Thursday 24 April 2008

Deadly Curios & Wardrobe Clearouts

TODAY I BRING you a motley collection of tales, the first few from a delightful book that I was reading last night in the bath. Timpson's England ~ A Look Beyond the Obvious by the late John Timpson who was a well loved presenter on BBC Radio 4 as well as writing a delightful collection of interesting books about local English oddities. I found some intriguing stories and photographs from corners and byways of England and wanted to share three on a rather deadly theme.

First there is the Old Coffin House (left) at Brixham in Devon... the father of a local girl is said to have told her suitor that he would sooner see her in a coffin than married to him. The suitor, being sharper than most, duly constructed the house in the rough shape of a coffin. The father was so impressed by his ingenuity that he relented and the couple lived happily in their coffin ever after.

Next we have a grisly memorial to the days of hanging - Steng Cross Gibbet (right) in Northumberland, where the body of William Winter was hung in chains after he had been hanged in Newcastle in 1791 for murdering an old woman in a lonely cottage near Whiskershield Common. He is said to have been urged on by two tinker-women who'd been given hospitality by the old lady. This strange band broke into the cottage, killed the old woman and took her belongings away on a donkey cart. A shepherd boy spotted the goings on however, and Winter was brought to justice.
Gibbets are places where the dead bodies of the hanged were displayed.. the Steng Cross Gibbet even has a wooden demonstration head! A great deal of uneasy tales and superstitions have sprung up about gibbets and the land they stand on, understandably. This one, rather bizarrely, is said to cure toothache if you take a splinter from the gibbet post and rub it on the offending tooth!

Last I bring you the Temple of Vaccinia or the Cowpox Temple. It was built in the Berkeley garden of Edward Jenner, the discoverer of vaccination. Mr Jenner was born in 1749 and devoted much of his time to the study of smallpox, a terrible blistering skin disease which killed thousands of people in those days. There was a tradition in Gloucestershire that milkmaids who caught cowpox whilst milking were immune to smallpox. So a small boy named James Phipps was used as a guineapig by Jenner to test the theory that an inoculation of the cowpox virus would protect against smallpox. It did and Jenner achieved great fame... celebrating his success by building this delightful little temple (above) in his garden.

Finally .. I bring news that I am having a major wardrobe clearout ... so if anyone fancies a rifle through this raggedy pile of old gypsy gladrags then feel free....
No news on the hard drive yet, so fingers are still crossed.
Wishing you all a happy end of week from sunny, haily, lamb-bedecked Scotland.


d. moll, said...

It is rather difficult to type with crossed fingers, but if it will help. These are curious little stories to be sure, I especially like the temple. Thanks for popping over to my blog the other day, it was fun to have a visitor!

Anonymous said...

You have very good taste in clothes - I hope you have some left, that's quite a clearout! Too small for me though I'm afraid.
Rima, could I ask you how to get hold of a copy of your friends' CD Telling the Bees? I heard their music on myspace and I'd love to buy a copy.