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The Other Side of the Eighties in Britain, 1983-1988: The Miners and The Militants.   Leave a comment

Labour – Dropping the Donkey Jacket:

From 1980 to 1983, Michael Foot’s leadership had saved the Labour Party from splitting into two, but in all other respects, it was a disaster. He was too old, too decent, too gentle to take on the hard left or to modernise his party. Foot’s policies were those of a would-be parliamentary revolutionary detained in the second-hand bookshops in Hay-on-Wye. I enjoyed this experience myself in 1982, with a minibus full of bookish ‘revolutionaries’ from Cardiff, who went up there, as it happened, via Foot’s constituency. When roused, which was often, his Cromwellian hair would flap across a face contorted with passion, his hands would whip around excitedly and denunciations would pour forth from him with a fluency ‘old Noll’ would have envied. During his time as leader, he was in his late sixties, and would have been PM at seventy, had he won the 1983 General Election, which, of course, was never a remote possibility. Unlike Thatcher, he was contemptuous of the shallow presentational tricks demanded by television, and he could look dishevelled, being famously denounced for wearing a ‘donkey jacket’, in reality, a Burberry-style woollen coat, at the Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph. But he was more skilled than anyone I saw then or have seen since, in whipping up the socialist faithful in public meetings, or in finger-stabbing attacks on the Tory government in the House of Commons, both in open debates and questions to the PM. He would have been happier communing with Jonathan Swift and my Gulliver forbears in Banbury than attempting to operate in a political system which depended on television performances, ruthless organisation and managerial discipline. He was a political poet in an age of prose.

Nobody in the early eighties could have reined in its wilder members; Foot did his best but led the party to its worst defeat in modern times, on the basis of a hard-left, anti-Europe, anti-nuclear, pro-nationalisation manifest famously described by Gerald Kaufman as the longest suicide note in history. Kaufman had also urged Foot to stand down before the election. It was a measure of the affection felt for him that his ‘swift’ retirement after the defeat was greeted with little recrimination. Yet it also meant that when Neil Kinnock won the subsequent leadership election he had a mandate for change no previous Labour leader had enjoyed. He won with seventy-one per cent of the electoral college votes, against nineteen per cent for Roy Hattersley. Tony Benn was out of Parliament, having lost his Bristol seat, and so could not stand as the standard-bearer of the hard left. Kinnock had been elected after a series of blistering campaign speeches, a Tribunite left-winger who, like Foot, advocated the unilateral abandonment of all Britain’s nuclear weapons, believed in nationalisation and planning and wanted Britain to withdraw from the European Community. A South Wales MP from the same Bevanite stock as Foot, he also supported the abolition of private medicine and the repeal of the Tory trade union reforms. To begin with, the only fights he picked with the Bennites were over the campaign to force Labour MPs to undergo mandatory reselection, which handed a noose to local Militant activists. Yet after the chaos of the 1983 Campaign, he was also sure that the party was in need of radical remedies.

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To win power, Labour needed to present itself better in the age of the modern mass media. Patricia Hewitt (pictured above), known for her campaigning on civil liberties, joined Kinnock’s new team. She was chosen to fight Leicester East in the 1983 Election but was unsuccessful. In her new role, she began trying to control interviews and placing the leader in more flattering settings than those Foot had found himself in. Kinnock knew how unsightly ‘old’ Labour had looked to the rest of the country and was prepared to be groomed. He gathered around him a ‘Pontypool front row’ of tough, aggressive heavy-weights, including Charles Clarke, the former communist NUS leader; John Reid, another former communist and Glaswegian backbench bruiser. Hewitt herself and Peter Mandelson, grandson of Herbert Morrison and Labour’s side-stepping future director of communications, led the three-quarter line with Kinnock himself as the able scrum-half. Kinnock was the first to flirt with the once-abhorred world of advertising and to seek out the support of pro-Labour pop artists such as Tracy Ullman and Billy Bragg. In this, he was drawing on a long tradition on the Welsh left, from Paul Robeson to the Hennesseys. He smartened up his own style, curtailing the informal mateyness which had made him popular among the ‘boyos’ and introduced a new code of discipline in the shadow cabinet.

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Neil Kinnock attacking the Militant Tendency at the party conference in 1985.

In the Commons, he tried hard to discomfit Thatcher at her awesome best, which was difficult and mostly unsuccessful. The mutual loathing between them was clear for all to see, and as Thatcher’s popularity began to decline in 1984, Labour’s poll ratings slowly began to improve. But the party harboured a vocal minority of revolutionaries of one kind or another. They included not only the long-term supporters of Tony Benn, like Jeremy Corbyn, but also Arthur Scargill and his brand of insurrectionary syndicalism; the Trotskyist Militant Tendency, a front for the Revolutionary Socialist League, which had been steadily infiltrating the party since the sixties; and assorted hard-left local councillors, like Derek Hatton in Liverpool, a Militant member who were determined to defy Thatcher’s government, no matter how big its democratic mandate, by various ‘ultra-vires’ and illegal stratagems. Kinnock dealt with them all. Had he not done so New Labour would never have happened, yet he himself was a passionate democratic socialist whose own politics were well to the left of the country.

Neil Kinnock was beginning a tough journey towards the centre-ground of British politics, which meant leaving behind people who sounded much like his younger self. On this journey, much of his natural wit and rhetoric would be silenced. He had created his leadership team as if it were a rugby team, involved in a confrontational contact sport against opponents who were fellow enthusiasts, but with their own alternative strategy. He found that political leadership was more serious, drearier and nastier than rugby. And week after week, he was also confronting someone in Thatcher someone whose principles had been set firm long before and whose politics clearly and consistently expressed those principles on the field of play. Yet, like a Welsh scrum-half, he was always on the move, always having to shadow and shade, to side-step and shimmy, playing the ball back into the scrum or sideways to his three-quarters rather than kicking it forward. The press soon dubbed him ‘the Welsh windbag’, due to his long, discursive answers in interviews.

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The first and toughest example of what he was up against came with the miners’ strike. Neil Kinnock and Arthur Scargill (above) had already shown their loathing for each other over the mainstream leadership’s battles with the Bennites. The NUM President was probably the only person on the planet that Kinnock hated more than Thatcher. He distrusted Scargill’s aims, despised his tactics and realised early on that he was certain to fail. In this, he was sharing the views of the South Wales NUM who had already forced a U-turn on closures from an unprepared Thatcher in 1981. Yet they, and he had to remain true to their own traditions and heritage. They both found themselves in an embarrassing situation, but more importantly, they realised that like it or not, they were in an existential struggle. As the violence spread, the Conservatives in the Commons and their press continually goaded and hounded him to denounce the use of ‘flying pickets’ and to praise the police. He simply could not do so, as so many on his own side had experienced the violence of the police, or heard about it from those who had. For him to attack the embattled trade union would be seen as the ultimate betrayal by a Labour leader. He was caught between the rock of Thatcher and hard place of Scargill. In the coalfields, even in South Wales, he was shunned on the picket lines as the miner’s son too “frit” in Thatcher’s favourite phrase, to come to the support of the miners in their hour of need. Secretly, however, there was some sympathy for his impossible situation among the leadership of the South Wales NUM. Kinnock at least managed to avoid fusing Labour and the NUM in the mind of many Labour voters, ensuring that Scargill’s ultimate, utter defeat was his alone. But this lost year destroyed his early momentum and stole his hwyl, his Welsh well-spring of ‘evangelical’ socialist spirit.

The Enemy Within?:

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Above: Striking Yorkshire miners barrack moderate union leaders in Sheffield.

The first Thatcher government was had been dominated by the Falklands War; the second was dominated by the miners’ strike. Spurred on by ‘the spirit of the Falklands’, the government took a more confrontational attitude towards the trade unions after the 1983 General Election. This year-long battle, 1984-5, was the longest strike in British history, the most bitter, bloody and tragic industrial dispute since the General Strike and six-month Miners’ Lock-out of 1926. The strike was eventually defeated, amid scenes of mass picketing and running battles between the police and the miners. It resulted in the total defeat of the miners followed by the end of deep coal-mining in Britain. In reality, the strike simply accelerated the continuing severe contraction in the industry which had begun in the early eighties and which the South Wales NUM had successfully resisted in what turned out, however, to be a Pyrrhic victory. By 1984, the government had both the resources, the popular mandate and the dogged determination to withstand the miners’ demands. The industry had all but vanished from Kent, while in Durham two-thirds of the pits were closed. They were the only real source of employment to local communities, so the social impact of closures proved devastating. In the Durham pit villages, the entire local economy was crippled and the miners’ housing estates gradually became the ghost areas they remain today.

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The government had little interest in ensuring the survival of the industry, with its troublesome and well-organised union which had already won a national strike against the Heath government a decade earlier. For the Thatcher government, the closures resulting from the defeat of the strike were a price it was willing to pay in order to teach bigger lessons. Later, the Prime Minister of the time reflected on these:

What the strike’s defeat established was that Britain could not be made ungovernable by the Fascist Left. Marxists wanted to defy the law of the land in order to defy the laws of economics. They failed and in doing so demonstrated just how mutually dependent the free economy and a free society really are.

It was a confrontation which was soaked in history on all sides. For the Tories, it was essential revenge for Heath’s humiliation, a score they had long been eager to settle; Margaret Thatcher spoke of Arthur Scargill and the miners’ leaders as ‘the enemy within’, as compared to Galtieri, the enemy without. For thousands of traditionally ‘militant’ miners, it was their last chance to end decades of pit closures and save their communities, which were under mortal threat. For their leader Arthur Scargill, it was an attempt to follow Mick McGahey in pulling down the government and winning a class war. He was no more interested than the government, as at least the other former, more moderate leaders had been, in the details of pay packets, or in a pit-by-pit review to determine which pits were truly uneconomic. He was determined to force the government, in Thatcher’s contemptuous phrase, to pay for mud to be mined rather than see a single job lost.

The Thatcher government had prepared more carefully than Scargill. Following the settlement with the South Wales NUM, the National Coal Board (NCB) had spent the intervening two years working with the Energy Secretary, Nigel Lawson, to pile up supplies of coal at the power stations; stocks had steadily grown, while consumption and production both fell. Following the riots in Toxteth and Brixton, the police had been retrained and equipped with full riot gear without which, ministers later confessed, they would have been unable to beat the pickets. Meanwhile, Thatcher had appointed a Scottish-born Australian, Ian MacGregor, to run the NCB. He had a fierce reputation as a union-buster in the US and had been brought back to Britain to run British Steel where closures and 65,000 job cuts had won him the title ‘Mac the Knife’. Margaret Thatcher admired him as a tough, no-nonsense man, a refreshing change from her cabinet, though she later turned against him for his lack of political nous. His plan was to cut the workforce of 202,000 by 44,000 in two years, then take another twenty thousand jobs out. Twenty pits would be closed, to begin with. When he turned up to visit mines, he was abused, pelted with flour bombs and, on one occasion, knocked to the ground.

Arthur Scargill was now relishing the coming fight as much as Thatcher. In the miners’ confrontation with Heath, Scargill had led the flying pickets at the gates of the Saltley coke depot outside Birmingham. Some sense of both his revolutionary ‘purity’, combined with characteristic Yorkshire bluntness, comes from an exchange he had with Dai Francis, the Welsh Miners’ leader at that time. He had called Francis to ask for Welsh pickets to go to Birmingham and help at the depot. Francis asked when they were needed and Scargill replied:

“Tomorrow, Saturday.”

“But Wales are playing Scotland at Cardiff Arms Park.”

“But Dai, the working class are playing the ruling class at Saltley.”

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Many found Scargill inspiring; many others found him scary. Like Francis, he had been a Communist, but unlike Dai (pictured above, behind the poster, during the 1972 strike), he retained hard-line Marxist views and a penchant for denouncing anyone who disagreed with him. Kim Howells, also a former Communist and an officer of the South Wales NUM, gained a sense of Scargill’s megalomania when, just prior the 1984-5 strike, he visited his HQ in Barnsley, already known as ‘Arthur’s Castle’. Howells, a historian of the Welsh Labour movement, later becoming an MP and New Labour minister, was taken aback to find him sitting at this Mussolini desk with a great space in front of it. Behind him was a huge painting of himself on the back of a lorry, posed like Lenin, urging picketing workers in London to overthrow the ruling class. Howells thought anyone who could put up a painting like that was nuts and returned to Pontypridd to express his fears to the Welsh miners:

And of course the South Wales executive almost to a man agreed with me. But then they said, “He’s the only one we’ve got, see, boy.  The Left has decided.”

Scargill had indeed been elected by a huge margin and had set about turning the NUM’s once moderate executive, led by Joe Gormley, into a militant group. The Scottish Miners’ leader, Mick McGahey, although older and wiser than his President, was his Vice-President. Scargill had been ramping up the rhetoric for some time. He had told the NUM Conference in 1982, …

If we do not save our pits from closure then all our other struggles will become meaningless … Protection of the industry is my first priority because without jobs all our other claims lack substance and become mere shadows. Without jobs, our members are nothing …

Given what was about to happen to his members’ jobs as a result of his uncompromising position in the strike, there is a black irony in those words. By insisting that no pits should be closed on economic grounds, even if the coal was exhausted, and that more investment would always find more coal, from his point of view the losses were irrelevant. He made sure that confrontation would not be avoided. An alternative strategy put forward by researchers for the South Wales NUM was that it was the NCB’s economic arguments that needed to be exposed, along with the fact that it was using the Miners’ Pension Fund to invest in the production of cheap coal in Poland and South Africa. It’s definition of what was ‘economic’ in Britain rested on the comparative cost of importing this coal from overseas. If the NCB had invested these funds at home, the pits in Britain would not be viewed as being as ‘uneconomic’ as they claimed. But Scargill was either not clever enough to deploy these arguments or too determined to pursue the purity of his brand of revolutionary syndicalism, or both.

The NUM votes which allowed the strike to start covered both pay and closures, but from the start Scargill emphasised the closures. To strike to protect jobs, particularly other people’s jobs, in other people’s villages and other countries’ pits, gave the confrontation an air of nobility and sacrifice which a mere wages dispute would not have enjoyed. But national wage disputes had, for more than sixty years, been about arguments over the ‘price of coal’ and the relative difficulties of extracting it from a variety of seams in very different depths across the various coalfields. Neil Kinnock, the son and grandson of Welsh miners, found it impossible to condemn Scargill’s strategy without alienating support for Labour in its heartlands. He did his best to argue the economics of the miners’ case, and to condemn the harshness of the Tory attitude towards them, but these simply ran parallel to polarised arguments which were soon dividing the nation.

Moreover, like Kinnock, Scargill was a formidable organiser and conference-hall speaker, though there was little economic analysis to back up his rhetoric. Yet not even he would be able to persuade every part of the industry to strike. Earlier ballots had shown consistent majorities against striking. In Nottinghamshire, seventy-two per cent of the areas 32,000 voted against striking. The small coalfields of South Derbyshire and Leicestershire were also against. Even in South Wales, half of the NUM lodges failed to vote for a strike. Overall, of the seventy thousand miners who were balloted in the run-up to the dispute, fifty thousand had voted to keep working. Scargill knew he could not win a national ballot, so he decided on a rolling series of locally called strikes, coalfield by coalfield, beginning in Yorkshire, then Scotland, followed by Derbyshire and South Wales. These strikes would merely be approved by the national union. It was a domino strategy; the regional strikes would add up to a national strike, but without a national ballot.

But Scargill needed to be sure the dominoes would fall. He used the famous flying pickets from militant areas to shut down less militant ones. Angry miners were sent in coaches and convoys of cars to close working pits and the coke depots, vital hubs of the coal economy. Without the pickets, who to begin with rarely needed to use violence to achieve their end, far fewer pits would have come out. But after scenes of physical confrontation around Britain, by April 1984 four miners in five were on strike. There were huge set-piece confrontations with riot-equipped police bused up from London or down from Scotland, Yorkshire to Kent and Wales to Yorkshire, generally used outside their own areas in order to avoid mixed loyalties. As Andrew Marr has written, …

It was as if the country had been taken over by historical re-enactments of civil war battles, the Sealed Knot Society run rampant. Aggressive picketing was built into the fabric of the strike. Old country and regional rivalries flared up, Lancashire men against Yorkshire men, South Wales miners in Nottinghamshire.

The Nottinghamshire miners turned out to be critical since without them the power stations, even with the mix of nuclear and oil, supplemented by careful stockpiling, might have begun to run short and the government would have been in deep trouble. To Scargill’s disdain, however, other unions also refused to come out in sympathy, thus robbing him of the prospect of a General Strike, and it soon became clear that the NUM had made other errors in their historical re-enactments. Many miners were baffled from the beginning as to why Scargill had opted to strike in the spring when the demand for energy was relatively low and the stocks at the power stations were not running down at anything like the rate which the NUM needed in order to make their action effective. This was confirmed by confidential briefings from the power workers, and it seemed that the government just had to sit out the strike.

In this civil war, the police had the cavalry, while the miners were limited to the late twentieth-century equivalent of Oakey’s dragoons at Naseby, their flying pickets, supporting their poor bloody infantry, albeit well-drilled and organised. Using horses, baton charges and techniques learned in the aftermath of the street battles at Toxteth and Brixton, the police defended working miners with a determination which delighted the Tories and alarmed many others, not just the agitators for civil rights. An event which soon became known as the Battle of Orgreave (in South Yorkshire) was particularly brutal, involving ‘Ironside’ charges by mounted police in lobster-pot style helmets into thousands of miners with home-made pikes and pick-axe handles.

The NUM could count on almost fanatical loyalty in coalfield towns and villages across Britain. Miners gave up their cars, sold their furniture, saw their wives and children suffer and lost all they had in the cause of solidarity. Food parcels arrived from other parts of Britain, from France and most famously, from Soviet Russia. But there was a gritty courage and selflessness in mining communities which, even after more than seventy years of struggle, most of the rest of Britain could barely understand. But an uglier side to this particularly desperate struggle also emerged when a taxi-driver was killed taking a working miner to work in Wales. A block of concrete was dropped from a pedestrian bridge onto his cab, an act swiftly condemned by the South Wales NUM.

In Durham, the buses taking other ‘scabs’ to work in the pits were barraged with rocks and stones, as later portrayed in the film Billy Elliot. The windows had to be protected with metal grills. There were murderous threats made to strike-breaking miners and their families, and even trade union ‘allies’ were abused. Norman Willis, the amiable general secretary of the TUC, had a noose dangled over his head when he spoke at one miners’ meeting. This violence was relayed to the rest of the country on the nightly news at a time when the whole nation still watched together. I remember the sense of helplessness I felt watching the desperation of the Welsh miners from my ‘exile’ in Lancashire, having failed to find a teaching post in the depressed Rhondda in 1983. My Lancastrian colleagues were as divided as the rest of the country over the strike, often within themselves as well as from others. In the end, we found it impossible to talk about the news, no matter how much it affected us.

Eventually, threatened by legal action on the part of the Yorkshire miners claiming they had been denied a ballot, the NUM was forced onto the back foot. The South Wales NUM led the calls from within for a national ballot to decide on whether the strike should continue. Scargill’s decision to accept a donation from Colonel Gaddafi of Libya found him slithering from any moral ground he had once occupied. As with Galtieri, Thatcher was lucky in the enemies ‘chosen’ for her. Slowly, month by month, the strike began to crumble and miners began to trail back to work. A vote to strike by pit safety officers and overseers, which would have shut down the working pits, was narrowly avoided by the government. By January 1985, ten months after they had first been brought out, strikers were returning to work at the rate of 2,500 a week, and by the end of February, more than half the NUM’s membership was back at work. In some cases, especially in South Wales, they marched back proudly behind brass bands.

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Above: ‘No way out!’ – picketing miners caught and handcuffed to a lamp-post by police.

Scargill’s gamble had gone catastrophically wrong. He has been compared to a First World War general, a donkey sending lions to the slaughter, though at Orgreave and elsewhere, he had stood with them too. But the political forces engaged against the miners in 1984 were entirely superior in strength to those at the disposal of the ill-prepared Heath administration of ten years earlier. A shrewder, non-revolutionary leader would not have chosen to take on Thatcher’s government at the time Scargill did, or having done so, would have found a compromise after the first months of the dispute. Today, there are only a few thousand miners left of the two hundred thousand who went on strike. An industry which had once made Britain into a great industrial power, but was always dangerous, disease-causing, dirty and polluting, finally lay down and died. For the Conservatives and perhaps for, by the end of the strike, the majority of the moderate British people, Scargill and his lieutenants were fighting parliamentary democracy and were, therefore, an enemy which had to be defeated. But the miners of Durham, Derbyshire, Kent, Fife, Yorkshire, Wales and Lancashire were nobody’s enemy. They were abnormally hard-working, traditional people justifiably worried about losing their jobs and loyal to their union, if not to the stubborn syndicalists in its national leadership.

Out with the Old Industries; in with the New:

In Tyneside and Merseyside, a more general deindustrialisation accompanied the colliery closures. Whole sections of industry, not only coal but also steel and shipbuilding, virtually vanished from many of their traditional areas.  Of all the areas of Britain, Northern Ireland suffered the highest level of unemployment, partly because the continuing sectarian violence discouraged investment. In February 1986, there were officially over 3.4 million unemployed, although statistics were manipulated for political reasons and the real figure is a matter of speculation. The socially corrosive effects were felt nationally, manifested in further inner-city rioting in 1985. Inner London was just as vulnerable as Liverpool, a crucial contributory factor being the number of young men of Asian and Caribbean origin who saw no hope of ever entering employment: opportunities were minimal and they felt particularly discriminated against. The term ‘underclass’ was increasingly used to describe those who felt themselves to be completely excluded from the benefits of prosperity.

Prosperity there certainly was, for those who found alternative employment in the service industries. Between 1983 and 1987, about 1.5 million new jobs were created. Most of these were for women, and part-time vacancies predominated. The total number of men in full-time employment fell still further, and many who left the manufacturing for the service sector earned much-reduced incomes. The economic recovery that led to the growth of this new employment was based mainly on finance, banking and credit. Little was invested in British manufacturing. Far more was invested overseas; British foreign investments rose from 2.7 billion in 1975 to a staggering 90 billion in 1985. At the same time, there was a certain amount of re-industrialisation in the South East, where new industries employing the most advanced technology grew. In fact, many industries shed a large proportion of their workforce but, using new technology, maintained or improved their output.

These new industries were not confined to the South East of England: Nissan built the most productive car plant in Europe at Sunderland. After an extensive review, Sunderland was chosen for its skilled workforce and its location near major ports. The plant was completed in 1986 as the subsidiary Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd. Siemens established a microchip plant at Wallsend on Tyneside in which it invested 1.1 billion. But such industries tended not to be large-scale employers of local workers. Siemens only employed about 1,800. Traditional regionally-based industries continued to suffer a dramatic decline during this period. Coal-mining, for example, was decimated in the years following the 1984-5 strike, not least because of the shift of the electricity generation of the industry towards alternative energy sources, especially gas. During 1984-7 the coal industry shed 170,000 workers.

The North-South Divide – a Political Complex?:

By the late 1980s, the north-south divide in Britain seemed as intractable as it had all century, with high unemployment particularly concentrated in the declining extractive and manufacturing industries of the North of England, Scotland and Wales. That the north-south divide increasingly had a political as well as an economic complexion was borne out by the outcome of the 1987 General Election. While Margaret Thatcher was swept back to power for the third time, her healthy Conservative majority largely based on the voters of the South and East of England. North of a line roughly between the Severn and the Humber, the long decline of the Tories, especially in Scotland, where they were reduced to ten seats, was increasingly apparent. At the same time, the national two-party system seemed to be breaking down. South of the Severn-Humber line, where Labour seats were now very rare outside London, the Liberal-SDP Alliance were the main challengers to the Conservatives in many constituencies.

The Labour Party continued to pay a heavy price for its internal divisions, as well as for the bitterness engendered by the miners’ strike. It is hardly Neil Kinnock’s fault that he is remembered for his imprecise long-windedness, the product of self-critical and painful political readjustment. His admirers recall his great platform speeches, the saw-edged wit and air-punching passion. There was one occasion, however, when Kinnock spoke so well that he united most of the political world in admiration. This happened at the Labour conference in Bournemouth in October 1985. A few days before the conference, Liverpool City Council, formally Labour-run but in fact controlled by the Revolutionary Socialist League, had sent out redundancy notices to its thirty-one thousand staff. The revolutionaries, known by the name of their newspaper, Militant, were a party-within-a-party, a parasitic body within Labour. They had some five thousand members who paid a proportion of their incomes to the RSL so that the Militant Tendency had a hundred and forty full-time workers, more than the staff of the Social Democrats and Liberals combined. They had a presence all around Britain, but Liverpool was their great stronghold. There they practised Trotsky’s politics of the transitional demand, the tactic of making impossible demands for more spending and higher wages so that when the ‘capitalist lackeys’ refused these demands, they could push on to the next stage, leading to collapse and revolution.

In Liverpool, where they were building thousands of new council houses, this strategy meant setting an illegal council budget and cheerfully bankrupting the city. Sending out the redundancy notices to the council’s entire staff was supposed to show Thatcher they would not back down, or shrink from the resulting chaos. Like Scargill, Militant’s leaders thought they could destroy the Tories on the streets. Kinnock had thought of taking them on a year earlier but had decided that the miners’ strike made that impossible. The Liverpool mayhem gave him his chance, so in the middle of his speech at Bournemouth, he struck. It was time, he said, for Labour to show the public that it was serious. Implausible promises would not bring political victory:

I’ll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, outdated, misplaced, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council – a Labour council – hiring taxis to scuttle round a city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers.

By now he had whipped himself into real anger, a peak of righteous indignation, but he remained in control. His enemies were in front of him, and all the pent-up frustrations of the past year were being released. The hall came alive. Militant leaders like Derek Hatton stood up and yelled ‘lies!’ Boos came from the hard left, and some of their MPs walked out, but Kinnock was applauded by the majority in the hall, including his mainstream left supporters. Kinnock went on with a defiant glare at his opponents:

I’m telling you, and you’ll listen, you can’t play politics with people’s jobs and with people’s services, or with their homes. … The people will not, cannot abide posturing. They cannot respect the gesture-generals or the tendency tacticians.

Most of those interviewed in the hall and many watching live on television, claimed it was the most courageous speech they had ever heard from a Labour leader, though the hard left remained venomously hostile. By the end of the following month, Liverpool District Labour Party, from which Militant drew its power, was suspended and an inquiry was set up. By the spring of 1986, the leaders of Militant had been identified and charged with behaving in a way which was incompatible with Labour membership. The process of expelling them was noisy, legally fraught and time-consuming, though more than a hundred of them were eventually expelled. There was a strong tide towards Kinnock across the rest of the party, with many left-wingers cutting their ties to the Militant Tendency. There were many battles with the hard left to come, and several pro-Militant MPs were elected in the 1987 Election. These included two Coventry MPs, Dave Nellist and John Hughes, ‘representing’ my own constituency, whose sole significant, though memorable ‘contribution’ in the House of Commons was to interrupt prayers. Yet by standing up openly to the Trotskyist menace, as Wilson, Callaghan and Foot had patently failed to do, Kinnock gave his party a fresh start. It began to draw away from the SDP-Liberal Alliance in the polls and did better in local elections. It was the moment when the New Labour project became possible.

A Third Victory and a Turning of the Tide:

Yet neither this internal victory nor the sharper management that Kinnock introduced, would bring the party much good against Thatcher in the following general election. Labour was still behind the public mood. Despite mass unemployment, Thatcher’s free-market optimism was winning through, and Labour was still committed to re-nationalisation, planning, a National Investment Bank and unilateral nuclear disarmament, a personal cause of both Neil and his wife, Glenys, over the previous twenty years. The Cold War was thawing and it was not a time for the old certainties, but for the Kinnocks support for CND was fundamental to their political make-up. So he stuck to the policy, even as he came to realise how damaging it was to Labour’s image among swing voters. Under Labour, all the British and US nuclear bases would be closed, the Trident nuclear submarine force cancelled, all existing missiles scrapped and the UK would no longer expect any nuclear protection from the US in time of war. Instead, more money would be spent on tanks and conventional warships. All of this did them a lot of good among many traditional Labour supporters; Glenys turned up at the women’s protest camp at Greenham Common. But it was derided in the press and helped the SDP to garner support from the ‘middle England’ people Labour needed to win back. In the 1987 General Election campaign, Kinnock’s explanation about why Britain would not simply surrender if threatened by a Soviet nuclear attack sounded as if he was advocating some kind of Home Guard guerrilla campaign once the Russians had arrived. With policies like this, he was unlikely to put Thatcher under serious pressure.

When the 1987 election campaign began, Thatcher had a clear idea about what her third administration would do. She wanted more choice for the users of state services. There would be independent state schools outside the control of local councillors, called grant-maintained schools.  In the health services, though it was barely mentioned in the manifesto, she wanted money to follow the patient. Tenants would be given more rights. The basic rate of income tax would be cut and she would finally sort out local government, ending the ‘rates’ and bringing in a new tax. On paper, the programme seemed coherent, which was more than could be said for the Tory campaign itself. Just as Kinnock’s team had achieved a rare harmony and discipline, Conservative Central Office was riven by conflict between politicians and ad-men. The Labour Party closed the gap to just four points and Mrs Thatcher’s personal ratings also fell as Kinnock’s climbed. He was seen surrounded by admiring crowds, young people, nurses, waving and smiling, little worried by the hostile press. In the event, the Conservatives didn’t need to worry. Despite a last-minute poll suggesting a hung parliament, and the late surge in Labour’s self-confidence, the Tories romped home with an overall majority of 101 seats, almost exactly the share, forty-two per cent, they had won in 1983. Labour made just twenty net gains, and Kinnock, at home in Bedwellty, was inconsolable. Not even the plaudits his team had won from the press for the brilliance, verve and professionalism of their campaign would lift his mood.

The SDP-Liberal Alliance had been floundering in the polls for some time, caught between Labour’s modest revival and Thatcher’s basic and continuing popularity with a large section of voters. The rumours of the death of Labour had been greatly exaggerated, and the ‘beauty contest’ between the two Davids, Steel and Owen, had been the butt of much media mockery. Owen’s SDP had its parliamentary presence cut from eight MPs to five, losing Roy Jenkins in the process. While most of the party merged with the Liberals, an Owenite rump limped on for a while. Good PR, packaging and labelling were not good enough for either Labour or the SDP. In 1987, Thatcher had not yet created the country she dreamed of, but she could argue that she had won a third consecutive victory, not on the strength of military triumph, but on the basis of her ideas for transforming Britain. She also wanted to transform the European Community into a free-trade area extending to the Baltic, the Carpathians and the Balkans. In that, she was opposed from just across the Channel and from within her own cabinet.

In the late eighties, Thatcher’s economic revolution overreached itself. The inflationary boom happened due to the expansion of credit and a belief among ministers that, somehow, the old laws of economics had been abolished; Britain was now supposed to be on a continual upward spiral of prosperity. But then, on 27 October 1986, the London Stock Exchange ceased to exist as the institution had formerly done. Its physical floor, once heaving with life, was replaced by dealing done by computer and phone. The volume of trading was fifteen times greater than it had been in the early eighties. This became known as ‘the Big Bang’ and a country which had exported two billion pounds-worth of financial services per year before it was soon exporting twelve times that amount. The effect of this on ordinary Britons was to take the brake off mortgage lending, turning traditional building societies into banks which started to thrust credit at the British public. Borrowing suddenly became a good thing to do and mortgages were extended rather than being paid off. The old rules about the maximum multiple of income began to dissolve. From being two and a half times the homeowner’s annual salary, four times became acceptable in many cases. House prices began to rise accordingly and a more general High Street splurge was fuelled by the extra credit now freely available. During 1986-88 a borrowing frenzy gripped the country, egged on by swaggering speeches about Britain’s ‘economic miracle’ from the Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, and the Prime Minister. Lawson later acknowledged:

My real mistake as Chancellor was to create a climate of optimism that, in the end, encouraged borrowers to borrow more than they should.

In politics, the freeing up and deregulation of the City of London gave Margaret Thatcher and her ministers an entirely loyal and secure base of rich, articulate supporters who helped see her through some tough battles. The banks spread the get-rich-quick prospect to millions of British people through privatisation share issues and the country, for a time, came closer to the share-owning democracy that Thatcher dreamed of.

The year after the election, 1988, was the real year of hubris. The Thatcher government began an attack on independent institutions and bullying the professions. Senior judges came under tighter political control and University lecturers lost the academic tenure they had enjoyed since the Middle Ages. In Kenneth Baker’s Great Education Reform Bill (‘Gerbil’) of that year, Whitehall grabbed direct control over the running of the school curriculum, creating a vast new state bureaucracy to dictate what should be taught, when and how, and then to monitor the results. Teachers could do nothing. The cabinet debated the detail of maths courses; Mrs Thatcher spent much of her time worrying about the teaching of history. Working with history teachers, I well remember the frustration felt by them at being forced to return to issues of factual content rather than being able to continue to enthuse young people with a love for exploring sources and discovering evidence for themselves. Mrs Thatcher preferred arbitrary rules of knowledge to the development of know-how. She was at her happiest when dividing up the past into packages of ‘history’ and ‘current affairs’. For example, the 1956 Hungarian Revolution was, she said, part of history, whereas the 1968 Prague Spring was, twenty years on, still part of ‘current affairs’ and so should not appear in the history curriculum, despite the obvious connections between the two events. It happened at a time when education ministers were complaining bitterly about the lack of talent, not among teachers, but among civil servants, the same people they were handing more power to. A Hungarian history teacher, visiting our advisory service in Birmingham, expressed his discomfort, having visited a secondary school in London where no-one in a Humanities’ class could tell him where, geographically, his country was.

At that time, my mother was coming to the end of a long career in NHS administration as Secretary of the Community Health Council (‘The Patients’ Friend’) in Coventry which, as elsewhere, had brought together local elected councillors, health service practitioners and managers, and patients’ groups to oversee the local hospitals and clinics and to deal with complaints. But the government did not trust local representatives and professionals to work together to improve the health service, so the Treasury seized control of budgets and contracts. To administer the new system, five hundred NHS ‘trusts’ were formed, and any involvement by elected local representatives was brutally terminated. As with Thatcher’s education reforms, the effect of these reforms was to create a new bureaucracy overseeing a regiment of quangos (quasi/ non-governmental organisations). She later wrote:

We wanted all hospitals to have greater responsibility for their affairs.  … the self-governing hospitals to be virtually independent.

In reality, ‘deregulation’ of care and ‘privatisation’ of services were the orders of the day. Every detail of the ‘internal market’ contracts was set down from the centre, from pay to borrowing to staffing. The rhetoric of choice in practice meant an incompetent dictatorship of bills, contracts and instructions. Those who were able to vote with their chequebooks did so. Between 1980 and 1990, the number of people covered by the private health insurance Bupa nearly doubled, from 3.5 million to a little under seven million. Hubris about what the State could and could not do was to be found everywhere. In housing, 1988 saw the establishment of unelected Housing Action Trusts to take over the old responsibility of local authorities for providing what is now known as ‘affordable housing’. Mrs Thatcher claimed that she was trying to pull the State off people’s backs. In her memoirs, she wrote of her third government,

… the root cause of our contemporary social problems … was that the State had been doing too much.

Yet her government was intervening in public services more and more. The more self-assured she became, the less she trusted others to make the necessary changes to these. That meant accruing more power to the central state. The institutions most heart in this process were local councils and authorities. Under the British constitution, local government is defenceless against a ‘Big Sister’ PM, with a secure parliamentary majority and a loyal cabinet. So it could easily be hacked away, but sooner or later alternative centres of power, both at a local and national level, would be required to replace it and, in so doing, overthrew the overbearing leader.

Sources:

Andrew Marr (2008), A History of Modern Britain. Basingstoke: Pan Macmillan.

Peter Catterall, Roger Middleton & John Swift (2001), The Penguin Atlas of British & Irish History. London: Penguin Books.

 

 

 

Posted October 1, 2018 by TeamBritanniaHu in Affluence, Birmingham, Britain, British history, Britons, Caribbean, Coalfields, Cold War, Communism, Conservative Party, Coventry, democracy, Europe, European Economic Community, France, guerilla warfare, History, Humanities, Hungary, Ireland, Journalism, Labour Party, Marxism, Midlands, Migration, Militancy, Narrative, National Health Service (NHS), nationalisation, Population, Remembrance, Revolution, Russia, Social Service, south Wales, Thatcherism, Uncategorized, Unemployment, USA, USSR, Victorian, Wales, Welfare State

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Eighteenth Century English: ‘The Continual Corruption of our English Tongue’.   Leave a comment


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Modern Standard English was achieved when writers began to use prescribed and agreed forms of vocabulary and grammar, regardless of the dialectal variety that they spoke in everyday life. As a result, regional and class dialects, which were themselves no less rule-governed and systematic than the agreed standard form, were increasingly regarded as inferior to it. In the eighteenth century, there were major shifts and changes in attitudes towards, and beliefs about, the standard language and the dialects. The linguistic changes which took place from the beginning of the eighteenth to the end of the twentieth century were relatively few and far between.

During the eighteenth century, many pamphlets, articles and grammar books were published on the question of correcting, improving and, when and if possible, fixing the language in printed form. One word that recurred time and time again in referring to the state of the English language was corruption. It can be found in the following text, an extract from an article by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) in the journal The Tatler. The complete article took the form of a supposed letter written to Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq;

SIR,

There are some Abuses among us of great Consequence, the Reformation of which is properly your Province, tho’, as far as I have been conversant in your Papers, you have not yet considered them. These are, the deplorable Ignorance that for some Years hath reigned among our English Writers, the great depravity of our Taste, and the continual Corruption of our Style…

These two Evils, Ignorance and Want of Taste, have produced a Third; I mean the continual Corruption of our English Tongue, which, without some timely Remedy, will suffer more by the false Refinements of twenty Years past, than it hath been improved in the foregoing Hundred…

What Swift disliked most were certain new colloquial words and phrases, together with fashionable features of pronunciation, all part of spoken rather than written usage. He specifically condemned these as features of Style, that is, of deliberate choices of words and structures from the resources of the language. At the same time, he referred in general to the Corruption of the English Tongue, an evaluative metaphor that implied worsening and decay, as if the style he disliked to hear could affect everyone’s use of English in both oral and written forms.

This attitude of condemnation, focusing on relatively trivial aspects of contemporary usage, was taken up time and time again throughout the eighteenth century, and continued until the late twentieth century. It is important to study it and its effects, one of which was that non-standard varieties of the language tended to become stigmatised as substandard, while Standard English was thought of as the English language, rather than as the prestige dialect of the language.

The written language and speech of educated men and women of the south-east, especially in London, Oxford and Cambridge, was the source of Standard English. This was the sixteenth century writer John Hart’s best and most perfite English and George Puttenham’s usuall speach of the Court, and that of London and the shires lying about London. The following text from James Beattie’s Theory of Language of 1774, given in facsimile, illustrates the establishment of this choice:

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Swift’s concern for the state of the language, as he saw it, was so great that he published a serious proposal for establishing some sort of ’academy’ to regulate and maintain the standards of the English language, similar to the Academie Francaise which had been set up in 1634. The arguments used were similar to those he had expressed in The Tatler in 1710, but he also added the idea of ascertaining the language, fixing, making it certain, so that it would not be subject to future corruptions. Below are some facsimile extracts from his Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue; in a Letter to the Most Honourable Robert, Earl of Oxford, and Mortimer, Lord High Treasurer of Great Britain, 1712:

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Swift thought that the century from the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s reign in 1558 to the beginning of the Civil Wars in 1642 was a kind of ‘Golden Age’ of improvement in the language, although he also believed that it had not yet reached a state of perfection. This belief that languages could be improved and brought to a state of perfection was a commonly held one among Swift’s contemporaries, though it is not widely believed in our time. Confusion between language and language use caused one to be identified as synonymous with the other, so that a period of great writers is often referred to as a period of ‘greatness’ for the language. Swift identified and associated styles which he disliked with corruption of the English language.

Swift’s assertion of the concept that language need not be ‘perpetually changing’, and that ascertaining or fixing the English language was desirable was disputed by Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-84), who published his Dictionary in 1755. He referred to Swift’s proposal in the preface to the dictionary, revealing himself to be sceptical of the possibility of success, although he shared his belief in the concept of perfection and corruption of language:

Those who have been persuaded to think well of my design, will require that it should fix our language, and put a stop to those alterations which time and chance have hitherto been suffered to make in it without opposition. With this consequence I will confess that I have indulged expectation which neither reason nor experience can justify.

… tongues, like governments, have a natural tendency to degeneration: we have long preserved our constitution, let us make some struggles for our language.

Some writers of what has become known in Literature as The Augustan Age believed that a state of Classical perfection would be achieved some time in their forseeable future, but later eighteenth century grammarians placed it in the early and mid-eighteenth century language of writers like Addison, Steele, Pope and Swift himself. The period is known as the Augustan Age because it was compared with the period of the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus, 27 BC to 14 AD, when great Latin writers like Virgil, Horace and Ovid flourished. The language and literature of Classical Rome and Greece still formed the foundation of education in the nineteenth century. Writers in English copied the forms of Classical literature, like the epic, the ode and dramatic tragedy, while the Latin and Greek languages were models of perfection in their preserved, unchangeable state, to which it was hoped that English could aspire and attain. The influence and sound of Latin and Greek helps to Swift’s dislike of ‘Northern’ clusters of consonants.

Of course, the vernacular Latin language of the first century had continued to change, so that after several centuries its several dialects had evolved into French, Italian, Spanish and the Romance languages. But Classical Latin was fixed and ascertained, because its vocabulary and grammar were derived from the literature of its greatest literary period. This state seemed to scholars and writers to be in great contrast with contemporary English, and so, following Swift’s call, many of them sought to improve the written vernacular language. Somewhere, either in the past or the future, lay the perfect form of the English language.

In contrast to the second half of the seventeenth century, there were few references to the language of the ordinary people in the writings of the eighteenth century ‘grammarians’. Anselm Bayly wrote in 1772 that it was beneath a grammarian’s attempt to study colloquial English dialects. Neither were writers whom they admired necessarily taken as models of good English. Authors’ writings were subjected to detailed scrutiny for supposed errors. Grammarians sometimes spoke of the Genius of the Language or the Idiom of the Tongue as a criterion for judgement, the word ‘genius’ meaning sometimes ‘character’ or ‘spirit’, sometimes simply ‘grammar’. However, in practice, this latter concept meant no more than the intuition of the grammarian: what he felt sounded right, expressed in the Latin term Ipse dixit (he himself says). Sometimes this reliance on personal opinion was clearly stated, as in the following extract from Robert Baker’s 1770 Reflections on the English Language:

It will be easily discovered that I have paid no regard to authority. I have censured even our best penmen, where they have departed from what I conceive to be the idiom of the tongue, or where I have thought they violate grammar without necessity. To judge by the rule of ‘Ipse dixit’ is the way to perpetuate error…

… even by Swift, Temple, Addison and other writers of the highest reputation; some of them, indeed, with such a shameful impropriety as one must think must shock every English ear, and almost induce the reader to suppose the writers to be foreigners.

Their ‘crime’ was apparently the misuse of prepositions! Baker condemned Ipse dixit as used by these ‘best penmen’, but not when applied to himself. Appeals were often made to ‘Reason’ or ‘Analogy’, but grammarians were not always consistent in their arguments. They recognised that the evidence for the vocabulary and grammar of the language must be derived from what people actually wrote and spoke, which they sometimes referred to as ‘custom’. The one eighteenth century grammar book which had a particular influence on later grammars published for use in schools was Robert Lowth’s A Short Introduction to English Grammar, published in 1762. Lowth’s attitude was ‘prescriptive’ – that is that he laid down what he considered to be correct usage, as illustrated by the following extract from his book:

Grammar is the Art of rightly expressing our thoughts by words, etc. … The principal design of a Grammar of any language is to teach us to express ourselves with propriety in that language, and to be able to judge every phrase and form of construction, whether it be right or not, etc …

The words ‘propriety’ and ‘rightly’ are important here because Lowth was not describing the language in its many varieties, but prescribing what ought to be written in a standard variety of English, and pointing out the ‘errors’ and ‘solecisms’ with examples from authors like Milton, Dryden and Pope. He described other varieties of usage only in order to condemn them. The following text, given in facsimile, is an extract from the preface to his work, typifies this particular attitude to language use. What people actually say or write, even though they may be socially of the same background, the ‘highest rank’ of eminent authors, is subject to Lowth’s prescriptive judgement. The second text below is an example of Lowth’s prescriptive method as stated in his book, in which he is stating the use of ‘will’ and ‘shall’, together with a short extract from his preface:

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Lowth’s book was intended for those who were already well-educated, as can be inferred from his preface in which he stated that… Grammatical Study of our own Language makes no part of the ordinary method of instruction which we pass thro’ in our childhood… His use of the first person plural implies that his readers, like him, would have studied Latin and Greek – the ancient… learned languages – at grammar school. This, however, did not provide them with knowledge of English grammar, even though they lived in a polite society and read English literature, an activity not followed by most of the population at that time. Lowth’s style of writing, like that of the other grammarians, was very ‘formal’; its vocabulary and structure were unlike that of everyday language. Below are two short contrasting examples of eighteenth century writing, the first from Thomas Hearne’s diary, Remarks and Collections (1715), and so in an informal prose style, and the second from a literary journal, The Rambler, written by Samuel Johnson in July, 1550. Literary prose adopted its own fashionable choices from the language at different periods, while ‘ordinary’ prose, in both speech and writing, continued generally unremarked upon:

MAY 28 (Sat.) This being the Duke of Brunswick, commonly called King George’s Birth-day, some of the bells were jambled in Oxford, by the care of some of the Whiggish, Fanatical Crew; but as I did not observe the Day in the least my self, so it was little taken notice of (unless by way of ridicule) by other honest People, who are for K. James IIId. Who is undoubted King of these Kingdoms,… ’tis heartily wish’d by them that he may be restored. (Thomas Hearne)

The advantages of mediocrity

Health and vigour, and a happy constitution of the corporeal frame, are of absolute necessity to the enjoyment of the comforts, and to the performance of the duties of life, and requisite in yet a greater measure to the accomplishment of any thing illustrious or distinguished; yet even these, if we can judge by their apparent consequences, are sometimes not very beneficial to those on whom they are most liberally bestowed…

The standard language recognised by the eighteenth century grammarians was that variety used by what Swift called the Learned and Polite Persons of the Nation – polite in the sense of polished, refined, elegant, well-bred. By definition, the depraved language of the common people was, in every sense, viewed as inferior. George Campbell expressed this with great clarity when he wrote in his Philosophy of Rhetoric that:

No absolute monarch hath it more in his power to nobilitate a person of obscure birth than it is in the power of good use to ennoble words of low or dubious extraction; such, for instance, as have either arisen, nobody knows how, like ‘fib’, ‘banter’, ‘bigot’, ‘fop’, ‘flippant’ among the rabble, or ‘flimsy’, sprung from the cant of the manufacturers …

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Samuel Johnson (above) was equally dismissive of common speech in the Preface to his Dictionary of 1755:

Nor are all words which are not found in the vocabulary, to be lamented as omissions. Of the laborious and mercantile part of the people, the diction is in great measure casual and mutable; many of their terms are formed for some temporary or local convenience, and though current at certain times and places, are in others utterly unknown. This fugitive cant, which is always in a state of increase or decay, cannot be regarded as any part of the durable materials of a language, and therefore must be suffered to perish with other things unworthy of preservation.

These comments clearly show that the divisions in eighteenth century society were marked as much by language as by birth, rank, wealth and education. If the language of the common people was regarded as inferior by the educated upper classes, so too were their ideas and thoughts equally devalued. Language was regarded as ‘the dress of thought’ or, using another common metaphor, ‘the mirror of thought’. It was believed that there was a direct correlation between good language and good thinking. On the one hand was the dominant social class, the Gentry, whose language and way of life were variously described as polite, civilised, elegant, noble, refined, tasteful and pure. On the other hand were the laborious and mercantile part of the people, shopkeepers and hackney-coachmen, the rabble, whose language was vulgar, barbarous, contemptible, low, degenerate, profane, mean, abject and depraved.

This view was reinforced by a theory of language that was called Universal Grammar, the belief in a direct connection between language and the mind, or soul, and in the superior value of abstract thought over the senses. For students of language today, the differences between Standard English and regional dialects are viewed as linguistically superficial and unimportant. The same meanings can be conveyed as easily in one as in the other, although we cannot, in everyday life, ignore the social connotations of regional and non-standard speech, which are still very powerful in conveying and maintaining attitudes. However, in the eighteenth century, the linguistic differences between refined and common speech were held to match fundamental differences in both intellect and morality. The gulf between the two was reinforced by the fact that education was in the learned languages, Latin and Greek. The classical Greek language and literature were judged to be the most ‘perfect’.

As it was believed that the contrasts between the refined language of the classically educated class and the vulgar language of the common people mirrored equal differences in intellectual capabilities, and also in virtue and morality, such beliefs had social and political consequences. These can be demonstrated by the fact that, during the long years of warfare with France (1793-1815), there was marked political oppression of popular movements for reform, and ideas about language were used to protect the government from criticism. For example, the notion of vulgarity of language was used to dismiss a series of petitions before Parliament calling for reform of the voting system. If the language of the labouring classes was, by definition, inferior, incapable of expressing coherent thought and of dubious moral value, then it was impossible for them to use language properly in order to argue their own case:

Liberty of speech and freedom of discussion in this House form an essential part of the constitution; but it is necessary that persons coming forward as petitioners, should address the House in decent and respectful language.

(Parliamentary Debates, xxx. 779)

The following extract from a 1793 Petition to Parliament from Sheffield shows that while the spelling and grammar were perfectly correct, the Members of Parliament may have considered its style and tone as indecent and disrespectful:

Your petitioners are lovers of peace, of liberty, and justice. They are in general tradesmen and artificers, unpossessed of freehold land, and consequently have no voice in choosing members to sit in parliament; – but though they may not be freeholders, they are men, and do not think themselves fairly used in being excluded the rights of citizens…

(Parliamentary Debates, xxx. 776)

To the modern reader, this would appear to be not only accurate but also appropriate in its use of English. Indeed, one contemporary commented that he suspected that the objection to the roughness of the language was not the real cause why this Petition was opposed. To gain an idea of the relative ’roughness’ of working-class language from the time, we should contrast the above with the following anonymous protest letter against the closure of common land, from the Combin’d Parish of Cheshunt… to Oliver Cromwell Esquire (the pseudonym for their local landlord)… 27 February 1799. It uses non-standard spelling, punctuation and grammar, which would have provided Parliament with an excuse for its dismissal, had it come before them.

We right these lines to you… in the Defence of our Parrish rights which you unlawfully are about to disinherit us of… Resolutions is maid of by the aforesaid Combind that if you intend of inclosing Our Commond Commond fields Lammas Meads Marches &c Whe Resolve before that bloudy and unlawful act is finished to have your hearts bloud if you proceede in the aforesaid bloudy act Whe like horse leaches will cry give, give until whe have split the bloud of every one that wishes to rob the Inosent unborn. It shall not be in your power to to say I am safe from the hands of my Enemy for Whe like birds of pray will prively lie in wait to spil the abode are as putrified sores in our Nostrils. Whe declair that thou shall not say I am safe when thou goest to thy bed for beware that thou liftest not thine eyes up in the most mist of flames…

(Quoted in E. P. Thompson (1963), The Making of the English Working Class. Harmondsworth: Penguin, p. 240.)

It sets the tone for the letters of the later Luddite, Swing and Rebecca rioters. At the same time, writers such as Tom Paine, in his The Rights of Man (1792) and The Age of Reason (1794) and William Cobbett (1763-1835), were able to demonstrate that men of humble origins could also argue effectively in Standard English. From 1785 to 1791, Cobbett, a farmer’s son from Farnham in Surrey, served in a regiment of foot in Canada, leaving the army when he failed to bring some officers to trial for embezzlement. Although receiving an elementary education as a young man, he had little knowledge of ’grammar’. However, his ability to write in a fair hand procured him the role of ’copyist’ to the regimental Colonel and commandant of the garrison:

Being totally ignorant of the rules of grammar, I necessarily made many mistakes in copying, because no one can copy letter by letter, nor even word by word. The colonel saw my deficiency, and strongly recommended study… with a promise of reward in case of success.

I procured me a Lowth’s grammar, and applied myself to the study of it with unceasing assiduity, and not without some profit: for, though it was a considerable time before I fully comprehended all that I read, still I read and studied with such unremitted study that, at last, I could write without falling into any gross errors. The pains I took cannot be described: I wrote the whole grammar out two or threetimes; I got it by heart; I repeated it every morning and every evening, and… I imposed on myself the task of saying it all over once every time I was posted sentinel. To this exercise of my memory I ascribe the retentiveness of which I have since found it capable, and to the success with which it was attended… that has led to the acquirement of that little learning of which I am the master.

(The Life and Adventures of Peter Porcupine, 1796)

Cobbett was convinced that without this ability to master standard grammar, no young man of humble origins could ever hope to aspire to anything beyond mere trade or agriculture. Without grammatical knowledge, it was impossible to learn to write properly, and the ability to speak correctly would be a matter of chance. All well-informed persons, he wrote, would judge a man’s mind according to the correctness of his speaking and writing, at least until they had other means of judging. He followed up his conviction in this by writing a grammar book which took the form of a number of letters addressed to his son.

Source: Dennis Freeborn (1992), From Old English to Standard English. 

Basingstoke: Macmillan. 

God’s Englishmen: Midland and East Anglian Gentry in the English Revolution, 1619-89; part three   Leave a comment

Restoration, Renaissance and Revolution.

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012The half-century of Stuart rule that followed the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, was a time of contrasts and contradictions. Court and Country people alike rejoiced to throw off extreme puritanical constraints and to return to traditional sports and pastimes. At the same time, preachers warned against the debauchery of the age and Suffolk had more Nonconformist assemblies than most other counties. East Anglia was still the industrial heartland of England, yet the new draperies were following the old into decline. The shipyards decreased in importance but Suffolk mariners and men o’ war took part in the principal naval actions of the Dutch wars, some off Suffolk’s own coast. Poverty, unemployment and vagrancy continued to mount steadily, but more fine houses were built in this period than ever before, and the Age of Enlightenment was reflected in the gracious living of the elite of Bury and Ipswich. The gap between rich and poor was steadily increasing. When England welcomed back Charles II it rejected the republican experiment of the Commonwealth and rejected egalitarian ideas. All men who could do so aped the manners and fashion of the court.

When the King visited Newmarket, or stayed with the Arlingtons at Euston, local squires and their wives clamoured to see what the ladies and gentlemen of the court were wearing.

When burgesses called professionally or socially at the country mansions of the great, they took careful note of what they saw and had copies of the furniture made for their town houses. Meanwhile, the labourers and weavers continued to bear their burden of poverty with as much good grace as they could muster.

013The establishment of Newmarket as the home of the sport of kings brought court and country closer together than ever before. Charles I had instituted the first cup race in 1634, but it was his son who laid the firm foundation of royal patronage. He came to Newmarket almost every spring and autumn to race his horses against those of his courtiers. John Evelyn, the diarist, recorded how,

By night we got to Newmarket, where Mr Henry Jermyn lodged me very civilly. We went immediately to court (the King and all the English gallants being here at their annual sports), supped at my Lord Chamberlain’s and next day after dinner went to the heath, where I saw the great match run between ‘Woodcock’ and ‘Flatfoot’, the King’s and Mr Eliot’s of the Bedchamber, many thousands being spectators…

Royal patronage encouraged courtiers and noblemen to build houses in and around Newmarket. The most magnificent was the mansion which Henry Bennett, Earl of Arlington, erected for himself at Euston. Having shared the hardships of exile with Charles, he returned with him to share the trappings of power. He became Lord Chamberlain and a member of the Cabal, Charles’ group of intimate advisers. A man of great taste, he amassed considerable wealth, so that Evelyn said of him that he was given to no expensive vice but building and to have all things rich, polite and princely. In the diarists’ opinion,

Euston Hall was a very noble pile, built in the French style, formed of additions to an old house, yet with a vast expense, made not only capable and roomsome, but very magnificent and commodious, as well within as without, nor less splendidly furnished. There were formal gardens, an orangery, pleasure gardens, a lake and a canal formed by diverting the nearby river. The park, which had a circumference of nine miles, enclosed a herd of a thousand deer.

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Bury St Edmund’s shared in the enthusiasm for building which inspired so many in this new, gracious age. Suffolk gentlemen and well-to-do burgesses erected town houses or built classical facades on to medieval or Tudor structures. This spate of fashionable building of country houses, town hoses and facades gave impetus to a well-established local industry. There were important brickfields at Ipswich, Woodbridge, Woolpit, Aldeburgh, Beccles and numerous other smaller places. Restrictions had been placed on the use of timber for building since Elizabethan times, since there were dwindling stocks of oak for the navy. By the late seventeenth century, genteel society was, in any case, turning up its nose at timber-framed buildings. When Lady Fiennes visited Bury in the 1690s, she sweepingly condemned nearly all its buildings as old-fashioned and rambling. No doubt her bells were jingling more rapidly as she left:

Ride a cock hoss*

To Banbury Cross

To see a fine lady

Upon a white hoss* 

With rings on her fingers

And bells on her toes

She shall have music

Wherever she goes.

*hoss is Midland English for horse, still in use.

Celia Fiennes, the subject of one of the best-known nursery rhymes, was born in 1662, was, in many ways, the perfect feminine antidote to all those serious puritan gentlemen of the previous century, though granddaughter to the parliamentarian First Viscount Saye and Sele. She was one of the first women to write a book about her travels, called Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary. In it, she described Banbury in favourable terms, and she is reputed to be the source of the well-known nursery rhyme, ’Banbury Cross’. She was said to have often ridden to London on horseback, passing through Banbury on her way. Not only was she an excellent rider but she also dressed very fashionably, wearing little bells on her shoes. The market place had an ancient cross, which was destroyed by puritans earlier in the century, but it continued to be called ’The Cross’ because it was in the middle of the wide High Street where the major roads of the time did indeed intersect.

When Charles II came to the English throne, England was still a society with several speech varieties, of which Scots was one. The suggestion that there was a proper way of pronouncing and a right way of spelling would have seemed strange to most people. The spelling of many writers and printers of letters demonstrates this. Shakespeare and his contemporaries had experimented with the English language as no other writers before or since, making it sing. The writers of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries had boundless admiration for their Elizabethan predecessors, but they believed the situation had got out of hand. The language, like the mass of English society itself, was unruly, unrefined and ill-defined. The poet Laureate Dryden, related to the great gentry families of the Midlands exclaimed how barbarously we yet write and speak. Many shared this view, as if they wanted to send the language itself to school. How best to bring order to its written forms in particular, was one of the most serious problems facing the literary establishment.

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One of the main impulses behind this search for order was the need to assimilate the new vocabulary, swelled almost beyond recognition, of the scientific and political revolutions of the seventeenth century. The scientific revolution reached its high point with Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity. Newton was a member of the Royal Society, founded in 1662, primarily as a forum for scientific discussion. However, the seventeenth century definition of scientific was broader than most uses of the term have been since, in keeping with the concept of The Enlightenment. It members included a broad range of interests, not simply those involved in the natural sciences. In 1664 it was reported that,

There were persons of the Society whose genius was very proper and inclined to improve the English tongue. Particularly for philosophic purposes, it was voted that there should be a committee for improving the English language; and that they meet at Sir Peter Wyche’s lodgings in Gray’s Inn once or twice a month, and give account of their proceedings, when called upon.

Developing a scientific model was one approach, following a deductive method. Another was more inductive, the revival of Latin, which was still the language of mathematics and theology. In addition, it had a regular grammar, spelling conventions and a systematic style. John Dryden was the finest English stylist of his time, partly because he sometimes translated his ideas into Latin to find a way of expressing it clearly in English. Of course, lawyers and literature professors still do this. Latin was the great example of a language that had lasted, precisely because it was ordered. Another gentleman poet, Edmund Waller observed :

001But who can hope his line should long

Last, in a daily changing tongue?

While they are new, envy prevails;

And as that dies, our language fails…

Poets that Lasting Marble seek,

Must carve in Latin or in Greek;

We write in Sand…

While these scientists and men of letters found clarity of style in Latin, other men of learning looked to Louis XIV’s France, as in other matters following the Restoration, for a means of purifying their native language from Barbarism or Solecism. The Italians had purified their language by publishing a specially commissioned dictionary and Cardinal Richelieu had established the Académie Francaise with a special charter to labour with all possible care and diligence to give definite rules to our language, and to render it pure, eloquent and capable of treating with both arts and sciences. However, the idea of an English Academy, which had been projected throughout the seventeenth century, never really caught on in the imaginations of the scientific and literary élite. In fact, it was widely mocked (see pictures). However, the Royal Society’s Committee for Improving the English Language did meet. At one of these meetings, the diarist John Evelyn produced an ambitious project involving the production of a Lexicon or collection of all the pure English words by themselves, but the plans were shelved. In 1697, Daniel Defoe proposed that with an Academy to decide on right and wrong usage, it would be as criminal to coin words as money. At the turn of the century, however, one writer in particular addressed himself to the issue of standards in English. Jonathan Swift focused his hatred of progress in a series of letters and pamphlets on the condition of the English language. Taken together, these writings amount to the greatest conservative statement for English ever put forward.

Born in Dublin in 1667 into a well-known Royalist family, Swift had literary connections from early in his life, in particular through his cousin, John Dryden. His early work provoked Dryden to comment, Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet. Although best-known as the author of the satirical journal, Gulliver’s Travels, he had already turned the power of his pen on many topical subjects, to devastating effect, including on the state of the English language:

From the Civil War to this present Time, I am apt to doubt whether the Corruptions in our Language have not at least equalled the Refinements of it; and these Corruptions  very few of the best Authors in our Age have wholly escaped. During the Usurpation, such an infusion of Enthusiastick Jargon prevailed in every Writing, as was not shook off in many Years after. To this succeeded that Licentiousness which entered with the ‘Restoration’, and from infecting our Religion and Morals, fell to corrupt our Language…

As a clergyman, Swift detested the way that abbreviations and abridgments were creeping into church, alongside the use of vogue words by young preachers, such as sham, banter, mob, bubble, bully, cutting, shuffling and palming. He felt that had it not been for the provision of the Bible and the Common Prayer Book in English, it would have proved impossible for any of his contemporaries in the reign of Queen Anne I to understand anything of what had been written in the reign of King James I, for those books being perpetually read in Churches, have proved a kind of Standard for Language, especially to the common people. His finest statement on the language is made in a letter written to Robert Hartley, Earl of Oxford, and the leader of the then ruling Tory Party, published in 1712 under the title A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue. He took up the seventeenth century idea of an English Academy. However, the concept of a prescriptive society of this kind still ran contrary to the amateur tradition of English literary scholarship. In many ways, Swift’s view of the state of the English language, and the gap which existed between its spoken and written forms, reflected the evidence of the growing gulf between the aristocracy and gentry on the one hand, and the ordinary folk on the other. Although a Tory, Swift shared many of the views of the radicals in the English Revolution. Like many of them, he was fiercely critical of the new world in which money ruled, whose excremental vision extended backwards to a golden age when gold and repression were both unknown.

002The amateur literary tradition in the second half of the seventeenth century is perhaps best represented by John Bunyan (1628-88), born at Elstow in Bedfordshire, as the son of a poor brazier or tinker. His parents had been cottagers, and his wife described him in 1661 as a tinker and a poor man, therefore he is despised and cannot have justice. Having served in the parliamentary army during the civil wars, he joined an independent congregation in Bedford in 1651. He was terrified by thoughts of hell, and wishes that he might be a devil to torment others. Despite his doubts, or perhaps because of them, he became a fine preacher. His preaching led to his imprisonment after the restoration, spending much of the next fifteen years in jail, and it was while there that he began to write his books. By the time Bunyan was writing his Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666), men and women had come to know the Bible so well that their relationship to it was almost passive. In Grace Abounding texts are hurled around in Bunyan’s imagination like thunderbolts of the Almighty. The Bible spoke directly to men who believed that the day of the Lord was imminent, and their appeal to the past, through authentic documents (whether the Bible or Magna Carta), became a criticism of certain types of rule.

Bunyan’s most famous work, The Pilgrim’s Progress was published in 1678, an allegory based on Bunyan’s own spiritual life, which he had given account of in Grace Abounding. Bunyan’s language is a happy mixture of homespun phrases and echoes of the English Bible. His other well-known work, The Holy War (1682) uses imagery of warfare to construct another allegory. The eloquence and power of the simple artisans who took part in the political and theological discussions of this period is staggering. Some of it comes across in print: Fox the shepherd, Bunyan the tinker, Nayler the yeoman. John Milton was right in his confidence that God’s Englishmen, not just his gentlemen, had significant and eloquent things to say, which only the tyrranical duncery of bishops had prevented them from saying; and that any future attempt to censure them would be an undervaluing and vilifying of the whole nation, and a reproach to the common people.

One object of the restoration  had been to put tinkers, shepherds and yeomen back in their proper callings, but Bunyan remembered a lot from the revolutionary decades: More servants than masters, he wrote, more tenants than landlords, will inherit the kingdom of heaven. God’s own, he wrote in the same year (1658), are most commonly of the poorer sort. He also reflected on the sad condition of those that are for the most part rich men. Wordly Wiseman, Formalist, Hypocrisy, like Antichrist, were all gentlemen: Madam Bubble, the Mistress of the World, was a gentlewoman. Mrs Wanton was an admirably well-bred gentlewoman. Mr By-ends was a gentleman of good quality, related to lords, parsons and the rich. The Pilgrims, on the other hand, were of base and low estate and uneducated. Faithful was brought before Lord Hate-Good for slandering several of the nobility and most of the gentry of our town.  We can see The Pilgrim’s Progress as the greatest literary product of this group of itinerant writers. As he walked through the widerness of this world, Bunyan laid himself down in a den which he lighted on: Pilgrim’s Progress was the dream he then dreamed. Bunyan’s outlook .is that of the itinerant small craftsman, for whom society has been loosened up. His hero in Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the people: the law and its courts will not give him justice. As Christopher Hill has commented,

Milton persuaded himself that it had been a fortunate Fall. I do not think Bunyan would have agreed. He knew more about the heaviness of the burden, more about the puzzling word of Mr Badman, the free market and petty commercial reality, than Milton ever did, living without labour on the income of his father’s usury had left him. But each of them, starting from fallen man, can show the divine in man slowly winning its way back, in Milton’s case to ‘a Paradise within thee, happier far’, in Bunyan’s to a confidence that triumphed over the torments and early death which were the fate of the itinerant.

Across East Anglia, as in Bedfordshire and large parts of the Midlands, it must have seemed, In the second half of the seventeenth century, that the poor would be a permanent presence. The fishing ports of Suffolk lost their battle against the sea. In 1652 the inhabitants of Walberswick had appealed to the government for aid for their town, now one of the poorest towns in England with not one man living in the town that has five pounds per year of his own. In 1695 they unroofed most of their decaying church to repair the south aisle, tower and porch, which was all they used from then on. They were not the first parishioners to do so; Coverhithe’s magnificent fifteenth-century church was dismantled in 1672. Dunwich, Blythborough, Southwold and, to a lesser extent, Lowestoft, all shared the same fate as their harbours either disappeared or became too unreliable for regular use by the fishing fleets. In 1670 the county had only fifty-nine fishing boats and the King gave his personal support to a company set up to restore the east coast fisheries. It was only the first of several such ventures that, despite the injection of large amounts of capital, failed.

It is therefore not surprising that more and more fishermen turned to smuggling, which became a regular and highly organised industry in this period. When the Commonwealth government and its late Stuart successors slapped heavy taxes and duties on a variety of commodities, they threw down a gauntlet to mariners, foreign traders and English consumers who refused to be balked by such restrictions. Large smuggling associations developed with headquarters at Dunkerque, Flushing, Ostend and Calais. They ran cargoes across to the coves and small harbours of Suffolk, because they were father from London. Local mariners went out in their small boats to collect cargoes from the hundred and two-hundred ton ships which anchored offshore under cover of darkness, then carried the casks and chests of tea, tobacco and spirits to regular hiding places where they awaited distribution. Illicit goods were stowed under the altar at Theberton church, beneath the floorboards of Leiston’s Nonconformist meetinghouse and behind the pulpit at Rishangles, sometimes while the minister was preaching from it. The trade not only provided brandy for the parson, baccy for the clerk, but a living for many families which otherwise might have starved.

Some young men sought adventure and escape from grinding poverty in the army or navy. The soldiers were called upon to fight first of all in the Low Countries, and then in France and Ireland. Suffolk men who served in the Royal Navy found themselves engaged in battles much nearer to home. The Dutch wars brought enemy ships close to the coast for the first time since the Spanish Armada. Ipswich shared in the general decline of the coastal towns and ports, but the new danger led to a flurry of activity as the town built thirty-two armed merchantmen for the navy, and press gangs scoured the towns and villages of East Suffolk in search of cannon fodder. On 3 June 1665, gunfire was heard coming from a point fourteen miles NNE of Lowestoft. The English and Dutch fleets fought all day, the sound of their cannons roaring carrying across Suffolk and Essex, as far as London. Then, in the late afternoon, came the sound of one almighty explosion, but it was only the next day when the frigates returned from the battle to unload two thousand prisoners and three hundred wounded at Southwold, that the Suffolkers learnt of the destruction of the Durch flagship, De Eendracht, and the complete rout of the enemy. Most of the coast towns had to share the burden of caring for the wounded and prisoners in makeshift hospitals and camps, Southwold receiving six thousand pounds and Ipswich eight and a half thousand for their services.

Over the next few years, amid frequent rumours of Dutch invasions, repeated calls were made for Suffolk to provide men and ships. In 1667, twenty-six small ships were impressed as fire ships into the navy, and the county militia had to be kept in a constant state of readiness. The dreaded invasion took place on 2 July 1667, when the Dutch made a combined naval and military assault on Landguard Fort with the object of capturing the new dockyard at Harwich. Although the English fleet balked the naval part of the expedition, the small Landguard garrison had to face a determined attack by 1,400 Dutch soldiers who landed at Felixstowe and advanced along the beach. The garrison kept up a musket barrage until, after several hours, the assailants retreated in confusion. The demoralised and hungry soldiers had then to wait half the night on the sands for the returning tide to enable them to refloat their boats.

039Five years later another great sea battle was fought off the Suffolk coast, and this time spectators could follow its course. In mid-May 1672, the Anglo-French fleet under the command of the Duke of York and Edward Montague, now Earl of Sandwich, followed eighty-eight Dutch ships up the Channel. They then made the mistake of putting in at Sole Bay for careening. At dawn on 28 May they were surprised by the enemy, caught with their sales furled and with many of their men still sleeping off the effects of the previous evening’s carousing in the taverns of Southwold. With a haste next to panic, the allied fleet weighed anchor and tried to manoeuvre away from the lee shore, but the Dutch raked their enemies with devastating fire. This was concentrated on the Prince and the Royal James, carrying the English admiral and vice-admiral.

Sandwich’s Royal James took the worst of this. Mastless and with half her company dead, she was encircled by the enemy men-o’ war and baited by fire ships. She might have been relieved by Sir Joseph Jordan’s squadron, but he sailed past her to go to the aid of the Duke of York, much to the outrage of one onlooker:

I like not his fighting nor conduct, I wished myself on him to have saved that brave Montague, for he was in the wind of him and might have come down to him… I was so near as I saw almost every broadside and was in hearing and whistling of the shot.

 

It was about mid-day when a Dutch fireship ran into the Royal James. The flames reached her magazine and she disintegrated with a sickening roar. Two weeks later, bloated and scarred, Montague’s body was picked up by a local ketch. It still bore the George and Star of the Garter. The body was conveyed to Landguard Fort from where it was taken a week later for a magnificent funeral in London.

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In June 1685 Henry Howard, Duke of Norfolk, was commissioned by James II to raise a new regiment of Foot in the county. However, the new unit was of no use to James, as Protestant East Anglia declared for William of Orange in 1688 and its new regiment, under the command of Henry Wharton, fought against the deposed king in Ireland, serving with distinction at the Battle of the Boyne the following year. The East Anglian lads went on to fight King William’s wars against King Louis in France and the Low Countries. However, at least they no longer had to fight against fellow Englishmen on their own soil.

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Religion continued to be an important issue in Suffolk for many years after the Restoration. The Commonwealth had given rise to a plethora of sects, ranging from the more orthodox Independents, Congregationalist and Baptists to the Quakers, Brownists and Fifth Monarchists. Harsh laws were passed against all those who would not conform to the re-established Anglican Church, including Presbyterians such as Richard Baxter. They were reinforced, with brief, more tolerant interludes, until 1689. Ministers were ejected from their livings, and Nonconformist services had to take place in secret. Preachers who were caught, or who continued in defiance, were thrown into prison.

Such persecution did not stop the Dissenters and when limited toleration became the official policy of the reign of William and Mary’s reign, new chapels sprang up all over the country, and throughout the county. Nowhere was Nonconformity stronger than in Suffolk. The elegant places of worship they built are continuing proof of their devotion, vigour and wealth. Bury, Ipswich, Needham Market, Walpole and Framlingham all have fine examples. When Defoe visited Southwold, he attended divine worship in the parish church with twenty-seven local people. Walking past the dissenting chapel afterwards, he could see that it was full to the doors with God’s Englishmen and Englishwomen. At its end, the seventeenth century had indeed witnessed a Glorious Revolution.

    042Above: Whitehall from St James’ Park, by Peter Tillemans. The Coldstream Guards drill in front of the House Guards Building, under the Union Flag, while Charles II strolls through the park with members of his court.

 

Printed Sources:

Robert Latham (1978), The Illustrated Pepys: Extracts from the Diary. London: Bell & Hyman.

Derek Wilson (1977), A Short History of Suffolk. London: Batsford.

Christopher Hill (1972), The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution. London: Penguin.

Christopher Hill (1972), God’s Englishman: Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Robert McCrum, William Cran, Robert MacNeil (1987), The Story of English. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Glenn Foard (1994), Colonel John Pickering’s Regiment of Foot, 1644-1645. Whitstable: Pryor Publications.

William Anderson (1983), Holy Places of the British Isles: A guide to the legendary and sacred sites. London: Ebury.

Austin Woolrych (2002), Britain in Revolution, 1625-1660. Oxford: OUP.

Mabel Richmond Brailsford (1927), A Quaker from Cromwell’s Army: James Nayler. London: The Swarthmore Press.

‘God’s Englishmen’: The Midland and East Anglian Gentry in the English Revolution, 1619-89: part two.   3 comments

ImageBefore the Civil War, the Gullivers had become successful traders and respectable aldermen of Banbury, owning shops and public houses in the town and a brewery as far away as Aylesbury. As Protestant Nonconformists, or Dissenters, possibly Quakers, many of them were also excluded from higher occupations, especially public office, though some found an alternative outlet in becoming soldiers (and later officers) in Cromwell’s Army. Others had been thriving as yoeman farmers in the outlying Banburyshire parishes, but had now fallen on hard times, like Edward Gulliver, who was born in Banbury in 1590, and married Mary Hawes in Cropredy in 1620. They settled in the nearby village of Noke, where they raised a large family before Edward died in 1647.

Jonathan Swift made later reference to the family and their tombs in the graveyard of St Mary’s, Banbury, of which there were many, but only three remain:

ImageIn his Preface to the First Edition of his famous Gulliver’s Travels, 1726, Swift remarks ‘I have observed in the Church Yard at Banbury several tombs and monuments of the Gullivers. The original tombstones no longer exist, but a later one bearing this old Banbury name lies near to this plaque.

Swift was related to the Dryden family of Canon’s Ashby in Northamptonshire. His grandmother was Elizabeth Dryden, aunt of the poet laureate, John Dryden, born near Oundle. She married Thomas Swift and they had two children, Jonathan and Thomas, the elder being the father of the author of Gulliver’s Travels. John Dryden was also a cousin of Sir Gilbert Pickering, MP, and Col. John Pickering, also of Canon’s Ashby, as detailed already.

Viscount Saye and Sele (left), William Fiennes, was also related to these Northamptonshire gentry. He had been was one of the county’s leading activists against Charles I, raising troops for the first battle at Edgehill. Cavalier troops besieged and occupied his fourteenth-century moated manor house, Broughton Castle, for a time, but were fought to a standstill on Cropredy Bridge in June 1644. They later wreaked their revenge on the puritan population of the countryside by burning down the manor house at Wormleighton. Due to this act of vengeance and attrition,the village never recovered its former status. By contrast, Noke was loyal to the King, since it had an association with Oxford going back to the plagues, when the Colleges were allowed to quarter their dons there. Oxford became Charles I’s headquarters in the Civil War, and troops were stationed in some of the villages nearby, including Noke. The village saw action in the form of raids by Parliamentarians. In one of these, horses were taken and two soldiers were killed, being buried in the churchyard. The divisions among south Midland families and villages can be detected by the records that remain of these events, in both Cavalier and Rounhead versions!

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At the end of 1643, a Midland Association of the counties of Leicester, Rutland, Nottingham, Derby, Northampton, ‘Banbury’ and Buckingham and  had ben formed. The Eastern Association consisted of the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, Huntingdon (Cromwell’s home county), Hertfords and Lincoln  . Together, the two associations controlled most of the Midlands from Banbury into East Anglia as far as the coastal ports. Individual regiments were raised in specific parts of East Anglia, because Manchester believed that he could maintain esprit de corps by drafting men from each county to keep up the regiment for that county. These principles were generally maintained even after the regiments were incorporated into the New Model Army in 1645. However, Cromwell realised that centralised control and regional administration were not enough. A standing army would need discipline, regular pay and commitment to Parliament’s cause. In an oft-quoted letter dated 29 August 1643, Cromwell outlined his criteria for selecting officers:

I would rather have a plain russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for and loves what he knows…

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In John Pickering he found such a man to command a regiment, and in Pickering’s regiment there were many other russet-coated captains who also fitted this description. Most of the payments to the regiment came from the County committees of Norfolk and Suffolk. In April 1645, just before its transfer into the New Model, former soldiers of Pickering’s regiment caused some disturbances in Suffolk:

By some old soldiers returned home, we have sent down to you Major Jubbes and Captain Axtell, two officers of Col. Pickering’s regiment, to receive such soldiers as formerly belonged to that regiment… If any other soldiers will come along with them and serve in that regiment these officers will take charge of them.

031From this it can be concluded that Pickering’s regiment was probably recruited mainly in Suffolk, with some men joining from Norfolk, possibly from villages along the boundary between the two counties. These men were largely pressed into service, compared with those from towns and larger villages, undoubtedly a factor in the high rates of desertion in 1644. On the other hand, after August 1643, as part of the reorganisation of the Association, under Cromwell’s influence, commanders and officers for the regiments, like Jubbes and Axtell, were chosen primarily for their military abilities, their godliness, discipline and devotion to the parliamentarian cause. They were no longer drawn from the ranks of the local gentry of the county in which the regiment was recruited. Instead, the officers either came up through promotion in the Association regiments, or from other parliamentarian Associations. Much of the responsibility for the military command in the field fell upon the Lieutenant Colonel, in this case, John Hewson. He had more than a year’s experience as a company commander before he took up his command as second-in-command in Pickering’s regiment. Before the war, he had been a shoemaker, selling to the Massachusetts Company, but getting little by trade, he in the beginning of the grand rebellion, went out as a captain upon the account of the blessed cause. Having served in the Earl of Essex’s regiment from late 1642, he joined Pickering’s in late March of 1644.

John Jubbes’ family lived in Norwich. He had joined the Eastern Association army as a Captain of foot in Col. Sir Miles Hubbard’s regiment at its formation, in April 1643. Jubbes had, in his own words, joined the army because he had been long deeply sensible of the many grievous Incroachments and Usurpations exercised over the People of this Nation. After seeing action in the engagements of the Association in 1643, Jubbes took up a commission as Major with Pickering’s regiment in March 1644, taking responsibility for the regiment’s finances. He had already raised money in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex on Manchester’s orders. However, in a letter dated December 1643, Thomas Windham wrote:

My personal estate I have given up at two thousand pounds, which is more than I know I am worth, my estate in lands to the uppermost, during my father’s life. The oppression practised by Jubs and his associates is very odious, their fury in churches detestable.

The historian, Ketton-Cremer, has argued that,

Lt. Col. John Jubbes, who expressed violently anti-monarchical sentiments at the critical Army Council of 1st November 1647… was just the kind of man to display detestable fury in churches.

038He has described this as random iconoclasm, carried out by local puritan extremists or detachments of unruly troops. However, this is far from the truth. The Solemn League and Covenant signed between Parliament and the Scots required the reformation of religion in England and Ireland in doctrine, discipline and government. In other words, a Presbyterian form of church government was to be adopted. In August 1643 an ordinance was passed by Parliament for the utter demolishing, removing and taking away of all monuments of superstition and idolatry, and the following December a systematic implementation was ordered. This raised the opposition of many puritan parliamentarians, such as Windham. However, he had also been accused of undervaluing his estate when a levy was made in 1643 to raise money for the war, and it is this context that we need to understand his accusations against Jubbes, who was certainly not an unruly trooper. Neither was Daniel Axtell, Pickering’s first captain, who was a Baptist by background, one of a number in the regiment, and in the New Model Army, who rose from humble origins to positions of influence purely through ability and commitment to the parliamentarian cause.

023In the civil war, one of the great Puritan writers came to serve as Rector of Lavenham. William Gurnell, though lacking priest’s orders, was appointed by the Puritan lord of the manor and County Sheriff, Sir Symonds D’Ewes, an action sanctioned by parliament in 1644. During his thirty-three year incumbency he wrote one of the most famous Puritan devotional works, The Christian in Complete Armour, dedicated to my dearly beloved friends and neighbours, the inhabitants of Lavenham. However, the growth of fanatical millenarianism during the wars alarmed many moderate puritans within the Church. It was one thing to want to purify religion of superstitions and popish relics; it was quite another to show a total disrespect for churches, as did soldiers who used them for stables and fired muskets at ancient windows and monuments.

Two Suffolk men, William Dowsing of Laxfield and Matthew Hopkins of Great Wenham, became renowned for their fanaticism. Dowsing rose from obscurity when in August 1643 Parliament decreed that altars, candlesticks, pictures and images were to be removed from churches. Dowsing immediately came forward as one prepared, for the zeal of the Lord, to undertake this task and was appointed to the post of Parliamentary Visitor by the General of the Eastern Association. After creating havoc in Cambridgeshire he turned to his own county. Between January and October 1644 he toured Suffolk with a troop of soldiers. He smashed stained glass windows, defaced bench ends and carved fonts, broke down crucifixes, tore up brasses and obliterated inscriptions. In his disastrous rampage he visited a hundred and fifty churches, virtually at random, and carefully noted down in a journal the work of destruction. At Clare,

We broke down a thousand pictures superstitious. I broke down two hundred; three of God the Father and three of Christ and the Holy Lamb, and three of the Holy Ghost like a dove with wings; and the twelve Apostles were carved in wood, on the top of the roof, which we gave order to take down; and twenty cherubims to be taken down; and the sun and moon in the east window, by the King’s arms to be taken down.

Some parishes welcomed Dowsing and co-operated with him, but others, such as Ufford, put up a show of resistance, locked the church and tried to keep the desecrators at bay. Many churchwardens, even if sympathetic to Dowsing, resented having to pay the standard charge of 6s. 8d. for his visitation.

Matthew Hopkins was a far more sinister figure. As the Witch-Finder General, he could only thrive in a troubled time where in every community people were divided against each other, where loyalties clashed and where calamities were put down to supernatural agencies, where dislocations of the patterns of everyday life had driven many to the brink of mental breakdown, and where the exponents of an introspective religion held sway. Hopkins became famous after he supposedly uncovered a witches’ coven near Manningtree. He was asked to examine men and women, usually the latter, suspected of having familiar spirits. For three years he toured Suffolk and neighbouring counties applying his tests and supervising the resulting 106 executions in Suffolk alone.

The supposed witches were stripped, stuck with pins, denied food and rest, and made to walk until their feet were cut and blistered. If they still didn’t confess, they were swum, having their thumbs and toes tied together and then being dragged through the local pond in a sheet. If they sank, they were innocent, but probably drowned anyway. If they floated, they were in league with the devil. As a contemporary complained,

Every old woman, with a wrinkled face, a furrowed brow, a hairy lip, a gobber tooth, a squint eye, a squeaking voice, or a scolding tongue, having a ragged coat on her back, a skull-cap on her head, a spindle in her hand, and a dog or cat by her side, is not only suspected, but pronounced for a witch.

Eventually, poetic justice caught up with the Witchfinder-General, who was, himself, tried for witchcraft in 1647 and hung.

The placing of the county on a military footing was another cause of discontent. Soldiers were billeted on townspeople without payment. They took provisions from these homes, from local shops and ransacked the houses of the gentry for arms and plate. A visit of one Parliamentary troop at Somerleyton House in 1642 cost Sir John Wentworth forty-four pounds in various appropriations plus a hundred and sixty pounds of gold. The local militias were expected to train every week and provide their own equipment and the county as a whole had to pay 1,250 pounds for the maintenance of the army. All this the people were expected to suffer gladly for the sake of their own defence.

035After their victory at Marston Moor in the summer of 1644, in which the Association army was hard hit, being reduced from fourteen thousand men to about six thousand, the remaining troops were quatered in several towns in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire during the winter of 1644-5. These garrisons, just beyond the Association’s borders, were facing the royalist capital at Oxford. At this time the conflict between those who believed that the war could be won and those, like Manchester, who did not want to defeat the King, ultimately led to the success of the parliamentarian cause. The success of Independents in the Association armies enabled the creation of a new standing army committed to outright victory. In January 1645 the Committee of Both Kingdoms recommended the formation of a new army of twenty-two thousand men, to be supported by a levy of six thousand pounds a month on those districts controlled by Parliament. This New Model Army, established in April, was placed under the overall command of Sir Thomas Fairfax with Philip Skippon as Sergeant Major General. Cromwell was nominated as Lieutenant General of the Horse on the eve of the Battle of Naseby, and did not become Commander-in-Chief until June 1650.

The New Model was formed from the existing units of the armies of Essex, Manchester and Waller, but these had been so seriously depleted by the campaigns of 1644 that they could supply only seven thousand of the required fourteen thousand infantry alone. Therefore, new regiments had to be created, under committed officers like Pickering and Montague. Nevertheless, when the list of officers for the New Model was debated in parliament, Pickering, that fanatical Independent, had his name struck out by the Lords, along with that of Montague and others. They went further than this by striking out the whole of the most radical regiment from the forces of parliament, since Manchester was determined to purge his personal enemies from the New Model. However, under pressure from the Commons, Fairfax’s original list was eventually passed by just one vote and Pickering’s became the twelfth regiment of the New Model Army.

Each regiment of foot had a nominal strength of twelve hundred men, and there were eleven cavalry regiments, each of six hundred. In addition, there were ten companies of dragoons, each of a hundred men. Of these, nine of the regiments of horse and four of the infantry came from the Eastern Association, a total of 3,578 men. However, many of the foot regiments, including Pickering’s, were seriously under strength, and had to impress men from the areas through which the army marched. Several thousand men were conscripted into the New Model at this time, nearly all of them impressed, untrained, raw recruits. When the New Model set forth on its first campaign it was still four thousand men short, but did begin to look like an instrument that, by its professionalism, courage and discipline, would bring Parliament victory.

Pickering took up his new command at Abingdon, where his regiment still waited in winter quarters. The administrative system of the Association had been unable to raise adequate resources to cover the cost of maintaining the regiment over the previous ten months, a sum of more than four and a half thousand pounds. As a result, the pay to the regiment had fallen into arrears. These problems did not improve, even after transfer to the New Model. For forty-two days in April and May 1645 the regiment was without any pay, undoubtedly a factor in the mutiny of April that occurred when Colonel Pickering preached a sermon to his troops, following the confirmation of his command of the regiment. However, according to a royalist broadsheet, it was Pickering’s condemnation of Presbyterianism which some of the men most objected to, having joined from other regiment less Independent in religious character. Parliament instructed Fairfax that preaching in the army in future was only to be in the ministry of authorised chaplains, and Henry Pinnell was appointed to the regiment. He was an Independent, but also politically moderate, in favour of the Army reaching an agreement with the King. Nevertheless, Pickering continued to be admired for his views by most in the regiment, as well as the townspeople of Newport Pagnall.
On 1st May 1645, Fairfax’s army marched into the west, leaving Cromwell and the four former Eastern Association regiments to join him later around Oxford when the new recruits were fully trained. Cromwell himself was already involved in an attempt to clear several smaller garrisons around Oxford, including Bletchington House and Faringdon Castle, which was then in Berkshire. Pickering’s regiment was sent from Abingdon to Faringdon, where Captain Jenkins was killed, along with fourteen others. It numbered around five to six hundred by this time. The attack was abortive, for even with infantry Cromwell did not have the means for a decisive assault, and the garrison remained in royalist hands until June 1646.
021On 14th May, Fairfax began to lay siege to Oxford and Pickering was with the army at Southam in Warwickshire in late May. Hewson was in carrying arms and surgeons’ equipment to the siege of Oxford.   Following the fall of Leicester to the royalist army on 31st May, Cromwell was dispatched to secure Ely. Pickering’s, however, remained with Fairfax, marching from Oxford on 5th June, and then following the King’s Army, which was retreating from Daventry on 13th June,   reaching Market Harborough, where that night Charles decided to turn and engage the New Model.

006The royalists marched south on the morning of the 14th June and the two armies met at Naseby in Northamptonshire. Pickering’s were positioned at the centre of the parliamentarian front line. Here, the Royalist infantry began the battle well, and forced the Parliamentary regiments back, concentrating their attack against their left and centre, in support of Prince Rupert’s successful cavalry charge, which caused Ireton’s cavalry to veer to the right. Rupert charged into Ireton’s left, and then began to cut and thrust with sword. He forced his way through, and was then in a position to re-group: instead, he decided to press on, but achieved little, and though anxious not to repeat his mistake at Edgehill, was still absent from the battlefield for some time. This was, again, disastrous for his side. Cromwell launched a tremendous cavalry charge on the right, smashing into Langdale’s cavalry, slowed by difficult ground on the royalist left. As Astley’s foot stormed their way up Red Hill Ridge, they came under attack from Ireton’s recovering cavalry, supported by a mounted charge from Okey’s dragoons. As Astley’s troops reached Skippon’s foot, they not only met spirited resistance from the Parliamentary infantry, but also received a terrible blow on the other flank from Cromwell’s cavalry.

027 By the time Rupert returned to the field, his horses blown, he could only watch as Astley’s infantry were wiped out completely, four thousand of them, either killed or captured. Total Royalist losses were a thousand, with four-and-a-half thousand captured. With the King and Rupert having already left the field, the remaining Royalist infantry also tried to leave the field, with only Langdale’s cavalry fighting on.

This was the most decisive battle of the first civil war and Charles should never have fought it. He lost his infantry, his baggage train, his artillery, his private papers and, effectively, his throne. Outnumbered two to one, fourteen thousand to seven, short of cavalry and artillery, the Royalist had severely underestimated their opponents, raw recruits as many of them were, and paid dearly for it. Although initially forced to retreat by the assault on their centre and left, Pickering’s and Montague’s had done so lyke men, in good order. While Skippon’s more hardened troops had held the centre, they fell into the Reserves with their Colours, choosing there to fight and die, than to quit the ground they stood on. Together with the Reserves, Pickering’s and Montague’s remaining men had then rallied and moved forward to join Skippon’s, who were being steadily pushed back by the Royalist advance. The Roundhead charge did little to ease the pressure, especially when Ireton himself was wounded and taken prisoner. It was only after the rally of Pickering’s and Montague’s regiments, together with the calling up of the reserve, that the Parliamentarian infantry centre’s greatly superior numbers began to tell.

012So it was that Pickering’s took part in the final destruction of the Royalist infantry, deciding the outcome of the Battle of Naseby and the first Civil War. Captain Tomkins was killed, and estimates at the time put the Parliamentarian losses at between fifty and a hundred. A further fifty of Pickering’s men were seriously wounded, four dying later from their wounds. Two hundred more from the other infantry regiments were also seriously wounded.

The New Model then marched on to Leicester, which refused to yield, and Newark, where the Royalists surrendered on the 18th. After taking Leicester on their return, the New Model then secured Warwickshire and Gloucestershire before moving against the Royalist strongholds in the West Country. Following a further victory at Langport on 10th July, Bristol fell on 10th September, and Devizes a fortnight later. Laycock followed a few days later, followed by Winchester on 5th October. There was then a long siege of Basing House in Hampshire, which finally fell in mid-October, then Longford near Salisbury, leaving only Corfe Castle as the only remaining substantial Royalist garrison left between London and Exeter. Troops were needed to reinforce both the garrison at Abingdon and those besieging Exeter, so it wasn’t until March 1646 that the castle finally fell.

The Parliamentarian forces then comprehensively slighted it, so that the Cavaliers could not use it again. Pickering’s regiment played a role in most, if not all, of these sieges, though it had moved on to Ottery St Mary in the winter of 1645-6, a small market town ten miles from Exeter. Pickering himself arrived ahead of his regiment, on 12th November, as his legal expertise was needed in securing the surrender of the city.

033During the Civil War there were probably more soldiers who died of disease than on the battlefield. Plague had been rife in and around Bristol when it had been captured in September, but the Parliamentary troops had escaped its ravages. However, they then fell prey to influenza, probably brought with them from the city, though it had taken a month for it to take hold among their ranks. The foot, quartered in Ottery St Mary, were the worst hit, with as many as nine soldiers and townspeople dying on a daily basis. Many soldiers were already weak from lack of good supplies and arrears of pay. Pickering himself fell ill on 24th November 1645, just before his thirtieth birthday:

Col. Pickering, that pious, active Gentleman, that lived so much to God, and his Country and divers other Officers, dyed of the New disease in that place; Six of the generals own family were sick of it at one time, and throughout the foot regiments half the souldiers…

The whereabouts of the Colonel’s burial is unknown, but it is likely that he would have been buried in Lyme Regis, in accordance with the wishes of his elder brother and MP, Sir Gilbert Pickering, as well as those of Cromwell and Fairfax. These are recorded in a letter from Cromwell to Colonel Creely, the commander of the nearest parliamentary garrison written from Tiverton on 10th December. Major Jubbes, of Norwich, took responsibility for the arrangements. The high esteem in which many parliamentarians held Pickering can be seen in the various obituaries in the newsheets of the time. One of them is accompanied by a eulogy, far less eloquent than his cousin, John Dryden, later poet laureate, might have produced, but he was only fourteen at that time:

… Black Autumn fruits to cinders turne;

Birds cease to sing, our joy is fled,

‘Cause glorious Pickering is dead,

Let time contract the Earth and Skie,

To recommend thy memorie

To future ages…

Sprigge devotes a whole poem to a poem on his death, which he entitled Iohannes Pickering: In God I Reckon Happiness. By comparison, Dryden’s first published work, in 1659, was also to be a eulogy, A Poem upon the death of his late Highness, Oliver, Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland. As a close associate of Cromwell within the Eastern Association, John Pickering was in an ideal position to establish a regiment that mirrored his own religious and political views. It was, after all, not just the Colonel, but also the whole regiment that drew criticism from the Presbyterians in Parliament. It was his deep religious conviction, some said fanaticism, which gave him strength, courage and commitment both in combat and negotiation. In these virtues, he was typical of the men who brought about the revolution in liberties of conscience, which was a distinctive element in the civil wars of the middle to late seventeenth century. Like Cromwell, he saw himself as one of God’s Englishmen.

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After Pickering’s death, his Lieutenant Colonel, John Hewson took command of the regiment, and his advancement heralded the increasing authoritarianism of the revolution as the country moved towards a form of military dictatorship. In May 1647 the Presbyterian Parliament attempted to break up the military power-base of Independency, requiring the New Model Army regiments either to disband or to volunteer for the campaign in Ireland. Hewson’s regiment refused, as did others. Lieutenant Colonel Jubbes, the Norwich Baptist, together with Major Axtell and two other agitators prepared a statement of the regiment’s grievances. In June, as political debate developed and intensified in the army, some of the regiment were already committed to the Leveller cause. Two of the six authors of A Letter from the Army to the honest Seamen of England, of 21st June 1647, were from Hewson’s. They were Captains Brayfield and Carter. A third, Azuriah Husbands, had been a Captain in the regiment, and some of its ordinary soldiers also signed it.

John Jubbes, in his statement at the Putney debates on 1st November 1647, called for political reforms extending well beyond mere army grievances. Jubbes took a conciliatory position between the Independents and the Levellers, seeking even to bring the more libertarian Presbyterians into an agreement. The same position was taken by the regiment’s chaplain, Henry Pinnell, who had published his own proposals, which while radical in general nature, included a reconciliation with the King. For Jubbes, as for many who later became Quakers, the war had encouraged pacifist views in him. He came to see the real conflict as being between the slavery of the sword and the Peace of Christ. In April 1648, having lost the argument in the regiment, as it had been lost at Putney in the army as a whole; Jubbes laid down his sword and picked up his pen. He was disillusioned with the course the revolution was taking, believing that the cause of liberty of conscience was being sacrificed to that of the authority of the Grandees of the New Model. He became associated with a sect of religious radicals with millenarian ideas, confidently looking forward to the imminent personal reign of Christ on earth, following His second coming.

In attitude and ideas, Hewson differed markedly from both Pickering and Jubbes. Although, like Cromwell, an Independent, he had expressed a typically authoritarian view about the Levellers in the army, suggesting that military tribunals rather than civil courts should deal them with. We can hang twenty before they will hang one, he pointed out. For him, as for Cromwell and Ireton, whatever the political merits of the Levellers’ case, which they had listened to patiently and responded to sympathetically within the Army Council at Putney Church, they could not be allowed to undermine military discipline through constant arguing and petitioning. It is in this context that we need to understand both Hewson’s remark and Cromwell’s later statement to one of his Colonels, you have no other way to deal with these men but to break them or they will break you… Daniel Axtell, another fierce Independent, replaced Jubbes as Lieutenant Colonel, while John Carter became Major, despite his Leveller sympathies.   The regiment was involved in Pride’s Purge of the Presbyterian MPs in Parliament in December 1648, during the Second Civil War.

The harsh new laws of the Presbyterian Long Parliament had also transformed the sympathies of many ordinary people in the country. In Suffolk in 1648 there was a serious riot in Bury St Edmund’s when the authorities tried to prevent the hoisting of a maypole. The local arsenal was seized and people rushed through the streets shouting, For God and King Charles! The outburst was contained, but there were also similar risings in Aldeburgh and Lowestoft. Suffolk was growing tired of war, of religious conflict and of political maneuverings between the Army and Parliament. None of these made any difference to the problems of the cloth industry, which was still declining, or to the harbours of the East Anglian ports, which were still silting up. There were still thousands of people living at bare subsistence level in thatched, rat-infested hovels.

In the second war, which ended with the surrender of the royalist troops at Colchester, Hewson’s had faced the Kentish royalists and bore the brunt of the fighting at the storming of Maidstone. Fairfax wrote, I cannot but take notice of the valour and resolution of Col. Hewson, whose Regiment had the hardest task. Major Carter was injured and Captain Price, a deserving and faithfull Officer, was killed. The regiment had gone on to suppress the rising in Kent, recapturing the castles at Deal, Walmer and Sandown. Hewson was a judge at the King’s trial in January 1649, also signing the death warrant, while Axtell commanded the guard at the king’s execution. In April 1649 Hewson’s were chosen, by lot, to go to Ireland with three existing and six new regiments. While in Ireland, they took part in many of the major actions and the most notorious, particularly at Drogheda, where they were at the centre of the atrocities against the royalist troops who refused to surrender.

Hewson later became Governor of Dublin, member of the Council of State and an MP. He was knighted by Cromwell and described after the Restoration as an arch-radical and religious zealot. However, he did not approve of what he called the usurpation of the General and opposed Cromwell from within the Protectorate, at some personal risk. By the end of the interregnum, the regiment was commanded by John Streeter, undoubtedly the same soldier who drew the battlefield of Naseby (above). It took part in the last land action of the Commonwealth, finding itself fighting against its original first captain and later Lieutenant Colonel, Daniel Axtell. He had joined Major-General Lambert in an attempt to reimpose military government. On 22nd April 1660 Lambert’s forces were confronted and routed at Daventry in Northamptonshire, close to the battlefields of Edgehill and Naseby. Axtell escaped, but was later captured and eventually executed by Charles II’s government, as a regicide. At the Restoration, Hewson fled to the continent where he died in Amsterdam in 1662. The regiment which was raised in 1643, and first served in East Anglia as a major force in the Eastern Association in April 1644, was not disbanded until October 1660, and even then four of its companies being sent to form the garrison at Hull. By then, it had served longer than any other Parliamentarian regiment.

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John Pickering’s elder brother, lord of the manor and baronet, Sir Gilbert Pickering, had been elected as an MP for Northamptonshire to the Short Parliament of 1640. He raised, though he did not command, a dragoon regiment in eastern Northamptonshire. He was appointed commissioner and judge in the trial of Charles Stuart, though wisely attended only two sittings, and did not sign the death warrant. During the Commonwealth he rose to a position of considerable national influence, as a member of the Council of State and as a Commissioner in various posts. Finally in 1655 he was appointed Lord Chamberlain to the Lord Protector. It was only due to the intervention of his brother-in-law, Edward Montague, Earl of Sandwich, that Gilbert obtained a pardon from Charles II.

Gilbert Pickering was described after the Restoration as first a Presbyterian, then an Independent, then a Brownist, and afterwards an Anabaptist. Although coming from his enemies, this statement does perhaps describe the process of radicalisation that many of his class went through in the thirty years of conflict in the reign of Charles I and in the interregnum. The Pickering family had long been known for their strong Puritan beliefs, reflecting the strength of these views in eastern Northamptonshire, which had developed rapidly and become strongly entrenched in the Peterborough diocese during the second half of the sixteenth century, as elsewhere in the southeast Midlands and East Anglia. Robert Browne, whose Brownism developed into the Independent form of puritanism that in turn led to Congregationalism, was Rector of Thorpe Achurch, only three miles north of Titchmarsh, from 1591 to 1630. The Pickerings were therefore very close to one of the main centres of Puritan Dissent, forced out of the Church of England during the 1630s by Archbishop Laud and his supporters, and into the manor houses of sympathetic families like the Pickerings and then across the countryside and market towns until it found its way into the regiments of the Eastern Association and the New Model Army. Therefore, the history of the Pickering family and their relatives also describes and explains the history of much of the Midlands and East Anglia during the seventeenth century.

023However, the rather disparaging view of him as a Committee man responsible for sequestration was quite unfair, as was the attempt to paint him as a most furious, fiery, implacable man… the principal agent in casting out most of the learned clergy. This assessment comes from the papers of Jeremiah Stevens, Rector of Quinton and Wootton in Northants, who was sequestered in 1644. In 1656, a very different temperament from the conciliatory role undertaken by the MP and Lord Chamberlain in the parliamentary proceedings undertaken against James Nayler, the Quaker, who stood accused of blasphemy. Nayler, a farmer from Yorkshire, had fought for Parliament at the Battle of Dunbar in the second civil war, in September 1650, where his preaching was remembered long after by those who heard it, both ordinary soldiers and officers alike, as well as by the country folk:

 013After the Battle of Dunbar, as I was riding in Scotland at the head of my troop, I observed at some distance from the road a crowd of people, and one higher than the rest. Upon which I sent one of my men to see and bring me word what was the meaning of this gathering. Seeing him ride up and stay there without returning according to my order, I sent a second, who stayed in like manner, and then I determined to go myself. When I came thither, I found it was James Nayler preaching to the people, but with such power and reaching energy as I had not till then been witness of. I could not help staying there a little, though I was afraid to stay, for I was made a Quaker, being forced to tremble at the sight of myself. I was struck with more terror before the preaching of James Nayler than I was before the Battle of Dunbar, when we had nothing else to expect but to fall prey to the swords of our enemies…

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However, James Nayler’s six years of missionary journeys, of eloquent and victorious evangelism, of loyal co-operation with colleagues, were all forgotten when he appeared before Parliament in 1656 accused of horrid blasphemy and of being a grand imposter and seducer of the people. He is still remembered for the six months of his disgrace, and as the fallen apostle of Quakerism, while his contemporary George Fox is seen as its chief Founder. Nayler was born in 1618, in a village two miles from Wakefield in Yorkshire, where he married and lived from 1639. After having three children there, he joined the parliamentary army in 1643, serving in Fairfax’s regiment, before becoming Quartermaster in Lambert’s Regiment of Horse, a position which he held until the decisive Battle of Worcester in 1651, after which Charles II (only of Scotland at that time) fled to France. After that conclusive battle, there was no longer any need for an army in the field. According to Cromwell, Lambert’s Horse bore the brunt of the battle, the best of the Enemy’s Horse being broken through and through in less than an hour’s dispute.

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As Quartermaster, it would have been Nayler’s task to feed the ten thousand who were taken prisoner, especially the Scots. The half who were English were sent home due to the impossibility of providing for them. At his trial, Major-General Lambert gave testimony that he was a very useful person – we parted from him with great regret. He was a man of unblameable life and conversation. Lambert’s statement bears out Nayler’s own testimony to his judges that I was never taxed for any mutiny or any other thing while I served the Parliament.

 

In 1651 Nayler returned to his family in broken health, both physical and mental. A victim of consumption, he settled on a small farm near Wakefield. Lambert recalled that he became a member of a very sweet society of an Independent Church.

Although Presbyterianism had been established in England by ordinance in 1648, at the end of the second civil war, it was by no means popular and had not filled the place of the Church of England. Many parish ministers were relatively free to belong to different denominations, and/or to follow the promptings of their congregations. After a meeting with George Fox, Nayler decided to leave home to follow his calling as an evangelist, though he found it very difficult to leave his wife and children again, having just returned after nine years. His ministry took Nayler to the West Country where, while not in prison, he gathered a large number of followers around him. However, he came into conflict with Fox and, when his attempts to effect a reconciliation were rebuffed, he became deeply depressed to the point of appearing morose.

024It was in a deeply contemplative state that he set off for Bristol, in the middle of October 1656, from Glastonbury, in the pouring rain, with a small procession of Friends. He was riding a horse and on either side a woman led his horse by the bridle, walking knee-deep in the mud, when they could have walked along the sides of the ancient bridleway. Passers-by found the sight utterly bizarre, even before the company reached Bristol. As they reached the Radcliffe Gate of the City, the procession began shouting and singing a psalm, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Israel, removing their wet cloaks and throwing them in front of the horse, with Nayler still being led on it, as if in a transe. Between two and three in the afternoon they passed the High Cross, where it seemed as if the whole city had turned out to see the strange spectacle. After arriving at their inn, the Magistrates sent an escort for them and they were brought, still singing, to the Guildhall for examination.

After a brief, preliminary examination, they were imprisoned, despite Nayler possession of a pass from Cromwell himself. At the second examination, it became clear that, whatever interpretation his followers placed on their actions, he regarded himself simply as a symbol of Christ and the triumphal entry simply a sign of his second coming.

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However, two of the women in his congregation claimed that Nayler was indeed Jesus, one claiming that Nayler had raised her to life after she had been dead for two days. Under these circumstances, the Bench had no alternative but to send the group back to jail. The Bristol Magistrates then wrote to their MP. The second Parliament of the Protectorate had been sitting for only a month when this MP presented his report from the magistrates of his constituency. The case which came before them for judgement was so serious, so pregnant with consequences for both Church and State, that they felt incompetent to deal with it. The basis of it was that on the 14th October, a parody of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem had been enacted in Bristol, not from any spirit of mockery, but in the steadfast belief of those present that a second Messiah had appeared in England. Letters found upon the chief prisoner gave further evidence of this blasphemous delusion, and, since a pass from the Lord Protector himself was among these letters, the magistrates had decided to keep him and his companions in custody until they could ascertain the pleasure of Parliament. The House had now decided to undertake the third examination themselves and then to sentence the prisoners.

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Meanwhile, the entry into Bristol had become a nine days’ wonder, and the talk not only of London, but of every corner of the country into which Quakerism had penetrated. Nayler appeared before a Parliamentary Committee, and answered their questions clearly and to their satisfaction. With nothing further to examine, on 5th December the Committee made its report to the House. In spite of its careful purging, this second and last Parliament of Cromwell’s Protectorate was composed of many warring and irreconcilable elements, upon which the prisoner acted as a touch stone. His most vocal prosecutor was Sir George Downing, who gave his name to Downing Street. Four years later he was to make his peace with the new king by betraying his Parliamentary associates, including Sir Gilbert Pickering. Downing and the Extremists were opposed by the Merciful Party, including Pickering, Desborough and Lambert, Nayler’s old commanding officer, who gave his character reference, adding that the trial was very much sorrow of my heart. Major-General Desborough, in command of the Western counties, had come into contact with the best side of Quakerism, had witnessed Fox’s heroic temper in Launceston prison. Desborough used all his influence to moderate the harsh temper of the House. He argued that it should be handed over to the lawyers, to whose province it rightly belonged. However, the temper of the House was already one of heated debate, since Nayler was already present to hear the Committee’s report, and the Major-General’s advice was largely ignored. Westminster Hall had been the setting for the dramatic trial of Charles I, almost exactly eight years previously, and many of those sitting in judgement on Nayler had been present when the King had faced his avenging subjects. Perhaps some felt that they could now balance the scales of extreme justice, and even avenge the royal martyr, even if they dared not speak openly of this, even in Parliament.

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Nayler did not present himself, in Carlyle’s later description, as a mad Quaker, and again emphasised that his act had been purely symbolic of Christ’s second coming, which had not yet been fulfilled. However, either through ignorance or obdurance, Downing and others maintained their aggressivity towards Nayler and his beliefs. Other more gentle voices were raised on the prisoner’s behalf, especially by those who, through personal acquaintance with the Quakers, had studied and discussed with them their doctrine of the Inner Light. Among them was that of Sir Gilbert Pickering, who defended himself and the merciful party as having the same zeal for God, yet haply they may not have the same appetite to give sentence in these things, without special tenderness respecting the sad consequences. This view came close to that of the Lord Protector, whose impatience with this Parliament over this case was based on his view that it should uphold a spirit of toleration in the country by providing for liberty of conscience for the tender-hearted, even when they were in error. However, at dinner that night with the diarist Burton, Richard Cromwell was clear that Nayler ought to die. However, Nayler’s punishment was a matter for the House to decide, not the Lord Protector or his son, soon to inherit the title.

When Parliament met to impose punishment, Sir Gilbert Pickering interposed again with a plea for hard labour and imprisonment, as he had learnt from a very sober man of that sect that Nayler was bewitched, really bewitched, and his words were not to be heeded. Imprisonment would be a charity in keeping him from that party that bewitched him. It was resolved by a narrow majority of 96 to 82 votes that the prisoner’s life should be spared. On December 17th, after further debate, they came to the following resolution:

That James Nayler be set upon the pillory… in the Palace-Yard, Westminster, during the space of two hours, on Thursday next, and be whipped by the hangman through the streets, from Westminster to the Old Exchange, London: and there likewise be set upon the pillory… for the space of two hours… on Saturday next, in each place wearing a paper bearing the inscription of his crimes; and that at the Old Exchange his tongue be bored through with a hot iron and that there also be stigmatised in the forehead the letter B; and that he be afterwards sent to Bristol and be conveyed into and through the said city on horseback, with his face backward; and there also publicly whipped the next market day… and that from thence he be committed to prison in Bridewell, London, and there restrained from the society of all people, and there to labour hard, till he be released by Parliament; and during that time be debarred the use of pen, ink, and paper, and shall have no relief but what he earns by daily labour.

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On May 26th 1657, Sir Gilbert Pickering brought Nayler’s case again before the House. The Protector had been informed of Nayler’s poor state of health, and it was at his recommendation that Parliament was now asked to provide a keeper or nurse to wait upon him. Fearful of showing too much sympathy for the prisoner, Sir Gilbert recalled him as that reckless person Nayler. However, he was quite unable to preserve this air of detachment when Cromwell’s proposal met opposition. If you care not for him, he continued angrily, so as to let him have a keeper, he will die in your hands. Whether it was Cromwell’s wish or Pickering’s indignation which inclined the House to this unaccustomed show of humanity, there was no opposition to the proposal when put to the vote, and it was carried, with the suggestion that the Keeper should be a Quaker, that he might not infect others with the plague. It was then stated that his Highness further desired a minister to be sent to Nayler, for the truth is, he is very weak.

This was also agreed to. William Tomlinson, his devoted Friend throughout his punishment in London, became his Keeper, and the Governer also appointed a female nurse, Joane Pollard, to minister to his medical needs, alongside the Matron of Bridewell Hospital. Cromwell and Pickering had combined to soften the hearts of both Parliament and the prison governers. The brave, humanitarian action of Pickering in particular, seems at odds with the description of him after the Restoration. Perhaps it was his determination to oppose the hard-line attitude of Downing’s party, together with his earlier action against Laudian ministers in his county, which resulted in him being branded as a fanatical hothead by his enemies after the Restoration, but it is difficult to imagine that the sympathies he showed towards Nayler would not have also led him to be tolerant of protestant believers and ministers of a less Independent persuasion than his own. He may have been a Committee Man, and passionate about his Independency in faith and politics, but he also showed that that meant he was determined to support Cromwell’s view that liberty of conscience should extend to Presbyterians and tender-hearted sectaries alike.

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The youngest son, Edward Pickering, was born in 1618. He was also educated as a lawyer, at Lincoln’s Inn, but played no significant role in the war. ‘Ned’, as his friends affectionately knew him, was a companion of Samuel Pepys and is frequently described in Pepys’ Diary. Apparently, Ned did not maintain the same Nonconformist religious beliefs and practices as his brothers after the Restoration, and was less of an Independent in political views too. Probably influenced by Edward Montague, he travelled to the continent in 1660 to swear allegiance to Charles II before his return to England. Even after the Restoration, as late as the 1670s, Lady Pickering was still holding Congregationalist meetings in the manor house at Titchmarsh. However, though the Pickerings may have continued to hold to their puritan beliefs, they did not support the social levelling supported by John Lilburne and others.

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Neither were they averse to indulging in the finer aspects of courtly life in London, as Samuel Pepys (above) records for the 29th October 1660, The Lord Mayor’s Day. This was an occasion for quite a gathering of friends and family, including the wife of Edward Montague, Lady Sandwich, her children, and Lady Pickering, wife of Sir Gilbert and Montague’s sister. They went shopping for draperies in St Paul’s and Cheapside, where they found an ideal vantage point on the quayside to watch the parades and pageants with a company of fine ladies. The gentlemen continued to enjoy their sports. Eight years later, on 11th December, Pepys and his clerk and life-long friend Hewer met up with Ned Pickering in Smithfield to watch horse-riding, observing all the afternoon… the knaveries and tricks of jockys. However, Pepys had to be careful in meeting the jockys, especially one whose wife he desired but dare not see, for my vow to my wife. He came away with his friends having done nothing except concluded upon giving fifty pounds for a fine pair of black horses.

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The Pickerings were very much in the same mould as their Fenland neighbours, the Cromwells, prepared to challenge the religious and political order, but staunchly conservative with regard to the social order, and with an eye to property when determining who should have the right to decide on the government of the day. Although given the title God’s Englishman by Christopher Hill in his biography, Oliver Cromwell was, in fact, the grandson of a third-generation Welshman named Richard Williams, whose grandfather was said to have accompanied Henry Tudor to London in 1485. He settled in Putney and married his son, Morgan, to the daughter of the local blacksmith, Walter Cromwell. Walter’s brother was Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s great Chancellor, the hammer of the monks. In tribute, Morgan Williams’ son Richard decided to use his mother’s family name and became a firm supporter of the Reformation. Oliver’s mother was Elizabeth Steward, whose great-uncle was the last Prior of the Abbey of Ely and also became the first Protestant Dean of the Cathedral. He was Elizabeth Steward’s great-uncle, and was persuaded to throw in his lot with the Reformation by Sir Richard Cromwell. Oliver’s maternal grandfather and uncle continued to farm the manors of Ely Cathedral.*

As a result of their dissolution, Sir Richard Cromwell acquired the lands of three abbeys, two priories and the nunnery of Hinchingbrooke. He married the daughter of a Lord Mayor of London, as did his son, Sir Henry, who also represented his county in the House of Commons and was four times sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire. His son, Sir Oliver, who also became an MP and a high sheriff, was the uncle of Oliver Cromwell. Old Sir Oliver spent much of the family fortune in entertaining King James V of Scotland on his royal progress to being crowned James I in 1603. Like Sir John Harington of Coombe Abbey in Warwickshire, he got little in return for providing such lavish hospitality to the Stuart family. He had to sell the great house to the Montague family. Like John Pickering, Oliver Cromwell’s father Robert was a second son, and therefore received little of Sir Oliver’s patrimony anyway. So, Oliver was born into a comparatively modest house in Huntingdon, which had been part of the St. John’s Hospital. Later, Oliver was to inherit some of the church manors of the Dean and Chapter of Ely. Like John Pickering, he would have grown up conscious of being a poor relation. However, he was related to most of the powerful gentry families of East Anglia and the Midlands, including the Knightleys and the Fiennes, into which the Golafre family had married in early Tudor times. These cousinly connections, together with the puritan education many of the sons of the gentry received in Cambridge, were what enabled a growing network of the Country opposition to Charles’ rule to emerge in the 1630s and, in parliament, in the 1640s. When Oliver took up his seat in the House of Commons in 1628, he was one of ten cousins there.

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Looking back, historians have tended to see the breach with the Levellers at Burford in 1649 as the turning point of the Revolution. But for Oliver, 1653 was undoubtedly the high point. After the failure of the Barebones Parliament, his high hopes of uniting God’s Englishmen in government had gone. He now saw himself as a constable whose task was to prevent Englishmen from flying at each other’s throats. He was forced back on the support of an Army purged of radicals, an Army which in the last resort had to be paid by taxes collected from the propertied classes, the natural rulers of the countryside. So, by 1653 the Revolution was effectively over and the Lord Protector, General Cromwell was the saviour of propertied society. The radicals had been driven from Westminster, the City and the Army in 1653, and the trading monopolies were still in control of the mercantile economy. The conservative generals, including Lambert, Montague and Desborough, formed Cromwell’s Council, together with the baronets, including Sir Gilbert Pickering. Other advisers included Nathanial Fiennes, son of Lord Saye and Sele. Cromwell’s plans for unity were no longer restricted to the Independent party, whose leader he had been: He saw his task now as being to unite the nation. To the radicals Oliver was now, finally its lost leader. Lilburne, Wildman, Sexby and other remaining Levellers turned to negotiations with the royalists, rather than acceptance of the new régime. Baptists, Quakers and Congregationalists never forgave him for reneging on promises to abolish tithes.

The Welsh Fifth Monarchist, Vavasour Powell greeted the Protectorate by asking his congregation whether the Lord would have Oliver Cromwell or Jesus Christ to reign over us?

However, the actual composition of Cromwell’s council, no less than the powers given to it and to the parliament by The Instrument, drafted by General Lambert, make it difficult to characterise the Protectorate as a military dictatorship, as it so often has been. Ten of the eighteen members were, in fact, civilians, and only Lambert, Fleetwood, Skippon and Desborough were members of the field army. Montague had last commanded a regiment in 1645, and the three others, although having some military duties, were administrators rather than soldiers. A simple head count, however, can be misleading, since civilians like Sir Gilbert Pickering often supported the military members, while Colonel Montague, later General at Sea, tended to oppose it. The council contained men of diverse and independent views, including Sir Gilbert Pickering, and was unlikely to act collectively as a rubber stamp to dictatorship, and nor did it.

Cromwell certainly wielded immense personal authority, and he would never have become Lord Protector had he not been Lord General. But he had a genuine aversion to dictatorial power, and the constitution was genuinely designed to prevent this. The army party reached its peaks of influence when Cromwell accepted the Instrument of Government and during the rule of the major-generals, but he signalled his disillusionment with it in a speech that he made to the hundred officers in February 1657. Thereafter, the exclusion of Lambert shifted the balance decisively against the military faction, and the trouble that the grandees made for Richard Cromwell in the spring of 1659 does not testify to their continuing ascendancy, but rather to the desperation of defeated men.

After the dissolution of the Long Parliament in March 1660, the Royalist historian Clarendon records that the council of state did many prudent actions, the most important of which was the reform of the navy, which was full of sectaries and under the government of those who of all men were declared the most republican. The fleet was under the command of Vice-Admiral Lawson, an excellent seaman, but then a notorious Anabaptist; who had filled the fleet with officers and mariners of the same principles. Nevertheless, the Rump Parliament owed its restoration to his successful siege of the City, so he stood high in reputation with all that party and they were therefore unable to remove him from power. Instead, they decided to eclipse him, that he should not have it so absolutely in his power to control them. So, they called up Sir Edward Montague, who had retired to his own house in Cambridgeshire, under a cloud, and made him joint-admiral. Montague accepted the commission on the conditions that he alone would have charge of recruiting new officers and men for the ships to be added to the fleet, and that he would have oversight of the rest, reforming them as he saw necessary. He sent a secret message to the king in exile, asking for his approval, before finally accepting the office and returning to London, where he immediately set to work in putting the fleet in so good order that he might comfortably serve in it. Clarendon goes on to praise Montague by asserting that there was no good man who betook himself to his majesty’s service with more generosity than this gentleman.

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Montague was from a noble family, which was a rival of the Cromwell family, having bought the House at Hinchingbrooke from Oliver’s grandfather, who had impoverished his family by the lavish hospitality he had shown to James I. However, Oliver and Edward became firm allies from the early years of the First Civil War, perhaps because the former was always destined to be a poor relation, as the son of a second son, but inherited his uncle’s lands in the Chapter of Ely anyway when he died childless. Clarendon records that the Montague family was too much addicted to innovations in religion, though Edward went against his father in opposing Charles I, since Sir Sidney had been a long-serving courtier and never could be prevailed upon to swerve from his allegiance to the crown, taking great care to restrain his only son within those limits. However, being young, and more out of his father’s control by being married into a family which, at that time, also trod away, he was so far wrought upon by the caresses of Cromwell, that, out of pure affection to him, he was persuaded to take command in the army when it was new modelled under Fairfax, and when he was little more than twenty years of age.

Montague served in the army, as Colonel of his regiment, until the end of the war, with the reputation of a very stout and sober young man, who … passionately adhered to Cromwell. The Lord-General took him into his closest confidence and sent him on several expeditions by sea, in sole command, which were very successful for both the Commonwealth and Edward’s career in it.

011Although perceived as devoted to Cromwell’s interests, he showed no acrimony towards any who had served Charles I, and was so much in love with monarchy that he was one of those who most desired and advised Cromwell to accept and assume that title, when it was offered to him by his parliament. Soon after the Convention Parliament decided to send the fleet to fetch Charles II from the Dutch United Provinces, the King had only been in the Hague for a few days when he heard that the English fleet was in sight of the port of Scheveningen. Shortly after that, an officer was sent by Admiral Montague to ask the King for orders. The Duke of York went on board the fleet to take possession of his command as High Admiral, where he was received by all the officers and seamen, with all possible duty and submission. He spent the whole day on board, receiving details of the state of the fleet, returning to the King that night, with the information. Montague therefore played a major part in ensuring the smooth transition of power to the Stuart restoration. Still in his thirties, he was to receive rich rewards for this throughout the reign of Charles II. Neither did he abandon his old friends and allies, ensuring that they too received royal pardon and patronage, provided that they had played no part in the regicide.

Of course, Oliver Cromwell himself could not be pardoned for the act which he himself had regarded as a cruel necessity. Although he was beyond temporal punishment, his bones were not allowed to rest in peace. In 1661 the Protector’s body was dug up, hung at Tyburn, decapitated and buried at the foot of the gallows. The head was stuck on a pole outside Westminster Hall and left to rot. It eventually came into the possession of a Suffolk family, a descendant of which, Canon Wilkinson of Woodbridge, arranged with the fellows of Cromwell’s old college at Cambridge, Sydney Sussex, that it should be given a decent burial within the precincts, in 1960.

Beyond their Graves – Tracing the Lives and Times of the Gullivers: Part 1 (Chapter 1)   8 comments

Introduction:

Finding the Gullivers

 

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When I was growing up in Nottingham and Birmingham in the sixties and early seventies, we would often spend holidays and Christmases with my maternal grandparents in Walsgrave-on-Sowe, near Coventry. They were always full of tales, especially my Grandpa Gulliver. On one of our visits, I asked him where the name Gulliver came from, since I’d just read the 1912 children’s version of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels into several remote Nations of the World, originally published in 1726 as a satirical, social and political tract, never intended for young minds. He told me that in Banbury churchyard, I would find, railed around, a gravestone with Gullivers on. The legend of that, he went on, is supposed to be that the man that wrote Gulliver’s Travels saw that stone and thought that that’s what he’d call his book. Those are your ancestors. So that’s just something to think on! he added. I thought on, but regarded it as simply a piece of family folklore until in 1986, while attending the Sealed Knot Society’s re-enactment of the Battle of Edghill, near Banbury, I picked up a local history booklet from the stall of the Banburyshire Local History Society. I was surprised to find that it had the very same story printed in it. It was official, then! Lemuel Gulliver (the real one, that is) was indeed my ancestor.

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I joined the Sealed Knot as a roundhead and while researching the history of our newly-formed Midland Association regiment, in the library at the University of Warwick, was intrigued to find a record of a Banbury man named Gulliver from the mid-seventeenth century. He was listed as a Quaker, a term which, then, was often used to denote someone with a craft, possibly somewhat itinerant, as Quakers and other religious dissenters were frequently persecuted. They were also excluded from higher occupations, especially public office, though many fought (and became officers) in Cromwell’s Army following the Battle of Cropredy Bridge in June 1644. This discovery was made even more fascinating when I later discovered that an Edward Gulliver had married Mary Hawes in Cropredy in 1620.

Twenty-five years after these discoveries, I found myself standing in the graveyard where Lemuel Gulliver was supposedly buried, together with my younger son. However, we could find no railed tomb bearing the name of Lemuel Gulliver, and it was only when we’d completed my circumnavigation of the churchyard that my modern-day Oliver found a small inscribed stone, stating:

In his Preface to the First Edition of his famous Gulliver’s Travels, 1726, Swift remarks ‘I have observed in the Church Yard at Banbury several tombs and monuments of the Gullivers  The original tombstones no longer exist, but a later one bearing this old Banbury name lies near to this plaque.

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Jonathan_Swift (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The tombs that remain, no longer railed, are from the early to mid-nineteenth century and refer to two Samuel Gullivers, father and son, and to Sarah Harriet Gulliver and her daughter, Adelaide. The size of the tombs suggests that this part of the family was relatively wealthy, if afflicted by premature death. Swift was related to the Dryden family of Canon’s Ashby in Northamptonshire. His grandmother was Elizabeth Dryden, aunt of the poet laureate, John Dryden, born near Oundle. She married Thomas Swift and they had two children, Jonathan and Thomas. Jonathan was the father of the author of Gulliver’s Travels. Although Swift didn’t publish his great work until late in life, after he had become Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, he probably conceived of it during his time spent in the service of Sir William Temple of Moor Park near Farnham in Surrey, a diplomat to whom he was secretary in the 1690s and under whom he became involved in London politics. During this time he also gained his M.A. from Oxford, and became part of an inner circle in the Tory government of the Earl of Oxford until the death of Queen Anne in 1714, when he returned to Ireland. However, he continued to visit London, and maintained inflential contacts who helped him to publish his work anonymously, under the pen-name of Lemuel Gulliver, complete with a fictitious frontispiece including a portrait of Lemuel. Whether he actually met any of the real Gullivers on his visits to Banbury is impossible to prove, but the distinctive Gulliver nose he gave to his portrait of Lemuel suggests that he might have done, or else that he had had, at some point in the writing of the books, possession of a similar family portrait! In any event, as a satire parodying the ’traveller’s tales’ literary sub-genre of Defoe, it made its hero apparent author, Lemuel Gulliver, a household name almost overnight, while Swift kept his disguise and his clerical cloth at a time when liberty of speech and publication was far from secure. Much of the book is a reflection of his time in politics, such as the well-known scene in which Gulliver gets into trouble with the Queen of Lilliput by urinating on a fire which threatens to destroy her palace. This was a metaphor for the Tory’s actions in delivering the Treaty of Utrecht: They had achieved a good result, but in an unacceptable manner!

   

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Family tradition suggested that the Gullivers were originally a French Huguenot family, possibly weavers, who, escaping persecution in their native country, may first have settled in Dublin, where there is a Huguenot graveyard dating from this time, from where they moved to Banburyshire. The name may therefore have its origins in a corruption of  French names such as Guillefort or Guillevoir. However, I then  discovered a recent (2011) family history publication by Susan E Clarke (née Gulliver), Gulliver Travels Again.  Her great-grandfather, Charles Gulliver (b Marston St Lawrence, 1834), had been a farm labourer and a Methodist lay preacher, possibly the man I refer to later as the ancestor who helped Joseph Arch form the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union, centred on the nearby Warwickshire villages of Wellesbourne and Barford, where he is still remembered today. Arch was also a Methodist lay-preacher, as well as becoming a Liberal MP. Charles preached at chapels in Eastcote, Litchborogh and Culworth, villages in East Warwickshire/ South Northamptonshire. Charles’ father, John Gulliver (b Overthorpe, 1797), had farmed land in Marston St Lawrence near Banbury, and married Joanna Middleton of Thenford and his ancestors had farmed land in the nearby parishes of Warkworth and Overthorpe for generations before that, going back to another John Gulliver or ’Galover’, who is recorded in the parish registers as having died in 1570.

Local antiquarian studies revealed to Susan E Clarke that  the old spelling of Gulliver had, apparently, been ’Golafre’ or ’Goulafre’. A Guillaume Goulaffre, or William Golafre, is recorded as having come over from Normandy with William the Conqueror, and was given lands in Suffolk. In old French the word ’golafre’ refers to a nickname for a ’glutton’, relating to a word for ’caterpillar’. However, the original family name, ’Goulafre’ relates to the manor that they once owned in Normandy, ’La Goulafriere’, originally known as ’Bernard de Mesnil’.

Andrew J Chandler, Kecskemét, August 2013

Chapter One:

The Gullivers of Banburyshire and the Golafres of Fyfield.

By the fourteenth century, besides continuing to hold the manors granted to them by the Conqueror, the ’Golafre’ family had acquired lands in Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. They appeared on the Swan Rolls, which was a sign of great wealth and heritage. Sir John Golafre lived on the manor of Fyfield (then in Berkshire). In 1336, Sir John Golafre (senior) had inherited the manor of Fyfield in Berkshire (now Oxon) from his mother-in-law, Juliana, widow of Sir John de Fyfield. His father, Thomas Golafre, of Sarsden, had been MP for Northampton. The manor house on the village green was probably mostly built by this Sir John Golafre (senior), who became an MP for Oxfordshire in 1334, then for Worcestershire in 1337-8, where he seems to have inherited lands at Nafford, and then became the member for Oxon once more in 1340. He died in 1363, leaving the estate to his son, Sir John Golafre (junior). He died in 1378, leaving no legitimate children, so that  Fyfield passed first to his brother, Thomas, and then, when he died the following year, it came eventually to Thomas’ son, John Golafre, who occupied it from 1406.

Sir John Golafre (senior) had a bastard son by his mistress Janet Pulham, born in about 1350. He was also a John Golafre, who rose to become King Richard II’s most trusted courtier and Constable of Wallingford Castle. He was knighted by the King, becoming skilled at jousting and an expert archer. He was sent on a year-long diplomatic mission to Poland to gather support for the Anglo/French Crusade against the Ottomans in 1394 and accompanied the King’s horse in the Richard’s Irish campaigns the following year. He died in 1396 and was buried at Westminster Abbey in 1396. He had asked to be buried in the family mausoleum at Greyfriars’ in Oxford, but Richard persuaded him to accept a plot in the Abbey, close to the one reserved for the king himself. Although he acquired ownership/ custodianship of manors and castles throughout England and Wales, he did not possess an inheritance or any great income, leaving his modest treasures and jewels to the king. He died childless.

John Golafre 1396

(Effigy of Sir John Golafre, (d. 1396), Old Cleeve)

It was no doubt due to the influence of his cousin, who had found him a position as a young squire at court in 1395, that the third Sir John Golafre of Fyfield also become a trusted courtier by this time. Moreover, his cousin’s widow, Philippa, having been disinherited by her mother, remarried the king’s brother, Edmund Duke of York. Sir John was appointed Sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire and was elected ’knight of the shire’ (MP) in 1401, a position which he held twelve times during the next thirty years. In the early fifteenth century, the Golafres found themselves wedged, profitably, if somewhat uncomfortably, between the great Plantagenet houses of York and Lancaster.

Sir John Golafre was briefly imprisoned by Henry Bolingbroke after the capture of Richard II, but when Bolingbroke became Henry IV, Sir John accepted his kingship and was reappointed as sheriff in 1404. He became a close ally of Thomas Chaucer, son of the poet Geoffrey, one of the most powerful men in Oxfordshire, whose daughter Alice married into the de la Pole family. Chaucer appointed Golafre controller of Woodstock Palace and grounds, and by 1416 he had also risen high in the estimations of the local people around Abingdon, who had benefited greatly from the building of the bridge over the Thames in the town, which he had helped to sponsor and finance. He fought in France with Henry V in 1417, staying on to manage the conquered territories for the king until 1419. He married three times altogether, twice into the Yorkist de la Pole family, despite his service to the Lancastrian kings. His first wife, the daughter of Sir Edmund de la Pole, Elizabeth, died in childbirth in 1403, together with his only child. His third wife, Margaret Heveningham, whom he married in 1434, was the widow of Sir Walter de la Pole.

According to Roskell and Woodger’s History of Parliament, 1326-1421, Sir John Golafre died childless in 1442. Inside the church of St Nicholas on the other side of the Green from the manor, there is a Golafre Chapel and a large tomb showing the third and last Sir John Golafre of Fyfield as a skeletal figure. As a courtier of Richard II, it was probably also this man who donated two unusual stained glass pieces to the parish church in Wytham. These are not roundels, but depictions the figures of royal saints, complete with halos, which bear a resemblence to the King and his wife, Anne of Bohemia, the sister of the Hungarian King Sigismund. Foxe (author of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs) later claimed that it was through Anne of Bohemia that John Wycliffe’s works and ideas were taken to Bohemia, influencing Jan Huss and the Reformation in the Hapsburg Empire. Like King Richard, Golafre was a great lover of Gothic art forms from across Europe. Apparently, although he died childless, he was not not heirless. Agnes Wytham, who died in 1444, was his second cousin and was named by Sir John as his heiress. In All Saints, Wytham, there is the remainder of a brass memorial to Robert de Wytham (d. 1406) and his wife Juliana Golafre (d. 1408), showing their likenesses. They had several daughters and one son, Richard, who was Agnes’ father. Since she was referred to as ’the last of the de Wythams’, she would also have been the last of the Golafres of Fyfield. There followed a struggle within the wider family, who traced descent back to the first Sir John Golafre of Fyfield, who had married Elizabeth de Fyfield. The Fyfield Estate was eventually sold to William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, in 1448, by purchase, but he and his wife Alice, granddaughter of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, continued to live at Ewelme in Oxfordshire.

William was imprisoned in the Tower of London and then exiled by Henry VI. He was murdered on his ship in the Channel and his body was washed ashore near Dover in 1450. Alice brought his body home. No doubt embittered by his treatment, she continued to consolidate the family’s estates, perhaps fatefully, by abandoning their Lancastrian connections and building up their Yorkist ones. She retained direct control of Ewelme until her death in 1475, when the manor passed to her son John (d. 1492), 2nd duke of Suffolk and brother-in-law to both Edward IV and Richard III. He was succeeded by his second son Edmund, who was demoted to the rank of earl by Henry VII and fled abroad in 1501, prompting the seizure of his estates. Formally attainted in 1504, he was imprisoned from 1506 and executed in 1513. Ewelme was one of several manors vested in trustees for the life of Edmund’s widow, but it was controlled by the Crown and granted to the new Duke of Suffolk, Charles Brandon, in 1525. Henry VIII took it back in 1535, and in 1550 it was among the estates settled by Edward VI on the Princess Elizabeth. It remained in royal possession until 1628.

There was also a landed Golafre family in Worcestershire and Herefordshire in the fourteenth century, perhaps connected through John Golafre (senior). A half-hide of the manor of Ryall was given by the crown to Roger Golafre in 1299. In the fifteenth century, William Golafre gave or sold the land to Robert Aderne, possibly a member of the Arden or Ardern family to which the Golafres were related at that time. The last recorded victim of the plague was John Golafre, vicar of Little Marcle, near Ledbury, in 1349. There was also a William Golafre (possibly the same as that of Ryall) who married Margaret de Berrow: Her brother, Thomas, had no issue and therefore wanted his sister to inherit the estates of Berrow in Worcestershire and Coldborough in Herefordshire. However, the Prior of Worcester disputed Margaret’s wardship and marriage to the extent that he kidnapped her and locked her up in the Priory. The Court of Fines in Westminster ruled in Thomas’ favour in 1394 and his sister was allowed to marry William Golafre. However, they had no children before William died, and the estates passed by default to the Ruyhales of Birtsmorton. Margaret appears to have re-married the son of Baldwin Huddington’s, John, giving birth to Walter Huddington in 1415. At this point, she seems to have changed the spelling of her  name to Gollafor (see below).

Some sources also refer to a Golafre ’daughter and  heiress’ of Fyfield who became the second wife of  John de la Pole  (1462-1487). He was grandson of William and Alice, and eldest son the elder John de la Pole (d. 1491), and Elizabeth Plantagenet of York, therefore in direct line to the throne.  Elizabeth’s brother was Edward IV, who made her son John, Earl of Lincoln. Edward had married Elizabeth Woodville, whose two sons, Edward V and Richard Duke of York were imprisoned in the Tower of London when Richard of Gloucester had the Woodville marriage declared illegal, thus enabling him to replace the young king whose ’protector’ he had been. When Richard III lost his only son,  the Earl of Lincoln became ’de facto’ the next Yorkist in line to the throne. Although never clearly declaring him as his successor, Richard gave him the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall, titles reserved for the heir. He also ensured that Lincoln gained possession of Fyfield from his father. Lincoln fought for Richard at Bosworth Field, surviving the battle. Following the ’Tudor Takeover’, both Lincoln and his father, Suffolk, at first made peace with Henry VII, who visited Ewelme to reassure them of his goodwill towards the family.

Image

However, Lincoln was then introduced to Lambert Simnel, and a plot began to form by which he hoped to secure the throne for the Yorkists, perhaps himself. Simnel bore a striking resemblance to the young Edward, Earl of Warwick. Edward was born (in 1475) as Edward Plantagenet, to George, Duke of Clarence and Lady Isabel Neville, elder daughter of the 16th Earl of Warwick. Richard Neville, ’The Kingmaker’, who had eventually been been killed in battle in 1471, had no sons, so Richard III had Neville’s grandson created Earl of Warwick in 1478 and knighted at York in 1483. On seizing the Crown on the battlefield at Bosworth in 1485, Henry had re-imprisoned the boy in the Tower, where he had already spent much of his young life, hence the possibility of impersonation.

However, early in 1487, when he first heard of the plot, all Henry VII had to do was to produce the real Earl of Warwick. As the Plantagenet heir, Warwick would have possessed a stronger claim to the throne than both Henry and Lincoln, and was only prevented from acceeding to the throne by the act of attainder by which Richard had usurped it. With Richard deposed, Lincoln knew that Parliament could easily be persuaded to change its mind and reinstate the boy’s claim, especially if Henry were also forced to disclose that Edward V and Richard Duke of York were no longer alive. Lincoln may have known this himself, especially if they had died on the orders of Richard III, since he had been Richard’s heir. To scotch the rumours of Warwick’s escape from the Tower, put about by Lincoln’s supporters, Henry had the boy paraded through the streets of London, but Lincoln had already fled before Henry could force him to recognise the real Earl or reveal his treachery.  Some historians have suggested that this shows that Lincoln was intending to take the throne for himself. He raised an army of German mercenaries in Burgundy, with the help of Margaret, the sister of Edward IV, and landed in Ireland. Margaret then declared Simnel to be her nephew and Lincoln told of how he had personally rescued the boy from the Tower. He was proclaimed and crowned in Dublin, by its Archbishop, as Edward VI, at the end of May 1487. Having acquired Irish troops, led by Sir Thomas Fitzgerald, Lincoln  landed in Lancashire on 4th June and marched his troops to York, covering two hundred miles in five days. However, the city, normally a Yorkist stronghold, refused to yield to him, perhaps because they did not wish to be governed by a king, even a Yorkist, who depended on German and Irish mercenaries. Gathering troops on the way from Coventry to Nottingham, the Tudor king met Lincoln’s forces on their way to Newark. Although the Germans under the command of  Martin Schwartz fought with great valour, Fitzgerald, Lincoln and Schwartz were all killed, together with over four thousand of their men, at the Battle of Stoke on 16th June, 1487.

According to the Dictionary of National Biography, had the Simnel Rebellion been successful, the Golafre ’heiress’ would have become Lincoln’s Plantagenet Queen, assuming that he had always wanted the throne for himself (the real Earl of Warwick was still in the Tower, where he remained until executed in 1499 after pleading guilty to plotting his escape with Perkin Warbeck). His first wife, Margaret Fitzalan (d. 1493), was the daughter of Thomas Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel and Margaret Woodville, Elizabeth’s sister. She may have borne Lincoln a son, Edward, but he died young. Although Lincoln was young and healthy, this may not have been the case with Margaret Fitzalan, hence the remarriage to the Golafre heiress. But who was she?  Neither the DNB nor any other source provides us with names or dates. In any case, she would have to have been quite old, in 1487, to have been the daughter of the last Sir John Golafre of Fyfield, who had died forty-five years previously, apparently without issue. The estate had been bought by the de la Pole family in 1448, so if there was a second wife named Golafre, this must have been a relative from another Golafre house, hence the confusion among antiquarians and historians. In addition, we know that Agnes Browning (née Wytham), granddaughter of Juliana Golafre and Robert de Wytham, was the last of the Fyfield Golafres, the disputed heiress in 1442, and that she had also died without issue in 1444.

This Golafre ’heiress’ may therefore have been a family ’daughter’ in a general sense, perhaps descended from one of Juliana’s seven daughters, so that she would have been of sufficiently noble blood and fertility to attract the attentions of the young Earl of Lincoln, who had acquired Fyfield some time after the death of his grandfather, possibly in 1483, and held the manor and lands until they were seized by the Crown in 1487.  This is when there may have been a young Golafre ’daughter’ living in the manor. Henry Tudor had Lincoln posthumously attained, so that the Fyfield estate was confiscated by the crown. If there was a second surviving wife, she would have lost her claim to Fyfield, been forced to leave, and would probably have needed to ’lay low’, like the other Yorkist survivors of the Simnel plot. After all, despite the fact that the last surviving legitimate male Plantagenet claimant to the throne, the Earl of Warwick, had died on the scaffold in 1499, the de la Poles did not give up their claim to the throne until 1525, when the younger of the two surviving brothers was killed at the Battle of Pavia. This shows how fragile the Tudor royal heritage really was, descended through the illegitimate child of John of Gaunt. Henry VIII carried on a vindictive campaign against the Pole family after the son of Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury’s son, Cardinal Reginald Pole, penned a stinging attack against the King’s divorce, from exile in Italy. This resulted in the execution of one of his brothers in 1539 and the suicide of the other. Margaret, the daughter of the Duke of Clarence, was an old woman in 1541, once the governess to Mary Tudor, whose mother’s betrothal to Arthur, Prince of Wales, had caused the execution of her brother, Edward Plantagenet, the rival claimant to the throne. Despite this, she became a loyal Tudor courtier. However, because she was a Neville, she was accused of complicity in the Northern Rebellion, and sent to the Tower without trial. From there she was executed in May, after ten or eleven blows of the axe. When Mary became Queen, her son became the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, and she herself was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886. Her granddaughter became a close friend of Elizabeth I.

If there was a Golafre heiress married to the Earl of Lincoln, John de la Pole, and living at Fyfield until he was killed in battle and posthumously attained of treason, it was a cruel twist of fate that another traitor’s wife, albeit of royal blood, was given Fyfield in 1510. Lady Katherine Gordon was Perkin Warbeck’s impoverished widow and a kinswoman of James IV of Scotland. She was granted permission to live at Fyfield until death, provided that she did not visit Scotland or any other foreign country without licence. After Warbeck, she married three times more, and was living at Fyfield in 1531. She was known as The White Rose of York and Scotland, and was buried in the parish church of St Nicholas in 1537. Her fourth husband, Christopher Ashton, was placed beside her in the handsome Tudor tomb, contrasting with the medieval stone tomb of Sir John Golafre nearby. By 1555, Fyfield Manor had come into the possession of Sir Thomas White, the founder of St John’s College, Oxford. He endowed the college with the manor, ending its connection with the Golafre and  de la Pole families. All that was left to remind local people of its former associations was the tomb of Sir John himself, and this seemed to have the desired effect. In 1870-72, Wilson’s  Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales  described  Fyfield like this:

Value, £125. Patron, St. John’s College, Oxford. The church is good; and contains the tomb and effigies of Sir John Golafre, popularly called Gulliver. Charities, £23. A grand elm-tree is here, 36 feet in circuit, described by Arnold as ’a resort of Maidens, who from the distant hamlets come, to dance round Fyfield elm in May’.

Fyfield, Berkshire

This connection between the two names was confirmed by The Battle Abbey Roll with some Norman Lineages:

Fyfield in Berkshire was was formerly the property and seat of the family of Golafre. John Golafre was a knight of the shire in 1337. Sir John Golafre was employed in an embassy to France in 1389…a ’son’ of the same name died siesed of the manor in 1442. The same year a licence was granted by the Crown, for the foundation of a chantry, at the altar of Saint John the Baptist, persuant to the will of Sir John Golafre, who is styled in the charter servant to King Henry V, and King Henry VI. Francis Little, in his MS. History of Abingdon, says that the daughter and heir to the last mentioned Sir John married John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, who lost his life at the battle of Stoke, and was attainted of treason. In the N. Aisle of the parish church is the monument of this Sir John, who died in 1442. His effigies in armour lies on an open altar tomb, beneath which is the figure of a skeleton in a shroud. The common people call it Gulliver’s tomb, and say that the figure on the top represents him in the vigour of his youth; the skeleton in his old age; the arms of Golafre are on the tomb, and in the windows of the church…. The name occurs afterwards in Oxfordshire and other parts of England.

 

Therefore, although there may have been an the heiress to Fyfield who married the Earl of Lincoln, she seems untraceable in the Fyfield line, the last surviving female member of whom would appear to be Sir John’s second cousin Agnes Browning (née Wytham), granddaughter of Juliana Golafre, who died childless long before Lincoln was born, and his widow, Margaret Golafre, who survived him by thirty years, but had no children by him. The Margaret Golafre, or Gollafor, who married into the Hodington (Huddington) family was probably from a prominent gentry family herself. There does appear to be a link with the older, aristocratic family, however, in that her descendents, the Huddington heiresses, Joan and Agnes, married Robert Winter and William Strensham. By these marriages, both the Winters of Huddington and the Russells of Strensham were entitled to bear the Golafre arms. The brothers Robert and Thomas Winter (Wintour), were executed (hung, dawn and quartered) in 1606 for their part in the Gunpowder Plot and Midland Rebellion of the previous year. They had both grown up at Huddington Hall.

The association of the Golafre name with the plots and rebellions of the Tudor and Early Stuart period may have been one reason why the other members of the family were glad to adopt more anglicised and ’gentrified’ versions of the name. Significantly, there is evidence that there was a deliberate change made after the Gunpowder Plot, when the sub-manor of Aston Manor in Bampton, Oxon., had its name changed from ‘Golofers’ to ‘Gullivers’ in 1608, when it was let to Sir Laurence Tanfield, chief baron to the Exchequer.  A William Golofre had acquired a life-share of two-thirds of Aston at some time before 1339. He died in 1358, and the land was sold to John Laundels in 1359 . It then comprised a chief house (not the present one, which was built in the late sixteenth century), a dovecote and a fishpond, together with fifteen tenant yardlands and a demesne of two hundred acres. It continued to be known as ‘Golofers’ Farm’, then ‘Gulliver’s Farm’, tenanted land of five yardlands, until the twentieth century, when it was sold as a separate part of the Aston Manor Estate.

Interestingly, the Golafre family were closely related, through the marriage of Beatrix Golafre of Satley, Warwickshire, to the Arden family, through which the writer William Shakespeare was descended. Beatrix’s grandson, Robert Ardern of Park Hall (b. 1413), was the son of a Worcestershire gentleman, who had been one of the claimants to the Fyfield estate, following the death of Sir John Golafre. In 1452, he had been executed for taking part in the uprising of Richard, Duke of York. Not surprisingly, therefore, the Ardens were continually suspected of being first rebels and then recusants throughout the Tudor Period, and one of them, Edward Arden, was executed in 1583 for plotting against Elizabeth I. It has often been strongly suggested that Shakespeare himself was a Catholic, hence his determination to prove his loyalty, first to Elizabeth and then to James, at a time when Midland gentry families fell under suspicion of harbouring Jesuits in priestholes, such as at nearby Baddesley Clinton, and of plotting against the Protestant monarchy and cause. They were seen as ’the enemy within’ and heavily fined for not attending their parish church and for having private masses said in their homes. The Jesuit priests who ministered to them were ’flushed out’ before and after the 1605 Rebellion, but their confessions in the state papers have left historians with detailed descriptions of the Catholic gentry of Northants, Warwicks and Worcestershire, and of their extensive network across the three counties. These secret religious practices continued among the general south Midland population throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, with reports of ’popish dirges’ and baptisms appearing in the Noke parish records. However, on the surface, at least, both Catholic and Protestant dissenters, seemed to be conforming, by sending at least one member of their households to church.

The  Golafres of Gnosall in Staffordshire had also married into the Knightleys of the same county, who by the fifteenth century had moved to Fawsley Hall in Northants, from where they married  into the Spencer family of Althorp. The effects of early enclosures by the gentry were being felt at this time. In 1498 an inquest jury recorded that sixty villagers had been evicted from the Althorp estate, and left ’weeping, to wander in idleness’ had ’perished in hunger’.

Banbury Cross
Banbury Cross (Photo credit: Reading Tom)

In , the Knightleys married into the Fiennes of Broughton Castle near Banbury. Celia Fiennes (b. 1662) was the the granddaughter of the First Viscount Saye and Sale. She was one of the first women to write a book about her travels, called Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary. In it, she described Banbury in favourable terms. and she is reputed to be the source of  the well-known nursery rhyme, ’Banbury Cross’. She was said to have often ridden to London on horseback, passing through Banbury on her way. Not only was she an excellent rider but she also dressed very fashionably, wearing little bells on her shoes. The market-place had an ancient cross, which was destroyed by puritans earlier in the century, but it continued to be called ’The Cross’ because it was in the middle of the wide High Street where the major roads of the time did indeed intersect.

Banbury therefore had an importance both as a market town and strategic centre in times of civil war. The Battle of Edgcote of 1469 had been one of the key turning points in the Wars of the Roses, involving Warwick the kingmaker and possibly Edward IV himself. There is a well-known local rhyme which (probably) refers to this battle, and was passed down in the Gulliver families: If Fenny Compton you can see, the King of England you shall be. It was supposed to have been said by a local wise woman to one of the claimants as they halted near the Rollright Stones. The alternating hills and marshes of Banburyshire created local weather conditions, involving sudden mists, creating eerie conditions for superstitious soldiers and varying visibility for fighting battles. The gradual drainage of the land during the agricultural revolution also lowered the levels, so that local stories of battlefield ghosts refer to soldiers appearing to fight each other in the air!

Celia Fiennes’ grandfather, Lord Saye and Sale, lived at Broughton Castle and was a commander of the troops of the Eastern Association for Parliament in the first years of the Civil War. He was one of the ’leading activists’ against Charles I, raising troops for the first battle at Edgehill, near Kineton. Cavalier troops besieged and occupied the castle for a time, and were fought to a standstill on Cropredy Bridge. They later reaked their revenge on the puritan population of the countryside by burning down the manor house at Wormleighton. The village never recovered its former status. By contrast, Noke was loyal to the King, since it had an association with Oxford going back to the plagues, when the Colleges were allowed to quarter their dons there. Oxford became Charles I’s headquarters in the Civil War, and troops were stationed in some of the villages nearby, including Noke. The village saw action in the form of raids by Parliamentarians. In one of these, horses were taken and two soldiers were killed, being buried in the churchyard. The divisions among south Midland families and villages can be detected by the records that remain of these events, in both Cavalier and Roundhead versions!

Before the Civil War, the ’lesser’ Gullivers had become successful traders and respectable aldermen of Banbury, owning shops and public houses in the town and a brewery as far away as Aylesbury. Others were thriving as yoeman farmers in the outlying Banburyshire parishes, hence Swift’s later reference to the family and their tombs in the graveyard of St Mary’s, Banbury, of which there were many, but only three remain.

Among some of the more distinguished members of the recent Gulliver family are George Gulliver (b. Banbury, 1804), an anatomist, physiologist and surgeon, who corresponded with Charles Darwin. It was his ancestors who were buried in St Mary’s churchyard near Banbury Cross, from whose tombs Dean Swift took the pen-name for his books. Charles Gulliver, the Methodist lay-preacher already mentioned, and Harold Gulliver (b. Helmdon, 1908), a farmer, President of the Northampton Baptist Association and Chairman of the Northants National Farmers’ Union, were among the more recent worthies in Susan E Clarke’s branch of the family. A more notorious member of the family was the Dorset smuggler, Isaac Gulliver (b. 1745 in Semington, Wiltshire). He was pardoned by King George III, apparently for helping to foil an assassination attempt and supplying Nelson with information about the movement of French ships along the coast. He was buried in Wimbourne Minster.

Therefore, the Banburyshire Gullivers, including my ancestors, can be traced back eleven generations to the Edward Gulliver I have already referred to, born in Banbury Town in 1590 (Susan E Clarke has traced hers back to John Galover/ Gulliver who farmed land in Warkworth and died in 1570). The line of descent in my family has then be traced in Noke as follows (the details in brackets are of records which are not in the direct line of descent):

Edward Gulliver m. Mary Hawes, in Cropredy, Oxon, 1620>

(Josyas Gulliver, b. 6th November, 1628 in Noke, Oxon.

Alse Gulliver, b. 9th September, 1628 in Noke, Oxon.

Mary Gullyfer, b. 30th May, 1632 in Noke, Oxon.

Jane Gullifer, b. 27th September 1635 in Noke, Oxon.

Anne Gullever, b. 13th April, 1639 in Noke, Oxon.)

Thomas Gulliver, b. 19th April, 1640 in Noke, Oxon. m. Margaret (surname?)>

(John Gulliver, b. 13th April 1643

John Gulliver, d. 1643

Edward Gulliver, d. 1647

Jane Gulliver, b. 14th March 1664

Alice Gulliver, b. 10th December 1666

Edward Gullifer, b. 8th January 1668

Alice Gulliver, d. 1670

John Gullifer, b. 2nd January 1670).

Thomas Gulliver, b. 16th February, 1671 in Noke, Oxon. m. Elizabeth (surname?)>

(Thomas Gullifer, b. 29th February, 1672

Richard Gullifer, b. 20th April, 1676

Richard Gulliver, d. 1676

Thomas Gulliver m. Elizabeth Allnut, 1696

Thomas Gulliver, b. 12th December, 1697

Margaret Gulliver, d. 1698

Elizabeth Gulliver, b. 29th October, 1699

Thomas Gulliver m. Sarah Newton, 1700

John Gulliver, b. 14th September, 1701

Thomas Gulliver, d. 1703)

William Gulliver, b. 28th November 1703 in Noke, Oxon. m. Ann Elkington, 5th Oct., 1739 in Overthorpe, Northants.>

(Thomas Gulliver, d. 1704

William Gulliver, d. 1704

Thomas Gulliver, d. 1704

Thomas Gulliver, b. 14th September, 1705

Margaret Gulliver, b. 28th November, 1707

Mary Gulliver, d. 1711

Mary Gulliver, b. 15th January, 1713

Edward Gulliver, b. 13th February, 1714

Jane Gulliver, b. 27th January, 1716

Thomas Gulliver, d. 1727

John Gulliver, d. 1730

Elizabeth Gulliver, d. 1731)

Thomas Gulliver, b. 7th March, 1735 in Banbury, Oxon. m. Sarah Hiorns (?), 16th Feb. 1767 in Banbury, Oxon.

(Note: Protestant dissent appeared early, for in 1739 Robert Dorman’s house was registered as a meeting place for Baptists. Records of dissent are scarce: at the beginning of the 19th century there were two Methodists, in 1811 an ‘Anabaptist’, a few dissenters in the following decades; but in 1854 the rector reported that someone attended church from every house.)

 >

John Gulliver, b. 22nd August, 1773 in Banbury, Oxon., m. Mary Taylor, 21st 1796, in Grimsbury, Oxon.

(John Gulliver m. Rachel Bates, 1791 in Noke, Oxon.:

Note: Between 1574 and 1791, there were 23 Gulliver births, 3 marriages and 12 deaths recorded in the parish, making the Gulliver family or families one of the largest over five generations. Although there were no further records of Gulliver baptisms, marriages or burials in the Noke Parish registers, there was a return in the 1841 Census of a Thomas Gulliver, whose occupation was described as an ’agricultural labourer’. In the 19th century population of Noke increased from 150 in 1801 to 187 in 1831. Even before the enclosures of 1815 and 1829 most of the inhabitants must have been labourers on the half-dozen farms of the parish. In 1823, 28 out of 31 families were engaged in agriculture and only two in trade. In 1850 there were only three tradesmen, the innkeeper, a blacksmith, and a carpenter.)

>

William Gulliver, b. 27th April, 1803 in Bicester, Oxon., m. Ann (surname ?), Wormleighton, Oxon.

>

Vinson Gulliver, b. 14th July, 1833, in Hethe, Oxon., m. Hannah Green, 16th October 1855, in Wormleighton, Oxon.

>

(William Gulliver, b. April, 1856, in Hethe

John Gulliver, b. October, 1858, in Hethe

Henry Gulliver, b. June 1865, in Ufton

Sarah Anne, March, b. 1869

Hannah Gulliver (née Green), d. 1879

Vinson Gulliver m. Hannah Ward, 1880

George Gulliver, b. 1881

(Vinson Gulliver, d. 1892, buried in Ufton).

George Gulliver, b. 5th November, 1862, in Ufton, Warwicks. m. Bertha Tidmarsh, 19th Oct 1887, Great Rollright, Oxon.

This is where the oral tradition in our family takes over from genealogy, and adds many colourful details, not just to the history of the family, but also to the folklore of the localities in which the Gullivers lived. This area, including parts of modern-day Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire, still known, unofficially, as Banburyshire.

Sources:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Golafre

http://www.berkshirehistory.com/bios/jgolafre.html

http://www.1066.co.nz/library/battle_abbey_roll2/subchap68.htm

freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pillagoda/ch…

medieval-church-art.blogspot.com/2008/09/taste-for-maca…

http://www.wytham-church.org.uk/memorials-all-saints-church-wy…

British History Online: Reports on Fyfield, Noke, etc. (www.british-history.ac.uk/report.)

http://www.thepeerage.com/p10491.htm

The Parliamentary History of the Counties of England:

The parliamentary history of the county of Worcester : including the city of Worcester, and the boroughs of Bewdley, Droitwich, Dudley, Evesham, Kidderminster, Bromsgrove and Pershore, from the earliest times to the present day, 1213-1897, with biographical and genealogical notices of the members” (archive.org/stream/cu31924030495141/cu31924030495141_dj…)

Susan E Clarke (2011), Gulliver Travels Again. Bloomington, USA (AuthorHouse)

(www.blisworth.org.uk/images/Personalities/sclarke.htm)

http://www.findagrave.com/php/famous.

http://www.medievalsoldier.org/March2008.php

http://www.burkespeerage.com/articles/roking05.aspx

http://www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk/fines/abstracts/CP_25_1_19.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noke,_Oxfordshire

http://www.genealogylinks.net/uk/england/oxfordshire/

Photo Credits:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/2988494095/

http://www.themcs.org/costume/14thcentury

The Gullivers: Travels Through Time, 1833-1953   12 comments

First edition of Gulliver's Travels by Jonatha...

First edition of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Introduction:  Sojourns with Grandpa Seymour

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When I was growing up in Nottingham and Birmingham, we would often spend holidays and Christmases with my maternal grandparents in Walsgrave-on-Sowe. They were always full of tricks and tales, especially my Grandpa Gulliver. On one of our visits, I asked him where the name Gulliver came from, since I’d just read the 1912 children’s version of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels into several remote Nations of the World, originally published in 1726 as a satirical, social and political tract, never intended for young minds. He told me that in Banbury churchyard, I would find, railed around, a gravestone with Gullivers on. The legend of that, he went on, is supposed to be that the man that wrote Gulliver’s Travels saw that stone and thought that that’s what he’d call his book. Those are your ancestors. So that’s just something to think on! he added. I thought on, but regarded it as simply a piece of family folklore until in 1986, while attending the Sealed Knot Society’s re-enactment of the Battle of Edghill, near Banbury, I picked up a local history booklet from the stall of the Banburyshire Local History Society. I was surprised to find that it had the very same story printed in it. It was official, then! Lemuel Gulliver (the real one, that is) was indeed my ancestor.

I joined the Sealed Knot as a roundhead and while researching the history of our newly-formed Midland Association regiment, in the library at the University of Warwick, was intrigued to find a record of a Banbury man named Gulliver from the mid-seventeenth century. He was listed as a Quaker, a term which, then, was often used to denote someone with a craft, possibly somewhat itinerant, as Quakers and other religious dissenters were frequently persecuted. They were also excluded from higher occupations, especially public office, though many fought (and became officers) in Cromwell’s Army following the Battle of Cropredy Bridge in June 1644. This discovery was made even more fascinating when I later discovered that an Edward Gulliver had married Mary Hawes in Cropredy in 1620.

Twenty-five years after these discoveries, having deposited my eldest son in his digs at the University of Warwick, I found myself standing in the graveyard where Lemuel Gulliver was supposedly buried, together with the younger one. However, we could find no railed tomb bearing the name of Lemuel Gulliver, and it was only when we’d completed my circumnavigation of the churchyard that my modern-day Oliver found a small inscribed stone, stating:

In his Preface to the First Edition of his famous Gulliver’s Travels, 1726, Swift remarks ‘I have observed in the Church Yard at Banbury several tombs and monuments of the Gullivers  The original tombstones no longer exist, but a later one bearing this old Banbury name lies near to this plaque.

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The tombs that remain, no longer railed, are from the early to mid-nineteenth century and refer to two Samuel Gullivers, father and son, and to Sarah Harriet Gulliver and her daughter, Adelaide. The size of the tombs suggests that this part of the family was relatively wealthy.

Family tradition suggests that the Gullivers were originally a French Huguenot family, possibly weavers, who, escaping persecution in their native country, may first have settled in Dublin, where there is a Huguenot graveyard dating from this time, from where they moved to Banburyshire. The name may therefore have its origins in a corruption of  Norman-French names such as Guille or Gullet. I intend to research this further in due course, but before getting entangled in the French Wars of Religion (1562-98), which may require a more extended stay in La Rochelle than the fleeting glimpse I managed three years ago, I thought I should first repay the debt I owe to the current and previous generations of my family, by publishing their memoirs.

The Banburyshire Gullivers, or at least my ancestors, can be traced back eleven generations to the Edward Gulliver I have already referred to, born in the town in 1590. The line of descent can then be traced to Gullivers born in Noke, Oxon, back to Banbury and then to Bicester, Hethe and Ufton, where George Gulliver was born on November 5th 1862, marrying Bertha Tidmarsh, from Great Rollright in 1887. This is where the oral tradition in our family takes over and adds many colourful details, not just to the history of the family, but also that of the localities in which the Gullivers and Tidmarshes lived. This locality, including parts of modern-day Oxfordshire and Warwickshire used to be known as Banburyshire, and still is for local weather forecasts!

For example, another interesting topographical connection with the Early Modern Period and before can be found just outside Great Rollright. It’s a large ring of megalithic standing stones, and in the middle stands one which is supposed to be the King. From there, on clear days, there is supposed to be a view across the countryside as far as Long Compton.  There is a local legend that a would-be King was once told by Mother Shipton, a local witch; if Long Compton you can see, the King of England you will be! The rhyme was recorded by William Camden in 1610, so any grain of truth in it could be connected with the Battle of Edgcote of 1469, fought during The Wars of the Roses, which involved Edward IV and the Earl of Warwick, the King-maker.

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In 1978, I began researching the Welsh colliers who had come to the Midlands between the two world wars, many to work in the car industry. Some found their way into Coventry’s pits, especially Binley Colliery, and worked alongside my grandfather at the coalface. He remembered one family in particular, arriving in the village with the children and all their worldly possessions on a cart. Before his death from pneumaconiosis, the Dust, in 1982, I got to know Seymour well as an autodidact, who read avidly and rapidly. He gave detailed reviews of the books I brought home from university in Cardiff on the Welsh miners, referencing his own experiences of working in the Warwickshire coalfield. I had frequent, lengthy conversations with him about these experiences.

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Some of these experiences were re-told by my mother for the Walsgrave Community History Project in 1987. Their publication, Walsgrave Remembered, also contained  extracts from the Walsgrave Baptist Church magazine articles written by my grandmother in the mid-late 1970s, detailing the history of the chapel in the community. However, the majority of the oral evidence comes from my Great Aunt Jessie, Seymour’s younger sister, who recorded it for me on magnetic tapes in 1992 and in a journal she completed in 1996. To these, I have added from my own recollections and research notes, especially for details of the broader backcloth of social and economic history. However, I have tried to keep the style as colloquial as possible. Direct quotations are given in italics.

Chapter One: The Tidmarshes of Great Rollright

Jessie Gulliver was born in 1901, and could remember her grandfather and grandmother on her mother’s side of the family, the Tidmarshes. She also had some recollections of her father’s family, the Gullivers, especially her grandmother, Hannah, and her aunt. Her father was George Gulliver, her mother was Bertha Tidmarsh.  Her grandfather Tidmarsh and grandmother (neé Webb) were born in about 1840. They lived in the village of Great Rollright, in modern-day Oxfordshire, then known as Banburyshire. Grandfather was a fine, big man, and Grandmother was a nice-looking lady with high cheek-bones. They were very well-spoken, as they had been in service for the rich. She could read and write and would write down one side of the paper and then across the other side when she wrote to Bertha.

HenryTidmarsh&FamilyJessie’s grandfather, Henry Tidmarsh, was an agricultural labourer at Great Rollright. When still a young man, he had his arm pulled out just below the shoulder in a threshing machine. As he bent to wipe a nest of mice off, he slipped and fell. He had to start to walk to the two and a half miles to Chipping Norton, where the nearest hospital was. The village doctor went after him and saved his life. Compensation was never heard of in those days. So this is what the family had to live on. Seven loaves a week for seven people. It was called charity bread. So what with the vegetables and fruit out of the garden, they just survived. They had not a thing from the rich people he was working for that lived in the Hall, but Jessie heard her mother say that all that family came to a bad end eventually. They either died on the hunting field or committed suicide.

However, the parson of the village was quite well off. He had twelve sons and one daughter. But she died. He was very kind. He got grandad a little pony and trap, and grandad would fetch parcels for people. He often halted at Great Rollright, as it was on quite a big hill. Then he would go round the village with pins and needles and cottons, and all little odds and ends. So, that’s how they survived. Tea wasn’t even heard of in those days, not for the poor, nor tinned fruit. But people did survive and lived to a good old age. Grandfather lived to be ninety-odd, but grandma died when she was about eighty. The Tidmarshes had five children – Alfred, Arthur, Bertha, Jessie and Molly.

AlfredHenryTidmarshAlfred Tidmarsh went into the Navy; he became a chief p. o. (petty officer), which was good for a village boy who left school at twelve. He got married, but his marriage was dissolved and he got married again to a Russian lady, of above all things! She was a governess to a rich family out there where his ship was anchored. He made quite a bit of money on the ship. He had a sewing machine and he used to make sailors’ suits. He only had to buy the collars and put them on; a very straightforward job. He also ran a bank for them, and had about a penny in the shilling.

Alfred was drowned when HMS Vanguard was blown up at Scapa Flow, during the First World War. On the 9th July 1917 804 sailors lost their lives as a result of an internal explosion which sank the ship almost instantaneously. Jessie claimed that Lord Mountbatten was on that ship, but he was saved (I can find no record of him serving on that as Prince Louis of Battenberg, as he was still known then, nor is he listed as a survivor). Later, Alfred’s Russian  widow and children lived in London, and Bertha Gulliver, Jessie’s sister, used to go and see them when she lived in London. Presumably, as a member of an aristocratic household, Alfred’s widow would have become a refugee from Boshevik Russia after November 1917. However, they moved during the Second World War, and the family never heard of them again. We only know that the children had a college education given to them by the Admiralty, and Grandma Tidmarsh had a small pension, as Alfred used to send her a little money, and the Admiralty never stopped it when he got blown up on the ship.

Arthur Tidmarsh joined the Army, possibly during the Second Boer War, 1899-1902. Jessie remembered him coming on a visit the Gullivers after they had moved to Wroxall in 1904. She was a little girl of about three then, when he was part of the British Army in occupied Egypt. He had a lovely uniform, a red jacket and navy blue trousers with a stripe. He looked very smart.

Molly Tidmarsh went into service, but she fell down the stairs with a cup in her hand. It cut all the guides in the middle of her hand, and they didn’t bother to get the doctor when it happened, or send her to hospital. When they took her to the hospital the next day, it was too late. All the guides had sealed up, congealed, so they could do little for her. So, through the years that arm just withered away. By the time Jessie knew her in the pub in Kidlington, when she was in her sixties, she could never use it. People had no compensation for that sort of thing. It was just one of those things that happened, and that was it, you just had to put up with it. She married a Mr Sanders who kept The Black Horse at Kidlington and they had a daughter, Dolly.

Jessie Tidmarsh married quite well, to a solicitor in Oxford, Frank. He was a lovely man, and they had one girl, Hilda. Jessie  is buried at Great Rollright. She died, aged 102, and was determined to be buried in Rollright, as she loved it. Hilda, her daughter, saw to it that she was buried there, and you will find a lot of Tidmarshes in there if you look around.

Bertha Tidmarsh (b. Great Rollright), Jessie’s mother, married (in October 1887) when she was about eighteen. She was in service from the age of twelve, beginning as a kitchen maid, washing up in a great Hall nearby. She would sit in the great big kitchen with just a candle, all by herself, and they would bring her a glass of beer and a piece of bread and cheese. That was her supper. She was absolutely terrified! But when her mother’s sister came to Great Rollright, she asked where Bertha was, and her mother told her that she was over at the Hall, washing-up. So her aunt went to get her back. There was a flood, and the water was nearly up to Bertha’s knees, but she said she didn’t care, as long as she got home. So, her auntie got her a little job in service at Chipping Norton, from where she could come home on her time off.

Chapter Two: The Gullivers in Synopsis

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Bertha Tidmarsh met her husband when working as a maid at the Chamberlains’ House at Ufton-on-the-Hill near Leamington. The Chamberlains owned the Harbury cement works. George Gulliver, born in Ufton in 1862, was a coachman with the Chamberlains. He used to drive them around in a coach with two horses. So that’s where the Gulliver family come in. His father, Vinson, born in Oxfordshire in 1833, married Hannah Green, George’s mother, from Wormleigton in Warwickshire, in 1855. I believe it was Vinson Gulliver who, in family folklore at least, marched with the Wesleyan preacher, Joseph Arch of Tysoe, through the Warwickshire villages of Wellesbourne and Barford, to form the Warwickshire Union of Agricultural Labourers in the 1860s, which later became a national union (NALU) and eventually part of the Tansport and General Workers’ Union, the first union for unskilled workers.
Besides George, they also had a girl, his sister. She had one daughter, born in 1889, but Amelia only lived to be twenty-one, and by the south door of Ufton Church there is a grave bearing her name.  She was the same age as Jessie’s sister Amelia (Millie). Her mother sent her up to London to learn court dress-making, but she developed  tuberculosis and died. Jessie could remember that in her aunt’s cottage there was a beautiful photograph of Amelia. She had lovely long hair right down to her waist. Jessie also remembered that her father had a step-brother, also named George, in Ufton.  Hannah had been married twice, so he also had at least one other step-brother, but she had only met the other George.

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The Chamberlains gave George and Bertha Gulliver a tied cottage on their estate in Ufton-on-the-Hill, free of rent. There were eight Gulliver children born there. There was Vinson George (November 1887), the eldest, then ’Millie’, Kathleen Amelia (1889), Ethel Mary (1891), Alfred (1893), Olive Margaret (1895), Arnold (1898), Seymour Henry (1900), and Jessie (1901). After that came Bertha (1903), Irene Helen (1904), both born in Bishop’s Itchington, then Arthur Reginald, (1907) Frank Leonard (1910) both born in Wroxall, and finally Janet, born in Walsgrave-on-Sowe (1913).

In this picture, taken circa 1899, Bertha Gulliver (formerly Tidmarsh) is about 33 years old, with Arnold, aged one, on her lap, dressed in plaid skirts, as boys were in those days. Millie, aged nine and Vincent, twelve, are standing behind. Olive, aged four, Alfred, nearly six and Ethel, seven and a half, are at their mother’s feet. They had thirteen children in all. George, their father, is not in the picture, presumably because he is at work as a coachman.

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Vinson Gulliver, the firstborn, outlived all but one of his thirteen siblings to become Britain’s oldest man at 108 in 1995. He left school at twelve and went to work on a Warwickshire farm, looking after cattle, horses and pigs. However, he craved the bright lights of the city and found work in the engine sheds at Trafford Park, Manchester, in 1907. His starting wage was just eleven shillings per week, of which eight went on his rent. His driver felt sorry for him living on only three shillings per week, and invited him to go and live with him and his wife, as they had no children of their own. He stayed at their house until he was forty, by which time he had long since progressed to become an engine driver himself, with the old Cheshire Lines and later British Rail. That was when he married his wife Lucy, and they went to live only two doors away from the couple who had taken him in as a boy. Even at 108 he could talk clearly on most subjects, and wrote regularly to his surviving siblings, including Jessie. He had one daughter, Doreen (Jackson), who had three girls, all of whom married and had children, so he had three great grandchildren by 1992.  That same year, aged 105, he took a ride on Manchester’s Metrolink trams which were put into service on the old Altrincham line, on which he had driven his steam engines.

The centenerian reckoned the metro was all right, because it takes you right into the heart of Manchester, but said it could not replace the excitement of and magic of the old steam driven giants he used to drive. He died aged 109, at a residential home in Altricham.

Millie Gulliver, the second eldest, died aged 102, in 1992. She was very much the mainstay of the family, according to Jessie, who remembered her as a young woman of sixteen, when she herself was only three. Like her mother, she also worked as a housemaid for the Chamberlain family, and would always come home on her day off. Jessie would run down the hill to meet her, and Millie would always have a bag of sweets for her little sister, as well as some tobacco for her dad, the only time he had a smoke. She only had one afternoon/ evening out each week, returning to the Hall at night.

Ethel Gulliver, the third child, was very gifted, somehow different from all the others. When she was thirteen she went to a big house to learn how to look after children, and stayed there for a few years. Then she went to London to look after a doctor’s baby. She took lessons in dress-making and learnt to do lacework, making bed covers and table cloths. She then became a hospital nurse, and moved to Canada, working with Helen Keller in a home for deaf and blind children. From there she got her midwife’s certificate and was sometimes sent out to deliver babies in places where wolves were never far away. She then went to work in the largest hospital in New York, assisting in operations. She came home for a two-week holiday to Coventry, where the family were living in 1926. While there an old gipsy woman came to the house selling pegs and told Ethel that she would return to the house before the year was out. Ethel thought the gipsy was mad, but her younger sister, Irene, was expecting a baby. Irene died a week after the baby was born, and Ethel did indeed return and stayed for the rest of her life, looking after Irene’s husband, Bob, and the daughter, Gillian. She was a beautiful child, the kind of child that people would stop and have a few words for, as well as for the woman they no doubt assumed to be her mother. Ethel kept her looking so beautiful. Bob had worked at Herberts’ factory for five years, and Lord and Lady Herbert felt so sorry for him that they moved him from Coventry to their Long Ashton factory near Bristol. The Second World War was on by then, and they gave him a better job going all over the West Country maintaining their machinery in factories, so that the factories could maintain their levels of production for the war effort. Ethel never married, but Gillian married and had two boys, both very clever in singing and playing music.

Seymour, the seventh child, was just an ordinary boy, two years older than Jessie, who therefore knew him well as they grew up together, playing outside. Their mother would quite often tell him to take her out, so she could get on with the housework. At first, Seymour went to work on the farm in Walsgrave with his father and brothers when he left Binley Park school just before the First World War War. He later told his daughter, my mother, how he rode on top of the hay-loaded waggons into Coventry, coming into the narrow medieval Spon Street on top of the hay, with it touching the overhanging eaves of the half-timbered houses on either side. He then went to work in Binley Pit, first of all in the office. He tried to join the Army in 1917, although he would not be eighteen until the following spring. He was at Catterick Barracks when the influenza epidemic struck, wiping out almost all of the Company he had joined. He wrote to his mother and she arrived at the gates in Yorkshire, produced Seymour’s birth certificate and demanded her son back. She took him back to Coventry on the train, and he survived both the war and the epidemic. Returning to the Colliery, he went underground as a collier, not just because, as a reserved occupation, it kept him from being conscripted in 1918, but also because there was more money to be earned working at the coalface.  He married Vera Brown that year. Their wedding took place in Walsgrave Baptist Church, conducted by Rev. Penry Edwards of Treorchy in the Rhondda, who had recently become the first full-time minister at the chapel and had baptised Vera shortly before. They had moved into their own newly-built house in Walsgrave in 1928, when my mother was born in 1931. They had four children in all, three girls and a boy and they had seven children in all, three girls and three boys.

Bertha, Jessie’s younger sister, was born in Bishop’s Itchington, after the family moved into rented accomodation there when George left his job at Chamberlain’s to go and work at Harbury Cement Works. She was a very small baby, and her mother used to put her down on a shelf, so she would be safe from the feet of all her brothers and sisters. The house was very small, with just two rooms downstairs and three upstairs. They were only there for a short time, however, before moving to Wroxall. Bertha was quite slim as a child and mother would tell the other children to be careful of her little arms if they were playing with her. She grew up into quite a determined young woman, however, and married a man named named Bill Salter from Banbury. They went to live in London. They had one child, Julie, who married a GI in the Second World War. She went to live in America and had one girl and four boys.

The last of Bertha and George’s children was a little girl, Janet Alice. One Sunday morning, in November 1913, the family were getting ready to go to the Church service in Walsgrave, when mother asked one of the girls to stay at home. They said, you know, mother, we like to go to Church on Sundays. So she said we could all go (she usually went on her own to the evening service at Wyken Church). Olive was eighteen at that time, and Jessie thirteen, so they later wondered why their mother didn’t tell them she was having another baby, which wasn’t obvious to them at that time. When they came home, the nurse from Walsgrave Hospital was there and she told them that they had a baby sister. She was beautiful, with black hair and blue eyes. Only she and Alfred had black hair, of all the children. People would stop and say what a beautiful baby she was, but Frank had whooping cough and she caught it from him. She died at eight months in 1914 and was buried at Wyken Church. The white roses in Caludon Lodge garden were just coming into bloom, and Dad lined the coffin of his beautiful, black-haired little girl all around with them.

Chapter Three: Seymour and Vera Gulliver – Memories of Walsgrave-on-Sowe

After their marriage in 1918, Seymour and Vera set up home in one of the gardeners’ cottages belonging to the Wakefield Estate. When Jessie was courting Tommy, who became her husband in 1924, they would go round and play cards with Seymour and Vera, walking home to Foleshill often very late. By this time, the married couple had had their first child, Gwen.

VeraGulliver(Brown)photo2Both Seymour and Vera were strong trades unionists and Labour Party supporters. Seymour had inherited a strong sense of fairness from his father, perhaps because he was old enough to understand why they had had to leave Wroxall for Walsgrave in 1909. Though the Dugdale family had been very kind to them, sending hampers at Christmas and on the births of their two children there, the manager of the farm where George was under-manager had pocketed the money he was supposed to pay on to Alfred and Arnold at harvest time, as a bonus for the long hours they had put in, working alongside their father. George had gone to see Lord Dugdale about this, who confirmed the sums involved, and ordered his manager to pay them in full. The manager did this, but thereafter did his best to make George’s position untenable. Vera’s family, the Browns, were also strong supporters of the Labour Party, from as early as 1924, when it first won a General Election under Ramsay MacDonald. Daphne, their daughter, remembered the following song, to the tune of Men of Harlech, which Vera used to sing long after MacDonald’s expulsion from the Party:

Voters All of Aberavon,

Wisdom show in this election,

Don’t be misled by Protection,

Ramsay is the Man!

 

Ramsay, Ramsay, shout it!

Don’t be shy about it!

On then, comrades, on to glory,

It shall be told in song and story,

How we beat both Lib and Tory,

Ramsay is the Man!

 

On one occasion, Seymour had stuck up for someone who had been done an injustice, and he was dismissed from Binley Colliery on the spot. He had to go to Newdigate Colliery to get work there. The conditions there were far worse than at Binley, and when he undressed to bath in front of the living room fire, his clothes would stand up by themselves, from the combination of mud, coal-dust and sweat which had caked them in the pit and then dried on them during his long walk home at the end of each shift. His body was covered with boils and he had to have special treatment at the Coventry and Warwick Hospital, where they made an experimental serum to cure his condition. Eventually his wife Vera told him, you’ll just have to put your pride in your pocket, you can’t go back down Newdigate, you’d better go back to Binley and ask for your job back. So he went back to Binley Colliery, and got his job back.

In 1926, Seymour was out on strike and was locked out of the Colliery for six months in support of the miners, especially those in South Wales, who worked in difficult places and were having their wages cut. There were many miners in Walsgrave at that time, so the Lock-out hit the village hard. Vera had to go back to work as a skilled weaver at Cash’s, and Seymour took over the housekeeping and looked after the children. He and the other colliers could only earn money from tree-cutting up at the Coombe, a wooded area on Lord Craven’s estate around Coombe Abbey, the Cravens’ House since the late seventeenth century. The miners earned a little money from the timber they cut, and they caught rabbits, pinched the odd pheasant and were given scraps from the Abbey kitchens, bowls of dripping and left-overs from banquets held there, which Seymour would bring home. However, Lord Craven was himself in financial difficulty, and eventually walked off a ship in the middle of the Atlantic.

The miners in the Warwickshire Coalfield were not too badly paid at the start of the Lock-out, but they supported the call from the Miners’ Federation for solidarity with those in other coalfields, and when they went back in the winter of 1926/7, they did so for less pay. However, by 1928 Seymour had earned and saved enough to make a down payment on a new semi-detached house with a bay window, next to Walsgrave School, at 21 School House Lane. Almost as soon as they moved in, their front room became the Headquarters for the Labour Party during the elections, and the bay window was full of posters at these times. Of course, it was in a strategic position, next to the polling station, the Village School, and so no-one could be in any doubt about Vera and Seymour’s allegiances.

Chapter Four: Jessie Gulliver’s Childhood Memories of Ufton, Wroxall and Walsgrave-on-Sowe.

Jessie was the eighth child. She was born the year Queen Victoria died, 1901. Her earliest memory was from when she was about two and a half, and the Gulliver family was living at Ufton. She sat on the school wall and the teachers came out and told her to get off, because the children couldn’t concentrate with her sitting on the wall. She went round to my mother and asked what concentrate meant, and she couldn’t speak it very well. Her mother told her she could sit on the wall at play-time and dinner-time, or in holidays, but she mustn’t sit on the wall when the children were in school, because they couldn’t concentrate when she was playing on the wall. She thought that was a bit hard, really, for one two and a half years old.

She used to go around Ufton with her elder brothers, Seymour and Arnold, and they’d play around Harbury Cement Works. Her brothers once got an old door and put two pieces of wood under it and used two other pieces for oars, taking Jessie out on a small brook at Harbury Cement Works. Their mother and father were very angry with the boys because they could have fallen in the brook and drowned. But, said Jessie, looking back, you know what they say, God looks after children and drunkards!

So her mother and father spent their young days at Ufton. She could remember the primroses, violets and bluebells in Ufton Wood and the part where the Chamberlains, the people who owned the cement works, are buried, railed off right at the end of the wood. She came across that a few years after going visiting to Ufton and taking her mother round to see Dad’s sister.

She could remember leaving Ufton and going to Wroxall. Her father left his job as a coachman at the Chamberlain’s house to work at Harbury Cement Works. So first they went to live in a rented cottage in Bishop’s Itchington, not far from Ufton. They paid half a crown a week for it in rent. However, the cement works didn’t suit her father, because the cement dust got on his chest and he had to go back onto the London work, riding the coaches between Leamington and London.

Jessie could remember how hard up they were at this time. One Sunday, when she was about three or four, she came home from Sunday School, where they’d been reading about Joseph with the coat of many colours. Her mother had bought her brotherArnold a little navy blue coat and he’d left it on Harbury Cement Works, and she was ever so upset and crying when Jessie went in and, of course, all Jessie could say to the rest of the family was he’s lost the coat of many colours! But, it was a job for my mother to get clothes for us in those days, and she liked us to be dressed nicely. I don’t know how she managed to do it, but she did.

When they moved to Wroxall in 1904, Jessie discovered her love of poetry, at first by attending The Band of Hope there. This was a temperance society for children which she began attending when she was between four and five. Even at so young an age, the children had to promise never to drink. To help her understand what this was all about, she had to learn to recite by heart the following little piece called,

The Convict’s Little Jim:

 

As I was strolling along Liverpool Pier,

One day I chanced to stand,

To have my shoes blacked by a lad,

One of the shoeblack band.

 

His cap was trimmed with scarlet cloth,

His age was scarce thirteen,

His clothes were old and shabby,

But his hands and face were clean.

 

I said, ‘where is your father, lad?’

He shrinked an ancient while,

Then said, ‘My father is a convict sir,

And I his only child.

 

‘And if you’ll only listen sir,

I don’t mind telling you,

The history of my father’s life,

Which I would tell to few.

 

‘My father once was honest, sir,

And from that he’d not shrink,

But like many other good young men,

He turned and took to drink.

 

‘Fonder and fonder of it he grew,

Where drink was he would lurk,

Until, at last, he did not go

And do his daily work.

 

‘One day, half mad,

He kicked my mother all round door,

And with clenched fist, he then

 Struck her to the floor.

 

‘He robbed her body of her purse,

Then sailed across the sea,

Not caring what might become

Of my dear mother and me.

 

‘But when my father landed,

By detectives he was caught,

And back again to England,

Into Liverpool was brought.

 

‘How hard ‘twas, sir, for me,

To see my father tried,

Upon a charge of manslaughter,

For my mother, she had died.

 

‘And when I’d given evidence,

How my poor eyes filled with tears,

As I heard my father sentenced

To twenty-one long years.

 

‘The rich they frown upon me,

But I think it is a shame,

For, though my father is a convict,

His child is not the same.’

 

I left him then; my next engagement

Came on that same pier,

And I looked again amongst the shoeblacks,

But could not find him there.

 

I asked another shoeblack,

And this is what he said,

‘He took the scarlet fever, sir,

And lies at home now, dead.’

 

 

I asked him if he’d show me,

As he walked along beside,

To the little, humble home,

Where that little shoeblack died.

 

I looked upon his little form,

So tender and so slim,

But I knew that God had took to heaven

The Convict’s little Jim.

 

Jessie could still remember this word-perfect in 1992, though she thought it was a terrible thing to teach a child! She could also recite an equally grim Victorian verse she learnt when she was about six years old in Wroxall School (they used to make you learn poetry by heart in those days). It’s called…

Lucy Grey:

Oft have I heard of Lucy Grey,

And when she crossed the wire,

I chanced to see, at break of day,

That solitary child.

 

Yet you will see the fauns at play,

The hare upon the Green,

But the sweet face of Lucy Grey,

Will never more be seen.

 

‘Tonight will be a stormy night,

You to the Town must go,

And take a lantern, child, to light

Your mother through the snow.’

 

‘That, father, will I gladly do,

‘Tis scarcely afternoon,

The Minster clock has just struck two,

And yonder is the moon.’

 

But the storm came on before its time,

She wandered up and down,

And many a hill did Lucy climb,

But she never reached the Town.

 

Her wretched parents, all that night,

Went shouting far and wide,

But there was neither sound nor sight,

To serve them for a guide.

 

And when the mist began to clear,

And the stars began to peek,

Her mother saw the print

of Lucy’s little feet.

 

She tracked those footsteps one by one,

The marks were still the same,

Through the broken hawthorn hedge,

Until the bridge they came.

 

But the other half was down,

Poor Lucy had been drowned.

 

And yet, folks say unto this day,

She roams across the moor,

And will do forever more.

 

007

When Jessie was about eight, in 1909, the family moved from Wroxall to Walsgrave. The children all went on the van. There must’ve been about eight of them, she thought, but their mother decided to come by train from Berkswell into Coventry, with the youngest, Arthur. When they got to the house where we were going to live, Caludon Lodge, near Walsgrave, the people (who were leaving) hadn’t got out, so there we were, all us kids, stuck with the furniture and my Dad worried to death. He didn’t know what to do. So, they all ended up at Green’s Farm where George and the older boys were going to work. At first, Mrs Green didn’t know what to do with so large a family, but it was a large enough farmhouse for them to have a kitchen and one bedroom and a landing. So the whole family was staying there.

Their mother had to walk all the way from Gosford Green (tram terminus) with Arthur, who was only four years old. In those days, the trams only ran around the city, and Walsgrave was outside the area of the County Borough. So, she was already planning to walk a distance of nearly three miles, which would now be extended by at least another half mile down the farm lane. When the rest of the family had arrived at Caludon Lodge, the lady next door gave Jessie an old pram to go and meet her mother. She met her on Ball Hill, a long and somewhat steep climb out of the city, already tired out, but Jessie had to tell her the bad news, that the people couldn’t get out of the Lodge because the people were still in the house that they were going to, and that her dad had taken all the furniture down to the farm.

They managed very well in the kitchen, and Jessie slept on the landing with two of the others, on the mattresses they’d taken up from the van. They were there six weeks and Mrs Green said she didn’t even know we were there, we were such good children. They had good fun, especially the girls, because the Green’s had a family of boys, so they had a good time with them in the hay!

After that, they went up to Caludon Lodge. It was a very nice house, built in brick; with railings all round it, little holly bushes all around the garden, and a porch in the middle. The kitchen and the front room were at right angles to each other and there were two passages, one from the front room and one from the kitchen. There was a big yard at the back with a long bench where mother could put about four bowls for washing. There was a big ‘copper’ (kettle) and a little one. Mother always had the little one on and the kids used to go and get sticks (for the wood-fired range), so there was always warm water in the big kitchen to wash with. There was a most beautiful garden, with pear trees, plum trees and apple trees with mistletoe growing up one of them. It was ever so long; it went right down past two houses, and Mr Green took a piece off it eventually and built two houses on it for more farm labourers.

So they had quite a happy time at Walsgrave. They could go to Binley, Wyken or Stoke schools. But Caludon was just outside the Parish of Walsgrave (which was still in Warwickshire at that time, outside Corporation area), so they couldn’t go to the Church of England village school. So, they were sent to Binley School, which was run by Whitley Abbey. They therefore had another two-mile walk to school across the fields, starting early with two sandwiches each to eat on the way. Then they had a school dinner and a meal when they got home at about half past four. Soon after they arrived, Binley Pit was sunk and a new school had to be built, so Jessie’s last two years at school were spent there.

Chapter Five: Jessie’s Memories of War, Work and Leisure in Coventry and Oxford

Jessie was working for a butcher’s family at Ball Hill before the First World War broke out, looking after their baby. She remembered that anyone who had spare bedrooms in Coventry had Australian soldiers billeted on them. She didn’t know what port they came in (probably Portsmouth), but they all came through Walsgrave and they all came past Caludon Lodge. They were all dressed in khaki, with their hats turned up at the side, waiting for our government to say where they were to go. So three of them were staying at Brown’s (the butchers). They’d had two fellows living and working there, taking the meat around in those days, but they’d had to go to war themselves. So Mr Brown asked Jessie to take meat down to Stoke Park Hall, and they asked her to take their orders back to him, thinking he was my father. But he never increased her pay and if he didn’t give me my half a crown on Saturdays, I never asked him for it. Kids were funny in those days!

Jessie got another job eventually. A lady was having a baby and she was to take the little boy or girl out. She offered her 10s a week; four times what she was getting at Brown’s. However, the woman’s husband also expected her to perform extra duties. While the lady was in bed, having the baby, her husband was at home having a few days off, and he tried to kiss Jessie, though he must have known she was only fourteen. She described how..

I started to walk round the table, and he followed me. So I kept walking round, and the dog started to howl. Their dog always howled if somebody played the piano in the front room. So his wife shouted down, ‘what’s the dog howling for?’ So I said, ‘oh, Mr Prescott is in the front room playing the piano, and you know the dog doesn’t like piano music.’ As I walked round the table, when I got near the stairs I went up. He never tried it on again; of course, he was at work all the while.

She stayed there a few weeks, and there were then three Jessies in the house, because the mother and the baby were both named Jessie. It was a bad time for the family, though, because mother had to go into hospital with a poisoned knee. In those days you had to pay £5 per week in fees, provide your own food and pay for transport to the hospital if you couldn’t walk. But Mother quickly got over it. Jessie thought she was wonderful, especially after having three little girls in five years: She never shouted at us, or hit us. She was quite a lady, who went to Church on Sunday evenings. All the children had to go on Sunday mornings and afternoons (to Sunday School), dressed in their best clothes. It took her all the next day to wash and clean, starch and press them and put them away.

Now the War was on, and women could get well-paid jobs working on munitions. Jessie got a job working at the Royal Ordinance Works, Red Lane. She got much more money there and soon had enough saved for a bicycle. Instead of having to walk all the way across by Wyken Church, right up the Black Pad to the Works, night and morning, she could cycle:

That’s how my life went on through the war years. We were working from six in the morning till six at night on two pieces of bread and ‘dripping’ (lard) and canteen tea which you could have wrung a dishcloth out in.

001

Sometimes they were quite nervous about the war, although it didn’t affect the women directly very much, unless they lost a loved one on the Western Front. They did see, however, a huge airship, a Zeppelin, sailing over Walsgrave, which frightened us all to death, and made them realise some of the reality of modern warfare for the first time: It was terrifying, just like a great big boat. However, the terror soon passed, and Jessie said that:

It was only really the rationing which touched us, because my mother had about ten of us at home, and had to go into Coventry for what she could get… it was a good job we had the garden and all the stuff from it and my Dad could always keep it beautiful and grow plenty of potatoes, cabbages, etc. We survived!

When the war finished, Jessie went to Oxford, to her aunt, Molly Tidmarsh (née Sanders). Things were much better for her there, because it was impossible to get a job in Coventry; nobody could, neither woman nor man. But, when the women went to sign on at the Labour Exchange, the officials often insulted them. They asked, ‘have you been round any factories?’ when they knew very well that there were no jobs in the factories, especially for women. Jessie’s Aunt Molly kept The Black Horse in Kidlington near Oxford. She had one daughter, so she told her sister, ‘send Jess over to the pub; I’ll give her 10s a week, that’ll keep her in clothes. She’ll be a friend for Doll’ (her daughter).

Living in the country and having a can of milk twice a day meant Jessie became much healthier too. With her cousin, she went dancing in Oxford with the undergrads, who would bring them home in a taxi to Kidlington. She began to speak much better and dress better. She had a boyfriend in Coventry whom she used to write letters to, but when she went home to Walsgrave he said there was a vast difference in her, and that he couldn’t believe she’d changed so much. They eventually broke off their relationship when he said he was going out with a girl from the chapel. Jessie stayed at Kidlington for about two years, but as her uncle used to drink the whiskey, didn’t make much profit, so they decided to leave Kidlington and my uncle got a job with a biscuit company as their cricket grounds man in London, with a cottage on the ground, near the Pavilion.

Jessie had also decided to go up to London, because she’d been offered a job there. But she wasn’t able to stay with her aunt and uncle because the cottage wasn’t big enough. So she went into service at Primsbury Park. She came home to Coventry for a holiday and went to a dance. She danced with a young man named Tommy Gardner who was still in the Army, looking very smart in blue uniform with gold braiding all across his chest:

Girls were not supposed to fancy soldiers or sailors in those days, because we always thought they were common. But I liked him, so I danced with him all that evening and he asked to see me home. I had come with a girl from next door, so I found her, and the three of us went home together. As we stood talking by our house, he asked if he could see me again the next day. I agreed, but told him I was returning to London on the Monday. He suggested that I write and ask for another week, so I did. We kept on writing after that, and he asked me to come home again, because he was feeling very lonely.

So, Jessie came home eventually, in 1925, and got work straight away. She went to work in a café, so her mother did not go without money for her, and she had most of her meals there. Tommy would come down to the café every night. They were both twenty-four, not very young in the twenties, so he was very keen to get engaged straight away and wanted to get married quickly. But Jessie said, how can we get married with only twenty pounds between us and my father ill?!’ So they got married at a Registry Office and said nothing to anyone. Jessie wore her wedding ring around her neck on a chain.

Chapter Six: Jessie’s Memories of Married Life and After in Coventry

The couple used to go round and see her brother Alf, who was in the Navy. Lilly, his wife, had one little boy, and she was there on her own with him. They used to go and see her quite a lot, partly because she had a piano and Tommy could play anything on the piano. But they found it increasingly difficult to keep their marriage a secret:

Alf’s wife asked us one night, when we’d been married about three months, ‘when are you two getting married?’ I said, ‘I’m not getting married!’ She said, ‘don’t be so silly! You’re just made for each other! What are you going out with him for? You can’t treat him like that!’ I said, ‘I am married!’ ‘What?’ she said, ‘you are married?!’ I said, ‘yes, I’ve been married three months!’ ‘Oh, my God!’ she said, ‘I can’t go and tell your mother and your dad!’ So Tommy said, ‘well, I’ll go round and tell them!’ So he went round straight away and told my mother that we’d been married in a Registrar’s. I don’t know whether he told her how long, and then he saw Dad, who said, ‘oh, that’s alright, my lad, I always liked you!’ When mother went to Church on Sunday nights, we used to stop in and look after him when he was ill, so he was all right about it, but I don’t think my mother thought much about it. She said, ‘well what are you going to do? Where are you going to live?’ Lilly said, ‘I’ve got an empty room, so why don’t you come and live with me? I’m away half the time down at Portsmouth when the ship comes in! There’s a spare room; you can furnish that.’

So they went there, furnished the spare room, and that’s where they started married life. Jessie kept her job and they were able to save quite a bit of money. In fact, they were only there about six months before they’d got about a hundred pounds, enough to furnish a place in those days. So they started to look for a place of their own. Eventually, they got a bungalow. They only paid 6s 1d a week rent for it. It had two bedrooms, and a long living room, which took a dining table. After George died in 1930, Jessie’s mother had a three-bedroom one. They were built as temporary accommodation for war-workers coming into Coventry, but they were very comfortable inside. There was a communal bathhouse where clothes washing could also be done. There were some built for people with better positions and they had all got baths in and Millie had one of these. After the First World War ended, these managers left these places. They were cottages, prefabricated, but fireproof. Tommy made a fireplace, with a mantelpiece for ornaments, and a wardrobe;

He built a porch and a garden fence all around with a gate, and made a beautiful garden. He built a garage out back made of laths, screwed together. He didn’t use a single nail. There was also a fireplace in the bedroom and whenever anyone brought children to visit they all played in the bedroom on the beds, because we’d built a fire in there and it was warm. The men would go into the spare room and play cards while we cleared the table in the living room, and then they’d come back. Those were the days!  

That was in 1925, when Tommy earned an average wage of about £2. 10s. But he had brains, so he decided to leave his trade, though it was difficult to leave your place of work in those days, and he was out of work for about eight weeks while Jessie kept them from her earnings as a waitress. He went into the motor-trade at the wood place of the Riley Car Works, on Woodrington Road, near Foleshill Station. They used to make the dashboards out of wood. They needed semi-skilled workers and because he had made cabinets he could read a drawing, so they gave him a job. The GEC couldn’t stop him going there, because it wasn’t a federated ‘shop’, as it had only just opened. They were hard up for workers as well, because all the men were in work at that time. There he’d earn about £10 a week, with overtime, £6 on ordinary time. He’d be out of work for about three months (laid-off in the summer), but could always put some money away for those times. It used to be three months out, three months short time and three months mad-time. He soon got enough for a motorbike, and then they had a car.

Jessie lived to be 102. In her recollections, recorded in 1992, she included the following reflections:

Give me these days now. I don’t think much of the old days. They were good for the rich, but not much good for the poor. I don’t know how many more years I shall sit here, looking out of this window, perhaps quite a few. One cannot tell from one day to the next.

So, they (the Gullivers and Tidmarshes) were good people and that’s where it’s coming out in these generations, because we came from good stock; honest, God-fearing workers. We all seem to be doing very well these days, after all these years. So, I can’t say much for the good old times that they talk about. I’m all for these times.  Some things are better, some things are worse, I will admit. But, on the whole, we are looked after much better in our old age now.

In June 2001 her relatives from far and wide gathered together to celebrate her 100th birthday in style, at a hotel in Meriden, an occasion organised by her nephew, Allan Gulliver. She received a personally signed card from HM Queen Elizabeth II, in her fiftieth year as our sovereign majesty. A year later, many of the same people came together to pay their respects at the passing of the last of the thirteen brothers and sisters of a great generation of Gullivers.

Chapter Seven: Daphne Gulliver’s memories of Growing up in Walsgrave before and during the Second World War.

As Daphne grew up in Walsgrave in the thirties, she remembered The Walsgrave Show, a very big agricultural and horticultural event. She could remember her father winning prizes for vegetables and children making bouquets out of wild flowers. It was a show run by local farmers like Harold Green, whom the Gullivers had worked for, but it attracted farmers, showjumpers and other participants from far and wide. It eventually combined with the Kenilworth Show, and became the forerunner of The National Agricultural Show at Stoneleigh.

As prosperity returned with a boom in Coventry, coal-miners’ wages also improved, though many chose to desert the pits for a cleaner, high-wage job in engineering in the City, especially in the car factories. Seymour stuck to his job at the colliery, however, because he liked the economic security that came with it, as well as the sense of comraderie. Although not a hard-drinker, like many colliers, he naturally liked to call into the pub for a much-needed pint on his way home after a hard shift at the coal-face. The Baptists frowned upon and shunned the pubs in the village, because there were many well-known heavy-drinkers, but they understood that it was natural for the miners to enjoy a drink together on the way home. The only problems in some families came on weekly pay days, when they received their wage in cash. On these days all the wives would send their children, and Daphne was one of these, to wait for their fathers and get their pay packets from them in case any of them might be tempted to donate too much of it to the pub’s till! Every mother would send their kids to stand outside The Craven Arms and The Red Horse to collect the wages. This, of course, was more of a show of solidarity by the wives than an act of necessity, especially as the local publicans were strict about not serving those who had, in their opinion, had one too many.

When war broke out in 1939, the good spirit in Walsgrave continued. The most noticeable difference, at first, was in the availability of food, and rationing. There were queues for tomatoes, but the Co-op was fair to everyone, and the vegetable cart continued to do its rounds of the village. One day, Daphne went out with her mother to buy oranges, which were rationed to one per person per week. So, they could have five. A group of internees were going up the Lane to the farm at the top. Vera asked Albert, the vendor, for a knife and cut all five into pieces. She went over to the boys and gave each one a piece of orange. Daphne, being a child, protested, but she said, oh well, these lads are very young and they’ve been living off potatoes up at the farm, so they need that orange much more than you do.

People were encouraged to produce their own food on their allotments. As well as growing vegetables, Seymour also kept pigs and poultry on his allotment along Woodway Lane. You could keep pigs during the war, but you had to have a permit to kill them. You could sell them to the authorities, but they did not pay very much for them. So Seymour decided to take his sow into hiding in their house when her time came. Daphne remembered these war-time pigs and piglets well:

…we had a litter of pigs, we decided we were going to have a litter, and then we had some sleeping quarters for these piglets, and when the time came, the wretched sow had all those little piglets on the hearth, and we were giving them drops of brandy, trying to revive them and keep them going. I think we saved about five.

But they got to be little suckling pigs and one of them wasn’t quite right. So they decided they were going to ‘knock this one off’. So Bill Gately worked up the abattoir and we persuaded Bill to come and knock this little pig off. They’d just gone up the garden, ’cause he was working all day so it was dark now, and the air-raid siren went. So, no-one dared shine a flash-light or anything and well, you can imagine these little pigs running and squealing all over the sty, and them trying to get hold of this particular one; and Bill was muttering and stuttering, you know. Well eventually we caught this pig and killed it quietly at the kitchen sink.

We had no permit, and then someone came around afterwards, knowing that we’d done this, and he asked, ’what did you do with the Tom Hodge?’ So Seymour says, ’what’s that?’, and they said, ’well, you know, its innards!’ Dad says, ’oh! We buried them up  the garden’. ’Oh, oh dear!’ he says, ’the best part of the pig!’ Anyway, he comes back after a few minutes and says, ’well, if I know Seymour it won’t be buried deep!’ So he goes up the garden with his fork and forks all this up. Eventually, he took all these chittilings and well, of course, to anyone who likes chittilings…but it put me off pork for the rest of my life!  

Daphne also remembered the first significant air-raids, and the first use of the communal shelter at the school. The Anderson shelters that people had put up in their gardens by the summer of 1940 had become flooded, so they had to go to the shelter at the school, which had been put there for the school children. However, as there were no day-time raids, it had not been used, and was still locked. The schoolmaster, Gaffa Mann, refused to open it, however. A pick axe had to be sent for to break the lock, and all the residents of School House Lane went in.

Though Walsgrave itself was of no military importance, Capability Brown’s huge landscaped pool at Coombe Abbey was in the German map books and was used as a landmark by the German bomber crews. The Rolls Royce Engine Factory at Ansty was less than a mile from this, manufacturing aircraft engines. There was also an aerodrome there, built before the war, and the then Rootes assembly plant at Ryton-on-Dunsmore was only a few miles away on the same side of the city, with its shadow factory producing aircraft and military vehicles. Planned under Chamberlain’s Government in 1936, these factories did not appear on the Luftwaffe’s maps, hence the importance of incendiary bombs dropped around the outlying areas of the City, as well as on the city itself. The Rootes Shadow Factory had only just begun production in 1940. The Germans were searching for the shadow factories on the ground, using the Coombe Pool as a focal point. Huge craters were left on the landscape around the village for many decades afterwards. I remember Seymour showing me one of these on one of his mooches and describing his arrest, as an ARP Warden, of a German pilot who had bailed out over Coombe Park, landing in the farm lane and breaking both his legs. Seymour had to use his bicycle to get the airman the mile or so to the village police station.

On the night of November 14th, Coventry was subjected to an eleven-hour sustained Blitz, giving both the English and German dictionaries the word Coventration as a synonym for blanket-bombing rather than lightning raids, which had been the previous strategy in attacking London and other regional ports. Daphne recalled the effect of the bombing of the city centre, three miles away, as they ran for the shelter:

We put up the cushions from off the furniture and put them on our heads and went running up the shelter. It was a bright moonlit night and tracer bullets were flying around like tracer bullets everywhere and the whole city was on fire. Everything was lit up like it was daylight; it was a most awesome sight and of course, for days afterwards, the burnt paper was coming down.

The School Log for 15th November echoes this description of destruction:

School reassembled – about only 130 were present – this is due to the results of a terrific 11 hour raid on Coventry and immediate neighbourhood. The Church Hut used for 70 to 80 infants had to be used as a home for the people who were bombed out of the city.

Seymour was on air-raid duty that night and recalled one bomb that fell in what was known as The Hollow, just past The Mount Pleasant. He said that the old, cruck-beamed cottage was quite badly damaged as the patrol went towards it, and he was sure there would be at least one person dead inside. But when they went inside they found that the main beam had fallen across the fireplace and the family were all protected by it, around the fireplace. No-one was hurt.

School records for 1940 show that a total of six hours and ten minutes was spent in the school shelter, with one visit lasting over two hours. Of course, nearly all the raids took place during night-time. Even the raid of the 14th/15th November was not detected until after 3 p.m., the end of the school day, and the bombing had ended in sufficient time for the school to open on time the next morning. Though the sirens went off earlier than usual that evening, most people recall being at home having had tea or supper when the bombing started. The schools nearer the centre were far more badly affected, and many of those rescued in these areas were still under rubble until about 7 a.m., having been trapped for more than twelve hours in some cases. Walsgrave escaped lightly compared with the mass destruction of the city centre and the older factory areas in the suburbs, though it might have been a different story had the Luftwaffe been able to locate the Ansty and Ryton factories. Many in the village realised this vulnerability, and though not forced to, sent their children away to safer rural areas, if they could. Daphne was sent away to relatives near Bridgwater in Somerset for a while. In addition to his ARP duties, being in a reserved occupation as a collier, Seymour took on responsibility for the Bevin Boys, the well-educated young graduates and undergraduates who were sent to work in the pits.

002Chapter Eight: Vera and Daphne Gulliver’s memories of  Chapel, Church and School in Walsgrave

In the early part of the twentieth century, the most significant social division in the village was between Church and Chapel.  This was sharpened by a dispute over a refusal to bury Nonconformists in the parish churchyard, leading to the establishment of a cemetary on Sowe Common. The cemetary was near the canal, and Vera could remember Baptisms taking place there because there was no baptistry at the original Little Chapel  from 1840 to 1902. By the time Vera and Seymour were married at the Chapel in 1918, it was well-established in the village, with a membership of keen spiritually-minded people, a good set of buildings…a minister of our own and a Manse for him to occupy.

A small, relatively poor community had achieved a lot in hard times. A real period of growth was enjoyed until the coming of the Second World War. Daphne remembered Sunday School Anniversary excursions to Hawkesbury, Lenton’s Lane, Potters Green, Shilton and Wolvey. For many children, these were the first occasions they had been outside the village, unless they had been into Coventry. However, the Nonconformist children sometimes found themselves in conflict at school, because, as Daphne explained:

..it was very much a Church of England School. The Conscience Clause used to be up on the wall…We used to be marched down to the Church on ’High Day’ and that was very nice and I never opted out of that but I could have done…You see, I was one of those wretched Non-Conformists. But I used to enjoy that. Well I took it upon myself one day, when Miss Florence Verrall, a school governer was there for assembly, to refuse to say the catechism. I don’t know why, because I knew it all, but my mother had told me I needn’t say this, it didn’t apply to me. I was very much frowned upon after that. I never did quite live it down. I never did like the village school, not many did, and I was glad to leave when I was about eleven. Gaffa Mann was the master. One of his sayings was ’spare the rod and spoil the child’. With Miss Verrall we all had to stand to attention when she came in, as she was a very important person.

Daphne also remembered the famous Rev. Howard Ingli James, the Welsh Minister at Queens’ Road Baptist Church in Coventry in the thirties and forties, preaching at Walsgrave Chapel. She described him as a Welsh ranter, a very famous socialist, and extremely funny. Walsgrave had the kind of pulpit in which you could walk up and down and he used to shake all his black hair into his eyes. There were marvellous harvest festivals after the war and everything was decorated. Then the produce would be sold off to raise money and there would be a concert to follow. The choirmaster was quite strict and if anyone wasn’t behaving themselves, he would throw a hymn book in their direction to bring them to attention. The names on the village war memorial contained the names of many young people who gave their lives, but there were other losses sustained by the chapel.

004005 (2)After the war, the chapel was taken under the wing of  Queens Road and the Rev Gordon Wylie, succeeding Rev Ingli James, brought the thirty-eight year-old Rev Arthur J Chandler to Walsgrave from Wednesbury, Staffordshire, in 1948. In addition to overseeing Ansty and Shilton chapels, he helped to build up the Walsgrave congregation again. Daphne worked as a short-hand typist at the Ansty Factory after the war, using her bicycle to get up the farm lane on the other side of the Sowe and up the hill each day. In July 1952, she celebrated her twenty-first birthday with all the family in the School Hall next to where they lived. Her aunt Jessie asked her, ‘have you got a boyfriend?’ She said she’d had one, but she didn’t have one then, so Jessie asked her, ‘who’ve you got your eyes on?’ Daphne answered that the Baptist minister was often in their house and that her mother, Vera, made him cups of tea. His own mother, Emma, had died the previous year. Daphne married Arthur at Walsgrave Chapel the following summer, in the coronation year of 1953.

This year, 2013, therefore marks the Diamond Anniversary of their wedding. Arthur died in Walsgrave Hospital in 1985 and Daphne died following a tragic road accident, coming down a steep hill on her bike, near her home in Shaldon, Devon, on St Andrew’s Day in 1993. At her funeral at Teignmouth Baptist Church, her love of bicycles was highighted by the following quotation from the stories she contributed to Walsgrave Remembered:

Tommy Hatfield had a sort of workshop and you could go up there and say you wanted a bike, and he’d measure you up for size and look through all these frames, and find one the right size. Then he’d dip it in acid, then he’d dip it in a stone enamelling vat. I suppose they were always black. He’d tell you which day he’d finish it, and then you’d come home riding your bike, pleased as punch. Lovely thing a bike.

Both my parents’ names are entered in the Book of Remembrance displayed in St Mary’s Church, Walsgrave-on-Sowe, where their ashes were interred.

Andrew James Chandler, Hungary 2013: All rights reserved

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