I published the following post about Hardy’s Tree on 28th December 2022. Here, follows the original post and an update which suggests the tree and the gravestones were not erected by Thomas Hardy.
This is the day that Herod ordered the slaughter of the Innocents, or Childermas, and I am glad to see that my Grandson is now older than Herod’s prescription.
Hardy’s Tree in St Pancras Church, Camden, London has fallen down. Hardy was an architect and worked in London for a while, where one of his jobs was to supervise the clearance of the graveyard. Several poems of Hardy refer to the removal of graves from their original positions and in this case, the gravestones were set around an Ash tree that inspires many, including my Central St Martin’s students who used it in a project recently. So, I was shocked to read a Guardian article (since deleted) which noted the sad demise of the Tree.
Extracts from one of several Hardy Poems about moving graves and gravestones follow, but I need to update the post about the connection to Hardy. The Guardian has now got an article which suggests the connection with Hardy is a more recent one than previously thought (Guardian article).
I (and I think the Guardian) were alerted to this by the work of Lester Hillman, who wrote a Churchyard Guide and a recent pamphlet about the Tree, which is reported in ‘Context ISSN 1462-7574’. This is the Journal of the City of London Archaeological Society. Evidence proves that the Ash Tree dates to the 1930s, and that the mound of gravestones is from burials relocated from St Giles in the Fields, and therefore unlikely to have been in St Pancras at the time Hardy was responsible for clearing it.
So it is not ‘the’ Hardy Tree, but then nor was the tree at Sycamore Gap anything to do with Robin Hood. What it was, was a beautiful piece of nature, in a poignant setting. May she rest in peace.
The Levelled Churchyard Thomas Hardy
O Passenger, pray list and catch Our sighs and piteous groans, Half stifled in this jumbled patch Of wrenched memorial stones!
We late-lamented, resting here, Are mixed to human jam, And each to each exclaimed in fear, I know not which I am.
Where we are huddled none can trace, And if our names remain, They pave some path or porch or place Where we have never lain!
I went to New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon to see the First Folio Exhibition on the anniversary of its publication in 1623. It was a very small exhibition, and, at first sight quite disappointing. Almost everything in it I had seen before. But, I came away quite excited, because it had a much better explanation of the Signet Ring than the one in its previous display.
In 1810 someone found this gold ring in field near the Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare was baptised and buried. It has a lover’s knot and the initials WS. It could ofcourse be anyone’s with those initials. But it certainly excited comment at the time as the display makes clear:
I did not know about the ring until New Place was refurbished a few years ago and the ring went on display. The new display gives more of an explanation as well as the delightful quotation above from Hayden to Keats.
Michael Wood suggested that Shakespeare might have lost the ring on the occassion of his daughter, Judith’s, marriage to Thomas Quiney in February 1616. Shakespeare made his Will a month later, and it is marked by three of his signatures. The Will says ‘whereof I have hereunto put my seale’. The word seale has been crossed out and the word ‘hand’ put in in its stead. So, he was intending to seale his approval of the Will, but changed his mind and put his signature instead? Why? Because he had recently lost his seal ring? Shakespeare died a month or so later.
Judith was the twin of Hamnet who died at age 11 and the Church has recently planted a couple of trees as a memorial to the twins, who are not buried, like their older sister, Suzanna, next to their mum and dad by the altar in the Church. Judith’s husband was a bit of a rogue, as he was called to the Bawdy Court and accused of debauchery with a local women who he made pregnant, and who died in childbirth. He is not mentioned in the Will.
But Shakespeare did leave money in his will to buy gold rings for his fellow actors, John Heminges and William Condell, who are buried in St Mary Aldermanbury in London. They outlived Shakespeare and collected his plays together in the First Folio. A Remembrance Ring is also in the display.
The other main item in the display is this tiny 7.8 cm high notebook in which its unknown owner copied out his favourite quotes from the First Folio. It contains material from all 38 plays, and internal evidence shows it must have been made from the First Folio. It is about the size of the minature books the Brontes made. The tiny writing of the book must have been written with a quill from a small bird.
The display shows that a lot can be made of a few objects, if they are well chosen and with an excellent explanation.
By the way the rings and the Folio are clear evidence that Shakespeare wrote the plays as his friends put together his plays in a volume with introductory information which makes it absolutely clear he wrote them. Also in the Church the memorial to Shakespeare compares him to King Nestor in judgement, Socrates in wisdom, and Virgil in art. Nothing can be clearer, and why people continue to say Shakespeare was simply an actor who copied out the plays is beyond me.
The Guardian has recently written a piece on this subject which I am following as I recover from the hernia operation. I found publishing from my phone from the hospital bed surprisingly easy as it was the first time I had used the phone for writing the Almanac of the Past
My typing on the computer is fast but very, very inaccurate and clumsy and full of revision and cutting and pasting and rewriting and typos. So its quite hard work bashing it into shape. But I found it much easier on the phone, with the fingers of one hand being less prone to error and, in some strange way, more directly attached to the part of my head that composes the text into something vaguely readable. But it is more difficult to add the images. I have now been at home for 4 days and my phone is dying (I am well!) so back to normal methods.
This is the 300th Post on this my ‘new’ blog. I thought I would mark it by a reminder of what I am trying to do with it.
Over the years I have given a lot of walks on special occasions: Christmas, New Year, Halloween,Easter, May Day etc. as well as my regular ‘Myths, Legends of the Archaeological Origins of London Walk’. I have always had an interest in the Celtic Year, and when researching for my New Year’s Walks I came across Almanacks, and the more I found out about them the more I plundered them for content! I found that one third of books sold in London in the early modern period were Almanacks. That is how important they were.
So, I decided to create an ‘Almanack of the Year’ which changed title to an ‘Almanack of the Past’. In particular, what I am hoping to do is to create a London Almanack of the Past, where each day is remembered by an interesting and relevant post with a view to enlightening our understanding of London’s past.
Content is around these ideas and themes:
Folklore Seasons & Nature Measurement of Time Calendars Religion Mythology Legend Anniversaries of Famous & Important events in the past Historical & Archaeological news News of my Walks
What I am aiming for is a really focussed London version of an Almanack of the Past. I need a good entry for every day of the year, and I’m hoping to do that over a three year period, and then get it published.
As Christmas looms, seasonal publications have a mixture of wonder and joy at the coming family reunions and festivities mingled with an awareness that the abundance that is expected of Christmas is a cause of great anxiety amongst those with stretched or non-existent resources. The weather is now very cold, prices are rising so heating and living costs going up at the very time custom suggests extra spending to unlock the joy that is needed to offset the dark, the cold and the spectre of death which, in fact, has always been central to the season of winter.
Charles Dickens’ Christmas Books epitomise this dichotomy and adding an element of the supernatural, provided a vehicle for joy and hope, but with a very strong political message that the authorities and the rich were not doing their Christian duty to alleviate poverty. Christmas Carol contrasts the wealth of a mean rich Stockbroker with the family of his poor employee Bob Cratchit, and provides a powerful tale of redemption.
But in this post I want to concentrate on his second Christmas Book ‘The Chimes’. It tells the story of the stick -thin Trotty Veck who is an aged City messenger, nicknamed Trotty because of his habit of keeping himself warm by running on the spot. He is afraid to let his daughter, Meg, to marry as he has so little hope for the future. While he is worrying he, Meg and her intended Richard are approached by Alderman Cute and Mr Filer.
Cute represents the financial industries in the City of London and the Law. Filer the new breed of political economists who had proved beyond doubt, through their pioneering work using statistics, that providing generous support for the poor would, inevitably mean, there would eventually be a country full of poor people and no rich people. And thus justified the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1832 which set up the cruel Work House system which provided the worst possible support offering separation from family, meagre food, and sparse comforts to encourage them to stop being lazy and get back out there to earn their own living and allow taxes to fall. (brilliantly satirised by Dickens’ Oliver Twist asking for ‘More’).
‘And you’re making love to her, are you?’ said Cute to the young smith.
‘Yes,’ returned Richard quickly, for he was nettled by the question.
‘And we are going to be married on New Year’s Day.’
‘What do you mean!’ cried Filer sharply. ‘Married!’
‘Why, yes, we’re thinking of it, Master,’ said Richard. ‘We’re rather in a hurry, you see, in case it should be Put Down first.’
‘Ah!’ cried Filer, with a groan. ‘Put that down indeed, Alderman, and you’ll do something. Married! Married!! The ignorance of the first principles of political economy on the part of these people; their improvidence; their wickedness; is, by Heavens! enough to—Now look at that couple, will you!’
‘A man may live to be as old as Methuselah,’ said Mr. Filer, ‘and may
labour all his life for the benefit of such people as those; and may heap up facts on figures, facts on figures, facts on figures, mountains high and dry; and he can no more hope to persuade ’em that they have no right or business to be married, than he can hope to persuade ’em that they have no earthly right or business to be born. And that we know they haven’t. We reduced it to a mathematical certainty long ago!’
Alderman Cute was mightily diverted, and laid his right forefinger on the side of his nose, as much as to say to both his friends, ‘Observe me, will you! Keep your eye on the practical man!’—and called Meg to him.
‘Now, I’m going to give you a word or two of good advice, my girl,’ said the Alderman, in his nice easy way. ‘It’s my place to give advice, you know, because I’m a Justice. ...
‘You are going to be married, you say,’ pursued the Alderman. ‘Very
unbecoming and indelicate in one of your sex! But never mind that.
After you are married, you’ll quarrel with your husband and come to be a distressed wife. You may think not; but you will, because I tell you so. Now, I give you fair warning, that I have made up my mind to Put distressed wives Down. So, don’t be brought before me.
You’ll have children—boys. Those boys will grow up bad, of course, and run wild in the streets, without shoes and stockings. Mind, my young friend! I’ll convict ’em summarily, every one, for I am determined to Put boys without shoes and stockings, Down. Perhaps your husband will die young (most likely) and leave you with a baby. Then you’ll be turned out of doors, and wander up and down the streets. Now, don’t wander near me, my dear, for I am resolved, to Put all wandering mothers Down. All young mothers,of all sorts and kinds, it’s my determination to Put Down. Don’t think
to plead illness as an excuse with me; or babies as an excuse with me;
for all sick persons and young children (I hope you know the
church-service, but I’m afraid not) I am determined to Put Down.
And if you attempt, desperately, and ungratefully, and impiously, and
fraudulently attempt, to drown yourself, or hang yourself, I’ll have no pity for you, for I have made up my mind to Put all suicide Down! If there is one thing,’ said the Alderman, with his self-satisfied smile, ‘on which I can be said to have made up my mind more than on another, it is to Put suicide Down. So don’t try it on. That’s the phrase, isn’t it? Ha, ha! now we understand each other.’
Project Gutenberg - The Chimes by Charles Dickens
It is a savage burlesque of a satire but at its core, it attacks an attitude that poverty can be defeated by making support for the poor so difficult and unpleasant that they will do anything (i.e. get a job) to avoid taking poor law relief. Filer provides the economic/statistical justification. Cute enforces it by legal harassment of the poor. Dickens was writing after a recent introduction of legislation making suicide a punishable offence.
This has a resonance. During my lifetime, the first British Government to be cruel in its provision for the poor was Teressa May’s Conservative Government, which made getting help so difficult that people died as a result of the deliberately difficult system. ‘I, Daniel Blake’ a 2016 film by by Ken Loach brilliantly captured the essence of this system. That government’s treatment of the Windrush generation was a similar example of bureaucratic cruelty.
The piece above reminds us what a brilliant propagandist Dickens was. Every generation of children since he wrote Christmas Carol has read it or seen it in popular retellings such as the Muppet movie. I think it could be argued that the ‘More’ scene in Oliver Twist and the Christmas Carol have made the case better for compassionate care then contemporary Christianity or political parties.
In the Chimes. those two men discourage Trotty from letting the young ones marry. He has a dream and sees the hopeless result of his decision. When he wakes up he realises that they have is hope, and his refusal to let the young ones marry kills hope. Hope springs eternal and he lets them marry.
Dickens was not a socialist. ‘Hard Times’ shows that Dickens was against strikes despite leading a strike when he was a young newspaper man. He was free trade Liberal and he believed that the rich needed to do their Christian duty and provide charitable support, pay decent wages and look after their dependents, servants, and the proper application of the essence of Christianity ‘love your neighbours like yourself’ would right the wrongs caused by the selfish.
Now here is the sort of thing you find out about yourself only if you
a. google yourself b. go down to page 8
And there I find that thebookbag had my book as no 4 in its top ten history books of 2015, with Mary Beard at no 2.
And this is their review:
‘Divorced, Beheaded, Died…: The History of Britain’s Kings and Queens in Bite-Sized Chunks by Kevin Flude
History lives. Proof of that sweeping statement can be had in this book, and in the fact that while it only reached the grand old age of six, it has had the dust brushed off it and has been reprinted – and while the present royal incumbent it ends its main narrative with has not changed, other things have. This has quietly been updated to include the reburial of Richard III in Leicester, and seems to have been re-released at a perfectly apposite time, as only the week before I write these words the Queen has surpassed all those who came before her as our longest serving ruler. Such details may be trivia to some – especially those of us of a more royalist bent – and important facts to others. The perfect balance of that coupling – trivia and detail – is what makes this book so worthwhile.’
135,000 copies to date in 7 editions and formats. I did suggest a new updated edition to add a section on King Charles III but they said ‘they had no plans.’
THE REBIRTH OF SAXON LONDON ARCHAEOLOGY VIRTUAL WALK
Sunday 4th July 2021 6.30pm
An exploration of what happened following the Roman Period. How did a Celtic speaking Latin educated Roman City become, first deserted, then recovered to become the leading City in a Germanic speaking Kingdom?
The Walk creates a portrait of London in the early 16th Century. It has a particular emphasis on the life and times of Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More who feature in Wolf Hall, the novel by Hilary Mantel.
The Virtual Tour will start with a boat tour from Hampton Court, via Chelsea to the City, and then a Walk around the City.
More and Cromwell had much in common, both lawyers, commoners, who rose to be Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII and they both ended their career on the block at Tower Hill. But they found themselves on the other side of the gulf that suddenly opened with the religious ferment that accompanied Henry’s obsession with Anne Bolyen.
The Walk will include visits to the sites of More’s and Cromwell’s town houses and then walk through the market streets of Tudor London, to Cheapside and the Guildhall, St Pauls and outside the Walls to Smithfield where most of the religious executions took place. We visit Charter House where More took a break from the stress of public office, and whose Prior, Cromwell had hanged, drawn and quartered. We exit via the plaque pits, and finish off with a walk around the City Walls until we come to Tower Hill where both men ended their lives on the scaffold.
Saint or Sinner? What better place to ponder that question that the streets of Wolf Hall London?
bob clip dance hornpipe leather pleasure roust sport stroke till trade trick bed foin foutre frig frisk have jape juggle jumble leap niggle nock occupy plough rifle seal sport swive thrum thump tick-tack till towze tread tumble twang vault wap.
I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.
said Jack London.
I would rather be earth than dust!
I would rather my spark should kindle a bright home fire than it should be stifled by dry-rot
I would rather be a vibrant planet every inch of me nurturing of life, than a superb meteor