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Now on Pinterest

I have to be honest, whilst I love interesting photos and paintings, I struggle to spend time browsing online scrapbooks. The reason? I could waste an entire day looking at all the lovely stuff on there! I’ve put it off for long enough and have bowed to pressure. You can now find all the illustrations used in my more recent and upcoming articles on my Pinterest page. If you have an account, it would be lovely for you to follow me.

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I am now on HubPages!

It was suggested to me by good friend, and fellow writer Carolyn Emerick, that I started using HubPages for writing up articles. I’ve taken the decision to do just that, as it provides me with a handy way in writing and organising the articles I have been working on.

I will continue to use this site, but it will be more for news, musings, and smaller random snippets that are not long enough to produce an article in their own right.

You can find me on HubPages, here.

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Orchard Wassail article on Worcestershire Life website

I have written a short article for Worcestershire Life about the tradition of the Orchard Wassail, it’s origins, and an example of a modern revival of this ancient ritual. You can read it in full here: http://www.worcestershirelife.co.uk/out-about/places/wassailing_in_worcestershire_s_orchards_1_3186119

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The Shoe Stones of St. Stephen’s Chapel

Redditch, in Worcestershire, is widely thought of as a new town. Largely developed since Victorian times, many of the villages were swallowed up as the town spread. The 1960s brought the town many of its infamous roundabouts and landmarks, and much of “Old Redditch” was lost forever beneath dual-carriageways and a new shopping centre. Yet the town has a rich history.

At the north-east outskirts of the town, the ruins of Bordesley Abbey can be found, along with Forge Mill Needle Museum, and the Abbey’s visitor centre. The Abbey was founded in 1138 by the Cisterian Monks, who drained the marshy land, diverted the River Arrow, and built this centre of worship. The community thrived, but after the Reformation of King Henry VIII in 1538, the Abbey was torn down.

Reconstruction of Bordesley Abbey from the West; from a painting by F. Woodward, 1866 [1]
Reconstruction of Bordesley Abbey from the West; from a painting by J. M. Woodward, 1866 [1]
Some of the site was spared destruction. St. Stephen’s Chapel at the west of the complex and seen to the right of the illustration, was allowed to remain, as at that time it served as the local parish church. It remained in use until it was taken apart in 1805, when it was “relocated” to the centre of the town and rebuilt as St. Stephen’s Church at Church Green. The new church was built using many of the materials of the original chapel, but sadly not everything survived.

The graveyard at the site of St. Stephen’s Chapel was left alone, with several heavily weathered stones surviving to the present day. Some of the oldest graves in Redditch can be found here, dating back to the 17th Century. These gravestones were made from blocks of stone from the Abbey ruins. Besides these historic graves, there are two stones, perhaps originally one split asunder, with some rather odd markings.

abbey3I first came across these stones about fifteen years ago. What were the markings? They looked like skittles, or perhaps a leg. This mystery was a puzzle that needed to be solved. Finally, in 2013, I was able to find an answer, courtesy of the Curator of the Forge Mill Needle Museum and Bordesley Abbey Visitor Centre:

“Apparently there are two schools of thought about the ‘shoe’ gravestone. Firstly it is straight forward vandalism, a person in the 1800s put his foot on the gravestone and carved around it. (The square toe on the shoe indicates this date). Secondly it is an indication of profession, for example, a cobbler. But as with lots of these things nobody knows for certain. The stones in general look broken as they are ‘recycled’ from the remains of Bordesley Abbey.”

If vandalism was the answer, then I can only imagine that returning 19th Century visitors continued the trend of drawing around their shoes, as many shapes and sizes are recorded. The Abbey ruins would be a pleasant spot for a picnic, and it is possible that the stone was used by day-trippers wishing to leave a permanent mark of their visit as casual graffiti. I personally think that they could be marks left by religious visitors leaving their pilgrim’s footprint forever marked in holy stone. These blocks were from the ruins of the old Abbey itself so surely would hold some significance to Christians. Not only are the shoe outlines carved into the blocks, but great care has been taken to include the detail of the sole and heel on many of these footprints.

"A Monk of Bordesley in His Working Dress and in His Choir Habit" J. M. Woodward
“A Monk of Bordesley in His Working Dress and in His Choir Habit” J. M. Woodward

Perhaps even, these are the shoes of  R. S. Bartleet, J. M. Woodward, and their team, who excavated the Abbey ruins in 1864. Woodward published the findings in 1866 in “The History of Bordesley Abbey”, and planted the Wellington Pine that towers above the graveyard.

A clue into another possible significance of the shoe stone, is found from records of the activities of the Abbey. St. Stephen’s Chapel was attached to Bordesley Abbey’s fortified gatehouse, from which doles were rationed out to the poor. Woodward wrote in his publication:

“When a monk died, his allowance of food was distributed at the gate of the Abbey for thirty days, that the poor might pray for his soul; and upon the death of the Abbott, his allowance was continued during twelve months. And not only food was given but raiment also. On account of one of their benefactors, the Monks of Bordesley gave away one hundred pairs of shoes annually, during his life, to wit, at the feast of St. Michael, twenty-five pairs; on All Saints’ Day, twenty-five pairs; on Christmas Day, twenty-five pairs; and on the Day of the Purification of St. Mary, twenty-five pairs; and after his death, says the deed, we shall give away at our gate fifty-pairs. These shoes had wooden soles, and the upper part leather or felt.” [2]

Could these carvings in stone have been done to illustrate these deeds of charity by those benefiting from the generosity of the monks? Could they even be drawn by the laymen of the Abbey as a “sign post” that shoes were distributed here, or even be markers used as a template for making the wooden soles of these shoes? I can only speculate, and I am certainly no authority on historical footwear!

Whoever left their footprints, it is intriguing to see these markers from lives past, and makes for an interesting detour if you ever visit the Abbey Meadows.

[1] Bordesley Abbey, Redditch: An Introductory Booklet, by Philip Rahtz and Susan Hirst

[2] The History of Bordesley Abbey, by J. M. Woodward

Forge Mill Needle Museum & Bordesley Abbey Visitor Centre website can be found at http://www.forgemill.org.uk/

Follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Pollysfolly?ref=hl

 

 

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A Brief History of Mistletoe at Christmas

'Harvesting the mistletoe'  used with permission from Fran Hipkiss
‘Harvesting the mistletoe’ used with permission from Fran Hipkiss

I am now writing articles on history and folklore for Worcestershire Life’s website. These will appear monthly, starting with this article on the origins of mistletoe as a midwinter decorative plant.

Read how has mistletoe become associated with Christmas, and where the origin of kissing beneath it come from. I have to limit things to 800 words, so it’s a bit of a whistle-stop tour of the lore I’m afraid! Hope you enjoy it. 

http://www.worcestershirelife.co.uk/homes-gardens/gardens/the_history_of_mistletoe_at_christmas_1_3090946

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Ted Nasmith Interview

Departure at the Grey Havens (1996), Ted Nasmith
Departure at the Grey Havens (1996), Ted Nasmith

In April 2012, I was lucky enough to put an interview together for Ted Nasmith. Ted has illustrated Harper Collins’ special edition of The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, and more recently, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice (on which Game of Thrones is based). He is also a fantastic musician! Head on over to Radio Rivendell’s website to read it in full. https://www.radiorivendell.com/article/2012/04/25/ted-nasmith/

 

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Llyn-y-Forwyn

Legend tells of a beautiful maid that dwells beneath the waters of the lake known as Llyn-y-Forwyn in Rhondda Cynon Taff, Wales. The name of the lake translates as “The Lake of the Damsel”. If you ever visit, you can see a beautiful wood sculpture of the fair lady of many legends.

She revealed herself to a farmer one day, emerging from the water as he took his pony to the water’s edge for a cool drink. She told the stunned fellow that her name was Nelferch, and that she dwelt in the lake with her father, sisters, and cattle. The farmer fell head over heels in love with her, and it was just as well, for Nelferch was looking for a husband. All Welshmen are blessed with voices of honey, and with his sweet singing, he charmed her. The fair maid agreed to marry him on one condition. If they quarrelled three times, she would return to the lake.

Happily they lived together until that fateful day when she let the fire in the hearth go out. The farmer raised his voice in anger against his fairy wife, and they quarrelled. She reminded him of his promise, and he apologised and all was well for a few months more until again he had cause for anger. His wife spilled a milk churn, and the farmer raised his voice at her carelessness. Sternly she warned him that he had no more chances left. If he quarrelled with her one more time, she would go. Cursing himself, he promised to be more careful and an entire year passed before a fox took some lambs and he quarrelled with his wife, laying blame on her for not locking the young animals safely away in the barn. Before he could apologise, she vanished right before his eyes, taking the cattle with her. The farmer returned to the lake each day and night, begging her to return. He spent the rest of his days pining for the beautiful maiden of the waters and went mad with grief.

Nelferch
Nelferch

Some believe that Nelferch still dwells in the watery realm beneath the lake’s surface, and calls out to young men to join her in the depths of the lake. A sorrowful event from the start of the twentieth century describes how a young local boy drowned in the waters in his attempt to rescue a friend who had fallen in. His family believe that Nelferch took him for her own, his act of unselfish bravery making him a worthy husband. Some say that the singing voices of their children can be heard if you listen carefully.

Another, more sinister tale, describes how the maid of Llyn-y-Forwyn was an unfortunate human girl who met her end due to foul deeds. She was betrothed to a young man who had fallen in love with another, and made wicked plans to be rid of her. On the evening before their wedding, he took his bride-to-be for a walk along the lakeside, and pushed her in. The poor girl was drowned, and denying any knowledge of his missing fiancée, the young man was free to marry his sweetheart. Ever after, the damsel’s spirit haunted the scene of her murder. Some have reported hearing shrieks from the waterside, and the sound of splashing water. A few tell of seeing a half-naked maiden emerging out of the lake with a terrifying scream, her wet hair hanging lankly over her pallid shoulders.

So dear reader, take heed you see a beautiful woman emerging from the waters of Llyn-y-Forwyn, lest you too become a thing of legend.

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November 2013 Celtic Guide issue out now

November’s issue of Celtic Guide is ready to read. You can download it free as a pdf from their website, here: http://www.thecelticguide.com/index.html . This month’s topic is “loose ends”, and it contains all manner of articles from the Celtic regions. It will be available to order as a hard copy from Amazon shortly.

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Celtic Guide October 2013

I am delighted to announce that the October issue of the Celtic Guide is now available to download as a pdf document by following this link http://www.thecelticguide.com/2013.html. The magazine will appear on Amazon soon if you would like to purchase a hard copy. I have a short collection of Welsh folk tales with illustrations in this month’s issue. This month’s theme is Hallowe’en, so it will be no surprise that the tales are a little sinister in nature.

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Greetings!

Since starting an interest page on Facebook, I had no idea that the path I was treading would lead me to this point. I would like to thank dear Garden Stone for his assistance in producing my own website and helping me piece it together. I hope for this to be a more permanent home for my art and topics that I have written about. More to follow soon!

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