Forecasting the Harvest & the Downfall of the Mayor of Casterbridge. St Swithin’s Day July 15th

Photo by David Becker on Unsplash

It’s not just important for the farmer but, even more, for the corn factor, to get the weather right for harvest. If it rains on St Swithins Day it betokens rain for 40 days from 15th July. But the BBC tells us that, since records have been kept (1841) there has been no period of 40 days rain after St Swithins Day.

The price of corn is very dependent upon the weather. Michael Henchard in Thomas Hardy’s 1886 novel ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ has formed a terrible rivalry with his erstwhile friend Donald Fafrae and is determined to outdo him in the Casterbridge Cornmarket. He has a hunch about the weather and the price of corn, but needs reassurances. So despite his doubts about the efficacy of prophecy he goes to a lonely hand – built cottage to see ‘a man of curious repute as a forecaster or weather-prophet.’ Henchard is shrouded possibly to protect his identify and he will not stay to take hospitality from the prophet, not cross the threshold, and masks his face with a handkerchief as if suffering from a toothache.

However, the prophet knows this strange man is the former Mayor of Casterbridge, much to Henchard’s surprise. Henchard quizzes him. ‘can ye charm away warts?’ ‘cure the evil?’ ‘forecast the weather?’ Replying in the affirmative he takes Henchard’s crownpiece and forecasts:

By the sun, moon, and stars, by the clouds, the winds, the trees, and grass, the candle-flame and swallows, the smell of the herbs; likewise by the cats eyes, the ravens, the leeches, the spiders, and the dungmixen, the last fortnight in August will be – rain and tempest.’ ‘Twill be more like living in Revelations this autumn that in England.’

Henchard buys up grain at the current high price, and is ruined by the fine weather that sets in for a fine harvest with corn prices tumbling.

Local folklore was at the heart of many of Hardy’s stories. Perhaps the most dramatic is the ‘Withered Arm’. Gertrude has a withered arm wished upon her by the former lover of her husband, with whom she has an illegitimate boy.

Years pass, and she is still determined to cure her arm. She visits a Casterbridge Cunning Man. He tells her the only cure is to touch the neck of a recently hanged man. So she goes to Casterbridge on a Hanging Day, makes the arrangements with the hangman; touches the neck; is cured immediately, only to find the young man is the illegitimate son of her husband.

I first read these stories one after another at a time I was going through a painful period in my life. I remember throwing the ‘Withered Arm’ at the wall shouting ‘Oh Thomas Hardy’ you miserable man.’ It took me twenty years to come back to him, to appreciate his amazing descriptions of life in rural Wessex, with a cast of characters struggling to make a place for themselves in a world that was changing beyond all recognition.

First Published in 2022, revised July 2024

Twin, Twins – Festival of Castor and Pollux July 15th

The Ashwini kumaras twins, sons of the sun god Surya. Vedic gods representing the brightness of sunrise and sunset Wikipedia

The Divine Twins, aka the Dioscuri, were horsemen, patrons of calvary, athletes and sailors, one of many indo-european twin gods.   Pollux is the son of Zeus and Leda (raped by Zeus in the guise of a swan). His twin brother has a different and mortal father, the King of Sparta to the same mother, Leda.  So they are examples of heteropaternal superfecundation as Mary Poppins probably didn’t sing.

One is therefore immortal and the other isn’t.   They had many adventures including sailing with Jason as Argonauts.

According to some version of the story Castor was mortally wounded, and Zeus gave Pollux the option of letting his brother die while Pollux could spend  eternity on Mount Olympus. The alternative was to share his immortality with his brother. He did the good thing, and the twins spend half their year as the Constellation of Gemini and the rest, immortal, on Mount Olympus.  Thus, they are the epitome of brotherly love.

Their sisters were no less than Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra. They were also twins, Helen the divine daughter of Zeus and, Clytemnestra, mortal daughter of the King of Sparta.

It happened like this.  The Swan was being pursued by an eagle, so Leda protected the Swan and took it to bed.  On the same night she slept with her husband Tyndareus of Sparta. Two eggs were fertilised, each split in two to give two sets of twins.

Leda and the Swan, 16th-century copy after the lost painting by Michelangelo

Never mind the Brothers, what Sisters! Helen you know. But Clytemnestra? She was the wife of Agamemnon, the arrogant leader of the Greeks.  On the way to retrieve Helen from Troy, the Greek Fleet was becalmed. So, on advice, Agamemnon sacrificed his own daughter, Iphigenia, on the island of Aulis in exchange for a fair wind to Troy. (read Iphigenia at Aulis by Aeschylus, a great play which I studied in Classical Studies at University)

painting of Clytemnestra after she has slaughtered her husband Agamemnon _by_John_Collier,_1882 (Wikipedia Guildhall Museum)
Clytemnestra_by_John_Collier,_1882 (Wikipedia Guildhall Museum)

Meanwhile, Queen Clytemnestra, abandoned at home, broods on her husband’s heartless fillicide. She takes a lover. After 10 years of war, Agamemnon comes back, in triumph from the destruction of Troy, with his prize, the Trojan Princess, Cassandra. Strutting with arrogance, he demands Clytemnestra prepare him a bath, and, so she does, she gives him the hottest bath possible. With the help of her lover, she hacks Agamemnon to pieces with an axe.

Cassandra prophesizes that she too will be a victim.  She has been gifted with the ability of accurate prophecy, albeit twinned with the inability to get anyone to believe her! She is also slaughtered.

I visit John Collier’s painting of Clytemnestra at the Guildhall regularly and am fascinated by her grim expression.

In the 18th/19th Century rich people were into ‘attitudes’.  For example, Emma Hart, later Lady Hamilton, would be invited to present an attitude in front of a dinner party of mostly male aristocrats.  She would dress up in a flowing revealing unstructured classical gown and stand on a table presenting herself as: Helen or Andromache or any other classical beauty guests might fancy an eyeful of.  She would assume an appropriate facial expression and posture for everyone’s pleasure. 

Detail of Emma Hart modelling as Iphigenia by George Romney in ‘Cimon and Iphigenia’

Being Clytemnestra is difficult! I imagine Collier’s model being  prompted to look both sad at the loss of the daughter; outraged at the arrogance of the husband; horror at the gore of the murder but overall to portray a grim satisfaction that the bastard got exactly what he deserved.

Lord Leighton had a famous model who was exceptionally skilled at adopting poses for his paintings. He determined to help her with an acting career. As part of the plan he helped improve her cockney accent, and it is said this inspired Bernard Shaw’s story Pygmalion which, in turn, inspired My Fair Lady and Eliza Doolittle. 

Leighton’s model was Dorothy Dene.  She became a famous actress, outstripping the fame of Ellen Terry and Lily Langtry. She modelled for the famous painting ‘Flaming June’ which sold 500,000 print copies in 1895.  Lord Leighton went somewhat out of fashion and the original painting was purchased for £50 by the rather marvellously named Museo de Ponce, Puerto Rico where she still resides.

I have one of those half million prints on my bedroom wall.

Print of Flaming June by Lord Leighton

Before we finish, do have a look at John Collier’s Wikipedia because he is the most ridiculously well-connected painter you can imagine! Related to half the Cabinet and married to TWO daughters of Darwin’s Bulldog T.H.Huxley (grandfather of Aldous Huxley).

For more on Flaming June see my blog post of 12 July 2024

European Twin Gods

It is suggested that twin male gods are a feature of Indo-European religions, and that the Twins are associated with horses/chariots and are responsible for moving the Sun and the Moon. Their use of a horse above the water means that they can rescue  people lost at sea.   St Elmo’s fire was said to be the way they manifested their divinity to sailors.   Diodorus Siculus records that the Twins were Argonauts with Heracles, Telamon, and Orpheus. Further, he tells us in the fourth book of Bibliotheca historica, that the Celts who dwelt along the ocean worshipped the Dioscuroi “more than the other gods”.

First written in 2023 updated in July 24.

Fête Nationale Française. Le 14 juillet. Bastille Day July 14th

French Revolutionary Month of Messidor (June-July)

Today, is the French National Day, le Quatorze Juillet, the day to celebrate the storming of the infamous Bastille on 14 July 1789. It was a symbol of Royal oppression, but only had 7 relatively insignificant prisoners on the day it was stormed. 200 attackers and 1 defender were killed in the first round, and then the Commander surrendered to avoid more deaths, but was then himself killed with 7 of his soldiers. But it was symbolic of the collapse of the old order.

I wrote about the French Revolutionary Calendar earlier in the year which introduced a rational non-christian calendar to France.

Here is an except of what I wrote about the names of the new months:

I’m going to begin by giving you the names (of the months) as reported, satirically, by John Brady in England 1811 (starting with ‘October’ and separating seasons by semicolons).

Wheezy, Sneezy and Freezy; Slippy, Drippy and Nippy; Showery, Flowery
and Bowery; Hoppy, Croppy and Poppy.

The official name of this month was Messidor (or ‘hoppy’ in the list above). You might like to have a look at the post below to celebrate the French National Day. The 14th July was the day named after Sage in the Month of Messidor.

Haymaking time. But the Wrong Time to Marry July 2nd.

Hayricks Photo by Roman Synkevych 🇺🇦 on Unsplash

‘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. It was 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 his fellows 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, have allowed scientists to study the effects of annual hay cutting. This study has been in continuous operation since 1856 which makes it the oldest continuous field experiment in the world. Among the many findings is the counterintuitive discovery that when fertiliser was evenly applied, the number of plant species declined from forty to fewer than five. Here is an article on Rothamsted Park Grass which gives interesting details.

If you wish to grow your lawn to increase biodiversity and to make it wildlife friendly, then read this is article. It is very important that we revive our battered wildlife. 97% of the UK’s semi-natural grassland has been destroyed over the last 80 years says ecologist Jack Marley.

July Haymaking from the Kalendar of Shepherds 15th Century

First published in June 2023, and republished in July 2024.

July Julius Caesar’s Month

July – Kalendar of Shepherds 15th Century

July is named for Julius Caesar. Originally, the Roman Month 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),

July is the month of Haymaking, as you can see from the July image (above from in the Kalendar of Shepherds). To find out more, wait for the next post.From the Kalendar of Shepherds comes this description of July.

First published, in 2023 and republished in 2024.

Ovid abandons the ‘Fasti’ Ovid June 30th

OVID 19TH CENTURY ENGRAVING BY j w cOK
OVID 19TH CENTURY ENGRAVING BY J W COOK

Ovid says about the 16th February, ‘Next day is vacant.’ This is surprisingly encouraging to me because I have found it hard work finding something to say about some days. You can fill in with generalities, but the specific feels so much better. But. if Ovid can just say nought happened, then that is good enough for me. If you want to read Ovid’s almanac of the year, the ‘Fasti’, for yourself, this is the translation I am using.

Fasti is sadly unfinished because Pūblius Ovidius Nāsō was exiled by the Emperor Augustus when he was halfway through the Fasti. So the last entry is for 30th June where he says: ‘put the last touches to my undertaking’ suggesting he knew he was ending it here.

He was exiled until his death ten years later in Tomis, on the Black Sea. It is not clear exactly why he was exiled, ostensibly it was for the immorality in his book ‘The Art of Love’, but as that was published almost a decade earlier, it seems strange.

Was he involved with a plot against Augustus that saw the Emperor’s own daughter exiled? Her lover was Lullus Antonius, son of Mark Antony. Unlike Julia’s other lovers, he was forced to commit suicide.

But this also happened years before Ovid’s exile, so neither does it make any great sense of the great man’s punishing exile. However, Julia’s daughter was herself exiled closer to the time of Ovid’s exile and her husband, Lucius Aemilius Paullus, was executed for treason. Ovid said the reason for his exile was a ‘poem and a mistake’. The nature of that mistake is not recorded but he said the crime was worse than murder and more harmful than poetry.

Here is one of my favourite Ovid quotations. I quote from my own book which you can buy at the link at the bottom of the page.

‘Ovid, writing in Augustus’ reign, provides our guide to the flesh-pots of a Roman town. Here he recommends how the aspiring male should dress for a night out on the town:

Don’t torture your hair, though, with curling-iron: don’t pumice
Your legs into smoothness. Leave that
To Mother Cybele’s votaries, ululating in chorus
With their Phrygian modes. Real men
Shouldn’t primp their good looks

… Keep pleasantly clean, take exercise, work up an outdoor
Tan; make quite sure that your toga fits
And doesn’t show spots; don’t lace your shoes too tightly,
Or ignore any rusty buckles, or slop
Around in too large a fitting. Don’t let some incompetent barber
Ruin you looks: both hair and beard demand
Expert attention. Keep your nails pared, and dirt-free;
Don’t let those long hairs sprout
In your nostrils, make sure your breath is never offensive.

Avoid the rank male stench
That wrinkles noses. Beyond this is for wanton women –
Or any half-man who wants to attract men.

Ovid, The Art of Love i

The translation is from Green, Peter (Trans) ‘Ovid The Erotic Poems’ Penguin Classics, London 1982‘

Mother Cybele’s votaries were castrati, hence their high pitched voices. Cybele fell in love with Attys, who made her jealous, so Cybele made him mad, whereupon he castrated himself and bled to death. The Mother Goddess had him resurrected body and soul and he enjoyed divine bliss ever after. A Cybelian castration device, dredged out of the Thames, can be seen in the Roman Gallery of the British Museum.’

photo of  Castration Device from the River Thames at London Bridge British Museum Photo kevin flude
British Museum Castration Device from the River Thames at London Bridge Photo: K Flude

It’s quoted in In Their Own Words – A Literary Companion To The Origins Of London‘ D A Horizons, 2009.  Kevin Flude

To buy Kindle version click here.  To buy paperback (for £5.99)  email kpflude AT anddidthosefeet.org.uk

Festival of St John the Baptist June 24th

The Feast Days of St John the Baptist (June 24th) and of St Peter and Paul (29th June) What is remarkable 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 at 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 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, later, 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. Available at the wonderful Project Gutenberg: ‘https://www.gutenberg.org/files/42959/42959-h/42959-h.htm’

First published june 2023 republished in 2024

Midsummer June 21st

A gentle reminder – Facebook post.

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. Midsummer is a fire festival, dedicated to the Celtic Fire God, 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.

In the early medieval period, the Church hijacked Midsummer’s Day and transferred it to June 24th St John the Baptist’s Day. John was born 6 months before Jesus. 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, a uncanny period when Hobgoblins, Fairies and Sprites, are, like in Shakespeare’s Play, Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, all abroad making mischief.

First in the line of defence against the infernal is St John’s Wort, known as Chasse-diable, Demon Chaser, Fuga Daemonum (amongst many other appellations) It was 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 South West 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 any watcher foolish enough to fall asleep.

Orpine, (Sedum Telephium) aka Live Long, or 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.

Sedum_telephium by Bernd Haynold wikipedia

St John’s Wort has a reputation for helping with depression, menopausal symptoms, ADHD, anxiety and other conditions.

St John’s Wort Photo by Lex Melony on Unsplash

Thanks to the ‘Customs and Ceremonies of Britain’ by Charles Kightly.

First written in June 2023, and revised and republished in June 2024

The Great Broadway Paint off June 18th

Artist painting in the Broadway 'Great Paint off'
Artist painting in the ‘Great Broadway Paint off’

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.

Artist painting in the Broadway 'Great Paint off'
Another artist participating Artist in the ‘Great Broadway Paint off’

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.

Sculptors at the Great Broadway Paint off.
Sculptors at the Great Broadway Paint off

I believe ceramic, textile, and artists in other media are also willing to have a go at making art in a 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.

Painting in Broadway
@dawnjordanart

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.

J.M. Barrie being bowled by Mary de Navarro. (aka Mary Anderson, who played many roles including Juliette at Stratford-on-Avon)
J.M. Barrie being bowled by Mary de Navarro. (aka Mary Anderson, who played many roles including Juliette at Stratford-on-Avon)

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.

First Published in June 2023, Republished in June 2024

Moneywort June 14th

MONEYWORT
Moneywort. Photo by Kurt Stüber Wikipedia

Calm weather in June
Sets corn in tune.

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.

frontispiece of William Turner's 'A newe herball' containing descriptions of 238 English plants, 1551
William Turner’s ‘A newe herball’ containing descriptions of 238 English plants,

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.

First written in June 2023 and republished in 2024