Sussex Life August 2015 Poetry + solution
PUBLISHED: 15:35 28 July 2015 | UPDATED: 15:39 28 July 2015
Solution for the ‘Rescued’ piece by Tony Ward in the Sussex Life August issue
Where is it? Rescued
Museum. The roof the sky, the woods the walls.
Six centuries, but more than memories,
survivors – relocated, resurrected, cherished.
Wood and plaster, brick and stone.
Bayleaf, Boarhunt, bellframe, barn,
tollhouse, tabernacle, forge,
sawpit, granary, windpump, whim,
cattle-shed, wagon-shed, farm.
Assembled to inspire, delight.
Faded echoes, silent tears,
peals of laughter, misplaced fears –
our half-term hosts the friendly ghosts.
Thatcher, tanner, tiler,
miller, mason, smith,
carver, weaver, dauber,
yeoman, squatter, serf.
Women spun and sewed and wove,
menfolk fashioned tools,
women cooked and cleaned, conceived,
a swelling nest of mouths
the husband’s wage to feed,
“He is bailiff, woodman, wheelwright, field surveyor, engineer,
And if flagrantly a poacher, – ‘tain’t for me to interfere.”
Times past, times present.
Down the lane, one hundred years
For Home and Country.
Old skills, new skills,
inspiring women, nationwide.
In the rain, two hundred years,
soaked on a Rural Ride.
Dancing, singing, food and folk,
heavy horses pull the plough,
gilded horses thrill the fair.
Time travellers, filmed and feted, celebrated.
Solution – Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton, West Sussex
Explanation of embedded clues
“A wider recognition is necessary of the extent of England’s heritage in her old cottages and the sturdy country stock that dwell in them. For both heritages are wasting and in jeopardy; the cottages are being destroyed, the folk leaving the country. It is for England to foster, cherish, and preserve them both. If she is unworthy, they will both, to her permanent detriment, largely vanish from the face of the land.” (‘The English Cottage’, Harry Batsford and Charles Fry, first published in October 1938).
In response to such concerns, The Weald & Downland Open Air Museum was launched in 1967 by a small group of enthusiasts led by the Museum’s founder, the late Dr. J. R. Armstrong MBE. It opened to the public on 4 September 1970.
The Museum, a Registered Charity, has done more than just rescue ‘cottages’. Where it has not been possible to retain buildings on their original sites, a representative selection of historic buildings of all types have been “relocated, resurrected, cherished’. These illustrate the developments in rural building styles and types, “wood and plaster, brick and stone”, over the last six centuries. The site covers some 40 acres. A few of the 50 different buildings’ given names and types have been fashioned into the chant-like second verse.
The reasons for their relocation include making way for the Eurotunnel terminal, for a new housing estate, for a new reservoir, road widening and sand quarrying, The earliest structure in the Museum, the 13th Century Hangleton Cottage was even reconstructed from excavated evidence on the site of a village lost in the Black Death.
Regarding the heritage of ‘the sturdy country stock that dwell in them” (opening quotation), the museum preserves and promotes their traditional craft skills through exhibitions, courses, workshops, ‘living history’ demonstrations, an extensive calendar of special events, provision for visiting school parties, and displays and collections of tools and artefacts in the Building crafts gallery and the multi-award winning Downland Gridshell building (2002).
The chant-like fourth verse celebrates the craft heritage of these people. The meaning of the term,‘squatters’, has changed over time. ‘Squatters’ originally referred to smallholders who either owned land freehold which they had originally cleared (from forests) or else had maintained their hereditary village holdings. Verse five gives an insight into day-to-day cottage life in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. (graphically described by Lord Ernle in his ‘English Farm, Past and Present’: quoted in ‘The English Cottage’ p86-87). The “swelling nest of mouths the husband’s wage to feed” identifies the cottager’s chief burden since the Middle Ages, the unwieldy size of his ever-increasing family. These lines are an interpretation of a passage from ‘Piers Plowman’, written at the time (the late 14th Century) in the language of the time (Middle-English) and attributed to William Langland. Langland lived at the same time as the better-known Geoffrey Chaucer (‘The Canterbury Tales’). They were both keen observers of the society they lived in.
The last two lines of this verse are borrowed from Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘The Land’ (‘A Diversity of Creatures’). Kipling was one of a roll-call of influential champions of the field workers and master craftsmen who he claimed to be the real owners of the English Country.
“Assembled to inspire, delight... half-term hosts the friendly ghosts” (Verse three) illustrates one of the fun ways in which the Museum encourages schoolchildren to connect with the buildings and their occupants. The verse highlights a common belief about old houses, namely that they may be haunted. These rescued houses are no different. In particular, the very atmospheric Pendean Farmhouse (1609), furnished with replica items, has the reputation of having a resident ghost. The theme was taken further in two 44-minute TV programmes ‘Most Haunted: Weald and Downland (Parts 1 & 2), July 2010, Living TV Channel’.
The last two verses pick out two anniversaries in 2015 which the Museum is celebrating with special events. The first is the Centenary of the Women’s Institute. Founded in Canada in 1897, it was started in Britain in 1915 with the aim of encouraging countrywomen to help increase the food supply to a war-torn nation. Singleton and East Dean WI - “down the lane” - was the first branch to be formed in England. “For Home and Country” was the WI’s first motto. “Inspiring Women for 100 years” is their current motto, in this centenary year. “Old skills, new skills” emphasises the fact that the WI is now much more than ‘Jam and Jerusalem’. While preserving and passing on old skills, their extensive education programme provides the chance to build new skills and to campaign for contemporary causes.
The second anniversary, which takes place on the exact date, is marked by a four-mile guided walk, following in the hoof-prints of one of William Cobbett’s Rural Rides, which passed through East Dean to Singleton on 2nd August 1823. He should have enjoyed far-reaching views, particularly from the summit of Duncton Down (OS map viewpoint). “But, alas! Saint Swithin had begun his work for the day”. When he arrived in Singleton, he wrote in his journal – “This is really a soaking day, thus far. I got here at nine o’clock (for breakfast). I stripped off my coat, and put it by the kitchen fire. In a parlour just eight feet square, I have another fire, and have dried my shirt on my back. We shall see what this does for a hooping cough.” It is to be hoped that the weather is kinder for the anniversary walkers!
A few of the regular events from the Museum’s Calendar are the subjects of the last lines – “Dancing, singing” (the December Tree dressing), “Food and folk” (the May Festival of this name – with more music and dancing), “Heavy horses pull the plough” (the October Autumn Countryside Show), and “gilded horses thrill the fair” (the August Vintage & Steam Festival, including the popular steam-powered carousel gallopers, a beautifully restored ‘roundabout’).
The final line, “Time travellers, filmed and feted, celebrated”, acknowledges the Museum’s appeal for film-makers. The Museum website lists eighteen past productions (with attributions) in the last seven years alone. “The Time Travellers Guide to the Elizabethans” was the line’s clue. Others have included “Escape to the Country”, “Tudor Monastery Farm”, “Flog it!”, “Hairy Bikers”, “Celebrity Antiques Roadtrip” and parts of Shakespeare’s “Henry VI” – a truly wide-ranging mix!
To end as we started, with the primary aim of the Weald and Downland Museum - to preserve and generate an increased public awareness and interest in the built environment, and specifically historic rural buildings, two final quotations:
“I have always felt that the best security for civilisation is the dwelling, and that upon properly appointed and becoming dwellings depends more than anything else the improvement of mankind. Such dwellings are the nursery of all domestic virtues, and without a becoming home the exercise of these virtues is impossible.” (Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister of the UK, 1868, 1874-1880).
Or, more poetically:
“A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.” (Author unknown).
Acknowledgement of sources:
• ‘Sussex Top Attractions’, publicity leaflet.
• ‘Places to Visit’, publicity leaflet.
• ‘Sussex Windmills and Watermills Open to view’, publicity leaflet, Sussex Mills Group.
• ‘Weald and Downland Open Air Museum’, publicity leaflet.
• ‘England’s Thousand Best Houses’, Simon Jenkins, Allen Lane, 2003 (pages 784-788).
• ‘William Cobbett’s Illustrated Rural Rides 1821-1832’ Singleton (Sussex) Saturday 2 August 1823; Introduction and notes by Christopher Morris, Webb & Bower, 1992 (page 76). The original full text of ‘Rural Rides’ is also available on various websites e.g. www.ajwh.co.uk/books/book112/book112a.html
• ‘OS Landranger Map 197: Chichester & the South Downs’, Ordnance Survey (on which William Cobbett’s Rural Ride can be traced, over the Viewpoint Duncton Down (‘Dunton’) via Upwaltham and East Dean to Singleton).
• ‘The English Cottage’, Harry Batsford and Charles Fry, Batsford (The “British Heritage” series, first published October 1938).
• www.wealddown.co.uk (The Museum’s own extensive website with excellent photos).
• www.openairclassroom.org.uk (resources for teachers)
• www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01s2n61/ ‘Singleton, Sussex: First Women’s Institute Meeting’ (a 12 minute sound clip from BBC Sussex & Surrey, ‘World War One at Home’, 11 February 2014. This is one of 500+ clips from ‘World War One at Home’ produced by the BBC).
• Relevant websites found by searches for ‘Weald and Downland Open Air Museum’, ‘Quotes about old houses’, ‘Piers Plowman’, ‘Saint Swithin’, ‘Weald and Downland Museum most haunted’.