Tag Archives: John Clare

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, Helpston, nr Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

Clare Cottage Tablet, Helpston,

Tablet on The Wall of Clare Cottage

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 Bell Inn, Helpston, nr Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

“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, Helpston, nr Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

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, Helpston, nr Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

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, England

John Clare’s Grave, St Botolph’s Church, Helpston, nr Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

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

Campton In Search of Robert Bloomfield

It has always been my intention to pay my respects and visit the last resting place of Robert Bloomfield in Campton Bedfordshire having visited the place of his birth and youth, Honington and Sapiston in Suffolk back in the summer of 2013.

We almost made it a reality some months ago when passing through Shefford, Robert’s last place of residence, but my geography let me down and I was too lazy to re-program the Satellite Navigation.

This time I was determined not to make the same mistake as dear old John Clare regretting forever a missed opportunity, not that I had anything like his excuse.

Therefore we set off one bright Sunday morning in April 2014,with a meticulously planned route down to the last hundred yards we soon found ourselves outside All Saints Church in Campton as the last of the congregation were tumbling out of the Palm Sunday Service.

All Saints Church and graveyard Campton was the burial ground for the village of Shefford until the present century as Shefford only had a chapel at ease. Today Campton and Shefford are divided today by the busy A507 road .

RobertBloomfied_Campton-04

All Saints Church, Campton, Bedfordshire.

RobertBloomfied_Campton-05

Memorial Plate to Robert Bloomfield in All Saints Church

RobertBloomfied_Campton-01

Robert Bloomfield last resting place sitting to the north west of the church.

20140413_Bedfordshire-02-535

Robert is buried next to Thomas Inskip of Shefford

who was friends of both Robert Bloomfield and John Clare.

John Clare on Robert Bloomfield:

“He is the most original poet of the age and the greatest Pastoral Poet England ever gave birth to” John Clare.

RobertBloomfied_Campton-06

One of The Stained Glass Windows in this historic church it is to the memory of one of the Osborn family who’s memorials adorn the church.


Web Links:

Thomas Inskip and the Pastoral Poets


Maxey Mill Cambridgeshire

John Clare the Northampton Peasant Poet would walk the two miles from Helpston to Maxey at least once a week while he was working for Francis Gergory a bachelor who lived with his Mother, they were the Clare’s next door neighbour running the Blue Bell public house in Helpston.

John writes in, Sketches in The Life of John Clare, “that he would go once every week to Maxey a village 2 miles distant for a bag of flour as it was sold cheaper than at home and as his mistress was an economist she never lost sight of a cheap pennyworths”.

He also maintains in his Autobiographical Fragments that one of his worsts labours was the journey in winter afternoons to fetch flour as he had to pass places on his return when it was often getting dark, where it was said to be haunted by ghosts and hobgoblins.

Cambs


 

Marholm Cambridgeshire

St Marys The Virgin Church Marholm is set on the outskirts of the village on the road to Milton Hall and Castor. It is the last resting place of the Fitzwilliam Family.

St Marys The Virgin Church Marholm

St Marys The Virgin Church Marholm

To reach Marholm Church you first have to pass The Fitzwilliam Arms with its welcoming presence, taking the road which leads to Milton Hall the home of the Earls Fitzwilliam.

The Fitzwilliam Arms
Village Sign and 
Just outside the village boundary you will find an entrance into a field where St. Mary’s The Virgin Church sits in all its isolation.

The church is the last resting place of The Fitzwilliam family, the 5th Earl Charles William Wentworth (1868-1857) who was a patron of JOHN CLARE, who’s mother and father were married in this church .

John Clare‛s mother Ann Stimson was Parker Clare’s senior by eight years, Ann was aged 35 when she married Parker, her parents where John (Town Shepherd) and Elizabeth who were from nearby Castor.

Fitzwilliam Resting Place

The headstone with the crest under the tree belongs to William Thomas George Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, the 10th Earl Fitzwilliam (1904—1979) he was last to hold the title.


Tickencote Rutland

Just off the busy Great North Road the turning into Tickencote can easily be missed but to say that it is well worth the effort of decreasing the speed and bearing left is under estimating the impression the church of St Peter’s makes on the edge of this little village on the edge of Rutland.

John Clare would walk from Great Castlerton along the river to Tickencore while working as a Lime Burner in the area, he believed he had written some of his best early poetry here and spent a few of his Sundays frequenting The Flower Pot Inn in the village.

Martha (Patty) Turner the future Mrs Clare was born on the 3rd March 1799 in Tickencote, he meet her while on his way to The Flower Pot Inn. The Flower Pot Inn today is a private house and the only evidence of it previous existence is the name on the fence of The Flower Pot Cottage.



 

In Memory of Violet May, Order and Method and a Lesser Known Poet.

I have a compulsion to rearrange our books, I would not go as far as to say it was a disorder but it is a desire to bring some sort of order to what has all the appearance of chaos.

The dilemma I have is do I catalogue them in alphabetical order, by author or should Dorothy L Sayers creation Lord Peter Wimsey sit dust jacket to dust jacket next to Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

Now there is a thought I could follow the great Belgian detective’s principles and arrange them in order of size.

If this all seems rather indecisive I am not completely without resolve in that I have separated the poets, not on the top shelve as some would wish, on the understanding that poetry is one of the highest forms of art but on a dedicated shelve next to the fire-place, ideal for the likes of Dante’s Inferno.

There are always some surprises in familiar stanzas by Wordsworth, Keats or Clare and even more in less familiar  as Auden, Spender or Smith.

As I placed each with the care owing on its rightful shelve position I came across a newspaper cutting from the early nineteen eighties nestled between Dryden and Eliot. It was written in nineteen seventy nine in memory of a lovely lady who was called to meet her maker in May of that year and was written by the author of these ramblings.

MAY TWENTY FITHH
I looked at you today,
And cursed the evil pen
That wrltes with twisted hand
The lines of pain upon your face.
Sleep on, druggrd sleep.
I know you think of those
Even through your pain,
That never had the time to share
From their seasonal warmth.
Sleep on.
But merciful is the Lord,
The flame you carried high,
Was from His lamp.
Sleep on today,
Tomorrow we will meet,
Sleep on today.
MAY THIRTIETH

J. P. Miller