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Wearing white for Eastertide

Housman was referring to cherry trees of course, but the pear blossom in the garden at Hartlebury is just as lovely:

Here is St John’s account of the first Easter, in the New Testament printed by John Oswen in Worcester in  1550:

Christine Penney, Hurd Librarian

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Cricketeers again

Bishop Brownlow North’s irritation with the “cricketeers” infesting  his park, along with rats, at Farnham Castle puzzled me some time ago. Here is an extract from his letter to Bishop Hurd, written soon after he had left Hartlebury for Winchester in August 1781:

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"I am beginning by fair means to remove the Criketeers from my Park" he announced.  What on earth did he mean, I wondered? Surely not the local cricket team. Dr Johnson does not record the word and I had visions of armies of crickets keeping the Bishop and his lady awake every night until they longed for the peace of Hartlebury. But it was indeed the local cricket team. Peter McCullough of Lincoln College Oxford got in touch recently, after spotting my blog on the subject, and referred me to a poem in a burlesque collection called The blunders of loyalty by the magnificently named Ferdinando Fungus, published in 1790:

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So cricketeers was a word in common use in the late 18th century, despite Dr Johnson’s omission. And the Farnham Cricket Club website informs us that the team did play in the castle park until a bishop made them move to a new pitch near the moat. This was evidently Dr North. Perhaps he found the  trilling clangours of the bat of beechen tree striking the terrific ball too much to bear on a summer afternoon. Or perhaps Mrs North feared for her windows. I’m sure it was all done very courteously.

Christine Penney, Hurd Librarian

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Hatpins and fritillaries

An unusual sight on the chapel floor at Hartlebury Castle yesterday was a carpet of hatpins, laid by the Hatpin Society of Great Britain, who held their annual meeting there.

They looked not unlike a colourful spring garden:

So when members came up to see the Hurd Library we showed them what  flowers Philip Miller tells us to look out for in April:

My eye was caught by the fritillaries:

They are very shy and hard to grow, but here are some of mIne:

I have not found any growing at Hartlebury  (Magdalen College Oxford is the place) but Dr Johnson defined them in his dictionary, with a reference to Miller:

A plant, indeed! Is that all he could say? Maybe he never saw one, though William Curtis found them growing in London during Johnson’s lifetime and recorded them in the Flora Londinensis. So we do have one at Hartlebury, which can be seen at all seasons.

Christine Penney, Hurd Librarian

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No paradise?

Thurcaston in Leicestershire was, in the 18th century, one of the richest livings in the gift of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

This is an engraving in John Nichols’s History and antiquities of the county of Leicester, 1795. In 1756 the living became vacant and was offered to the  most senior Fellow, Henry Hubbard, Richard Hurd’s former tutor and now a close friend. Hubbard declined, so it was offered to.Hurd, who was next in seniority. The two men rode over to see the place in October. Hurd wrote to his friend and mentor.William Warburton, who had been encouraging him to develop his career since 1749, on the 20th: “The situation is pleasant enough for the country, which you know is no paradise.The house good enough for a bishop and in good repair and the gardens, which  to a bookish man you know is a matter of consequence quite excellent”.  (This comment was prophetic, for Hurd was of course destined to become a bishop, first at Lichfield and then at Worcester - and one of his predecessors at Worcester, Hugh Latimer, had been born at Thurcaston.)

In November he commented:”The gardens are as pleasant as I have ever seen belonging to a Parsonage”. So he decided to accept, though with some misgivings.  In 1757 he wrote to his old friend William Mason: “I doubt whether I shall be fond of it in the winter”.  He finally moved in on  9 May 1758 and it was not long before he found his prejudices were rubbish. He had intended to spend the winters, which he dreaded so much, in Cambridge, but in August he was writing to Mason: “I even like it so well that I am almost determin’d  to return to Cambridge no more”.  Mason, who was rather better at gardening than he was at writing poetry, laid out the grounds for him, which were “gradually brightening by the strokes of your pencil” Hurd wrote in 1759. Mason recorded his friend’s increasing contentment in an ode that year:

By 1760 Hurd had no more fears of the winter, declaring that “the prospect of dark days and long lonely nights gives me no disquiet”.

As well as Thurcaston Hurd had to look after the chapel at nearby Ansty.

He had a resident curate to help him, the first being George Jolland, who lived in the rectory with his family (not getting too much in the rather unsociable Hurd’s way, one must hope) but he only stayed a year and Hurd was on his own until 1763, when he appointed the recently ordained David Ball of St John’s College, Cambridge. Ball was there for the remainder of Hurd’s time at Thurcaston.

Hurd’s parishioners were not too pleased with his repairs on the church chancel in 1763, when he had the stained glass replaced with plain, and in 1758 there was some dispute over the felling of some trees; but that he was a good pastor is shown in a letter written in January 1763, saying he could not leave the village as the recent severe weather had made a perfect hospital of his parish.  All was forgiven much later, when his head, duly adorned with a bishop’s mitre, was carved high up on the outside of the church:

And they still treasure a tiny watercolour portrait of him done in his old age:

The provenance of this was a puzzle, though the corner of what was evidently a church window gave a clue but, as so often, Hurd’s nephew, young Richard, came to the rescue. In 1811 he had a letter from a Mr Parsons of Stourport, and he made a note of it:

So now we know it was painted in 1807 in Hartlebury Church, 11 months before Hurd’s death at the age of 88. Possibly young Richard gave it to the Rector of Thurcaston as a memento of his kindly predecessor who had, after all, found the village was indeed a paradise. As its present inhabitants, to whom I talked about Hurd last week, no doubt agree.  The last words should be Hurd’s (to Mason in 1765): “I neither wish to live or die in a pleasanter scene.  I pity you at York while I have these painted fields & green trees about me , & golden suns rolling thro’ cloudless skies over my head”

Christine Penney, Hurd Librarian

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Spring comes to Hartlebury

The castle grounds have been looking wonderful this week and the castle, glimpsed through the leafless trees, could stand in for the sleeping beauty’s residence.

You can see the bow window of the Hurd Library in the middle of the west front. In 1788 a local clergyman, Edward Waldron, did a pen and wash drawing, looking across the lake from almost the same angle:

And here is the same view as it looked this week:

Christine Penney, Hurd Librarian

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Who was James Ross?

The fine Worcester artist and engraver, James Ross, has been mentioned in several blogs but we don’t know much about him. It’s obvious, however, that he was a great friend of Bishop Hurd’s nephew, young Richard, who has preserved letters from him and many original drawings and watercolours, some of which he has pasted into books in the library. It is to Ross that we owe the watercolour of the west front of Hartlebury Castle after the Hurd Library was built:image

Ross painted this view in 1814, from a sketch he had made in 1789. Thanks to him we know where Hurd’s monument was first placed in the Cathedral:

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He gave young Richard a superb set of watercolours of the Cathedral in 1790:

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He also contributed illustrations to Valentine Green’s history of the city, published in 1796.image

:The vignette on the title page is by Ross, who is also one of the subscribers:

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Green paid a handsome tribute to Ross in the book:

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But young Richard has added a note about his friend:

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He died on 16 September, 1821, on the way home from church, and was buried the following Sunday at All Saints in Deansway. An engraving of All Saints is in Green:

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Here it is today:

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A brass tablet in Ross’s memory, with that of his  late wife, is on the south wall, kept so beautifully polished it is hard to photograph:

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Nearby is a tablet recording the burial of their baby son James,who had died in 1780::

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So it’s now possible to find out a little more about Ross. He was baptised in Ribbesford, near Bewdley, on 30 March 1746, his parents being Edward and Mary Ross. He was a pupil (as was Green) of the engraver Robert Hancock of Oldbury and he lived in the Corn Market in Worcester. But he appears in no directory that I’ve found and seems to have been a very self-effacing man. Richard Hurd’s preservation of so much of his work, however, should make further study possible.

Chris Penney, Hurd Librarian

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Who wrote this?

In August 1772 Richard Hurd received a very long anonymous letter at his rectory at Thurcaston.

.”Sir” it began. “Some months ago it was reported that Dr Hurd was preparing to expound the Apocalypse and once more to prove the Pope to be Antichrist. The Public were amazed”. It went on to take issue with Hurd over his interpretation of the Book of Daniel and ended thus:

An answer was to be sent to Daniel Freeman Esq. at the Cocoa Tree, Pall Mall. One of our visitors suggested this was the 18th century equivalent of Starbucks. It was actually a very famous coffee house, acting as an informal hq for the Tory party.  Hurd’s note reads:

"I had neither leisure nor inclination to  enter into controversy with this stranger"  but he decided he had better send some sort of reply, did so at equal length and thought no more about it for 24 years.

The anonymous correspondent was referring to Hurd’s recently published Warburton lectures on prophecies concerning the Christian church. In 1796 Hurd found out who he was: Edward Gibbon.

Hurd had read Gibbon’s great work and had a very low opinion of it. “His loaded and luxuriant style is disgusting to the last degree” he wrote “and his work is polluted everywhere by the most immoral  as well as religious insinuations”. He found Gibbon’s letter and his own reply  (shocking breach of copyright!) in a collection of Gibbon’s miscellaneous works published after his death in 1796 and made this remark in his commonplace book (neatly transcribed, like the one above, by his nephew):

"Mr Gibbon survived, but a short time, his favourite work….And a few years more may, not improbably, leave him without one admirer." So much for Gibbon, whose work is actually still in print.

Chris Penney, Hurd Librarain

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It can only get better!

Just to remind you that Worcester has had a summer in the past, here are some more views by Thomas Sanders - this time from the north east:image

The Malverns are a lot clearer than they were last week, when my train had to cross a lake on the way to Hereford. Here is a detail of the livestock:

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And some more sheep you can hardly see on the original:

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What an artist he was.

Chris Penney, Hurd Librarian