Sunday 28 August 2016

St Nicolas Church, Pevensey and William the Conqueror, storms, North American students ...

I went to a talk on St Nicolas Church in Pevensey – of William the Conqueror fame – well he conquered and left us, Angles or Saxons as we were, with a new world … talk about change – but we are what we are now 1,000 years on …
St Nicolas Church, Pevensey looking east

I have written briefly about Pevensey, as too Herstmonceux Castle … but nothing as thorough as this recent post from Mike at “A Bit AboutBritain” on the Battle of Hastings

Dr Scott McLean, an archaeologist from the Canadian School at Herstmonceux, gave the talk … and wondered why no recent detailed excavations of Pevensey had ever been made … particularly with the tools that we have available to us today …

We have no idea where the harbour was that William, with his huge fleet of ships, landed – it was Pevensey … but was it north of the castle, or to the east … were there two harbours even … no major archaeology has been found, nor has a recent serious search been made.

The coastline of Pevensey c 340 AD
that expanse of water is now the
Pevensey Levels

To go back to the Roman era (2,000 years ag) – this part of the Sussex coast was very strategic with its ‘deep water port’, a number of salt works … Pevensey was a peninsula … and the coastline had many more deep water inlets …

Graveyard surrounded by trees - not of the Saxon age!
Through the trees and over them is where
Pevensey Castle stands

The thick forest of Andredsweald (c/o Mike for the name of the forest) … offered the Romans all the necessary raw materials to increase the already present iron industry (wood and iron) … together with clay for tiles and bricks, hogs, deer, and at the coast – fish … to feed the population.

Less manicured part - but it was a lovely day to be
at the Church and walking around

The forest provided a natural barrier … trade would be south to the various ports along the coast … the ‘Classis Britannica’ or Roman fleet, an imperial organisation, as well as a navy, supplied the inhabitants with necessities … while encouraging some form of farming at the various farmsteads dotted around the various forts.

… as the trades were established the land became relatively settled – albeit of a coastal tract – as trade was by boat … and these were  Harold Godwin’s lands … so William’s invasion – was war on King Harold as he might have been.

Early Medieval France - the Germanic tribes were
to the east, Armorica was settled by the Celtic Britons
escaping the Anglo-Saxon invasions

Yet – why did William land here … he came with the winds – but it was because there was this major connection with Normandy and western France – rulers hadn’t settled, as we know them, their lands yet … and so Pevensey became the centre of people movement and of ideas …

Pevensey Castle outer wall - the east entrance

… a Mint was established, the new church of St Nicolas was built to the east of the castle, but on a previous Saxon church … while in 1207 Pevensey was given the status of a Cinque Port.  The Cinque Ports were a trade and military confederation along the south and east coasts of England.

… but a harbinger of disaster was ‘brewing’ - the climate was changing – so much so that there were major storms in the 1286 and 1287 seasons … which changed the coastline for ever.

Compared to the Pevensey Bay coastline
above - the shore line is very different today

The wide open harbours were silted up, cliffs collapsed leading to harbour settlements finding themselves landlocked, while others that had been inland found themselves with access to the sea.

This was the wide bay - now silted up

The Pevensey levels were swamped with silt so that Hailsham became landlocked … Pevensey was left without either of its major harbours … trade ceased: impacting in a major way life along the Sussex coast … 100 villages were deserted … and these storms continued on and off until 1430 …

Trade moved to larger open water ports … such as Portsmouth, or north Kent where the London ports became established … perhaps Pevensey could have been ‘a Portsmouth’ … and our lives here in Eastbourne and East Sussex would have been very different.

They are still farming at Church Farm hundreds of
years later - pigs were in this field

Dr McLean brought some Canadian students from Herstmonceux to experience a dig … they were not impressed! with the square of old farm yard next to the Church … which needed to be carefully dug/trowelled out … looking for Neolithic, Roman, Saxon, Viking, Norman, Medieval finds …

Emperor Allectus of the Britannic Empire
with a Classis Britannica galley on
the obverse

… relatively few were found – they found some Roman coins, pottery, the base of a medieval road, a beach and a wharf that would have been nearby …

… all leading to the fact that the Church would have been at the centre of a community – on the harbour, surrounded by a Mint, Customs House, homes, shops, farms etc …

Unusually the nave and chancel are almost
of the same length - it is slightly off true;
the thinking is that it was intentional - a
deliberate feature to create an illusion of
greater strength, or to depict the
drooping of Christ's head on the Cross.
The students however loved the new born lambs, baby pigs … meeting the locals … but not the mud and farmyard yuck – but archaeological digs cover all things …

… then one day – they were ushered into the Church … and had a seminar in the Medieval Church that is 800 years old … something that they’d have never have experienced in north America.

So as you can see I hope from my brief foray along our coast and through the two millennia back to Roman times, and even another 4,000 years further back in time to the Neolithic Age – confirmed by other finds in and around Eastbourne … that history uncovers much … including storms that completely change the way of life.

Flint Wall, wonderful picket like fence, white roses
taken from the graveyard

History is weird and wonderful … so much to learn, so many mysteries to solve – where did William the Conqueror land … exactly where is that harbour, and the underlying archaeology …

To the Sacred Memory of Thomas Pierce - mariner and
pilot who died, drowned in sight of home in the gale
of June 6th 1870 - aged 70 years.
… someone one day will decide it’ll be worth the expense and effort to unravel that historical unknown … much as they appear to have done for the Battle of Hastings – where William conquered, and Harold lost his eye, before death cut him down.

It was a fascinating visit … and now I need to revisit and find out more …

Please also see for some extra details of the Church and its history

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday 19 August 2016

Last Remembrance … # WEP Gardens Entry ...

A Niece’s Recall …

Yolanda and Denise's
Write Edit Publish
Gardens' Challenge

So many memories from days gone by – many of which she had not been part of … but in those recent years she had learnt more … of life in general, adapting, slowing her own pace and appreciating their beloved garden.

A similar English garden
Their garden, the dogs and the fish were their children, with the next door cats their constant visitors adding another dimension – let alone the moles in the lawns, the unwanted rabbits daring to appear near the house and then having the audacity to nibble anything attempting to live, or the badgers scratching around the garden.

Rambling Rector Rose wrapping itself
around a spreading branch:
This is Shakespeare's Musk rose ... 
With his wife gone he maintained the garden with its wonderful flowers, shrubs and trees … remembrance of the part of the chicken farm they had purchased for their last home … which had been lovingly crafted by them into the exquisite paradise of an English country garden: little fertiliser needed here – the chickens had left their mark.

Fallen trees and stumps left for nature
to embrace

They had embraced ecological and ancient traditions for their garden – a wonderful vegetable and fruit plot sustaining them … providing others with a veritable feast of fresh fruits or vegetables to take away.  All were nurtured – fruit trees, clambering roses, stumps and fallen wood for insects and small mammals … they delighted in nature.

Just bring some of the pond plants to the
edge and the dewpond would be almost
right - probably not as big as theirs

A dewpond was dug as local custom dictated … filled with golden orfe … herons came to snatch a ‘free’ meal … they were replaced … frog spawned, tadpoles thrived … little children came, netted and played with tiny squirling taddies on hot paving stones –much to the squealing, hopping delight of the kids.

Golden Orfe
The yacht sailed the pond … one hoped it would be within reach of the pond side … not lodged in the pond’s haven of water lilies, rushes, oxygenating plants … to be released to set a-sailing again … where ere the breeze took it …

Ours was more aged!  A well-used
model yacht ...

Life was fun for visitors, much knowledge was asked for or imparted … the old tennis court became a croquet lawn … plenty of ground to play hide and seek … or just sit quietly on the African stoep giving one’s brain some space, or enjoying a cup of English tea with home-made cake …

Shortbread straight from the Aga

Visitors immersed themselves and admired the seasonal garden … the wave of spring bulbs … snow drops, interspersed with sworls of daoffdils or narcissi pushing their way for Spring joy;


... acid yellow Spurge brightening up a dark corner, showing off the vibrant tulips … Bleeding heart (sadly appropriate for his latter years) with its apple-green ferny foliage, topped with claret-red bleeding hearts on long stems …

Primroses, bluebells, daisies, buttercups, foxgloves appeared on the fringes … reminding us that nature too gave us these wild beauties … the owners delighted in their appearance …

… the early roses, including the pale primrose coloured Banksia rose … then the climbers with their wonderful scents clambering up into the elderly mossy branches of apple, plum or pear tree … mixing the colour vibrancy so easily with the fruiting blossoms … effortlessly added to with the rushing clematii …


… more profusion as summer came upon us … daphnes, lilies, crocosmias, beds bordered with lavender bushes, Mexican fleabane (tiny blush-pink daisies) covering the cracks in the stoep, self-seeding as it spreads …

Mexican Fleabane taking
over the steps ... 

The Autumn day brushed a last summer’s sun across the landscape, giving us burnished leaves, red berries, colours of amber, russet, reds mixing with the remaining greens and some bare dark roughened branches – a celebration to their lives; we were lucky with the weather, the sun shone through giving us an autumnal warm glow.

Autumnal Garden
We shared this day with many … but had the background of their garden … the sloping ground towards a brook and copse … surrounded by the trees planted in yesteryear, the large rhododendrons and shrubs … while we taxed brains to remember names – of people, plants and places … we are now the next in line ...

Russelliana Rambling Rose
Memories of that autumn day, a last look out across the landscape that was their home ... the red leaves reminding us of Africa, their Africa, the green of England, the trees of long established memories of two most wonderful people: long may we remember.

Bright rose hips - Autumn is here, yet food
profusion for birds, insects before winter sets in

That garden is now someone else’s home … the friends we had are now friends of theirs – that is the way it should be.  New life springs eternal in the carefully nurtured garden, which contains its own history, the stories of ghosts of times past, recent history as recorded in the landscape …

Bleeding Heart 

The Garden Remembrances of a Niece – one who went in the cold, early Spring, her beloved who went in the Autumn days a few years later – the Niece who remembers them …

I am away ... but will catch up shortly ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday 10 August 2016

ABCs of Shakespeare – snippets, unravelled again, pond pudding ...

Now onto some Shakespeare snippets that have interested or amused me recently ... sadly I've been tempted to go the ABC route ... much more fun to draft up and allows me to let my mind wander!

A procession of Shakespeare's characters by an unknown
19th C artist 

Shakespeare Theatre on the River Avon in Stratford

A is for Avon ...  Shakespeare’s Avon runs through Stratford, joining the River Severn on its way to Bristol.

Copy of Mandela' s notation - note today the
16th December is a public holiday
and in South Africa is
called The Day of Reconciliation
B is for “Bardolatry” … 400 years of it … Mandela kept a copy of ‘The Complete Works of Shakespeare’,  smuggled between two Diwali cards, into his cell … it was richly annotated at the time of his release … the historic text became a source of strength for Mandela and his fellow inmates during their darkest days … per CNN article ... 

Coast of Bohemia ... was there one - but in Fermor's "A Time of Gifts" (see post 28 July 2016) - on page 308 ... he established that a Coast of Bohemia did exist - even if only for 13 years! 

Miguel de Cervantes
C is for Cervantes – Every great novel began with this genius: “The Man Who Invented Fiction: How Cervantes Ushered in the Modern World ... the author of Don Quixote was the driving force behind the rise of the novel.  Shakespeare wrote poetic drama.   Cervantes died on 22 April 1616, the day before Shakespeare …

Don Quixote by
Honore Daumier (1868)
Cervantes is forgotten on this quixotic birthday … obscured by Shakespeare, but is an essential reference for anyone who wants to know about novel writing, Spanish culture and literature.

D is for Duck … Mallard Duck as roasted in Shakespeare’s day … is actually what many of us eat now if we have duck … “To Boyle A Mallard with Onions from the Shakespeare Cookbook …

Roses in our Sceptred Isle
E is for English countryside … immortalised by Shakespeare as his ‘Sceptred Isle’.  

At the beginning of Henry V where Shakespeare notes companion planting and the need to keep some weeds to ensure the bees, butterflies and others’ have food to grub for, and a place to build a home:

The strawberry grows underneath the nettle,
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best
Neighbour’d by fruit of baser quality …

Where the Boar's Head Tavern used to be
F is for Falstaff … and his ‘home’ The Boar’s Head Tavern in Eastcheap, London  - the comic character, who betrays many opposites when it suits him, and the occasion … a personification of the vitality which is bread and wine … his coarseness softened by Shakespeare in the telling …

The Boar's Head remembered

The British Library has an exhibition on Shakespeare’s London - until 6th September.

Gatton Park, Millennium Stones
with lounging sheep
G is for Gatton Park, Surrey – in which the 10 Millennium Stones stand: these stones were sculpted by Richard Kindersley to mark the double millennium from AD1 to AD2000.  The first stone in the series is inscribed with the words from St John’s Gospel “In the Beginning the Word was …”.  The megalithic portal is the best link I could find.

 The subsequent nine stones are carved with quotations contemporary with each 200 year segment … William Shakespeare’s quotation from Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3 is found on Stone 7:

“There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and miseries
On such a full sea as we are now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or we lose our ventures.”

H is for Hermione  - did JK Rowling get inspiration from Shakespeare for Harry Potter’s Hermione? 

Making Ipocras in medieval times

I is for Ipocrasa spiced wine of note in the 1500 – 1600s … I wrote about it in my Y is for Ypocras post in the A-Z of my cookery series in 2013 – whereby the 14th century recipe says “Passee your wyne throu a Socke nine tymes untilled clear” … see the post …

For an historical take with more details on the spices used - see The Historical Food site

J is for Ben Johnson, the poet and dramatist, who predicted that Shakespeare, his friend and rival dramatist, would be held in as high regard as one of the great writers of antiquity.

Knit Knot tree - Yarn Bombing according
to Wiki
K is for Knit and Knot

I mean, that my heart unto yours is knit,
So that but one heart we can make of it;

      A Midsummer Night’s Dream

To hold you in perpetual amity,
To make you brothers, and to knit your hearts
With an unslipping knot, take Antony
Octavia to his wife: whose beauty claims
No worse a husband than the best of men.

      Antony and Cleopatra

L is for Language … see this Guardian article:  Ten ways in which Shakespeare Changed the World

Britain in the 15th and 16th centuries saw the spread of English as the vernacular language, rather than Latin, that laid the foundation for the richly expressive literary tradition we now know.

This was when the King James Version of the Bible was transcribed between 1604 -1611, becoming recognised as the Authorised Version of the Bible.

You've got the play:
 The Tempest at the Minnack Theatre
in Cornwall
M is for movies ...  you might not have realised are based on Shakespeare - there are plenty of these but my link has gone AWOL ...  (who knew … certainly not me! #8 yes!)

1        The Lion King (Based on Hamlet)
2      She’s the Man (based on Twelfth Night)
3      10 Things I Hate About You (based on The Taming of the Shrew)
4      Warm Bodies (based on Romeo and Juliet)
5      Forbidden Planet (based on The Tempest)
6      Get Over It (based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
7       O (based on Othello)
8      Kiss Me Kate (based on The Taming of the Shrew)
9      My Own Private Idaho (based on Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V)
10 A Thousand Acres (based on King Lear)

A model as to how
NonSuch House might
have looked

N is for NonSuch House on London Bridge, that thriving centre of commerce, along with over 100 shops, houses, stalls … it is apparently the earliest documented prefabricated building – from the Netherlands.  The name Nonsuch may have referred to Henry VIII’s, now vanished, Nonsuch Palace outside London … please see Wiki.

Othello played by Russian actor
Konstantin Stanislavsky in 1896
O is for Othello … here via link from A Cuban in London blog is the link to the Guardian’s Six Shakespeare Solos to watch …

Hamlet: ‘To be or not to be’ (Adrian Lester, 2m 58secs)
Romeo and Juliet: ‘The mask of night is on my face’ (Joanna Vanderham, 1m 30secs)
King Lear: ‘Blow, Winds, and crack your cheeks’ (Roger Allam, 1m 53secs)
Othello: ‘I do think it is their husband's faults …’ (Eileen Atkins, 1m 11secs)
Richard III:  ‘Now is the Winter of our Discontent…’ (David Morrissey, 2m 42secs)
A Midsummer’s Night Dream: ‘These are the Forgeries of Jealousy …’   (Ayesha Dharker, 1m 59secs)

The photo I used for my previous
Pond Pudding recipe

P is for Pond Pudding and Farts of Portingale … the Pond Pudding described in the Shakespeare Cookbook is like a Sussex Pond Pudding … a steamed suet pudding with dried fruit in a well of butter inside the pud.  Again my version as described in my P forPond Pudding in the Cookery Series for our 2013 A-Z posts.

Now Farts of Portingale – I had to put in … didn’t I?!  Portingale to clarify refers to Portugal … the ‘Farts’ – well … no description is given except for ‘Fists’ … which are bigger than ‘Farts’ …

These be small
Farts of Portingale!
… at this point there can be sweet farts, or savoury ones … to be more specific … they are like rissoles, or small balls fried or poached: lamb, with mace, salt, chopped fruits, bread-crumbs and an egg … or some sweet recipe.

Q is for Shakespeare and our Queen, who celebrated her 90th birthday this year: 400 years does not look so long does it?  Shakespeare had to adapt after Queen Bess died and James succeeded her …

Rosemary in bloom

R is for Rosemary … “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.”  Spoken by a grief-stricken Ophelia in ‘Hamlet’

S is for Second Best Bed … the playwright’s bequest of that bed to his widow was not a slight but an affectionate addition to his will – his first best bed was for his death.

A google image ... showing some of the
changed names: Titus Andronicus and King Lear
are usually Westminster entrances;
Macbeth is Embankment; while James I is
T is to Tube or not to Tube, That is the Question … see Ian Visits (blog - link below) where he advises that ‘tis Nobler in the mind to suffer the Slings and Arrows of outrageous Travel disruptions, or take Arms against a Sea of commuters” …

… then tells us about how the Underground has renamed each station and area with a Shakespeare theme (plays and characters) … very clever: please pop over (Ian Visits blog) …

U is for Shakespeare Unravelled … the book recently published by Michael and Pauline Black … was Shakespeare real or were the plays written by others and put together into a folio?  Regardless of your thoughts – this book gives a good historical coverage of Shakespearean England … I have put a review up on Amazon for it.

V is for Verjuice, Vinegars, Vegetables … Charles Estienne in 1550 writes that vinegar is the corruption of wines whether made from grapes, fruit or grains … which was developed rather for use in flavouring or to excite the palate or appetite: use sparingly …

Some information gleaned from this book
Verjuice is the acid juice of unripe grapes or crabbe apples … the ease of having a lemon in the kitchen has driven ‘verjuice’ from our cupboards.  Add some garlic, or dill, or fennel flowers to give a different flavour to your verjuice.

Vegetables … the few known were included into meals (spring vegetables), not served separately as we would do today, or made into a sauce and used that way;    Sorrel sauce, Spinach tart or pie … spinach was a novelty in Shakespeare’s England … having finally from Roman times made its way across the Channel.

W is for Wine … which was imported, hence expensive; grapes did not grow wild, and cultivated grapes were far too valuable to be picked before they were ripe.  The usual drink was ale, cider, and meads from various sources.

see Bloomsbury link

X is for Tang Xianzu's China … 1616 also saw the death of the famous Chinese playwright Tang Xianzu.  Four hundred years on and Shakespeare is now an important meeting place for Anglo-Chinese cultural dialogue in the field of drama studies.  For more please read here c/o Bloomsbury … 

Y is for Yarn … from All’s Well That Ends Well:
The web of our life is of a mingled yarn,
Good and ill together;
Our virtues would be proud if our faults whipped them not;
And our crimes would despair if they were not cherished by our own virtues.

Giving insights into Shaka Zulu
Z is for Zulu Cosmology … the Anthony Sher production of The Tempest shown in 2009 at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town … the easiest is toread The Telegraph article – it’s a wonderful convocation of Shakespeare in an African setting … sets my heart a-wander – wish I’d seen it …
Sir Anthony, as he is now, was born in Cape Town, came to the UK in 1968 … again there is a telling piece on his Wiki page about how he felt the need to hide his identity on many fronts … South African, Lithuanian-Jewish, sexuality … how succinctly put that para is when read with the Telegraph article:

An insight into South African life … acting breaks, mimicking to hide his past and present … do take a moment to quickly check both links ... 

The 7 Ages of Man - sculpture by
Richard Kindersley, who sculpted
the statues in Gatton Park above.
This is in Queen Victoria Street.
That is my ABCs on Shakespeare … some snippets, some quotes, some ideas … and ‘All the World’s a Stage  from As you Like It… how The Globe went global with Hamlet: 293 performances, 189 countries, 202 venues, estimated audience: 157,000, the miles travelled: 190,000 …

The tour commenced on the anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, 450 years ago [23rd April 2014] and finished on the anniversary of his death four hundred years ago: 23rd April 2016.

… actors worked nine weeks, had three weeks off … one Horatio was Nigerian, one Ophelia came from Hong Kong, one Hamlet came from Jamaica …

… a dog came on stage in Tuvalu … it sat and watched; they played to Syrian refugees in Jordan; played as the first mixed-sex group in Saudi Arabia; and only one country refused to participate – guess where … North Korea.

A copy of the First Folio
Shakespeare is so many things … and is known throughout the world – plays  or films in Japanese, Indian, Chinese …. Just take your children, yourself! and your family along to see a play, or two or three so many threads will be available to think about and remember for future years … everyone will benefit.

Google's Doodle on Shakespeare's settings
We are so fortunate to live in our western world, yet it’s so brilliant that we can join forces with storytellers everywhere … and learn from other cultures.

You will have comments and ideas to add … and in the ‘wheels of this post’ I hope that I’ve added a little to your idea of Shakespeare’s times and his words …   I’ve put in the links for referral - to enjoy as and when you can.

More about the Hamlet world tour project mentioned towards the end of the post:  About the Project: Globe to Globe   (see here for where in 1608 the play was performed ... you will be astonished ....)

Once again 'tis long ... sorreeeee ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories