The Faeries of Blackheath Wood

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The Victorian ideal of a fairy scantily clad nymphet, still a popular image for the fae today.  Lily 1888.

The Victorian ideal of a fairy as scantily clad nymphet, still a popular image for the fae today. Luis Ricardo Falero 1888.

Just a short post this week…having managed to put my back out doing DIY I don’t know if I want to stand up, lie down or pace around because doing anything is just toooooo painful :0(  Anyway, enough of this moaning – on with the post.

In a desperate attempt to take my mind of my back I re-watched a fabulous short film about faeries on You Tube.  I recall first coming across this particularly dark tale of the little folk on the excellent Angry Scholar Blog (but I can’t find the link to the actual post itself).

I grew up reading a musty collection of Edwardian children’s books handed down from my grandparents, my parents and then to me.  Hence I grew up thinking that fairies were all rather elegant ‘gels’ who fluttered around flower petals in rather chic if not risqué 1920’s flapper dresses.  As soon as I began reading folk-tales about the wee folk and their less pleasant habits I soon adjusted my view of faeries…nevertheless the harmless flower fairy image has persisted well into the twenty-first century.

The famous Cottingly Faries hoax of the 1920's.

The famous Cottingly fairies hoax of the 1920’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For anyone still clinging to this twee Tinkerbell view of faeries,  Ciaran Foy’s dark little masterpiece The Faeries of Blackheath Woods may make you think twice about following those dainty little flappers into the deep dark woods…

ENJOY….

 

 

 

With her head tucked underneath her arm…..

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A (very) brief history of Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn, this is possibly the most famous image of Anne, and most likely closest likeness, however no contemporary images of Anne survive (this image dates from the late 16th century). Image: National Portrait Gallery.

I have always been a bit of a sucker when it comes to royal ghosts – the bloodier and more headless the better – and they don’t come more headless than Anne Boleyn.  Strong willed, intelligent and beguiling, Anne Boleyn supplanted the popular Queen Katherine of Aragon and stole the heart of Henry VIII.  She successfully held the amorous Henry at bay until he divorced his wife and broke with Rome – talk about a tease.  Once queen she presided and flirted with a dazzling and talented young court, encouraged religious reform and was not afraid to go head to head with the King. Nevertheless she could also be ruthless – she passionately hated the Lady Mary, Katherine’s loyal daughter, to the point where Lady Mary became convinced that Anne was trying to poison her. She also made some very dangerous political enemies such as the equally ruthless Cromwell.

Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I, locket ring taken from the dead finger of the Elizabeth I in 1603.

Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I; locket ring worn by Elizabeth I until her death in 1603

In short, it would seem that the seeds of tragedy were planted early on in Anne’s relationship with Henry VIII.  She was never a popular queen, and being an English commoner rather than a foreign princess she could not call on powerful alliances abroad to protect her when the kings love turned sour and the vultures began to circle.  Eventually, having failed to produce a male heir, and successfully alienating a lot of powerful men around her, including the King her only protector, Anne was accused of adultery with several men of her inner circle, and incest with her brother George (and just for good measure witchcraft was also added to the litany of charges).  Following the execution of many of those closest to her, on 19 May 1536 Anne Boleyn herself was executed by a French swordsman on Tower Green.  The fickle Henry was canoodling with Jane Seymour as Anne’s head fell.

Although we might all think we are familiar with Anne Boleyn, thanks to the most recognisable image of her (reproduced here), no contemporary images of Anne survive.  All we have are ghosts of her memory – initially created in the reign of her daughter Elizabeth I who, privately at least, did wish to keep the memory of her mother alive. It is a powerful reminder of how someone so famous, briefly so powerful and who held the most famous King of England in her thrall, so much so that he reshaped the English church in order to win her, was almost expunged from history after her fall.  Only the whim of fate, which placed her daughter Elizabeth I on the throne, ensured that this most enticing of Tudor queen’s was not lost to history for ever.   Sic transit gloria mundi indeed…

The Hauntings of Anne

Having just read Alison Weir’s fascinating account of the fall of Anne Boleyn, ‘The Lady in the Tower’, I was delighted to find a section in the appendices relating to the legends of hauntings related to Anne Boleyn.  Weir brought the historian’s rigour to these colourful tales and cross-referencing the tales against Anne’s known movements, and attested connections with a place during her life, Weir was able(sadly) to debunk quite a few of these sightings.  Well… at least to provide evidence that the spectre in question was not Anne Boleyn!  From my point of view, the fact that we don’t really know what Anne looked like, does make identification of her spectre problematic!  Nevertheless, here are a few tales of this royal revenants peregrinations…I will leave it to the reader to decide on their veracity…

Blickling Hall

Blickling Hall.  Image by Lenora

Blickling Hall. Image by Lenora

Blickling Hall in Norfolk is one of my favourite stately homes. On a lush summers day it seems the quintessentially English ancestral pile with its dusty rose brick walls, mullioned windows and topiary garden….but on a dark night in May this rural idyll is rudely shattered by the unquiet souls of the dead.

Although the current hall was rebuilt in the early seventeenth century – well after Anne’s death – legend has it that Anne and her siblings were born at Blickling.  The earlier hall had belonged to the Boleyn family in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.  George and Mary were born there, and it seems likely Anne was too.

One local tale that was well established by the eighteenth century, according to Alison Weir, concerns Thomas Boleyn, Anne’s feckless father.  Happy to benefit from Anne’s rise, Thomas nevertheless stood by and did nothing as his children Anne and George went to their bloody deaths on the scaffold.  It is said that his tormented spirit is seen driving pell mell up the drive way of Blickling Hall in a carriage driven by a headless coachman and a team of headless horses, pursued by blue devils, and sometimes the headless corpse of George Boleyn.  By 1850 Weir notes that this version had elaborated to say that the luckless Thomas was cursed for a thousand years to ride out on the anniversary of Anne’s death, crossing every bridge between Wroxham and Blickling, his gory head in his lap.  (There is a slight flaw in this embellishment – Thomas died in bed, with his head fully attached).

As with many stories passed down in folk memory they are often elaborated and embellished with the telling, and by the nineteenth century versions of this tale had Anne as the occupant of the carriage – dressed in pure white but glowing red, and with her blood drenched head resting on her lap.  Some versions have Thomas, her father as the coachman.  The carriage drives right into the hall and disappears, or else stops to allow the gory Anne to descend and begin a nocturnal perambulation of the gloomy chambers of the Hall.

The lake at Blicking - does Anne's ghost search in vain by its shores...? Image by Lenora

The lake at Blickling – does Anne’s ghost search in vain by its shores…? Image by Lenora

Sightings of Anne (and/or Thomas) and the carriage have been frequent and reported by witnesses of varying degrees of credibility.  In 1979 an apparition supposed to be Anne was sighted in the library, in 1985 a former administrator of Blickling Hall was awoken by female footsteps in the night only to find no one there.  Another sighting occured during world war II when a Butler accosted a mysterious lady by the lake.  She was dressed in Grey and had a white lace collar and mob-cap.  When asked what she was looking for she replied with the poignant words “That for which I search has long since gone.”   It has been pointed out that the costume described sounds more seventeenth century than sixteenth, and that lace was extremely rare in the 1530’s, nevertheless adherents point out that Anne was beheaded in a very similar costume with a white-collar and coif.

Blickling Hall can even boast a lost chamber – no English country pile should be without one – associated with Anne Boleyn.  It is said that there is a room at Blickling that had such an evil atmosphere it was walled up and its whereabouts lost – it was called ‘Old Bullen’s study’.  Just as an aside, personally I don’t think some one as elegant and sophisticated as Anne would be as crass as to leave an evil atmosphere behind her, (intense perhaps – but surely not evil) perhaps Old Bullen could in fact be greedy, gutless Thomas!

Tower of London

tower-of-london

The Tower of London from the Thames. Image from ‘London Attractions’ Tourist site.

Unsurprisingly there are many tales of Anne connected with the Tower of London – after all she was imprisoned here from April until her execution on 19 May 1536 and it was here that she watched as her brother and the men closest to her were brutally executed.

My favourite tales from the tower relate to the service that Anne has provided to countless soldiers, the first noted as being in 1864.  A guardsman on duty one night saw the white-clad figure of woman emerging from the Queen’s House.  Approaching to offer a challenge he got a clear look at the figure and was horrified to discover the lady was sans head!  The soldier was found to have fainted and accused of being drunk on duty and court marshaled.  One would not expect a hard-bitten military court to consider the appearance of a headless Tudor Queen as a mitigating factor in such dereliction of duty, however when two witnesses were produced the case was quietly dropped.  Needless to say, the ‘Anne Boleyn defense’ was used more than once by soldiers down the years to explain abandoning their posts!

Other sightings include ‘bluish figure’ floating across the ground to the Queen’s House and in 1967 the case of one John Hawden who observed a strange glow coming from the windows of the White Tower,  lighting a mysterious figure moving between the rooms.  When he asked a fellow warden about the phenomenon he was told that it was probably the ghost of Anne Boleyn and that many wardens had witnessed it (although few spoke of it).

Hever Castle

Hever Castle, Anne's family seat in Kent.  Image by Puffin.

Hever Castle, Anne’s family seat in Kent. Image by The Giant Puffin via wikimedia.

Hever Castle was the Boleyn family seat in Kent and therefore has strong connections with Anne Boleyn.  The most famous story relating to Hever takes place on Christmas Eve (always a perfect time for ghost stories) and relates to a bridge over the River Eden, close by the Castle.  Anne is said to be seen crossing the bridge heading for home.  In other instances her shimmering wraith-like form is seen lurking about the lawns.  The Splatter blog (see sources) describes a chilling encounter with Anne on the bridge over the Eden.

In 1979 a member of the Society for Psychical Research set about capturing an image of Anne on the bridge.  Staking out the bridge on the appointed day, he was not to be disappointed.  On the stroke of midnight Anne duly appeared in the form of a white light.  Delighted, he took his picture.  Elation soon turned to fear though, when the white light came hurtling directly at him and passed right thorough him.  As he turned he saw it disappear over the bridge towards Hever.  The following day when he developed his film he found that the entire roll was exposed and not one image had been captured….

 

Hampton Court and other places

Hampton Court - does Anne's restless spirit roam these corridors?  Image by Lenora

Hampton Court – does Anne’s restless spirit roam these corridors? Image by Lenora

Oddly enough there are not many sightings of Anne at Hampton Court – perhaps even her ghost finds it too painful to revisit the site of her greatest triumphs and her eventual fall.  However in the late 19th Century she was sighted walking the corridors dressed in blue and looking rather sad.

Anne’s restless spirit is associated with more locations that can be covered in this post.  Some other places she has been sighted at include Windsor Castle, Rochford Hall in Essex and Bollin Hall, Cheshire.  One memorable sighting is recounted by Alison Weir and is based on an interview Nora Lofts conducted with the old sexton of Salle Church in Norfolk.  This story links Anne with Witchcraft.  Anne is said to walk at Salle Church on the anniversary of her death. Wanting to find the truth of the legend the old sexton sat vigil determined to catch the royal revenant.  However, all he saw was a hare run a course about the church before disappearing……the hare being a symbol, particularly in East Anglia, of witchcraft.  (NB. Why is it always an old Sexton in these stories…?)

 

 Anne’s lasting memory

Some sightings of Anne’s ghost or imprint seem well attested by credible witnesses at sites with a verified connection with Anne’s life.  Others have grown around received wisdom and when checked against the historical ‘facts’ cannot possibly relate to Anne (this is not to say that they are not bona-fide sightings – just not necessarily sightings of Anne).  Whatever the truth of these tales, their continued popularity demonstrates how much Anne, with her glittering life and her cataclysmic fall from grace, has entered into the subconsciousness of a nation (and beyond).  People WANT to see Anne Boleyn and to claim that connection with her enduring ‘glamour’ and her tragic end.  Even now, vigils are held on the anniversary of her execution at Blickling Hall and other locations associated with Anne.  This woman who might have vanished from history with out a trace as the discarded wife of a fickle King – still has the power to fascinate and captivate us.

Image by Lenora

Anne – among us still? Image by Lenora

In her own words

So much has been written about Anne Boleyn, I would like to end by letting her speak for herself. The following poem has been attributed to Anne in the days before her execution…

O Death, O Death, rock me asleepe,
Bring me to quiet rest;
Let pass my weary guiltless ghost
Out of my careful breast.
Toll on, thou passing bell;

Ring out my doleful knell;
Thy sound my death abroad will tell,
For I must die,
There is no remedy.

My pains, my pains, who can express?
Alas, they are so strong!
My dolours will not suffer strength
My life for to prolong.
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Thy sound my death abroad will tell,
For I must die,
There is no remedy.

Alone, alone in prison strong
I wail my destiny:
Woe worth this cruel hap that I
Must taste this misery!
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Thy sound my death abroad will tell,
For I must die,
There is no remedy.

Farewell, farewell, my pleasures past!
Welcome, my present pain!
I feel my torment so increase
That life cannot remain.
Cease now, thou passing bell,
Ring out my doleful knoll,
For thou my death dost tell:
Lord, pity thou my soul!
Death doth draw nigh,
Sound dolefully:
For now I die,
I die, I die.

Sources

There are a lot of great books and websites out there devoted to Anne, her history and her ghost, here are a few that I found particularly useful in preparing this post:

http://marilynkaydennis.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/anne-boleyns-ghost/

http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/

http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/anne-boleyn-portraits-which-is-the-true-face-of-anne-boleyn/

Weir, Alison, The Lady in the Tower, Random House, 2009

Of martyrs, hens and hangings

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Strange tales from the Camino

Golden Altar 3The Camino de Frances runs for nearly 500 miles across Spain and takes in some extraordinary sights – not least of which are the churches and cathedrals.  English churches were stripped out of their booty during the reign of Henry VIII – no such thing happened in Spain.  For anyone used to pottering around elegant but largely unadorned English churches those of Spain come as a bit of a culture shock.  God and Gold go hand in hand the extravagant and exuberant altarpieces of many Spanish churches and cathedrals.

But aside from the awe-inspiring bling of the alters, there are also many strange, and sometimes gory, hidden away amongst the treasures.  If you can drag your eyes away from the gold, glitz and glory for long enough you will find some very strange things on the walls of these buildings.

Bota Fumeiro - Santiago Cathederal

Bota Fumeiro – Santiago cathedral

The cult of martyrdom

skull and lion bwThe word itself is from the Greek, meaning to witness, and came to be applied to those who suffered torture and death for their Christian faith – although the concept and psychology of martyrdom pre-dated Christianity and existed amongst Jewish and Pagan Peoples as well. It was the Christian Church however, who really ran with the idea of martyrdom and it became an important aspect of the Christian Ethos.  The Catholic Church in particular seems to have made quite a cult of the suffering of Martyrs and viewed them as powerful intercessor between worshipers and their god.

Bones and relics of martyrs quickly became currency, both spiritual and materially, and appeared in churches and religious establishments.  The market for martyrs could be competitive and certainly brought great riches for many religious houses with the faithful flocking to centres of pilgrimage such as Santiago de Compostela, here they could offer gifts to the relics and hope that the saint would look favourably on them.

The bones of a saint

The bones of a saint

Wounds 1

Visceral wounds

Female martyrs are often depicted as beautiful

Female martyrs are often depicted as beautiful

A Martyr being beheaded

A Martyr being beheaded

Slaughter of innocents

Slaughter of innocents

Admittedly, and no disrespect to Christian’s intended, what struck me most intensely in viewing many of the relics and images of martyred saints that are displayed in Churches and cathedrals along the Way of St James, was the sheer delight in portraying gory and visceral deaths.  Some of the images had an almost macabre humour whilst others seemed almost distasteful in their veneration of human suffering. In the days before sadomasochism had been identified, I can’t help thinking that, whilst pious viewers saw the images as a offering an example of Christian fortitude, there must surely have been many others who viewed these images with something other than their god in mind.

cherub with chains

 

Shackles donated to a church

Nevertheless, some of the images of martyrdom and miracles have a distinct sense of humour about them.

'I think he's dead'  'No I'm not, it's just a flesh wound!'

Persecutor: “A scratch? Your head’s off. Xtn Martyr: No it isn’t. Persecutor: What’s that, then? Xtn Martyr: [after a pause] I’ve had worse. Persecutor: You liar. Xtn Martyr: Come on ya pansy.[1]

The following tale is associated with the Church of Santo Domingo and is both bizarre and humorous.

The Miracle of the Cock and the Hen

santo dom 1During the Camino, I visited the cathedral of Santos Domingo de La Calzada.  Here I was baffled by the presence of a very ornate hen-house situated within the cathedral and inhabited by a rooster and a hen.  Not sure if it was simply that the priest simply had a fondness for fritatta’s (they did seem quite popular along the Camino) I soon found out that it was connected with a very odd tale involving a pious pilgrim, a woman scorned, a resurrection from the dead and some zombie chickens*.

I have come across a few versions of this strange tale, the version below is taken from the website of Santo Domingo cathedral and seems the most comprehensive:

“Legend tells of a German Pilgrim called Hugonell who was walking to Santiago with his parents, when they decided to rest at an inn in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The owner of the inn´s daughter immediately fell in love with him; however her feelings were not reciprocated, so the girl, angered, placed a silver cup into his luggage and accused the boy of theft. Thieves at that time were punished by hanging, and this was the fate of Hugonell. His parents, saddened by his death continued the pilgrimage, and upon arriving in Santiago de Compostela, began their return journey to visit the grave of their dead son. When they arrived in Santo Domingo however, they found their son still hanging in the gallows but, miraculously alive. Hugonell, excited, said to them: “Santo Domingo brought back me to life, please go to the Mayor´s house and ask him to take me down”. Quickly, the parents arrived at the Mayor´s house and told him of the miracle. The incredulous Mayor, who was preparing to have dinner with friends, responded: “That boy is as alive as these two roast chickens we are about to eat,” and suddenly, the chickens came to life, sprouted feathers and beaks and began to crow, and so, to this day there is a saying about the town which goes: “Santo Domingo of the Way, where the roosters crow after being roasted”.

santo dom hen coup 4

Hen coup in Santo Domingo Cathedral

Sacred chickens

Holy Hens

From silver hens...

From silver hens…

...to sacred cookies.  The legend is popular today as ever.

…to sacred cookies. The legend is popular today as ever.

 *Not strictly true – in this version the chickens are at least allowed to sprout new feathers and beaks – other versions leave the reader imagining bald cooked chickens running zombie like through the town – a truly fowl image *har har har* (sound of tumble weed blowing across the internet).

 References

All images copyright Lenora at http://www.hauntedPalace.co.uk

[1] Adapted from Monty Python’s Holy Grail – Black Knight scene

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_martyrs

http://www.english.catedralsantodomingo.es/santo_domingo.html

The Camino de Santiago – Part One

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The Camino de Santiago

The Conche shell -  iconic symbol of the Camino de Santiago

The Conche shell – iconic symbol of the Camino de Santiago

Greetings all!  I have returned from my epic hike across northern Spain, and amongst other posts that I have been nefariously plotting whilst away, over the coming weeks I would also like to share some of my photo’s from my travels.

Basically, for the past six weeks Bonnie and I have been hiking the famous Medieval pilgrimage route the Camino de Santiago – more specifically the Camino Frances. The route runs from St Jean Pied-de-Port in France to Santiago in the West of Spain and runs through the provinces of  Navarra, La Rioja, Burgos, Palencia, Leon, Lugo and La Cornuna (the last two forming the very Celtic region of Galicia).  This particular Camino route (and there are lots of them) is round about 490 miles (790km) and by far the most popular and well sign-posted route to Santiago.

Although historically the Camino is famous as a Catholic pilgrimage route, today walkers of all faiths and no faiths walk the Camino (it has become particularly popular recently following release of the film ‘The Way’, starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez).  There is also a growing pagan element to the walk as many of the pilgrims continue on, past Santiago, and make their way to the rugged Costa da Morte and to the village of Fisterra.  Here they burn their shoes on the rocky shores at the end of the world.  It is said that this is an echo of the practices of pre-Christian pilgrims who sought spiritual rebirth at the temple to Ara Solis in Celtic times.

The Camino de Santiago (source: http://www.santiago-compostela.net/)

The Camino de Santiago (source: http://www.santiago-compostela.net/)

Rather than begin with the obvious – the religious architecture of the Camino – I prefer to indulge my passion for all things arboreal and begin with the Trees of the Camino de Santiago!

 The Trees of the Camino

(All images copyright Lenora at http://www.hauntedpalace.co.uk)

001 SJPP

At the Citadel above St Jean Pied de Port, France.

The citadel, St Jean Pied de Port

The citadel, St Jean Pied de Port

 

Tree on the way to Orisson, via Route de Napoleon, across the Pyranees

On the way to Orisson, via Route de Napoleon, heading over the Pyranees

The road to Roncevalles, coming down off the mountains, Spain

The road to Roncevalles, coming down off the mountains, Spain

The Plane trees of the Espolon in Burgos

The avenue of plane trees of the Espolon in Burgos

Trees and stone shrines on the great wide expanse of the Meseta

Trees and stone shrines on the great wide expanse of the Meseta

The trees and logs had some amazing moss and lichen growth.

The trees and logs had some amazing moss and lichen growth.

 

Spring Blossoms near Hornillos

Spring Blossoms near Hornillos

Heading into the mountains near Rabanal

Heading into the mountains near Rabanal

OK, no trees, but nice colours!

OK, no trees, but nice colours!

Grove pf beech trees on the way to Molinaseca

Grove pf beech trees on the way to Molinaseca

Nature taking over - Castillo de los Templarios

Nature reclaiming the land – Castillo de los Templarios

Knitted tree warmers were all the rage in Cacabelos!

Knitted tree warmers were all the rage in Cacabelos!

Through the fields and Vineyards to Villafranca

Through the fields and Vineyards to Villafranca

O'Cebreiro at dawn, entering the Celtic lands of Spain

O’Cebreiro at dawn, entering the Celtic lands of Spain

Ancient tree at Castano Mill

Ancient tree at Castano Mill, Galicia

Gnarled logs

A fallen giant

Early morning in the forest, Galicia

Early morning in the forest, Galicia

0019 a fork in the road_Galicia

Left hand path or right hand path…?

One of the many shrine trees along The Way.

One of the many shrine trees along The Way.

Dawn in the forests of Galicia

Dawn in the forests of Galicia

A rustic gate in Galicia, at times Galicia feels more like Britain or Ireland...

A rustic gate in Galicia, at times Galicia looks more like Britain or Ireland than Spain!

Is that the Grim Reaper!?

Is that the Grim Reaper!?

Commercially planted Eucalyptus trees (used for the pulp industry) have begun to replace the ancient beech and oak forests in some parts of Galicia.

Commercially planted Eucalyptus trees (used for the pulp industry) have begun to replace the ancient beech and oak forests in some parts of Galicia.

In some places the old Oak and Beech trees still hold their own against the eucalyptus

In some places the old Oak and Beech trees still hold their own against the eucalyptus

Nearing Santiago, the moon over the forest.

Nearing Santiago, the moon over the forest.

 And thats all for now Folks!

The Bone Hill of Finsbury Square

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Bunhill Fields Burial Grounds, London

Skull tomb bunhillBunhill Fields is sited in the Finsbury area of North London, a short walk from Old Street tube station.  Twice in recent months I have found myself meandering through the clutter of tombstones, monuments and ancient trees.

Although the burial ground really took off as a non-conformist cemetery from the seventeenth century onwards,  the origin of the name goes back to earlier times.  Originally known as bone hill, the site may have been used for burials as far back as the Saxon period. It is also possible that the gruesome name came about much later.  During the mid sixteenth century St Paul’s was clearing out its overflowing charnel house and in the somewhat pragmatic manner of the time the excess bones were dumped on nearby fenland until they formed, one imagines, a very gruesome looking hill.

Although the cemetery was remodeled in the nineteenth century, you can still get a feel for how jumbled and cramped together London Cemeteries were before work began to alleviate pressure on London’s overcrowded urban cemeteries with the opening of the likes of Highgate Cemetery and Brookwood in the mid-nineteenth century.   Bunhill Fields saw its last burial in January 1854 – it is estimated that over 120,000 people were buried in the burial ground during its existence.

Famous incumbents

Susannah Wesley, via wikimedia

Susannah Wesley, via Wikimedia

Bunhill fields attracted some quite famous individuals as a nice place to go whilst awaiting the final trumpets (or what ever the individual’s own particular brand of religion specified).  John Bunyan (1628-1688), author of The Pilgrim’s Progress; Daniel Defoe (1660 -1731) author of Robinson Crusoe and the naughty novel Moll Flanders;  Susannah Wesley (1669 -1742), the Mother of Methodism; and William Blake (1757-1827), visionary poet, painter and keen nudist (!) all took their final rest in Bunhill.

Amongst the gnarled old trees and scattering of wild flowers are not only notables and famous literary and non-conformist figures. There are many equally unique and extraordinary individuals..

Most of the graves are fenced off to protect them, however you can still get close to some of the larger monuments.  Here are a few of my photo’s of some of the more famous monuments:

Tomb of John Bunyan

Tomb of John Bunyan

Detail from John Bunyan's tomb - the Pilgrim

Detail from John Bunyan’s tomb – the Pilgrim

 

Monument to Daniel Dafoe

Monument to Daniel Defoe

William Blake's simple headstone

William Blake’s simple headstone

 

And the not so famous….

Amongst the many notable individuals, there are of course may thousands of ordinary individuals whose bones lie in Bunhill Fields….and one has to spare a thought for the suffering and fortitude of some of these unfortunate individuals such as Dame Mary Page, relict of Sir Gregor Page Baronet, who slithered off this mortal coil on March 4th 1728 at the age of 56, her epitaph reads:

Dame Mary Page, who expired after:

Dame Mary Page, whose epitaph reads ‘In 67 months she was tapd 66 times and had taken away 240 gallons of water without ever repining at her case or ever fearing the operation.’

One wonders if Dame Mary actually wanted her demise commemorated in quite so detailed a manner!

The Bone Hill Today

Today the old burial ground is protected landscape, filled with wildflowers and ancient trees and patrolled by the ubiquitous grey squirrels that abound in English park lands.  Here are a few more of my pictures for you to enjoy…

Inscription on the gateway to Bunhill Fields

Inscription on the gateway to Bunhill Fields

A row of impressive tombs

A row of impressive tombs

trees and tombs

A piece of wilderness in the heart of the city

Daniel Defoe monument

Daniel Defoe monument

Dame Mary's monument - I wonder if they considered a fountain...

Dame Mary’s monument – I wonder if they considered a fountain…

Before cemeteries like Highgate and Brookwood opened in the 19C, it was standing room only in city graveyards.

Before cemeteries like Highgate and Brookwood opened in the 19C, it was standing room only in city graveyards.

 

The squirrels of Bunhill

The squirrels of Bunhill

 

 

 Sources

Images – all images copyright Lenora and Haunted Palace unless otherwise credited.

http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/city-gardens/visitor-information/Pages/Bunhill-Fields.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bunhill_Fields

 

 

The Murder of Martha Ray; or the earl, his mistress and her stalker

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A Bloody Scene in Covent Garden

Nebot_covent_garden_market_clean

Covent Garden by Balthazar Nebot, 1737, public domain

It was past 11pm on the 7th April 1779, when Mary Anderson, a local fruit-seller, perhaps hoping to profit from the thirsty crowds exiting the theatres, found herself witness to one of the eighteenth century’s most infamous and talked about murders.  Here she describes events in her own words:

“I was standing at the post. Just as the play broke up I saw two ladies and a gentleman coming out of the playhouse; a gentleman in black followed them. Lady Sandwich’s coach was called. When the carriage came up, the gentleman handed the other lady into the carriage; the lady that was shot stood behind. Before the gentleman could come back to hand her into the carriage the gentleman in black came up, laid hold of her by the gown, and pulled out of his pocket two pistols; he shot the right hand pistol at her, and the other at himself. She fell with her hand so [describing it as being on her forehead] and died before she could be got to the first lamp; I believe she died immediately, for her head hung directly. At first I was frightened at the report of the pistol, and ran away. He fired another pistol, and dropped immediately. They fell feet to feet. He beat himself violently over the head with his pistols, and desired somebody would kill him.” [1]

The lady was rushed to the nearby Shakespeare Tavern, a surgeon was called and pronounced her to be dead – the ball of a gun having passed through the crown of her head and exited under her left ear [2]. The murderer, somewhat bloody from his self-inflicted wounds, was apprehended by Constable Richard Blandy and taken to the tavern where he was questioned by Sir John Fielding (the well-known blind magistrate and brother to the celebrated novelist Henry Fielding).  The murderer was committed to Tothills Prison Bridewell and thence to Newgate to await trial.

The Earl and his mistress

Martha Ray and Lord Sandwich, Town and Country Magazine, 1769

Martha Ray and Lord Sandwich, Town and Country Magazine, 1769 © National Portrait Gallery, London

The victim in this very public tragedy was Martha Ray the mistress of the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu.  The Earl of Sandwich had been so distraught upon hearing of his long-term mistress’ murder, he is  said to have locked himself in his room and wept. He is said to have never fully recovered from her loss.

Although a notorious rake and alleged member of Sir Francis Dashwood’s version of the Hellfire Club, Sandwich was also a diligent and industrious (if often unpopular) servant of the Crown and First Lord of the Admiralty. In fact, it was long hours at the admiralty that gave birth to the greatest convenience food ever – the Sandwich – when the Earl slapped some naval beef between two slices of bread, in order that he need not leave his desk [3]. Lord Sandwich was also of a distinctive appearance, an acquaintance, one Joseph Craddock, on seeing Lord Sandwich walking along a street, commented to his companion:

“I am sure it is Lord Sandwich; for, if you observe, he is walking down both sides of the street at once.” [4]

Compared to her noble lover, Martha Ray had humble beginnings. Ray’s father was a corset-maker in Covent Garden, and his young and charming daughter Martha was an apprentice milliner when Sandwich first set his practiced eye upon her.  Fresh-faced, intelligent and agreeable, Sandwich took her has his mistress when she was only 17.  The partnership stood the test of time, and through Sandwich, Ray was able to educate herself beyond what would have been possible for a working class woman at that time.  Musically gifted she soon became a well-known singer and musician (although rather proprietorially, Sandwich would not allow her to perform in public).

Martha Ray by Nathaniel Dance (1735–1811) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Martha Ray by Nathaniel Dance (1735–1811) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One man who was captivated by Martha Ray and her talents was Richard Dennison Cumberland, who raved that she was:

“..a second Cleopatra – a woman of thousands, and capable of producing those effects on the heart which the poets talk of so much and of which we are apt to think Chimerical.”

However, not everything in the garden was rosy for Martha and Sandwich, despite the fact that for sixteen years they lived publicly like man and wife, Martha often found herself ostracised by the respectable wives of the Earl’s friends.  This was particularly pronounced when they  visited his country seat Hinchingbrooke in Hertfordshire.  Here local ladies recoiled from associating with a demi-mondaine – Sandwich after all was a married man.  It was at Hinchingbrooke that Lord Sandwich was fated to introduce to Martha, the man who would eventually become her murderer.

Although on the surface the couple’s relationship appeared happy – they had several children together, Ray shared Sandwich’s admiralty apartments and they went about together to concerts and parties – it seems at one time at least, Martha had investigated the possibility of striking out on her own, and making a professional career out of her singing.  Ever possessive, Sandwich appears to have quickly quashed this attempt at independence.

This attempt to break free may have been due to the fact that despite providing Ray with a generous allowance, Sandwich failed to make any financial settlements on Ray or her children – if Sandwich died before Ray she could find herself in dire financial straits. As a practical woman who had grown used to the finer things in life, and with a number of illegitimate children to support, Ray would naturally have been looking for some kind of guarantee of financial security.  She was also talented enough to support herself through her singing. It has been suggested that this wish for financial security, or perhaps respectability, may also have led to her dallying with the idea of marriage to a young man who had ardently pursued her since their first meeting at Hinchingbrooke….[5]

Hinchingbrooke, country home of the Earl of Sandwich c1787, public domain.

Hinchingbrooke, country home of the Earl of Sandwich c1787, public domain (?)

James Hackman, Soldier, Stalker and murderer

James Hackman, the sentimental killer,

James Hackman, the sentimental killer, public domain via wikimedia

James Hackman was born in 1752 in Gosport, Hampshire.  Described as of too impatient and volatile temper to go into trade [6] in 1772 his parents instead purchased a commission as Ensign in the 68th Regiment of Foot.  Sometime in 1775 he was heading up a recruiting party in Hertfordshire when he was invited to Hinchingbrooke by Lord Sandwich, here he met Miss Ray.

From the very first, the young man was utterly bewitched by the talented, charming and intelligent older woman.  In an age of sentiment and feeling, Hackman became utterly obsessed by Martha Ray, his unattainable goddess.

He was a frequent visitor to Hingingbrooke and seems to have begun pursing Ray with offers of marriage very early in their relationship.  Ray always rejected his offers – perhaps aware that a poorly paid soldier could not afford to keep her in the style to which she was accustomed.  Ray seems a practical and pragmatic woman, prepared to stand on her own two feet given the opportunity, however, as virtually no letters or written accounts exist from Martha Ray herself, it remains speculation as to whether she as an agreeable hostess, merely tolerated Hackman’s advances, or if she welcomed and encouraged them, or whether she feared them.

The day of the murder

On the day of the murder, Hackman, who had recently been ordained a minister of the Church of England (perhaps impatient that his army career often took him away from the object of his obsession),  had tried to approach Martha Ray by letter, but upon calling on her had been turned away by Ray’s companion and fellow singer Caterina Galli.  His letter was returned unopened.

Commemorative Engraving from May 1779, the murder scene is show beneath the portrait.

Commemorative Engraving from May 1779, the murder scene is show beneath the portrait © National Portrait Gallery, London

Later that day, he dined with his sister and brother-in-law telling them he would return later in the evening.  However, fired up by his earlier rejection, he instead set out to pursue Miss Ray.  At about 6pm he saw Lord Sandwich’s coach heading out with Miss Ray and Signora Galli, towards Covent Garden.  He pursued it.  The ladies were off to watch Love in a Village by Thomas Arne.  They may have been joined by male companions – friends of Lord Sandwich.  Driven to a frenzy by this perceived betrayal, Hackman rushed back to his lodgings, wrote two letters: one a suicide note to his brother-in-law, the other a love letter to Miss Ray.  He also loaded two pistols.

Just past 11, Miss Ray and Miss Galli were exiting the piazzas at Covent Garden and were being so jostled by the crowd they were unable to reach their coach.  A gallant Irish Attorney, John MacNamarra, stepped in to assist the ladies through the crowds.  Just as he handed Miss Galli into the coach and was about to assist Miss Ray, Hackman stepped out of the crowd and grabbed her arm.  As she turned to him he pulled out two pistols and shot her in the face.  He then tried unsuccessfully to shoot himself.

MacNamarra, who initially thought Ray had just fainted, later recalled his horror at the events:

“The sudden assault of the assassin, the instantaneous death of the victim, and the spattering of the poor girl’s brains all over his own face.” [11]

Hackman later claimed that he had only intended to punish Ray by making her witness his own suicide, but driven into a jealous frenzy at seeing her on the arm of another man, he turned the gun on her as well.

Aftermath

John Brewer in his fascinating book ‘Sentimental Murder’ explores how the story evolved over time.  Initially there was some consensus and agreement about the individuals involved in the event, Hackman’s camp and Sandwich’s camp both agreed to present all participants in the best light. However the sensational murder was a constant source of gossip and speculation, James Boswell visited Hackman in jail; Horace Walpole sniped about the age difference of victim and killer;  Dr Johnson speculated that the fact Hackman took two pistols proved he intended there to be two deaths.

Soon contemporary authors, such as Manasseh Dawes and Sir Herbert Croft began manipulating the story to fit the sentimental ideal of the day, they helped to create in Hackman a sympathetic figure, a paragon of sentimental feeling and a man overtaken by his emotions for a woman whom he had a sexual relationship with, but who had at best rejected him and at worst betrayed him.  Readers were invited to  feel pity for or even identified with the killer rather than the victim [7].  Later still Victorian writers tended to view the tragic outcome of the meeting of Hackman and Ray as the inevitable wages of a sinful life, symptoms of the louche and decadent Georgian age.  Martha became culpable for her own demise.  Yet it seems to me that it is entirely possible that Martha Ray was the innocent victim of a stalker.

Anatomy of a stalker

Stalkers are most commonly men in their thirties, and most frequently men who have had a previous romantic relationship with their victim.  Stalking has been described in such cases as an extension of domestic violence [8] this sub-type of stalker is most likely to fall within the ‘rejected stalker type.  If gossip and later writers were correct in their surmise that Ray and Hackman did have a brief romantic relationship in 1778, this could be a match for Hackman.

Another possible stalker type for Hackman is the ‘intimacy seeker’.  Intimacy seekers may be strangers to the victim, perhaps dazzled by celebrity, talent or beauty (Martha Ray certainly had all three in spade-fulls) and bent on pursing a romantic relationship with that person. This type of stalker can be delusional and suffer from erotomania – a belief that their victim actually reciprocates their feelings [9].  Hackman may only have been a periphery figure in Ray’s social world – the only firm evidence of their meeting is during 1775 and there is no clear evidence that they were ever intimate.  In fact all accounts seem to agree Ray consistently rejected Hackman’s marriage proposals.

Hackman, smitten with Ray, then pursued her at a distance, following her, observing her and writing to her. Unfortunately Ray’s correspondence does not survive so we can never know if she confidently brushed off Hackman’s pursuit, or whether she came to dread his missives, dread the black clad figure constantly dogging her footsteps.

He resorted to murder when he perceived she had betrayed him with another man.

Katherine Ramsland, writing for The Crime Library, gives a five point progression for stalkers which seems to fit with Hackman’s behaviour:

  1. After initial contact, the stalker develops feelings like infatuation, and therefore places the love object on a pedestal.
  2. The stalker then begins to approach the object. It might take a while, but once contact is made, the stalker’s behavior sets him up for rejection.
  3. Rejection triggers the delusion through which the stalker projects his own feelings onto the object: She loves me, too.
  4. The stalker also develops intense anger to mask his shame, which fuels the obsessive pursuit of the object. He now wants to control through harassment or injury.
  5. The stalker must restore his narcissistic fantasy.
  6. Violence is most likely to occur when the love object is devalued, as through an imagined betrayal.[10]

At his trial, Hackman provoked sympathy, his handsome and polite demeanor coupled with his tears of grief and contrition, all scored points with the sentimental ‘audience’ at the trial.

He claimed he only intended to kill himself, using his letter to his brother-in-law as evidence:

“My Dear Frederick, When this letter reaches you I shall be no more…….You know where my affections were placed; my having by some means or other lost hers,….has driven me to madness…May heaven protect my beloved woman, and forgive this act which alone could relieve me from a world of misery I have long endured.  Oh! If it should be in your power to do her any act of friendship…” [12]

and he justified his actions as those of a man driven to a temporary frenzy by love and jealousy:

“I protest, with that regard to truth which becomes my situation, that the will to destroy her who was ever dearer to me than life, was never mine till a momentary phrensy overcame me, and induced me to commit the deed I now deplore. The letter, which I meant for my brother-in-law after my decease, will have its due weight as to this point with good men.” [13]

Despite his fine appearance and genteel manners, and his ‘extenuating’ circumstances, he was found guilty of the murder of Martha Ray.  James Hackman: soldier, clergyman, stalker and murderer was hanged at Tyburn on 19 April 1779.

James Hackman may have had his just punishment under the law, but in the literature of the following two centuries he was often presented as more of tragic figure rather than a jealous murderer; his motives were explored and he was seen as a victim of his heightened sensibility and of a fickle woman.  Martha Ray, attractive, charming, intelligent and talented, almost becomes the villain of the tragedy or is depicted as at least partially responsible for her own death.  Sympathy is not with the victim of this crime but with the perpetrator.

Perhaps this is somewhat jaded view, but it sometimes seems that little has changed, society and the media all too often seem willing to provide a damning moral judgement on women when they are the victims of violent or sexual crimes.

Notes and sources

Akwagyiram, Alexis http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3717696.stm [8]
Brewer, John (2005), A Sentimental Murder: Love and Madness in the Eighteenth Century, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
[3] [7] [11] [12]
Castleden, Rodney, Infamous Murderers: Maniacs filled with hatred and rage via googlebooks [6]
Craddock, Joseph, 1826, Literary and Miscellaneous Memoirs [4]
Muller, Robert , Ph.D. In the Mind of a Stalker, 2013, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/talking-about-trauma/201306/in-the-mind-stalkerPsychology Today [9]
Ramsland, Katherine, ‘Stalkers:The Psychological Terrorist, http://www.crimelibrary.com/criminal_mind/psychology/stalkers/5.html [10]
Trial of James Hackman, http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?ref=t17790404-3 [1] [2] [13]
Tim Hitchcock, Robert Shoemaker, Clive Emsley, Sharon Howard and Jamie McLaughlin, et al., The Old Bailey Proceedings Online, 1674-1913 (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 7.1, 24 March 2014
Wikipedia,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha_Ray [5]
Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hackman

 

Victory regarding the Right of Witch Priests and Priestess in PA to legally marry couples, or as Charlton Heston said in “The 10 Commandments” – “Victory is Mine Sayeth The (Horned God) Lord”

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Lenora:

Here is a quick update on a post I recently reblogged from Coven of the Catta/Blau Stern Schwarz Schlonge ‘My fight as an ordained witch priest to legally perform marriages in Pennsylvania’. The fight for Ordained High Priests and High Priestesses to perform legally binding marriage ceremonies in Pennsylvania has been won! Well done to Shawnus and his Coven for taking on the fight and winning! Hopefully this local victory for the Coven will translate into wider tolerance and acceptance that not everyone follows a ‘religion of the book’ and that there are equally valid alternatives to the mainstream religions.

Originally posted on Coven of the Catta:

10Command56

Image from Wikicommons

To quote Charlton Heston from “The Ten Commandments” I have just added this Addendum and post to my original post Our Covens Fight as Witch Priests and Priestesses to legally Perform Marriages in PennsylvaniaHere is the hopefully Final Addendum and Comments at the final end of that post so read thru All of them, and i am just pasting what i just posted there -

“Addendum 6 March 2014 – To quote Charlton Heston from the 10 Commandments – “Victory is Mine Sayeth the (Horned) Lord” – The lawyer i went to to last week to do my Will (dont need a lawyer or notary or even witness in PA so free) and to combine my deeds on tracts of land to reduce my taxes, is also The Lawyer for this county. He told me last week, after explaining what Wicca is in my Will etc…

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The Legend of the Alnwick Castle Vampire

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Anlwick Castle, image adapted from Alnwick Castle webiste

Alnwick Castle, image adapted from Alnwick Castle website

Northumberland is a county famous for its medieval castles.  Not least amongst them is the thousand-year old Alnwick Castle. Seat of the legendary Percy family – the original Kings in the North – and now the home of Duke of Northumberland.  Although its modern fame lies more with Black Adder, Harry Potter and the famous Alnwick Gardens, it also has a more unexpected connection.   Alnwick Castle is purported to have spawned its own vampire.

William of Newburgh the Vampire Chronicler!

William of Newburgh – author of the first vampire diaries?

The strange tale of the hunchback vampire that stalked the grounds of the castle bringing terror and disease in its wake, was most famously recorded by a medieval chronicler named William de Newburgh.  Newburgh wrote his Historia rerum Anglicarum in the late twelfth century primarily as a work of ‘serious’ history. He was quite proud of his research, and not above a little professional bitchiness -particularly about the work of fellow medieval historian – Geoffrey of Monmouth, dreadful fellow(!).  Nevertheless, de Newburgh was adept at adding a bit of local colour and even a supernatural twist to spice up his narrative.

Introducing the subject of revenants and vampire-like creatures, he manages to sound both archly aloof to the whole idea, whilst simultaneously seeming to claim that the eye-witness evidence supported the veracity of such claims.

“It would not be easy to believe that the corpses of the dead should sally (I know not by what agency) from their graves, and should wander about to the terror or destruction of the living, and again return to the tomb, which of its own accord spontaneously opened to receive them, did not frequent examples, occurring in our own times, suffice to establish this fact, to the truth of which there is abundant testimony” [1]

Despite de Newburgh’s implication that he used apparently reliable testimony  there is little evidence of the Alnwick vampire other than local legends.

An early version of the tale says that the creature was the revenant of ‘the Lord of the Estate’ who lived underground and only came out to wreak mayhem and violence on the local peasantry.  His reign of terror was finally stopped when the locals, no doubt wielding pitchforks, dug him up and burned his festering corpse.

William de Newburgh elaborated on the tale and added a few more vampire-like attributes.

Varney the vampire

Varney the vampire

In de Newburgh’s version the vampire is demoted, and the lord of the estate becomes instead a mere retainer of the lord (perhaps de Newburgh did not want to annoy the powerful de Vescy family who owned Alnwick at that time);  the creature is seen prowling the estate Post Mortem looking for trouble.  The energetic corpse took to paying less than welcome house calls, bringing sickness and plague in his wake. The villagers barricaded themselves in to their homes once night fell.

Then on Palm Sunday, the priest, seized with a Van Helsing-like zeal, enrolled a pitchfork wielding mob (every village should have one) and successfully uncovered the lair of the unruly cadaver.  Upon striking the putrescent body with a spade, blood gushed out, seeming to prove that the rogue rotter had been feasting on the blood of the living.  Staked with a spade and burned at the margins of the village (cross roads maybe?), the curse was lifted, the plague ended and everyone lived happily ever after….(well except for the serfs, they probably still had a pretty rubbish time).

So was the creature really a vampire?

It is definitely not within the scope of this post to do a full on study of all things vampire as they relate to this legend.  When I first came across the tale I thought it sounded much more like a zombie-like creature than a vampire (but that is probably just my own bias) – I mean, where were the fangs?

Dracula’s Guest writing on http://www.vampyres.ca dissects the classic Eastern European Vampire and in his/her erudite article DG provides a useful definition from Dudley Wright who describes vampires as:

A vampire is a dead body which continues to live in the grave, which it leaves, however, by night, for the purpose of sucking blood of the living, whereby it is nourished and preserved in good condition, instead of becoming decomposed like other dead bodies. [2]

A lively medieval corpse

A lively medieval corpse

The Alnwick vampire was said to be a dead body, leaving its grave at night and bringing a sickness in its wake.  The corpse, when it was discovered, was found to be corpulent and brimming with blood.  So, under the terms of Wright’s definition, the Alnwick Vampire seems to fit the classic usually Eastern European profile for a vampire.  Afterall, people in the past were less likely to understand the post mortem changes that afflict a corpse and might view the natural decomposition process and its occasional mockery of corpulent, rosy cheeked health as something far more sinister and unholy.

Dracula’s guest goes on to suggest other reasons for the vampire legend which could also fit in this instance.  DG suggests that in rural communities when things go wrong – such as crops failing and outbreaks of disease – a community can regain some sense of control of the natural world by finding a scapegoat and then carrying out a proscribed set rituals to regain control.  Whereas a witch might be the first choice for blame, in the Alnwick Castle legend, it is a vampire.  And once the ritual is performed (led by a churchman) then the natural order is returned and just as the monster is vanquished, so is the sickness that plagued the community.

As to location, well, this particular vampire legend has become associated with Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, however William de Newburgh calls the castle Anantis, and there are other claimants to the vampire across the border in Scotland.

George Clarkson, writing in 1567, describes Alnwick Castle as:

“The castell of Alnewike ys a verye ancient large beutifull and portlie castle, scytewate on ye southe side of ye ryver of Alne upon a lytle mote.”

Although this demonstrates how spellings change over time, there seems to be quite a big divergence between Anantis, and Alnewike (which phonetically, at least, sounds like Anlwick).

So, vampire (or vampire-like creature), I would say, yes OK, to my mind this beast has fangs!  But as to the location, I would love there to be a Northumbrian Vampire legend from such an early period, but I’m just not so sure on the Alnwick connection.  If anyone has thing else on this legend and how it links to Alnwick or the castle,  I would love to hear about it.

In the meantime, here is the tale of the Alnwick/Anantis Vampire in the words of William de Newburgh himself.  Sit back, pour yourself a goblet of something ruby-red, and enjoy…

Of certain prodigies [3]

800px-Turner_Alnwick_Castle BW

Alnwick Castle by JM Turner c1829

[4] Another event, also, not unlike this, but more pernicious in its effects, happened at the castle which is called Anantis, as I have heard from an aged monk who lived in honor and authority in those parts, and who related this event as having occurred in his own presence. A certain man of evil conduct flying, through fear of his enemies or the law, out of the province of York, to the lord of the before-named castle, took up his abode there, and having cast upon a service befitting his humor, labored hard to increase rather than correct his own evil propensities. He married a wife, to his own ruin indeed, as it afterwards appeared; for, hearing certain rumors respecting her, he was vexed with the spirit of Jealousy. Anxious to ascertain the truth of these reports, he pretended to be going on a journey from which he would not return for some days; but coming back in the evening, he was privily introduced into his bedroom by a maid-servant, who was in the secret, and lay hidden on a beam overhanging, his wife’s chamber, that he might prove with his own eyes if anything were done to the dishonor of his marriage-bed. Thereupon beholding his wife in the act of fornication with a young man of the neighborhood, and in his indignation forgetful of his purpose, he fell, and was dashed heavily to the ground, near where they were lying.

[5] The adulterer himself leaped up and escaped; but the wife, cunningly dissembling the fact, busied herself in gently raising her fallen husband from the earth. As soon as he had partially recovered, he upbraided her with her adultery, and threatened punishment; but she answering, “Explain yourself, my lord,” said she; “you are speaking unbecomingly which must be imputed not to you, but to the sickness with which you are troubled.” Being much shaken by the fall, and his whole body stupefied, he was attacked with a disease, insomuch that the man whom I have mentioned as having related these facts to me visiting him in the pious discharge of his duties, admonished him to make confession of his sins, and receive the Christian Eucharist in proper form: but as he was occupied in thinking about what had happened to him, and what his wife had said, put off the wholesome advice until the morrow — that morrow which in this world he was fated never to behold! — for the next night, destitute of Christian grace, and a prey to his well-earned misfortunes, he shared the deep slumber of death. A Christian burial, indeed, he received, though unworthy of it; but it did not much benefit him: for issuing, by the handiwork of Satan, from his grave at night-time, and pursued by a pack of dogs with horrible barkings, he wandered through the courts and around the houses while all men made fast their doors, and did not dare to go abroad on any errand whatever from the beginning of the night until the sunrise, for fear of meeting and being beaten black and blue by this vagrant monster. But those precautions were of no avail ; for the atmosphere, poisoned by the vagaries of this foul carcass, filled every house with disease and death by its pestiferous breath.

vampire bw

Gargoyle by Lenora

[6] Already did the town, which but a short time ago was populous, appear almost deserted; while those of its inhabitants who had escaped destruction migrated to other parts of the country, lest they too should die. The man from whose mouth I heard these things, sorrowing over this desolation of his parish, applied himself to summon a meeting of wise and religious men on that sacred day which is called Palm Sunday, in order that they might impart healthful counsel in so great a dilemma, and refresh the spirits of the miserable remnant of the people with consolation, however imperfect. Having delivered a discourse to the inhabitants, after the solemn ceremonies of the holy day had been properly performed, he invited his clerical guests, together with the other persons of honor who were present, to his table. While they were thus banqueting, two young men (brothers), who had lost their father by this plague, mutually encouraging one another, said, “This monster has already destroyed our father, and will speedily destroy us also, unless we take steps to prevent it. Let us, therefore, do some bold action which will at once ensure our own safety and revenge our father’s death. There is no one to hinder us; for in the priest’s house a feast is in progress, and the whole town is as silent as if deserted. Let us dig up this baneful pest, and burn it with fire.”

Moraine_le_vampireLe Vampire,engraving by R. de  Moraine 1864

Le vampire by R de Moraine, 1864

[7] Thereupon snatching up a spade of but indifferent sharpness of edge, and hastening to the cemetery, they began to dig; and whilst they were thinking that they would have to dig to a greater depth, they suddenly, before much of the earth had been removed, laid bare the corpse, swollen to an enormous corpulence, with its countenance beyond measure turgid and suffused with blood; while the napkin in which it had been wrapped appeared nearly torn to pieces. The young men, however, spurred on by wrath, feared not, and inflicted a wound upon the senseless carcass, out of which incontinently flowed such a stream of blood, that it might have been taken for a leech filled with the blood of many persons. Then, dragging it beyond the village, they speedily constructed a funeral pile; and upon one of them saying that the pestilential body would not burn unless its heart were torn out, the other laid open its side by repeated blows of the blunted spade, and, thrusting in his hand, dragged out the accursed heart. This being torn piecemeal, and the body now consigned to the flames, it was announced to the guests what was going on, who, running thither, enabled themselves to testify henceforth to the circumstances. When that infernal hell-hound had thus been destroyed, the pestilence which was rife among the people ceased, as if the air, which had been corrupted by the contagious motions of the dreadful corpse, were already purified by the fire which had consumed it. These facts having been thus expounded, let us return to the regular thread of history.

Overgrown tomb by Lenora

Overgrown tomb by Lenora

Notes and Sources

1. William De Newburgh, Historia rerum Anglicarum, Book 5 http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/williamofnewburgh-five.asp

2. Dracula’s Guest, The Dead May Bring us Death, http://www.vampyres.ca/20070524/vampyre-his-kith-and-kin/dead-may-bring-us-death-vampires-eastern-europe

3. William De Newburgh, Historia rerum Anglicarum, Book 5 Ch 25 http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/williamofnewburgh-five.asp

http://www.alnwickcastle.com/

http://paranormalfact.wikia.com/wiki/The_Vampire_of_Alnwick_Castle

http://rediscoverbritain.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/alnwick-castle-and-creature-from-tomb.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_of_Newburgh

The London Necropolis Company: A One Way Ticket to Ride

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Entrance to the London Necropolis Company's cemetery station c1890.  Source unknown.

Entrance to the London Necropolis Company’s cemetery station c1890. Source unknown.

Readers of this blog might have guessed that I have a bit of a fancy for graveyards and the macabre…surely not I, hear you say!  In my opinion, the Victorian’s definitely had the edge when it came to eccentric and OTT funerary practices.  The London Necropolis Company with its railway service was a prime example of how the Victorian’s used a modern technology to revolutionise funerals for rich and poor alike.

A surplus of bodies

Skull and crossbones

Image by Lenora

London in the nineteenth century was a burgeoning industrial and commercial centre, attracting in-comers from all over the country and the empire.  Between 1801 – 1851 the population pretty much doubled.  With this increase in the living, there came also in increase in the dying and soon London’s limited burial grounds were packed to overflowing.  Reuse of burial plots resulted in bones and body parts being strewn about the cemeteries polluting the ground water and exacerbating the problem by increasing the risk of outbreaks of Typhoid, Measles, Smallpox and Cholera.  When 15,000 Londoners were carried off by Cholera in 1848/49 it was evident that something urgently needed to be done.

A man with a plan

Into this festering scene stepped Sir Richard Broun, an entrepreneur with an eye for new technology and a fast profit.  Sir Richard and his partner Richard Sprye had the innovative idea of out-of-town burials – a kind of suburbia for the dead.  They hit upon the innovative idea of using the new-fangled and somewhat controversial steam-train as the method for shipping the dead out of London to Woking in Surrey.

necropolis

Image Source, The Brookwood Necropolis Railway, John Clarke

They had done their sums and projected that up to 50,000 people a year would use the service, rich and poor alike; profits, like the dead, were sure to pile up.  Their plan would help reduce the burial problem in London, hopefully reduce the risk of further outbreaks of Cholera, and help make funerals more affordable by basing them outside London.

There was some panic and frothing at the mouth amongst the steam-train phobic, who feared these noisy dirty mechanical thing-u-mabobs were hardly appropriate for the solemn dignity of a funeral service. Plus some objections from the privileged classes who feared their dearly departed might have to rub mouldering shoulders with the deceased hoi polloi; this was illustrated by Paul Slade in his article for the Fortean Times, where he quotes the Bishop of London, Charles Blomfield, in 1842,  harumphing that, “It may sometimes happen that persons of opposite characters might be carried in the same conveyance,” [..] “For instance, the body of some profligate spendthrift might be placed in a conveyance with the body of some respectable member of the church, which would shock the feelings of his friends.”  Quelle Horreur!

Nevertheless, despite the imminent fear of social anarchy propounded by the likes of the Bishop, Parliament gave the go-ahead and in 1852 The London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company was born.  Not a name to trip off the tongue it was swiftly changed to the more succinct London Necropolis Company.  The First Necropolis Train was puffing its way to Brookwood Cemetery by November 1854.

Article from the Times, 1854, image via John Clarke.

Article from the Times, 1854, image via John Clarke.

Brookwood Cemetery – London’s Necropolis

London Metropolis Station Westminster Road. Image by David M Pye, Wikimedia

London Necropolis Station Westminster Bridge Road. Image by David M Pye, Wikimedia

Broun and Sprye had bought huge tracts of Woking Common and created Brookwood Cemetery, at 500 acres it was the biggest cemetery in the country.  Brookwood cemetery was integral to the London Necropolis Railway.  The railway utilised the existing Waterloo to Southampton Railway Line, owned by the London and South Western Railway Company, and added a private branch line that went right into Brookwood Cemetery.

Londoners, both alive and dead, could alight the train at its own discreet private platform at Waterloo Station.  Initially at York Street, with easy access to the Thames transport links, it was later moved to Westminster Bridge Road.  The Station had to be moved to make way for the expansion of Waterloo Station, but it also allowed for a revamp of the Necropolis station to suit more modern tastes and to update its facilities such as mortuaries and to add a chapel of rest.

A Ticket to Ride

The Bishop of London need not have feared for his delicate sensibilities, the classes were tastefully kept apart and the distinction of rank preserved with both living and dead divided by religion and by class:  Conformist (Anglican) and Non-conformist (everyone else); and first, second and third class.

A first class one way coffin ticket, priced at a princely £2.10 shillings, allowed the purchaser access to choose their own plot of land with a permanent marker.

A second class ticket cost £1 and allowed some choice of plot, and for an extra 10 shillings, the family could erect a permanent marker.  The slight downside was that the London Necropolis Company could decide to reuse the plot.

A Coffin Ticket - one way (obviously!).  Image via John Clarke

A Coffin Ticket – one way (obviously!). Image via John Clarke

A third class ticket cost only a couple of shillings and was often used by paupers and those being buried ‘on the parish’, they had no choice of plot, and no marker, but they did get an individual plot which was more than they could expect elsewhere.  The LNC usually threw in a couple of free tickets for mourners as well (return of course – unlike the coffin).

In the station itself, First and Second Class patrons were also treated with distinction.  They were given a grand entrance hall and staircase, elevators, and avenues lined with bay and palm trees.  They also had the use of 5 private waiting rooms and were permitted to view the coffins being loaded onto the hearse car of the train.

Mourners at the station

Mourners at the station, image taken from http://www.avictorian.com

The poor had to make do with a shared waiting room and they were not permitted to watch their loved ones being put on the train.  Funeral cars were themselves divided by class, the more elaborate and decorated the more expensive the ticket.

Once at Brookwood Cemetery there were two stops, one for conformists on the sunny side of the cemetery and one on the north side for non conformists.

One of the interesting things is that the service had refreshment rooms that served spirits (but of course!)  The living also seemed to have enjoyed this perk, often taking fortified refreshments while waiting for the return train. There are reports of some quite riotous behaviour on the return journey (I wonder which class was the worst?)  The occasional driver got a bit to merry to operate the train, until the company introduced a free lunch and pint of beer as part of the drivers benefits in an attempt to keep them from the local pubs.

Death of the Necropolis Railway

Clarke indicates that the train service, right from the outset was never quite as popular or profitable as Broun and Sprye hoped.  He notes that between 1854-1874 it fell far short of the estimate of 50,000 funerals per year, only managing about 3200, which Clarke calculates to be about 6.5% of the annual deaths in London.  The London Necropolis Company had competitors in the form of other mortuary trains, and new cemeteries (such as Highgate Cemetery) that were built around the same time to alleviate the burial problem.

Another unforseen problem was that by the early 1900’s 1st class return tickets on the Necropolis Train were significantly cheaper than on the regular train – 6 shillings as opposed to 8.  This was because Necropolis ticket prices had been set by parliament in 1854 an not amended. Clarke and Slade note that this led to many canny London Golfers dressing as mourners to get a cheap day out to their club near Brookwood.

Eventually the timetable was reviewed, Sunday trains were cut, then it reduced from daily to twice weekly.  The decline was initially slow, but the final end of the London Necropolis Railway was dramatic and devastating.  On 16 April 1941 in the worst night of the Blitz it was destroyed.

The end of the line for the London Necropolis Railway

The end of the line for the London Necropolis Railway, source unknown

Reinforcing class divisions or democratizing death?

The London Necropolis Company was created to alleviate a very real social problem of burial space in a metropolis that barely had room for its living inhabitants.  It used a revolutionary new technology – steam power – in an attempt to create a mass market funeral industry that aimed to monopolise the profits on death by capturing a huge inner city market.

It did not achieve its aims, other cemeteries built in London depleted its market share so it was never as profitable as intended.  It probably did help to reduce health hazards in London, but so did the other new cemeteries.

What it did seem to do though, was offer the poor the opportunity to have a decent burial.  They may not have been given all of the perks and privileges of the first and second class patrons:  no private waiting rooms or coffin viewings and no permanent grave markers for the them; but they did get an affordable funeral and an individual plot rather than a communal pit.  Plus, for the living, two return tickets for mourners were part of the package, as well as the added bonus that funerals could be held on a Sunday (until Sunday service were discontinued in 1900) so poor mourners did not have to lose a days wages if they wanted to attend a funeral.

As an example of Victorian entrepreneurship, innovative use of  modern industrial technology, and with a dash of philanthropy, and a whole heap of snobbery, the London Necropolis Company and its Commuter coffin service stands out as a proud example of eccentric and morbidly practical Victorian ingenuity.

Necropolis Train, Image from John Clarke via Fortean Times

Necropolis Train, Image from John Clarke via Fortean Times

A Note on Notes & Sources

I first came across the London Necropolis Railway in Robert Wilkins wonderful ‘The Fireside Book of Death’, however as my beloved Wilkins tome is tucked away in a packing crate at the moment, I took myself to the internet and came across a plethora of articles on the London Necropolis Company – most of which used as their main source, works by the acknowledged expert on Brookwood Cemetery and the London Necropolis, John Clarke, author of ‘The Brookwood Necropolis Railway’ and ‘London’s Necropolis – a guide to Brookwood Cemetery’.

I also found the Fortean Times article by Paul Slade (who cites Clarke in his article) of great use in putting together this post.

As it seems that a great deal of the articles about this topic appear to rely on John Clarke’s research, I have not cited any sources directly in the post other than Clarke.  However I have provided a list of the websites I visited.

 

Articles on the London Necropolis Railway

http://www.avictorian.com/death_mourning.html

http://cabinetmagazine.org/issues/20/clarke.php

http://channelvoyager.com/forgotten-the-london-necropolis-railway/

http://www.forteantimes.com/features/articles/171/londons_necropolis_train.html

http://www.john-clarke.co.uk/brookwoodnecropolis.html

http://www.tbcs.org.uk/railway.htm

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