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, 30 August 2016

Happy Birthday Mary Shelley - author of Frankenstein

Few seaside towns can claim so many literary associations as Bournemouth. The remains of writer, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, author of one of the most famous of all Gothic horror novels - Frankenstein, is buried in the cemetery of St. Peters in the centre of the town.

Portrait of Mary Shelley,
painted by Richard Rothwell in 1840.
Mary Shelley was born on the 30th August 1797, in Somers Town, London. She was the second daughter of feminist and writer Mary Wollstonecraft and political journalist William Godwin (who are aso interred in her grave). Her mother died shortly after Mary's birth from a hemorrhage  sustained either during delivery or by the actions of the midwife. Unusual for girls at the time, Mary received an excellent education. She published her first poem at the age of ten.

Percy Bysshe Shelley and his first wife Harriet often visited Godwin's home and bookshop in London. At the age of 16 Mary eloped to France and then Switzerland with Shelley. During May of 1816, the couple travelled to Lake Geneva. Apparently inspired by a ghost tale contest among her friends, Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont Mary had what she called a waking dream that became the manuscript for her most famous work, entitled ‘Frankenstein' or 'The Modern Prometheus'.


It tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who tries to create a living being for the good of humanity but instead produces a monster.  Frankenstein creates his monster by assembling parts of dead bodies and activating the creature with electricity.  The monster, which has no name in the book, is actually a gentle, intelligent creature.  However, everyone fears and mistreats him because of his hideous appearance.  Frankenstein rejects the monster and refuses to create a mate for him.  The monster's terrible loneliness drives him to seek revenge by murdering Frankenstein's wife, brother, and best friend.  Frankenstein dies while trying to track down and kill the monster, who disappears into the Arctic at the end of the novel. 



Film Posters for Universal Studios 1931
 version of 'Frankenstein'
Many films have been based on the character of Frankenstein's monster, the most iconic being played by Boris Karloff in the Universal Studios 1931 version of the novel.  Most are simply tales of horror and have little to do with the serious themes of Shelley's novel.  These themes include the possible dangers involved in scientific experimentation with life and the suffering caused by judging people by their appearance. 

Mary and Shelley married in 1816 after Shelley's first wife committed suicide by drowning. In 1818 the Shelleys left England for Italy. The Italian adventure was, however, blighted for Mary by the death of both her children Clara, in Venice and their son Will died from malaria in Rome.  Mary suffered a nervous breakdown after the death and almost died of a later miscarriage. It was followed by the birth of her only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley. In July 1822, Percy Bysshe Shelley sailed up the Italian coast and was caught in a storm on his return. He drowned on the 8th July along with his friend Edward Williams and a young boat attendant.

To support herself and her child, Mary wrote novels, including Valperga (1823), The Last Man (1826), and the autobiographical Lodore (1835).  She spent much of her life in promoting her late husband's work, including editing and annotating unpublished material. She returned to England, never to re-marry.


The Grave of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly
She died on 1st February 1851 in Chester Square, London of what some suspect to be a brain tumor, before her to move to live with her son Percy Florence Shelley at Boscombe Manor. Her last book, sometimes considered her best work, was ‘Maria', which was published posthumously.  Her son brought his mothers remains to be interred in St. Peter's Churchyard in Bournemouth, along with Percy's heart, which was not originally buried with his body. It was retrieved from his funeral pyre by his friend Trelawny and kept by Shelley's wife Mary, pressed flat, in a copy of the poet's "Adonais" and was interred for the first time in Mary's tomb.

Source: www.darkdorset.co.uk

Monday, 22 August 2016

Happy Birthday "Folklore" - On this day, the 22nd August 1846, the term Folk-Lore, was 'born'

William John Thoms

On this day, the 22nd August 1846, the term "Folklore", was coined, by English antiquarian, William John Thoms (1803-1885).
Thoms is credited with inventing the term under the pseudonym Ambrose Merton in a letter to the London literary magazine ‘Athenaeum’. 

He invented this composite word to replace the various other terms used at the time including (1803-1885)"popular antiquities" or "popular literature" to describe people’s traditional beliefs, ballads, proverbs, customs, popular superstitions and legends.

During the 1800's, scholars like Thoms, believed that folklore in ancient times had been shared by all members of a society. Most ancient peoples lived in rural communities. Over the centuries, large numbers of people moved to cities and gradually lost touch with so-called "authentic" folk uneducated peasants called ‘folk’, whose way of life had changed little for traditions. According to the scholars of the 1800’s, those traditions were preserved by hundreds of years.


The Brothers Grimm
Amongst the most notable leading folklore scholars were two German brothers, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm. From 1807 to 1814, they collected folk tales from peasants who lived near Kassel, in Germany. The Grimms believed that by collecting the tales, they were preserving for all time the heritage of all Germans. The stories they collected became famous as Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

But some versions of these tales are found throughout Europe, the Near East, and Asia. Today, scholars consider folk to be any group of people who share at least one common linking factor. This factor may be, Geography, as in folklore of the English Countryside, Religion, as in Jewish folklore, Occupation, as in Fisherman folklore, Ethnic background, as in French-Canadian folklore. Some scholars believe that even a family can be considered folk because many families have their own traditions and stories.

Characteristics of folklore

Folklore can be short and simple or long and complicated. Brief proverbs, such as "Time flies" and "Money talks," are famous examples of folklore. On the other hand, in other parts of the world, some folk plays begin at sundown and end at dawn. It is extremely difficult to make up folklore.

The songs, stories, and other material that became folklore were, of course, thought up by various people. But those individuals had the rare ability to create a subject and a style that appealed to others over the years. Folklore survives only if it retains that appeal.

People would not bother to retell tales or continue to follow customs that had no meaning for them. This is the reason people keep on using the same folklore over and over. To be considered authentic folklore, an item must have at least two versions.


For example, scholars have identified more than 1,000 versions of the fairy tale about Cinderella. These versions developed over hundreds of years in many countries, including China, France, Germany, and Turkey. Changes in folklore often occur as a story passes from person to person. These changes, called variations, are one of the surest indications that the item is true folklore. Variations frequently appear in both the words and music of folk songs. The same lyrics may be used with different tunes, or different words may be set to the same music. For example the nursery rhymes "Baa, Baa Black Sheep" and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" have the same melody. 

Kinds of folklore:  

Myths
Myths are stories that explain how the world and humanity reached their present form. Myths differ from most types of folk stories because myths are considered to be true among the people who develop them. Many myths describe the creation of the earth. In some of these stories, a god creates the earth. In others, the earth emerges from a flood. A number of myths describe the creation of the human race and the origin of death.
Folk Tales
Folk tales are fictional stories about animals or human beings. Most of these tales are not set in any particular time or place, and they begin and end in a certain way. For example, many English folk tales begin with the phrase "Once upon a time" and end with "They lived happily ever after." Fables are one of the most popular types of folk tales. They are animal stories that try to teach people how to behave. One fable describes a race between a tortoise and a hare. The tortoise, though it is a far slower animal, wins because the hare foolishly stops to sleep. This story teaches the lesson that someone who works steadily can come out ahead of a person who is faster or has a head start. In many European fairy tales, the hero or heroine leaves home to seek some goal. After various adventures, he or she wins a prize or a marriage partner, in many cases a prince or princess. One popular kind of folk tale has a trickster as the hero. Each culture has its own trickster figure. Most tricksters are animals like the wolf, fox and the cunning hare who act like human beings.
 Legends
Legends, like myths, are stories told as though they were true. But legends are set in the real world and in relatively recent times. Many legends tell about human beings who meet supernatural creatures, such as fairies, ghosts, vampires, and witches. A number of legends are associated with famous people who have died. Others tell of holy persons and religious leaders. Some legends describe how saints work miracles. The action in myths and folk tales ends at the conclusion of the story. But the action in many legends has not been completed by the story's end. For example, a legend about a buried treasure may end by saying that the treasure has not yet been found. A legend about a haunted house may suggest that the house is still haunted. A number of legends tell about the Loch Ness Monster, a lake monster in Scotland; and the Beast of Exmoor, a large cat that haunts the Somerset moors. Some people believe these creatures actually exist. From time to time, various expeditions have tried to find both of them.
 Folk songs
Folk songs have been created for almost every human activity. Some are associated with work. For example, sailors sing songs called ‘shanties’ while pulling in their lines. Folk songs may deal with birth, childhood, courtship, marriage, and death. Parents sing folk lullabies to babies. Children sing traditional songs as part of some games. Other folk songs are sung at weddings and funerals. Some folk songs are related to seasonal activities, such as planting and harvesting. Many are sung on certain holidays. The English Christmas folk song "I saw three ships " is a popular example. Some folk songs celebrate the deeds of real or imaginary heroes. But people sing many folk songs simply for enjoyment.
Superstitions and Customs

Cerne Abbas Giant
A large number of superstitions and customs supposedly help control or predict the future. The people of fishing communities may hold elaborate ceremonies that are designed to ensure a good catch as in the custom of the Abbostbury Garland. Many people try to foretell future events by analysing the relationships among the planets and stars.

Superstitions and customs are involved largely in marking a person's advancement from one stage of life to another. For example, one such superstition concerns the Cerne Abbas Giant's powers of fertility and the belief that childless couples who made love on a phallic part of the figure would soon be blessed with children. While young women wishing to keep their lovers faithful would walk around the hill figure three times.
 Holidays
Holidays are special occasions celebrated by a group, and almost all of them include some elements of folklore. Christmas is especially rich in folklore. A national group may celebrate this holiday with its own special foods and costumes. Many groups have variations of the same folk custom. In a number of countries, for example, children receive presents at Christmas. In Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Father Christmas or Santa Claus brings the presents. In Italy, an old woman named La Befana distributes the gifts. In some countries of Europe, the gifts come from the Christ child. In others, the Three Wise Men bring them.
 Folklore and the arts
Folklore has made a major contribution to the world's arts. Many folk stories and folk songs are beautiful works of art themselves. Folklore has also inspired masterpieces of literature, music, painting, and sculpture. The English poet Geoffrey Chaucer used a number of folk tales in his famous Canterbury Tales. William Shakespeare based the plots of several of his plays on folk tales. These plays include King Lear, The Merchant of Venice and The Taming of the Shrew.

Certain legends and myths have attracted artists, composers, and writers for centuries, most recent revival has been made by Seth Lakeman in his songs that have been inspired by legends and folk stories of the south west of England like Childe the Hunter, Kitty Jay, The White Hare and The Hurlers.

One legend tells about a medieval German scholar named Faust who sold his soul to the devil. This legend has been the basis of many novels, plays, operas, and orchestral works. Faust, a drama by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is perhaps the greatest work in German literature.
 Folklore and society
Folklore reflects the attitudes and ideals of a society. For example, much folklore reflects how a society regards the roles of males and females in real life. In many examples of Western folklore, women are depicted as passive and uncreative. A society that produces such folklore considers men superior to women.

This attitude appears in a 18th century Scottish proverb “A crooning cow, a crowing Hen and a whistling Maid boded never luck to a house”. According to the proverb, a girl who whistles like a boy and a hen that crows like a rooster are unnatural. The proverb implies that women should not try to take part in activities traditionally associated with men, an idea that has become outdated in modem society.

A common wedding custom calls for the groom to carry his bride over the threshold of their home. This custom suggests that the woman is weak and must be carried through the doorway - and presumably through life - by the strong male. In many Western fairy tales, a female is captured by a villain and waits quietly until a heroic male rescues her.



Monday, 1 August 2016

Crying the Neck, Corn Dollies and Fairy Folk: Customs and Traditions of Lammas


The 1st August is the ancient festival of ‘Lammas Tide’, which traditionally is the start of the harvest calendar: - a time of giving thanks to ‘Mother Nature’ for all her fruits and reaping what has been sown.

The Celts originally called it ‘Lugnasad’ and would celebrate by honouring ‘Lugh’, the sun god; however, the Saxons renamed the festival ‘hlaf-maesse’ meaning ‘loaf mass’, which later became ‘Lammas’, as we know it today. Traditionally it was the day when the first new grain was milled and baked into small loaves of bread, which were offered on the altar for a blessing and as thanks-giving for the first fruits of the harvest. Sometimes this service was reserved for ‘Garland Sunday’, the first Sunday after Lammas Day.

Music Barrows and Fairy Folk
Bincombe Bumps Music Barrows

The Dorset landscape would not be complete without its numerous ancient earthworks and barrows. In the past these burial mounds were believed to be inhabited by fairies, and at Lammas they are said to rise on pillars to reveal the revelling fairies dancing inside to the sweet sound of fairy music.

On Bincombe Hill, overlooking Weymouth, six such hillocks - which date back to the Bronze Age can be seen They were known locally as 'Music Barrows', for it was said if you put your ear to the top of one at noon, you would be able to hear the plaintive tones of music.

Corn Dollies

A traditional Corn Dolly
Corn dollies are a form of straw work made for, and associated with, harvest customs of Europe before mechanisation.
Before Christianisation, in traditional pagan European culture it was believed that the spirit of the "corn" (in modern American English, "corn" would be "grain") lived amongst the crop, and that the harvest made it effectively homeless.

Among the customs attached to the last sheaf of the harvest, hollow shapes were fashioned from the last sheaf of wheat or other cereal crops. The corn spirit would then spend the winter in their homes until the "corn dolly" was ploughed into the first furrow of the new season. "Dolly" may be a corruption of "idol" or may have come from the Greek word 'eidolon' (that which represents something else) as does the word 'idol'.

Crying the Neck

'Crying the Neck', ‘Crying the Nack’ or ‘Crying the Mare’, is a harvest festival tradition practiced in the West Country of England, in particular Cornwall, Devon, and parts of West Dorset.

In The Story of Cornwall, by Kenneth Hamilton Jenkin, the following explanation is given on the practice:
"In those days the whole of the reaping had to be done either with the hook or scythe. The harvest, in consequence, often lasted for many weeks. When the time came to cut the last handful of standing corn, one of the reapers would lift up the bunch high above his head and call out in a loud voice.....,

"We have it! We have it! We have it!"
The rest would then shout,

"What 'ave 'ee? What 'ave 'ee? What 'ave 'ee?"

and the reply would be:

"A neck! A neck! A neck!"

Everyone then joined in shouting:

"Hurrah! Hurrah for the neck! Hurrah for Mr. So-and-So"

(calling the farmer by name.)"
Although mostly discontinued the tradition is still practised by members of the Old Cornwall Society every year.

Extract 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"

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Honouring a Dorset Saint: The Customs and Traditions of St. Wite's Day

St. Wite
The 1st June is the feast day of ‘St Wite’ (white) or as she was known in Latin ‘St Candida’. Very little is known about her except that her shrine at Whitchurch Canonicorum was and still is a place of pilgrimage.  St. Candida (or St. Wite) and Holy Cross, Whitchurch Canonicorum is the only church in England, other than Westminster Abbey, that retains the original medieval shrine and relics of the saint to whom it is dedicated.

The Shrine of a Dorset Saint 

In the church beneath the north window of the north transept the shrine of St. Wite is built into wall and consists of two parts: the lower portion is of early 13th century work and forms a base which supports the upper portion, namely a stone coffin with Purbeck marble top which contains the relics of St. Wite. Beneath are three oval openings intended for the insertion of diseased limbs or for handkerchiefs to be afterwards borne away for the healing of the sick. In days gone by all roads and paths led to the church, for the Shrine was a place of pilgrimage.  It is the great treasure of the Church and it is unique, for no other parish church in England has the relics of its patron saint in a shrine within its walls. In 1900 a fissure appeared in the north wall of the transept and the shrine itself was damaged. To effect repairs it was opened and inside the stone coffin was found a leaden box on which were the following inscriptions:— 

CT    RELIQE    SCE    W
+HIC    REQUESCT    RELIQE    SCE    WITE

(“Here rest the remains of St. Wite”)

The Shrine to St. Wite
Within the reliquary were a number of bones, which were thought to be those of a woman.

In the 1863 edition of Hutchins' "History of Dorset" it is recorded that an inscription was painted on the exterior of the Shrine, which included the words "Candida" and "Candidiorque."   In Hutchins’ original edition of 1774 mention is made that the tomb was without inscription, so this lettering must have been painted between 1774 and 1863. It is rather curious that throughout the Church there is no trace of any stonework ever having been painted.


Who was St. Wite?

It is unfortunately not possible definitely to identify St. Wite.

Until the middle of the 19th century the local tradition had always been, for something like 900 years, that St. Wite was a Saxon woman Who was killed by the Danes on one of the occasions of their landing at Charmouth when, as was their practice, they pillaged lie surrounding countryside and probably a number of Christians were killed by them.

Since the middle of the 19th century three other theories as to the Saint's identity have been put forward.

The late the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, a noted hymn-writer and hagiologist, put forward the suggestion that she might be identified with a saint who bore the Celtic name of Gwen and the French name of Blanche, which would be the equivalent of the Latin St. Candida, although it is improbable that the Saxon "Wite" means "White”. Gwen, or Blanche, was the daughter of a Prince of Brittany and her second husband was a man named Fragan, who was a cousin of the Duke of Cornwall. In the latter part of the fifth century they crossed to Brittany and settled near where is now the city of S. Brieuc at a place still called Ploufragan, or the tribal residence of Fragan. Gwen was the mother of two lesser known saints and at Ploufragan there is a modern statue of her as a Queen; at Scaer is a holy well named after her under the name of Candida.

There is a fable that she was once captured by pirates and escaped from the ship with the loss of two fingers, cut off by an axe, and that she walked on the water back to Brittany. There a track of foam left by the tide as it turns is still called the track of St. Blanche.

Between 919-921 there was an influx of Bretons into the west of England and they brought with them the bodies of their saints. The suggestion is that the relics in the Church here are those of Gwen or Blanche, brought over from Brittany in this way.

A second suggestion is that St. Wite was a Wessex born monk who in the eighth century went with a band of missionaries under St. Boniface of Crediton to evangelise the people of Germany. There was a "Witta" consecrated Bishop of Buraburg. St. Boniface and his band were massacred in A.D. 755 and, in accordance with custom, the bodies of the martyrs were brought back to England for burial. The suggestion here is that our St. Wite was St. Witta, but there are two difficulties.

In the first place, the name has always been in feminine form and the bones in the tomb in 1900 were thought to be those of a woman. In the second place Witta, Bishop of Buraburg, according to the records, was not martyred in 755 but died some years later and was buried at Hersfeld in Germany.

In an attempt to overcome these two difficulties a third theory was put forward that St. Wite was one of the many women evangelists who went with St. Boniface to Germany and suffered martyrdom there. But the only reason to connect Wite with Boniface is the similarity of the name to that of the Bishop Witta of Buraburg, and if that theory of identity fails there is no ground for this other suggestion.

It seems more likely that a tradition which was strong in the Parish for over 900 years should be correct, rather than any of these theories of later years.

A Site for Sore Eyes

St. Wite's Well
St Wite's Well, near Morcombelake has been in existence since 1630, when a traveller refers to 'St White a Virgin Martyr, whose Well the Inhabitants will shewe you not farre off in the Side of an Hill, where she lived in Prayer and Contemplation'.

In Christine Waters' book 'Who was St. Wite - The Saint of Witchchurch Canonicorum" (1980). She makes reference to the healing well.


"After venerating the shrine, our pilgrim made his way to the saint's well, about a mile away at Morcombelake. The waters of St. Wite's Well enjoyed a reputation as late as the 1930's as being "a sovereign cure for sore eyes". They were said to be most efficacious when the sun's first rays lit
St. Candida's Eyes
upon them. Sore eyes, were of course, a constant source of discomfort to medieval man, living as he did in low cottages from which the smoke did not escape properly. Lead holy water bottles or "ampullae" were filled here and taken home for later applications.

The wild periwinkles that carpet nearby Stonebarrow Hill every spring, are still known locally as "St. Candida's Eyes."


St. Wite's Cross

The Dorset Flag
This flag on the right was recognised as the flag of Dorset on the 16 September 2008, when the Dorset County Council organised a public vote, open to all Dorset residents. The idea for the flag came from expatriate Dorsetman Stephen Coombs and Dorchester resident Dave White. The flag has been known as "St. Wite's Cross" or The Dorset Cross".

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Sic-Sac! - The Customs and Traditions of Oak Apple Day

From the late seventeenth century until the mid-nineteenth century one of the most important holidays of the year was ‘Oak Apple Day’, ‘Royal Oak Day’ or 'Arbour Day' which fell on 29th May. The day commemorated the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660 and was so called ‘Oak Apple Day’ due to his memorable escape from capture by the Roundheads after the battle of Worcester, by hiding up in an oak tree at Boscobel in Staffordshire on 6th September 1651.

The Royal Oak, Cerne Abbas -
A typical Public House sign
commemorating King Charles II
escape from the Roundheads
Consequently the oak became a symbol of Royalist sympathisers and upon Oak Apple Day it was customary to shows ones support for the King by wearing a sprig of oak leaves with some oak apples attached. Some ardent supporters even went so far as to cover their oak leaves with gold leaf!

Anybody not decorated was viewed as a nonconforming anti-Royalist and was beaten with stinging nettles and ‘bonneted’, that is to have their hat pulled violently over their eyes.

They were furthered abused by the name calling of “Shit-Sack”. In fact in some areas of the country

Oak Apple Day was known as ‘Shit-Sack Day’ or 'Shick-Sack Day'. It was also customary to decorate statues and ones own front door with a branch of oak leaves. Those that ignored this practice were once again frowned upon. The Oak Apple loyalists of east Dorset would visit any undecorated house and place a wreath of stinging nettles on the door and sing:

‘Shic Sack, penny a rag
Bang his head in Cromwell’s bag
All done up in a bundle’.
 



Dorset Folklorist, John Symonds Udal wrote about the customs and traditions of Oak Apple Day in Dorset in his book 'Dorsetshire Folklore' published in 1922:-

OAK APPLE OR ROYAL OAK DAY (29th May)

This is also known as Restoration Day, being the anniversary of the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. It is also said to have been his birthday. Brand and other writers speak of the common people, especially in the north of England, still wearing in their hats the leaves of the oak, which is sometimes covered with leafgold, and of others decorating their doors, etc., with green oak branches in commemoration of his escape by means of that "miraculous divergence " - as it has been called in Dorsetshire - through the county after the battle of Worcester in September, 1651. But in Dorsetshire itself one might almost look in vain for any such observances at the present day, though, perhaps, more interest has been taken of late years in the subject by reason of the recent books and articles that have been written upon King Charles's wanderings.

George Roberts, in his History of Lyme Regis, writing in 1834, refers to the growing disuse of this old-time practice. He says :—



"The practice of decorating the doors of houses with oak boughs on May 29th has within the last few years somewhat grown into disuse, owing to the means adopted by the proprietors of land to prevent depredations from being committed on their trees by the apprentices, etc.

"Fifteen years ago scarcely a door was without its branch. At the doors of some persons might be seen, early in the morning, a bunch of nettles by the inmates when they arose. Dissenters who in Charles IIs reign did not celebrate his restoration by putting up oak boughs, or pay those who had put them up during the night, were served in this manner. I have not seen any nettles at doors for several years ; party feeling as to the Restoration seems now extinct. None save the lower orders wear oak leaves in their hats ; the boys continue to gild their oak apples, and apply an approbious name to those who have not an oak leaf displayed, or who wear it after twelve o'clock. For the origin of this appellation, by which noncomformists were commonly distinguished. Granger accounts, vol. iii, p. 316, in a truly ludicrous manner."

Mr. Edmund Gosse contributed a very interesting article, compiled from the unpublished papers of his father, the late Philip H. Gosse, F.R.S., depicting the tatter's childhood at school in Poole in 1818, to Longman's Magazine in March, 1889, from which I take the following extract:-


"The 29th May, Oak Apple Day, was called 'Shicsack Day', when all loyal urchins were expected to display a bit of oak in their hats or caps. A mere twig of oak-leaves was sufficient, but if anoak-apple was attached it was better ; while those who wished to be altogether ' the cheese' wore leaves or apples on which a fragment of gold-leaf was gummed. There was a considerable demand for gold-leaf just before the day at the stationers' shops, and for boys whose 'tin' was scarce there was an inferior kind of foil provided called Dutch gold ; while in the little hucksters' shops bits of oak duly gilt could be obtained for a consideration"

Mr. Gosse added that Mr. Thomas Hardy had told him that the day was still called "Sic-sac-day" by the peasantry ; but that he had no idea what the words meant. (Halliwell (Dict. of Archaic and Provincial Words, 1852) gives "Shick Shack Day" as a term for the 29th May, or Royal Oak Day, used in Surrey.)

The following account of this custom—as obtaining, presumably, in the adjoining county of Wilts - isgiven by that close observer of natural history, the late Richard Jefferies, in his 'Wild Life in a Southern County' (ed. 1902, p. 83) :-



"In May the ploughboys still remember King Charles, and on what they call 'shick-shack-day' search for oak apples and the young leaves of the oak to place with a spray of ash in their hats or button-holes; the ash spray must have even leaves, and an odd number is not correct. To wear these green emblems was thought imperative even within the last twenty years, and scarcely a labourer could be seen without them. The elder men would tell you,—as if it had been a great calamity,—that they could recollect a year when the spring was so backward that not an oak-leaf or an oak-apple could be found by the most carefulsearch for the purpose. The custom has fallen into disuse lately; the carters, however, still attach the ash and oak leaves to the heads of their horses on this particular day."

Charles II in West Dorset

2012 marks the 361st anniversary of Charles II's escape from the Battle of Worcester. While his supporters were trying to find a boat at nearby Charmouth to take him to France and failing, he was hiding at Bridport. There is a memorial stone on the corner of Lee Lane close to the main road that commemorates his time there.

Dorset Folklorist, John Symonds Udal wrote in 'Notes and Queries' Ninth serie. Vol X. July/Dec 1902 about the erection of the 'King Charles II Escape Memorial Stone' to mark the 250th anniversary in Bridport:-

King Charles II Escape Memorial
depicted on the Royal Oak, Charmouth
"West Dorset was recently the scene of a very interesting ceremony, namely, the unveiling of three memorial tablets affixed to certain old houses which had established their claim to the honour of having sheltered the prince afterwards Charles II. during the three eventful days he spent there in his hurried, but fruitless endeavour to escape to France from the coast of Dorset after his decisive defeat at the battle of Worcester on 3 September, 1651. This ceremony was the complement of an earlier one which took place on the outskirts of Bridport on 23 September last, the 250th anniversary of the king's visit to that town, and which is referred to in detail later.

There is, it seems to me, special reason why these proceedings and the history of the movement whichled up to them should be recorded permanently in the pages of 'Notes and Queries' for it was in great measure what had previously appeared there upon the subject, now nearly twenty years ago, that led to the carrying out of the present memorial.

At that time there was an interesting discussion in 'Notes and Queries' (6th S. v. and viii. passium1) as to what old houses now exist in the country that had formed hiding - places for Charles II. between the battle of Worcester in September, 1651, and the time when theking at last effected his escape from Brighthelmstone on the 15th of the following October.

It was then that I put forward the claim of the old manor-house at Pilsdon, in West Dorset, at that time the property of those staunch royalists the Wyndhams, to rank as one of those entitled to this honourable distinction, basing the claim upon a local tradition that I had heard. This claim, however, having been challenged by one of your correspondents, I went more deeply into the question of Charles II.'s wanderings in Dorset, and after consulting the principal authorities at my disposal I was constrained to admit that the claim I had put forward rested upon tradition only, and had no historical foundation. 


This I did in a somewhat lengthy paper which I read before a meeting of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club upon Pilsdon Pen itself, the highest hill in the county of Dorset, in September, 1886, I think from which meeting I date my acquaintance with Thomas Hardy, the Wessex novelist. This paper was reproduced in the annual volume (viii of the society's Proceedings for the following year, and also reprinted in pamphlet form. In it I traced in considerable detail the wanderings of Charles from the time he left Trent manor, another seat of the Wyndhams, on the borders of Dorset and Somerset, on 22 September, till he returned there on the 24th, after his abortive attempt to quit the Dorset coast at Charmouth on the night of the 22nd. I mainly followed the narrative given by Mr. J. Hughes in his 'Boscobel Tracts' (first published in 1830, a second edition of which appeared in 1857) from the authorities there cited, taking my former contributions in 'Notes and Queries' as the basis, and confining myself, of course, to those incidents which happened on Dorset territory alone.

A very interesting feature of Mr. Hughes's book was the description he gave of the houses and buildings which had sheltered the king as he found them in 1830. To the Dorset portion of them I added in my paper a detailed description of the condition in which I found them some fifty years later.

In 1897 was published Mr. Allan Fea's most interesting work, 'The Flight of the King,' in which appeared many excellent illustrations and descriptions of the various houses and hiding-places which had sheltered the king immediately after the battle of Worcester, and many other places and articles of interest, portraits, &c., connected therewith.

In fact, it may be said to be the complement or an up-to-date edition of Mr. Hughes 's book. In this work Mr. Fea refers to my Dorset pamphlet. To me the Dorset portion of his work was particularly interesting, in that it showed one of the houses which I had been unable to locate that " lonely house, situated about a mile and a half from Charmouth, among the hills to the north," at which Capt. Ellesdon (the author of the ' Letter to Lord Clarendon ' which appears in the thirteenth book of the ' History of the Rebellion ') met the fugitive king on his way down from Trent into Charmouth "an old thatched building known to this day as Elsdon's Farm," at Monkton Wyld, an ecclesiastical parish carved out of Whitechurch Canonicorum.2

General public interest having by Mr. Fea's volume and by another kindred work, by Dr. Osmund Airy, which I have not yet had an opportunity of seeing been aroused in what the then Bishop of Llandaff (in a letter to Mr. Hughes in 1827) termed " by far the most romantic piece of English history we possess," it was only to be expected that local interest in the subject would be quickened.


King Charles II Escape Memorial
in Lee Lane, Bridport
And so about a year ago (May, 1901) appeared in the Dorset County Chronicle an interesting letter from a correspondent signing himself "Lee Lane" (the pseudonym being taken from the name of a lane about half a mile from Bridport, on the Dorchester road, down which the king is alleged to have turned on his way to Broad Windsor on 23 September, 1651), calling attention to the fact that within a few months would occur the 250th anniversary of King Charles's visit to the county, and advocating the erection of a memorial at the corner of the above lane to mark the occasion, a monumental design for which was sketched in detail. The proposal for a memorial I myself supported from the distant West Indies, and at the same time suggested that, in addition to any monument at Lee Lane, commemorative tablets might be affixed by the Dorset Field Club, as the premier antiquarian society in the county, to those four houses in Dorset which had been indicated in my paper and in Mr. Fea's book as having actually sheltered the king.
For some reason or other, whilst certain subscriptions were promised, neither of these suggestions was taken up by the Dorset Field Club or by any other local responsible body ; and eventually 'Lee Lane," 3 who had offered a generous donation in support of his proposal, signified his intention of himself erecting, anonymously and at his own expense, the proposed memorial at the corner of Lee Lane, though in a somewhat less elaborate form than he had at first suggested. 

On 23 September last, then, the 250th anniversary of the king's escape, the memorial was unveiled. Its design had been well carried out by Mr. Milverton, marble mason of Bridport, and consisted of a large plinth of Portland stone supporting a very fine slab of Bothenhampton stone, rising to the height of 10ft. from the ground. It stood, covered with the Union Jack, under a weather-beaten old oak tree at the head of the lane, bearing the following inscription : 



King Charles II,
Escaped Capture through this Lane
September xxiii., MDCLI.
When midst your fiercest foes on every side,
For your escape God did a Lane provide.
(Thomas Fuller's ' Worthies.')
Erected September xxiii., MDCCCCI. 

It was unveiled by Mr. James Penderel-Brodhurst, the well-known writer and journalist, and a descendant of the Penderels of Boscobel, in the presence of a fairly representative company. Mr. Broadley was present and took a leading part in the ceremony, whilst Miss Lane Brown, a descendant of the Lanes of Bentley, co. Stafford, placed a crown of oak-leaves upon the monument.

At the conclusion Mr. Lomas, one of the Magdalen College, Oxford, glee singers, sang Sir Walter Scott's ballad ' Here 's a health to King Charles.' Thus was brought to a happy issue an interesting historic ceremony, of which a very good account appeared in the Dorset County Chronicle at the time.

Mr. Broadley then, apparently undeterred by the very lukewarm support that he appears to have received locally, proceeded to turn his attention and the funds of the somewhat slender subscription list towards carrying out the suggestions I had previously offered as to the four commemorative tablets to be erected at Ellesdon Farm, Monkton Wyld, where the king stayed a few hours on 22 September, 1651 ; the old inn at Charmouth, then known as the " Queen's Head," but now, and for sometime past, as the manse for the Nonconformist minister at Charmouth, where the king stayed the evening and night of the 22nd, waiting in vain for the boat which was to convey him to France ; the old house in Bridport, then called the " George Inn," now a chemist's shop, where the royal party had their midday meal on the 23rd, and so narrowly escaped detection by the local hostler; and the old inn at Broad Windsor, then known also as the "George," where the king spent that night, the one immediately preceding his return to Kent, having successfully evaded his pursuers at Bridport by turning down Lee Lane. All but the one at Bridport are now happily accomplished.  

The tablets, which were of marble in a frame of Ham Hill stone, the inscription being in  imperishable letters, were also the work of Mr. Milverton's hands. Those at Charmouth and Monkton Wyld were the first to be erected, and, being only a mile or so distant from each other were unveiled on the same day, Easter Monday last. For the account of the ceremony I may be allowed to refer to one of the local papers the Bridport News. It states :


"Those who were present at the unveiling of the King Charles II. tablets at Charmouth and Ellesdoi Farm on Easter Monday had a most interesting and a very delightful day. It was an ideal spring day and nature was budding out in all her vernal freshness. To [sic] those who have made themselve acquainted with the incidents associated with this flight of the king through Dorset, the drive alone, the road from Bridport to Charmouth and Ellesdon Farm on that quiet sunny morning could hardly have failed to contrast [sic] that happy condition of things with the state of anxiety which must have possessed Charles when he and his companions rode nastily on the same road to Bridport on the 23rd Sept., 1651, with those hunting for his blood before and behind him. The royal fugitive could hardly have time or taste under the circumstance to admire the charming scenery through whic this old coach road passes. The pretty villages of Chideock and Charmouth seem to have the famous'heights of Dorset ' standing sentinel over ther and guarding them from harm, and one would have to travel a long way to find a more delightful picture than presented by these villages as seen from the hills descending into them. The Rev F. J. Morrish very kindly allowed visitors to pass through be old manse which he now occupies, and contemlate the room which Charles II. spent the night, waiting for Limbry and his boat which never came. From the window of this room an unobstructed view of the beach may be obtained. It is a pity that the royal arms which were erected in the room have been covered over by builders and paper-hangers. It is at the manse where the first tablet was gracefully unveiled by Mrs. Simms, he revered mother of the rector (Rev. Spencer Simms). The drive from Charmouth to Ellesdon Tarm opens out vistas of a charming country. The Vale or Marshwood sweeps along far below the roadway on the right, and here and there some of he 'stately homes of England ' may be seen looking iut from their wooded surroundings upon the Channel, glittering on the left, and the smiling alleys. Ellesdon Farm, occupied by Mrs. Larjombe, is a delightful old house, an ideal haven of rest, secluded from th.e public gaze in a little nook within a stone's throw 01 the highway. It was here  the hunted king, barely of age, rested on the afternoon of the 22nd Sept.", and the tablet over the entrance, unveiled by Miss Simms, will perpetuate the fact to future generations, for the old house,with its granite cobble floors, is of such a substantial character that it will stand the ravages of time for a considerable period of time. The day was, indeed, a memorable and an enjoyable one to those who took part in the proceedings, but, as Mr. Broadley suggested in his speech, these commemorations will not be complete until a fourth tablet is erected at the house now occupies by Mr. James Beach at Bridport, where the king rested, the premises being an hostelry at that time.' 

Mr. Broadley, who again took a leading part in the proceedings, in an interesting address explained to those present the occasion for the ceremony, and shortly reviewed the circumstances of the king's stay at these two places, after which he submitted for their inspection a very interesting and valuable collection of contemporary proclamations and broadsides, letters, portraits, medals, and medallions, which he had recently brought together.

On the following Friday (4 April) the third memorial tablet, at Broad windsor, was unveiled by Mr. Perkins, the Mayor of Taunton. The same paper from which I have just quoted gives the following account of the proceedings : 



"The third of the tablets erected in the district to commemorate the places of refuge of Charles II. during his wanderings in West Dorset when pursued by the Roundheads after the battle of Worcesterwas unveiled by the Mayor of Taunton (Mr. Perkins) on Friday. Like the others at the Manse, Charmouth, and at Ellesdon Farm, the tablet is of marble, framed with Ham Hill stone, and inscribed in imperishable letters. It is placed in the front wall of the cottage occupied by Mr. Charles Harrison, to the left of the entrance to the inn yard, which was undoubtedly at one time a part of the old ' George Inn,' where King Charles stayed on the night of the 23rd September, 1651. The inscription on the tablet commemorates this fact, and Mr. Milverton, marble mason, of Bridport, who has done all the tablets, experienced considerable difficulty in placing it in position, owing to the old walls being a species of rubble, composed of stones and foxmould. Again the day was fortunately fine, and a fairly large gathering of spectators was present at the ceremony." 

The proceedings were opened by the Rev. G. C. Hutchings, vicar of Broad Windsor a place which is interesting as having had for a prior incumbent the famous Thomas Fuller, author of 'The Worthies of England 'after which the Mayor of Taunton unveiled the tablet by withdrawing the Union Jack which covered it.

At the luncheon at the "George Hotel" which followed, Mr. Broadley, in again stating the occasion of the proceedings, referred to the local incidents connected with the king's visit. In commenting on the connexion of Thomas Fuller with Broad Windsor he produced, in addition to a fine portrait of the author, several of his minor works, which he stated to be very rare in particular, a copy of his sermon called 'Jacob's Vow' which he preached before King Charles I. at St. Mary's, Oxford, on 10 May, 1644, and of which, it was asserted, no copy was known in the British Museum or the Bodleian Library, nor was it known to Mr. Pickering, who compiled the bibliography in Russell's 'Life of Thomas Fuller.' At a subsequent adjournment to the vicarage Mr. Broadley's fine collection of broadsides, portraits, medals, &c., was submitted for inspection.

I may add that Mr. Broadley in the course of his remarks was, as on former occasions, most courteous in his references to myself, "to whom," he stated, "the credit of having first called public attention to the deep interest which belongs to the Dorset portion of the flight of the king must always be attributed." And this recognition was rendered still more graceful by his having sent me, on the 250th anniversary of "Worcester Fight," one of two facsimiles which, with the consent of the authorities of the Bodleian Library, he had had reproduced at his own expense of the famous letter of Capt. William Ellesdon to the Earl of Clarendon, already alluded to. This letter, of fourteen pages, in exceptionally good and clear handwriting for the time, is exceedingly well reproduced by the photographers of the Clarendon Press.

There only now remains the final tablet to be erected in Bridport at the premises of Mr. Beach, chemist, which premises occupy the site, and, indeed, form part of the old "George Inn," where Charles's ready wit alone saved the whole party from the most imminent risk of discovery. May I express a hope that it will not be long before this memorial is also erected, and that the good work already done by the loyal county of Dorset in commemoration of the share which it had in the preservation of the fugitive king may be followed by many other parts of the country?

I cannot imagine a better way of spending one of those excellent "field-days" which so many of our county natural history and antiquarian societies set apart every summer for the pleasure and instruction of their members and their friends, than by making them the occasion of such celebrations. Our great metropolis, through the Society of Arts, has for many years past placed such fitting memorials on those buildings which have sheltered its illustrious dead. In this Coronation year surely the country districts should not be backward in doing their share.

The only matter for regret that I have in the work already carried out in West Dorset is that it should practically have been the work of one man. The great thing to be desired in these matters is accuracy, both historical and topographical, and this cannot always be relied upon when the work is initiated and carried out by a single man, however able and willing he may be. At all events, the imprimatur of a public body or a learned society is much to be desired in such matters, and I am personally very sorry that such a competent body as the Dorset Field Club, which numbers amongst its executive many men of scientific and archaeological attainments, should not have come forward, as invited, and have taken up the burden of and responsibility for that which has been done by private hands. Other promoters may not be so fortunate in having the way so carefully prepared for them as it has been in the case of Dorset.


J. S. UDAL, F.S.A.
Antigua, W.I.


Footnotes:
1. The discussion as to Charles's hiding-places ranged from 6 th S. iv. to xi.]

2. How narrowly Mr. Fea's book escaped having any illustration or detailed description of this
"lonely house," and what happy accident it was that put its author on the right track to discover it on the eve of the publication of his book, is pleasantly told by Mr. Fea in a letter to the Dorset County Chronicle in July of last year. He says : "Mr. Udal told me of his disappointment in not being able to locate this solitary house amongst the hills. This acted as a stimulant, and I explored those beautiful hills minutely over and over again, with maps, compass, and ancient records, but to no purpose." Alas for the influence of the tropics on one's memory ! I have quite forgotten this incident, and, still worse, the fact of my ever having met Mr. Fea.

3. 'It subsequently transpired that "Lee Lane'' was the pseudonym of Mr. A. M. Broadley, who will be remembered as having some years ago been the leading counsel for the notorious Arabi the Egyptian, and as the author of 'Tunis' and other works, and who had some time previously taken up his residence in the neighbouring parish of Bradpole, of which his father had for many years jeen vicar.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

On this Day: May 19th 1935 - T. E. Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia died after his motorcycle accident near Bovington



T. E. Lawrence
Probably the most famous of all Dorset's road ghosts is that of Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, alias Lawrence of Arabia, who was involved in fatal motorcycle accident on 13th May 1935.

On that ill-fated day, Lawrence was riding back on his favourite motorcycle the Brough Superior (which he nicked-named Boa, short for Boanerges, the sons of thunder) to his home at Clouds Hill from Bovington Camp when he came upon two errand boys, riding bicycles hidden from his view.

As he came upon them at great speed, he swerved violently to avoid them. Losing control of his motorcycle, Lawrence was thrown over the handlebars, receiving severe injuries to the brain.

His physical strength was so great that he lay unconscious for nearly five days before he died of congestion of the lungs and heart failure.
T. E. Lawrence's Brough Superior SS100

The evidence at the inquest revealed a curious contradiction. Corporal Catchpole of the Royal Army Ordnance Corp was standing about hundred yards from the road, near Clouds Hill, when he saw Lawrence on his motor-cycle, travelling at about fifty or sixty miles an hour, pass a black private car, going in the opposite direction, just before he heard the crash. The two boys, whose evidence about times was confused, had no memory of a car passing them.
Lawrence was laid to rest in St. Nicholas Church cemetery, Moreton on May 21st 1935 and a memorial plaque was later erected by the roadside to mark the spot in which he fell.

Since his death, it is said that local farmers and people have often heard the haunting roar of his Brough Superior motorcycle just before sunrise. However, reports say the noise abruptly ceases before anything is seen.



Nearby is the tiny isolated brick and tile cottage at Clouds Hill, bought in 1925 by T. E. Lawrence as a retreat. The austere rooms inside are much as he left them and reflect his complex personality and close links with the Middle East.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Whitsuntide Customs and Traditions in Dorset

Exhibited at the Dorset County Museum
Folklore Exhibition Brass and Wooden finials
which were fixed to wooden staves used in
Friendly Society Whitsun Club Walkings

Whitsun (also Whitsunday, Whit Sunday or Whit) is the name used for the Christian festival of Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter, which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ's disciples.

Dorset Folklorist, John Symonds Udal wrote about the traditions of Whitsuntide, the week following Whitsunday, in his book 'Dorsetshire Folklore' published in 1922:-
"Whitsuntide was, no doubt, in the old days a time of some considerable festivity amongst a certain class of Dorset folk; although I cannot find that the old " Whitsun Ales "(Or " Ale-feasts ", which, according to Halliwell, were festivals or merry makings at which ale appears to have been the predominant liquor) so common in many counties, had—at least under that name—any prominence in Dorsetshire.

It appears, however, from a sermon made by William Ketlie at Blandford Forum in 1570 that it was the custom at that time for the " Church Ales" to be kept upon the Sabbath-day, which holy day " the multitude call their revelyng day; which day is spent in bulbeatings, bearebeatings, bowling, dyeing, carding, daunsynges, drunkennes, and whoredom, in so much as men could not keepe their servauntes from lyinge out of theyr owne houses the same Sabbath-day at night ".

This does not afford a very pleasant picture of the way Dorset folk spent their Whitsuntide in Elizabethan times, and affords some evidence of the brutal sports that were practised amongst them at Whitsuntide as well as on Shrove-Tuesday. But whatever may have been the amusements which the Dorset “multitude” indulged in at that time, it is some satisfaction to find that their only survival to-day is that of the parish, or village, club-walking.

Nearly every village has, or, until recently, had its “club". The old time club was not framed upon the modern provident type, such as those excellent institutions of " Odd Fellows " and other associations founded upon the Friendly Societies' Acts, but " broke " every seven years or so, when the funds then standing to its credit were distributed amongst the members. It was customary in the old clubs that when a member died all the others were called upon to pay 2s. 6d., as a contribution for " death-rate pay ". If it was a member's wife who died the contribution was only a shilling.

This system, it can easily be seen, was far more favourable to the local tradespeople and shopkeepers than to the members to whom more extended credit was given as the time drew near for the " breaking ". In most places now I think it will be found that the old club has been replaced by more benevolent institutions, which provide much better terms in case of the sickness or death of their members. In some parishes the old and new societies have amalgamated, though, of course, those members of the old club who were above a certain age would not be able to join one of the modern Odd Fellows' Societies. They would often, too, join forces for the celebration of the Feast-day. In the parish of Symondsbury, in West Dorset, there has been no "club-walken ", or procession, for some thirty years or more.

There the old club day was the second Tuesday in May; but in most places Whitsun week was the favourite time. The members would don their sashes, rosettes, etc., and with flags and banners and preceded by a band would start about 9 a.m., walking generally four abreast in procession, the outer one of each four— usually an older man—carrying a pole, to call at the principal houses in the parish where they would be likely to obtain refreshments and sometimes money. Cider would be brought out to them in big jugs; and after being refreshed they would move on to some other farmhouse or kindly neighbour, taking care to be back in time for divine service in the parish church at noon.

The poles carried in these processions, generally painted blue with white bands running round them, are often handsomely ornamented with metal tops or points screwed on to a round wooden knob painted yellow, something in the style of the old halberds, and are much prized in the villages to which they belong. I am informed that an elderly lady living in a West Dorset village still keeps a couple of these poles at her house, which were formerly used in the local procession. If I remember rightly, too, the borough officials at Lyme Regis possess quite a number of them ; whilst a very fine collection of Somersetshire ones is preserved in the county museum at Taunton.

The "feast " was provided in a large tent or marquee erected in a field usually lent by one of the principal farmers in the parish, at which a large company assembled, the rector of the parish usually presiding, with several of the local gentry and farmers in attendance.
The dinner—which was paid for by the members—over, the speeches usual on such an occasion followed, the loyal toasts always being heartily received. The rest of the afternoon was spent in various amusements, games for the children, and dancing for the young people. There were generally a few " standings " for the selling of cakes, sweets, and toys, together with an " Aunt Sally " or a shooting gallery rigged up for the occasion. The field was frequented by a large number of visitors, who looked forward to meeting once a year at this pleasant gathering.

I may add that though I have attended these " feasts " on more than one occasion I have not noticed anything in the conduct of the people such as is animadverted upon in the Blandford sermon. It is certainly significant of the improvement in rustic morals in this respect that the modern parson only deemed it necessary to warn his hearers against the possible occurrence of some of those very delinquencies which his Elizabethan predecessor roundly accused them of having committed. (Read Barnes's poem " Whitsuntide an' Club walken ").

In his " Fore-say " (ante) William Barnes alludes to these festal gatherings, where he says that " Whitsuntide is now a time commonly chosen for the yearly meeting of the Friendly Societies'' club-walken ', as it is called in Dorset ", and mentions amongst the " resources of mirth " formerly existing at these celebrations " the mazes or miz-mazes, to be threaded by such as thought they would guide their feet to a more speedy outcoming than they would always find; but the mazes are now levelled and lost with the May queens ". He continues:—

"The village wake, called in Dorset ' Feast' (Festa) belonged mostly to the Christian seasons, as it was mainly holden at or near to the festival of the Saint to whom the village church was dedicated. At some of these feasts, however, there was cudgel-playing ; and I fear it cannot well be said that cudgel-fighting is the most fitting token of joy for the festival of St. Mary or St. John, albeit it be called ' play'; but the feast brought to some houses of the parish merry meetings of friends with kindred and friends from elsewhere."

A fitting conclusion is afforded to this subject by Barnes's very interesting dialect poem descriptive of what took place on these occasions - probably half a century before I ever saw them - which I here give in full:-

"WHITSUNTIDE AN' CLUB WALKEN. "

Ees, last Whit-Monday, I an' Meäery
Got up betimes to mind the deäeiry;
An' gi'ed the milken pails a scrub,
An' dress'd, an' went to zee the club.
Vor up at public-house, by ten
O'clock the pleaece wer vull o' men,
A-dress'd to goo to church, an' dine,
An' walk about the pleaece in line.

Zoo off they started, two an' two,
Wi' painted poles an' knots o' blue,
An' girt silk flags,--I wish my box
'D a-got em all in ceaepes an' frocks,
A-weaeven wide an' flappen loud
In playsome winds above the crowd;
While fifes did squeak an' drums did rumble,
An' deep beaezzoons did grunt an' grumble,
An' all the vo'k in gath'ren crowds
Kick'd up the doust in smeechy clouds,
That slowly rose an' spread abrode
In streamen air above the road.

An' then at church there wer sich lots
O' hats a-hangen up wi' knots,
An' poles a-stood so thick as iver,
The rushes stood beside a river.
An' Mr Goodman gi'ed em warnen
To spend their evenen lik' their mornen;
An' not to pray wi' mornen tongues,
An' then to zwear wi' evenen lungs:
Nor vu'st sheaeke hands, to let the wrist
Lift up at last a bruisen vist:
Vor clubs were all a-meäen'd vor friends,
He twold em, an' vor better ends
Than twiten vo'k an' picken quarrels,
An' tipplen cups an' empten barrels,--
Vor meaeken woone man do another
In need the kindness ov a brother.

An' after church they went to dine
'Ithin the long-wall'd room behine
The public-house, where you remember,
We had our dance back last December.
An' there they meaede sich stunnen clatters
Wi' knives an' forks, an' pleaetes an' platters;
An' waiters ran, an' beer did pass
Vrom tap to jug, vrom jug to glass:
An' when they took away the dishes,
They drink'd good healths, an' wish'd good wishes,
To all the girt vo'k o' the land,
An' all good things vo'k took in hand;
An' woone cried _hip, hip, hip!_ an' hollow'd,
An' tothers all struck in, an' vollow'd;
An' grabb'd their drink wi' eager clutches,
An' swigg'd it wi' sich hearty glutches,
As vo'k, stark mad wi' pweison stuff,
That thought theirzelves not mad enough.

An' after that they went all out
In rank ageaen, an' walk'd about,
An' gi'ed zome parish vo'k a call;
An', then went down to Narley Hall
An' had zome beer, an' danc'd between
The elem trees upon the green.
An' down along the road they done
All sorts o' mad-cap things vor fun;
An' danc'd, a-poken out their poles,
An' pushen bwoys down into holes:
An' Sammy Stubbs come out o' rank,
An' kiss'd me up ageaen the bank,
A saucy chap; I ha'nt vor'gied en
Not yet,--in short, I han't a-zeed en.
Zoo in the dusk ov evenen, zome
Went back to drink, an' zome went hwome."
Related Posts with Thumbnails