© Bere Regis Village  2003  -  2017

The Bere Regis Dragon

Bere Regis Village Website Bere Regis Village website
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The history of the Bere Regis Dragon, as told by John Pitfield...

A   few   years   ago   on   a   dark,   cold,   wet   winter's   evening,   at   about   nine   o'clock,   I   was   deliberating   on   my   night-cap.   Decisions,   decisions....   when   the door   bell   rang. The   wind   was   sweeping   the   rain   against   the   windows   but   I   dashed   through   the   lobby   to   open   the   door.   On my way I had almost fallen over "Snowy" my cat, as he gets much more excited about the door bell than the rest of us. The   security   lights   had   come   on   and   I   glimpsed   something   of   a   silhouette   through   the   glass   as   I   pulled   on   the   handle   to open   the   door.   There   on   the   step   was   a   man   clad   head   to   toe   in   black   surmounted   by   a   fine,   but   ancient,   umbrella.   His soaking   black   mackintosh   was   calf-length   and   he   had   on   brogues   that   had   seen   better   days.   He   had   a   scarf   over   his   lower   face   and   was   wearing a trilby with a hat-band with a feather. I only remember the detail because I was so surprised. Under   the   hat-brim   his   eyes   were   black   and   piercing,   but   flickered   in   what   seemed   friendly   recognition.   "John?"   he   asked.   His   slightly   muffled voice   revealed   that   this   was   a   man   of   advanced   and   possibly   fragile   years.   "That's   right"   I   replied.   "The   one   who   did   the   book?"   he   continued. "Yeees" I said slowly, wondering what was coming next, and beginning to think that I might even recognise him, but with no definite luck on that. "Well,   we   had   a   talk   the   other   day   and   decided   that   you   should   have   this..."   and   from   his   pocket   he   produced   a   wooden   box   and   pushed   it   toward me.   I   reached   out,   then   he   leaned   slightly   toward   me   and   said   "It's   all   in   the   past   now   and   I'm   the   last   of   them   who   know   and   the   others   aren't interested." After a pause not knowing either what to say or even what to ask, I took it from his hand saying "Thank you". Turning   as   if   to   leave,   he   paused   then   told   me   it   was   up   to   me   what   I   did   with   it   as   it   didn't   matter   any   more   who   knew   about   it.   He   then   turned   and vanished   into   the   darkness.   As   he   proceeded   down   the   path   the   lower   security   light   came   on   again   and   his   shadowy figure swept past it, then he vanished completely into the teeming rain-swept night. I   closed   the   door   and   thought,   well   that's   the   night-cap   problem   solved....   ...it's   whisky!   I   retreated   to   my   den,   put   the wooden   box   on   the   table   and   got   the   whisky   going.   It   looked   like   an   old   cigar   box   but   had   a   lock,   which   was   broken,   a brass handle on the top and was about 9 inches by 6 inches and about two and a quarter inches high and a bit wet now. After   a   fairly   serious   swig   and   a   bit   of   staring   at   the   box   I   leant   forward   and   pushed   the   lid   back.   There   was   cotton   wool   with   some   objects embedded but the most eye-catching was a small paper label on the inside of the lid. It was in black-faded-to-brown ink and read:- The   Leg   of   a   dragon   or   Wyrm   in   Welsh   Ydraig   which   of   times   past   hung   in   the   Church   of   St   John   Baptist   at   Bere   and   was   thrown   down   and   burnt in the Reigne of our Lady Ann. Ao. dni. 1721 It   took   several   readings   to   work   out   what   it   meant   but   this   was   definitely   a   fascinating   piece   of   Bere   Regis   history;   something   before   the   fire   of 1788 which had wiped out most of the centre of the village and destroyed many things. After   another   slug   on   the   whisky   I   began   rummaging   through   the   contents   of   the   box   and   the   first   item   was   a   bronze figure,   about   six   inches   long.   It   was   a   casting   of   a   creature,   probably   a   lizard   or   a   serpent,   perhaps   even   a   dragon. There   was   a   mounting   hole   on   the   underside,   perhaps   for   it   to   be   mounted   on   a   staff   of   some   sort,   a   head   at   one   end and a long tail at the other. I   had   noticed   before   that   the   box   rattled   slightly   when   turned,   and   I   then   found   out   what   was   causing   this.   There   were several   white   sea-shells   at   the   bottom   of   the   box,   all   quite   small,   plus   something   else   which   I   did   not   recognise.   Also there was a cylindrical pointed flint, perhaps looking a bit like a tooth. After   peeling   back   more   of   the   cotton   wool   I   was   greeted   with   a   sight   that   made   me   jump.   Recoiling   back   into   my   chair   I   instinctively   grabbed   my drink,   took   another   gulp,   then   looked   again.   It   was   a   leathery   paw   or   hand   from   some   animal   attached   to   a chain   and   thereto   a   bronze   clasp. The   claws   were   spread   apart   and   the   leather,   or   whatever   it   was,   was   black with   some   fur   still   attached.   It   made   me   uncomfortable   to   look   at   it.   It   was   truly   scary!   I   closed   the   box   and walked around for a while trying to work out what this mysterious gift was and what can it all be about. Mister....   mister...   mister...   oh   what   was   his   name?   That   man   in   black   and   soaking   wet   at   the   door.   I   am   sure   that   I   would   recognise   him   again,   but who   on   earth   was   he?   He   definitely   had   a   proper   Bere   accent.   I   had   to   find   out   more,   but   it   soon   dawned   on   me   that   it   was   his   intention   that   I would   not   be   able   to   find   out   anything   from   him.   I   looked   at   the   box   again   thinking   '1721'   over   and   over   again   whilst   looking   at   the   closed   box. Something   wasn't   quite   right. The   box   was   only   perhaps   one   hundred   years   old,   one   hundred   and   twenty   five   years   at   the   very   most. The   contents though,   they   could   easily   be   as   old   as   the   message   on   the   lid   suggested,   so   perhaps   it   was   a   replacement box. I   went   to   sleep   that   night   wondering   if   this   could   be   some   sort   of   elaborate   hoax   or   joke   in   the   hope   that   I would   write   about   it   and   take   it   seriously.   It   could   be   a   hoax   or   it   could   be   genuine,   but   which   ever   way   it eventually goes it makes a great story! Detective Work In   the   cold   light   of   the   next   day   I   began   by   looking   up   the   dates   for   Queen Anne   (the   Lady Anne   on   the   message)   and   she   reigned   from   1702   until 1714   in   which   year   she   died   aged   48   years.   The   1721   date   must   then   be   the   date   of   the   message   and   refer   to   the   period   in   which   the   ceremony took place. Reference   to   St   John   Baptist   church   at   Bere   pretty   much   confirms   that   this   means   our   church   as   no   other   Bere   church   has   the   same   dedication. The   bit   about   it   hanging   in   the   church   suggests   some   sort   of   clerical   approval   for   its   existence,   which,   if   not   worrying,   is   certainly   curious. "Throwing down and burning" seems rather extreme and one wonders if this was conducted in public or was part of some secret ritual. Then   there   are   those   two   words   which   are   unfamiliar;   "Wyrm   in   Welsh Ydraig"   so   a   quick   check   in   various   dictionaries   shows   that   wyrm   is   from   the Anglo-Saxon   meaning   snake,   serpent   or   dragon.   As   for   ydraig,   that   is   Welsh   for   "dragon"   or   fire-expelling   creature.   So   that's   the   message deciphered, if not understood. What was going on in Bere between 1702 and 1714? Mostly   not   very   much,   but   on   closer   inspection   1703   seems   to   have   been   a   turning   point   in   the   fortunes   of   Bere   Regis   people. After   five   hundred years   the   male-line   of   the   Turbervilles   finally   died   out   in   May.   Then   in   November   1703   there   was   a   terrible   storm   which   passed   through   here   with winds   of   120   mph.   Damage   to   the   church   is   recorded   but   nothing   is   mentioned   about   the   obvious   devastation   caused   elsewhere   in   the   village. A lot   of   thatched   roofs   must   have   been   blown   away.   Then   in   May   1710   the   final   male   Turberville   died   aged   36   years   and   called   Robert   Turberville. He was never considered for succession to Lord of the Manor, presumably for being sickly or perhaps enfeebled in some other way. Who were the vicars at Bere Regis in Queen Anne's reign? Between   1701   and   1711   William   Hockin   was   vicar.   He   died   at   Bere   and   was   buried   on   7   February   1711.   John   Wills   was   instituted   on   19 April   1711 after   a   two   month   interregnum.   He   resigned   in   1725   and   according   to   the   Dean's   Subscription   Book,   then   went   on   to   practice   medicine.   This   was shortly after the invention of inoculation. How is Queen Anne described in the history books? She   was   Queen   between   1702   an   1714   between   the   ages   of   36   and   48   years,   dying   on   1   August   1714.   Before   she   was   crowned   she   was described   as   self-doubting   and   eager   to   please,   but   also   stubborn   and   rigid   on   moral   issues.   She   was   very   religious   with   Protestant   fear   of Catholics   encouraging   national   unease.   She   had   terrible   gout   and   diseased   joints,   such   that   for   her   Coronation   in   April   1702   she   could   not   walk and   was   carried   into   Westminster   Abbey   in   a   chair.   She   married   the   retiring   and   "colourless"   Prince   George   of   Denmark,   which   was   followed   by many   still-births   and   miscarriages,   and   another   child   who   died   at   ten   years.   This   was   the   end   of   the   Stuart-line.   The   power   vacuum   meant   that Parliament   was   on   the   ascendant   with   Whigs   and   Tories   running   more   of   the   country   and   even   creating   the   "United   Kingdom"   on   1   May   1707. Anne's   once-best   friend,   Sarah   Churchill   said   she   was   "..ignorant   in   everything   but   what   the   parsons   had   taught   her   as   a   child"   while   in   one notable   speech   in   the   House   of   Commons   Anne   said   "I   am   entirely   English."   The   House   of   Hanover   began   with   George   I   (1714-1727)   on   her death. What was going on nationally? Agriculture   seemed   to   be   going   well   for   the   first   part   of Anne's   reign,   that   is   until   1709   when   famine   spread   all   across   the   continent   through   poor growing   weather.   Also   in   Europe   the   Duke   of   Marlborough   was   winning   battles   all   over   the   place   -   that   is   until   he   was   dismissed   in   1711.   The Churchill   family   had   been   very   close   to Anne,   with   Sarah   being   her   best   friend   from   an   early   age.   In   1705   Edmund   Halley   realised   that   the   comets of   1531,   1607   and   1682   were   the   same   one. This   was   also   the   time   when   20,000 African   slaves   were   being   imported   each   year   to   British   colonies in   North America,   just   part   of   the   7   million   total   "imported"   in   the   18th   Century.   1709   was   the   year   often   regarded   as   the   beginning   of   the   Industrial Revolution with Newcomen's steam engine being commercialised. Could all these national and local events been the stimulus for strange rituals at Bere Regis? There   was   smallpox,   death   of   the Turbervilles,   seemingly   endless   wars,   natural   disasters,   memories   of   comets   in   the   sky,   weak   monarchy   leading to new politics and the threat of new technologies. I am told, also, that "Queen Anne" furniture had its origins at this time! Are there any clues in the church-warden's accounts? I   found   two   interesting   entries,   the   first   in   1711:   "Paid   to   a   Souldier   that   had   lately   been   Sick   of   ye   Small   pox   ...6d."   More   mysteriously,   perhaps,   is an   entry   from   about   March   1712   amongst   detailed   lists   of   purchases,   for   what   and   to   whom,   saying   "Paid   ...   for   other   things...   2s."   which   is   the only entry which is ambiguous. Two shillings in 1712 would today be about £40. So... the big question. Is the Bere Regis Dragon genuine? It could be; I'm not sure. I will leave it to you, dear reader, to decide!
L L L L L
© Bere Regis Village  2003  -  2017

The Bere Regis Dragon

Bere Regis Village Website
Click / tap image for a larger view Click / tap yellow circle for full size image in a new tab

The history of the Bere Regis Dragon, as told by John

Pitfield...

A   few   years   ago   on   a   dark,   cold,   wet   winter's   evening,   at   about   nine o'clock,   I   was   deliberating   on   my   night-cap. Decisions,    decisions....    when    the    door    bell rang. The   wind   was   sweeping   the   rain   against the   windows   but   I   dashed   through   the   lobby to   open   the   door.   On   my   way   I   had   almost fallen   over   "Snowy"   my   cat,   as   he   gets   much   more   excited   about   the door bell than the rest of us. The    security    lights    had    come    on    and    I    glimpsed    something    of    a silhouette   through   the   glass   as   I   pulled   on   the   handle   to   open   the   door. There   on   the   step   was   a   man   clad   head   to   toe   in   black   surmounted   by a   fine,   but   ancient,   umbrella.   His   soaking   black   mackintosh   was   calf- length   and   he   had   on   brogues   that   had   seen   better   days.   He   had   a scarf   over   his   lower   face   and   was   wearing   a   trilby   with   a   hat-band   with a feather. I only remember the detail because I was so surprised. Under   the   hat-brim   his   eyes   were   black   and   piercing,   but   flickered   in what    seemed    friendly    recognition.    "John?"    he    asked.    His    slightly muffled   voice   revealed   that   this   was   a   man   of   advanced   and   possibly fragile   years.   "That's   right"   I   replied.   "The   one   who   did   the   book?"   he continued.   "Yeees"   I   said   slowly,   wondering   what   was   coming   next, and   beginning   to   think   that   I   might   even   recognise   him,   but   with   no definite luck on that. "Well,   we   had   a   talk   the   other   day   and   decided   that   you   should   have this..."   and   from   his   pocket   he   produced   a   wooden   box   and   pushed   it toward   me.   I   reached   out,   then   he   leaned   slightly   toward   me   and   said "It's   all   in   the   past   now   and   I'm   the   last   of   them   who   know   and   the others   aren't   interested."   After   a   pause   not   knowing   either   what   to   say or even what to ask, I took it from his hand saying "Thank you". Turning   as   if   to   leave,   he   paused   then   told   me   it   was   up   to   me   what   I did   with   it   as   it   didn't   matter   any   more   who   knew   about   it.   He   then turned   and   vanished   into   the   darkness.   As   he proceeded   down   the   path   the   lower   security light   came   on   again   and   his   shadowy   figure swept   past   it,   then   he   vanished   completely   into the teeming rain-swept night. I    closed    the    door    and    thought,    well    that's    the    night-cap    problem solved....   ...it's   whisky!   I   retreated   to   my   den,   put   the   wooden   box   on the   table   and   got   the   whisky   going.   It   looked   like   an   old   cigar   box   but had   a   lock,   which   was   broken,   a   brass   handle   on   the   top   and   was about   9   inches   by   6   inches   and   about   two   and   a   quarter   inches   high and a bit wet now. After   a   fairly   serious   swig   and   a   bit   of   staring   at   the   box   I   leant   forward and   pushed   the   lid   back.   There   was   cotton   wool   with   some   objects embedded   but   the   most   eye-catching   was   a   small   paper   label   on   the inside of the lid. It was in black-faded-to-brown ink and read:- The   Leg   of   a   dragon   or   Wyrm   in   Welsh   Ydraig   which   of   times   past hung   in   the   Church   of   St   John   Baptist   at   Bere   and   was   thrown   down and burnt in the Reigne of our Lady Ann. Ao. dni. 1721 It    took    several    readings    to    work    out    what    it    meant    but    this    was definitely   a   fascinating   piece   of   Bere   Regis history;   something   before   the   fire   of   1788 which   had   wiped   out   most   of   the   centre   of the village and destroyed many things. After   another   slug   on   the   whisky   I   began rummaging   through   the   contents   of   the   box and    the    first    item    was    a    bronze    figure, about   six   inches   long.   It   was   a   casting   of   a creature,    probably    a    lizard    or    a    serpent, perhaps   even   a   dragon.   There   was   a   mounting   hole   on   the   underside, perhaps   for   it   to   be   mounted   on   a   staff   of   some   sort,   a   head   at   one   end and a long tail at the other. I   had   noticed   before   that   the   box   rattled   slightly   when   turned,   and   I then   found   out   what   was   causing   this.   There   were   several   white   sea- shells   at   the   bottom   of   the   box,   all   quite   small,   plus   something   else which   I   did   not   recognise.   Also   there   was   a   cylindrical   pointed   flint, perhaps looking a bit like a tooth. After    peeling    back    more    of    the cotton   wool   I   was   greeted   with   a sight      that      made      me      jump. Recoiling   back   into   my   chair   I   instinctively   grabbed   my   drink,   took another   gulp,   then   looked   again.   It   was   a   leathery   paw   or   hand   from some   animal   attached   to   a   chain   and   thereto   a   bronze   clasp.   The claws   were   spread   apart   and   the   leather,   or   whatever   it   was,   was   black with   some   fur   still   attached.   It   made   me   uncomfortable   to   look   at   it.   It was   truly   scary!   I   closed   the   box   and   walked   around   for   a   while   trying to work out what this mysterious gift was and what can it all be about. Mister....   mister...   mister...   oh   what   was   his   name?   That   man   in   black and   soaking   wet   at   the   door.   I   am   sure   that   I   would   recognise   him again,   but   who   on   earth   was   he?   He   definitely   had   a   proper   Bere accent.   I   had   to   find   out   more, but   it   soon   dawned   on   me   that   it was   his   intention   that   I   would   not be   able   to   find   out   anything   from him.   I   looked   at   the   box   again thinking    '1721'    over    and    over again     whilst     looking     at     the closed   box.   Something   wasn't   quite   right.   The   box   was   only   perhaps one   hundred   years   old,   one   hundred   and   twenty   five   years   at   the   very most.    The    contents    though,    they    could    easily    be    as    old    as    the message on the lid suggested, so perhaps it was a replacement box. I   went   to   sleep   that   night   wondering   if   this   could   be   some   sort   of elaborate   hoax   or   joke   in   the   hope   that   I   would   write   about   it   and   take   it seriously.   It   could   be   a   hoax   or   it   could   be   genuine,   but   which   ever   way it eventually goes it makes a great story! Detective Work In   the   cold   light   of   the   next   day   I   began   by   looking   up   the   dates   for Queen   Anne   (the   Lady   Anne   on   the   message)   and   she   reigned   from 1702   until   1714   in   which   year   she   died   aged   48   years.   The   1721   date must   then   be   the   date   of   the   message   and   refer   to   the   period   in   which the ceremony took place. Reference   to   St   John   Baptist   church   at   Bere   pretty   much   confirms   that this    means    our    church    as    no    other    Bere    church    has    the    same dedication.   The   bit   about   it   hanging   in   the   church   suggests   some   sort of   clerical   approval   for   its   existence,   which,   if   not   worrying,   is   certainly curious.   "Throwing   down   and   burning"   seems   rather   extreme   and   one wonders   if   this   was   conducted   in   public   or   was   part   of   some   secret ritual. Then   there   are   those   two   words   which   are   unfamiliar;   "Wyrm   in   Welsh Ydraig"   so   a   quick   check   in   various   dictionaries   shows   that   wyrm   is from    the    Anglo-Saxon    meaning    snake,    serpent    or    dragon.    As    for ydraig,   that   is   Welsh   for   "dragon"   or   fire-expelling   creature.   So   that's the message deciphered, if not understood. What was going on in Bere between 1702 and 1714? Mostly   not   very   much,   but   on   closer   inspection   1703   seems   to   have been   a   turning   point   in   the   fortunes   of   Bere   Regis   people.   After   five hundred   years   the   male-line   of   the   Turbervilles   finally   died   out   in   May. Then   in   November   1703   there   was   a   terrible   storm   which   passed through    here    with    winds    of    120    mph.    Damage    to    the    church    is recorded    but    nothing    is    mentioned    about    the    obvious    devastation caused   elsewhere   in   the   village.   A   lot   of   thatched   roofs   must   have been   blown   away.   Then   in   May   1710   the   final   male   Turberville   died aged   36   years   and   called   Robert Turberville.   He   was   never   considered for   succession   to   Lord   of   the   Manor,   presumably   for   being   sickly   or perhaps enfeebled in some other way. Who were the vicars at Bere Regis in Queen Anne's reign? Between   1701   and   1711   William   Hockin   was   vicar.   He   died   at   Bere and   was   buried   on   7   February   1711.   John   Wills   was   instituted   on   19 April   1711   after   a   two   month   interregnum.   He   resigned   in   1725   and according   to   the   Dean's   Subscription   Book,   then   went   on   to   practice medicine. This was shortly after the invention of inoculation. How is Queen Anne described in the history books? She   was   Queen   between   1702   an   1714   between   the   ages   of   36   and 48   years,   dying   on   1   August   1714.   Before   she   was   crowned   she   was described   as   self-doubting   and   eager   to   please,   but   also   stubborn   and rigid     on     moral     issues.     She     was     very religious   with   Protestant   fear   of   Catholics encouraging     national     unease.     She     had terrible   gout   and   diseased   joints,   such   that for   her   Coronation   in   April   1702   she   could not   walk   and   was   carried   into   Westminster Abbey   in   a   chair.   She   married   the   retiring and       "colourless"       Prince       George       of Denmark,   which   was   followed   by   many   still- births   and   miscarriages,   and   another   child who   died   at   ten   years.   This   was   the   end   of the   Stuart-line.   The   power   vacuum   meant that   Parliament   was   on   the   ascendant   with Whigs    and    Tories    running    more    of    the country     and     even     creating     the     "United Kingdom"   on   1   May   1707.   Anne's   once-best   friend,   Sarah   Churchill said   she   was   "..ignorant   in   everything   but   what   the   parsons   had   taught her   as   a   child"   while   in   one   notable   speech   in   the   House   of   Commons Anne   said   "I   am   entirely   English."   The   House   of   Hanover   began   with George I (1714-1727) on her death. What was going on nationally? Agriculture   seemed   to   be   going   well   for   the   first   part   of   Anne's   reign, that   is   until   1709   when   famine   spread   all   across   the   continent   through poor   growing   weather.   Also   in   Europe   the   Duke   of   Marlborough   was winning   battles   all   over   the   place   -   that   is   until   he   was   dismissed   in 1711.   The   Churchill   family   had   been   very   close   to   Anne,   with   Sarah being    her    best    friend    from    an    early    age.    In    1705    Edmund    Halley realised   that   the   comets   of   1531,   1607   and   1682   were   the   same   one. This    was    also    the    time    when    20,000    African    slaves    were    being imported   each   year   to   British   colonies   in   North America,   just   part   of   the 7   million   total   "imported"   in   the   18th   Century.   1709   was   the   year   often regarded     as     the     beginning     of     the     Industrial     Revolution     with Newcomen's steam engine being commercialised. Could   all   these   national   and   local   events   been   the   stimulus   for   strange rituals at Bere Regis? There    was    smallpox,    death    of    the    Turbervilles,    seemingly    endless wars,    natural    disasters,    memories    of    comets    in    the    sky,    weak monarchy   leading   to   new   politics   and   the   threat   of   new   technologies.   I am told, also, that "Queen Anne" furniture had its origins at this time! Are there any clues in the church-warden's accounts? I   found   two   interesting   entries,   the   first   in   1711:   "Paid   to   a   Souldier   that had    lately    been    Sick    of    ye    Small    pox    ...6d."    More    mysteriously, perhaps,   is   an   entry   from   about   March   1712   amongst   detailed   lists   of purchases,   for   what   and   to   whom,   saying   "Paid   ...   for   other   things... 2s."   which   is   the   only   entry   which   is   ambiguous.   Two   shillings   in   1712 would today be about £40. So...   the   big   question.   Is   the   Bere   Regis   Dragon   genuine?   It   could be; I'm not sure. I will leave it to you, dear reader, to decide!
L L L L L L