Robert Carter sent us the following gem:
The Walkworth Chronicle, a well-known
chronicle of the first thirteen years of the reign of Edward IV, penned by John Warkworth,
a Master of (the then) St Peter's College, Cambridge (1473 to 1498), contains a
digressionary reference to waters which some here may find quite fascinating and an
illumination of the late mediaeval mind-set.
I recently acquired an edition
of the work printed in 1839, and edited by James Orchard Halliwell, a Fellow of the Royal
Society and antiquarian, a pamphlet released through the Camden Society. Here, then, I
present (with Halliwell's explanatory notes) my own rendering which might better suit the
modern eye - if not for style or enjoyment, at least so far as making sense of it is
concerned. For comparison the original Middle English (as
jacketted into the ASCII character set) is appended [Click here for
the Middle English text].
'Also in the thirteenth year of
King Edward,  there was a great hot summer, both for man and beast; by
the which there was great death of men and women, that in field harvest time men fell down
suddenly, and universal fevers, aches, and the bloody flux, in several places of England.
And also the heat was so great, that it burnt away wheat and all other grains and grass,
in south parts of the world, in Spain, Portugal, Granada, and others, &c. that a
bushel of wheat was worth twenty shillings, and men were fain in that country to give away
their children for to find them. But, blessed be Almighty God, no such dearth was in
England, nor in France.
Also in the same year Womere  water ran hugely, with such abundance of water that never man saw it run
so much before this time. Womere is callede the woo water: for Englishmen, when they did
first inhabit this land, also soon as they see this water run, they knew well it was a
token of dearth , or of pestilence, or of great battle; therefore they
called it Woo Mere; (for in the English tongue 'woo' and 'mere' meaning water, which
signifies woe-water) for all that time they saw it rain, they knew well that woe was
coming to England. And this Womere is seven miles from St Albans, at a place callede
Markayate; and this Womere ran at every field before specified, and never so hugely as it
did this year, and ran still to the 13th day of June next year following.
Also there have run several
other such waters, that betoken likewise; one at Lavesham  in Kent,
and another beside Canterbury called Naylborne, and another at Croydon in Sussex , and another seven miles this side the castle of Dodley, in the place
called Hungervale; that when it betokens battle it runs foul and trouble water; and when
it betokens dearth or pestilence, it runs as clear as any water, but this year it ran
right trouble and foul water, &c. Also there is a pit in Kent in Langley Park  against any battle he will be dry, even if it rain ever so much, but if
there be no battle about to come it will be full of water, be it ever so dry weather. And
this year he is dry  &c. Also this same year, there was a voice
crying in the air, between Leicester and Banbury, upon Dunmoth, and in several other
places, heard a long time crying, "Bowes! Bowes!" which was heard of 40 men; and
some men saw that he that cried so was a headless man; and many other several tokens have
been shown in England this year, for amending of men's living.'
||Edward was crowned at Westminster Abbey, on
the 29th of June 1461.
||Womere. So in MS. but should be Wemere. This
would seem to beg a question regarding the etymology of the otherwise unconnected place
name 'Woburn'. St Albans, of course, would at time of writing have been 'in shock' still
due to the two savage battles fought there in 1455 and 1461.
||'A tokene of derthe.' See Mr Thoms'
Anecdotes and Traditions (p.122), for one instance of this curious superstition; Mr
Thoms refers to Grimm's Mythology for more examples.
||Lavesham = Lewisham.
||Suthsex. A mistake in MS. for Surrey.
||'A pytte in Kent, in Langley Parke.' This is
probably the place where the small stream mentioned in Hasted's History of Kent
(II p140) took its rise, and joins the river Medway on the south side of it, about half a
mile above Maidstone.
||'And this yere he is drye.' This passage
shows that these notes of prognosticative prodigies were penned in the same year in which
The extract in
'Also in the xiij. yere of Kynge
Edwarde, ther was a
gret hote somere, bothe for manne and beste; by the
whiche ther was gret dethe of menne and women, that
in feld harvist tyme men fylle downe sodanly, and
unyversalle feveres, axes, and the blody flyx, in
dyverse places of Englonde. And also the hete was
so grete, that in brent awey whete and all other
greynis and gresse, in southe partyes of the
worlde, in Spayne, Portyngale, Granade, and othere,
&c. that a bowsshelle of whete was worthe xx. s.;
and menne were fayne in that cuntre to yeve away
there childeryne for to fynde them. But, blessede
be Almyghty God, no suche derthe was nogt in
Englonde, ne in Fraunce. Also in the same yere
Womere watere ranne hugely, withe suche abundaunce
of watere, that nevyr manne sawe it renne so moche
afore this tyme. Womere is callede the woo watere:
for Englyschmen, whenne thei dyd fyrst inhabyde
this lond, also sone as thei see this watere renne,
thei knewe wele it was a tokene of derthe, or of
pestylence, or of grete batayle; therefore thei
callede it Womere; (for we as in Englysche tonge
woo, and mere is called watere, whiche signyfieth
woo-watere;) for alle that tyme thei sawe it renne,
thei knewe welle that woo was comynge to Englonde.
And this Wemere is vij. myle frome Sent Albons, at
a place callede Markayate; and this Wemere ranne at
every felde afore specifyede, and nevere so hugely
as it dyd this yere, and ranne stylle to the xiij.
day of June next yere followynge. Also ther has
ronne dyverse suche other wateres, that betokenethe
lykewyse; one at Lavesham in Kent, and another
byside Canterbury called Naylborne, and another at
Croydone in Suthsex, and another vij. myle a this
syde the castelle of Dodley, in the place called
Hungervale; that whenne it betokenethe batayle it
rennys foule and trouble watere; and whenne
betokenethe derthe or pestylence, it rennyth as
clere as any watere, but this yere it ranne ryght
trouble and foule watere, &c. Also there is a pytte
in Kent, in Langley Parke: ayens any batayle he
wille be drye, and rayne nevere so myche; and if
ther be no batayle towarde, he wille be fulle of
watere, be it nevyre so drye a wethyre; and this
yere he is drye &c. Also this same yere, ther was a
voyce cryenge in the heyre, betwyx Laicetere and
Bambury, uppon Dunmothe, and in dyverse othere
places, herde a long tyme cryinge, "Bowes! Bowes!"
whiche was herde of xl. menne; and some menne saw
that he that cryed soo was a hedles manne; and many
other dyverse tokenes have be schewede in Englonde
this yere, for amendynge of mennys lyvynge.'