maids a milking

300px-Johannes_Vermeer_-_Het_melkmeisje_-_Google_Art_ProjectI always think of Tess of the D’Urbevilles  when it comes to the maids milking – but where am I going with this post? Well, I was actually wondering how wealthy the farmer might be if he required eight milkmaids.  The advert below  from Pamela Horn’s article about the Dorset dairy system suggests that one milk maid could milk sixteen cows.

 

“Wanted, A Man and his Wife, to manage a Dairy of Sixteen Cows; a good Character indis- pensable. Applyto Mr. Bascombe,Tatton Farm, Upway, Dorchester.”

 

Advertisement in DorsetCountyChronicle,
6 December 1860.

 

In the sixteenth century approximately 70% of the population in England were part of the agricultural labour force.  Women did work as day labourers but generally they would have been amongst the poorest in society.  The majority of women worked as servants, often in the households of extended family, or as housewives within their own homes.

Further reading reveals that a diary maid in the seventeenth century would have responsibility for up to twenty cows and would be helped in the milking by another servant. Therefore to require eight milkmaids a farmer would have owned a herd of one hundred and sixty or so cattle.  Dairy maid responsibility included butter and cheese making as well as the milking – unless of course it was the farmer’s wife who not only did the diary work but looked after the hens, baked and did all those other things required of a pre-industrial housewife.

Of course I could have gone with Marie Antoinette’s model farm at Versailles where she dressed up as a diary maid or even the milk maids who didn’t catch small pox on account of them having had cow pox. And of course, it gives me a chance to add the Milkmaid by Vehmeer into the equation!

Horn, Pamela, The Dorset Dairy System http://www.bahs.org.uk/AGHR/ARTICLES/26n2a3.pdf

Kussmaul, Ann. Servants in Husbandry in Early Modern England.

Mute swans swimming

richard the lionheartThe swans are a swimming because most of us haven’t been allowed to tuck into one since 1482 when a law was passed saying that only some landowners could keep and eat swans.  They all had to be marked by nicks in their beaks. The Queen  and the Worshipful Company of  Dyers  and also Vintners own mute swans –  if they’re unmarked and in open water in England and Wales.  So if you caught and ate an unmarked swan until 1994 you were  technically committing treason. Since then they have been protected by the 1981 act which protects wildlife from the predation of the culinary adventurous.

 

In 1189, Richard I, gave the worshipful companies joint ownership along with the Crown of unclaimed swans – though given my understanding of Richard I, I would guess that there was a hefty fee for the privilege.  According to legend he brought the swans home with him from Cyprus following the third crusade. Other sources mention the Romans – who get everywhere.   However if we want to see documentary evidence of the mute swan in royal hands then we have to wait for the reign of Edward I who mentions them in his wardrobe accounts.  There’s a cook book dating from the reign of Richard II which detail how to cook one.

The one thing that is clear is that mute swans were much prized and apparently prone to being stolen from their rightful owners in medieval times – there’s even a mention of a swanherd or ‘swonhirde’ if  you prefer spelling 1282 style. And quite frankly I’m going to stop on that delightful thought.

 

https://britishbirds.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/article_files/V17/V17_N08/V17_N08_P174_182_A038.pdf

http://sciencepress.mnhn.fr/sites/default/files/articles/pdf/az1995n22a5.pdf

The Thetford Hoard – how many gold rings?

gold rings.jpgNot five gold rings but twenty-two of them!   The hoard was unearthed in 1979 to reveal a large collection of late Roman jewellery and silver table ware.  There were also 22 silver spoons.  The hoard was carefully buried for safe keeping or during time of trouble.  For whatever reason, the owner was unable to return to retrieve his or her possessions. It is even uncertain as to what kind of person might have owned such a valuable collection.  It has been suggested that they belonged to a jeweller or were destined to be some kind of religious offering.  It is impossible to add to the context of the hoard as by the time the hoard was registered by the metal detectorist who found it – building work had taken place making the Thetford Hoard one of life’s little mysteries.

Gerrard, James. The Ruin of Roman Britain: An Archeological Perspective

Ogden, Jack.  Ancient Jewellery

 

Blackbirding, debt bondage, serfdom and slavery

170px-Official_medallion_of_the_British_Anti-Slavery_Society_(1795).jpgI’m not sure if I would be terribly pleased if someone gave me four calling or holly birds for Christmas.  Unfortunately I can think of something historic to do with black birds or more specifically the deeply repugnant act of “black birding.”  Some nineteenth century Australian settlers dealt with labour  shortages by ‘blackbirding’ Southsea Islanders.  Islanders were transported from their homes to Australia from the 1860s onwards.  Many of the labourers were tricked into boarding the ships  or did not realise the terms and conditions of their employment- at best they could be described as bonded labourers at worst they were slaves who had simply been rounded up by ships’ crews and kidnapped at gunpoint.  Blackbirding was made illegal in 1872 following an episode where more than 60 people were killed during a black birding raid. The idea of tricking people or simply rounding them up and taking them away from their homes is not a new one and sadly not an extinct one.

Reeve_and_Serfs.jpgWhen William the Conqueror arrived in 1066 there were a class of Saxons who were slaves, it’s thought about 10% of the population – they had come into slavery by different methods including being sold into slavery as children, being bale to pay a debt or for a crime.  Some of the slaves had been born slaves, a reminder that many the Norse peoples who  settled in Britain had grown wealthy on the back of slavery.  Slaves had no value in terms of weir-gold but they did have value as property.  Slave owners were  legally responsible for the actions of the men, women and children that they owned.

The Normans did away with slavery but serfdom – the bottom of the feudal hierarchy- essentially meant that  people who were serfs could not leave the manors on which they were born, could be bought and sold by their lords of the manor and were required to work for the lord of the manor.  Serfdom was effectively a form of debt bondage- services in repayment for an obligation created by their lord’s care of them.  The Black Death with arrived in 1349 helped to speed the demise of serfdom on account of the resulting labour shortage.

The transportation of slaves from Africa began in the sixteenth century as work forces were required in the Americas.  Essentially, at various times and locations, the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English arrived along with their bugs and lurgies which killed off local populations meaning that there was no one close at hand to force into servitude.  The first shipments of slaves went directly from Africa to the Caribbean and by the early seventeenth century the English had started to forcibly move large numbers of people to North America to work on the sugar plantations.  This led to the development of the so-called triangular trade which saw Liverpool and Bristol flourish – The trans Atlantic or middle passage  of the triangular trade with boats laden with men, women and children destined for slavery was not one of British History’s finest moments.  It has been estimated that mortality rates were about 50% before vessels became larger and greater care taken of the “cargo.”

gardener

 

 

Kaufman, Miranda. Black Tudors: The Untold Story

Orr, Brian J. Bones of Empire.

Two turtle doves…or in our case one phoenix, a turtle and Mr Shakespeare.

elizabethphoenix

The turtle dove has been in steep decline during the last century.

The Phoenix and the turtle was written in 1601 to go in an anthology entitled Love’s Martyr.  All the works in the anthology have the theme of the two birds.

Essentially the phoenix is married to the turtle dove. The pair love each other so completely that they grow like one another over the duration of their relationship. But times are changing. The pair die and when they die true love dies along with them – there will be no one as virtuous or in love as them ever again. They have been married but chaste – so they leave no children. They are buried and a variety of other birds come to mourn at the funeral. It is the end of a golden age.

There are lots of different interpretations and arguments which this post has no intention of covering. Suffice it to say each bird is the subject of academic speculation.  It doesn’t help that Love’s Martyr is dedicated to Sir John Salusbury – a fairly obscure personage.  In which case he logically should be the phoenix and his wife Ursula the dove.  In any event there wasn’t a great deal of chastity involved as they had ten children. And let’s not get into the whole who was Shakespeare thing!

The phoenix is often, but not always, seen as straight forward enough – Elizabeth I was linked to the phoenix on more than one occasion.    Most famously in 1575 Elizabeth featured in two portraits by Nicholas Hilliard.  In one she is holding a pelican pendant – pinched from Catholic iconography- Elizabeth is stating that she is the mother of her nation and that like the pelican which wounds itself to feeds its young so she has made a great sacrifice for her people – i.e. her unwed state.  The Phoenix Portrait pictured at the start of this post is a reminder that Elizabeth is unique and that having been consumed by the flames the phoenix arises from the ashes.  This could be a reference to the near disaster of her mother’s fall from favour and the dangers she faced during the reign of Mary I.  It could also reference the idea that the people of England should not fear for the future because a) the phoenix lives for 500 years before going up in smoke and b) just as the phoenix regenerates so the Crown will be reborn.  Unfortunately in 1601 it was clear that Elizabeth wasn’t going to last much longer and there was the small issue of who would succeed her.

Which brings us neatly to the other birds in the poem, the mourners.  One of them, the “bird of the loudest lay,” could very well be James VI of Scotland whilst the crow is often interpreted as being Shakespeare himself.  Essentially its important to have some understanding of bird lore before attempting the allegorical meaning behind the poem.  And many scholars take the view that it really is not the point of the poem to try and decipher the bird code at all.  It could simply be that Shakespeare was effectively whistling very loudly whilst writing about the intangibility of true love and trying to distance himself from the Earl of Essex’s Rebellion.  He must have been very aware of the possibility he would be associated with treason given that on the 7th February 1601 his players performed Richard II (and that didn’t end well for the monarch in question).  Shakespeare was paid forty shillings by some of the earl’s supporters, the Earl rose in rebellion the following day  with 300 supporters and marched on London – the play was some kind of signal- but Londoners didn’t take the hint.  Shakespeare must have spent some time afterwards checking that his head was still on his shoulders.

 

2nd earl of essexSo – let us get on to the turtle dove who is after all supposed to be the centre of this post.  In Tudor times the turtle dove represented fidelity.  If Elizabeth is the phoenix who then is the dove?  Robert Devereux the 2nd earl of Essex remains a popular choice.  The idea gained popularity in the 1960s with the analysis of William Matchett. Although, quite frankly, how rushing off  to fight the Spanish in 1586 without permission, getting married without Elizabeth’s approval, referencing the queen’s “crooked carcass,” arriving back from Ireland uninvited, unannounced and bursting into the royal bedchamber before finally revolting and getting oneself beheaded could be described as fidelity is another matter entirely.  One view is that the phoenix and the turtle dove have burned out their love for one another.  It is then argued that Shakespeare was not writing a straight forward poem at all. He was doing something very dangerous –  he was writing a pro Essex poem which basically turns the earl into a hero in the aftermath of his failed rising and subsequent execution on 26th February 1601.

And yes – there are many more theories about who the turtle dove might be but I think it’s time to move away from the topic as I could go around ever decreasing circles for some considerable time.

Incidentally Salusbury was knighted for his part in the suppression of Essex’s rebellion whilst his brother  got himself executed in 1586  for supporting Mary Queen of Scots.

 

 

Bednarz, J. Shakespeare and the Truth of Love: The Mystery of ‘The Phoenix and Turtle’

 

Francis Stewart Hepburn, the 5th Earl of Bothwell

250px-Daemonologie1.jpgThere must be something about the name Bothwell that invites trouble.   James Hepburn the 4th Earl was probably involve dint he murder of Henry  Stuart Lord Darnley’s murder, kidnapped Mary Queen of Scots, married her and ended up imprisoned in Dragsholm in Denmark chained to a post where he died in a state of filth and ever increasing insanity.

The 5th Earl was James’ nephew.  His mother was James’ sister Janet and his father was John Stewart – one of Mary Queen of Scots’ illegitimate half-brothers.  He became the earl in 1576 but travelled abroad so only became an important, if troublesome, figure in the court of James VI in 1581 when he returned home.

Unfortunately  Francis wasn’t keen on the Earl of Arran – who was James VI of Scotland’s favourite at that time.  In 1583 he was part of a kidnap plot which aimed to separate James from Arran.  Another attempt was made in 1584.  This time Francis had to flee to England to escape the repercussions of his plans.  In 1585 he returned to Scotland with an army provided by Elizabeth I – Arran fled and Francis returned to court.

The calm was quickly shattered with the execution of Mary Queen of Scots in 1587.  Francis took a dim view of the death of his aunt and wasn’t impressed by James’ response.  When James ordered the court into mourning after no attempt to save his mother’s life, Francis turned up in a suit of armour.

And then in 1590 it swiftly became clear that James regarded his cousin as the devil. James had travelled to Denmark to marry his bride.  Once there he’d become intrigued with the idea of witchcraft.  He believed that the storm which had driven Ann back to Norway, then part of Denmark’s realm, had been caused by witchcraft.

Investigations commenced.  James VI oversaw them.  It turned out that the North Berwick coven had men on October 31st in North Berwick churchyard – many of them arriving by broom or axe – then several unfortunate cats were thrown into the sea having been tortured and strangled.  This was what caused the storms.

Geillis Duncan was questioned first.  She had a reputation for being good with herbs and widened to encompass a net of some three hundred alleged witches.  James VI oversaw the interrogation of Agnes Sampson which involved shaving all the hair from her body and then wrenching her head with a rope.  Oddly enough she confessed to avoid further torture.

Conveniently for James the Earl of Bothwell’s name kept making an appearance- there are two schools of thought on this i) he was framed or ii) he was indeed a practitioner of dark arts – his uncle was similarly accused.   In April 1591 the Earl of Bothwell was summoned to Edinburgh to answer charges.  James believed that Francis wanted his throne and what better way of achieving it than by bumping off the current incumbent by witchcraft?

The earl escaped and went into hiding – the outcomes of James’ trials tended to be unpleasant. When the jury cleared Barbara Napier the king had them put on trial as well. James declared that Francis had given himself over to the devil and promptly confiscated his belongings.

The earl  then attempted to seize Holyrood House with the idea of capturing James and making him change his mind. The bid was not a success.  In 1593 he captured the king  using the stratagem of simply marching in upon the hapless monarch with a pistol and asking for forgiveness. Francis extracted a praise of pardon for his previous misdemeanours from James who was caught on the privy stool. Later, and presumably in a position of more dignity James forbade his cousin from coming within ten miles of him.

Francis failed to change his behaviour.  In March 1594 he launched the Raid of Leith to capture the king with four hundred men.  It was unsuccessful and James’ patience was completely exhausted. In 1595 the earl fled to France and from there to Naples where he died.

He was the last Earl of Bothwell.

Borman, Tracey. Wichen: James I and the English Witch hunts.

Poppy Festival

IMG_0876Who would have thought helping to put a poppy festival together could be so time consuming…or require so many poppies.  It was a humbling experience to consider that on average for each day of the Great War 1500 men from all sides of the conflict were killed.  It took much longer than that to make the 1500 poppies that decorated St Thomas’s.  Every one was involved from pre-school toddlers to, school children, to the scouts, the WI and the anonymous individuals who left  beautiful hand knitted and crocheted poppies on my doorstep and which now climb from floor to the top of the gallery at the back of the church.

Twelve men are named on the war memorial opposite the church.  It is sited in a spot that was once the corner of the garden where Private Joseph Brindley  played as a child before he turned seventeen and joined the marines.  I had the honour to read his diary and to see the hole in its pages that marked the track of the bullet that killed him at the beginning of September 1918.  I can only imagine the grief that his family must have suffered when they unwrapped the parcel that arrived containing his dress uniform, trench periscope and diary.

Tomorrow normal blogging will resume – today though, here are a few pictures of poppies:

Gloriana

Halifax Thursday 25th October

Places still available – 

If you’re thinking of coming to Gloriana a life in pictures there are still a few places available.  Please let me know if you’re a regular and would like to attend.

queen_elizabeth_armada_portraitElizabeth is most usually depicted in costumes laden with symbolism but when she made her first appearance on the political stage in September 1533 shortly after her brith on the 7th of that month she was paraded as a naked babe in arms by her proud father for the benefit of Europe’s ambassadors.

Ann Boleyn had retired for her confinement in Greenwich Palace in August 1533.  The room with its fastened windows and tapestry heavy walls must have seemed close and airless.  Henry had been promised a son but the child who was born at 3pm on the 7th was a girl.  Henry was swift to say that boys would follow – Elizabeth appeared to be a healthy infant and this particular father knew that many babies didn’t arrive safely in the world so he made the best of a bad bargain.

She was baptised when she was three days old at Greenwich in the Church of the Observant Friars.  An account of the baptism may be found in  Henry VIII’s letters and papers for 1533:

the Childe was brought to the hall, and then every man set forward: first, the Cittizens two and two; then Gentlemen, Esquires, and Chap-laines ; next after them the Aldermen, and the Maior alone; and next the Kinges Counsell; then the Kinges Chappel in coaps; then Barons, Bishops, Earles, the Earle of Essex bearing the covered basons gilt; after him the Marques of Excester with a taper of virgin wax; -next him the Marques Dorset bearing the salt; behind him the Lady Mary of Norfolke bearing the crisome, which was very rich of pearle and stone. The old Dutches of Norfolke bare the Childe in a mantle of purple velvet, with a long traine furred with ermine. The Duke of Norfoike with his marshal’s rod went on the right hand of the saide Dutchesse; and the Duke of Suffbike on the left hand ; and before them went Officers of Armes ; the Countesse of Kent bare the long traine of the Childes mantle; and meane betweene the Childe and the Countesse of Kent went the Earle of Wilshire and tlie Earle of Darby on either side, supporting the said traine in the middest: over the Childe was borne a rich canapie, by the Lord Rochford, the Lord Hussey, the Lord William Howard, and the Lord Thomas Howard the elder. After the Childe, followed many Ladies and Gentlewomen.

 

Matlock Courses Cancelled

dark and narrow staircaseDear Potential Day School Students at the Whitworth Centre,

Unfortunately I haven’t had a very successful take up rate for day schools at the Whitworth Centre.  I’ve tried fliers, Facebook and the HistoryJar blog.  The Whitworth Centre have advertised on their website and given me some helpful guidance on where to advertise but ultimately if I don’t have enough students I can’t run the day schools  and the Whitworth Centre need to know their room availability. Therefore I regret that all the day schools at the Whitworth Centre have been cancelled.

I shall contact all students individually who have signed up and return payments by the end of next week. I am sorry for any inconvenience caused. I hope to pick myself up, brush myself down and start all over again when I have worked out how to attract more of my target audience.

 

Many thanks

 

Julia

 

 

 

 

Murder in the Abbey- John of Gaunt style

john of gauntIn 1378 Westminster Abbey had to be closed for several months after  an unfortunate interlude.  Murder had been done in the choir and John of Gaunt was implicated.  It didn’t help his reputation as the abbey had to be reconsecrated.

The back story is important. Two knights called Schakell and Hawle or Hauley had taken a Spanish Count prisoner whilst fighting with the Black Prince during the Hundred Years War – the capture took place in 1367 at the Battle of Najera. A ransom was required for the release of the Count of Denia from Aragon.  This was normal procedure and one of the reasons why going to war was so popular as men were able to make a fortune on the battlefield by capturing wealthy men. The Count was allowed to return to Spain to organise the ransom but had to leave his son, Alphonso, as a hostage. Ten years later Alphonso, who was the count’s eldest son was still in England.

Unfortunately for Schakell and Robert Hawle, who was actually Schakell’s squire John of Gaunt was negotiating for the Crown of Castile.  The fact that a Spanish noble was being held hostage until his pa sent back large sums of cash was not good press. Pressure was applied.  Remember this was only a year after Richard II had become king.  John’s power whilst not absolute was non the less impressive.

The two knights refused to release their prisoner. John had them arrested and sent to the Tower of London to focus their minds.   They managed to escape from the Tower and fled to Westminster Abbey where they claimed sanctuary.

You can probably see where this is going.  Sanctuary was ignored by a group of by the Constable of the Tower, Alan Boxhall. Schakell was captured but Hawle and a monk were murdered in the Choir.  All of which sounds as though it was a mad chase through the street and an action which took place in the heat of the moment.

Unfortunately a royal letter made its way to the Abbot of Westminster demanding that Schakell and Hawle be handed over.  The abbot refused.  And that’s when the Constable made his move – so not the heat of the moment. And he didn’t go with a few men.  He took fifty men into the abbey.

The upshot of this was that Bloxhall and all who were involved were excommunicated apart from the young Richard II, his mother Joan of Kent and of course John of Gaunt which seems a bit rich as it’s not a wild leap of deduction to work out who the plan’s mastermind might have been.