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.
The Venerable Bede tells us that King Lucius converted to Christianity in around 180AD. He says that the King asked Pope Eleutherius to send teachers to instruct him. The Venerable Bede (died 735 AD) got this from the Liber Pontificalis of c 590. There is also a tradition that St Peter’s Cornhill in London was set up by King Lucius, and that St Peter’s is the oldest Church in London.
What to make of this? Bede is considered to be a reliable historian and got his information, in this case, from the Vatican. But the tradition has been written off as a legend. Indeed, there are questions to be answered, but there is, arguably, more to it than a legend but, unfortunately, not enough to make it an established fact.
Not the least of the questions to ask is: ‘What does it mean to be called the King of Britain in the middle of the Roman occupation?’
As to the early origin of St Peters, archaeologists have written off the tradition as St Peter’s is built over the Roman Forum and so how can it have been the site of a Christian Church?
But the balance of possibilities, arguably, changed in the 1980s, when archaeologists led by Gustav Milne showed that the Basilica of the Forum was pulled down in about 300AD. So from being practically an impossibility, there is now a possibility that this became the site of a Roman Church. We know London sent at least one Bishop to Constantine the Great’s Council of Arles in 314AD, so a Christian community in London must have predated this time. And a site, here, at the prestigious centre of the Capital at Londinium, is plausible.
In AD306, Constantine was acclaimed Emperor on the death of his Father, Constantius Chlorus whose wife was Helena, a Christian. He and his mother were in York when his father died. He was recognised as Caesar, (but not Augustus) by Emperor Galerius a ruled the province for a while before moving to Trier, then Rome, where he accepted the Christian God’s help in becoming the ruler of Rome. This might give a context for the demolition of the Basilica and its replacement by a Church. There is no archaeological evidence for it other than the demolition of the Basilica and the legends.
Where does that leave King Lucius? There are well attested Christian traditions that Britain was an early convert to Christianity. (The following quotes are from my book ‘In Their Own Words – A Literary Companion To The Origins Of London‘ D A Horizons, 2009 by Kevin Flude and available here.)
So, an early date for an active Christian community is likely. A Church, replacing the Basilica, is plausible, particularly, after Constantine the Great probably passed through London on his way to seize the Roman Empire. But such an early date as the late 2nd Century? And could anyone, claim to be the ‘King of Britain’ at this date? We do know that King Togidubnus was called Great King of Britain in a Roman Temple inscription in Chichester in the First Century.
To Neptune and Minerva, for the welfare of the Divine House by the authority of Tiberius Claudius Togidubnus, Great King of Britain, the Guild of Smiths and those therein gave this Temple from their resources, Pudens, son of Pudentinus, presenting the site.
Togidubnos seems to have been placed in control of a large part of Southern England, centred around Chichester, after the invasion of 43AD. He is thought to have been the successor to Verica, who was exiled and called on the Romans to restore his throne. Tactitus says that he remained loyal until late in the 1st Century. So he presumably held the line for the Romans against the Boudiccan revolt in 60AD. The Romans had used Verica’s fall as their excuse for invasion, and so an honorific of Great King to him and his successors makes sense. It is assumed that after Togidubnos’s death after 80AD, the title lapsed. But it might have stayed with the family as an empty honour? Furthermore, we know that Britain had a lot of Kings and Queens before the Roman period, and, as the Romans, never conquered the whole of Britain, there were British Kings all the way through the period of Roman control, at least beyond Hadrian’s Wall.
So, it is possible there was someone in Britain who had, or made, a claim to be ‘King’ whether ‘a’ or ‘the’ or merely descended from one, we don’t know. And that that someone, perhaps converted to Christianity, possibly in the time of Pope Eleutherius.
It has been suggested that Lucius of Britain was confused with Lucius of Edessa, but this is not very convincing.
The link to London and St Peters, need not be a contemporary one, it might be two traditions that are linked together at a later period. But, of course, there is a faint possibility that the Basilica shrine room, above which St Peter’s is built, was converted for Christian use at the earlier time necessary to make sense of the King Lucius story.
King Lucius may not be a proper saint, but he has a feast day because of his connections to Chur in Switzerland, which saw him enter the Roman Martyrology. David Knight proposes that the tradition of the martyrdom of Lucius in Chur comes from the transplanting of rebellious Brigantes to the Raetia frontier in the 2nd Century AD, bringing with them the story of Lucius and that, possibly, at the end of the King’s life he travelled to join the exiles in Switzerland where he met his unknown end. If true, this would base the story of Lucius in the North rather than London.
For further reading, see ‘King Lucius of Britain by David J Knight.
John Stow in the 16th Century records the tradition, which comes with a list of early British Bishops of London, which are recorded in Jocelin of Furness ‘Book of British Bishops’. This book is discussed by Helen Birkett ‘Plausible Fictions: John Stow, Jocelin of Furness and the Book of British Bishops’. In Downham C (ed) /Medieval Furness: Texts and Contexts/, Stamford: Paul Watkins, 2013.
Her analysis concludes that the book is a ’12th-century confection in support of moving the archbishopric from Canterbury ‘back’ to London.’ (This information was included in a comment to the original post by John Clark, Emeritus Curator of the Museum of London.)
To sum up. We can’t bring King Lucius out of legend, nor link him with St Peters Cornhill, but the site of St Peters is a plausible, though unproven, location for a Roman Church from the 4th Century onwards.
First Published on December 3rd, 2022. Revised in December, 2023.
In Lia Leendertz’ lovely ‘The Almanac – A Seasonal Guide to 2022’ she lists the following as in season for foraging:
Crab Apples and sweet chestnuts Roots: Dandelion, horseradish, Jerusalem Artichokes, and wild garlic Wild Greens: chickweed, dandelion, and wintercress Game: Hare, rabbit, pheasant, and venison
Sweet Chestnuts were introduced by the Romans and have long been a feature of Christmas. They can be ‘baked, roasted, boiled or microwaved’. You need to prepare them by scoring a cross in them; otherwise they will explode when cooked. They are often sold by street vendors (there is often a seller on the Millennium Bridge on the way to Tate Modern in London) and, in my family, are always a part of the stuffing for the Turkey. They can also be candied, puréed or stored in syrup. (The Woodland Trust Foraging in November and December).
John Evelyn, the 17th Century Diarist and author of a book on trees (Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest-Trees and the Propagation of Timber) wrote that the nuts were:
‘delicacies for princes and a lusty and masculine food for rusticks, and able to make women well-complexioned’
He complained that in England they are chiefly given to pigs to eat.
Chestnut meal was also used for whitening linen and for making starch. Marones, imported from Italy, France, Switzerland, and S. Germany contain 15% sugar and so were used to make a thick syrup and a ‘very usable’ sugar, from which Marons Glacés are made.
The wood of the chestnut is very useful and is/was used for building, pit props, furniture, poles for hops etc. but is nowhere near as long-lasting as oak.
Medically, they were used for treating convulsive coughs such as whooping-cough, where the leaves were infused in a pint of boiling water. (A Modern Herbal by Mrs M Grieve)
First Published on 3rd December 2022, Revised and republished in December 2023
Advent Sunday is the beginning of the Christian Liturgical year, when the Church prepares for the major festivals of the Messiah’s life – his birth and his death. It begins with the ‘Hanging of the Greens’ when Churches and other public buildings were bedecked with seasonal foliage. The ‘Liturgical colours’, which are purple, green, gold (or white) and red – are changed to purple and used for altar linen, clergy robes and other hangings. At home, the Christmas Tree and decorations are taken out of the cupboard/cellar/shelf/box and put up.
Too Late to wed before Advent
Traditionally, you could not marry after Advent and before 12th Night. So it’s now too late to marry before that bump gets too big!
Wedding dresses were traditionally whatever beautiful dress you had. White only became de rigueur once Queen Victoria wore one, and the costs of material reduced because of mass production.
First Published 28th November 2022. Republished Dec 3rd 2023
Saint Andrew was the first Apostle and he introduced his brother, Simon Peter, to Jesus. Not much about his later life is known but the idea that he was martyred on a X-shaped cross, the saltire, is probably a medieval invention. Formerly, a simple fisherman and so patron of fishermen, and fishmongers. Also, the patron saint of Scotland and Russia; of singers and pregnant woman, and efficacious in offering protection against sore throats and gout. More about St. Andrew below.
His association with Russia comes from Eusebius who quotes Origen recording that Andrew preached in Scythia. The Chronicle of Nestor says he travelled to Kiev and Novgorod and so became a patron saint of Ukraine, Romania and Russia. (Wikipedia).
Scottish legends has St Andrew both visiting Scotland and some of his relics coming to Fife in the 4th Century or the 8th Century. St Rule was tasked with taking some of Andrew’s relics to the edges of the world, and he turned up in Fife with a kneecap, arm and finger bone which were kept in St Rule’s Church and which gave St Andrew’s name to the town. of St Andrews is also famous as the home of golf and the oldest University in Scotland, (founded in 1412). The relics were transferred to the Cathedral, but they were destroyed in the Reformation. In 1979 the Archbishop of Amalfi gifted a piece of Saint Andrew’s shoulder blade to St Andrews and Pope Paul VI gave further remains to Scotland in 1969
a shoulder blade reputedly belonging to Andrew was gifted to Scotland by the Archbishop of Amalfi in 1879 and Pope Paul VI presented further remains to the nation in 1969.
In Kent and Sussex Andrewtide gave the right to hunt squirrels, and in Hasted’s History of Kent (1782) the day is said to allow the ‘lower kind’ to form a lawless rabble hunting any manner of hares, partridges and pheasants. (Perpetual Almanac by Charles Kightly).
St Andrew in London
On the corner of Leadenhall Street and St Mary Axe in the City of London is one of the very few medieval Churches that survived the Great Fire of London is 1666. It was sheltered by the firebreak that was the Leadenhall, a big market building made of stone.
The Church is the Maypole Church as it was here the Maypole or the shaft was stored under the eves of the Church when not in use. Hence, St Andrew’s sobriquet of ‘Undershaft’. The MayDay riot in 1517 put an end to the dancing around the Maypole but the pole itself survived until 1547 when, in a Puritan riot, the ‘stynking idol’ was destroyed. (see my May Day blog post here for more more details of Mayday.)
This is where the great London historian John Stow is buried. His Survey of London is one of the best sources for Medieval and Tudor London. Every three years, on April 5th or thereabouts, there is a commemorative service and his quill is changed. The Lord Mayor attends and it is organised by Stow’s Guild – the Merchant Taylors.
There is also a plaque to Hans Holbein, but no one knows, for sure, where he is buried. He died in London in 1543, possibly of plague.
First Published on 30th November 2022, Revised and republished on 30th November 2023
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
Gervase Markham in his ‘The English Husbandman’ of 1635 provides instructions on how:
To take Eels in Winter, Make a long bottle or tube of Hay, wrapped about Willow boughs, and having guts or garbage in the middles. Which being soaked in the deep water by the river side, after two or three days the eels will be in it and you may tread them out with your feet.
Eels have been eaten for thousands of years, but no one knew where they came from or how they reproduced. Aristotle thought they spontaneously emerged from the mud. Sigmund Freud dissected hundreds of Eels, hoping to find male sex organs. It was only last year, on 19th October 2022 that an article in the science journal Nature entitled ‘First direct evidence of adult European eels migrating to their breeding place in the Sargasso Sea’ was published, proving beyond doubt that the theory that Eels go to the sea near Bermuda to spawn was, incredibly, true.
Eel Pie Island
Eel Pie Island . Ordnance Survey In 1871 to 1882 map series (OS, 1st series at 1:10560: Surrey (Wikipedia)
Eel Pie island is on the Thames, near Twickenham, famous for its Eels, was home to an iconic music venue that hosted most of the great English Bands of the 50s. 60s, and 70s. The roll call of bands here is awesome. The Stones, Cream, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, you name it, they were here:
David Bowie, Jeff Beck, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim, Champion Jack Dupree, Buddy Guy, Geno Washington, Long John Baldry, Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Ten Years After, Chicken Shack, and one of my all-time favourite bands. the Savoy Brown Blues Band. The Nice, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Joe Cocker, and the Who. And many more!
Jellied Eels have been a staple of East End diets since the 18th Century. They were to be found in many stalls dotted around the East End, from vendors venturing into pubs and in Pie and Mash shops. Tubby Isaacs is perhaps, the most famous and jellied eels are still sold in a diminishing number of places in the East End.
My mum loved them. It took me until I was over 60 before I could bring myself to try them and have not wanted to repeat, what for me, was a revolting experience. On the River Lee Navigation is another piece of Eel history which is the excellent Fish and Eel Pub at Dobbs Weir.
This was first published as part of another post in 2022, and revised and republished on 28th November 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
Starlings begin to roost in September but their numbers increase as November passes. The RSPB says:
They mainly choose to roost in places which are sheltered from harsh weather and predators, such as woodlands, but reed beds, cliffs, buildings and industrial structures are also used. During the day however, they form daytime roosts at exposed places such as treetops, where the birds have good all-round visibility.
Early evening, up to 100,000 birds will rise above their roosts wheeling and turning in tight formations. Starling numbers have been declining because of ‘loss of permanent pasture, increased use of farm chemicals and a shortage of food and nesting sites in many parts of the UK.’2022 was a particularly bad year but, a count in Brighton in March 2023, suggests numbers were considerable up on 2022. (Starling Numbers Up)
See the above RSPB website for more information which also contains video.
Starlings were sacred to the Celts and were used for divination by the Romans – their augurs scrutinised the geometric patterns made by the murmurations to interpret the will of the Gods. In the Welsh Mabinogian a starling appears in the story of Bran, God-King of prehistoric Britain and his sister, Branwen, who was married to the King of Ireland.
To cut a long story short, (a version of which you can read on my February 18th’s blog post here), Branwen was banished to the scullery. So she trained a starling to send a message to her brother. He took an army over the Irish Sea to restore her to her rightful state, but Bran was mortally wounded in the battle that followed. He told his companions to cut off his head and take it back to the White Hill, London. His head was as good a companion on the way back as it was on the way out, but the journey home took 90 years. At last they got to London and his head was buried on the White Hill, near the Tower of London, and as long as it were there Britain was safe from invasion. This was one of the Three Fortunate Concealments and is found in ‘the Triads of the Island of Britain.’
I am giving a Walk on the Myths, legends, and Archaeology of London, for London Walks on 4th February.
Shakespeare and Starlings
Shakespeare in Henry IV Part 1 has Hotspur, annoyed with Bolinbroke say:
I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak nothing but ‘ Mortimer,’ and give it him
Now if you think the idea of a talking starling is nonsense have a look at this video.