Unusually we had an eclipse of the Harvest Moon this year and those who stayed up until 3am were treated to a rare blood-red supermoon ( worth getting told off for being late for work 🙂 ).
Autumn has arrived and the weather has a colder feel about it; colder at night but warm during the day when the sun is out and when the clouds scuttle by it gets windier and chillier. October should see a multitude of autumn colours.
The forestry team have been helping with the harvest festival display in Wimpole Hall’s chapel. This is a bit taken from Wiki: “The early harvest festival used to be celebrated at the beginning of the harvest season on 1 August and was called Lammas, meaning ‘loaf Mass’. The Latin prayer to hallow the bread is given in the Durham Ritual. Farmers made loaves of bread from the fresh wheat crop. These were given to the local church as the Communion bread during a special service thanking God for the harvest.
By the sixteenth century a number of customs seem to have been firmly established around the gathering of the final harvest. They include the reapers accompanying a fully laden cart; a tradition of shouting “Hooky, hooky”; and one of the foremost reapers dressing extravagantly, acting as ‘lord’ of the harvest and asking for money from the onlookers. A play by Thomas Nashe, Summer’s Last Will and Testament, (first published in London in 1600 but believed from internal evidence to have been first performed in October 1592 at Croydon) contains a scene which demonstrates several of these features. There is a character personifying harvest who comes on stage attended by men dressed as reapers; he refers to himself as their “master” and ends the scene by begging the audience for a “largesse”. The scene is clearly inspired by contemporary harvest celebrations, and singing and drinking feature largely. The stage instruction reads:
“Enter Haruest with a sythe on his neck, & all his reapers with siccles, and a great black bowle with a posset in it borne before him: they come in singing.”
The song which follows may be an actual harvest song, or a creation of the author’s intended to represent a typical harvest song of the time:
Merry, merry, merry, cheary, cheary, cheary,
Trowle the black bowle to me ;
Hey derry, derry, with a poupe and a lerry,
Ile trowle it againe to thee:
Hooky, hooky, we haue shorne,
And we haue bound,
And we haue brought Haruest
Home to towne.
The shout of “hooky, hooky” appears to be one traditionally associated with the harvest celebration. The last verse is repeated in full after the character Harvest remarks to the audience “Is your throat cleare to helpe us sing hooky, hooky?” and a stage direction adds, “Heere they all sing after him”. Also, in 1555 in Archbishop Parker’s translation of Psalm 126 occur the lines:
“He home returnes: wyth hocky cry,
With sheaues full lade abundantly.”
In some parts of England “Hoakey” or “Horkey” (the word is spelled variously) became the accepted name of the actual festival itself:
“Hoacky is brought Home with hallowing
Boys with plum-cake The Cart following”.
Another widespread tradition was the distribution of a special cake to the celebrating farmworkers. A prose work of 1613 refers to the practice as predating the Reformation. Describing the character of a typical farmer, it says:
“Rocke Munday..Christmas Eve, the hoky, or seed cake, these he yeerely keepes, yet holds them no reliques of popery.” ”
The Wimpole parish church was also a hive of activity at the weekend as I had been asked to hold a corn dolly making workshop in preparation for the harvest weekend. Quite a few local parishioners came to find out how to make them. We started off with the Gentleman’s Favour which is actually quite easy to do… then, if you plait together two sections, you can make a heart. We then made a Welsh Fan ( all the ones I made are on the Corn Maiden which stood nearly five foot tall next to the church’s altar; we used the very tall Heritage Rivet wheat.
This parish church looks totally different from all the other local churches which were built from stone dug out of the local clunch pits- a rather soft, off-white limestone which needs care and protection from the inclement English weather.
Mind you these churches were built in the 14th century! Actually Wimpole church was first built at the same time with the same material but in 1748 it was demolished and replaced with the current church. (For my part I think I would have preferred the original one.) However the original Staundon (aka Chicheley) chantry from the 14th century still exists adjoining the (newish!) church.
“The Staundon Chantry is of 14th century origin and is understood to have been founded around 1390 as the Chantry of Sir William de Staundon. A Chantry was a chapel or other part of a church endowed for a priest or priests to celebrate masses for the founder’s soul. Sir William de Staundon owned “a mansion house” in Wimpole at this time and he was a Master of the Grocer’s Company. He had also been Lord Mayor of London in 1392 [and again in 1407 when he followed a certain Richard Whytyngdone!].
The following is a transcription of [parts of] the will of Sir William de Staundon:
“My body to be buried in St Andrew’s Church, Wimpole, in the County of Cambridge near my late wife… one thousand masses to be said within three days of my death and 500 masses each quarter of the year next after my decease.
To Agnes my now wife the furniture in two of my chief rooms in my mansion house at Wimpole aforesaid with my best gilt cups, ewers, etc… bequests to servants, apprentices and others…
£160 to be devoted to a Chantry in the Parish Church of Wimpole and £20 sterling for building a new aisle to the Church… bequests to his poor tenants at Wimpole, Arrington and Whaddon including gifts of white and red herring and bread during the season of Lent…”
The central window in the north wall in the 14th century chantry is an important example of 14th century glass. It contains 14 shields of families connected with Wimpole and the figure of a pilgrim. It is thought that the heraldry illustrates marriage alliances of the Ufford family, thought to have owned Wimpole some time before the Chicheleys.
In the 16th Century, the Chapel was still known as the Staundon Chantry. In 1428 the Wimpole estate was acquired by one Henry Chichele, then Archbishop of Canterbury. For the next two hundred and fifty years the Chicheley family [now spelt with a ‘y’] gradually bought up the surrounding Cambridgeshire estates and began to use the Chantry for their own family interments. The only Chicheley monument surviving today is that of Sir Thomas Chicheley who died in 1616, although the west wall bears the Arms and Crest of Chicheley and the south wall of the Chapel has a few re-positioned panels dating from this period.
In 1748 Philip, the 3rd Earl of Hardwicke (1757-1834) demolished the medieval church building and completed the present church the following year. Although the chapel mostly survived, it was opened up to the new church by removing much of the south wall. Philip was appointed the first Earl of Hardwicke in 1754, the first of the five Earls who owned Wimpole until 1894. The church and chapel you see today are dominated by religious monuments to four generations of the Yorke family.
The altar tomb was commissioned by his widow Elizabeth Yorke, Dowager Countess of Hardwicke (1763-1858) and sculpted by Richard Westmacott the younger. The work was completed in 1844, ten years after the Earl’s death. Elizabeth (née Elizabeth Scot Lindsay) died in 1858 and was interred with her husband.
The couple’s four sons all died young. The rear face of the tomb records the death of the eldest son and heir, Viscount Royston, Philip Yorke (1784-1808) who perished by shipwreck near Lübeck in the Baltic. Interred in the tomb with their parents are Charles James Yorke (1797-1810) who followed his brother as Viscount Royston, Charles Yorke (1787-1791) and infant Joseph John Yorke (1800-1801).
The imposing neo-classical sarcophagus with the charming cherubs between the windows is the monument for Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke (1690-1764) and of his wife Margaret Yorke (née Cocks) who died in 1761. Philip and Margaret had six children. The monument in white marble was designed by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart and sculpted by Peter Scheemakers. James Stuart wrote to Thomas Anson, “…on one side is Minerva, not the warlike but the eloquent, and therefore instead of the lance she holds a caduceus [the rod of hermes]… On the other side is Pudicitia, the matronal virtue. She is veiled and holds a stem of lilies… of the two middle-most [children] one collects the Mace and Purse [of the Lord Chancellor’s office] and the other crowns it with a garland.”
There are two sets of stained glass windows in the new church, the ones behind the altar don’t seem have any information about them but the two on the south side were put there to commemorate the death of the Clifden & Robartes family including the Captain Thomas Robartes who was killed at the battle of Loos in the First World War by a sniper.
This brings me on to the Wimpole at War event in September- a Second World War themed re-enactment with a strong American contingent as Flying Fortresses ( B-17s) flew from nearby Bassingbourn and the American Air Force hospital was on the Wimpole Estate. Below is a small photographic gallery of the event.