Monthly Archives: October 2016

Helpston

Once Upon A Time In Northamptonshire

Looking for Robert Burns, Scotland’s national bard or more to the point the spirt of Robert Burns, you would have thought that searching the byways of Dumfries, Alloway or Mossgiel would be more appropriate than the English village of Helpston in Cambridgeshire once upon a time Northamptonshire, but “though this be madness, yet there is method in’t“.

The poet John Clare was born in Helpston on the 13 July 1793, some of the critics of the time complained that his work often imitated that of Rabbie and was often labelled the English Burns, but as he declares himself,

now the fact is that when my first poems was written I knew nothing of Burns not even by name for the fens are not a literary part of england

Like Burns he used to collect songs and in later life one of his many alter egos was that of Burns, perhaps it could also be argued that he had some Scottish blood running through his veins as his father’s father was an itinerant Scottish fiddler.

Clare Cottage Helpston,Clare Cottage

Clare Cottage Tablet, Helpston,

John Clare’s Birthplace in Helpstone his home for forty years.

He described it in the following way

“Our cottage was as roomy & comfortable as any of our neighbours & we had it for forty shillings while an old apple tree in the garden generally made the rent, the garden was large for a poor man & my father managed to dig it night & morning before the hours of labour.

Or described by one of his biographers

“their little cottage was among the narrowest and most wretched of the hundred mud hovels.”

MY EARLY HOME
Here sparrows build upon the trees,
And stockdove hides her nest;
The leaves are winnowed by the breeze
Into a calmer rest;
The black-cap’s song was very sweet,
That used the rose to kiss;
It made the Paradise complete:
My early home was this.
The red-breast from the sweetbriar bush
Drop’t down to pick the worm;
On the horse-chestnut sang the thrush,
O’er the house where I was born;
The moonlight, like a shower of pearls,
Fell o’er this “bower of bliss,”
And on the bench sat boys and girls:
My early home was this.
The old house stooped just like a cave,
Thatched o’er with mosses green;
Winter around the walls would rave,
But all was calm within;
The trees are here all green agen,
Here bees the flowers still kiss,
But flowers and trees seemed sweeter then:
My early home was this.

Bell Inn, Helpston,

The Bluebell Inn

“Francis Gregory our neighbour at the Blue Bell wanted a servant & hired me for a year I was glad & readily agreed it was a good place and they treated me more like a son than a servant”

The Exeter Arms, Helpston

Exeter Arms Inn

John Clare refers to the Exeter Arms in The Will O Whisp or Jack A Lanthorn

“I heard of the old alewife at the Exeter Arms behind the church often say that she has seen from her chamber window as many as fifteen together (vapours or what ever philosophy may call them) dancing in and out of company as if dancing reels and dances on eastwell moor”

Four days after his death John was brought home to Helpston, he was taken to the Exeter Arms where he remained overnight and was laid to rest the following day on the south side of St Botolph’s Church.

St Botolph Church, Helpston,St Botolph’s Church, Helpstone

I started for Wisbeach with a timid sort of pleasure & when I got to Glinton turnpike I turnd back to look on the old church as if I was going into another country. Wisbeach was a foreign land to me for I had never been above eight miles from home in my life

John Clare's Last Resting Place, Helpston, Cambridgeshire, EnglandJohn Clare’s Grave

A WISH
BE where I may when Death brings in his bill,
Demanding payment for life’s ling’ring debt,
Or in my native village nestling still,
Or tracing scenes I’ve never known as yet,
O let one wish, go where I will, be mine, —
To turn me back and wander home to die,
‘Mong nearest friends my latest breath resign,
And in the church-yard with my kindred lie,
‘Neath the thick-shaded sycamore’s decay,
Its broad leaves trembling to the breeze of day:
To see its shadow o’er my ashes wave,
How soothing will it be, while, hovering near,
My unseen spirit haunts its daisied grave,
Pausing on scenes in life once lov’d so dear.

John Clare Memorial, Helpston,


Web Links:

Clare Cottage

John Clare Society

Somersby, Bag Enderby and Beyond

Early Years of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lincolnshire Wolds

As far as I can recall from this distance in time, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott were the backbone of my early poetical education, Lord Alfred Tennyson played a very minor role in the form of The Charge of The Light Brigade but Scots Wha Hae, To A Moose, Tam O ‘Shanter and Lochinvar where written into the psyche by those who wrote the educational syllabus.

It was only later that the appreciation for Mariana, In Memoriam, Maud and The Lady of Shalott to mention just a few was developed.

There have been countless words written on Tennyson’s early years, his relationship with his father and The Lincolnshire Wolds he grew up in.

I have no desire to add to the tally, only to say if the opportunity presents itself it is well worth a visit to Somersby, Bag Enderby and beyond, I am sure you will find The Lincolnshire Wolds a delight.

I hope you enjoy the photographs below which may inspire you to visit.

St Margaret's Church, Somersby

St Margaret’s Church, Somersby, Lincolnshire.
George Clayton Tennyson, Alfred’s Father was rector of the parish,
from 1802 until his death in 1831
He lies at rest in the churchyard.

The Grave of Alfred's Father the Rev George Clayton Tennyson

The Grave of Alfred’s Father the Rev George Clayton Tennyson,
The eldest son who went into the Church and the second son who inherited the title.
St Margaret’s Church, Somersby, Lincolnshire.
Born in 1781. Died on 18 March 1831 at the age of 52

The Old Rectory, Somerby

The Birth Place of A Poet Laureate
Somerby Rectory, The Lincolnshire Wold

The Grange, Somersby,

 The House Next Door.
The Grange, Somersby, Lincolnshire.
Build for the Burton Family,
Sits next door to Somerby Rectory and opposite the Church St Margaret’s

St Margarets, Bag Enderby

St Margaret’s Church, Bag Enderby, Lincolnshire.
Lies a 15 minute walk to the east of Somersby
Alfred’s Father was also rector here from 1806 until his death in 1831

Harrington Hall

Harrington Hall, a 50 minute walk to the south east of Somersby.
It appears in Tennyson’s poems over the years along with its rose garden,
the Church of St Marys next door with its cross legged knight
and Rosa Baring a resident of Harrington Hall

“Yonder in that chapel, slowly sinking now into the ground,
Lies the warrior, my forefather, with his feet upon the hound.”

From Locksley Hall Sixty Years After by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

St Marys Church, Harrington

St Mary’s Church, Harrington, Lincolnshire

“She came to the village church,
And sat by a pillar alone;
An angel watching an urn
Wept over her, carved in stone;
And once, but once, she lifted her eyes,
And suddenly, sweetly, strangely blush’d
To find they were met by my own;
And suddenly, sweetly, my heart beat stronger
And thicker, until I heard no longer
The snowy-banded, dilettante,
Delicate-handed priest intone;
And thought, is it pride, and mused and sigh’d
‘No surely, now it cannot be pride.’”

From Maud by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Gunby Hall

Gunby Hall is a 4 hours 30 minute walk south east of Somerby
on the way to the seaside town of Skegness, it is today under the care
of The Nation Trust. In Tennyson’s day the owners were still the Massingberd Family,
Tennyson described it as “A haunt of ancient Peace”


Web Links:

Tennyson’s Birthplace 

Gunby Hall