1984-Apr-Pg76-8_Meetings Reviewed

1984-Apr-Pg76-8_Meetings Reviewed

This article came from the Chronicle published April 1984. Page 76-78



Author: R.J.Clynick


GAS, GAITERS, GALLOPERS. The first of the Winter Meetings, on 7th October, was addressed by Dr.R.W.Dunning — editor of the Victoria County History of Somerset — whose intriguing talk was entitled “Gas, Gaiters.and Gallopers”. His was the story of the decadent state of the Church of England, after the Restoration in the l7th C. From Bishops down to the minor clergy — the vicars and curates the system was generally rife with scandals, nepotism, gross neglect of ministry, plurality of incumbencies, blatent absenteeism and abuse of preferments. There were, of course many exceptions, but on the whole the state of the established Church of England was deplorable.

The title “Gas, Gaiters and. Gallopers” referred respectively to the tediously long sermons so much in vogue, the formal leg attire of the clergy, and “Gallopers”, those vicars and curates who, often having more than one parish in their care, spent much time and energy galloping from one parish to another, to keep services going. This lower stratum in the system was mostly at the mercy of the lords of the manors and patrons of livings, whose whims and prejudices decided the incumbents appointments. Stipends were appallingly low and often the manse left much to be desired.

Dr.Dunnings’s entertaining talk was well researched and covered a large area of the country. Conditions in Somerset were no better than elsewhere and the Yeovil area was no exception!

In the Chairman’s absence, Mr.L.C.Hayward expressed the thanks and appreciation of those present to the speaker for this illuminating account of this part of our nation’s ecclesiastical history.

THE SHERBORNE MISSAL. The Sherborne Missal was the subject of a fascinating and instructive talk given by Gerald Pitman of Sherborne. Those members who were present at this talk, on 4th November, will long remember this outstanding event. The Missal contains the texts needed in the celebration of the Mass, prior to the Reformation. The book weighs about 3 stones and its pages measure 21″ by 15″. There are 347 leaves, 694 pages in all. It was made for the Benedictine Abbey of Sherborne c.1400. The text was meticulously written by a Benedictine monk, John Whas, and the intricate and delicately coloured illustrations were the work of John Siferwas, a Dominican friar. Portraits of both these men appear repeatedly throughout the Missal.

It was made to the orders and presumably at the expense of the Bishop of Salisbury and the Abbot of Sherborne, between 1396 and 1407. It would have been used on the High Altar at Sherborne, but probably only on Holy Days and Feast Days. It is especially notable for the numerous recognisable bird illustrations, which occur throughout the manuscript.

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, it disappeared but in 1719, came to light Lisieux. By 1746 it was in the possession of a high officer in the French Navy and in 1797 was purchased by George Galway Mills, of Slaughter House, in Gloucestershire. When this gentleman’s library was sold in 1800, the Missal was bought for £215 by the 2nd Duke of Northumberland. For 180 years it was preserved at Alwick Castle, the family seat. At the present time, the Book is on long loan to the British Library, from the trustees of the will of the 9th Duke. It is undoubtedly one of the finest extant examples of mediaeval book painting.

Mr.Pitman’s excellently illustrated exposition was warmly applauded and after answering a number of questions was accorded a hearty vote of thanks voiced by Mr. Leslie Brooke.

Annual General Meeting. The Society’s A.G.M. was held on 3rd December, Mr.W.T.Chapman presiding. His opening remarks contained his thanks to all the officers and an expression of regret that three of them – Mr.Leslie Brooke, Mrs.Pat Knight and Mr.Ron Gilson had resigned their positions, however, they would continue as active members of the Society.

The Secretary reported a most satisfactory year’s activities. A new membership card was being introduced. Visits had met with varying support. The Committee had put in much hard work. The Treasurer’s report showed the healthy state of the Society’s finances. Copies of the balance sheet were distributed to members for scrutiny. Copies of a proposed addition to the Constitution, dealing with the Society’s separate Funds, were also made available the membership and discussed. Both reports were adopted.

The Officers elected were as follow:-

  Chairman:  Mr.W.T,Chapman   Librarian:  Miss E.Pawley
  Secretary:  Mr.J.Moon   Editor:  Mr.B.C.Gittos
  Treasurer:  Mr,P.Gardner
  Committee:  Mr.L.J.Brooke,  Mr.R.J.Clynick, and Mrs.P.Knight.

Following the elections, a light buffet supper was provided by the Library staff and lady members of the Society, who are to be congratulated on the success of the new feature. After the buffet, members were treated to some amusing anecdotes in Somerset Dialect by Mrs.Swetman and Mr.Dove. The tragic tale of Jarge Balsh and his horse “Vriday” will long be remembered! Mr.Chapman thanked both readers, who were warmly applauded.

MEMBERS NIGHT: THE HOLYLAND. The first meeting of the New Year was “Members’ Evening”, devoted to a recorded and well illustrated talk, presented by Sister Marie Christine, and entitled “The Holy Land”. The dominant theme was the Bible story but interwoven in the pattern were the triple claims of Christianity, Judaism and Islam., to a presence in this ‘holy land’ throughout the centuries. From an archaeological point of view, the superb slides demonstrated the way in which innumerable temples, mosques and churches had been built, desecrated and demolished in turn, by the followers of the different faiths. However, this has enabled archaeologiests to undertake important digs and to identify the different cultural eras which succeeded one another. The slides also gave a remarkable record of the present day “Holyland” with its skyscrapers and modern places of worship. However, the appallingly arid landscape surrounding the towns and cities is much as it was in Biblical times. The Chairman, Bill Chapman, expressed to Sister Marie Christine the thanks and appreciation of a well attended meeting.

MENDIP CAVES. On 3rd February, Mr.Hanwell spoke on “Mendip Caves” from the geological viewpoint. Despite the complex language of geology, his treatment of the subject was refreshingly lucid and greatly appreciated by an attentive audience. His talk took the form of a journey through the history of the Somerset landscape for some 400 million years and was well illustrated by slides. Mr.Hanwell explained that it was the pioneering work of Herbert Balsh which gave him his first interest in the subject. By use of block sections, he described the build-up of Somerset strata from volcanic material of the Silurian age, overlaid by red sandstone of Devonian age, covered by 1,000 metres of carboniferous limestone and topped by Jurassic and Triassic material. In practical terms the audience asked to picture Somerset alive with volcanic activity; as a vast Devonian desert; as a tropical coral-bearing sea; as the scree-lined slopes of a great rift valley and finally as the victim of up to 23 ice ages.

Mr.Hanwell refuted the idea that Cheddar Gorge was a cave with a collapsed roof. Current opinion is that it was formed by melting ice scouring the southern edge of Mendip. He described. the Mendip region as like a “bent banana” stretching from Frome to Weston—super—Mare. He identified some of the products of Mendip such as andesite of Silurian age,quarried at Beacon Rill near Stoke St.Michael and used for surfacing the Severn and Bosporus bridges.

The final section of Mr Hanwell’s lecture consisted of slides of cave scenery from stalactites to swallet holes.

Interesting points about Cheddar man Banwell Bone Cave were raised in the questions which followed the talk and Mr.Leslie Brooke gave a vote of thanks.

MEDIEVAL AND EARLY HERB GARDENS. The Society was very pleased to welcome a distinguished Somerset resident, Dr.J.Harvey who gave the Edgar Silcox Memorial the Lecture on 3rd March. Dr.Harvey is a prolific author and the country’s leading authority on gothic architecture. His chosen subject was treated in a very broad sense because as he pointed out, “herb” can be taken to mean almost any living plant. Dr.Harvey was interested in the historical context of herbs rather than their application for culinary or medicinal purposes. His eloquent,spontaneous delivery was supported by some well chosen slides. He began his talk in Turkey and drew attention to the importance of the plant market of Istanbul. *He used contemporary material such as paintings, tapestries and illuminated manuscripts to illustrate the gardening methods employed in the period between the conquest and the reformation. His earliest picture of an English herb garden dated from some 50 years after the Conquest, showing gardens in the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral. His map showed the distribution of medieval gardens throughout England and into southern Scotland, clearly showing the greatest concentration of medieval gardens in south eastern sector of the country. Typical features of medieval gardens included familiar lattice and paling fencing and long narrow beds which could be easily worked from both sides.

Dr.Harvey devoted the second half of his lecture to considering the history of the use of individual plants in England. He distinguished between forgotten, maligned plants such as the daisy and solomans seal which are largely ignored because they are indigenous, and varieties which had been imported into this country such as Rosemary. This attractive and useful plant had originated in Morocco and been introduced through Spain and France to Belgium. Edward III’s Queen, Philippa of Hainault, then brought some Rosemary to England in the year 1343 thus giving a precise date for the plant’s introduction into England. Dr.Harvey used several photographs of plants growing in his former garden at York and concluded with a slide of the 15th century wall of the Manor House garden at Mells near his present home at Frome. Mr.Hayward give a very appreciative vote of thanks for a particularly fine lecture. BCG.