MAY DAY 1

Bringing the Maypole, Bedfordshire. Image from ‘Romantic Britain’

Maypoles were often stored during the year. They were then repainted, and bedecked with May Garlands – mostly made from Hawthorn. The Maypole used in London in 1660 was 134 feet high. Tall straight trees were used, sometimes of Larch, and they might be spliced together to get the requisite height. John Stow says that each parish in London had their own Maypole, or combined with a neighbouring Parish. The main Maypole was on the top of the Cornhill, in Leadenhall Street, and it was stored under the eves of St Andrew’s Church which became known as St Andrew’s Undershaft as a result.

The celebrations begin on May Eve because the Celtic calendar starts the day at Dusk. This seems strange to us even though we perversely ‘start’ our day at Midnight just after everyone has gone to bed! The other choice, and maybe the most logical is, Dawn. Midnight was chosen by Julius Caesar when he created the Julian Calendar. Midnight has the virtue of being a fixed metric. Dawn and Dusk vary and are difficult to precisely fix. Midnight is half way between Dawn and Dusk, and a fixed point.

Celebrations centred around the Bonfire, and for the Celts was sacred to the fire God Belinus, and May Day was called Beltane. Bonfires continued to be a part of the celebration into the 16th Century. According to folklore tradition, the bonfire should be made of nine types of wood, collected by nine teams of married men (or first born men). They must not carry any metal with them and the fire has to be lit by rubbing oak sticks together or a wooden awl twisted in a wooden log. The people have to run sunwise around the fire, and oatcakes are distributed with one being marked with a black spot. The one who collects it has to jump through the fire three times. Bonfires would have been on the top of hills, or in the streets in London.

May celebrations have a similarity of Halloween which was also a fire festival and both are uncanny times when sprites and spirits abound. Hawthorn was a favoured wood not only because of its beautiful may flowers but also because it was said to be the wood the crown of thorns was made from. It had the power of resisting supernatural forces, so was used to protect doors, cribs, cow sheds and other places from witches. Witches, it was said, got their power to fly from potions made from infants. The best protection was christening and the custom was that christening took place as early as possible and normally three days after birth. Shakespeare was baptised on 26th April 1564, so we celebrate his birthday on 23rd April. Cribs would be bedecked with Hawthorn and protection might be helped by a bible, rowan, and garlic. Babies born between May 1 and 8 were thought to be special children destined to have power over man and beast. Weddings were frowned upon in Lent and in May, so a lot of people married in April.

After celebrations in the evening of April 30th, women would go out in the woods to collect May, and to wash their faces in May Dew preferable from the leaves of Hawthorn, or beneath an oak tree. Thinking of one’s lover might bring marriage within the year.

May morning would commence with dancing around the Maypole, followed by feasting, and summer games.

BIG WEEKEND OF WALKS (2)

Painting of the Roman Forum of London from the air
Painting of the Roman Forum of London from the air

So on Saturday the 30th I am doing 2 guided walks and one Virtual Walk.

ROMAN LONDON – A LITERARY & ARCHAEOLOGICAL WALK

Saturday 30 April 20/22 11.30 am Monument Underground Station

This is a walking tour features the amazing archaeological discoveries of Roman London, and looks at life in the provincial Roman capital of Londinium.

We disembark at the Roman Waterfront by the Roman Bridge, and then explore the lives of the citizens as we walk up to the site of the Roman Town Hall, and discuss Roman politics. We proceed through the streets of Roman London, with its vivid and cosmopolitan street life via the Temple of Mithras to finish with Bread and Circus at the Roman Amphitheatre.

Publius Ovidius Naso and Marcus Valerius Martialis will be helped by Kevin Flude, former Museum of London Archaeologist, Museum Curator and Lecturer.

This is a London Walks Guided Walk

To book  https://www.walks.com/our-walks/roman-london-a-literary-archaeological-virtual-tour/

Myths, Legends, May Eve London Guided Walk

Sunday 30th April  2022  2.30pm  

The walk tells the story of London’s myths and legends and the Celtic Festival of Beltane.

The walk begins with the tale of London’s legendary origins in the Bronze Age by an exiled Trojan called Brutus. Stories of Bladud, Bellinus, Bran and Arthur will be interspersed with how they fit in with archaeological discoveries. As we explore the City we also look at evidence for ‘Celtic’ origins of London and how Imbolc may have been celebrated in early London.

The virtual route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up in the shadow of St Pauls

This is a London Walks Virtual Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

To book https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/253596322427

This weekend I am also doing two Virtual tours

:
Myths, Legends, May Eve London Virtual Walk

Sunday  30th April  2022  7.30pm  

The walk tells the story of London’s myths and legends and the Celtic Festival of Beltane

To book  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/myths-legends-may-day-london-virtual-walk-tickets-251923047617

And on Monday evening

A Virtual Tour Through The Whole Island Of Great Britain.  No.5 Edinburgh

 Monday  2 May 2022 7 pm

A Virtual Walk Through the Athens of the North

To book  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/256923664597

Hope to see you this weekend.

SHAKESPEARE’S BIRTHDAY AND TUDOR BIRTH.

shakWilliam Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout from the 1st Folio
William Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout from the 1st Folio

By tradition, Shakespeare was born on St George’s Day April 23rd 1564, 457 years ago. He died on April 23rd 1616 at age 52. Cervantes died on the same day. The death date is given by the burial register at the Holy Trinity Church, Stratford on Avon where he was buried. His baptismal record also survives at the same church and is on April 26th 1564. but we don’t actually know when he was born.

Anne Shakespeare would have ‘taken to her chamber’ about four weeks before the due date. The windows or shutters would have been fastened as fresh air was thought to be bad for the birthing process. Female friends and relatives would come round, and the room would be decorated with fine carpets, hangings, silver plates and fine ornaments. It was felt that external events could influence the birth, and any shocks or horrors were thought to be the cause of deformities and anomalies, so a calm lying-in room was clearly a good idea.

When labour began female friends, relatives and the midwife were called to help out. A caudle of spiced wine or beer would be given to the mother to strengthen her through the process. Today the maternal mortality rate is 7 per 100,000. An estimate for the 16th Century is 1500 per 100,000. So most women would have heard of or attended the birth of women who had died during or following children birth. There were also no forceps so if a baby were stuck and could not be manually manipulated out, then the only way forward was to get a surgeon to use hooks to dismember the baby to save the life of the mother. Doctors were not normally in attendance, but could be called in emergency,

Immediately after washing the baby was swaddled. The swaddling was often very tight and could affect the baby’s growth, and might have affected the learning process as movement of hands are now considered very important in the early learning process. Swaddling lasted eight to nine months, and only went out of fashion after Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote against the practice.

Detail of tomb of Alexander Denton and his first wife Anne Willison, and her baby dressed in swaddling clothes Photo Wikipedia Hugh Llewelyn

Puerperal fever killed many women after successful childbirth for example Queen Jane Seymour who died after 5 days. During these dangerous early days the mother was kept in a dark room, and then, perhaps three days after birth friends were invited to celebrate ‘upsitting’ when the mother was no longer confined to bed. This is when christening would take place.

Edward VI was christened to a huge audience in the chapel at Hampton Court three days after his birth. Licensed midwives could baptise newborn babies provided they used the correct wording and informed the Church so that the registration could be properly reported. Thomas Cromwell was responsible for the law in 1538 which insisted on a parish register to record weddings, christenings, and funerals. The law was reaffirmed by Queen Elizabeth in 1558 and registers had to be stored in a locked chest in the Church. (In 1597, the records had to be on parchment not paper, and in 1603 the chest had to have three locks!).

If the Christening were in the church the mother might not be there as she was expected to stay in her chamber for another week or so.

A week or a few weeks later the mother would be ‘churched.’ This was a thanks-giving ceremony, although Puritans did not like the idea that it could be considered a purification ceremony.

Breast feeding would last a year or so and many high status women choose to use a wet-nurse, but there was a real concern that the wet nurse was suitable as it was believed that the breast milk was important for the babies development both physically and temperamentally. Poor children who lost their mothers were very unlikely to survive as, without breast milk, the baby would be fed pap – bread soaked in cow’s milk.

Thanks very much to Alison Sim’s book ‘The Tudor Household’ for a lot of the above.

GOOD FRIDAY – CHELSEA BUNS

Old Chelsea Bun House Frederick Napoleon Shepherd – from a print at the Museum of London (Wikipedia)

‘RRRRRare Chelsea Buns’ as Jonathan Swift called them in a letter to Stella in 1711.

T!he tradition was that on Good Friday Georgian period Londoners would go to Chelsea to buy Chelsea Buns. Thousands of people would turn up at the Five Fields which stretched from Belgravia to what is now Royal Hospital Street. There were swings, drinking booths, nine pins and ‘vicious events that disgraced the metropolis’. The Bun House was on Jew’s Row as Royal Hospital Street was then called. As several King Georges visited the Bun House it became known as the Royal Chelsea Bun House. It was run by the Hands family. They were said to sell 50,000 Buns on the day. Stromboli tea garden was nearby.

Fragrant as honey and sweeter in taste
As flaky and white as if baked by the light
As the flesh of an infant soft, doughy and slight.

The buns were made from eggs, butter, sugar, lemon and spices. Inside the Chelsea Bun House was a collection of curiosities. Chelsea became known for its collection of curiosities in the 18th Century. Of course, there was the great Hans Sloane’s collection which was the founding collection of the British Museum, And then there was Don Saltero’s which was a coffee house that had curiosities on the wall. The Bun house displayed clocks, curiosities, models, paintings and statues on display to attract a discerning Public.

Me. I love a Chelsea Bun above all buns, But can you get them any more? The British Library Cafe was the last place I found that sold them. And that was 5 years ago I reckon. If you see any let me know.

To make yourself one follow this link. https://www.christinascucina.com/chelsea-buns-british-buns-similar-to-cinnamon-rolls/

Chelsea_bun by Petecarney wikipedia
Chelsea Bun by Petecarney wikipedia

BIG WEEKEND OF WALKS!

Bootham Bar with York Minter in the background
Bootham Bar with York Minter in the background photo Kevin Flude

I’m doing a virtual tour of York tonight at 7pm.

Then, tomorrow, two proper real walks in the fresh air:

a Literary and Archaeological walk of Roman London at 11.30

a Spring Equinox Walk at 2.30.

and I then dash hope to repeat the Equinox Walk as a virtual tour.

Links to the walks here:

And the Sunday was ruined bt the taxi driver who knocked me off my bike!

MARCH 2ND – KALENDAR OF SHEPHERDS

. Nicholas Breton’s ” Fantasticks ” (1626) in Kalendar of Shepherds

The text from the Kalendar gives a great description of the nature of March as seen in the Jacobean era. We are still in Pisces

Attributes of Pisceans selfless, mystical compassionate imaginative sensitive
pisces from the zodiac from kalendar of shepherds
From the zodiac from kalendar of shepherds

The next section of the Kalendar gives a comparison between the ages of man and the months of the year. Twelve months in a year, Twelve ages of man in six year blocks. So March represents ages twelve to eighteen, as it says time to learn doctrine and science.

Kalendar of Shepherds (translation from French 15th Century original)

I introduce the Kalendar of Shepherds on this page.

Druids at All Hallows, by the Tower

My next walks – virtual and guided are here:

FEBRUARY 19 -24TH SMOKE A COLTSFOOT

Coltsfoot by Andreas Trepte Wikipedia

The daisy-like plant is flowering about now and Gerard’s Herbal of 1633 suggests that the ‘fumes of the dried leaves taken through a funnel’ is good for those with coughs and shortness of breath. He suggests that it is smoked like tobacco and it’ mightly prevaileth.’

This idea, Mrs Grieves in her herbal, says is endorsed by’ Dioscorides, Galen, Pliny and Boyle’. and is ‘nature’s best herb for the lungs’.

Also Violets and crocii are coming out. The crocus represents many things but according to www.icysedgwick.com/ ‘White croci usually represented truth, innocence and purity. The purple variety imply success, pride and dignity. The yellow type is joy.’ Ovid tells the story of Crocus and Smilax in the Metaphoses: ‘how Crocus and his beloved Smilax were changed into tiny flowers. All these stories I will pass by and will charm your minds with a tale that is pleasing because new.’

Violets have been used as cosmetics by the Celts, to moderate anger by the Athenians, for insomnia and loved because of their beauty and fragrant. They have been symbols of death for the young, and used as garlands, nosegays posies which Gerard says are ‘delightful’.

Snowdrop, Crocus and Silver Birch circle in Haggerston Park. Photo Kevin Flude

Blossom is also coming out in London, a little early and following an earlier false spring when Cherry Blossom came out. Blackthorn (I think) is coming out in profusion in my local park.

White blossom in February in Haggerston Park. Blackthorn thinks photographer Kevin Flude

The 20th was the beginning of Pisces and also Sexagesima Sunday, which is the second Sunday before Ash Wednesday and it a time when we should be reflecting on our sins and lifestyle before we enter Lent.

Old Moore’sAlmanac for February suggests questions will be raised about the future of the Monarchy and that ‘Russia is entering a period of major restructuring’!

23rd February is ‘Terminalia, the Roman day for setting land boundaries.

JANUARY 28TH – 31ST CHARLES I ‘MARTYRDOM’ & ‘GET BACK’

Banqueting Hall and Execution of Charles I
Banqueting Hall and Execution of Charles I

After my Myths & Legends Walks on the 30th January I am catching up on my ‘Almanac of the Year’

January 29th was the ‘Concordia’, the birthday of Pax and Irene and so a Roman Peace Festival. I do hope the Russians are taking note.

January 30th was the anniversary of the day King Charles I was beheaded as a murderer and traitor, or, on the other hand, a martyr to the Church of England, depending upon your point of view.

Samuel Pepys observed the funeral, as did thousands of others. They crowded around the scaffold outside a window of Inigo Jones’s magnificent Banqueting Hall, in Whitehall, London. Whether Charles appreciated the irony of his last walk which was below the magnificent Reubens’ ceiling depicting the Apotheosis of his father, James I, we can’t say. But it is, perhaps, more likely he thought he was soon on his way to meet his father in heaven in glory as a Martyr to his religion. But he walked outside, wearing 2 shirts so that he would not shiver and made a short speech exonerating himself. All the Roof Tops around were lined with spectators and, as the executioner axe, fell there was a dull grown from the crowd.

This was on January 30th. Charles would have said it was in 1648 but we think of it as 1649 because this was before our conversation to the Gregorian calendar – the date changed in those days not on January 1st but on March 25th when the archangel Gabriel revealed to the Virgin Mary that she was pregnant.

On the same day, twelve years later, in 1660 Oliver Cromwell’s and his chief henchmen were dug up from their splendid Westminster Abbey tombs and their bodies abused by official command. Cromwell’s head was stuck on the top of Westminster Hall where is remained for many years.

The Royalist, John Evelyn said in his diary:

This day (oh the stupendous, and inscrutable Judgements of God) were the Carkasses of that arch-rebel Cromwel1, Bradshaw, the Judge who condemned his Majestie and Ireton, sonn in law to the usurper, dragged out of their superb Tombs (in Westminster among the Kings) to Tybourne, and hanged on the Gallows there from 9 in the morning till 6 at night, and then buried under that fatal and ignominious Monument in a deep pit. Thousands of people (who had seen them in all their pride and pompous insults) being spectators .

Samuel Pepys who served the Parliamentary side before, adroitly, swapping over to the Royalists records by contrast:

…do trouble me that a man of so great courage as he was should have that dishonour, though otherwise he might deserve it enough…

This is also the anniversary (1969) of the roof top concert in Saville Row where the Beatles played ‘Get Back’.

You Tube Clip with scenes from the Roof Top Concert

MYTHS, LEGENDS, & CELTIC FESTIVALS GUIDED & VIRTUAL WALKS

Bran's head taken to Tower Hill
King Bran’s head buried at Tower Hill

MYTHS, LEGENDS, & CELTIC FESTIVALS LONDON GUIDED WALK

Sunday30th January 2022 2.30pm Tower Hill Underground

The walk tells the story of London’s myths and legends and the Celtic Festival of Imbolc.

The guided walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, who has an interest both in the archaeological evidence as well as the myths and legends of London’s origin.

The walk is one of a series about London’s Myths and Legends which take place on or around one of the significant festivals of the Celtic calendar. On this tour we celebrate Imbolc, the festival half way between the winter and the Summer Solstice that celebrates the first signs of the coming of spring. The day is also dedicated to St Bridget, or St Bride.

The walk begins with the tale of London’s legendary origins in the Bronze Age by an exiled Trojan called Brutus. Stories of Bladud, Bellinus, Bran and Arthur will be interspersed with how they fit in with archaeological discoveries. As we explore the City we also look at evidence for ‘Celtic’ origins of London and how Imbolc may have been celebrated in early London.

The route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up at St Brides.

This is a London Walks Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

To Book:

MYTHS, LEGENDS, & CELTIC FESTIVALS LONDON VIRTUAL WALK

Sunday 30th January 2022 7.30pm

The virtual version of the walk starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up at St Brides.This is a London Walks Virtual Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

To Book:

MYTHS, LEGENDS, MAY EVE LONDON GUIDED WALK

Sunday 30th April 2022 2.30pm Tower Hill Underground

The walk tells the story of London’s myths and legends and the Celtic Festival of Beltane

The walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, who has an interest both in the archaeological evidence as well as the myths and legends of London’s origin.

The guided walk is one of a series about London’s Myths and Legends which take place on or around one of the significant festivals of the Celtic calendar. On this tour we celebrate May Day, or Beltane – the celebration of the coming of Summer.

The walk begins with the tale of London’s legendary origins in the Bronze Age by an exiled Trojan called Brutus. Stories of Bladud, Bellinus, Bran and Arthur will be interspersed with how they fit in with archaeological discoveries. As we explore the City we also look at evidence for ‘Celtic’ origins of London and how Imbolc may have been celebrated in early London.

The virtual route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up in the shadow of St Pauls

This is a London Walks guided walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

To Book

MYTHS, LEGENDS, MAY EVE LONDON VIRTUAL WALK

SUNDAY 30th April 2022 7.30pm

The virtual version of the walk route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up in the shadow of St PaulsThis is a London Walks Virtual Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

To Book:

MYTHS, LEGENDS, & HALLOWEEN VIRTUAL WALK

Sunday 30th October 2022 2.30pm Tower Hill Underground

The walk tells the story of London’s myths and legends and the celtic origins of Halloween

The guided walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, who has an interest both in the archaeological evidence as well as the myths and legends of London’s origin.

The walk will tell the story of a selection of London’s Myths and Legends, beginning with the tale of London’s legendary origins in the Bronze Age by an exiled Trojan called Brutus. Stories of Bladud, Bellinus, Bran and Arthur will be interspersed with how they fit in with archaeological discoveries.

As we explore the City we also look at the origins of Halloween celebrations and how they may have been celebrated in early London.

The route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up in the shadow of St Pauls.

This is a London Walks Guided Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

To Book:

MYTHS, LEGENDS, & HALLOWEEN VIRTUAL WALK

MONDAY 31st October 2022 7.30pm

The virtual version of this walkstarts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up in the shadow of St Pauls.

This is a London Walks Virtual Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

To Book:

CHRISTMAS WITH JANE AUSTEN VIRTUAL LONDON WALK

1803 Christmas Cartoon of Napoleon and Mr and Mrs John Bull
By William Holland 1803

Sunday 19 December 2021 7.30pm

We look at how Jane Austen spent Christmas and at Georgian Christmas traditions and amusements.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a Jane Austen devotee in possession of the good fortune of a couple of free hours must be in want of this virtual walk.”

This is a special walk, which looks at the traditions of Christmas during the Regency period and how Jane Austen might have celebrated it. It will give some background to Jane Austen’s life and her knowledge of London. We used her novels and her letters to find out what she might have done at Christmas, but also at how Christmas was kept in this period, and the range of ‘Curiosities, Amusements, Exhibitions, Public Establishments, and Remarkable Objects in and near London available to enjoy.

This is a London Walks Guided Walk by Kevin Flude, Museum Curator and Lecturer.

Review: ‘Thanks, again, Kevin. These talks are magnificent!’

To Book:

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