Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Dear Clifford's Seat": A Lost World

From the January 14, 1922, issue of Notes and Queries (Twelfth Series, Volume X, No. 196, contributed by F. C. Morgan):

"Dear Clifford's Seat.  At a village near Stratford-upon-Avon, called in [Michael Drayton's] Polyalbion
     dear Clifford's seat (the place of health and sport)
     Which many a time hath been the Muse's quiet port,
I believe that a record has recently been established, proving that Drayton was correct in calling this picturesque spot 'the place of health.'  In 1887 the church was restored, and when the work was completed a new team of ringers was appointed.  These same men rang many changes on the bells without a change among themselves until 1919, 32 years, when the conductor died, and his brother, not wishing to continue after this loss, resigned.  Their names were George Lynes (conductor), James Lynes, William Lively, John Lively, Enoch Lively, John Bettridge and John Salmon.  John Lively has been clerk since 1887, having then succeeded his father, who had held the office for 27 years.

In the same village the staff of eight men working at the mill in 1919 had lengths of service ranging from 30 years to upwards of 50.

These facts were communicated to me by Mr. John James, churchwarden, who annually at Christmas invites the ringers to a feast, where good fare, song and story fill up a pleasant evening."

A lost world: bell-ringers; their annual Christmas dinner, with "good fare, song and story"; a mill at the end of a green lane -- "dear Clifford's seat."  But I am half a world and a hundred years away.  Did the bell-ringers and the men in the mill indeed feel that Clifford's seat was dear?  Or did they long for somewhere else?  It would depend, of course, upon who you talked to.  Yet still I daydream of "dear Clifford's seat."

                      Robin Tanner (1904-1988), "Christmas" (1929)

No comments: