Perce-pierre or rock samphire

Tudor Accident of the Month: Gathering Rock Samphire

June 2019. Rock samphire is a succulent coastal plant, nutritious to eat but dangerous to harvest. In Shakespeare’s King Lear, Edgar and Gloucester look down from a cliff and spot ‘one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade’. John Pantridge was practising that trade at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight on 18 June 1576 at a place on the cliffs called ‘peppers mede’, perhaps near Old Pepper Rock. He fell 170 feet onto the rocks below and broke his neck. One month later, on 20 July, the same fleshy, spicy treat lured John Turle to his doom at Fairlight, Sussex. He fell only 13 feet, but it was enough to break ‘his hed and scull’. And women as well as men braved the coast for samphire. At Weston-super-Mare in Somerset on 27 May 1587, Joan Davys fell on a rock and broke her neck when gathering ‘Sampyer’.

Professor Steven Gunn of Merton College Oxford is co-director of the ‘Everyday Life and Fatal Hazard in Sixteenth Century England’ Research Project. On Tuesday 24 September at 7.30p.m. in Shaftesbury Town Hall Professor Gunn will deliver the Teulon Porter Memorial Lecture, when he will focus on ‘Everyday Life and Accidental Death in Tudor Dorset and Wiltshire’. This talk is free to members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society while non-members may pay £5 at the door.

Charles II Needlework Decorative Box

Dorchester Privilege Visit for S&DHS Members

The 2019 Summer Outing for members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society took them to two Dorchester Museums, one presently closed for a massive redevelopment and the other recently opened in 2018. The Dorset County Museum received one of the last large Heritage Lottery Fund grants of £11 million. Members were able to view the ongoing building works from the rear of the site. Clearly marked were the locations for the concrete piles which will be driven 15 feet into the ground and support a new five storey structure. Collections Manager Elizabeth Selby then kindly opened up one of the object stores and showed a handful of the Museum’s four million artefacts, including a late seventeenth century box decorated with exquisite needlework depicting Charles II and his Queen Catherine of Braganza.

Elizabeth Selby shows stored artefacts
Elizabeth Selby shows stored artefacts

The second venue was a short walk away at Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum, which had been ably described in the February lecture of the Society’s winter programme. Here members could explore the cells which had once held the Tolpuddle Martyrs and follow in the original courtroom the trials of such unfortunates as Shaftesbury petty criminal Elijah Upjohn or Elizabeth Martha Brown, whose public hanging in 1856 was witnessed by the young Thomas Hardy. The afternoon concluded with tea or coffee and cake in Shire Hall’s tea room.

Please click here for details of membership of The S&DHS. A preview of the 2019-2020 winter lecture programme is available here

BBC South re-create the Hovis ad

TV News Crews Flock to Gold Hill

On Monday 03 June the famous Ridley Scott Hovis ad was re-launched on ITV. Both Meridian and BBC South contacted Gold Hill Museum and sent reporters to mark the occasion. Part of the BBC South Today evening bulletin was broadcast live from Gold Hill, with chair of Shaftesbury & District Historical Society Trustees Elaine Barratt adeptly fielding questions from Matt Graveling.

Matt Graveling and Cameraman
Matt Graveling and Cameraman

Earlier the intrepid BBC newshound had raided a local charity shop for a flat cap and borrowed an apron from the Salt Cellar restaurant so that he could reprise the part of the baker’s boy. Most of a recorded interview with Trustee Ian Kellett ended up on the digital cutting room floor; indeed the Meridian reporter said that he was only looking for 15 seconds of usable material.

Anything a 13 year old could do
Anything a 13 year old could do

Carl Barlow, the child actor in the original ad, was 13 in 1973 when he flew down the dangerous cobbles of Gold Hill with his feet off the pedals. Both Matt Graveling and his Meridian counterpart attempted the same feat, though understandably and sensibly over much shorter distances.

While it is nearly half a century since Ridley Scott made the Hovis ad, it appears to have become a significant landmark in British popular culture. It is certainly figuring in a forthcoming BBC documentary by Andrew Marr. It is constantly revisited by modern advertisers, most recently by a company promoting electric bikes. Gold Hill Museum would be pleased to see any material relating to the making of the original ad.

Please click here for the ThisisAlfred report on the remastering of the 1973 Hovis ad.