Where you are: News - Newsletter Winter 2011
      Newsletter Winter 2011


Autumn activities

Long before the arctic weather came we had three well-attended meetings highlighting first the range of artistic talent in Yorkshire from exquisitely painted pottery to saucily illustrated postcards and then the details of Mary Queen of Scots' enforced stay in Sheffield. Committee and other members of the Society helped to promote the Society at two events: the Local History Fair in Doncaster Museum and at the late night opening of Tickhill shops, beautifully timed to just beat the first snow fall. The autumn was rounded off most enjoyably with the Christmas Social at The Millstone. With so many pre-Christmas events in Tickhill cancelled or postponed we were fortunate this could take place. Many thanks to all concerned with arranging the Social and the other events.

New material on our website

Whether or not you relished the reality of the early onset of winter, you can appreciate the photographs of Tickhill under snow taken by Steve Payne and now shown in the Gallery section of our website. Another addition to the website is in the Living Memories section which has the first part of Dennis Walker's memories about his childhood in Wadworth. This is the first time we have featured Wadworth in this section and we hope you enjoy reading about life in our neighbouring village. 


At the end of September, the Society received an unexpected account of Mrs Betty Hill's memories of growing up in Tickhill. The widow of Ron Hill, whose memories were published in 2009, 95-years old Betty's memories were so interesting, with a very different approach to Ron's, that it was decided to publish them as Occasional Paper 10 Growing up in Tickhill complete with a good many illustrations. The Paper went on sale at our November meeting, and, thanks to Linda Mayes, it is also available from KSM. Work is underway on further Occasional Papers. One story discovered during recent research is outlined on page 4 of this Newsletter    

Our Committee

We welcome two new Committee members, Chris Garritt and Sally Tyas, and one returning Committee member, Peter Welch. We are grateful to them for giving their time to help with all the varied tasks involved in running the Society.

The Sand House

Some time ago we had a talk on the Sand House by Richard Bell whose book on this extraordinary structure near Balby Bridge was out of print. In partnership with Peter Tuffrey, Richard has produced a new, extended, edition of the book The Sand House: A Victorian Marvel Revisited. The site from which the Sand House was excavated, complete with many elaborate carvings, was filled in by Doncaster Council in 1984, so the well-illustrated book is a valuable record of a most unusual part of local heritage. Available from booksellers, the book costs 12.99.

WEA Lectures on Medieval History and Archaeology held in Tickhill

TDLHS members Michael Goddard and Rosemary Cornish share their experiences of several WEA courses of lectures held in Tickhill. First, Michael sets the scene. Over the last few years, people with an interest in the Middle Ages who live in Tickhill have been very lucky because there have been several series of WEA lectures on many aspects of medieval life and archaeology given by Dr David Mercer. (Members may remember Dr Mercer's talk a few years ago in which he put forward some refreshingly new ideas about the function and purpose of castles - ideas which have subsequently become rather more mainstream.) David's lectures are informal affairs, with plenty of opportunities for questions and discussion. Each one is illustrated by literally hundreds of images of manuscript illuminations, sketches, reconstructions, plans, found objects and photographs - many of them his own. As well as the material being perfectly accessible for those who know little or nothing about the period or its artefacts, the depth of Dr Mercer's knowledge of the Middle Ages and his willingness to answer any query, however trivial, ensures that the classes are always a satisfying and fulfilling experience for all levels of interest.     

Some of the topics the courses of lectures have covered include: Life in Medieval Towns, The Medieval Countryside, The History of Medieval Buildings, Monasteries, A History of Church Art and Introduction to Castles. In addition there are usually optional guided field trips. These have included Wingfield Manor, Lincoln Cathedral and Bishop's Palace, York Minster glass restoration and Kenilworth as well as places much closer to Tickhill like Roche Abbey, Monk Bretton Priory, Wadworth Church and Loversall Church. You may think you have managed to visit some of these nearby places quite satisfactorily on you own, but it's only when you go round a site with David that you realise how much you've missed! 

The most recent course in the autumn of 2010 dealt with childhood in the Middle Ages. Rosemary describes one of the sessions which focussed on childbirth. With illustrations from medieval paintings and drawings decorating medieval manuscripts, we learned that childbirth was a much more dangerous affair than it is now. On average, a woman could have between 12 and 16 pregnancies and sadly many of the babies were stillborn. In wealthy households, the lady would choose the room that she wished to give birth in, about a month before the baby was due, and she would stay there until after the birth, for six weeks, when she would be ‘churched’ The blinds and/or shutters would be kept shut in order to keep out ‘humours’ 

It is generally assumed that men were not present at the birth. The midwife, which meant ‘with the wife’ would be present. Another Latin word that sounds familiar today ‘obstetrix’ means ‘a woman who stands by’ only at noble births would male physicians or surgeons be present. Caesarean sections were only used if the mother had died before the baby was delivered. It was recorded that Aelfric of Eynsham ( born C1000) was such a baby and he survived into old age. Weak, undernourished mothers were mostly at risk, particularly in the case of twins.

Few women would have access to knowledge of gynaecological and obstetric problems. It wasn’t until 1545 that Thomas Reynalde, in a preface to his book Birthe of Mankind, says that midwives should have access to this knowledge. Medical knowledge was rudimentary e.g. a swooning patient would be revived with burning feathers.

We saw pictures of birthing stools and ointment being rubbed on the belly to ease the pain. It was thought that the quicker the birth process was the better for all concerned. (0-20 contractions the maximum) Banging drawers and doors was thought to speed the process up!  

Peasant women usually had help from friends and family. Sometimes noble women would offer help as a sign of piety, with gifts of clothes and food. A woman who was invited to attend at the birth was known as a gossip (a corruption of god parent). There is very little evidence of professional midwives before C14th. They were very poorly paid and not held in high esteem. Harm was often done by transfer of dirt or infection from other births, dirty finger nails and cloths. 

Superstition was widespread. There might be chanting and the presence of religious charms of the Saints who were held to be protectors e.g. Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, St. Anne, St. Leonard and St. Mary of Antioch.

Those who were involved at the birth of a possible future king were paid a large amount of money for a safe birth. Alice Massey was given 10 for the safe delivery of Prince Arthur in 1486.A priest would be present at a noble birth and Baptism occurred as soon as possible after the birth. The new baby would be bathed in warm water, milk or wine and wrapped in swaddling bands, as it was believed that it was necessary to prevent premature loss of moisture as the baby had come from a damp environment. Wealthy women employed a wet nurse. (Lack of resources meant that the poor could not do so) The infant would sleep in a cradle. The Baptism of ordinary children would be held in the Church porch, the priest exorcised the baby of evil before it could enter Church. Fonts were kept just inside the door and often had scenes depicting Baptism on them. (E.g. Thorpe Salvin) Mothers were ‘churched’ or purified after 40 days so were not be present at the Baptism. 

The spring term's topic is Medieval Objects with sessions focussing on themes such as pilgrim badges, seals, clothing, furnishings and pottery. Sessions start on Tuesday 18 January 2011 for 10 weeks. You will be welcome to come to subsequent sessions held in the Methodist Lounge from 10 a.m. to noon.                                                             

Endnote: Settling local disputes 

Members may recall a talk by Norma Neill in which she mentioned Church Courts and the interesting range of cases with which they dealt. It is now possible to order copies of papers about the 37 cases which apply to Tickhill through the Borthwick Institute's website: <>. Among the topics covered is defamation of character; one of these cases in the early 16th Century involved the Chaplain of the Chantry of Holy Trinity in St Mary's Church, the defendant, and the Vicar of Tickhill, the plaintiff. Then there was the pew dispute between the Laughtons and Thomas Turnell at the end of the 17th Century.  

Another case in 1765 concerned brawling in St Mary's. Apart from cases specific to the Church, there were contested wills, marital disputes such as 'separation from bed and board', sexual slander and disputes over tithes. One rather surprising feature is that even in the 18th Century some of the records, such as the final judgements, were in Latin. However, these records add new perspectives to our views of life locally and thanks to the website we don't have to trek to York to access the details

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