This week, Nick and I are enjoying a few days in my home town of Southport, a seaside resort on the Lancashire coast. We’ve visited a few relatives and spent time in nice places while we’ve been over here, so I thought I’d share a few photos we took at Rufford Old Hall.
Rufford Old Hall is a National Trust property near the town of Rufford in Lancashire. It is a beautiful Tudor building, built by Robert Hesketh in the 1530s and was owned by the Hesketh family for 400 years until it was donated to the National Trust in 1936. Only the timber-framed Great Hall survives from the original structure. The Jacobean-style rustic brick east wing was added in 1662. A third wing was added in the 1820s.
The Hall is surrounded by Victorian and Edwardian gardens and woods and flanked by a branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
We took photos of the Hall and gardens but also of fifteen scarecrows, many of which could probably be described as unusual or even a little bit weird, placed across the grounds. One was hidden indoors, which we only found when we decided to head into the tea shop for a cup of tea.
I believe the ‘Scarecrow Event’ is held annually and the scarecrows are made by members of the local community and Rufford Old Hall staff and volunteers. Participants, mostly children – and being half-term, there were a lot of them there – are given a map with the locations marked on to help them find the scarecrows. They are also given a little bit of information about the origin of ‘scarecrows’, which I’ll summarise here:
In medieval Britain, scarecrows were originally young boys who were given the job of scaring away the birds from the corn fields (wheat, barley, oats or rye). Originally called bird ‘scarers’ or ‘shooers’, they would patrol the fields with bags of stones and chase away any bird that tried to land by waving their arms or throwing stones. The birds were mostly crows and starlings. The Great Plague of 1348 wiped out so much of the population there were just not enough boys for this job left. People started to stuff sacks with straw and carve faces in turnips to make ‘scarecrows’ they could stand against poles. Of course, wherever available, boys would continue to do this job as well, and did so until the early 1800s when factories and mines offered children better pay. Either way, life was not easy for many youngsters – but that’s another story.
I’ll say no more about the scarecrows. Here are all fifteen of them:
I’ll finish with a few more photos of Rufford Old Hall and the lovely gardens in their autumnal dress:
In the northern hemisphere October is the second of the autumn months. In the southern hemisphere it is a spring month, the seasonal equivalent of April in the north. The month has 31 days and is the tenth of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars, although it kept its original name from the Roman calendar in which ‘octo’ means “eight” in Latin.
Among the Anglo Saxons, October was known as Wintirfilleth, Wintirfylleth or Winterfilled meaning winter full or winter fulfilling. According to Bede, the word meant ‘winter full moon’, the first full moon of October, after which winter was supposed to begin. This idea stems from a time when the pagan Anglo Saxons believed the year was divided into two seasons, just summer and winter.
As winter did not actually start at that time, it has also been suggested that the full moon was simply a signal that winter was on its way, and a warning to people to start preparations for harsh weather ahead. Among several other tasks this could involve food preservation, the housing of livestock in byres and barns, and strengthening homes e.g. repairing thatched roofs, doors and window shutters.
The October birth flower is the calendula and the birthstone is the opal. It is said that the opal will crack if it is worn by someone who was not born in October.
October birth flower: calendula
October birthstone: opal
The October Zodiac signs are Libra (Sept 23 – Oct 22) and Scorpio (Oct 23 – Nov 21)
Libra is one of the three air signs and is often represented by the scales
Scorpio is a water sign and is represented by the scorpion
There are several historical anniversaries in the month of October in the UK. I imagine few are known, let alone ‘celebrated’ but here are some of them anyway:
2nd Oct 1452: Britain’s last Plantagenet king, Richard III was born.
6th Oct 1892: Death of the English Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who immortalised ‘The Six Hundred’ in his poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade.
7th Oct 1920: Women became eligible for admission as full members of Oxford University and given the right to take degrees.
4th Oct 1066: Harold II, England’s last Anglo-Saxon King was killed at the Battle of Hastings in Sussex – possibly by an arrow in the eye as shown in the Bayeux Tapestry.
20th Oct 1632: Birth of English architect Christopher Wren who was responsible for the rebuilding of St. Paul’s Cathedral following the Great Fire of London..
24th Oct 1537: Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour, died following the birth of the future king Edward VI.
28th Oct 1831: English physicist Michael Faraday demonstrated the dynamo, founding the science of electro-magneticism.
29th Oct 1618: English courtier, writer and explorer Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded on the orders of King James I.
There are a number of Special Events celebrated worldwide in October. The most well known one to many of us is probably HALLOWEEN. Here is just a little about the history of the event and its traditions:
Halloween or Hallowe’en is a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening. It is also known as All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve and is a celebration observed in a number of countries on October 31st.
Many Halloween traditions originated from the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain, meaning ‘Summer’s End’, which was celebrated at the end of the harvest season. Samhain was a time to take stock of supplies, prepare for winter and to ask the priests to pray for families as they faced the dark days of winter ahead. They believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the dead would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops.
Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits, or appease them.
The origins of trick or treating and dressing up were in the 16th century in Ireland, Scotland and Wales where people went door-to-door in costume asking for food in exchange for a poem or song. Many dressed up as souls of the dead and were understood to be protecting themselves from the spirits by impersonating them. This festival was later Christianised as Halloween.
Halloween activities today include trick or treating, attending Halloween costume parties, carving pumpkins into Jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, playing pranks – to name just a few. In many parts of the world the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve include attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead. Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows’ Eve. This tradition can still be seen today in the eating of certain vegetarian foods, including apples, potato pancakes and soul cakes.
In Munich (Germany) the big October attraction is OKTOBERFEST!
This festival claims to be the world’s biggest folk festival as well as being a great time to enjoy drinking beer. Over the last ten years or so the festival has attracted around six million visitors every year. Between them, visitors get through almost seven million litres of beer and consume thousands of grilled sausages, chickens, giant pretzels, and even wild oxen. The festival lasts just over two weeks (often from mid-September to early October) and takes place in a meadow outside Munich’s city centre. Besideseating, drinking and dancing, visitors can enjoy parades and fairground rides, and admire the many people dressed in traditional Bavarian clothes.
The history of this festival dates from the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen in 1810. Celebrations involved shooting displays and horse-racing – as well as much eating and drinking. Such a fun time was had by one and all it was decided to repeat the event every year.
This post has now become far too long to add photos of our gardens and local lanes, so I’ll finish with just a few of the many photos we took around the grounds of Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire last week. The autumn colours were a delight (although the red oak in the last photo is not a species native to Britain and was ‘imported’ from North America).