The Masefields in Shropshire, Herefordshire and Sri Lanka

The History Society’s November meeting via the 2020 method of Zoom, was a great success. In fact to be able to attend from one’s own armchair is almost too comfortable! One could get used to this.

Caroline Magnus of Stokesay Court gave an interesting story about her forebears, the Masefields. Normally listening to someone talk at length about their own family of whom one knows nothing can be tedious. But Caroline had the ‘hook’ of the family’s connection to one-time Poet Laureate, John Masefield, of whom we all knew something. She based her title on his poem’s refrain ‘Will ye not come home, brother?’ and felt assured that it referred to Masefield’s brother Harry who was her grandfather.

The family home was at Ellerton Hall, Shropshire, which a recent inhabitant who was listening too, assured us was still very much a family home. But the Masefields of Caroline’s grandfather’s era suffered two family tragedies which left them motherless. Harry’s distant cousin, HV Masefield went to Sri Lanka, which is where Harry too went, after an upbringing with an aunt at The Priory, Ledbury. John Masefield’s books for childen, ‘The Box of Delights’ and ‘The Midnight Folk’ reflect the brothers’ unhappy childhood.

In Sri Lanka he learned the trade of tea planter and became quite successful. However little information about him appeared in the newspapers of the period, and Caroline suggested this was because of the scandal of his having ‘another family’ by a local woman. His lawful wife knew nothing of this until after the wedding. For Caroline’s mother, Harry’s daughter, it was known but not discussed. In more recent years Caroline’s own researches have led to a reunion, in Sri Lanka, with this branch of the ‘other’ family. Harry seems to have been considerate in giving the children his own name and providing for their education. Members of this family were amongst our ‘zoom’ company.

VS

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Historic Graffiti

James Wright’s fascinating talk on Historic graffiti ranged from Prehistoric caves to Modern Sheffield. We saw examples of theological, protective, practical, humorous,and even revenge graffiti. Our vocabulary was expanded with Arborglyphs, Merels boards, and Latrinalia.

James quoted Matthew Champion: ‘Historic graffiti is a very important window onto the past and offers us a dynamic social document as important as anything which could be found in an archive or museum. Prior to the more widespread adoption of literacy during the seventeenth century, graffiti tended to be pictorial. It was created by people of all social backgrounds and is a vital piece of evidence for understanding the everyday lives of ordinary people, many of whom would not leave us any traces of their lives without their graffiti. By learning to “read” those inscriptions we can learn something of their psychologies and emotions… and mostly they speak of their hopes and fears.’

Interest in this subject has been growing since a survey of medieval graffiti in Norfolk. http://www.medieval-graffiti.co.uk/. To date about half of English counties have begun to undertake similar surveys. In Herefordshire a few people have noted images in local churches and have published these with https://rakinglight.co.uk/

A couple of local images.

A pentagram, one of many from Pembridge church. Image courtesy of Gillian Wells.

Ellen Gethin’s tomb in Kington Church. This is covered in graffiti some of which invoke the Virgin Mary. Was this because Ellen was know as the terrible and was married to Thomas Vaughan about whom there are many legends? There are many other significant marks in this church.
Image courtesy of Pamela Thom-Rowe.

Herefordshire has yet to have a survey of its medieval and later graffiti. A short online search and some local knowledge has enabled LHS to identify eight churches, twelve vernacular buildings and a cave of potential interest. There will be many more to find.

JH

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Restarting our talk schedule after a lockdown

LHS are using zoom for the autumn series of talks.  We hope to offer socially distanced meetings in the New Year with live streaming  for those unable to attend.  The talk schedule will be adjusted when we have tested the effectiveness of our arrangements.

Please see our Calendar page for details

Jonathan Hopkinson, Chair

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Sweet Suburbia- the Bicycle ride

Sweet Suburbia

 

See the PowerPoint links above for details

Mike Rix will led two cycle tours through nineteenth and twentieth century suburbs of Hereford .It lent itself to the safety measures we are being encouraged to follow. People were asked to bring their own bikes in their car.

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St Mary Magdalene Churchyard Trail

Children surveying in Leintwardine churchyard, c 2003.

For summer 2020 Leintwardine History Society has set up a churchyard trail to highlight the lives of some of the former inhabitants who are buried here.  We hoped that this would prompt more stories from longstanding local families and from visitors who have local ancestors.  In the short time since the trail was established, stories about two more of those buried here have been reported to the Society and will appear in next year’s version. Come to read about coopers, innkeepers, farmers, gentry and local scandal.  If your ancestors are here, tell us more.

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‘Walking the Pipe’- The Elan Valley Aqueduct

On 15 January 2020 Kate Green presented

Walking the Pipe – The Elan Valley Aqueduct

PART I – The description of the project and the walk

Kate introduced herself to the Society. She is an artist although she does not produce pictures or other artefacts; her art is about making connections and providing experiences to those who live and work in her locality. She describes her art as subversive, outside the mainstream.

The Elan Valley Aqueduct is a Pipe over 73 miles long that transports water from Wales to the Frankley Reservoir (completed 1904) just outside Birmingham. Kate first saw the Pipe about 25 years ago at Nantmel and began walking along it about 4 years ago.

Kate secured funding from Arts Council England for the 2019 project which celebrates the people who live and work along the length of the pipe.

The engineer Joseph Mansergh began work on the project in 1896. The water has to use gravity along its length and so where there was a hill the engineers blasted tunnels through rock. Less extreme gradients used cut and cover conduits, the channels being lined with brick. Upright timbers supported a concrete cover.  The Pipe itself was cast iron and 4 or 5 feet in diameter.

There are masonry crossings, (for example at Knighton), river crossings and stiles which have signs saying “No Right of Way”. The numerous red brick well houses along the route contain valves and controls that regulate the flow through the aqueduct. There are also red brick cottages built for the Walksmen who maintained the aqueduct and many are still lived in by retired Severn Trent workers.

Kate held numerous events along the route, ranging from guided walks and suppers, to pop up exhibitions of artefacts and performances of songs that Kate has composed. The main event was the 5 day walk along the 73-and-a-half-mile route of the pipe in August 2019, from Bleddfa to Frankley. (Arts Council England conceded that 15% of activity time could be spent beyond the Welsh Border).

Kate was not able to plan all the details of the walk, as the O.S. is not able to specify the whole route; however, there were clues. For example, for obvious reasons, the engineers specified that there could not be trees within 20 metres of the pipe and so wide paths often gave the route away.  Kate showed a computerised route as she described the walk.

Day 1 Bleddfa to Buckton – 24 km

Day 2 Buckton to Caynham, – 24 km

Day 3 Caynham to Cleobury Mortimer – 16 km. This was a hot day and it was hard going over Clee Hill

Day 4 Cleobury Mortimer to Wolverley – 20 km. Another hot day followed by a thunderstorm at night. Local people were very welcoming once Kate arrived at Wolverley.

Day 5 Wolverley to Frankley – a very wet 22 km. A number of footpaths turned out to be dead ends and this was the only time Kate resorted to Google Maps. The rain and frustration made this the low point of the walk and Kate finally resorted to climbing a gate – but she then found the pipe again and all ended well.

 

INTERVAL WITH REFRESHMENTS

 

PART II The songs written by Kate

Kate sang with a recorded accompaniment and society members joined in the choruses with enthusiasm. The songs are published in “The All New Walking the Pipe Songbook”. The songs describe:

  • The Navvies and their womenfolk
  • The route of the pipe
  • A celebration of Rita Morton who in 1989 saved the Birmingham Corporation archives from destruction when the company was privatised. She and a friend used her car to rescue the papers from a skip and she later compiled them into an archive
  • Imagining the Engineers having afternoon tea
  • A celebration of a group of friends who also walked the pipe; they are named the Laura Ashley Pate Spreaders when they found themselves without cutlery during a picnic and had to use a credit card
  • Other memories of walks along the pipe including the walk for the Ramblings programme with Clare Balding on Radio 4
  • In praise of butterflies many of whom cluster above the pipe

The Society showed its considerable appreciation of a wonderfully informative and entertaining evening. Many members completed feedback forms and others purchased the song book and also the book of the project’s official newspaper.

References

Website: kate@kate-green.co.uk

email: kate-green.co.uk

Instagram: @shortladywithdarkhair

 

 

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Changes in Working Class Leisure Patterns – Ludlow 1850-1950

On 18th October 2019 Dr Derek Beattie talked to Leintwardine History Society.

By 1850 the Industrial Revolution was well established and the rising Middle Classes exerted increasing influence on the town and its leisure activities. Employers needed their workforce to be sober and punctual on Monday mornings, so there were increasing attempts to regulate weekend activities enjoyed by the working classes, with a particular emphasis on reducing drunkenness and violence.

For example:

Shrove Tuesday.  Shops were boarded up in anticipation of violence from crowds of two thousand or more, who gathered to take part in a tug-of-war. The Four Wards divided into two teams for a series of 3 contests, each team vying to get their end of a 36ft rope into the River Teme. There were no rules and mayhem ensued, with numerous injuries. Spectators fuelled by alcohol were caught up in widespread brawling. After many complaints about ‘uncivilised behaviour’ the contest was banned in 1853.

The Beating of the Bounds The custom established by the Church in Norman times involved walking the parish boundaries, stopping at intervals to pray and bless the milestones, beating the ground with a birch. This had expanded to include general celebration and a contest on Ludford bridge, where two groups of youngsters fought with considerable violence for possession of a decorated birch. ‘Barbaric’ said the authorities, and stopped the festivities in 1849.

Guy Fawkes Day was a public holiday, with a (coal) fire in Castle Square to burn effigies, later moved to Whitcliff, with a procession and much drinking. Attempts by the Council to stop the practice in 1879 led to effigies of the Rector and Councillors being burned: assistance was needed from Hereford Police to control the situation. The custom revived, but with foreign, national enemies as guys.  It died out after the turn of the century, as the working classes themselves became more ‘respectable’. Then individual pubs took over and Bonfire Night celebrations.

May Day The welcoming of Spring invited much revelry and drunkenness, with dancing round a birch pole. The custom continued for many years in villages, but stopped in Ludlow in 1869 and then pubs took over the practice up to 1914.  Councillors encouraged the idea that this should be a celebration by children, dancing with ribbons – altogether more respectable.

An important example of change was the May Fair. This started, in the town centre, as a Hiring Fair for servants, labourers and tradesmen, with each category dressed accordingly. When hired, they were given a shilling (indicating they were hired for the year), which was promptly spent on entertainment. The ‘fun and frolic’ side of the occasion increased as the hiring aspect diminished in importance.

Since servants had very little time off and ‘courting’ was discouraged by employers, the May Fair became  an annual event of importance for finding a spouse. It co-incided with the six monthly pay day, and stalls, entertainers, cakes and sweets all invited customers.

Originally a 3 day event, the authorities employed various strategies to limit the festivities. First they banned the Fair on the Saturday – but it was simply set up in a field; then alcohol was allowed only from 1pm-4 pm – which led to increased consumption during those hours; then the churches and societies tried handing out temperance tracts – but were seen as provocative and ‘bringing religion into contempt’.  Eventually the May Fair was moved to ‘a more working class area’. It still survives.

OTHER ACTIVITIES

The Christmas Waites. Originally the Council paid for a band and singers to go round the town. This proved expensive and was stopped. Large numbers of unemployed filled the gap, as a means of making money and this practice revived in the 1930s Depression, only finishing with WWII.

Skating the Teme froze over most years and skating was one of the few activities where all classes enjoyed themselves together

The Travelling Circus evolved from a chance to see exotic animals  to a huge spectacle on Smithfield (away from the pubs!).  Re-enactment of eg the Sudan War, was said to involve a cast of 1500 and an audience of 3000.  (Ticket pricing kept the strata of society suitably segregated) This continued to the 1960s

Music Hall. A theatre in Mill St had staged plays for the upper and middle classes and when these moved to the Assembly Rooms in the 1840s, the theatre turned to music hall entertainment, very popular with the working classes – and cheap . It closed in 1879 and Smithfield became  the venue for travelling players. Cinematographs developed .

Public Houses  The main enjoyment for the working classes was the daily visit to the pub. In 1850, there were 70 public houses in Ludlow.  A 1901 survey revealed that rooms and stabling were required and some (eg the Bull) had a club room a dining room.  Most were small, relying on singing (with an accordion)  and dancing (solo) as the main entertainment. Brawls often broke out and the noise level was such that one man was reported to have been dead for 2 hours before anyone noticed…

A series of actions were taken nationally and locally to control the problems:

1904 Compensation Fund legislation. If the Council closed a pub (eg as ‘unsanitary’) the Government would pay compensation.

WW1.Defence of the Realm Act reduced opening hours, increased tax on strong beer.

1921 Licensing Act banned afternoon opening. In Ludlow – pubs were required to close at 9pm.

By 1939 the number of pubs had reduced by 60% and drunkenness offences by 80%

PROMOTING ‘HEALTHY’ ACTIVITIES

Church organisations included the Boys Brigade, Guides and Scouts, though many could not afford the uniforms

From 1844 Sunday Schools promoted basic literacy, and after education became compulsory in 1870, they introduced outings and lantern shows: an annual party in the Castle grounds was  attended by over 1000 children. Christian respectability could also be enjoyable!

Team sports were much encouraged, with the emphasis on sportsmanship, but only football proved popular with the working classes. The middle classes ran the teams and players were paid.

Pub games were popular: skittles, bagatelle, ‘puff dart’, tippet.  Attempts were made to stop games if gambling was involved and there were prosecutions for playing ‘skittles with a pint’.

1900 – 1950

Many activities were added, especially those that required a middle class committee to organise them!

Evening Clubs were set up where games were played but coffee replaced alcohol.

Cinemas and Dance Halls prospered from the 1920s and this was the first time that women could take part in working class activities.

The Temperance Movement set up many societies, encouraging people to ‘Sign the Pledge’.

Smoking Concerts provided entertainment – recitation , songs, solo violin etc.

Boating and swimming in the Teme flourished in Edwardian times

Parades and Galas were attended by as many as 2000 or 3000 people

Pigeon Racing proved very successful and was organised by the working classes themselves

Gardening became a major activity, horticultural shows offering produce competitions, with different tents for the working classes and the upper classes.

RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS

  1. Up to 1880s, most beer was brewed by small local companies and individuals. Then large brewing companies began to take over
  2. The Assembly Rooms were initially built (1840) to hold assemblies and balls for the gentry. Balls began at 9pm – and huge quantities of rich food were consumed.

Dr Beattie provided an entertaining and comprehensive survey. His book, to be published in 2020, will be available at LHS meetings.

GMS 261019

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Heraldry in the Marches – Hugh Wood

Talk given on 18 September 2019

Hugh introduced himself modestly as an enthusiast but not an expert in Heraldry. He is a long-standing member and official of the Mortimer Society and always been fascinated by Heraldry. The title of the talk meant that he would give local examples but heraldry in this area is not significantly different from the norm elsewhere in the country.

He could not explore the origins and basic ideas of heraldry in one hour, but he would show us how much we can discern about individuals if we can read a coat of arms.

In medieval times there was no control over what individuals could display on their coats of arms, but in the 16th Century the College of Arms was established and all arms required the approval of this institution

The first part of the talk looked at general theme behind coats of arms and in the second he applied this to the coats of arms of a large local family.

Hugh had numerous images to illustrate his talk; he pointed out that some of the photographs were a bit unclear either because the subjects were a bit inaccessible, or because they had not been well looked after.

Hugh’s first image showed the difference between a Crest, which was a symbol over the helmet, worn in battle, to show who the warrior was, and a Coat of Arms. The Coat of Arms of a powerful individual (usually a male) was displayed in a variety of settings to identify the individual, their family, status, powerful connections, gender, position in the family and so on.

The diagram below is a fairly standard outline of a coat of arms.

Marshalling Arms

The first way in which nobles began to adapt their basic shield was to put their wife’s coat of arms, as well as their own, on their shield, to indicate their powerful connection through marriage. At first, they used dimidiation where they would simply divide the shield in two vertically and put one half shield on either side. But this proved very clumsy as it often produced unartistic overall designs and the practice died out. (Examples, Fitz Alan, Mortimer at Hope say).

Impalement

When two coats of arms are impaled, they are both squeezed completely onto a shield. A Bishop might have his personal shield alongside the shield of his office.

quartering

Dexter Chief                                    Chief                                       Sinister Chief

Dexter                                        Base                                 Sinister

Women

A woman’s coat of arms would be shown on a lozenge or sloping diamond shape. Her husband’s arms would be on the Dexter side and her family arms on the Sinister side. The father’s arms would be passed down to their descendants but the mother’s arms would be lost, unless she (the mother) was an heiress. As the father of an heiress had no male heir, the family’s arms would have to be passed on through her. When her father died her husband would place her arms “In Pretence” on an escutcheon on the middle of his arms and these maternal arms would then be passed on to their children, who would quarter their father’s arms with their mother’s.

Quartering

There were a number of ways of displaying several arms on a shield or lozenge. The more heiresses in a family, the more need for quartering. The term quartering reflects the display in 4 quarters or more segments.

There were standards of how Quartering should be displayed.

  • A man could display as many or as few of his quarterings as he wanted.
  • There could be a different combination for different occasions BUT
  • The shield must include the Quartering of the heiress who brought it.

Cadency

Only the head of the family and a female could display the undifference family arms. Adult sons have to show their position in the family in a different way.

Differency

Hugh showed a picture of a bronze effigy supposed to be of Edmund Mortimer, a younger brother of Roger Mortimer,4th Earl of March. This shows the Mortimer arms with a clear difference mark. There is much controversy over whether this could be a genuine.

Modern Cadency

From the 16th Century sons’ arms would display an extra badge depending on their place in the family.  This practice could lead to confusion, for instance a brother and an uncle might display the same badge, so it is less used today.

Eldest           Label – a line with legs       |——|——|-

Second         Crescent

3rd               Mullet

4th                Martlett – a bird

5th               Annulet – a circle

6th                Fleur de Lys

7th                Rose

Canting or Punning Arms

A design could pun on its owner’s name; for example, Sir Roger Fox’s shows a fox.

Baronets

Baronets ranked below peers and above knights, excluding knights of the garter. They were allowed to display the Red Hand of Ulster.

(Hugh showed a slide with numerous quarters to show how often baronets’ coats of arms could be repeated on large shields, indicating a good rate of intermarriage amongst the baronetcy).

Peers of the realm had signs to indicate their rank such as coronets.

Funeral hatchments

When a person died, their coat of arms was often placed on a special funeral hatchment. These were displayed on the outside of their house and after a while many were moved to the local church. By learning how to read a hatchment one can see whether it belongs to a man or woman and whether their spouse predeceased them or not.

A Local Family

The Cornewall family were descended from King John.

Their arms had a field of ermine, a white background with black dots symbolising the tails of winter stoats. The Border was decorated with golden balls. A lion wore a golden crown.

Hugh described the different branches of the family which survived medieval times, residing at various parts of the county including Berrington, into the 18th Century. They also lived at Burford, Delbury and Moccas

A Heraldic Roll of c1576 containing 41 Coats of Arms associated with Ludlow Castle has recently been found, largely through the efforts of the Mortimer History Society. Several copies have been made and will be shown at a special event on October 5th in Ludlow.

Jane Brown

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The long C19 in Newtown, Powys

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Mike Rix took us back in time to the long C19 on our tour of Newton.  Starting under an ancient black poplar tree, in a car park which we learnt was formerly the Severn riverbed, he told us about the evolution of the flannel trade in mid-Wales.  Newtown being known as the Leeds of Wales.

Newtown Tour 2019 - under the black poplar

We left the carpark for the Pryce Jones Royal Welsh warehouse.  Located close to the railway, Pryce Jones developed the world’s first successful mail order business.  The vast building has retained its fire doors and stained glass.  Outside it was decorated with roundels celebrating international exhibitions in which the firm had participated.

Newtown Tour 2019 - Pryce Jones Factory

We walked on to see a marker defining the town boundary and learnt of the conflict between the Reverend Evors of Newtown Hall, landlord and mill owner and local workers which culminated in a chartist riot put down by soldiers.

We saw evidence of blocks of weavers’ lofts flanked by a manager’s house in late C18 buildings and were regaled with theories about the origin of the street known as ‘The Frolic’.

Newtown Tour 2019 - Former workers houses and loft factories

We saw the layout of the earlier market town and the ruins of St Mary’s church. Here were the grand tomb of the influential social reformer, Robert Owen and a plaque to Thomas Powell, a leading chartist.

After the opportunity to review an historical map of the town over lunch, we crossed the river to the suburb of Penygloddfa. which was the main weaving district.  Here we visited the Textile Museum housed in a terrace of back to back houses with two large weaving floors running the length of the terrace.

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This fascinating museum had working looms to demonstrate how the flannel was produced.  The nearby canal and later the railroad connected the production to the wider market through Shrewsbury and Oswestry.

We left with our eyes opened to the history of the town and other industrial heritage.  We strongly recommend visiting the museum.

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The reconstruction of medieval costumes at Pembridge

Our history society outing to Pembridge on 7th May gave us a fascinating insight into medieval dress.  We started by examining the effigies on the tombs of two generations of the Gour family, wealthy and well-connected civil servants. Unusually the men are depicted in civilian dress rather than in military knightly armour more usual at this period.  The clothing of both couples is beautifully detailed.

In 2015 a group of locals started a project to reproduce this clothing.  We were shown the results, displayed on four mannequins in a side chapel.  Two members of the group explained how they tackled the project: how they tried to reproduce the cloth of the period and the methods of construction. There was input from local knitting specialists, leather workers and jewellers.  While there were obviously some very experienced needle workers locally, one of our speakers, who had never previously threaded a needle, quickly learnt to design, cut and sew with great skill.

The group then decided to make a set of wedding garments such as would have been worn by Roger Mortimer and Joan de Geneville at their marriage in Pembridge church in 1301.  These garments were based on pictures and manuscripts of the period, with special reference to the list of clothing which Roger Mortimer was wearing when he was captured and imprisoned in 1330.

Jane H

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