Below, I give links to the Late November and early December Posts I have revised and republished. But, first, I would like to tell you about a great lecture I heard at the British Museum, this evening. It was given by Dr Emma Southon on her book about women in the Roman Empire. Her viewpoint was that a study of women in the Roman Empire gives a radically different insight into the Roman world than the traditional. One full of humanity rather than normal evidence which is, generally, about wars, and Empires and bravery and horrific cruelty and ambition and honour. She started with the story of Turia, whose extraordinary epitaph on her tombstone miraculous survived and gave her husband’s view of his extraordinary wife, and his utter sorrow at his loss on her death. Below, is a review of the book and a link to a podcast with the Author.
So, here are the December posts. December 1st and 2nd give an overview of December and the meaning of Winter. December 3rd is about Advent and the fact that you were not allowed to marry during Advent. December 4 gives a Shakespearean view of a cold winter’s day, and a composition by Vaughan Williams.
And late November posts, November 28th tells some interesting tales, both ancient and modern, about Eels, Pies, Rock ‘n’ Roll and my horror of Jellied Eels. November 29th, tells you how to make a ‘dish of snow’ and introduces Ice Houses. November 30th is about Scotland and St Andrews. Like them if you like them! And share them if you want to share them.
Tomorrow there is a 10% chance of snow, in London and 95% in Glenn Shee, Scotland, according to the Snow Risk Forecast. So you might like to try this medieval recipe:
To make a dish of Snowe
Take a potte of sweete thicke creme and the white of eight egges and beate them altogether with a spoone then putte them into your creame with a dish full of Rose Water and a dishfull of Sugar withall then take a sticke and make it cleane and then cutt it in the ende fowre square and therewith beate all the aforesayd thinges together and ever as it ariseth take it of and putte it into a Cullander thys done take a platter and set an aple in the middest of it and sticke a thicke bush of Rosemarye in the apple then cast your snowe upon the rosemarye and fill your platter therewith and if you have wafers cast some withall and thus serve them forth
Before fridges, snow gave the chance for ice cream and other cold desserts. The problem was keeping it for longer than the cold spell. So many Stately Homes had ice-houses. The V&A had an ice-house just outside their glorious, Henry Cole commissioned restaurant. There is an ice house preserved at the Canal Museum, in Kings Cross. It was set up by Carlo Gatti in 1857 to store ice shipped in from Norway. Another one, in Holland Park, dates from 1770 and served the infamous Fox family (PM Charles James Fox etc).
The first ice house was in Mesopotamian, but in the UK they were introduced by James 1 at his palaces in, first, Greenwich Park, and then Hampton Court. An ice house generally consists of a pit in the ground, brick lined, which tapered to a point. Above was a circular, often domed building. The ice was protected by insulation such as straw, and this structure would allow ice to be available all through the summer.
My great-grandmother hung a basket outside the window in winter to keep things cold. On my fridge-less narrow boat, I have been known to keep milk and butter outside the door, and to suspend and submerge wine in a plastic bag in the canal in high summer.
For more on Icehouses and the history of ice cream, see my post from August.
Written November 28th 2022, revised and republished 2023
To my mind, THE genius of the electric guitar, and a great songwriter.
Born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle on 27th November 1942. He was spotted by ex-Animals Chas Chandler (bassist) when performing in small cafés In New York as Jimmy James. Chandler suggested he came to England. On the flight, they decided to change his name to Jimi. He arrived on September 24, 1966.
“It’s a different kind of atmosphere here. People are more mild-mannered. I like all the little streets and the boutiques. It’s like a kind of fairyland”
On his first day in London, he met Kathy Etchingham, and she found them a flat on the upper floors of 23 Brook Street, which is now part of Handel&Hendrix in London. Now, a small museum to the two musical giants who lived next door to each other (if they were time travellers). For the English middle class, it’s comforting to know that Jimi bought the furnishings of the flat from their favourite, the nearby John Lewis Department store. He got his look from Carnaby Street and Portobello Road Market.
London wasn’t an arbitrary choice for a young American Bluesman. The wave of British Bands that came to international prominence in 1964, was based on the almost forgotten (by the mainstream media) Black American Blues legends such as Woody Guthrie and Ledbelly. Bands like the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and the Animals loved this music, and began their careers playing cover versions in Clubs in London. (For more on the British Blues Revival, look here🙂
Hendrix’s younger brother, Leon, spoke about the importance of London to Hendrix
“He loved England ‘cos it was like Seattle. It was like home. It was the same climate, y’know? And this is where all the music was. This is where all of his friends were – Eric Clapton, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones, everybody…”
He concluded: “After people played, they all went and jammed together. Like, when Jimi played a concert that was only the warm-up… After the concert, he was out and about lookin’ for somebody to play with and somebody’s studio to jam at. They’d just be jammin’ all night ’til, like, seven or eight in the morning. It was awesome.”
Chas Chandler was interested in managing bands, and thought Hey Joe, which he heard Hendrix play, could be a hit single. Hey Joe got to no 6, in Jan 1967) in the UK Top Ten, but failed to make an impression in the US.
Here is a YouTube film of Hendrix playing ‘Hey Joe’.
The Independent website above gives a good guide to Hendrix in London. An excellent documentary on Hendrix was recently aired on BBC Sounds, Everything but the Guitar. To finish off, just look at the bill on at the Saville Theatre.
For details of Hendix Gigs look at the Set list Web site, which shows he performed at the Saville Theatre in Jan,May and June 1967 on his First European Tour, and again in Aug and Oct on his 2nd European Tour.
I have also revised my post on Stir Up Sunday!, which you might like to see.
First published on Nov 27th 2022, as part of Stir Up Sunday! And revised onto its own page on the same day, 2023.
Stir-up Sunday is the last Sunday before advent and the day for stirring the Christmas Pudding. It gets its name from the Book of Common Prayer, which has a verse:
“Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.’
So, the Christmas pudding was made with dried fruit and had 13 ingredients for Jesus and the Disciples. It is stirred from west to east, in honour of the Three Wise Men, and stirred by every member of the household who get to make a secret wish.
Normally, a coin in put in the pudding for the lucky one to get. My grandma, a Londoner, used to put in a couple of ‘silver joeys’, long out of legal tender when I was young. She would watch us like a hawk while we ate, and claim the coins back as soon as we found them! She would then put them in an old folded brown envelope and put them away for next year.
MJ Hughes Coins website gives the following excellent history of the Silver Joey:
‘Originally a Joey was the nickname given to a groat (4 pence) but when that went out of circulation in 1855 the silver 3 pence inherited the name. The name came about due to the reintroduction of 4 pence coins in the 1830s by the politician Joseph Hume, MP (1777-1855).‘
For some great, coin-based facts! Look no further.
First Published Nov 27th 2022. The Jimi Hendrix content transferred to its own page, and this post republished Nov 26th 2023
I was interested in this site because it was one of the many palaces owned by Henry VIII, and it began as a moated manor house before a transition into a small red brick courtyarded Palace, as seen above. Henry had, if my memory serves me well, approximately 57 Palaces and Manor Houses. 16 in the London area and 11 along the River Thames
But what I really liked when I visited the website was the charm of this lovely video by the Enfield Archaeology Society. Now those who know the wonderful TV Sitcom called the ‘Detectorists’ starring Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook, Diana Rigg and others, will recognise the styling of the amateur archaeologists – all looking like rumpled would be Indiana Jones’s! Very English.
Four Hundred Years ago, on this day, 8th November in 1623, the First Folio was registered at Stationer’s Hall near the publishing district around St Pauls Cathedral in London. It was actually called
Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies
It was put together by his actor friends, John Heminge and Henry Condell seven years after his death, and they wanted to replace all the corrupt editions of his plays and poems that had been
“stol’n and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by frauds and stealths of injurious impostors”.
The true texts of his plays and poems “are now offer’d to your view cured, and perfect of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers as he conceived them.” Wikipedia
In fact, the plays were ready early as they entered in to the catalogues for the Frankfurt Book festival to appear between April and October 1622,- and how amazing is it that, that festival is still the dream of any aspirant writer?
The First Folio offers plenty of proof that Shakespeare was the author of the plays. He left gold rings of remembrance to Heminge and Condell in his Will. They were part of his Players Company, and had worked together on many of the plays. The Folio has forewords by people extolling the virtues of the writer. Enough proof for any reasonable person.
Heminge and Condell are commemorated in the Garden of St Mary Aldermary behind the Guildhall, where they were Churchwardens, and not far from where Shakespeare was living in 1611. True friends.
There is a wonderful BBC festival of Shakespeare on at the moment. Have a look at it here:
I have revised the post on All Souls’ Day. If you follow the link you will read about ‘Souling’, Purgatory, and English, Mexican and Polish Customs for 2nd November.
But this post is prompted by an interesting article in the Guardian about the Dinorwig Power Station in North Wales. It’s a place I visit regularly. The photograph is from a Medieval Welsh Castle, Dobaldarn Castle, near the National Slate Museum in the new Unesco World Heritage Site of the Slate Landscape of North West Wales. The photo above gives an idea of the majesty of the destructive power of quarrying for slate.
The Power Station is remarkable. It is a huge cavern in the mountain. When the National Grid has a lot of cheap energy, water is pumped to the top, and when electricity is in short supply, the water runs turbines to provide extra power. It is, in effect, a giant battery, and what makes it even more worthy of a part in a James Bond film is that it has the capability of initiating a Black Start to the Grid. If some cosmic catastrophe turns off the entire grid, Dinorwig can restart the Grid.
The article in the Guardian has some great pictures of it and the text is very interesting. You might want to start reading a third of the way down the article which has a long preamble.
Mexican Day of the Dead, in fact, the second day of El Dia de Muertos. Here is a video from Mexico, which you will enjoy for its Latin song and images of the Day of the Dead in Mexico. (It’s on Facebook, so may not work unless you have a login).
Today is the day to celebrate all those loved ones who have passed away. To keep them in mind, to remind you still care about them. It is the third day of the season of Allhallowstide, following All Hallows Evening (Halloween), and All Saint’s Day.
Beata, who comes from Poland, tells me that, November the 1st is a happy day when relatives visit the cemeteries of the dead loved ones bringing chrysanthemums to decorate the graves. It’s a happy day for the dead because they are being remembered and visited by their loved ones. Today, November 2nd, is a more sombre day – a day to stay at home and think of the loved one’s perhaps looking through albums of photographs.
In England it was the time of year in which ‘Souling’ used to take place. Households made soul-cakes, children or people in need of food come to visit and are given soul cakes in exchange for praying for the dead.
Soul, soul, for a souling cake. I pray good Missus for a souling cake. Apple or pear, plum or cherry. Anything good to make us merry.
Traditional rhyme from Shropshire and Cheshire
This is based upon the idea of Purgatory, and the belief that intervention on Earth can influence the amount of time an ancestor spends in purgatory for their sins.
John Aubrey (1626 – 1697), antiquarian, collector of folklore and writer, mentions a custom in Hereford which shows a variant of the idea.
In the County of Hereford was an old Custom at Funerals, to hire poor people, who were to take upon them all the Sins of the part deceased. One of them I remember (he was a long, lean, lamentable poor rascal). The manner was that when a Corpse was brought out of the house and laid on the Bier; a Loaf of bread was brought out and delivered to the Sin-eater over the corps, as also a Mazer-bowl full of beer, which he was to drink up, and sixpence in money, in consideration whereof he took upon him all the Sins of the Defunct, and freed him (or her) from Walking after they were dead.v
John Aubrey, Remains of Gentilism 1688
This belief in the power of action in the Here and Now to lubricate passage through Purgatory to the Ever After was a major part of fund-raising for Catholic Institutions before the Reformation. For example, in the records of St Thomas Hospital, Southwark, a wealthy widow called Alice (de Bregerake – if I remember the spelling correctly) left her wealth to the hospital in return for an annual Rose rent; lifetime accommodation in the Hospital in Southwark, and for the monks and nuns to pray for her soul and the souls of her ancestors.
Revised 2nd Nov 2023. First published 2nd Nov 2021
Dickens London. Life, Work and Christmas Virtual Tour Fri 15th Dec 2023 7.30pm To book Roman London – A Literary & Archaeological Walk Saturday 16 Dec & 21st Jan 2023 11.30 am Monument Underground Station To book The London Winter Solstice Virtual Tour Fri 22 Dec 2023 19:30 To book Jane Austen’s Christmas Walk Sat 23 Dec 2.30 pm Green Park Underground To book Christmas With Jane Austen London Virtual Tour Sat 23 December 2023 7.30pm to bookRing in the New Year Virtual Walk Monday 1st January 2024 7.00pm To book Myths, Legends, Archaeology and the Origins of LondonWalk Sun 4th Feb & 23 March 2024 11.30pm Tower Hill Underground To book
On my way to Stratford-upon-Avon Railway station, I saw this sign, but had no idea what on earth a Mop was.
So I put it to the back of my mind as I took the train to Henley-in-Arden. My interest in the town began, as Shakespeare was born in Henley St in Stratford, and his mother was called Mary of Arden. So, naturally, I wanted to find out about Henley-in-Arden. To turn curiosity to action it took our Tour Coach Driver telling me he lived there and that it was a pretty but small town.
With a free afternoon from my duties as Course Director on the ‘Best of England’ Road Scholar trip, I found myself on the very slow train to Henley-in-Arden. One of the first stops was Wilmcote, where Mary Arden’s House is. I visited last year, when I was astonished to find it was a different building to the one I had visited in the 1990s. In 2000, they discovered they had been showing the wrong building to visitors for years! Mary Arden’s House was, in fact, her neighbour Adam Palmer’s. And her house was Glebe Farm. On that visit, I walked from Anne Hathaway’s Cottage to Mary Arden’s House and back to Stratford along the Stratford Canal – a lovely walk if you are ever in the area.
The train route to Henley was through what remains of the ancient forest of Arden. The forest features in, or inspired, the woody Arcadian idylls which feature in several of Shakespeare’s plays, particularly the Comedies. ‘As You Like It’, for example, is explicitly set in the Forest of Arden, as this quotation from AYL I.i.107 makes clear:
Oliver: Where will the old Duke live?
CHARLES: They say he is already in the Forest of Arden, and a many merry men with him; and there they live like the old Robin Hood of England: they say many young gentlemen flock to him every day, and fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world.
Henley-in-Arden turns out to be a quintessentially English little town full of beautiful timber framed buildings and a perfect Guildhall.
Further down the road is a lovely Heritage Centre full of old-fashioned and DIY Information panels. And that is not a criticism, it provided a very enjoyable visit full of interesting stuff and which gave me a couple of snippets of information I have not seen anywhere else.
So, to get back to the signpost for the Mop, I was delighted to find a panel dedicated to the Henley Mop. A mop turns out to be a hiring fair. Think of Gabriel Oak in Hardy’s ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’. His attempt to become an independent farmer destroyed when his sheepdog runs amok and sends his sheep over a cliff to their doom. So he takes his shepherd’s crock to the hiring fair or Mop as they are known in the Midlands. There, potential employers can size up possible employees and strike mutually agreed terms and conditions. And Gabriel becomes the shepherd for the delightful and wilful Bathsheba Everdene.
So, a shepherd would take his staff, or a loop of wool; a cleaner her mop (hence the name of the fair), a waggoner a piece of whipcord, a shearer their shears etc. Similarly, in the Woodlanders, the cider-maker, Giles Winterborne, brings an apple tree in a tub to Sherborne, to advertise his wares.
The retainers thus employed would be given an advance and would be engaged, normally, for the year. So there was quite a widespread moving around of working people to new jobs and often new housing. Not quite how we imagine the past?
The perceptive among you will have noted the bottom of the sign in Stratford which advertised the ‘Runaway Mop’. This was held later in the year, so that employers could replace those who ran away from their contracts, and where those who ran away could find a better, kinder or more generous boss.
Also of interest to me was the panel about Court Leets and Barons. These were the ancient courts which dealt with, respectively, crime and disorder, and property and neighbourhood disputes. Henley still has its ancient manorial systems in use, at least ceremonially. The Centre shows a video of a cigar-smoking Stetson-wearing large rich American arriving at the Guildhall to take over duties as lord of the manor after purchasing the title.
There was another panel of great interest to me as it told the history of Johnson’s Coach Company which was taking my group around England. And it was a delight to discover that it has a history that can be traced back to 1909 in Henley. I conveyed this information to our group on the following day as we toured the Cotswolds. Curtis, our driver, was able to update the panel and told us that the family were still involved with the firm, which is still operating from the area. He said the two brothers who run the company come in every working day and do everything they require of their drivers to do; i.e. they drive coaches, clean coaches, sweep the floors and generally treat their staff like part of a big family. I should have asked him whether he got his job at the Mop, while holding a steering wheel in his hands!