Friday, 16 August 2013

Lucy Hutchinson's Life of Colonel John Hutchinson.

By Joshua Baker-Cox and Henry Partridge

Photo reproduced by the permission of the Dean and
 Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)
Lucy Hutchinson and her eldest son.
Hidden away in the forgotten depths of Worcester Cathedral’s library lies a fascinating glimpse of life during the turbulence of the English Civil War. Lucy Hutchinson (1620-81), was an unusual woman during this violent period because she was a biographer and writer. A printed copy of the biography of her husband, Colonel John Hutchinson’s life, whom she married on the 3rd of July 1638 is in the library. Kept secretly hidden from prying eyes for over one hundred and fifty years before being published, this valuable tome brings to vivid life the drudgery, pain and violence of this most difficult period in English history, when society learned that kings were not wholly indispensable. Through his wife's insight, you learn why Hutchinson signed the death warrant of King Charles I. The account of this incident shows the mentality and reasoning behind this monumental decision on Hutchinson’s part. He prayed to God for guidance and to open his eyes if he had made any error. He only signed the warrant after careful thought:

'……….and finding no check, but a confirmation in his conscience that it was his duty to act as he did.’

Despite occasions such as this, wherein the Colonel made potentially the most momentous decision of his life, there is also ample evidence of a natural and more mundane existence amidst the chaos of the Civil War. This can be seen when he was made Governor of Nottingham, wherein ‘sawcy’ people and disruptive elements caused difficulties in his attempt to serve the Parliamentarian cause:

'They were not so much open, profess’d enemies, as close, hipocriticall, false-hearted people.’

Photograph reproduced bt the permission of the Dean and Chapter of
Worcester Cathedral (UK)
Colonel John Hutchinson and his eldest son
This simple quote shows passionate sentiment and gives the reader an insight into the difficulties of a governor in the Parliamentarian north during this period. Obviously, however, there are clear accounts within this book of the violence and death which were a hallmark of the Civil War, tearing the country apart for love of the king.

The biography also talks about his military exploits and happenings. There is enough evidence to show us that Hutchinson was thoroughly involved in military matters.
During the siege of Newark, whilst he was Governor of Nottingham, it is reported that he had two particularly close calls: the first of which was when he, Colonel Poyntz, and another captain were riding to have a look at the town. Whilst doing this, a cannon ball shot past them when they were riding abreast, and the wave of pressure was so great, that without it touching the captain, he was killed. Secondly, when Hutchinson had just left his tent, another cannon ball ripped through the tent, destroying it and killing the sentry at the door.

The final part of the biography is about his death, and it gives remarkable accounts of how it affected those around him. As it was, eleven months after he was arrested on charges of treason on the 11th October 1663, he expired in the Tower of London on the 11th September 1664, from a fever which had 'seiz'd his head.' The best examples of how his death affected others are these two quotes:

'The two doctors, though mere strangers to him, were so mov'd, that they both wept as if it had bene their brother.'
And finally, a Dr. Jachin of Canterbury said 'he never in his whole life saw anyone receive death with more Christian courage, and constancy of mind, and steadfastnesse of faith.'

Colonel John Hutchinson is buried in the family vault at Owthorpe, in Nottinghamshire.   

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Bell foundry and bell thievery in Worcester

Notable bell founders.

The oldest bell displayed in the cloister is dedicated to St Wulfstan and was cast by William Burford, a London bell-founder.  William Burford worked between 1371 and 1392, and only twenty two of his bells are known to exist. The inscription on the bell in Worcester Cathedral, "IN HONORE SCI WOLSTANI EPI", when translated reads, "In honour of St. Wulfstan, Bishop”. This dedication of a bell to St. Wulfstan is unique to Worcester Cathedral

Next to this bell is the oldest dated bell cast in the county of Worcestershire, which was cast at Worcester in 1480. Although it is not known for sure who cast this bell, the city of Worcester has had a long tradition of bell-founding from medieval times through to the mid-1690s.  

One of the most prominent bell-founders in the Cathedral Library records is a Richard le Belyeter, who on four occasions occupied the office of Bailiff. Le Belyeter occurs as a witness on many documents, from 1300 to 1322.  He held land in Sidbury in his own right. In 1976, when an archaeological dig took place of three medieval craftsmen's tenements in Sidbury, bell-founding waste was found in the medieval layers.  For those familiar with Worcester, look for the florists shop in Sidbury. This is the site that may have been Le Belyeter’s house and work-yard.

A lease of lands from Richard le Belyeter to Richard le Mercer, complete with a bell-founder's seal. Photograph reproduced by permission of the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.) 

 A particularly rare document pertaining to bells in Worcester Cathedral Library is one in which Le Belyeter is leasing lands in Timberdine to Richard le Mercer. The document has affixed to it an exquisite specimen of his seal, a wide-mouthed bell, with the legend "Sigillum Ricardi le Belyeter".  This seal is one of only a handful of bell-founder seals surviving in the country.

Bell thievery in Worcester

Can you imagine churches without their bells? Here at Worcester Cathedral, on the east side of the cloister, are displayed some of the medieval bells of the cathedral which were decommissioned in the second half of the 1800s as part of the major Victorian restoration of the cathedral.

The "New Bells for Worcester Cathedral" manufactured by John Taylor and Co. as part of the Victorian programme of restoration. Photograph reproduced by the permission of the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Initially, there had been no plans for the replacing of these bells, but in May of 1863, when work on the great Victorian restoration of the cathedral was in progress, it was discovered that one of the bells had been stolen. Curiously, it seems that at the time of the theft no-one noticed a giant bell being stolen! No trace of the bell was ever found. It was the theft of this bell which led to the replacement of the remaining medieval bells by a new ring of twelve bells.

The Victorian theft was not the first time that a bell was stolen from the Cathedral. Legend has it that during an invasion of the city by the Danes one of the raiders attempted to steal the Sanctus bell but the townspeople caught him. He was punished by being flayed alive and his skin pinned to the Cathedral door. The less squeamish of you can view what is reputed to be a piece of this skin, displayed in a cabinet in the Cathedral Library, it is next to King John's thumb bone.
Bells in Worcester Cathedral today

The Cathedral’s tower now contains a ring of 15 bells, with a total weight of 16 tonnes, the fifth heaviest ring in the world and also generally acknowledged to be one of the finest rings in the country. These bells were cast in 1928 by John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough, from the metal of the previous bells cast for the Victorian restoration.  The non-swinging bourdon bell, which on its own weighs nearly a tonne, was cast in 1868, and is used by the clock to strike the hours.

by Vanda Bartoszuk