Thankfully with the restrictions of the last two years lifted we were able to resume our summer visits. This year some of us went to watch Chester's Midsummer Watch parade in June and later in the year we visited Blithfield twice, firstly a private visit to Blithfield Hall and secondly to watch the annual Abbots Bromley Horn Dance.
CHESTER MIDSUMMER WATCH GIANTS PARADE
According to the leaflets handed out at the Parade, the Midsummer Watch was first recorded in 1498. It was organised by the City Guild Trade Companies and was famous throughout the country. It was abandoned in the 1670's and revived in 1989, based on the original records.
There is a family of giants: Father, Mother and two daughters but no one seems to know if they represent any individuals. The procession is led by the City Watch banner and the Mayor's Mount. The "Merchants' Mount", of a ship is reminder that Chester was an important port as perhaps also are the beautifully made Pike and Luce. St. Werberg, foundress of Chester Abbey, now Cathedral, is represented, preceded by the geese she miraculously restored to life and there is an Angel too but other elements of the Parade are of "heathen" or folk traditions. The Green men, Gaia, the Suns and the Tree of life are clearly representative of mid-summer but the Unicorn and Stag, Dragons, Ravens and an Elephant ridden by Cupid seem to have more in common with Medieval bestiaries and marginalia. The Paraded concludes with a return to Christian tradition with the Devil and smoking Hell-Mouth.
The Parade makes a focal point for a fine day out and of course, Chester is a beautiful and historic city, in itself, well worth a visit.
Our group had a very interesting tour of the Church of St Leonard and Blithfield Hall, the ancestral home of the Bagot family. Blithfield Hall is near to the village of Abbots Bromley famous for the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance which is held in September. It is basically an Elizabethan building set around a courtyard in beautiful countryside between Rugeley and Abbots Bromley.
Much of the original estate was sold to the Staffordshire Waterworks Company in the 1940s by Gerald Lord Bagot and Blithfield Reservoir was opened in 1953 by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Gerald’s successor Caryl Lord Bagot and his wife Nancy did however buy back the hall and restore it. It originally had no electricity or heating apart from coal fires. Later it was a very popular tourist attraction with a tea shop, gift shop and a Museum of Childhood.
One of the oldest established families in Staffordshire, coming across from Normandy with William the Conqueror, the Bagots are mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086 when Bigod of d’Avrances held Bromley in Staffordshire and is recorded as holding a virgate of land in Bramshall. By the twelfth century they were seated at Bagots Bromley where they were Lords of the Manor. Blithfield Hall came into the Bagot family in c.1355 when Sir Ralph Bagot of nearby Bagots Bromley married Elizabeth de Blithfield heiress to Sir Richard Blithfield of Blithfield Hall and moved to Blithfield Hall from Bagots Bromley, of which very little remains
Elizabeth de Blithfield and Ralph Bagot’s son Sir John Bagot, knight of Blithfield and Littlehay, was an MP and served as Lieutenant of Calais in 1408, later Ambassador to the Duke of Burgundy, and served with Henry V at Agincourt in 1415. In the 1380s, he was gifted by Richard II, a breed of goat from Europe which are known as Bagot goats. A herd still exists at Levens Hall in Cumbria which is the home of another branch of the Bagot family and at Shugborough. Staffordshire. Sir John Bagot’s kinsman and possibly half brother Sir William Bagot of Baginton in Warwickshire was a courtier and minister of Richard II and is a character in Shakespeare’s play Richard II.
In 1485 Richard Bagot was killed at Bosworth fighting on the Lancastrian side.
In the English Civil War Colonel Richard Bagot, fourth son of Sir Hervey Bagot, was Governor of Lichfield for the Royalist side, was mortally wounded at the Battle of Naseby in 1465 and is buried in Lichfield Cathedral.
The royalist connection continues as Sir Walter Bagot married Jane Salusbury, heiress of Colonel William Salusbury of Pool Park in Denbighshire. Colonel Salusbury was in attendance at Charles I’s execution at the Banqueting House Whitehall in 1649 and the King gave him his embroidered cap. The original is now displayed at Lichfield Heritage Centre and a copy can be seen at Blithfield Hall.
Half of the Hall is still owned by the Bagot Jewitt Trust and is occupied by Caryl Lord Bagot’s great nephew Charles Bagot Jewitt and his family and this includes the impressive Great Hall which has an amazing collection of heraldic carvings. The other half is owned privately.
On the 12th September, we were again at Blithfield Hall, for our annual visit to the Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance.