7th December 2013

Friday, 25 October 2013

Autumn Issue of 'Merry Meet' out now!

Merry Meet Issue 50 Autumn 2013
Merry Meet Magazine is an independent quarterly journal of Folklore and Pagan Heritage, produced and edited by local musician and author Jerry Bird. 

In Issue 50 Autumn 2013, articles include:
  •  News & Comment
  • The Black Dog of Lyme
  • Paul Nash and William Stukeley
  • Hares in the Landscape
  • Connla and the Fairy Maiden
  • Reviews: Dorset Folk Tales by Tim Laycock, Beyond the Henge by Bob Trubshaw, Days and Rites by Mark Lewis and Another Day Another Story by James Findlay.
  • Folklore Diary
Current Stockists
    For more information visit www.merrymeetmagazine.co.uk

    Sunday, 13 October 2013

    The Haunting of Thorncombe Woods

    Did a ghost of a Roman appear in Thorncombe Woods?
    On  this day 13th October 1969, twelve boys from Guy's Marsh Borstal near Shaftesbury, and two adult supervisors set up a working camp within the wooded confines of Thorncombe Woods at Higher Bockhampton just outside Dorchester.

    It was during this Autumn evening, that a boy from the borstal came rushing into the camp terrified of a ghostly figure he had seen in the trees. The boy described this apparition as a man dressed in a toga and wearing a helmet, armed with a sword and shield. Intrigued by this ghostly encounter the rest of the boys and the two supervisors went back to the area of the sighting, and were amazed to see the ghostly figure, still there floating silently some feet above the woodland floor.

    One of the supervisors decided to approach the figure with a torch, but as he did so the apparition suddenly disappeared. It is interesting to note that when the party from Guy's Marsh Borstal established their camp at Thorncombe Woods, they were unaware that the camp was sited upon the course of the old Roman road that ran from Dorchester to Badbury. This is the reason why the Roman soldier appeared to float, as he must have been standing at the original level of the Roman road.

    Source: Dark Dorset - Apparition of a Roman Soldier

    Tuesday, 20 August 2013

    Weatherlore: Once in a Blue Moon

    Tonight you may be lucky to witness a August 'Blue Moon'

    When two moons occur in a single month, the second one is commonly called a ‘Blue Moon’. The second full moon doesn’t actually look blue, yet it could have possibly acquired the name ‘Blue’, being the colour of water. as the old saying goes ‘Two full moons in a calendar month bring on a flood’. And ‘Two moons in May mean rain for a year and a day’.

    A Blue Moon takes place about every two or three years hence another common saying: ‘Once in a Blue Moon’. A second new moon in a month is called a ‘Black Moon’ and is considered doubly lucky.

    Sunday, 21 July 2013

    Events: Weird Weekend 2013, 16th - 18th August, #weirdweekend #cryptozoology

    Worldwide weirdness is once again focusing on the small Devon village of Woolsery as the Centre for Fortean Zoology holds its 14th Weird Weekend. The Centre for Fortean Zoology, which investigates strange creatures all over the globe, has its annual conference from 16th -18th of August this year.

    The conference, will see speakers from all over the country gathering Woolsery to discuss their work and discoveries. Now in its fourteenth year it is the largest convention of its kind.

    Speakers announced so far: - 
    • Tony Whitehead: Starslime
    • Andrew Sanderson: Expedition to Russia in search of the Almasty - a possible surviving strain of Homo erectus
    • Richard Freeman: Sumatra 2013 Expedition in search of the orang-pendek
    • Judge Smith: (A founder member of the band Van der Graaf Generator) The Universe Next Door
    • Nick Wadham: Fairies
    • Sarah Boit: Orbs from a photographer's perspective
    • Lee Walker: Dead of Night - a collection of real-life horror stories from Liverpool
    • Glen Vaudrey: Mystery Animals of Staffordshire
    • James Newton: Bigfoot
    • Dr. Darren Naish: Adventures from the World of Tetrapod Zoology
    • Shaun Histed-Todd: Evidence for Civilisation X and Pre-Columbian Contact
    • Lars Thomas: 'The History of Trolls', and the 'Cryptozoology of Greenland'
    • Ronan Coghlan: The Church and Evolution
    • Richard Ingram: In Search for Inhabitable Planets
    - More attractions will be announced soon...
    As well as a series of talks there will be stalls, workshops and events.

    The Weird Weekend raises funds for village charities dealing with children and for the Centre for Fortean Zoology, the only full time organisation in the world dedicated to the investigation of mystery animals.
    The event runs from the 16th to the 18th of August, and tickets cost £25.00 for the whole weekend, or buy your tickets in advance at the special discount price £20.00

    If you want to pay by cheque payable to `CFZ Trust` please send it to:
    The Centre for Fortean Zoology, 
    Myrtle Cottage,
    North Devon, 
    EX39 5QR 
    For further details visit www.weirdweekend.org or ring 01237 431413

    Wednesday, 3 July 2013

    New Book: Paranormal Purbeck - A Study of the Unexplained by David Leadbetter

    Paranormal Purbeck - 
    A Study of the Unexplained
    by David Leadbett
    Click Here
    Footsteps echoing from the past, objects moving of their own volition, near death experiences, displacements in time, memories from the future, UFO sightings, synchronicities ...

    This new book published by Roving Press, 'Paranormal Purbeck - A Study of the Unexplained' by David Leadbett is a collection of remarkable experiences from the Isle of Purbeck. It visits nearly 70 sites and has contributions from over a hundred local people.

    Most of the first-hand accounts have never been published before, suggesting that the ‘paranormal’ is more commonplace than we generally suppose and is perceived intuitively, depending on the right combination of circumstances.

    The author challenges fixed opinions and beliefs, offering detailed personal experiences from a small geographical area and arguing that we need a fundamental reappraisal of how we view the world.

    Anyone with a thirst for mysteries and a desire to extend the frontiers of human knowledge will be gripped.  

    'Paranormal Purbeck - A Study of the Unexplained' by David Leadbett will be available from mid-July 2013.  

    For more information visit Roving Press at www.rovingpress.co.uk 

    Tuesday, 2 July 2013

    Event: Thomas Hardy and Dorset Folklore a talk by Dr. Peter Robson at the Dorset County Museum

    Hardy Players' Mummers
    The Mummers in the Hardy Players' version of
    'The Return of the Native'. Eustacia Vye
    (extreme left, disguised) was played by Gertrude Bugler.
    On Christmas Night 1920 the players gave a
    performance at Hardy's house, Max Gate.
    The novels and stories of Thomas Hardy are filled with examples of folklore – customs, songs, superstitions, witches, mummers and much more. 

    But were these country traditions actually taken by Hardy from the Dorset of his childhood or were they products of his fertile literary imagination? On the Thursday 25th July 2013 at 7.30pm at the Dorset County Museum Dr. Peter Robson will explore this question by looking at a variety of examples of Dorset folklore described by Hardy, from the Mellstock Quire to the Egdon Mummers, from Conjuror Trendle to the unfortunate William Privett and beyond. 

    He will illustrate his talk by pictures of the people and places concerned and by sound recordings. 

    Dr. Peter Robson has been researching Dorset folklore for many years and has written and spoken widely on this subject. Most recently he has become particularly interested in Thomas Hardy’s writings as an almost untapped source for the study of rural folklore. This is the second in a series of five lectures about Thomas Hardy and is part of a larger project including the National Trust and the University of Exeter

    It is hoped that the more academic nature of these lectures will provide the general public and lovers of Hardy’s novels with an increased connection to contemporary ideas about his work.  

    Entry to the talk is FREE but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs. Everyone is welcome and there is no need to book. Doors open at 7.00pm. 

    For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org  

    Source: Dorset County Museum Blog - dorsetcountymuseum.wordpress.com

    Sunday, 2 June 2013

    Happy Birthday Thomas Hardy!! Born on this day 2nd June 1840

    Thomas Hardy – Dorset County Museum © 2013
    On this day the 2nd June 1840, Thomas Hardy was born at Higher Bockhampton, a hamlet in the parish of Stinsford, some two and half miles east of Dorchester.

    In his novels, short stories and poems Thomas Hardy recorded many folk beliefs and customs of the nineteenth century. For example the Mummers Play in the 'The Return of the Native', the Phantom Coach of the Turbervilles is mentioned in 'Tess of the D'urbevilles' the 'Skimmington Ride' in the Mayor of Casterbridge and in his poem The Lost Pyx about the legend of the 'Cross and Hand Stone' near Batcombe, which is also referred to in Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

    Tuesday, 28 May 2013

    Events: Wessex Folk Festival, Weymouth 31st May - 2nd June 2013

    This will be the eighth year that this free folk music festival has taken place against the glorious backdrop of Weymouth Old Harbour and Hope Square. Offering two days of live entertainment of traditional folk dancing and music on outdoor stages, Ceilidh in Hope Square on Saturday night. Traditional music sessions and workshops in many local pubs and much more..... 

    This year Nick Dow in concert on Saturday night (tickets for this available from Imagine Books, St Alban St, Weymouth)

    With music from Green Children of Wolfpit; Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin; Folklaw; The Galleons; David Gibb and Elly Lucas; 4Square; Chris Jagger Trio; Paul Openshaw; Mitchell and Vincent; Ninebarrow; Senile Delinquents; Josie Lloyd; Clutching at Straws; Second Time Around; Bow Legged Skeeter,  Reg Meuross; Exmouth Shanty Men; Andy Clarke and Steve Tyler; Wight Hot Pipes; Jez Hellard and the Djukella Orchestra; Wild Rover Set; Unprepared Jug Band; Spank the Plank; Island Voices; Moonshine
    • As ever, most events are free but please give generously when you see the collecting buckets For details and updates of performances visit: www.wessexfolk.co.uk .
    • Festival programmes are available at Imagine Books and Sailor's Return.

    Below: Highlights of the Wessex Folk Festival 2009  

    Folk Dancing

    Morris Dancing at the Wessex Folk Festival
    As well as music, Folk Dancers and Morris Dancers will be performing between 10.30am - 4.00pm along Trinity Road by the harbour. From traditional whites with bells to weird and wonderful, the highly dramatic and colourful!

    Dance teams confirmed so far: Beetlecrushers, Pigsty Morris, Oyster Girls, Mr Wilkins Shilling, Whitethorn, Hobos, Fleet Morris, Red Stags, Bourne River, Frome Valley, Dorset Buttons, Dorset Button Rapper, Rag Morris, Festus Derryman, Minden Rose, Taepa's Tump, White Horse.

    Monday, 6 May 2013

    Rogation Monday: The Custom and Tradition of the Shaftesbury Byzant Ceremony

    Prior to 1830, at an agreed date May usually the Monday before Ascension Day, Shaftesbury would hold their annual Byzant Ceremony.

    Gold Hill, Shaftesbury
    The ceremony came about due to the fact that Shaftesbury's geographical location was on a hill and that it did not have a water supply to call its own. To solve this problem was to siphon off some of that supplied by the Enmore Green wells at nearby Motcombe.

    However, a contract between the village of Motcombe for the use of their wells, had to be met every year, by means of the Byzant (also known as Bezant) ceremony. The word 'byzant' seems to derive from the old coin of the same name and not from Byzantine as in 'fiendishly complicated', which might seem more appropriate. In the past, Kings would often present a bezant at religious festivals or when taking Mass, and the coins were often replaced with a symbolic gift, still retaining the name 'byzant'.

    The Shaftesbury Byzant Ceremony would process from the town headed by an official carrying a decorated calf's head with a purse of money in its mouth. Next in line came a man carrying the gilded Byzant or Prize Besom itself an ornate mace, decorated with jewels, ribbons, flowers and peacocks' feathers. The mayor and his team were next, with the townsfolk bringing up the rear.

    The Shaftesbury ByzantThey danced and sang their way to Enmore Green, where they presented gave Motcombe's bailiff

    The head and purse, the Byzant, some bread, a gallon of ale, and a pair of laced gloves was presented to the Lord of the Manor of Gillingham, who owned the land of Enmore Green and the Spring.

    The Lord then handed back the Byzant, its function in the ceremony being purely symbolic, and the Shaftesbury towns-folk began their long journey back home, leaving Motcombe's a merrymakers to carry on with the singing and dancing.

    Without this annual ritual Motcombe could refuse the use of its water to the town.  The ceremony continued for at least four hundred years, although it is recorded that in the early years of the 19th century the Mayor of Shaftesbury refused to comply with the custom, whereupon the people of Enmore Green filled up the wells. The custom finally lapsed in May 1830 by the consent of Lord Grosvenor (created Marquess of Westminster 1831), the then Lord of the Manor. Minutes of the meeting dated 3rd May 1830 state, "the Corporation resolved to approach Lord Grosvenor to dispense with the ceremony," and a vote of thanks was proposed and passed to "the late Mayor William Swyer for his exertions in discontinuing the annual ceremony of the Bysant, by which a considerable sum will be saved to the Corporation".

    The last Byzant mace, came into the possession of Lady Theodora Guest, daughter of the 2nd Marquess of Westminster, and after her death in 1924, her daughter. Miss Augusta Guest presented it to the Town Council. It is now permanently on display in the Shaftesbury Town Museum.

    Dorset Folklorist, John Symonds Udal wrote in his book 'Dorsetshire Folklore' published in 1922 about Shaftesbury Byzant Ceremony:

    The Bezant. — The very interesting ceremony of the "bezant" or "prize-besom", by which the inhabitants of Shaftesbury formerly obtained their supply of water for the town from wells at Enmore in the adjoining parish of Motcombe, is almost a matter of historic interest.

    The earliest account of it that I can find is in a small book that I once possessed, A Compleat History of Dorsetshire, c. 1716. This account I contributed to the Folk-lore column of the Dorset County Chronicle, about 1883, and it was as follows :—

    "This town, being seated upon a high Hill, is destitute of Water, which how it is supplied with, according to custom, is not unworthy our Observation. There are a quarter of a Mile from the Town three or four large wells in the Parish of Melcomb within the liberty of Gillingham, a Manor belonging to Edward Nicholas, Esq., from which this Town has been supplied Time out of mind, being brought on Horses Backs, or upon the Head in Pails, at a certain Price ; but the Town is obliged to make this Acknowledgment to the Lord of the Manor for their Water. The Mayor and Burgesses of Shaftesbury the Monday before Holy Thursday, dress up a Prize-Besom, as they call it (somewhat like a May Garland in Form) with Gold and Peacocks Feathers, and carry it to a broad Green half a mile below the Hill in the parish of Melcomb and present it to the Lord of the Manor as an Acknowledgment for his Water, together with a raw Calves-Head, and a pair of Gloves, which his Steward receives distributing at the same time among the People twelve Penny-Loaves and three dozen of Beer. This ceremony being over, the Prize-Besom (which is usually worth 1,500£, being adorned with Plate and Jewels borrowed of the neighbouring gentry) is restored to the Mayor and brought back again to the Town by one of the Officers with great solemnity."
    I there asked for information as to when this custom had been abandoned. By a correspondent I was referred to Chambers's Book of Days, vol. i, p. 585, for fuller information, and I was told that " the festival has ceased in 1830 ", water being then supplied by a new artesian well in the town itself.

    He went on to say that :
    "The curious trophy formally presented to the lord of the Manor in return for the water supply was called a ' bizant'— your correspondent's authority makes natives call it a ' prize-besom '. A frame four feet high was covered with ribbons, flowers, peacocks' feathers, jewellery, and gold and silver coins, from which last the name was taken, a ' bizant' being an ancient gold coin, and the amount, probably, of the original water-tax."
    At the same time I had received a direct reply from a friend, resident at Shaftesbury, which confirmed Chambers's account of the discontinuance of the custom. My friend had ascertained from one of the "oldest inhabitants " of the place that the custom had been abolished by the late Marquess of Westminster, when he purchased the Motcombe (or Melcombe) Estate about 1830. Probably in this year on the Monday before Whit-Monday (that is the Rogation Monday of Chambers) was the last instance of this custom having been carried out.

    He also added (which Chambers does not) that on the Tuesday and during the week after the custom, a fair was held in Enmore-green, a hamlet of Motcombe, in which the wells were situate, and, further, that the people filled up the wells with rubbish, being disgusted that the custom was abolished. In conclusion, he said that Shaftesbury, which was then supplied with water from a deep well sunk by the late lord about thirty years previously, was famous for three things, viz. more strong beer than water; the churchyard higher than the church; more rogues than honest men.

    Another friend has supplied an alternative to this last: "More whores than married women."

    In 1907 Shaftesbury followed the custom of so many other towns about that time by holding an "Historic Pageant ",(These Pageants were first set on foot by the excellent one given at Sherborne Castle a few years previously under the superintendence of Mr. Louis Parker) and amongst the tableaux that were given illustrating the ancient history of the town was that of the " Bezant ".

    The Dorset County Chronicle of 18th April of that year gave the following account of it:

    "The last episode was the Byzant ceremony, which was observed towards the end of the eighteenth century. 
    " It represented the Mayor and Corporation going down to Enmore Green and making presents of bread, ale, a calf's head, and gloves to the Lord of the Manor for allowing the inhabitants to draw water from the wells of Enmore Green. The Mayor (Dr. Harris) and several aldermen and councillors marched on to the stage preceded by the mace-bearers and Byzant, where they were received by the Lord of the Manor. The custom of handing over the bread etc. was duly observed, and a document setting forth the reasons for the observance was read by the Mayor, after which he declared that dancing should be the order of the day. The Mayor, aldermen, and councillors then led off the dance. This was an excellent representation and was highly successful."
    In its issue for the 9th May following the same paper contained a statement that
    "Lady Theodora Guest of In wood House, Henstridge, has presented the town of Shaftesbury with the old ' Byezant' which was used in one of the representations at the recent display of historical tableaux. In a letter to the Mayor, read at Wednesday's council meeting, the donor said that she felt it was an interesting relic of the past, and that, as such, it ought to be preserved in the town to which its history belonged. The Corporation have decided to keep the relic in a cabinet in the Mayor's parlour."
    Hutchins also (iii, 44) gives a very good account of this custom, to which I would refer my readers. Also to Lady Theodora Grosvenor's Motcombe : Past and Present (1873), pp. 51-3. See also Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries, vol. ii, p. 235, and iii, p. 297 (where an excellent representation of the " Bezant " is given) and Notes and Queries, Ser xi, iii, 170."
     Sir Frederick Treves in his Highways and Byways of Dorset' quotes the following record from 1518, however the custom described must have been of very ancient origin:
    "That hit is the custome in the tethinge of Motcombe, usu lonqo, time out of remembrance and mynde, that the Soundhey next after Holy Roode day in May, every yeare, every parish within the borough of Shaston shall come down that same day into Enmore Greene, at one of the clocke at afternoon, with their mynstralls and myrth of game; and, in the same greene of Enmore, from one of the clocke til too of the ciocke, by the space of one hole hower, theire they shall daunce: and the meyer of Shaston shall see the quene's bayliffe have a penny loffe, a gallon of ale, and a calves' head, with a payer of gloves, to see the order of the daunce that day: and if the daunce fay Ie that day and that the queue's bayliffe have not his duty, then the said bayliffe and his men shall stop the water of the wells of Enmore from the borough of Shaston".
    Extract taken from the Chambers Book of Days May 2nd 1864, details the custom of the Byzant Ceremony.
    "The Bezant
    On Monday in Rogation week was held, in the town of Shaftesbury or Shaston, in Dorsetshire, a festival called the Bezant, a festival so ancient, that no authentic record of its origin exists.

    The Borough of Shaftesbury stands upon the brow of a lofty hill, having an extensive view over the vale of Blackmore. Until lately, from its situation, it was so deficient in water, that its inhabitants were indebted for a supply of this necessary article of life to the little hamlet of Enmore Green, which lies in the valley below. From two or three wells or tanks, situate in the village, the water with which the town was provided was carried up the then precipitous road, on the backs of horses and donkeys, and sold from door to door.

    The Bezant was an acknowledgment on the part of the Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of the Borough, to the Lord of the Manor of Mitcomhe, of which Enmore Green forms a part, for the permission to use this privilege; no charter, or deed, however, exists among their archives, as to the commencement of the custom, neither are 'there any records of interest connected with its observance, beyond the details of the expenses incurred from year to year.

    On the morning of Rogation Monday, the Mayor and Aldermen accompanied by a lord and lady, appointed for the occasion, and by their mace-bearers carrying the Bezant, went in procession to Enmore Green. The lord and lady performed at intervals, as they passed along, a traditional kind of dance, to the sound of violins. The steward of the manor meeting them at the green, the mayor offered for his acceptance, as the representative of his lord,—The Bezant,—a calf's head, uncooked,—a gallon of ale, and two pennyloaves, with a pair of gloves edged with gold lace, and gave permission to use the wells, as of old, for another year. The steward, having accepted the gifts, retaining all for his own use, except the Bezant, which he graciously gave back, accorded the privilege, and the ceremony ended. The procession returned as it came, and the day, which was one of universal enjoyment to all classes of the population, was brought to a conclusion, according to the hospitable fashion of our country, in a dinner given by the Corporation to their friends.
    The Shaftesbury Byzant
    The Bezant, which gave its name to the festival, is somewhat difficult to describe. It consisted of a sort of trophy, constructed of ribbons, flowers, and peacock' s feathers, fastened to a frame, about four feet high, round which were hung jewels, coins, medals, and other matters of more or less value, lent for the purpose by persons interested in the matter, and many traditions prevailed of the exceeding value to which, in earlier times, it sometimes reached, and of the active part which persons of the highest rank in the neighbourhood took in its annual celebration.

    Latterly, however, the festival sadly degenerated, and in the year 1830, the Town and the Manor passing into the hands of the same proprietor, it ceased altogether, and is now one of those many ancient observances, not without their interest to the antiquary, which are numbered with the past. If this had not happened, however, the necessity for it no longer exists. The ancient Borough is no longer indebted to the lord of the manor for its water, for, through the liberality of the Marquis of Westminster, its present owner, the town is bountifully supplied with the purest water, from an artesian well sunk at his expense.

    Tuesday, 16 April 2013

    Event: Folklore in the Works of Thomas Hardy by Jacqueline Dillion

    In the seventh of the Dorchester Association lecture series, Jacqueline Dillon of  the National Trust presents "Folklore in the Works of Thomas Hardy" at the Dorset County Museum, High West Street, Dorchester on Friday 19th April 2013 at 7.30pm.

    This illustrated talk will look at Hardy's portrayals of Dorset Folklore and Folk culture and, in anticipation of the long-awaited Spring, will offer a special look into the varied and changing nature of May Day customs in the nineteenth century.

    • This lecture will commence at 7.30pm with tea and coffee available at 7.00pm.
    • Tickets £2 at the door for Dorchester Association non-members

    Tuesday, 9 April 2013

    Hocking: The Customs and Traditions of Hock-Tide

    Dorset Folklorist, John Symonds Udal wrote about the traditions of Hock-Tide in Dorset in his book 'Dorsetshire Folklore' published in 1922:-
    (The second Monday and Tuesday after Easter)

    Hocking.—Several of our writers upon popular antiquities have referred to the existence of the custom of " hocking " as having been practised on these two days in certain counties. The only reference that I can find as to its having survived in Dorsetshire is contained in two meagre entries recorded by Hutchins in his account of the Borough of Blandford (vol. i, p. 221) :—

    " 1607. Received of the wives at Hocktyde    £1 6s.   6d.
    " 1616. Received of the women what they
                                          got on Hock Monday    £1 2s. lOd."

    These entries would seem to have been taken from some MS. collections relating to the county made by an anonymous author and now preserved in the Cotton Library in the British Museum. No doubt most of the Blandford municipal and other records were destroyed in the great fire of 1731.

    Hutchins then refers to Cowel's statement that " it was customary in several manors in Hampshire for the men to hock the women on the Monday and the women the men upon the Tuesday; that is, on that day the women in merriment stop the ways with ropes, and pull the passengers to them desiring something to be laid out in pious uses in order to obtain their freedom ".

    So recently, however, as May, 1905, the Bridport News published a letter in T.P.'s Weekly, in which " A Dorset Yokel " describes the custom as it was once observed in many Dorset towns and villages on the second Monday and Tuesday after Easter, which follows and somewhat amplifies the account given by Hutchins from Cowel. At the end he cites the two entries given above from Hutchins, giving 1610 instead of 1616 as the date of the later entry. To this entry the correspondent attaches the remark " sic " to " Hock Monday " ; and rightly so, for the women's contribution always had reference to the Tuesday, which was the principal or " Hock day ". I am somewhat surprised to find that this custom existed at Blandford at so recent a date as these entries would seem to indicate; for similar entries by these earlier writers mostly refer to pre-Reformation periods. One can scarcely imagine the later clergy of the West of England adopting such means for replenishing their funds ad pios usus ! " A Dorset Yokel" ends his communication by stating that Hocktide appears to have been originated to commemorate the destruction of the Danes in the time of Ethelred.

    The procedure given above would seem to be very similar to that recorded elsewhere, and does not seem to have partaken at all of the boisterous quality of the " Heaving " or " Lifting " of the two sexes, alternately, on a following Monday and Tuesday, which was a very common practice at Eastertide in some of the more northern counties. The origin both of the term and of the custom itself would seem to be obscure ; the suggestion that it was in any way commemorative of the slaughter of the Danes in Ethelred's reign is shown by Brand and other writers to be very improbable."
    Extract taken from the Chambers Book of Days April 17th 1864, details the traditions of Hock-Tide.

    A fortnight after Easter our forefathers celebrated a popular anniversary, the origin and meaning of which has been the subject of some dispute. It was called Hoke-tide, or Hock-tide, and occupied two days, the Monday and Tuesday following the second Sunday after Easter, though the Tuesday was considered the principal day.

    On this day it was the custom for the women to go out into the streets and roads with cords, and stop and bind all those of the other sex they met, holding them till they purchased their release by a small contribution of money. On the Monday, the men had proceeded in the same way towards the women. The meaning of the word hoke, or hock, seems to be totally unknown, and none of the derivations yet proposed seem to be deserving of our consideration. The custom may be traced, by its name at least, as far back as the thirteenth century, and appears to have prevailed in all parts of England, but it became obsolete early in the last century. At Coventry, which was a great place for pageantry, there was a play or pageant attached to the ceremony, which, under the title of 'The old Coventry play of Hock Tuesday,' was performed before Queen Elizabeth during her visit to Kenilworth, in July 1575. It represented a series of combats between the English and Danish forces, in which twice the Danes had the better, but at last, by the arrival of the Saxon women to assist their countrymen, the Danes were overcome, and many of them were led captive in triumph by the women. Queen Elizabeth 'laughed well' at this play, and is said to have been so much pleased with it, that she gave the actors two bucks and five marks in money. The usual performance of this play had been suppressed in Coventry soon after the Reformation, on account of the scenes of riot which it occasioned.

    It will be seen that this Coventry play was founded on the statement which had found a place in some of our chroniclers as far back as the fourteenth century, that these games of Hock-tide were intended to commemorate the massacre of the Danes on St. Brice's day, 1002; while others, alleging the fact that St. Brice's day is the 13th of November, suppose it to commemorate the rejoicings which followed the death of Hardicanute, and the accession of Edward the Confessor, when the country was delivered from Danish tyranny.

    Others, however, and probably with more reason, think that these are both erroneous explanations; and this opinion is strongly supported by the fact that Hock Tuesday is not a fixed day, but a moveable festival, and dependent on the great Anglo-Saxon pagan festival of Easter, like the similar ceremony of heaving, still practised on the borders of Wales on Easter Monday and Tuesday. Such old pagan ceremonies were preserved among the Anglo-Saxons long after they became Christians, but their real meaning was gradually forgotten, and stories and legends, like this of the Danes, afterwards invented to explain them. It may also be regarded as a confirmation of the belief, that this festival is the representation of some feast connected with the pagan superstitions of our Saxon forefathers, that the money which was collected was given to the church, and was usually applied to the reparation of the church buildings. We can hardly understand why a collection of money should be thus made in commemoration of the over-throw of the Danish influence, but we can easily imagine how, when the festival was continued by the Saxons as Christians, what had been an offering to some one of the pagan gods might be turned into an offering to the church. The entries on this subject in the old churchwardens' registers of many of our parishes, not only shew how generally the custom prevailed, but to what an extent the middle classes of society took part in it. In Reading these entries go back to a rather remote date, and mention collections by men as well as women while they seem to shew that there the women, 'hocked,' as the phrase was, on the Monday, and the men on the Tuesday. In the registers of the parish of St. Laurence, under the year 1499, we have

    'Item, received of Hock money gaderyd of women, xxs.
    Item, received of Hok money gaderyd of men, iiijs.,
    And, in the parish of St. Giles, under the date 1535

    'Hoc money gatheryd by the wyves (women), xiijs. ixd.'
    And, in St. Mary's parish, under the year 1559—
    'Hoctyde money, the mens gatheryng, iiijs. The womens, xijs.'
    Out of this money, it would appear that the wyves,' who always gained most, were in Reading treated with a supper, for we find in the churchwardens' accounts of St. Giles's parish, under the year 1526, this entry
    'Paid for the wyves supper at Hoctyde, xxiiijd.'
    In the year 1450, a bishop of Worcester inhibited these 'Hoctyde ' practices, on the ground that they led to all sorts of dissipation and licentiousness. It may be added that it appears, from the entries in the churchwardens' registers of various parishes, that in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Hock-tide was called in London Hob-tide."

    Saturday, 23 March 2013

    News Clippings: Dorchester's mystery monkey-like creature

    A selection of recent articles of a mystery monkey-like creature spotted in Dorchester on Thursday 21st March 2013.

    • Monkey on the loose in Dorchester town centre
    A student claims to have seen a monkey on the loose in Dorchester. Terri Leigh Cox, 17, captured a photo of the mystery creature from her window in Fordington. She claims the ‘monkey’ scampered across Salisbury Fields and up a tree on Thursday afternoon.

    READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo
    • Dorset of the Apes
    Student snaps 'monkey' on loose in Dorchester park

     READ MORE - Source: The Sun Tuesday
    •  Student spots mystery 'primate' stalking though park
    A mystery creature, which a student claims is a monkey, has been photographed in a public park.
    READ MORE - Source: The Telegraph Tuesday 26th March 2013
    •  Gorilla in the midst... of Dorset: Mystery 'monkey-like' creature photographed in a park
    Student Terri Leigh Cox saw mystery beast in a park near her home. She took a picture before it 'scampered up a tree' in Dorchester. The teenager believes it may have escaped from a nearby monkey attraction
     READ MORE - Source: The Daily Mail Tuesday 26th March 2013

    • Dorchester monkey photo: Mystery of 'escaped ape' photographed on the loose in playing field 
    A teenager grabbed her phone and took the shot when she spotted the creature bounding around the playing fields on all fours
     READ MORE - Source: The Mirror Tuesday 26th March 2013
    Other related articles of interest on mystery ape-like creatures
    • Men and Apes Neanderthals at séances and monkey ghosts by
      Carolina Manosca Grisales
    READ MORE - Source: Fortean Times Issue FT277 : Strange Days: Ghostwatch
    READ MORE - MAN-BEAST U.K. In Search of the British Bigfoot

    Wednesday, 20 February 2013

    Winter Issue of 'Merry Meet' out now!

    Merry Meet: Issue 49 Winter 2012/13
    Merry Meet Magazine is an independent quarterly journal of Folklore and Pagan Heritage, produced and edited by local musician and author Jerry Bird. 
    In Issue 49 Winter 2012/13, articles include:
    •  News & Comment
    • Legends of Batcombe
    • The Dybbuk
    • The Merry Maidens
    • The Cushion Dance
    • Reviews: Songs from the Magical Tradition by Jerry Bird, Secret Places of West Dorset by Louise Hodgson and The Megalithic Empire by M. J. Harper & H. L. Vered.
    • Folklore Diary
    Current Stockists
      For more information visit www.merrymeetmagazine.co.uk

      Wednesday, 13 February 2013

      Event: The Crabchurch Conspiracy Celebrations Weekend 16th - 17th February 2013

      Take a step back in time in Weymouth this weekend as the town’s celebrates its historic links to the English Civil War. The event will be held at the Old Town Hall, Weymouth to commemorate the Battle of Weymouth of 1645 and the Crabchurch Conspiracy .

      Programme of Event:
      Saturday 16th Febraury

      • 11.00am - 4.00pm:  Living History of military and civil life in the 17th century at the Old Town Hall. Judging of children's schools paintings by Prof. Ronald Hutton and Kit Berry. Drawing of raffle (approx 4.30pm) with lots of great prizes. Tickets available at the Old Town Hall and pubs taking part in the event.
      • 11.00 - 4.00pm Re-enactment of 17th Century march by Parliamentarian and Royalist troops: Despatch of Parliament troops via public houses in Melcombe Regis (town); Royalist troops in Hope Square for Cameos (17th century drill demonstration) before despatch to public houses on Weymouth side, (see list of sponsors for those taking part) 12.00pm - 1.00pm Cameos on arrival of 'Beat to Assembly' sounded by Colour Party at each location. Parliament start at Black Dog; Royalist start at Old Town Hall. Form up at HQs (Parliament at Golden Lion; Royalist at Hope Square); 2.00pm Royalists march over Town Bridge, and go via Sailor's Return and Custom House Quay to join Parliament troops at Golden Lion. Joint march to Black Dog, then to Esplanade for 3.00pm -3.30pm Battle on the beach followed by march back to Hope Square for 4.00pm
      • 12.00pm -1.00pm:  Stuart Peachey - talk on the 'English Civil War in Dorset' at Pilgrim House, Hope Square.

      • 4.00pm - 5.00pm: Selwyn Williams - talk on 'Life of Fabian Hodder and the Crabchurch Conspiracy' at Pilgrim House, Hope Square.
        Click Image to view fullsize
      • 7.00pm: Crabchurch Conspiracy at the Bay Theatre, Weymouth College.
      Professor Ronald Hutton of Bristol University will give a talk on the English Civil Wars and Weymouth's own Crabchurch Conspiracy and afterwards, the internationally acclaimed Celtic Folk Rock band, THE DOLMEN will give a concert of their critically acclaimed 2009 album, The Crabchurch Conspiracy, based upon the events in Weymouth at that time, during which, Professor Hutton and special guest, the novelist, Kit Berry, who wrote the Stonewylde series, will narrate between each song.
      Tickets for this performance are available at:
      All profits from the event will be given to the Old Town Hall Restoration Fund.
      Sunday 17th February
      • 11.00pm - 1.00pm: Living History of military and civil life in the 17th century at the Old Town Hall.
      • 11.00pm - 2.30pm: Re-enactment of 17th century march by Parliamentarian and Royalist troops:
      • 11.00pm:  Depart Sandsfoot Castle after short ceremony and cameo. Joint armies march via Old Castle Road, Bellevue Road, Bincleaves (Combat display), Newton Road, St.Leonards Road, Franchise Street, Chapelhay St. Arriving at Old Town Hall approx. 1.00pm.
      • 1.30pm: Depart Old Town Hall and march to Holy Trinity steps to take salute. Over Town Bridge to the Golden Lion, then via St.Mary St, St.Alban St to Esplanade and Pavilion for short ceremony. March down Custom House Quay to Maiden St, St. Edmund St, Town Bridge, Trinity Road, Trinity St, to Hope Square for final salute and ceremony, to finish at 15.00.
      Click Image to view fullsize
       The History

       The catalyst for the three and a half weeks of subterfuge, siege, pitched battle and executions, was a plot by royalist sympathisers in Weymouth and Melcombe, named the Crabchurch Conspiracy. Charles I needed a south coast port where he could land a force of French Catholic soldiers to help him turn the war in his favour.A local merchant, Fabian Hodder, helped soldiers from the royalist garrison at Portland gain control of the Nothe Fort and the Chapel Fort of St Nicholas at Chapelhay in Weymouth. He set up the Royalist commander in Dorset, Sir Lewis Dyve, to attack Melcombe at the same time namely midnight on the 9th February 1645.

      Francis Sydenham immediately made a counter attack to retake the Chapel Fort but he died early the next morning. Dyve then arrived in Weymouth. He bombarded Melcombe into submission, but William Sydenham reciprocated. Dyve refused the offer of a cease fire so Sydenham sent a raiding party to set fire to Weymouth. Several buildings and boats were set alight; finally Dyve ended the assault.

      Lord Goring, a royalist leader in Dorchester, sent Dyve a baggage train of supplies but Sydenham took it. Dyve sent out most of his force to try and recapture it. Sydenham sent a large force and retook the Chapel Fort. Goring retaliated by attacking Weymouth.

      Above: On Saturday 7th February 2009 a spectacular re-enactment took place in commemoration of the Battle of Weymouth and the Crabchurch Conspiracy of 1645. This film shows the performance of the mock trial and execution of the traitors. Dorchester's Town Crier, Alistair Chisholm played the leading role of Colonel William Sydenham and delivered a stunning performance at the Nothe


      Crabchurch Conspiracy
      By Mark Vine
      On the 27 February 1645 the Battle of Weymouth started at around midnight and was ferocious. The town gate and the barricade at Boot Hill fell to Goring's men. They poured down the old high street, past the Old Town Hall, thinking the victory was already theirs but met Sydenham's weapons and forces. At least 200 cavaliers died and the rest turned and fled, pursued all the way by Sydenham's soldiers. A force of about 250 Irish catholic troops of Lord Inchiquin's regiment fought their way into Weymouth from the east. Sydenham's force fell upon them. The Irish fled into the freezing waters where around 250 were either drowned or were picked off by the parliamentarians (near the Old Rooms Pub). The Battle of Weymouth was over. Just over a thousand roundhead soldiers, led by Colonel William Sydenham had beaten off 6000 royalist troops.

      This is all documented by local historian Mark Vine in his book, The Crabchurch Conspiracy, available at here via Imagine Books, Weymouth

      Related Posts with Thumbnails