Category Archives: Time period

Manchester Rambler by Ewan MacColl

Ewan MacColl was on the first Kinder Scout trespass and wrote this amazingly catchy tune inspired by the experience.

From http://www.kindertrespass.com/

In April 1932 over 400 people participated in a mass trespass onto Kinder Scout, a bleak moorland plateau, the highest terrain in the Peak District.

The event was organised by the Manchester branch of the British Workers Sports Federation. They chose to notify the local press in advance, and as a result, Derbyshire Constabulary turned out in force. A smaller group of ramblers from Sheffield set off from Edale and met up with the main party on the Kinder edge path.

Five men from Manchester, including the leader, Benny Rothman, were subsequently jailed.

75 years later the trespass was described as: “the most successful direct action in British history” by Lord Roy Hattersley.

April 2012 saw the 80th Anniversary of the mass trespass of Kinder Scout celebrated by a week of walks, talks, and exhibitions, with a launch ceremony featuring Mike Harding, Stuart Maconie, and the leaders of major agencies involved in access to countryside. A new book was published, and commemorative posters are on sale.

The trespass is widely credited with leading to:

  • legislation in 1949 to establish the National Parks.
  • contributing to the development of the Pennine Way and many other long distance footpath.
  • securing walkers’ rights over open country and common land in the C.R.O.W. Act of 2000.

The trespass was controversial at the time, being seen as a working class struggle for the right to roam versus the rights of the wealthy to have exclusive use of moorlands for grouse shooting.

George Ewart Evans and Suffolk farming tales

This is a great hour of radio – Ask the Fellows That Cut the Hay – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00rv8yk

fellows-hay

In this BBC Archive On Four, historian Alan Dein celebrates the centenary of his mentor George Ewart Evans, collector of Suffolk farming tales. Evans began by chatting to his neighbours over the fireside in the 1950’s and transcribing stories about poaching, shepherding, smuggling and ditching.

The talk was of a hardscrabble life, of leaky roofs and meals of pea soup and pollard dumplings and beef only at Christmas with occasional festivities like the Whitsun fair.

Evans came from a Welsh mining village and he sympathised with the labourers’ stories about the tyranny of the trinity of the parson, squire and farmer. He was a sympathetic listener who asked allowed his community to speak for itself and he captured the stories of people whose traditions had been unbroken for generations, who worked on the land before mechanisation and who believed in magic and folk wisdom and had intuitive understanding of working with animals.

Evans’ eleven books about the working lives and folk stories of Blaxhall are a portrait of every facet of his village and paved the way for books and programmes, both fiction and not fiction, about British agricultural life.

Melvyn Bragg on John Ball and the Peasants’ Revolt

braggThis is a brilliant hour long documentary by Melvyn Bragg on John Ball and the Peasants’ Revolt – connecting it with the English Civil War, the Diggers, the Levellers, and Blake’s words which became the song ‘Jerusalem’.

If this is not left online anywhere I have a personal audio copy which I would be happy to share with you.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04d8khr/melvyn-braggs-radical-lives-1-now-is-the-time-john-ball

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/voices/voices_reading_revolt.shtml

Song On The Times

A song from 1840s

You can see an original copy of it here – http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/static/images/sheets/20000/18540.gif

You working men of England, one moment now attend
While I unfold the treatment of the poor upon this land
For nowadays the factory lords have brought the labor low
And daily are contriving plans to prove our overthrow

So arouse you sons of freedom, the world seems upside down
They scorn the poor man as a thief in country and in town

There’s different parts in Ireland, it’s true what I do state
There’s hundreds that are starving for they can’t get food to eat
And if they go unto the rich to ask them for relief
They bang their door all in their face as if they were a thief

So arouse you sons of freedom the world seems upside down
They scorn the poor man as a thief in country and in town

Alas how altered are the times, rich men despise the poor
And pay them off without remorse quite scornful at their door
And if a man is out of work, his Parish pay is small
Enough to starve himself and wife, his children and all

So arouse you sons of freedom the world seems upside down
They scorn the poor man as a thief in country and in town

So to conclude and finish these few verses I have made
I hope to see before it’s long men for their labor paid
Then we’ll rejoice with heart and voice and banish all our woes
Before we do old England must pay us what she owes

So arouse you sons of freedom the world seems upside down
They scorn the poor man as a thief in country and in town

Owning The Earth by Andro Linklater

owning the earthOwning The Earth
By Andro Linklater

I’m only a little way into this book but am already enjoying it thoroughly. Highly readable and informative.

It brings a global perspective to the story and compares what happened in England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland with other European countries and those further afield.

I will update when I’ve finished it.

Three Acres And A Cow – unattributed broadside from late 1800’s

Three Acres And A Cow – unattributed broadside from late 1800’s

IMG_1101

**Please note I have changed some of the lyrics and a bit of the melody – this is fine and you are welcome to change them too – that is how music works #notsacred**

You’ve heard a lot of talk about three acres and a cow
And if they mean to give us why don’t they give it now?
For if I do not get it I may go out of my mind
There’s nothing but the land and cow will keep me satisfied

Don’t you wish you had it now, three acres and a cow!
Oh you can make good cheese and butter when you get the cow.

There’s a certain class in England that is holding fortune great
Yet they give a man a starving wage to work on their estate
The land’s been stolen from the poor and those that hold it now
They do not want to give a man three acres and a cow

D’y’ think they’ll ever want to give three acres and a cow
When they can get a man to take low wage to drive the plough
To live a man he has to work from daylight until dark
So the lord can have both bulls and cattle grazing in his park

But now there is a pretty go in all the country though
The workers they all want to know what the government will do
And what we have been looking for, I wish they’d give us now
We’re sure to live if they only give three acres and a cow

If all the land in England was divided up quite fair
There would be some for everyone to earn an honest share
Well some have thousand acre farms which they have got somehow
But I’ll be satisfied to get three acres and a cow

Lyrics in the public domain
Scan taken from ‘The Painful Plough
‘ by Roy Palmer and reprinted with permission.

The Fowlers’ Complaint (The Powtes Complaint) 1611 – The Fens – Trad

The Fowlers’ Complaint (The Powtes Complaint) 1611

Come, Brethren of the water and let us all assemble
To treat upon this matter, which makes us quake and tremble;
For we shall rue, if it be true, that the Fens be undertaken,
And where we feed in Fen and Reed, they’ll feed both Beef and Bacon.

They’ll sow both beans and oats where never man yet thought it,
Where men did row in boat, ere the undertakers bought it:
But, Ceres, thou behold us now, let wild oats be their venture,
Oh let the frogs and miry bogs destroy where they do enter.

Behold the great design, which they do now determine,
Will make our bodies pine, a prey to crows and vermine:
For they do mean all Fens to drain, and waters overmaster,
All will be dry, and we must die, ’cause Essex calves want pasture.

Away with boats and rudder, farewell both boots and skatches,
No need of one nor th’other, men now make better matches;
Stilt-makers all and tanners shall complain of this distaster;
For they will make each muddy lake for Essex calves a pasture.

The feather’d fowls have wings, to fly to other nations;
But we have no such things, to aid our transportations;
We must give place (oh grievous case) to horned beasts and cattle,
Except that we can all agree to drive them out by battle.

Wherefore let us intreat our ancient water nurses,
To shew their power so great as t’ help to drain their purses;
And send us good old Captain Flood to lead us out to battle,
Then two-penny Jack, with skales on’s back, will drive out all the cattle.

This noble Captain yet was never know to fail us,
But did the conquest get of all that did assail us;
His furious rage none could assuage; but, to the world’s great wonder,
He bears down banks, and breaks their cranks and whirlygigs asunder.

God Eolus, we do pray, that thou wilt not be wanting,
Thou never said’st us nay, now listen to our canting:
Do thou deride their hope and pride, that purpose our confusion;
And send a blast, that they in haste may work no good conclusion.

Great Neptune (God of seas), this work must needs provoke thee;
They mean thee to disease, and with Fen water choke thee:
But, with thy mace, do thou deface, and quite confound this matter;
And send thy sands, to make dry lands, when they shall want fresh water.

And eke we pray thee Moon, that thou wilt be propitious,
To see that nought be done to prosper the malicious;
Though summer’s heat hath wrought a feat, whereby themselves they flatter,
Yet be so good as send a flood, lest Essex calves want water.

Song about enclosure of land in the Fens from 1611. Lyrics in the
public domain – taken from ‘A Ballad History Of England’ by Roy Palmer.

“Of Rente Raysers” by Robert Crowley 1550

Today’s discovery, some lovely words from 1550…

“Of Rente Raysers” by Robert Crowley

————————Original

A Manne that had landes of tenne pounde by yere,
Surueyed the same and lette it out deare;

So that of tenne pounde he made well a score (20)
Moe poundes by the yere than other dyd before.

But when he was told whan daunger it was
to oppresse his tenauntes, he sayed he did not passe.

For thys thynge, he sayde, full certayne he wyste,
That wyth hys owne he myghte alwayes do as he lyste.

But immediatlye, I trowe thys oppressoure fyl sicke
Of a voyce that he harde, “geue accountes of thy baliwicke!”

———————–my adaptation

A man that had lands worth ten pound each year,
Surveyed the same and then let it out dear;

So that of ten pound he made well a score (20)
More pounds by the year than all others before.

But when he was told what danger it was
To oppress his tenants, he said I don’t pause,

For this thing, he said, full certain he wist,
That with his own, he might do as he list.

But immediately, I trow, this oppressor fell sick:
Of a voice that he heard, ‘Give accounts of thy bailiwick!’

The Making of the English Working Class by E.P. Thompson

eptThe Making of the English Working Class
by E.P. Thompson

Considered a definitive text for many years this book is dense, academically rigorous and utterly superb.

I needed a dictionary, wikipedia and a notebook to get myself through the first quarter but once up to speed with the authors style and concepts, it was as compelling a read as I have ever had.

This book has the advantage of being widely respected across all academic and historical fields in a manner which some of the other books I have read are not.

The Painful Plough by Roy Palmer

ppThe Painful Plough
by Roy Palmer

The full title is ‘The Painful Plough: A Portrait of the Agricultural Labourer in the Nineteenth Century from Folksongs and Ballads and Contemporary Accounts’ which pretty much does the job.

It tells the story of Joseph Arch, a farm labourer who went on to start one of the first agricultural labourers unions and eventually to become an MP.

A superb piece of work and a huge source of inspiration for the concept of the show ‘Three Acres And A Cow’.

A Ballad History of England by Roy Palmer

rp---bhA Ballad History of England
by Roy Palmer

Roy Palmer has spent much of the last thirty years hunting for ballads and using them to weave together a people’s history of England. He has mastered the art of this in a number of excellent books of which this is a great starting point.

This book is utterly superb and should be bought without hesitation. Each song has a melody and words, along with a page or two giving its historical context.

William Barnes’ The Leane

Tim Laycock read this delightful poem about enclosure written in a Dorset dialect at the Bridport show last week.

“The children will soon have no place
for to play in and if they do grow
they will have a thin mushroom face
with their bodies so sumple as dough”


The Leane.

They do zay that a travellèn chap
Have a-put in the newspeäper now,
That the bit o’ green ground on the knap
Should be all a-took in vor the plough.
He do fancy ’tis easy to show
That we can be but stunpolls at best,
Vor to leäve a green spot where a flower can grow,
Or a voot-weary walker mid rest.
Tis hedge-grubbèn, Thomas, an’ ledge-grubbèn,
Never a-done
While a sov’rèn mwore’s to be won.

The road, he do zay, is so wide
As ’tis wanted vor travellers’ wheels,
As if all that did travel did ride
An’ did never get galls on their heels.
He would leäve sich a thin strip o’ groun’,
That, if a man’s veet in his shoes
Wer a-burnèn an’ zore, why he coulden zit down
But the wheels would run over his tooes.
Vor ’tis meäke money, Thomas, an’ teäke money,
What’s zwold an’ bought
Is all that is worthy o’ thought.

Years agoo the leäne-zides did bear grass,
Vor to pull wi’ the geeses’ red bills,
That did hiss at the vo’k that did pass,
Or the bwoys that pick’d up their white quills.
But shortly, if vower or vive
Ov our goslèns do creep vrom the agg,
They must mwope in the geärden, mwore dead than alive,
In a coop, or a-tied by the lag.
Vor to catch at land, Thomas, an’ snatch at land,
Now is the plan;
Meäke money wherever you can.

The childern wull soon have noo pleäce
Vor to plaÿ in, an’ if they do grow,
They wull have a thin musheroom feäce,
Wi’ their bodies so sumple as dough.
But a man is a-meäde ov a child,
An’ his limbs do grow worksome by plaÿ;
An’ if the young child’s little body’s a-spweil’d,
Why, the man’s wull the sooner decaÿ.
But wealth is wo’th now mwore than health is wo’th;
Let it all goo,
If’t ’ull bring but a sov’rèn or two.

Vor to breed the young fox or the heäre,
We can gi’e up whole eäcres o’ ground,
But the greens be a-grudg’d, vor to rear
Our young childern up healthy an’ sound,
Why, there woont be a-left the next age
A green spot where their veet can goo free;
An’ the goocoo wull soon be committed to cage
Vor a trespass in zomebody’s tree.
Vor ’tis lockèn up, Thomas, an’ blockèn up,
Stranger or brother,
Men mussen come nigh woone another.

Woone day I went in at a geäte,
Wi’ my child, where an echo did sound,
An’ the owner come up, an’ did reäte
Me as if I would car off his ground.
But his vield an’ the grass wer a-let,
An’ the damage that he could a-took
Wer at mwost that the while I did open the geäte
I did rub roun’ the eye on the hook.
But ’tis drevèn out, Thomas, an’ hevèn out.
Trample noo grounds,
Unless you be after the hounds.

Ah! the Squiër o’ Culver-dell Hall
Wer as diff’rent as light is vrom dark,
Wi’ zome vo’k that, as evenèn did vall,
Had a-broke drough long grass in his park;
Vor he went, wi’ a smile, vor to meet
Wi’ the trespassers while they did pass,
An’ he zaid, “I do fear you’ll catch cwold in your veet,
You’ve a-walk’d drough so much o’ my grass.”
His mild words, Thomas, cut em like swords, Thomas,
Newly a-whet,
An’ went vurder wi’ them than a dreat.

John Ball by Sydney Carter

 

I am utterly in love with this song about John Ball, one of the leaders of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381.

I first heard it via Chris Wood and soon worked out a version of my own. Dolly May came up with some lovely harmonies and then one cheeky Sunday we ended up recording the song with the brilliant Nick Hart on concertina.

The melody is a traditional Northumberland tune, with lyrics written on the 300th anniversary in 1981 by Camden-based folk-singer Sydney Carter who died in 2004. He is best known for penning ‘Lord Of The Dance’ and most of the other songs I used to sing in Sunday School.

BBC Radio 4 documentary on land – Cry Freehold

This is the first time I have heard the BBC highlight issues of land distribution seriously in a documentary and connect it with the housing crisis we are facing in the England.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03k0s5q

Hugh Jones from New Listener has written a transcript of the show which you can now find here – http://www.newlistener.co.uk/home/cry-freehold-the-transcript/

Below is a youtube video of the show – I also have it on mp3 if it gets taken down from youtube and you are keen to hear it. drop me a line…

‘There is a housing crisis in many parts of Britain. But is land the real issue? Chris Bowlby goes to Oxford, where the problem is acute, to investigate.

He hears how a dynamic city can end up with virtually nowhere to build, how land prices help make homes so costly and how land shortage creates invisible victims.’

The Sound Of History by Roy Palmer

sound of historyThe Sound Of History
By Roy Palmer

This is an amazing book. Not specifically about land but it has a chapter on the topic.

I cannot stress enough what a legend this man and his writings are. This is not the first book of his you should read but it is certainly one you want on your reading list.

This Land Is Our Land by Marion Shoard

marionThis Land Is Our Land
by Marion Shoard

The definitive book on land both past and present, although it has sadly not been updated since the 80’s.

It gets a bit heavy going in places but the first third, which is a history from Roman times to the present, is totally gripping and a must read for anyone interesting in land and land rights.

I had to take quite a few breaks whilst reading it as sections of it made me really angry and/or sad.