Village Rhyming Rivalry
Less Bill for this week's Folklore Thursday but plenty of rhymes, most of them unflatteringly aimed at rival towns and villages in Warwickshire.
If you want to know about the folklore and local history of an area and what different parts of that area thought about themselves and others, you can usually find the answers in the rhymes and ditties of the period. Warwickshire is no exception and here's just a few...
The Birmingham Area...
Sutton for mutton and Tamworth for beeves;
Birmingham for blackguards, Coleshill for thieves.
Walsall for knock knees and Brummagen[*] for thieves.
Yenton[**] for a pretty girl and Birmingham for thieves.
[*] Birmingham (aka Brum)
So plenty of local rivalries being settled but a general consensus that Birmingham isn't the most law-abiding of places.
It gets even worse when you move on to Bill's old stomping grounds and not just in the lines that he penned, others were much less kind...
Daft Dorsington, lousy Luddington,
Welford for witches, Binton for bitches
And Weston at the end of the world.
NB: Weston is not actually at the end of the world; it's in the middle of this area.
The old women of Welford and Weston-on-Avon were often heard to threaten wayward younglings with the phrase, "Greville 'ull get ye" and sometimes with the "Wicked Loddy".
Both references to the Grevilles of Milcote Manor founded by Ludovic (Lodvic/Loddy) Greville. Sir Edward was the High Sheriff of Warwickshire in the late 1590s.
No doubt Binton was famed for its breeding dogs.
Aside: There was a travelling preacher in the mid-1900s who became known as "I Be Charlie" from his habit of introducing himself as "I be Charlie from Binton".
Idlicote on the hill, Whatcote downderry,
Beggarly Oxhill and lousy Fulready;
Yawning Yettington[*], peeping Pillerton,
And one-eyed Marston.
Where the inhabitants could be yawning because...
On St Thomas's Day (21st Dec) the bells of Ettington church were rung at 6am to signal the start of Thomasing when refreshment would be offered to the widows of the village as they toured the larger houses in the area.
Or could it be because on Plough Monday the farm girls had to race to a furrow, pick up a sod of earth and run back to the kitchen. They'd be chased by the plough boys armed with whips.
If the girls won and stuck a feather in the sod, they got the boys' share of the traditional Plough Monday plum pudding.
I can't decide if this one is youth rivalry or ye olde football chant (or both):
The Armscot Boys are very good boys,
The Nobold[*] boys are better;
The Halford boys can stand on one leg,
And kick them all in the gutter.
Or it might be about...
Before Newton had its own church in 1833, its inhabitants had rights to all the hay they could cut from a particular field in a set time with a given number of men. Halford's vicar took a tithe which was taken away by a wagon and horses decorated with ribbons.
Or maybe it's a Nine Men's Morris thing:
Halford had a board cut into the turf and another on the lid of a corn chest so they were obviously keen on the game.
Armscote wins in the singing stakes though:
Cecil Sharp[*] found many a talent in the local workhouse including a Mrs Kean who won a prize in 1911 for folk singing.
[*] Famed collector of folk songs and singers.
And in February local lads would run around singing for apples.
Sometimes it got pithier and with less rhyming:
Hungry Harborne, poor and proud.
There was an unfortunate incident in Cubbington during an early football match that may have involved Mike Tyson and certainly ended in bloodshed.
Fear not: North Lindsey is prone to westerly winds, not poor digestion amongst the locals.
And then there's Bedworth[*] whose inhabitants were often described as being "silly".
[*] Which as everyone of right mind knows is pronounced Bed'orth.
Now, my Great Grandfather came from Bed'orth so I take issue with this, though it's not so bad when you know that "silly" used to be synonymous with Holy.
Latterly, it became known as Black Bed'orth; it was an important coal mining town in the area from the mid-1700s onward.
So in honour of my Great Grandfather, Big Bill From Black Bed'orth, next week's Folklore Thursday will feature the folklore of mining, mostly coal.
Now one last poke at Brum:
Silhill[*] on the hill, Balsall in the hole,
Beggarly Barston and lousy Knowle.