Wednesday, March 14, 2007

How quiet it was!

Taken in 1904.

The other day I was sat at the top of my long narrow garden, drinking coffee & smoking a small cigar. I suddenly noticed that I could hear the cries of three buzzards soaring above the village. Young buzzards often stay with their parents for a couple of years, so I expect this was a family group.

I live in a very small Cornish village called Mitchell. First mentioned in a court case in London in 1235, it used to be called Medeschole. The court case confirmed the landowner’s charter to hold an annual market here. Medeschole was an artificial borough created to sit on a cross roads. In the 13th century many such boroughs were created in England and the English parts of France. Our cottage is in the middle of a terrace of granite houses built about 1850 for workers in the giant lead mine at Wheal Rose, about a mile north of the village.

Behind the cottages are long narrow gardens, about 20 feet wide and 120 feet long. Typical working class gardens they would have had a flower area, a rather larger area for vegetables, a few fruit trees and possibly, a sitting out area with a patch of grass. At the top of the garden is a stone privy complete with thunderbox. A long walk on a winter night.

What has this got to do with buzzards? Well, the A30 lies a few hundred yards north of us and in the garden there is a constant background noise from the traffic. It never ends and usually you just ignore it. I could hear the buzzards because there was a break in the traffic. It set me to thinking about how quiet it must have been here when Medeschole was young.

There was a chapel here and although it fell down about 400 years ago, it is known it had a bell. So that would have tolled at set times. The nearest church is over two miles north, so you wouldn’t have heard that very often. There was a blacksmith at the other end of the village, so you might hear the banging and clanging from there.

There would have been some noise from the Stanna Way, which ran through the village. There would almost certainly have been a few drinking establishments. Just to the west of Mitchell is a very large hill and no doubt the carters etc would have needed a drink after the descent and one before tackling the hill if going westwards.

Overall, it would have been very quiet, above all because there would have been very few people. An estimated 25,000 in the whole of Cornwall in 1086 and 35,000 in 1377. Current population is approaching half a million!

Nothing but the cries of the buzzards


Rick said...

Nice one. Of course in your huge jump of history you omit that the population was static at about 350,000 throughout the C19th.

Michael J McCormick said...

I guess I was really thinking about the contrast between the 13th century, when Mitchell was probably founded, with now.

Valeri said...

I loved this potted history Michael, I shall look at Cornwall with different eyes on my next visit.