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Nigel`s Notes on the history of the Shrewsbury Drapers’ Company

The information contained here was written for The Shrewsbury Drapers Company`s first website. For current and regularly updated information on the current activities of the Company please go to www.shrewsburydrapers.org.uk

The Shrewsbury Drapers Company was founded as a guild by royal charter in 1462. At the time of writing in 2019 there are 80 elected Freemen of the Guild who are trustees for the consolidated charity which manage and support almshouses in Shrewsbury.

The Shrewsbury Drapers Hall, was built in 1576, and is now in the custody of a charity, (Shrewsbury Drapers` Hall Preservation Trust), it is a company limited by guarantee.

The Guild retains rights to hold meetings and feasts, and keep some of its seventeenth century furniture in the Hall. The Freemen are much involved in charitable work, including managing the almshouses for fifty residents and running an annual textile competition each autumn. The other three Registered Charities are Shrewsbury Drapers Company General Charities (no. 213372) and Hospital of St Giles (no. 233903) and Holy Cross (no.1132671).

Shrewsbury is a very special place and is proud of its surviving guild and Guild Hall. The Company has retained many unbroken links back to its foundations in the 15c and its zenith in the 16c. It is the only surviving ancient guild in Shrewsbury and as a town is unique in having a surviving guild with an original hall. (1)

The Drapers Hall, was rebuilt in 1576 on the site of an earlier hall, and is used by the Company for business meetings, celebrations and feasts using much of the 17c furniture built in the Hall for the Company.

Today the Hall is a also popular bar, restaurant boutique hotel. Visitors are able to have full use of many of the original features of the building and some of the original furniture.

The remaining evidence of links with the past can be seen all over Shrewsbury. In St Mary`s Church, the Leybourne Chapel has been used by the Company since 1444. The Old Market Hall in the Square was built in 1596 for the Shrewsbury Drapers to conduct their business on the first floor.

Many of the great timber framed buildings in Shrewsbury were built by Drapers in 15c and 16c and are open and available to visit. These buildings include Rowley’s Mansion; which houses the Visitor Information Centre. Vaughan’s Mansion; incorporated into the site of the proposed Shrewsbury Museum. Millingtons Hospital, Owen’s Mansion, Bennet’s Hall, Prowde’s Mansion and Ireland’s Mansion are all retail outlets and there are many other that can be visited by arrangement including Bowdler’s House and Perche’s Mansion

Since 1444 the Company has an unbroken link with the people of Shrewsbury by providing them with affordable housing. The original almshouses were built in front of St Mary`s Church in 1444 by a draper Diggory Watur. These were replaced in the 1820s (across St Mary`s Street) and rebuilt in 1964 in Longden Coleham where today they house 16 residents.

In the 1960s the Company took over responsibility for the almshouses near St Giles Church and more recently the almshouses of The Abbey Church of The Holy Cross. These were transferred to The Shrewsbury Drapers Company in 2010. The new building Drapers` Place was opened in 2017 with another twenty five almsand houses.

Notes (1) The Fellmongers` in Frankwell was built around the same time as Drapers`Hall . Until 1971 it was used by Messrs T Birch Ltd of Birmingham, Fellmongers and Wool Merchants. Then environment legislation, quite rightly, stopped the out flow from the washing process into the River Severn. Various part of the building have been used for various processes in the wool trade and recently became associated as a place used by Fellmongers (Nigel Baker, Shrewsbury; An archaeological assessment of an English border town, Oxbow Books, 2010.

Nigel`s Notes on Pitchford Hall and the Shrewsbury School of Carpentry

Pitchford Hall, the Shrewsbury school of carpentry and Drapers` Hall.

This brief paper examines the motifs and decoration on the timbers of Pitchford Hall, rebuilt it in the mid sixteenth century for the Offley family by John Sandford. The designs started a fashion followed by owners of buildings in Shrewsbury and has become known to architectural historians as the `Shrewsbury school of carpentry`.

Wealthy merchants built many mansions in Shrewsbury in the late sixteenth century and followed some or all of the Shrewsbury school on their homes, places of business and investment properties. The members of the Shrewsbury Drapers Company copied the style on their own Drapers` Hall as their wealth increased and they aspired to emulate the style of a substantial country estate house just a few miles south of Shrewsbury.

Pitchford Hall

Pitchford Manor was acquired by Thomas Ottley (d. 1486) years after his return to Shrewsbury from Calais where he had been a wool merchant and was a former mayor of the Calais staple. [i] The family prospered and according to Moran, Pitchford Hall was rebuilt around 1549/51, for the Ottley family by the Welsh carpenter John Sandford. He was from a family of carpenters and at least three of his sons followed him into the trade. The timbers of the Hall were decorated with an array of eye catching tasteful and expensive features.  These hark back to medieval times and set a trend of building decoration that was followed in buildings in Shrewsbury a few years later.[ii]

Moran adds that Pitchford Hall appears to have been a prototype that displays most of the hallmarks of the design features that became known as the Shrewsbury school of carpentry. These included sunken quatrefoils, cable-moulded pilasters some with carved heads, and fruit or vine-trails on tie beams or barge boards and S-braces. The writer notes S-braces are not a feature found on Pitchford Hall today.

Pevsner in 1958 commented that Pitchford Hall is the most splendid piece of black-and-white building in Shropshire. It is a large and well-planned house, built by Adam Ottley, a woollen merchant of Shrewsbury, c 1560 – 70 (and anyway before 1578, when he died).

Of the timber framing he says it makes plentiful use of diagonal struts, forming the familiar lozenges within lozenges. No higher flights of fancy, no concave cusped lozenges, and quatrefoils only in the porch. In fact what is by far the most attractive quality is the combination of considerable size with an undeniable homeliness. The only further decoration is a shaped gable with volutes below at the top of the porch. He also adds that the chimney stacks are one of its most enchanting features as they are all star-shaped.[iii]

The Worshipful Company of Drapers of Shrewsbury – (The Shrewsbury Drapers Company known today as The Shrewsbury Drapers Holy Cross Limited)

Following changes in the legislation relating to the Welsh Wool trade, in 1566, which gave a virtual monopoly to the Shrewsbury Drapers by stating “no person inhabiting in Shrewsbury shall occupy the Trade of buying of Welsh Cottons & Co unless he be a freeman of the Company”. By the time this Act was repealed six years later the Drapers had gained such a strangle-hold on the Welsh cloth market that members of other guilds thought it better to join the Drapers guild rather than try to beat them. Thus the members of the Shrewsbury Drapers increased and displayed their wealth on their town mansions and those built in the last thirty years of the sixteenth century display many of the features of the Shrewsbury school of carpentry.

Drapers` Hall and Its Furniture

Ever since 1485 a guildhall of the Shrewsbury Drapers Company, had stood in St Mary’s Place. It had been built at a cost of £9/15s/6d.[iv] But in 1576 it was decided to improve on the old hall and build a new hall on the same site, which was at the heart of the old commercial centre. From this new ‘headquarters’ the Drapers Company would be able to continue its domination of the town and the Guild would become yet more attractive to prominent men. Ever socially aspirant, the Drapers aimed to recruit their members from town and country, from burgesses, yeomen and from the ranks of the gentry. The new Drapers` Hall would make a statement and it would be in the most fashionable style available at the time, constructed of timber with features in the ‘Shrewsbury school’ of carpentry.[v]

The following paragraphs are taken from Drapers Hall Shrewsbury. The work of Lawson, Sturt, Raven and Moran, published by the Shrewsbury Drapers Company (Shrewsbury, 2002)

‘Although brick was fashionable elsewhere and good quality local stone was available from Grinshill, the Drapers chose to build their new hall in the traditional manner by using timber. Timber was still the most used building technique in Shropshire, stone being reserved for important public buildings and brick normally being used only for chimneys. The use of timber also allowed the decorative detailing which epitomised the Guild`s importance. Timber carving as an expression of importance, was much desired by ‘men of means’ in the town, whether Drapers or not, and this gave rise to a comparatively short-lived but dramatic ‘Shrewsbury school of carpentry’ whose hallmarks have passed into architectural history. They include the use of vine trails on barge-boards, cable-moulded pilasters usually terminating on carved heads, finials, sunken quatrefoils and S braces. Jettying and mouldings as found in other areas were also incorporated.

The motifs, or carvings, depicted in the timber-work of Drapers` Hall are of medieval origin and were used in a ‘pure’ form by the skilled craftsmen who made up this distinctive later school of carpentry. Their work is concentrated in Shrewsbury and in a few country houses and many of the craftsmen were Welsh or of Welsh extraction.

 The prototype for the style was, probably, Pitchford Hall which was completed in 1551 by John Sandford whose family were carpenters. John Sandford`s son Randyll worked on Drapers` Hall, which was master minded by Roger Smith, a Welshman from Llandisilio. Shortly after completion of the timber frame of the Hall in April 1577 `the Company leased the building to Andrew Lewes, a leading Draper.

The lease was conditional on Lewes carrying out a schedule of works for which he would receive £35 paid in three instalments, the last scheduled payment on Lady Day, 1578. The lease required Lewes ‘halfe waynscott the hall—with benches— myter and ciper joint and paynte the rest upon cloth with Antick work’.  The latter is a reference to Renaissance decoration on painted cloths which were used as a substitute for tapestry. These substitutes were less robust and few have survived in the country and none at Drapers` Hall. The cloths were removed about 1660 when Richard Elli s was contracted to extend the panelling up to the ceiling. Lewes was also required to …’syle the hall and great chamber and to colour the posts and wier trees with greene’. In addition he was to pave the hall and make a boarded dais and build a ‘…fair stair up to the gallery’, provide windows throughout the house and glaze them and board all the floors. More fundamentally he had to ‘…make up the walls and plaster them with lyme…` and cover the whole house with Harnage tyles’. (Harnage tiles were the heavily fossilised sub-quadrata limestone roofing slabs quarried in the area of Acton Burnell; much of Shrewsbury was roofed in this way, but very little survives in the town).   

Excluded from Lewes’s lease were unspecified works that ‘Roger Smyth the carpenter should doe’. No accounts survive for the wainscot which was provided at Lewes`s expense. However Guillaume Wysbecke was paid fifteen shillings for a wainscot screen that was formerly at the ‘buttery-end’ of the meeting room and bore the date 1579. Wysbecke,[vi] a joiner and furniture maker, was probably a Walloon religious refugee who came to Shrewsbury with his brother in the 1550s, and it was he, Guillaume, who also provided the wainscot at the Grammar School, now Shrewsbury Library, and at the original Booth(Town) Hall.[vii]

Although some changes were made in the 18th and 19th centuries the building remains essentially an Elizabethan guildhall. It is also unique in its documentation, held in the Shropshire Archives, which records details of the building, the materials used, the manufacture and the cost of its furnishings.[viii] All in all, even after almost four and a half centuries, it has essentially the same appearance and serves a similar purpose as in the sixteenth century when it was first built.

Shrewsbury Drapers` Hall is one of very few timber-framed guildhalls in continuous ownership and in use by the original Company or Guild in any town in England. Others include The Company of the Merchant Taylors, in the City of York, The Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York and The Incorporation of Weavers, Fullers & Shearmen, in the City of Exeter.

The following photographs illustrate the elements of the Shrewsbury school of carpentry

(1) Pitchford Hall

Viewed from the front the elements of the Shrewsbury school stand-out, these include vine trails on the barge boards, cable moulding with carved heads; and sunken quatrefoils;

(2) Pitchford Hall

The rear of the Hall is of plain undecorated style without any of the familiar features of the “Shrewsbury school of carpentry.”

(3) Drapers Hall in St Mary`s Place

The Square

(4) The Old Plough now with a Victorian second story displays the usual features with s braces.

(5) Edinburgh Wool Mill and Ask formerly Owen`s Mansion

(6) High Street

Jones` Mansion from 1570, Now occupied by Costa Coffee with 1990s additions of gable windows and contemporary decoration on barge boards including cars etc. The carpenters carved heads of Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine and the inscription reminding us of the Peasants Revolt “Poll Tax 1990”

On the other side of Grope Lane is Jones Shoe shop occupied in the 1960s by Murrells has the remains of SSC damaged by subsequent work although cable moulding survives on the Grope lane elevation.

Many timber framed buildings are encased in later additions of stone and brickwork although some frontages, sides or ends have been left exposed or subsequently these later additions have been removed.

(7) On Belmont on the exposed timber frame side of shows a single quatrefoil

(8) On Claremont Hill there is little decoration on the exposed side but who knows what lies under the brickwork on the street facing wall?

(9) Still encased in St Alkmond’s Square

Nigel J Hinton

Shrewsbury 30th December 2019

[i] Champion W.A. Editor of Victoria County History, Shropshire Vol. VI , Part 1 1340-1640  p.111.

[ii] Moran M., The Vernacular Buildings of Shropshire ( Logaston, 2003} p 250

[iii] Pevsner N, The Buildings of England, Shropshire (Harmondsworth, 1958) p 227

[iv] Lawson, Sturt, Raven and Moran, Drapers Hall Shrewsbury. (Shrewsbury, 2002) p. 1.

[v] Lawson, Sturt, Raven and Moran, Drapers Hall Shrewsbury. (Shrewsbury, 2002) p. 8.

[vi] Champion W., Everyday Life in Tudor Shrewsbury (Shropshire 1994) Preface p. xi. Wisbecke was a protestant refugee who emigrated from France with his brother in the mid-sixteenth century and became a noted joiner.

[vii] Lawson, Sturt, Raven and Moran, Drapers Hall Shrewsbury. (Shrewsbury, 2002) p. 8.

[viii]Lawson, Sturt, Raven and Moran, Drapers Hall Shrewsbury. (Shrewsbury, 2002) p. 5.

Nigel`s Notes on Christmas Carol

Introduction

Introduction to the film Christmas Carol from the book by Charles Dickens.

Charles Dickens had given talks in Shrewsbury and stayed at The Lion Hotel in 1858, and in October 2011, in the ballroom of the Lion Hotel, I had the pleasure of hearing his Great great grandson Gerald Dickens give a talk on Charles`s life. During the filming I saw many of the actors around town and in the Prince Rupert Hotel where some of them of them stayed.

Shrewsbury as a setting

In 1983/4 a film crew used various locations in Shrewsbury as the setting for a film Christmas Carol, directed by Clive Donner ( 21 January 1926 – 6 September 2010). He directed nearly forty films, mainly for television amongst his best known are The Caretaker, What`s New Pussycat and Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush.

This tour is of many of the exterior locations in Shrewsbury used in the film. Interiors were shot in some locations in town including St Julian`s Church, Tanners Wines and The Nags Head Hall. The VHS video box featured a dome similar to St Paul`s Cathedral to remind us that he film is set in London and not Shrewsbury in the nineteenth century. 

The dialogue for each location is taken from the book by Charles Dickens 

 1   THE FILM OPENS IN THE SQUARE

Marley was dead :   to begin with.      There is no doubt whatever about that.

The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner.  Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.   Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade.

But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don’t know how many years.

2   NATURE OF SCROOGE

Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner.

And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!

Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.

The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.

A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays;

 3       MARLEY APPEARS   

And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change — not a knocker, but Marley’s face.

Marley’s face. It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. The hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air; and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That, and its livid colour, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than a part or its own expression.

He did pause, with a moment’s irresolution, before he shut the door; and he did look cautiously behind it first, as if he half-expected to be terrified with the sight of Marley’s pigtail sticking out into the hall. But there was nothing on the back of the door, except the screws and nuts that held the knocker on, so he said `Pooh, pooh!’ and closed it with a bang

 4  MARLEY`S  GHOST

Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked himself in; double-locked himself in, which was not his custom. Thus secured against surprise, he took off his cravat; put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and his nightcap; and sat down before the fire to take his gruel.

The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door.

`It’s humbug still!’ said Scrooge. `I won’t believe it.’

His colour changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried `I know him; Marley’s Ghost!’ and fell back.

The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel

 5. MARLEY WARNS SCROOGE

That is no light part of my penance,’ pursued the Ghost. `I am here to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer.’

`You were always a good friend to me,’ said Scrooge. `Thank ‘ee!’

`You will be haunted,’ resumed the Ghost, `by Three Spirits.’

Scrooge’s countenance fell almost as low as the Ghost’s had done.

`Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Jacob?’ he demanded, in a faltering voice.

Without their visits,’ said the Ghost, `you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls One.’

`Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of twelve has ceased to vibrate.

Look to see me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you remember what has passed between us!’

 6 . FIRST SPIRIT APPEARS  

The next night as the clock struck “Ding, dong!”

“The hour itself,” said Scrooge triumphantly, “and nothing else!”

He spoke before the hour bell sounded, which it now did with a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy one. Light flashed up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn.

The spirit appeared and they passed through the wall, and stood upon an open country road, with fields on either hand.

`Good Heaven!’ said Scrooge, clasping his hands together, as he looked about him. `I was bred in this place. I was a boy here.’ Scrooge recognising every gate, and post, and tree; until some shaggy ponies now were seen trotting towards them with boys upon their backs. All these boys were in great spirits, and shouted to each other, until the broad fields were so full of merry music, that the crisp air laughed to hear it.

`The school is not quite deserted,’ said the Ghost. `A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.’

Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he used to be.

 7.  MR FEZZYWIGS 1ST SPIRIT BRINGS HIM HERE

The Ghost stopped at a certain warehouse door, and asked Scrooge if he knew it.

`Know it.’ said Scrooge. `I was apprenticed here.’

They went in. At sight of an old gentleman in a Welsh wig, sitting behind such a high desk, that if he had been two inches taller he must have knocked his head against the ceiling, Scrooge cried in great excitement:

`Why, it’s old Fezziwig. Bless his heart; it’s Fezziwig alive again.’

Old Fezziwig laid down his pen, and looked up at the clock, which pointed to the hour of seven. He rubbed his hands; adjusted his capacious waistcoat; laughed all over himself, from his shows to his organ of benevolence; and called out in a comfortable, oily, rich, fat, jovial voice:

`Yo ho, there. Ebenezer. Dick.’

Scrooge’s former self, now grown a young man, came briskly in, accompanied by his fellow-prentice.

`Dick Wilkins, to be sure.’ said Scrooge to the Ghost. `Bless me, yes. There he is. He was very much attached to me, was Dick. Poor Dick. Dear, dear.’

8.  MR FEZZYWIGS 1ST SPIRIT BRINGS HIM HERE

`Yo ho, my boys.’ said Fezziwig. `No more work to-night. Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer. Let’s have the shutters up,’ cried old Fezziwig, with a sharp clap of his hands,’ before a man can say Jack Robinson.’

You wouldn’t believe how those two fellows went at it. They charged into the street with the shutters — one, two, three — had them up in their places — four, five, six — barred them and pinned then — seven, eight, nine — and came back before you could have got to twelve, panting like race-horses.

`My time grows short,’ observed the Spirit. `Quick.’  Scrooge was not alone, but sat by the side of a fair young girl in a mourning-dress: in whose eyes there were tears, which sparkled in the light that shone out of the Ghost of Christmas Past.

 9.   SCROOGE CHOOSES GOLD RATHER THAT RELATIONSHIP

`It matters little,’ she said, softly. `To you, very little. Another idol has displaced me; and if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve.’

`What Idol has displaced you.’ he rejoined.

`A golden one.’

He was about to speak; but with her head turned from him, she resumed.

`You may — the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will — have pain in this. A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it, gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you awoke. May you be happy in the life you have chosen.’

She left him, and they parted.

10. Christmas present at his nephews home

The spirit of Christmas present took him on a journey through the lonely darkness over an unknown abyss, whose depths were secrets as profound as Death: it was a great surprise to Scrooge, while thus engaged, to hear a hearty laugh. It was a much greater surprise to Scrooge to recognise it as his own nephew’s and to find himself in a bright, dry, gleaming room, with the Spirit standing smiling by his side, and looking at that same nephew with approving affability.

`Ha, ha.’ laughed Scrooge’s nephew. `Ha, ha, ha.’

Scrooge’s niece, by marriage, laughed as heartily as he. And their assembled friends being not a bit behindhand, roared out lustily.

`Ha, ha. Ha, ha, ha, ha.’

`He said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live.’ cried Scrooge’s nephew. `He believed it too.’

`More shame for him, Fred.’ said Scrooge’s niece, indignantly. Bless those women; they never do anything by halves. They are always in earnest.

She was very pretty: exceedingly pretty. With a dimpled, surprised-looking, capital face; a ripe little mouth, that seemed made to be kissed — as no doubt it was; all kinds of good little dots about her chin, that melted into one another when she laughed; and the sunniest pair of eyes you ever saw in any little creature’s head. Altogether she was what you would have called provoking, you know; but satisfactory.

11. and 12. As a two hander

THE PARADE   THE EXTERIOR OF THE CORN EXCHANGE

Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?’

`Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years,’

At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,’ said the gentleman, taking up a pen, `it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; sir.’

`Are there no prisons?’ asked Scrooge.

`Plenty of prisons,’ said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

`And the Union workhouses?’ demanded Scrooge. `Are they still in operation?’

`They are. Still,’ returned the gentleman, `I wish I could say they were not.’

`The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?’ said Scrooge.

`Both very busy, sir.’

`Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,’ said Scrooge. `I’m very glad to hear it.’

What shall I put you down for?’ Nothing!’ Scrooge replied.

`You wish to be anonymous?’

`I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge `Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.’

`Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.’

`If they would rather die,’ said Scrooge, `they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides — excuse me — I don’t know that.’

`But you might know it,’ observed the gentleman.

`It’s not my business,’ Scrooge returned. `It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!’

 13. SCROOGE’S OFFICE AND COUNTING HOUSE  

The door of Scrooge’s counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.

`A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!’ cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

`Bah!’ said Scrooge, `Humbug!’

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again. `Christmas a humbug, uncle!’ said Scrooge’s nephew. `You don’t mean that, I am sure?’

`I do,’ said Scrooge. `Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.

14 LION HOTEL AND DICKENS

John Butterworth in his history of the Lion Hotel quoted Charles Dickens in a letter to one of his daughters, Katie, in 1858 while staying at the Lion Hotel, in Shrewsbury

“…we have the strangest little rooms, the ceilings of which I can touch with my hand. Nigel has added “the floors are uneven and the window tips out into the street”

 People do come to the hotel just to stay in that room.

The hotel has long celebrated its link with Charles Dickens

In his book ‘Four Centuries at The Lion Hotel’ he says Dickens stayed at the hotel at least twice: on 12 August 1858, with his friend and illustrator, Hablot K Browne, and on 1838 when he wrote in his journal that on 31 October he and his wife Catherine had travelled through Birmingham and Wolverhampton on his way to The Lion.

 15. DICKENS AND SHREWSBURY  

He said Dickens was also known to have included Shrewsbury’s Music Hall on his reading tour of Britain where he read from A Christmas Carol.

Shropshire claims Darwin connections including Tong, near Shifnal, is broadly thought to be the village where Little Nell dies at the end of The Old Curiosity Shop.

John Murfin, who lives in the parish and is a member of the congregation at St Bartholomew’s Church, said Dickens visited the area to see his grandmother who was a housekeeper at Tong Castle.

When The Old Curiosity Shop was published many readers began to visit the village church from as far afield as the United States.

According to Shropshire Tourism’s website the nearby town of Newport was home to a woman called Elizabeth Parker who became a recluse after being stood-up on her wedding day.

It claims she may have been an inspiration for Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.

“One of Dickens’ friends William Charles Macready said Dickens had a ‘clutching eye’ – he recorded what he saw for use later so a lot of things could influence a character.”

 16. BOB CRATCHIT`S HOUSE

Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit’s elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

 Then Bob proposed:

`A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us.’

Which all the family re-echoed.

`God bless us every one.’ said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

He sat very close to his father’s side upon his little stool. Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.

`Spirit,’ said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, `tell me if Tiny Tim will live.’

`I see a vacant seat,’ replied the Ghost, `in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.’

`No, no,’ said Scrooge. `Oh, no, kind Spirit. say he will be spared.’

`If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,’ returned the Ghost, `will find him here. What then. If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.’

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief

Scrooge bent before the Ghost’s rebuke, and trembling cast his eyes upon the ground. But he raised them speedily, on hearing his own name.

`Mr Scrooge.’ said Bob; `I’ll give you Mr Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast.’

And now undo my bundle, Joe,’ said the first woman.

17. JOES RAG SHOP

`What do you call this.’ said Joe. `Bed-curtains.’

`Ah.’ returned the woman, laughing and leaning forward on her crossed arms. `Bed-curtains.’

`You don’t mean to say you took them down, rings and all, with him lying there.’ said Joe.

`Yes I do,’ replied the woman. `Why not.’

`You were born to make your fortune,’ said Joe,’ and you’ll certainly do it.’

`I certainly shan’t hold my hand, when I can get anything in it by reaching it out, for the sake of such a man as he was, I promise you, Joe,’ returned the woman coolly. `Don’t drop that oil upon the blankets, now.’

`His blankets.’ asked Joe.

`Whose else’s do you think.’ replied the woman. `He isn’t likely to take cold without them, I dare say.’

`I hope he didn’t die of any thing catching. Eh.’ said old Joe, stopping in his work, and looking up.

 18. JOES RAG SHOP

It’s the best he had, and a fine one too. They’d have wasted it, if it hadn’t been for me.’ `What do you call wasting of it.’ asked old Joe.

`Putting it on him to be buried in, to be sure,’ replied the woman with a laugh. `Somebody was fool enough to do it, but I took it off again. He can’t look uglier than he did in that one.’

Scrooge listened to this dialogue in horror. As they sat grouped about their spoil, in the scanty light afforded by the old man’s lamp, he viewed them with a detestation and disgust, which could hardly have been greater, though the demons, marketing the corpse itself.

`Ha, ha.’ laughed the same woman, when old Joe, producing a flannel bag with money in it, told out their several gains upon the ground. `This is the end of it, you see. He frightened every one away from him when he was alive, to profit us when he was dead. Ha, ha, ha.’

`Spirit.’ said Scrooge, shuddering from head to foot. `I see, I see. The case of this unhappy man might be my own. My life tends that way, now.

He recoiled in terror, for the scene had changed, and now he almost touched a bed: a bare, uncurtained bed: on which, beneath a ragged sheet, there lay a something covered up, which, though it was dumb, announced itself in awful language.

19 .THE END OF IT

Penultimate Scene

Scrooge promised to change his ways and become a better person 

He dressed himself all in his best, and at last got out into the streets.

He had not gone far, when coming on towards him he beheld the gentleman, who he had met the day before.

`My dear sir,’ said Scrooge, quickening his pace, and taking the old gentleman by both his hands. `How do you do. I hope you succeeded yesterday. It was very kind of you. A merry Christmas to you, sir.’

`Mr Scrooge.’

`Yes,’ said Scrooge. `That is my name, and I fear it may not be pleasant to you. Allow me to ask your pardon. And will you have the goodness’ to accept this

`Lord bless me.’ cried the gentleman, as if his breath were taken away. `My dear Mr Scrooge, are you serious.’

`If you please,’ said Scrooge. `Not a farthing less. A great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you. Will you do me that favour.’

He had never dreamed that any walk — that anything — could give him so much happiness. In the afternoon he turned his steps towards his nephew’s house and surprised his family by joining in the fun. 

20. FINAL SCENE

He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father.

He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.

Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.

May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, `God bless Us, Every One!

Shrewsbury Castle

Nigel`s Notes on Shrewsbury Mystery Plays

Introduction

These notes have been prepared to support the idea of a resurrection of Mystery plays in Shrewsbury. They provide some historic evidence that Mystery plays were written and performed in Shrewsbury and plays were performed in the villages of rural Shropshire from the sixteenth century.

1561 – 1568      Shrewsbury School

Drama flourished under the new headmaster Thomas Ashton, with school productions of Whitsuntide and mystery plays being performed on regular occasions.[1]

On this place (the Quarry) in former days the Salopians exercised themselves in sports and diversions of the age. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth one Aston (Ashton) exhibited several dramatic performances here, some formed upon moral romance and some on scripture history. The place of the exhibition was on top of the rope walk, a bank there cut in the form of an amphitheatre with seats thereon are still visible.[2] These performances were in general acted about Whitsunday and from thence called Whitsun Plays, by some Mysteries[3]. They were probably the first fruits of the English theatre, which, as Mr Walton observes, were in general confined to religious subjects.[4]

The Drapers Company made a donation towards the cost of Whitsuntide plays put on by Thomas Ashton, the headmaster, who was partial to dramatic performance. He made it a rule that, every school day boys in the top form should `declaim and play one Act of Comedy` before going out to play.[5]

In 1565 Julian the Apostle and another performance of Mr Aston`s, the name of which is not mentioned, were performed on the above mentioned spot, in the Quarry, before a large audience, when, (not withstanding much of the gross and ridiculous appeared) the Salopian audience (not so refined and gay as their descendants) listened with admiration and devotion.[6]

The Queen (Elizabeth) came as far as to Coventry, on a journey to Shrewsbury, intending to see one of these performances in the year 1565, but her Majesty not having proper information mistook the time and when she came to Coventry, hearing it was over, returned to London.[7]

1567 – 1599

1567    Two years after, in 1567, a theatrical representation of the Passion of Christ was exhibited in the same place by the aforesaid performer.[8]

1584    On 17th of July, a stage-play was acted in the High Street, near the Apple-Market by the Earl of Essex`s men.[9]

1590    On 24th of July, a scaffold was set up in the Corn-Market, on which a Hungarian, and others of the Queens players, performed several extraordinary feats of tumbling, rope-dancing, &c. Such had never before been seen in Shrewsbury.[10]

1600 – 1700

1600-1700       On land at Kingsland, leased to the borough, horse racing and entertainment took place. Several guilds maintained arbours where they celebrated at the end of the Corpus Christi procession. After some years this became known as Show Day and the dozen or so companies that still had arbours met on the Monday fortnight after Whitsunday, where the Mayor and his attendants are entertained by them and then return into town, in the same order of procession as they went out.[11]

1880 onwards

1884    Rustic Stage Plays in Shropshire[12]

Sir Offley Wakeman, Bart wrote a paper for Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Society from which I have extracted the following snippets.

“Most of the readers of the readers of our Transactions are familiar with many of the ancient traditions and customs here and there amongst the hilly district in this county to the west of the Stretton Hills: so far as I am aware, however attention has not yet been called to the performances of open air Stage Plays, which continued to be held in that district in times within the recollection of some yet alive, and are believed by them to date back for many generations.

These plays were generally held in connection with Parish Wakes[13] and there were those still living who could testify to representations having taken place some forty or fifty years ago (1834), at various places within the border parishes of Chirbury, Churchstoke, Hyssington, Shelve and on one occasion at Aston below Worthen, one man stated that a revival was attempted at Hyssington in Montgomeryshire so lately as twenty years ago (1864) but was stopped as he thinks “by the law” All the witnesses agree there was no harm in the plays. One 87 year old man, who as an actor in his youth, agreed “There was no harm in the plays and that acting was a most innocent pastime with no nasty words or anything”. The witnesses and the actor recalled that these were moral plays performed at Churchstoke in May at Shelve in July and Chirbury in October.[14]   They also confirmed that women were not allowed to act, the girls` parts being taken, as in Shakespeare`s day by boys.”

The action was performed on two carts usually outside and connected to the local pub. This is similar to the pageant wagons of York & Chester. The rustic plays of Shropshire were not necessarily based on the Bible but were moral tales of the time. The popular plays in the district were “Prince Mucidorus” “The Rigs of the Times”  “St George and the Fiery Dragon” “Valentine and Orson” and “Dr Foster (Faust)” In all these plays the Fool or Jester is an important character.[15]

1890    The Shrewsbury Fragment

The so-called Shrewsbury Fragment is a surviving part of an early mystery play it is kept in the Moser Library of Shrewsbury School.[16]

Academic analysis shows this does not originate in Shrewsbury but the dialect suggests it is from the north of England, York or Beverley.

It is only a small fragment of a play; it is believed to be a part script for one actor who played three parts.

There are 36 leaves of 14 Latin anthems

There follow three scenes with dialogue in one hand and cues written in another

The Angels and the Shepherds    (Words of third shepherd with cues from second)

The three Marries at the Sepulchere   (Words of third Mary with cues from second) Played by the male actor who plays the third shepherd

Chorus; Dialogue for Cleophas and cues from. a disciple; Jesus; and Luke?

1909    York Mystery Plays revived at an Early Music Festival Played every four years 2018 next due in 2022[17]

1951    Chester Mystery Plays revived as part of the Festival of Britain[18]

1986    Chester Mystery Plays Limited formed as a charitable trust to ensure continuity of the plays.  Played every five years 2018 next due in 2023

2019 Potential date for the performances of Shrewsbury Mystery Plays in various locations around the town.

Book launch

31st July 2017

The Shrewsbury Drapers Company 1462-2017 – The Legacy

A new book by Nigel J Hinton M.A.

Good afternoon,

I am delighted to give you some advance notice of my book launch at 11.00 am on Friday 8th September 2017 at Drapers Hall Shrewsbury

This is during Heritage Open Days when the Hall will be open for visitors

More details will follow in the next couple of weeks

Regards

Nigel J Hinton

Master of the Shrewsbury Drapers Company

2011/12

Please let me know if you would like a copy of this book, or order through local bookshop Pengwern Books.