History Group Meeting 2 October 2014
Lawrence Washington, Lord of the Manor of Sulgrave and Stuchbury (aka Martin Sirot Smith), provided a fascinating and entertaining insight into Tudor Harvest Customs for over 40 members.
Partly aided by Don Gill as Lord of the Harvest, the Lord of the Manor, finely attired in splendid Tudor dress, described many aspects of life down on the farm, and the contrasting living conditions of the nobility and peasants.
We were introduced to Ceres, the Queen of the Harvests and her daughter Persephone, who was abducted by and then forced to spend 6 months of the year with Pluto. During these 6 months, Ceres mourned for her daughter and the flowers died and the fields turned brown – winter was born!
We were told of the significance of Lammas Day (1st August, the start of the harvest), Nutting Day (3rd September) crying the neck (a ceremony associated with the final cutting of the corn) and many more occasions linked to the harvest.
Various types of produce were displayed and described. Peasants lived primarily on bread and gruel, with little meat, whereas 85% of the nobility’s diet was meat.
The Lord mentioned that, in 1840, 130 men were required to cut 10 acres. This dropped to only 3 by 1940 and nowadays, teams of combines can cover 100 acres in a day.
A very enjoyable afternoon.