The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians.These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

If you'd like to publish any interesting material about the history of East Anglia on the site, then please send an email to the Resident Historians at and we'll add it.

Family Historians have their own area on the site, so look there if your main interest is in tracing your family history.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

We cheated the Parson, we'll cheat him again

At the Annual general Meeting of the Foxearth and District Local history society, Ashley Cooper gave us a short but fascinating account of the Tithe system of taxation, ancient in origin, and designed to pay for the church. Once it had lost its original purpose of provision for the poor and the out-of-luck, and went solely to provide an income for increasingly prosperous rectors and vicars, it became increasingly unpopular.

This brings to mind the popular song 'Harvest Home', or 'We cheated the Parson', to the tune of Henry Purcell's 1691 song in Act V of Dryden's "King Arthur". The original tune was so popular with the public that it was hummed in the streets and these words became the most common ones used from around 1700.

Harvest Home

or 'We've cheated the Parson'

Our oats they are hoed and our barley's reap'd,
Our hay it is mow'd and our hovels heap'd,
Harvest home, harvest home,
We'll merrily roar out our harvest home,

We cheated the Parson, we'll cheat him again.
For why should the Vicar have One in Ten?
One in Ten, One in Ten,
For why should the Vicar have One in Ten?

For staying while dinner is cold and hot,
And pudding and dumpling's burnt to pot,
Burnt to pot, burnt to pot,
Till pudding and dumpling's burnt to th' pot,

We'll drink off our liquor while we can stand,
And hey for the honour of old England,
Old England, old England,
And hey for the honour of old England,

Not everyone was happy with the sentiments of the song, particularly the Church and the Establishment. One enterprising party wrote, and published, a moralising answer to the anarchic sentiments of the original broadside ballad entitled.....

An Answer to Harvest Home

or a true character of such Countrymen who glory in cheating the Vicar and prefer Bag-Pudding and Dumpling before Religion and Learning

The country store up hay, oats and wheat,
And glory how they can the Parson cheat,
Parson cheat, Parson cheat,
And glory how they can the Parson cheat

The country bumpkin may speak with shame,
That ever he cheated for he's to blame,
He's to blame, he's to blame,
That ever he cheated for he's to blame,

Likewise in the laws of this potent land,
Nlow he in the pillory ought to stand,
Ought to stand, ought to stand,
Now he in the pillory ought to stand,

Degrading of learning does plainly show
They never knew nothing but 'Hi Gee Ho!'
Hi Gee Ho, Hi Gee Ho,
They never knew nothing but 'Hi Gee Ho!'

Their hungry appetite to suffice,
Bag-pudding and dumpling they idolise,
Idolise, idolise,
Bag-pudding and dumpling they idolise,

And still as their paunches they stuff and fill,
Faith, they are as safe as a thief in a mill,
Thief in a mill, thief in a mill,
Faith, they are as safe as a thief in a mill,

Religion and learning they all condemn,
A lusty Bag-pudding is more to them,
more to them, more to them,
A lusty Bag-pudding is more to them

Tell them of going to church to pray,
They'd rather hear Robin the Piper play,
Piper play, piper play,
They'd rather hear Robin the Piper play,

And when they have gathered in all their store,
They merrily revel, nay rant and roar,
Harvest home, Harvest home!
They merrily roar out their harvest home,

(from the Roxburghe collection)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Colchester Panic of 1640

On 26 May 1640, there were scenes of mass panic in Colchester, and wild claims of a Papist plot to burn the town down.

The country had been very prone to attribute terrorist action to the papists since the gunpowder plot. Five days beforehand, a broadsheet originating in London had mentioned 'heare is a great deale of feares and tumults, fears of papis[ts] risinge'.

The panic itself was triggered by two girls who had been playing in the street at night. They related the next day that they had seen two men, strangers to the town, pushing rags into a house through whose window they had been peering. The mayor, upon being informed about the two men, 'of whom it was suspected that they had some designe upon the Towne to fire it', sounded the alarm and put the town in a state of defence.

This suddayn alarm att yt time of night raysed (almost) the whole Towne, men, woemen, and children, and putt them into a verie great amazement, and fright ... The next morning, the people still remayning in much feare and perplexity, many Rumors were soon spread about ye Towne, some saying that a great number of Papists were assembled at Beerechurch (the house of ye Lady Audley, a Recusant) neer Colchester, to bring the Queene's Mother thither: Others sayd That ye Lord Archb[isho]p of Canterbury was come thither; others that it was ye Bishop of Ely. But some added, that they were not att Beerechurch, butt att Mr Barker's at Monkquick [Monkwick], neare ye said Towne of Colchester.

The next afternoon a drum was beaten through the streets by some of the young men of the town to call the apprentices to go to Berechurch and Monkwick 'to see what company was there'.

Several of the crowd were heard to say, 'that they heard yt Byshippe Wren & many other horsemen & footmen were come to Mrs Audi eyes & Mr Barkers & they would goe & see whether it were so or noe'.

Later on, in August, Norwich was put in turmoil by rumours that twelve thousand catholics were coming to fire the city. The heady mix of Popery and terrorism was enough to cause the authorities to over-react. Such was the detachment of the comntemporary press from reality at the time that the civil war was rendered inevitable. The fear and the fury directed against the papists was soon to swing against the monarchy itself. It is a very dangerous strategy to play on peoples fears of terrorism for political ends.