Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Rev.Waldegrave Brewster's Commonplace Book

With the temperature on the thermometer threatening to dip into minus figures and a bitter wind sweeping across the County making it seem lower still, the prospect of flicking through gauzy summer clothes held little appeal. The remnants of last season's wear - the sensible woolies and fleeces in the odd colours, styles and sizes that nobody wanted - were to be found tucked away in a corner and labelled 'Final Reductions! 30% Off! Sale Must End Soon!' Blow that for a game of soldiers too.

So having a couple of hours to spare before the train was due I took myself to the archives and whistled up a book - The Commonplace Book of Holy Trinity Church, Middleton in Chirbury. It's the Parish Log Book and mostly the work of the Rev. Waldegrave Brewster BA, Middleton's incumbent during the last quarter of the 19th century. His bold hand records, as I expected, the day to day accounts of the Parish, audits and events, visitations and parochial observations.

But hang on - here's a plan of his orchard; 2 sheets taped into the book. Apples and pears, plums and gages, a couple of walnut trees. I do not recognise the names for the most part - they're old varieties which have gone out of fashion perhaps. He has also plotted the mean monthly temperature and rainfall - 2 more sheets of figures to go alongside the expected offertory and attendance statistics.

The Rev. Brewster is clearly fascinated by the history of his parish - and it is a parish steeped in the stuff of myth and legend: Wild Edric, Mitchell's Fold, the Fairy Cow and half remembered tales of Holy Wells and mighty bulls from the deepest darkest past. He writes, draws, measures and notes snippets of information; dialect words, old peoples' tales as told to them by their fathers are faithfully recorded between Church teas and lists of choir members. I began to wonder if this interest was to take over the Vicar's life - obsessed him in a minor way perhaps. During his latter years in the Parish Brewster embellished his church with carvings of astrological figures and the story of the fairy cow. These I have not seen yet.

I was very tempted not to return this little book to the librarian. Its busy pages covered in the fading ink of Brewster's busy pen would keep me occupied for hours. However back in its box it went and back to rest deep in the archive.

I went home then out to the WI where they attempted to teach me to crochet. Give me strength.....Give me batty vicars any day rather than a keen woman armed with wool and needles.

11 comments:

Totty Teabag said...

Batty Brewster's book sounds fascinating. As for learning to crochet...it is like giving up smoking...you really have to want to do it...

Ragged Roses said...

Sounds like a great book, very interesting. I gave up trying to learn to crochet years ago but would secretly like to learn!
Kimx

lampworkbeader said...

I'd love to see the book. A real glimpse into the past.

Elizabethd said...

What a fascinating piece of local history . It would be lovely to trace the trees he mentions.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Ooooo sounds amazing. Don't suppose you could get any pictures could you.

mmmm have tried crocheting - not my bag although I love the results.

Wipso said...

Hehehe I can see an opening for starting up classes....I CAN CROCHET girls. And whats more I actually love doing it. I used to crochet for a little shop in Shrewsbury when I was doing my nurses training to make me a bit of extra pocket money. I well remember making a full baby's shawl in a day....Oh to have the time now!

kissa said...

This book is a glimpse into the past. The fruit trees you mention are fascinating I wonder what they were. When I was samll I used to pick apples in my grandfathers orchard in Somerset they were small and called John Yard.It tried to track them down once at a specialist apple nursery but no luck. Have they disappeared for ever I wonder. I cam't crochet either.

Anonymous said...

Crochet makes you crotchetty. Is that actually a real word?

I did crochet a tie once and knitted a sweater, once. Both showed signs of TV watching.

He never wore either of them.

joco.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

You mean you havent actually BEEN to Middleton Church yet? Amazing place ...but the hair stood up on the back of my neck...odd.
As for WIPSO and her crochet classes ...that woman makes LACE for goodness sake ...now how about some classes in that!

elizabethm said...

Love the idea of the map of the orchard and the temperature records. I would like to do the same.

Arlin Brewster said...

Always been interested in this Reverend Brewster; he was my great-grandfather's uncle, and they regularly corresponded across the Atlantic Ocean (my great-grandfather was in Canada). We still have many of the letters sent by this man, and a hand-written journal of our own family history, started by his father (also a Reverend Waldegrave Brewster, not to be confused!), and continued by this man until he sent the book to my great-grandfather in 1935.

As you recount, his writing style had snippets of things he'd seen and heard over the years; the earlier entries in the journal from his father are in the same style. They were very well-travelled and well-read individuals, and encouraged their children to travel and to dream big. His carvings are interesting!