Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Trading Places (Part One)

Let’s have some general background to get us in the mood for this article shall we? Yes, I know. We don’t usually cover this sort of stuff, opting instead for our own particular brand of claustrophobic parochialism, but there you go. You’ll just have to grin and bear it for now.
When Henry VIII corpulently shuffled off this mortal coil in 1547, Edward VI (his offspring to Jane Seymour…not to be confused with Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) replaced him. Edward’s reign was brief but remarkably busy, marked by social unrest, military withdrawals and the establishment of the Anglican Church as the only official religion in Britain, making Edward himself Britain’s first genuine Protestant monarch.
Not bad going for a nine-year-old brat.
At least, that’s what certain royalist, flag-waving historians would have us believe. In reality, Edward was a puppet in the hands of the regency council led by Jane’s Seymour’s dad.
The painting of Edward by Hans Holbein below shows how inadequately equipped he was to deal with being king. (And this was painted when he was fourteen…er…possibly.)

Unfortunately for Mr. Seymour the puppet’s strings broke, so to speak, in 1553 when Edward dropped dead at the age of fifteen, allegedly naming his cousin Lady Jane Grey as his heir on his deathbed.
Lady Jane Grey (not to be confused with Sarah Jane Smith on Doctor Who) was only a child herself, and considered to be as malleable as Edward had been.
Understandably, perhaps, Edward’s two half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, were not best pleased by all this, and the succession was heavily disputed. Lady Jane Grey managed a total of fifteen days on the throne before the Privy Council dismissed Edward’s will out of hand, ‘bowed to popular opinion’, lobbed her head off and proclaimed Mary queen instead.
This wasn’t a particularly good choice, on the whole, unless, of course, you happened to be catholic. Unfortunately Elizabeth, her sister, wasn’t, and she soon found herself imprisoned for supporting Protestantism.
The new monarch now set about vigorously undoing most of Edward's religious reforms, burning three hundred dissenters at the stake in the process (far more, intriguingly, than the number of Catholics subsequently murdered by Elizabeth, but who’s counting…certainly not the Catholics it would appear), and earning herself the nickname of ‘Bloody Mary’.
It’s all swings and roundabouts in politics, of course, and when Mary followed her half-brother to the grave in November 1588, Elizabeth naturally stepped into the persecutory breach. The painting below shows Elizabeth (also known as ‘Good Queen Bess’ for reasons best left between herself and her courtiers) in a contemplative mood (in which she bears a more than a passing resemblance to Fanny Craddock in our opinion).

Elizabeth’s mother, Ann Boleyn, had been executed a couple of years after Elizabeth’s birth. This led to Elizabeth being declared illegitimate. Not that such matters held any chuck with the politics of monarchy. With the aid of her trusty counsel (led now by William Cecil, otherwise known as the notorious Baron Burghley), she re-established the Anglican Church, set about oppressing Catholics and launched a number of poorly resourced military campaigns in the Netherlands, France and Ireland, with spectacularly disappointing results.
Military matters improved, however, with a bit of help from the weather, when she defeated the Spanish armada in 1588, and, despite the continuous ups and downs of the country’s ecclesiastical politics (of which the average Fylde and Wyre peasant was growing extremely wearisome, no doubt, by this point) she led Britain into stability, helped forge a sense of national identity and is generally regarded nowadays as one of the country’s most popular monarchs. Eventually she kicked the bucket in 1603 still a virgin, bringing an end to the Tudor era once and for all.
Nonetheless, under Elizabeth’s rule international trade improved considerably, all of which (you’ll be glad to know) brings up back to the Wyre, and in particular the Tudor ports of Wardleys and Skippool.
Actually, come to think of it, we didn’t really need that lengthy introduction. Never mind, it’s too late now.
John Porter in his ‘History of the Fylde’ informs us (with regard to both Skippool Creek and Wardleys Creek) that:

…as early as 1590/1600, William and James Blackburne, of Thistleton, carried on an extensive trade with Russia, and there can be no doubt that their cargoes of merchandise, most likely flax and tallow, were landed on the banks of the Wyre at those ancient harbours.

Let’s have an aerial photograph of Wardley’s Creek, shall we, courtesy of Frank Smith (Wyre Archaeology pilot):

It’s on there somewhere, honest.
The quayside at Wardleys can still be seen to this day, although not particularly clearly, it should be said, unless you’re standing on the deck of a boat entering the creek itself, or you’ve broken into the private house in whose back garden it stands and have been chased by the owner’s dog off the end of the wharf and are now hanging precariously above the mud.
Fortunately, we’re cheeky buggers and asked permission for a gander. We’re also untidy buggers, so we lost the photograph we took. However, we did draw up the following illustration of the aforementioned quay for one of our books, so you’ll have to make do with that for now:

As you can probably see, carved Roman numerals, once used to indicate the level of the tide, can still be read vertically down its face.
Right, you’ve suffered enough for one week! Part two in seven days’ time.


Andrew said...

There was a suggestion here to name a new sporting venue Fanny Craddock Paddock, except no one, myself included, knows who she is, which is perhaps not such a bad thing I would guess.

Brian Hughes said...


There is a word that sums up Fanny Craddock in my opinion. That word is 'ghastly'. A pompous, eyebrowless, megalomaniac t.v. cook from the 60s and 70s, whose pallid, lead-whitened skull leering out of the television screen will probably haunt me in my darkest nightmares forever.

Jayne said...

I thought Jane Seymour aka Mrs Henry Tudor and Jane Seymour aka Dr Quinn were one and the same with only a few botox injections, night cream and a portrait in the attic between drinks?

BwcaBrownie said...

I remember Fanny Craddock.
Young Andrew is just too young.
Down here in the antipodes, we got the Simon Schama TV series which dramatised all those mini-monarchs and murderous minders, and I did enjoy your recap and am trying to recall if he mentioned the Wyre.
he should have.

Brian Hughes said...


If you look closely you can see the stitches round Dr Quinn's neck.


I doubt that Simon Schama has ever heard of the Wyre, and my own particular version of our monarchy is considerably more accurate and less toadying than his.

John said...

Well, well.. you all certainly are a merry lot, what with beheading little kiddie Queens and come on... are we to believe that Wee Ed passed away of natural causes?

Who the heck would want the throne, if it comes with poisoned cups, rusty spikes in the seat, and an Uncle with an axe hiding behind it?

Mad you lot are. Mad.

And what's this about a 'virgin' queen? I saw that movie with Christopher Eccleston showing us why he left Doctor Who, and I'm pretty sure there was some hanky panky suggested.

As for the Quay, those could be Roman numerals, or maybe someone was playing tic tac toe along the rocks? We need more than that if you are to be establishing proofs of theories.

Question: Just how far is it to Russia via 16th century paddle boat, and wouldn't the tarrifs on tarrow make that terrible trip a trifle too troublesome? I'm sorry, but I'm not buying it. They were probably trading with the Irish, who they thought were Russian cause they talked funny.

Facts, friend, not fantasy! That's what we're looking for.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


I believe it was David Tennant's Dr. Who who insinuated that his visit to Queen Elizabeth One had resulted in her 'Virgin Queen' epithet being a non-truth, not Christopher Ecclestone. Even Good Queen Bess (who was probably just barren rather than a virgin all matters considered) would have drawn the line at Mr Ecclestone's jug handle ears.

John said...

Eccleston left Doctor Who to become an 'Actor', and the only thing I've seen him in is the second movie about Queen Elizabeth. He had a small role... played an angry guy with a sword, or something. At the time I couldn't believe he bagged Who for that, because he probably could have done the Movie between Who seasons, but hey, he diudn't want to get 'stuck' being Doctor Who.

He showed us!

Now, how about answering my questions about this alleged 'trading with Russia' business????

JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


Britain's a lot closer to Russia than it is to America...and it was back in Tudor times as well. (That's why we had the four minute warning during the cold war when, I think, America had about half an hour.) If was financially worthwhile transporting spuds and tobacco the comparatively massive distance from America back in those days, then I don't see a problem with importing the infinitely more enjoyable vodka from closer quarters.

Jayne said...

Can't we sell Ireland to the Russians and donate the dosh to archiving Eccleston's episodes to the basement of BBC, then chain Tennant back on the set to keep everyone happy?

Brian Hughes said...


The idea of seeing Tennant chained up might do something for you, but I'm afraid it does little for me.

Jayne said...

Shhhhhhhh, you're disturbing my daydream :P

WV =phark
With a phark phark here, and a phark phark there, here a phark, there a phark, everywhere a phark phark...