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ISSUE TWO (NOVEMBER 2002)

NOTES & QUERIES

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Pin!!Robert Carter sent us the following gem:

A Nugget

  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, [1] 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 [2] 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 [3], 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 [4] in Kent, and another beside Canterbury called Naylborne, and another at Croydon in Sussex [5], 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 [6] 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 [7] &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.'

Notes:

1 Edward was crowned at Westminster Abbey, on the 29th of June 1461.
2 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.
3 '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.
4 Lavesham = Lewisham.
5 Suthsex. A mistake in MS. for Surrey.
6 '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.
7 'And this yere he is drye.' This passage shows that these notes of prognosticative prodigies were penned in the same year in which they happened.

The extract in the 'original'....

   '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.'

 

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