‘They that wive twixt sickle and scythe shall never thrive’
The time between Haymaking and the corn harvest was such a busy period, that it was considered a bad time to marry. Haymaking was done by hand with a sickle, these were swung at an angle to cut the grass, and made easier if a good rhyme could be set up. The first man would step out in to the meadow but the next man had to leave a little gap to ensure he was safe from the swinging sickle.
Apparently, the song ‘One Man went to mow, went to move a meadow’ gives the right gap, the second man would come in with the next line ‘Two Men went to mow, went to move a meadow’ and so on. Once cut, the grass needed to be dried out in the fields, and turned every so often with a pitchfork. Once dried, it was taken to the farmyard and the hay built into a hayrick. The rick typically had a thatched roof. The hay, normally made of a mixture of grasses, was cut off from the rick by a hay knife to fed to animals in the winter.
Experiments at Rothamsted Park Grass, in Hertfordshire, has allowed scientists to study the effects of annual hay cutting since 1860 (the oldest field experiment in the world). The counterintuitive result is the discovery that when fertiliser was evenly applied, the number of plant species decline from forty to fewer than five. This is from an interesting article about making your lawn more wildlife friendly.
July is the month of Haymaking, as you can see from the July image in the Kalendar of Shepherds. To find out more, have a look at my 2022 post on haymaking, which I have revised for you to read.
July is named for Julius Caesar. Originally, it was called Quintilis, as it was the fifth month of the Roman calendar, which originally started in March. Caesar reformed the calendar in 44BC and the Senate renamed the month after him.
It is called Lúil in Irish and Gorffennaf in Welsh. In Anglo Saxon July was Æfteraliða, or “after-mild;”, Liða, means “mild” or “gentle,” or the period of warm weather around Midsummer. June is Arraliða, or “before-mild”.
It is on average the warmest month in most of the Northern Hemisphere, where it is the second month of summer. The star signs for July are: Cancer (until July 22) and Leo (July 23 onwards),
From the Kalendar of Shepherds comes this description of July.
On the 10th April 2023, Heritage England announced on its webpage, that they had listed a Bank which contained the world’s first ATM Machine. Barclays Bank choose its Enfield Branch for this honour which opened on 27th June 1967. Above, you will see local celebrity, Reg Varney (in hat), a star of a very popular and ‘corny’ sitcom called ‘On the Buses.’ opening the new machine. It miraculously delivered a £10 note without any human intervention, and offered access to money after banking hours.
Barclay’s had previously launched the UK’s first credit card, and selected Enfield to be the place where they launched an automatic machine to dispense money – nicknamed ‘money machines’ in the UK. The customer was issued a ‘punched card’ and had to enter a PIN for the magic to be initiated. Barclays were developing the idea of a magnetic strip on a card at the same time.
The building, which has a plaque and a gold-painted modern ATM, is Grade II listed and so should be protected from development in future. The building itself is an interesting, almost typical, late Victorian red brick commercial building, with fine details in the Flemish Renaissance style by William Gilbee Scott. Scott lived in Enfield.
I look forward to visiting it on my next visit to Enfield Lock on my narrow boat Mrs Towser.
On my post of June 3rd I wrote about the street festivals in the Tudor City of London to celebrate the feast day of saints. I promised to continue the story on the Feast day of St John (24th June). This is set out in full below. It includes the Feast Day of St Peter and Paul (29th June) What is amazing is the scale and the expense of the celebrations.
These Saints are some of the most important in the Christian Calendar. John being the forerunner to Jesus and his cousin, and Peter and Paul being the apostles who, more than anyone else, created the Christian Church.
There are also pagan rituals associated with the Feast of St John. Here is an example of French pagan solstice fires:
“They were lit at the crossroads in the fields to prevent witches and sorceresses from passing through during the night; herbs gathered on Saint John’s Day were sometimes burned to ward off lightning, thunder and storms, and it was thought that these fumigations would ward off demons and tumults.”
For more information, have a look at ‘French Moments’ here:
The Feast of St John is often described as being on the Summer Solstice, it isn’t by modern reckoning, but nor is December 25th the Winter Solstice. But they were celebrated as such by Christians, and the Solstice can be thought of as spread over 3 or 4 days (or more if taking into account Solstice Old style. The major events of the sun and the moon were linked into Christian theology and symbolism. Jesus, son of God, would clearly have arrived on the auspicious time of the Winter Solstice. His cousin, John the Baptist, came to tell the world about the coming of Jesus and so his birthday was exactly 6 months before at the Summer Solstice.
St John is also special as most Saint’s Days are linked to the day of their death, but June 24th is the birthday of St John. His beheading by Herod is commemorated on 29th August.
St John the Baptist upon Walbrook in the City of London is first mentioned in the 12th Century, burnt down and not rebuilt after the Great Fire of London. The parish was united with St Antholin, Budge Row, The Graveyard survived until 1884 when the District Line destroyed most of the Graveyard and the bones were reinterred below a monument, which can still be seen in Cloak Lane.
Here is what John Stow tells us about the processions on the night before the feast of St John (24th June) and St Peter and Paul (29th June):
On the vigil of St. John the Baptist, and on St. Peter and Paul the Apostles, every man’s door being shadowed with green birch, long fennel, St. John’s wort, orpin, white lilies, and such like, garnished upon with garlands of beautiful flowers, had also lamps of glass, with oil burning in them all the night; some hung out branches of iron curiously wrought, containing hundreds of lamps alight at once, which made a goodly show, namely in New Fish street, Thames street, etc.
Then had ye besides the standing watches all in bright harness, in every ward and street of this city and suburbs, a marching watch, that passed through the principal streets thereof, to wit, from the little conduit by Paule’s gate to West Cheape, by the stocks through Cornhill, by Leaden hall to Aldgate, then back down Fenchurch street, by Grasse church, about Grasse church conduit, and up Grasse church street into Cornhill, and through it into West Cheape again.
Grasse Church Street is Gracechurch Street.
The whole way for this marching watch extendeth to three thousand two hundred tailor’s yards of assize; for the furniture whereof with lights, there were appointed seven hundred cressets, five hundred of them being found by the companies, the other two hundred by the chamber of London.
Note a cresset is: a ‘metal container of oil, grease, wood, or coal set alight for illumination and typically mounted on a pole’ (Wikipedia).
Besides the which lights every constable in London, in number more than two hundred and forty, had his cresset: the charge of every cresset was in light two shillings and four pence, and every cresset had two men, one to bear or hold it, another to bear a bag with light, and to serve it, so that the poor men pertaining to the cressets, taking wages, besides that every one had a straw hat, with a badge painted, and his breakfast in the mornings amounted in number to almost two thousand.
The marching watch contained in number about two thousand men, part of them being old soldiers of skill, to be captains, lieutenants, serjeants, corporals, etc., wiflers, drummers, and fifes, standard and ensign bearers, sword players, trumpeters on horseback, demilances on great horses, gunners with hand guns, or half hakes, archers in coats of white fustian, signed on the breast and back with the arms of the city, their bows bent in their hands, with sheaves of arrows by their sides, pike-men in bright corslets, burganets, etc., halberds, the like bill-men in almaine rivets, and apernes of mail in great number;
there were also divers pageants, morris dancers, constables, the one-half, which was one hundred and twenty, on St. John’s eve, the other half on St. Peter’s eve, in bright harness, some overgilt, and every one a jornet of scarlet thereupon, and a chain of gold, his henchman following him, his minstrels before him, and his cresset light passing by him, the waits of the city, the mayor’s officers for his guard before him, all in a livery of worsted, or say jackets party-coloured, the mayor himself well mounted on horseback, the swordbearer before him in fair armour well mounted also, the mayor’s footmen, and the like torch bearers about him, henchmen twain upon great stirring horses, following him.
The sheriffs’ watches came one after the other in like order, but not so large in number as the mayor’s; for where the mayor had besides his giant three pageants, each of the sheriffs had besides their giants but two pageants, each their morris dance, and one henchman, their officers in jackets of worsted or say, party-coloured, differing from the mayor’s, and each from other, but having harnessed men a great many, etc
John Stow, author of the ‘Survey of London‘ first published in 1598
Following my post where I introduced the story of Henry Ford and his visits to Broadway; my subscriber from Paris sent me details that led me to a really comprehensive description of Ford’s activities in the Cotswolds. He loved it so much, as the post from the Henry Ford Museum reveals, that he sent to the US not only a complete Cottage, but also the Barn, Stables and dry stone walling. He then went to stay in the Lygon Arms in Broadway; visited nearby Snowshill, where a dilapidated Blacksmith Shop dating to the 1600s with all its tools was purchased and sent to the Museum in Michigan.
Here is the post – it has lots of interesting photos.
I have revised my Midsummer post which you can see below. Also shocking news from France.
Salon IF reported a shocking destruction in France – this is the report, verbatim from Salon IF issue 514.
Fury in France at Destruction of 7,000 Year-Old Standing Stones
Dozens of standing stones, erected over 7,000 years ag
o, have been demolished to make way for a DIY store near Carnac, in Brittany, in North West France. Some 37 stones, measuring between 0.5 – 1.5m tall, were removed despite the fact the site had long been on France’s National Archaeological Map. The stones, moreover, had been submitted to the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (although the application had not yet been approved).
The region of Carnac is famous for its ancient ‘menhir’ – heavy, raised standing stones. Indeed, the area is often described as ‘the French Stonehenge’, with over 3,000 stone megaliths at the two sites of Menec and Kermario. There, the stone columns are arranged in long, straight rows and, according to the Carnac Tourist Office, it is the largest gathering of this type of standing stone in the world.
The land at the centre of the recent controversy, along the Montauban activity zone, had been granted a building permit by the local mayor’s office in August 2022 and construction of the new store, ‘Mr Bricolage’, was already underway. According to local amateur archaeologist, Christian Obeltz, who had originally raised concerns about the ‘brutal developments’, a bulldozer destroyed the stones overnight.
The Regional Office of Cultural Affairs for Brittany, the body responsible for the protection of the monument, said ‘Given the uncertain and in any case non-major character of the remains, as revealed by
checks, damage to a site of archaeological value has not been established’, but Obeltz maintains that archaeological investigation into the area had not been sufficient.
‘The Chemin de Montauban site included two intersecting rows of small granite stelae, each spreading out over fifty meters in length. One had been exactly in its original place for 7,000 years,’ according to Obletz. ‘The small menhirs of the Chemin de Montauban were undoubtedly one of the oldest sets of stelae in the town of Carnac’ believed to date between 5480 and 5320 BC, ‘the highest dating obtained for a menhir in the west of France’.
Midsummer Solstice is the 21st of June, but the Celtic version of it began when the Celtic Day begun, on June 20th, which we would call Midsummer Eve.
In the early medieval period the Church hijacked Midsummer’s Day and transferred it to June 24th St John the Baptist’s Day. The reasons is that St John was born 6 months before Jesus, hence the June 24th date.
Midsummer is a fire festival, dedicated to Belinus. His name might mean Powerful One or Shining One, and he is linked to Apollo, one of the Greco-Roman Sun Gods. His main festival is Beltane, May Day, but many of the attributes of May celebrations and indeed Halloween celebrations are also carried out in Midsummer.
John Aubrey in the 17th Century writes:
‘Still in many places on St John’s Night they make Fires on the Hills: but the Civil Warres coming on have putt all these Rites or customes quite out of fashion.’
John Aubrey, Miscellanies, 1695
Like May Fires, the fire should be made from wood donated from all farms in the area, and using a range of trees, ideally collected by 9 men and from 9 different trees. Blazing branches should be carried sunwise around the fields to bless the crops, and it was good luck to jump over the ashes of the fire.
To prepare for Midsummer remember that it is, like Halloween, uncanny when Hobgoblins, Fairies and Sprites, are, like in Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, all abroad making mischief.
First in your line of defence is St John’s Wort, known as Chasse-diable, Demon Chaser, Fuga Daemonum amongst many other appellations it could be used to keep demons away, and to exorcise haunted houses. John Aubrey in Miscellanies talks about a haunted London house which was cured by a Doctor who put St John’s Wort under the pillow of the bed at night. Bankes Herbel 1525 says:
‘The virtue of St John’s Wort is thus. If it be put in a man’s house, there shall come no wicked sprite therein.’
Vervain, yarrow, corn marigold, and orpins were also used often woven into garlands, and hung around the necks of cows, or on door lintels as protection. If the St John’s Wort withered the picker was to die or at least endure disappointment. If orpins entwined themselves on Midsummer’s Night, marriage would follow.
A girl seeking love should walk around the Church seven or twelve times (accounts vary!) at midnight scattering hempseed, and singing:
Hempseed I sow Hempseed I hoe Let him that is my true love Come after me and mow
In the SW of England there was a custom to watch the church porch on Midsummer Evening, when the spirits of all the living people of the village could be seen entering the church. Those not seen coming out again would surely die as would the watcher who fell asleep.
Orpine, (Sedum Telephium) aka Live Long, Life Everlasting was valued for the length of time it remained fresh after being gathered. Medicinally, it was considered good to use outwardly to cool scaldings, inflammations, and wounds.
St John’s Wort has a reputation for helping with depression, menopausal symptoms, ADHD, anxiety and other conditions.
Thanks to the ‘Customs and Ceremonies of Britain’ by Charles Kightly.
One of the joys of my Spring & Summer is revisiting places I know and love in my role as a Course Director for Road Scholar. Sunday, I was in Broadway, once considered the most beautiful village in Britain. It was also the model for Riseholme in the wonderful ‘Mapp and Lucia’ books by E. F. Benson (made into a TV series by the BBC starring Prunella Scales, Geraldine McEwan and Nigel Hawthorne).
This weekend was the:
The artists register in the morning and have their paper or canvas stamped, or given a block of Maltese stone. They then go off to create a work of art in the village. At 3pm or so, they are judged. At 5pm, the art works are exhibited and often on sale in the Marquee on the village green.
It’s always a delight walking around Broadway in the sun, but with an artist and easel every 50 yards or so even more enjoyable. By the tent on the village green were about 10 sculptors chipping away at identical blocks of stone.
I believe ceramic, textile, and artists in other media also are willing to have a go at making art in a sevely limited timescale.
The appellation of most beautiful village, came in the late 19th Century. Broadway, once made rich by selling wool and then as a stop off on the stage coach route from Aberystwyth to Worcester, Oxford and London, fell on hard times with the arrival of Brunel’s Great Western Railway to the Cotswolds. Half the village, the Broadway Museum says, moved away as their livelihood serving the coaching trade died.
But artists, led by Americans Frances Millet and Edwin Abbey, turned Broadway into a much sort-after country retreat. Visitors included Oscar Wilde, J. M. Barrie, Singer-Sargeant, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Gabriel Dante Rossetti, American actress, Mary Anderson, Edward Elgar, E. F, Benson. Mark Twain visited for Millet’s marriage.
What made the visit particularly interesting was the story told to me by the Volunteer at the Gordon Russell Museum in Broadway. (More about Gordon Russell in a future post) This is the story as I understood it:
The Russells restored the Lygon Arms in Broadway using Arts And Crafts architects. They also restored antique furniture. The son, Gordon Russell, became a leading designer of modernist Furniture and so advertised to passengers on the Cunard Line in order to attract the attention of rich American visitors. One, Henry T Ford, was interested, came to Broadway, staying at the Lygon arms. He asked for help to purchase a Cotswold Cottage. He was taken to nearby village Snowshill, where Ford bought a complete Blacksmith’s workshop, and shipped them back stone by numbered stone to Brentford on the Thames, then to the London Docks and across the Atlantic to set them up in a Museum in Michigan where they still are!
Research suggests it’s a little more complicated, in so far as he purchased his first Cottage before coming to Broadway, but it still leaves a delightful story about American ideas of Quintessential English village life. More on this story here:
By the way, Frances Millet planned to return to the States on the Titanic. He was one of the 1500 who drowned, but a letter he wrote while on the ship was posted, probably in France and is on display in the Broadway Museum.
When it is hottest in June, it will be coldest in the corresponding days in February.
(Weather Lore by Richard Inwards 1895)
Moneywort flowers in June/July. It is, also known as Creeping Jenny, Wandering Jenny, Creeping Joan, or Wandering Sailor. All names alluding to its rapid trailing over the Ground.
It’s also called Herb Tuppence or String of Sovereigns and variations. ‘Herbe 2 pence’ was the name given by William Turner in the earliest English scientific Herbal, 1551. He learnt his medicine in Italy in Ferrara and Bologna and went abroad again, in exile from Mary 1st’s religious intolerance.
Its Latin name is Lysimachia nummularis (from the Latin for money nummulus) Mrs Grieve suggests that the two pence idea comes from the leaves which ‘look like rows of pennies, and the golden flowers which give the name String of Sovereigns.’
There was said to be ‘not a better wound-herb’, and that wounded serpents would wrap themselves around it. Hence, yet another name is Serpentaria. Also, it was thought to be good for stomachs, and against whooping cough.
It can be used both fresh or dried, but if to be dried, collect in June. It prospers in damp conditions and self-spreads.
St Columba, or Colmcille is one of the most important saints for the early transmission of Christianity. He was born in 521 and said to be a descendent of the possibly legendary Irish King Niall of the Nine Hostages. (The Hostages were a token of Niall’s power as they came from the five provinces of Ireland, which are Ulster, Connacht, Leinster, Munster, andMeath. The other four represented Scotland, the Saxons, the Britons, and the Franks). Columba was sent, at an early, age to be brought up as a Monk and went on to set up Monasteries in Ireland at Derry and Durrow.
In 563, he left Ireland, possibly because he got involved in a dispute that lead to loss of life. He went into exile to Scotland and set up the famous Monastery on the island of Iona, Inner Hebrides, off the coast of what would one day be called Scotland. At the time, it was under the control of the Kingdom of Dál Riata, which was nominally Christian and controlled parts of Ulster and Western Scotland. From Iona, Columba led the conversion of the Picts to Christianity, which helped towards the unification of the Gaels, the Picts and the Britons, eventually into the Kingdom of Alba which became Scotland. Early Scottish Kings such as Macbeth (Mac Bethad mac Findlaích) were buried here.
Much of the events of this part of Columba’s life are legendary as recorded by St. Adamnan in The Life of Saint Columba written in the 7th Century. One notable story is that he came across a group of Pagan Picts who were mourning a child killed by a monster in the River Ness. St Columba revived the child. He then sent one of the Brothers to swim across the Loch to fetch a boat. The “water beast” pursued the Monk and was about to attack him when St Columba told the monster to stop, and so it did, retreating to the depths of Loch Ness. Thus founding the legend of the Loch Ness monster.
St Columba died in 597AD. Iona continued to prosper and in, 634AD sent St Aidan from Iona to found the Monastery at Lindisfarne. This was instrumental in the conversion of the Kingdom of Northumbria. This tradition of evangelism took hold in the British Isles, and it was from here that much of the German-speaking world was converted to Christianity.
This is St Columba’s legacy.
There is a developing understanding among scholars that this Irish inspired form of Christianity took a leading role in ritual, art, scholarship in the Roman Catholic world at this time. Just stop and think about that sentence for a moment. The north-western extreme of the Islands off the coast of Europe took a leading role in the development of Western Christianity. This was highlighted in a recent exhibition of Anglo-Saxon art at the British Library.
A look at the Lindisfarne Gospel and the Book of Kells showcases the amazing art of this period. For a real treat, look through this scrollable virtual copy of the Lindisfarne Gospel. It has been missing from the displays of the British Museum for a couple of years, and was on display in Northumberland in 2022. I’m not sure whether it is yet back on display at the British Museum. I hope so, but the scrollable version almost compensates for its absence. You can see the Book of Kells at Trinity College, Dublin or look at their online offering here: Not quite as joyous an experience as the online Lindisfarne but beautiful enough.