comments 4

17th Century Manservant and 20th Century Yeoman

Manservant from the 1640s dressed in black and white.

Cambridge has a lot of parks and green spaces. Parker’s Piece is a 25-acre piece of common land very close to the centre of town, and the Cambridge Town and Country Show was held there last weekend. Tamara and I enjoyed the opportunity to speak to people who were part of the show.

17th Century Life And Times

I talked to these people from 17th Century Life and Times, a small independent society, recreating authentic living and military history from the seventeenth century.

The man to the right in this photograph is manservant to a Captain in the Loyalist Army at the time of the English Civil War.

Manservant from the 1640s dressed in black and white, village couple sitting nearby.
Back view of a captain in the Royalist army 1860s - wearing a red sash to signify loyalty to the Crown

During the English Civil War, the Captain’s affiliation to the Crown could be seen from the colour of the sash he wore around his waist – a red sash to denote loyalty to the King.

As you can see, the manservant’s clothes are black and white. That showed his status and in turn it reflected onto and elevated the status of his captain, because black and white were of special significance.

Only a person who didn’t do any manual work could dare to have white cuffs. Any working person would have soiled cuffs in no time.

Even a scrivener would not wear white because he was bound get ink on his cuffs.

And his black tunic similarly elevated his status. It took many dippings to dye material black, and the process was therefore more costly. And the oak galls used to dye the wool, and the material used to fix the dye, corroded the wool so that it needed to be replaced every 18 months or so. So wearing black signified wealth.

And he is eating from a pewter plate, not wood. Another badge of status.

Note how the manservant is sitting aloof, not talking to the couple seated near him – they are of low rank and not be engaged in conversation.

The English Revolution of 1640

I wrote here about the English Revolution of 1640 and the changes in the distribution of wealth, the rise of merchant capitalists, and the antagonism between the Crown and those who were asked to pay for foreign wars, that led up to it.

The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry

White Highland pony ridder by a woman who is a member of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY)

The woman is a member of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY). The corps was founded in 1907 to provide assistance to civil and military authorities in times of emergency. It saw action in the First World War and today the purpose remains the same.

They are the world’s longest established uniformed ‘military’ voluntary organisation for women – and today, the only all-women unit left in the UK.

The Corps is on the Army list, but not part of the Army.

The horse is a Highland pony, from the Highlands of Scotland. They look strongly built, and the rider explained that they were bred to carry stags off the mountain – carrying a stag hanging off each side of its back and dragging a third behind it.

comment 1

Trees In The Botanic Garden In Cambridge

Trees in the Botanic Garden in Edingburgh:

Maybe it is in my eyes only because I have stood on this spot. But it looks to my eyes something very un-English, as in not of the English countryside.

Of course, the Botanic Garden is full of trees from all over the world, but I am impressed with how they created this mood.

comments 12

How Is The Randomness Determined?

white foxgloves

I know it seems an odd question to ask how randomness is determined. But the red spots on the white foxgloves are different in one flower to another, from one plant to another.

And there must be something that rules the randomness in the pattern.

Or perhaps it is not random at all? Perhaps the particular location of that flower relative to the plants and trees around it, the position of the sun, and who know what else, might all come together in that particular pattern.

But if it is not that, and it is just a release of the reins of control – then how does that arrangement happen?

comments 4

The Tree That Had Had Enough

The Tree Says:

Enough of this being rooted to the spot. I am a tree and I have had enough. I break free because the Earth is in danger; the waterways are clogged; pollution is creeping, inching its way into everything.

Disaster and Pollution (from 2010)

Arrgh, Disaster looms!

Well, that will push people along and you might think it is a laudable idea to get people to do good. The problem with it is that it tacitly makes the argument that doing all the things we do is OK so long as the consequence is that we do not cause famine, total breakdown, etc.

I have a slightly different argument on the ‘why’ of how we should proceed, which is this:

There may be room for argument about the effect that man is having on global warming. There may even be room for argument about whether we are experiencing global warming as anything other than a blip in the graph.

What is not in doubt is that we are destroying the Earth with pollution.

So I say don’t let arguments about global warming be a red herring to deflect from the fact that we should clean up the mess we are making.

It doesn’t or shouldn’t need the justification that we are facing disaster.

A tree does not need to justify its existence.

We do however need to justify destroying it, whether or not at some point down the road the fallen tree will get its innocent revenge by releasing CO2 and killing the planet.

And careful housekeeping – looking after the place and not treating it like a rubbish tip – is simply good manners and a show of gratitude.


Tamara and I spotted this tree while out for a walk along the river towards Stourbridge Common a few days ago.

The Full Frame Of the Shot

comment 0

Things that made me laugh, with a bitter taste in my mouth

More than a third of the population of England died during the outbreaks of the Black Death in England In the 1300s. Here is part of a contemporary report:

Then the bishop of Lincoln sent notice throughout his whole diocese giving general power to all priests, both regulars and seculars, to hear confessions and give absolution with full episcopal authority to all persons, except only in case of debt. In such a case, the debtor was to pay the debt, if he were able, while he lived, or others were to be appointed to do so from his goods after his death. In the same way the Pope gave plenary remission of all sins (once only) to all receiving absolution at the point of death, and granted that this power should last until Easter next following, and that every one might choose his own confessor at will.