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A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged England:

Kinver Edge and the Rock Houses

I dragged my parents to see these beauties today! The Rock Houses of Kinver Edge were the last troglodyte dwellings occupied in Britain. Set high in the rock face just above Kinver, Staffordshire, the Rock Houses are said to have first been inhabited from at least the 18th century, as reported by Joseph Heely who wrote of taking refuge with a ‘clean and decent family’ in an ‘exceedingly curious rock’.

In its hey day around 40 people lived in the little community, on three levels rising up the heath. Carved out of sandstone, the houses were easy to adapt to ones needs. If a room needed to be slightly larger or a new doorway was required, the inhabitants could just chisel away. The Rock Houses were lived in until the 1960s and are now owned by the National Trust. 

Puzzlewood

Said to have inspired the likes J R R Tolkien and J K Rowling, Puzzlewood is an ancient woodland in The Forest of Dean, Gloucester. In the 19th century a mile of winding pathways leading over wooden bridges, and through deep and narrow gaps in the rocks, were laid and have remained mostly unchanged ever since. There is evidence of cast iron ore mining dating back to Roman times and in 1848 two workers discovered, in a hole in a rock, three earthenware jars filled with 3000 Roman coins.

[Sources: Photos: Mine | Puzzlewood Wikipedia | Puzzlewood]

Guy Fawkes’ Post-Torture Signature

Guy Fawkes, or Guido Fawkes, was a member of a group of English Catholics who plotted to blow up parliament and kill the King in 1605. Fawkes was charged with the job of lighting the gunpowder the group had secretly stored in the cellars below parliament. I made a more detailed post on this last year and, conscious of repeating myself, I thought I’d dedicate this year’s post the Fawkes’ torture specifically.

After being apprehended by guards who had been previously tipped-off about the plot, Fawkes was first interrogated but, as he remained defiant and refused to give the names of his co-conspirators, the King ordered that he should be tortured. Fawkes was transferred to the Tower of London where a confession was eventually pulled from him through various means of torture. The King dictated that these tortures should begin with the most ‘gentle’, perhaps manacling the prisoner, and by degrees get worse, for example the rack.

It is unknown precisely what methods of torture Fawkes was subjected to, however, the worsening state of the signatures obtained on his confessions (images 2 and 3, which were written a day apart. Image 1 is an example of Fawkes’ signature before torture) suggest the horrors he endured. Fawkes made his third and final confession on the 9th November, three days after his capture. Fawkes was executed for high treason. He was dragged behind a horse and carriage before being hung, drawn and quartered. His body parts were then distributed to the four corners of the kingdom to be displayed as a warning to others.

[Sources: Wikipedia]

The Witchfinder General
In 1644 a witch-hunter by the name of Matthew Hopkins bestowed upon himself the title of Witchfinder General. Over a three year period he was responsible for the deaths by hanging of 300 people accused of witchcraft, more than had been hanged for the crime in England in the previous 100 years. 
Accompanied by an associate, John Stearne, and a group of women who performed the pricking, Hopkins’ terrorised the East of England, falsely claiming to have been commissioned by parliament. Hopkins was paid a large sum of ‘twenty shillings a town’, though records from Stowmarket suggest the town was forced to scrape together the equivalent of £6600 in today’s money and Ipswich had to increase the local tax rate to pay him.
Hopkins employed dirty tactics to win confessions. He would often deprive his victims of sleep; cut them with a blunt knife and if they did not bleed they were a witch; tie them to chairs and throw them into water, if they floated they were a witch, if they sank they weren’t but would inevitably drown anyway; he would also look for the Devil’s Mark on their skin. 
Hopkins died in 1647 having acquired something of a negative reputation.
[Sources: Image | Wikipedia]

The Witchfinder General

In 1644 a witch-hunter by the name of Matthew Hopkins bestowed upon himself the title of Witchfinder General. Over a three year period he was responsible for the deaths by hanging of 300 people accused of witchcraft, more than had been hanged for the crime in England in the previous 100 years. 

Accompanied by an associate, John Stearne, and a group of women who performed the pricking, Hopkins’ terrorised the East of England, falsely claiming to have been commissioned by parliament. Hopkins was paid a large sum of ‘twenty shillings a town’, though records from Stowmarket suggest the town was forced to scrape together the equivalent of £6600 in today’s money and Ipswich had to increase the local tax rate to pay him.

Hopkins employed dirty tactics to win confessions. He would often deprive his victims of sleep; cut them with a blunt knife and if they did not bleed they were a witch; tie them to chairs and throw them into water, if they floated they were a witch, if they sank they weren’t but would inevitably drown anyway; he would also look for the Devil’s Mark on their skin. 

Hopkins died in 1647 having acquired something of a negative reputation.

[Sources: Image | Wikipedia]

Witch Pricking
Witch Pricking was an activity rife at the height of the witch trials in the 16th and 17th century. It was believed that all witches carried the Devil’s Mark, a permanent mark left by the Devil on his initiates skin. Such marks could be used as evidence at witch trials but moles and birthmarks were often mistaken for the Devil’s Mark and, in the absence of such marks, Pricking would be used to create one. 
It was also believed that witches would neither bleed nor feel pain when pricked. Specially adapted Pricking devices have been left over from the time of the trials. Some of these had hollow handles so that that the blade would retract into the empty space when pressed against the victim’s flesh. This would give the impression that they had been stabbed without feeling pain. Others have been found with both a sharp end and a blunt end: the sharp end would be demonstrated first, drawing blood and causing pain, and then, through slight of hand, the blunt end would be used on the ‘witch’ to apparently prove that they felt no pain and did not bleed when cut.
[Source]

Witch Pricking

Witch Pricking was an activity rife at the height of the witch trials in the 16th and 17th century. It was believed that all witches carried the Devil’s Mark, a permanent mark left by the Devil on his initiates skin. Such marks could be used as evidence at witch trials but moles and birthmarks were often mistaken for the Devil’s Mark and, in the absence of such marks, Pricking would be used to create one.

It was also believed that witches would neither bleed nor feel pain when pricked. Specially adapted Pricking devices have been left over from the time of the trials. Some of these had hollow handles so that that the blade would retract into the empty space when pressed against the victim’s flesh. This would give the impression that they had been stabbed without feeling pain. Others have been found with both a sharp end and a blunt end: the sharp end would be demonstrated first, drawing blood and causing pain, and then, through slight of hand, the blunt end would be used on the ‘witch’ to apparently prove that they felt no pain and did not bleed when cut.

[Source]

Burying in Woollen Acts
Following a decline in the wool industry, c.1660s, the English government, in a bid to boost sales, made it law that the dead be buried in pure English woollen shrouds to the exclusion of all other textiles.
As the document above shows, an oath had to be made by a member of the deceased’s family confirming that the ‘lately deceased, was not put in, wrapt, or wound up, or buried in any shirt, shift, sheet or shroud, made or mingled with flax, hemp, silk, hair, gold or silver, or other than what is made of sheep’s wool’. The same went for the lining of the coffin.
The legislation was in force until the 1810s, however, it went mostly ignored after 1770 by people who could afford to pay the £5 fine for noncompliance.
[Sources: Burying in the Woollen Acts | Needleprint Blogspot]

Burying in Woollen Acts

Following a decline in the wool industry, c.1660s, the English government, in a bid to boost sales, made it law that the dead be buried in pure English woollen shrouds to the exclusion of all other textiles.

As the document above shows, an oath had to be made by a member of the deceased’s family confirming that the ‘lately deceased, was not put in, wrapt, or wound up, or buried in any shirt, shift, sheet or shroud, made or mingled with flax, hemp, silk, hair, gold or silver, or other than what is made of sheep’s wool’. The same went for the lining of the coffin.

The legislation was in force until the 1810s, however, it went mostly ignored after 1770 by people who could afford to pay the £5 fine for noncompliance.

[Sources: Burying in the Woollen Acts | Needleprint Blogspot]

Corpse Road

In medieval Britain, corpse roads provided a practical means for transporting corpses from remote communities to cemeteries in larger towns, that had burial rights. Concomitant expansion of church building throughout the UK during the late medieval period inevitably encroached on the territories of existing mother churches or minsters. Demands for autonomy from outlying settlements made minster officials feel that their authority was waning, as were their revenues, so they instituted corpse roads connecting outlying locations and their mother churches that alone held burial rights.
For some parishioners, this decision meant that corpses had to be transported long distances, sometimes through difficult terrain: usually a corpse had to be carried unless the departed was a wealthy individual. Many of the corpse roads have long disappeared, while the original purposes of those that still survive as footpaths have been largely forgotten, especially if features such as coffin stones, on which the coffin was placed while the parishioners rested, or crosses no longer exist.
Such corpse roads have developed a great deal of associated folklore. The essence of spirit lore is that spirits, that is, spirits of the dead, phantasms of the living, wraiths, or fairies move through the physical landscape along special routes. Such routes are conceived of as being straight and by the same token, convoluted or non-linear features hinder spirit movement.



Similarly, corpse roads would run in a straight line over mountains and valleys and through marshes. In towns, they would pass the houses closely or go right through them. The paths end or originate at a cemetery; therefore, such a path or road was believed to have the same characteristics as a cemetery, where spirits of the deceased thrive. As such, corpse roads became intrinsically associated with fairy roads and the supernatural entities which reside there. 
[Image Source]

Corpse Road

In medieval Britain, corpse roads provided a practical means for transporting corpses from remote communities to cemeteries in larger towns, that had burial rights. Concomitant expansion of church building throughout the UK during the late medieval period inevitably encroached on the territories of existing mother churches or minsters. Demands for autonomy from outlying settlements made minster officials feel that their authority was waning, as were their revenues, so they instituted corpse roads connecting outlying locations and their mother churches that alone held burial rights.

For some parishioners, this decision meant that corpses had to be transported long distances, sometimes through difficult terrain: usually a corpse had to be carried unless the departed was a wealthy individual. Many of the corpse roads have long disappeared, while the original purposes of those that still survive as footpaths have been largely forgotten, especially if features such as coffin stoneson which the coffin was placed while the parishioners rested, or crosses no longer exist.

Such corpse roads have developed a great deal of associated folkloreThe essence of spirit lore is that spirits, that is, spirits of the dead, phantasms of the living, wraiths, or fairies move through the physical landscape along special routes. Such routes are conceived of as being straight and by the same token, convoluted or non-linear features hinder spirit movement.

Similarly, corpse roads would run in a straight line over mountains and valleys and through marshes. In towns, they would pass the houses closely or go right through them. The paths end or originate at a cemetery; therefore, such a path or road was believed to have the same characteristics as a cemetery, where spirits of the deceased thrive. As such, corpse roads became intrinsically associated with fairy roads and the supernatural entities which reside there. 

[Image Source]

Plague Village

In order to satisfy our morbid curiosity my friend and I visited Eyam plague village today. It has quite a fascinating story:

Eyam is a small village in DerbyshireEngland, also know as the “plague village” which chose to completely isolate itself when the plague was discovered there in 1665.

The plague was brought to the village in a flea-infested bundle of cloth delivered from London to the tailor, George Viccars. Within a week, he was dead. Within two months 28 others also died. It was suggested that the villagers flee to the nearby city of Sheffield, however the rector, Rev. Mompesson, feared that they would spread the disease to the North of England which had, for the most part, escaped the plague.

Instead, the village decided to cut themselves off completely from the outside world, introducing a number of precautions to prevent the spread of illness, for instance, people were to bury their own dead and church services were moved from the local church to field area called Cucklett Delph, which meant villagers could separate themselves.

The village was supplied with food by [outsiders]. People brought supplies and left them at the [boundary stone] that marked the start of Eyam. The villagers left money in a water trough filled with vinegar to steralise the coins … In this way, Eyam was not left to starve to death [and] Those who supplied the food did not come into contact with the villagers.

The plague raged in the village for 14 months and when the first outsiders visited Eyam a year later, they found that around a quarter of the village had survived the plague. The church in Eyam has a record of 273 individuals who were victims of the plague.

Images: [1-3 are my own] 1: Plague Cottages: This was where the plague began, the righthand cottage was where the tailor, Viccars, lived. 2: The Riley Graves: Situated in a field just outside Eyam (in order to prevent the spread of infection) these are the graves of the Hancock family. Elizabeth Hancock buried her husband and six children within eight days of one another but survived the plague herself. 3: Shows what is inside the walls in image two. 4: [Source] The boundary stone where food was left for the villagers.

Virginia House: The House that Moved Homes

The house which would become Virginia House was originally built in the 12th century and served as a priory until Henry VIII split from the Catholic church and closed the hundreds of monasteries and nunneries around Britain. Over the next four hundred years the house would change hands numerous times, with each owner adding a personal touch; such as knocking down the surrounding monastic buildings and adding curvilinear Dutch gables to the front façade around 1620. The fortunes of the house rose a fell throughout the centuries with one owner entertaining Queen Elizabeth I there and another, in the early 20th century, being forced to sell it.

In 1925, Alexander and Virginia Weddell bought it at a demolition sale. They had it dismantled and rebuilt part of it in Richmond, Virginia, where they hoped the west wing would serve as a museum for the Virginia Historical Society. 

The company that was to demolish the Priory felt the stones would crumble in the process, so they decided to make a small explosion in the middle of the building and send only those stones that survived the blast to America. To their amazement, most of the stones fell intact. The more fragile ornaments were packed in boxes with sand to cushion them. The ship bringing the stones to America had to turn back to port as it was taking on water. Consequently, when the stones arrived in Richmond they were soaked in seawater and had to be washed and dried. The first group of stones arrived in Richmond in the spring of 1926. 

Virginia House was completed in 1928, and in 1929 it was presented to the Virginia Historical Society with the Weddells retaining lifetime tenancy.


[Image One: The house in England : Image Two: The House in Virginia : Images 3-5: (courtesy of Vintage-Royalty) The House now]

(Source: vahistorical.org)

Christmas with the Saxe-Coburg and Gothas
When Queen Victoria’s German-born husband, Prince Albert, arranged for a fir tree to be brought from his homeland and decorated in 1841, it created a minor sensation throughout the English-speaking world. Everyone knew about Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree. A print of the royal family gathered about the Christmas tree at Windsor Castle [above] appeared in the Illustrated London News in 1848, then in Godey’s Lady’s Bookin 1850, and was reprinted again ten years later. The six-foot fir sits on a table, each tier laden with a dozen or more lighted wax tapers. An angel with outstretched arms poses at the top. Gilt gingerbread ornaments and tiny baskets filled with sweets hang by ribbons from the branches. Clustered around the base of the tree are dolls and soldiers and toys.
It was not, however, the first German tree in England, as is commonly thought. Queen Victoria had seen one as a girl in 1832. The little princess wrote excitedly in her diary that her Aunt Sophia had set up two “trees hung with lights and sugar ornaments. All the presents being placed around the tree.” And long before that, in 1789, Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, the last king of America, sent to her native Meckelberg-Strelitz in northern Germany for a Christmas tree. The queen’s physician, Dr. John Watkins, described it as “a charming imported German custom, [with] bunches of sweetmeats, almonds, and raisins in papers, fruits, and toys most tastefully arranged” on its branches. [Source]
During Christmas 1841, after the recent birth of Edward, Prince of Wales, there was great happiness within the palace. A joyful Queen Victoria wrote in her journal, “To think that we have two children now, and one who enjoys the sight [of the Christmas tree] already; it is like a dream.”
In addition, Prince Albert, writing to his father, said: “This is the dear Christmas eve on which I have so often listened with impatience for your step, which was to convey us into the gift-room. Today I have two children of my own to make gifts to, who, they know not why, are full of happy wonder at the German Christmas-tree and its radiant candles.” [Source]

Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 4th

Christmas with the Saxe-Coburg and Gothas

When Queen Victoria’s German-born husband, Prince Albert, arranged for a fir tree to be brought from his homeland and decorated in 1841, it created a minor sensation throughout the English-speaking world. Everyone knew about Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree. A print of the royal family gathered about the Christmas tree at Windsor Castle [above] appeared in the Illustrated London News in 1848, then in Godey’s Lady’s Bookin 1850, and was reprinted again ten years later. The six-foot fir sits on a table, each tier laden with a dozen or more lighted wax tapers. An angel with outstretched arms poses at the top. Gilt gingerbread ornaments and tiny baskets filled with sweets hang by ribbons from the branches. Clustered around the base of the tree are dolls and soldiers and toys.

It was not, however, the first German tree in England, as is commonly thought. Queen Victoria had seen one as a girl in 1832. The little princess wrote excitedly in her diary that her Aunt Sophia had set up two “trees hung with lights and sugar ornaments. All the presents being placed around the tree.” And long before that, in 1789, Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, the last king of America, sent to her native Meckelberg-Strelitz in northern Germany for a Christmas tree. The queen’s physician, Dr. John Watkins, described it as “a charming imported German custom, [with] bunches of sweetmeats, almonds, and raisins in papers, fruits, and toys most tastefully arranged” on its branches. [Source]

During Christmas 1841, after the recent birth of Edward, Prince of Wales, there was great happiness within the palace. A joyful Queen Victoria wrote in her journal, “To think that we have two children now, and one who enjoys the sight [of the Christmas tree] already; it is like a dream.”

In addition, Prince Albert, writing to his father, said: “This is the dear Christmas eve on which I have so often listened with impatience for your step, which was to convey us into the gift-room. Today I have two children of my own to make gifts to, who, they know not why, are full of happy wonder at the German Christmas-tree and its radiant candles.” [Source]

Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 4th

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