Jun 14 2014

The mystery of the Fulacht Fiadh or Burnt Mound

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Reconstruction of a burnt mound being used as a sweat house

Reconstruction of a burnt mound being used as a sweat house

Pic: Irish Archaeology

Excavation started on the burnt mounds at Rathmore, Co. Wicklow back in 2012 reports the Irish Archaeology websiteBurnt mounds are a type of archaeological site whose defining characteristic is large quantities of heat shattered stone. These sites commonly date to the Bronze Age, although examples from the Neolithic through to the medieval period are known. Burnt mounds are also known as fulacht fiadh and have been primarily interpreted as cooking places. The term fulacht fian is found in the early Irish literature from at least the 9th century AD (Waddell 1998, 174) and refers to open-air cooking places in which a water filled pit was made in which to cook meat.

The early Irish literature also shows that the word fulacht is not only applied to a water filled pit for boiling meat but also to an outdoor cooking pit where meat was roasted on a spit or over an open fire (Kelly 1998, 337).

In the field extant burnt mounds are noted as low grassy mounds which can be circular or crescent shaped. Size varies from sites which are only a few metres in diameter to those which can be upwards of thirty metres. The usual location of burnt mounds is close to a water source, such as a stream or lake, or simply in low-lying boggy ground. Due to the extensive agricultural activity which much of Ireland has seen, burnt mounds are often ploughed-out and leave no trace on the ground surface. In this case if the land is topsoil stripped the remains of the burnt mound will be seen as a shallow deposit of heat shattered stones which lie within a charcoal rich black soil.

Pit for holding Water into which Hot Stones were placed

The general sequence of events observable at these sites is the digging of a pit or pits into the subsoil, which functioned as troughs for holding water, followed by the build up of heat shattered stones and the residues of fires. Sometimes hut sites were located beside the sites. Excavated troughs are generally found to be rectangular or sub-rectangular in shape. Some excavated troughs contained a timber lining to keep the sides from collapsing, or a clay lining, to keep the water in. A fire was set near to the trough upon which stone was heated and the heated stones were subsequently dropped into the water. 
A timber lined trough, Rathmore, Co. Wicklow

A timber lined trough, Rathmore, Co. Wicklow

Pic: Irish Archaeology

The resultant boiling water was then used for a variety of purposes. Once the water heating process was complete the trough was cleaned out and the stones were cast aside giving rise to the characteristic shaped mounds present in today’s landscape. The stones did not always shatter in the process and could be re-used.

As well as the occurrence of troughs and deposits of burnt stone, burnt mounds have another common characteristic – the use of certain types of stone. In general sedimentary rocks such as sandstone are very common and experiments have shown that sandstone can be heated and cooled around five times before splitting into unusable fragments (Buckley 1990, 171).

Different Theories on how Burnt Mounds were used

The most common explanation for the function of burnt mound sites is as cooking sites, although a number of other theories have been postulated to explain the nature of these sites. It has been demonstrated that they could have been covered by light structures and used as saunas or sweathouses such as that at Rathpatrick, Co. Waterford (Eogan & Shee Twohig 2012, 179). Industrial uses such as the washing or dyeing of cloths and hides have been postulated (Waddell 1998, 177), and it has also been argued that they were used to brew beer (Quinn & Moore 2009). What is clear is that large quantities of hot or boiling water were produced and the sites often had long periods of use as attested by the large mounds of stone. The absence of animal bone does not preclude cooking activities as carcasses may have been prepared elsewhere and brought to the site and, once the meat was cooked it may have been taken elsewhere to be eaten. The damp soil conditions associated with burnt mounds do not generally favour the preservation of animal bone.

Burnt mounds appear to have a long period of use in Ireland. Excavations at Clowanstown, Co. Meath, revealed the presence of five upstanding Neolithic burnt mounds (Archaeology Ireland, winter 2007, p.12), and examples are known from this period through to the medieval period, giving a span of use of some five thousand years.

Along with Colm Moriarty, the original  host of this news article, we’d like to thank Catherine McLoughlin for this excellent article on burnt mounds/fulacht fiadh. Catherine is joint owner of the well-known Wexford based archaeological company Stafford McLoughlin Ltd and she has over ten years experience as a licenced archaeologist.

References

Archaeology Ireland. Wordwell, Dublin.

Buckley, V. 1990 Burnt Offerings. Wordwell, Dublin.

Hore, P.H. 1900-1911 History of the Town and County of Wexford. London.

Eogan, J., & Shee Twohig, E. 2012 Cois tSiuire – Nine Thousand years of Human Activity in the Lower Suir Valley. NRA Scheme Monographs 8, Dublin.

Kelly, F. 1998 Early Irish Farming. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

Quinn, B., & Moore, D. 2009 ‘Fulacht fiadh’ and the beer experiment’ in Stanley et al (eds) Dining & Dwelling. NRA Monograph Series No. 6, 43-53, NRA, Dublin.

Waddell, J., 1998 The Prehistoric Archaeology of Ireland, Galway University Press.

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Jun 04 2014

Neanderthals aren’t grunting, club-wielding idiots – we are!

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Cave Painting

Cave Painting

Pic: icantcu

They’ve long been maligned as grunting, club-wielding idiots, but apparently we’ve got Neanderthals all wrong. Misled by their simple tools (clubs) and simple language (grunting) we have stereotyped them as primitive beings – but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, according to recent research, Neanderthals were no less intelligent than their modern human contemporaries.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Neanderthals aren’t grunting, club-wielding idiots – we are” was written by Martha Gill, for theguardian.com on Friday 2nd May 2014 11.45 UTC

They’ve long been maligned as grunting, club-wielding idiots, but apparently we’ve got Neanderthals all wrong. Misled by their simple tools (clubs) and simple language (grunting) we have stereotyped them as primitive beings – but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, according to recent research, Neanderthals were no less intelligent than their modern human contemporaries.

After careful study of archaeological records, scientists in the Netherlands found evidence to suggest that Neanderthals were just as advanced in culture, weaponry and hunting as our human forebears. According to those scientists, the misunderstanding came about because people had been comparing Neanderthals to their successors, who had more advanced tools, rather than their contemporaries. Which is rather like assuming I am more advanced than my parents because I know how to work an iPhone. But this doesn’t make my parents any less intelligent … just obsolete and unable to function in this modern, fast-paced world.

So, what we have here is an ugly, ugly stereotype; a stereotype that needs to be quashed. As ever, the Guardian is the perfect place to start that process – and perhaps even to “rebrand” the Neanderthal. After all, when you really think about it, aren’t we the real club-wielding prehistoric creatures?

Take some of our most pressing modern concerns. To pick just one example, let’s look at the unpalatable truth about quinoa. All evidence suggests that Neanderthal food was both organic and locally sourced. But unlike modern man, Neanderthals were not “consciously ethical” consumers so preoccupied with “personal health, animal welfare and reducing their carbon ‘foodprint’” that they drove up the price of a staple grain beyond the grasp of local Bolivians. No.

Not for them, either, the errors of cupcake fascism. They refrained from such products which, as has been pointed out, “treat their audience as children, and more specifically the children of the middle classes – perfect special snowflakes full of wide-eyed wonder and possibility” and thereby “succeed as expressions of a desire on behalf of consumers to always and for ever be children, by telling consumers not only that this is OK, but also that it is, to a real degree, possible.” Which was really wise of them.

And neither were Neanderthal women held up to ridiculously high beauty standards. They were not impelled to shave their legs in order to live up to unreachable social ideals concocted by a controlling patriarchy.

And finally, Neanderthals had the skills that will really matter post-rewilding. When George Monbiot has his way and wolves, bears, bison and lynx roam Britain (sheep cast finally into the furthest pit of hell), we’ll be relying on our hunting nous. Only then, as we square up to a hungry grizzly, will we know who the club-wielding idiots truly are.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

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May 30 2014

Béal Beo: The Cylinder Project, Gobán Saor and the Fairy in the Sea

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Recording onto a Wax Cylinder

Recording onto a Wax Cylinder

Pic: Béal Beo

The audio archive of the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin, houses some 1,100 wax cylinder recordings of folk narratives, folk song and folk music. The earliest of these date from the 1890s on the occasion of the first national Feis Ceoil competitions, which were held in Dublin and Belfast. This unique collection spans almost sixty years of folklore recording up to the mid 20th century. A selection is now available online at Béal Beo.

Among the amazing records and stories that have been captured – along with tgranscipts or English translations –  are some superb tales about Gobán Saor – the  highly skilled smith or architect in Irish history and legend. 

Gobán Saor

Gobban Saer (Gobban the Builder) is a figure regarded in Irish traditional lore as an architect of the seventh century, and popularly canonized as St. Gobban. The Catholic Encyclopedia considers him historical and born at Turvey, on the Donabate peninsula in North County Dublin, about 560.

In literary references, he was employed by many Irish saints to build churches, oratories, and bell towers, and he is alluded to in an eighth-century Irish poem, preserved in a monastery in Carinthia. In the “Life of St. Abban” it is said that “the fame of Gobban as a builder in wood as well as stone would exist in Ireland to the end of time.”

In Gobán Saor can be seen elements of Goibniu, the Old Irish god of smithcraft. His name can be compared with the Old Irish gobae ~ gobann ‘smith,’ Middle Welsh gof ~ gofein ‘smith,’ Gallic gobedbi ‘with the smiths,’ Latin faber ‘smith’ and with the Lithuanian gabija ‘sacred home fire’ and Lithuanian gabus ‘gifted, clever’. [Wiki]

A portable Ediphone recording machine used by folklore collectors until the 1950s.

A portable Ediphone recording machine used by folklore collectors until the 1950s.

Pic: Béal Beo

A variety of tales are recorded about the Gobán Saor, the mythical master builder of Irish tradition. This particular account was recorded from the 77 year-old Mícheál Mac an Mháistir, from Lettera, Kilcommon, Co. Mayo by Proinnsias de Búrca, Irish Folkore Commission, on the 29 November 1937. The story goes like this:

“Sixty five years ago this Christmas, my grandfather was telling me a story about Gobán Saor. Gobán Saor was in this country in Ireland and he was the best craftsman in the seven kingdoms. No castle could be built anywhere that was of high quality but that Gobán was the master and looking after it. He went up making Dublin castle and was long years on that castle.

” He came down to Sligo and married a respectable handsome woman. He had a large holding of land and he went up to Dublin again. And when he married this woman he stayed with her six months. He had to go up to Dublin castle again looking after his craftsmen and men. Well, the King of England sent him a letter asking him and pleading with him to go across to himself to make a big palace for himself in England. And he didn’t go as far as him at that time.”

There are many more tales of legend, folklore and history recorded on these fabulous wax cyulinders and you can listen to them all on this superb website. You can hear the story of the four-leaf clover, songs like the Vagabond Song and Seoirse Chonamara as well as stories of the fairies.

A Fairy in the Sea

Three men went out fishing one day. They weren’t long out when they saw fish swimming around the boat… They were out about an hour and they were looking at the net, and one of the men said to another to throw his knife at the net, and the man took his knife out of his pocket and he threw it out into the sea, and it wasn’t long after that before the water was full of blood.

That was all very well, but the three [of them] went home that night, and about eleven o’clock, or about then, the man who threw the knife heard a noise outside the house, and he got up and went to the door, and who was there but a man on the back of a white horse. The man spoke to him, and he said:

‘You were fishing today, and you threw a knife, and you must come with me now and pull out that knife.’

‘Very well!’ said the man, and he went up onto the horse behind him, and as they were going on their way, the man on the white horse said to him: ‘When you go to this house, do not eat anything that they give you.’ They were travelling on and they came to the sea, and the horse walked under the sea until she came to a big house, and they knocked on the door, and a woman opened the door. And when the man went in, there was a woman standing by the fire and there was a knife stuck in the top of her head. The man went in and he pulled out the knife. The people inside said to him to drink tea, or eat something, and he said he wouldn’t eat it.

He went out again, and he went up on the horse with the man of the white horse. When they were going home, the man said to him never to go out fishing again. The man went to America for a few years. He came home, ten years later, and he said one evening, he was at the house and he was looking out at the sea, and he said to himself he would go out fishing. He went out in a boat, and nobody saw or heard anything about him since.

[Source]

This website is a wonderful resource of early Irish lore and Story as told on the earliest recordings we have. Well worth checking out at http://www.bealbeo.ie/index.html

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May 03 2014

Wales History Month Starts Today

The Welsh Dragon

The Welsh Dragon

Pic: Wales Online

Today, WalesOnline, in association with Cadw, launches Welsh History Month. Every day for the next four weeks, leading academics and historians from History Research Wales will ask, what is the most significant object in our past? Here, David Anderson, Director General of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, wonders if it’s the meaning we attach to objects that gives them their importance. Go to the Wales Online site to read the full article. David says:

If you had to select one object of particular significance to you, what would it be? The photograph of a loved one? The book that changed your thinking? The four-leaved clover you found and preserved when you were a child? The sampler your grandmother sewed?

If you had to choose one object of significance from Wales’s past, what would it be? A miner’s lamp? A Welsh Bible? A painting of a Welsh landscape? A suffragette banner? A Celtic cross? A photograph of a village choir? An early manuscript of the Mabinogion?

It is the meaning we attach to objects that gives them their significance. A few years ago, one museum invited members of the public to contribute images of their favourite objects to its website. Some wonderful stories emerged.

One woman submitted an image of a letter in her possession. This had been written during World War Two by her father, a newly married soldier, to his young wife back at home. The letter was not delivered.

After the War, the soldier returned home, and the couple had two daughters. The girls grew up and left home. The couple grew old. The husband died. The wife married again and moved away. The street where they had lived was demolished.

Then one day a nearby barn was knocked down. A bag of undelivered post was discovered hidden behind a wall. One night, not long after, there was a knock on the door of the wife’s new home. The Royal Mail had traced her and, sixty years after it was sent from the battlefield, she received the letter written by her first husband to her younger self. She opened it, and at once her world turned upside down.

Amgueddfa Cymru – the National Museum of Wales

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales has seven sites spread across different parts of Wales. These include the National Slate Museum in Llanberis, the National Wool Museum in Drefach, the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, the National Roman Legion Museum in Carleon, Big Pit: National Coal Museum in Blaenavon, and National Museum Cardiff. All have strong connections with their communities.

But no museum is as loved by so many people across Wales as St Fagans. Here the most precious objects are not necessarily treasures of great financial value, but the ordinary homes and objects once owned by someone’s aunt or grandparents, and taken to the museum from a place maybe only five or ten miles from where you live.

Over the next few years, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Welsh Government, St Fagans will be developed to become the National Museum of History for Wales. For the first time, the nation will have a museum which brings together archaeological and historical collections from the earliest Neanderthal remains, dating to 230,000 BC, to the present.

St Fagans reminds us that culture is a living process, and that everyday objects, as much as great works of art, have the power to evoke memories, and to move and inspire us.

The past is all around us, in fields and beside the road, in town squares and in our own homes, should we choose to look. It is the foundation for our lives.

A critical understanding of how history is made by attributing meaning to this past, and how it may be used (or mis-used) in the present, is vital if we are to make informed choices about our future as a nation.

David Anderson is director-general of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Read the full article on the Wales Online website.

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Originally posted 2013-04-27 12:10:34. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Apr 26 2014

New show, Druid Special No. 2 – An interview with Greywolf, the Head of the British Druid Order, Part 2

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Philip Shallcrass

Philip Shallcrass


Pic: Elaine Wildways
In the second of our unique Druid Interviews, we bring you the second half of our interview with the Head of the British Druid Order, Philip Shallcrass, aka Greywolf. He talks about Druidry, the BDO’s Distance Learning Courses,the Ogham and the World Drum. The show also contains 6 fantastic pieces of music, including one by Philip himself which he wrote for his three sons. Truly, an interview not to be missed!

We’ve marked this show as explicit due to the subject matter of the ‘out-takes’ at the end – the body of the show remains ‘Family-Friendly’!

How to Listen

The Episode is available for subscribers on the feed, or you can download it or listen to it from our Episodes page. You’ll also be able to listen on Stitcher! You can find the Shownotes for this episode in the Shownotes section. If you come to the site and listen or listen from one of our players – have you considered subscribing?

It’s easy and you automatically get the episodes on your computer when they come out. If you’re unsure about the whole RSS/Subscribing thing take a look at our Help page.

We hope you enjoy it and wish you many blessings :D

Gary & Ruthie x x x

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Mar 27 2014

Ancient Butter found 2,500 years later in a Bog at Shancloon in Ireland

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Bog Butter in Wooden Urn

Bog Butter in Wooden Urn

Pic: Cork Butter Museum

Experts from the National Museum of Ireland believe that the ‘Bog Butter’ found in the bog at Shancloon, north of Galway, could be 2,000 to 2,500-years-old. The butter was found when Ray Moylan from Headford was having his annual turf supply cut by contractor Declan McDonagh. Moylan, a bus driver, contacted the Office of Public Works, Headland Archaeology in Galway and the National Museum of Ireland when he made the discovery.

The butter which was found in timber keg, made from the trunk of a tree, weighed almost 28 pounds. The keg was built using Iron Age implements. It was buried three to four-foot away.

An assistant keeper with the National Museum of Ireland, Padraig Clancy, said that the butter could be up to 2,500 years old. Clancy along with Karena Morton conservator at the National Museum of Country Life, removed the butter from the bog. It will be brought to the National Museum’s facility in Lanesboro. Clancy said:

The type of vessel it is in usually helps us to date the period the butter is from, and this one could date back to the Iron Age.

Archaeologist Ross MacLeod commented on the quantity of butter discovered in Galway. Speaking to the Irish Times he said:

It would have been a substantial loss to the family that buried the butter in the bog that they never recovered it. Perhaps the person who buried it died or forgot where it was left… That might have been stored up by a family during the summer and put into the bog for use during the cold winter months. Its loss could have been a tremendous one for some family a long, long time ago.

Bogs were used as a primitive form of refrigeration by people in the past. The peat creates a vacuum around buried material.

Read more: http://www.irishcentral.com/news/bog-butter-find-believed-to-be-2500-years-old-121769889-237387291.html#ixzz2x9uRgxF3

Votive Offerings

Another theory that is sometimes seen with the discovery of Bog Treasures like this, is that the object would have been a votive offering – an offering to the Gods. Butter, no doubt seen as a highly valuable and prized commodity, would have been ideally suited as an offering and 2,500 years ago the Butter would have been placed in watery marsh, and probably not buried. Bogs tend to develop as the marshland dries out. Rather than thinking that this Buttery treasure had been forgotten by its owner, it seems far more likely to me that the churn was gifted to the Gods in the hopes of gaining their favour, much as other votive offerings have been found throughout Celtic Europe. Jane McIntosh, Handbook to Life in Prehistoric Europe, p. 256 refers to…

packages or pots of “bog butter” (that) have been found, probably placed in bogs or lakes in the Bronze or Iron Age. These may have been votive offerings or simply placed in water to keep cool in summer months and never retrieved.

Rubicon Heritage continues. Theories about the origins of Bog Butter deposits are divided between two schools. The first suggests ritual `votive offerings´ – the deliberate deposition of the casks in honour of/supplication to a deity. The second school proposes `human error´ – accidental deposition either as a result of forgetfulness or the death of the owner. Bogs would have acted as a reliable form of refrigeration for a winter stock of butter surplus and the unfortunate owners of the butter failed to adequately mark the stockpile.

The IPCC (Irish Peatland Conservation Council) lists a reference to a recipe for Bog Butter from an account of Irish food written by Dinely in 1681: ‘Butter, layed up in wicker baskets, mixed with a sort of garlic and buried for some time in a bog to make a provision of an high taste for Lent’.

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You can also now download a Celtic Myth Podshow App from the iTunes store. This is the most convenient and reliable way to access the Celtic Myth Podshow on your iPhone or iPod Touch. You’re always connected to the latest episode, and our App users have access to exclusive bonus content, just touch and play! To find out more visit the iTunes Store or our Description Page.

 

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Mar 25 2014

Confessions Of A Westcountry Witch-finder – lost book finally discovered

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Jason Semmens

Jason Semmens

Pic: Academia.edu

AS if by magic, an important 50,000-word manuscript for an unpublished book on Cornish folklore, assumed long-destroyed, has just been rediscovered This is Cornwall reported in 2009. The guest speaker at the Winter Festival of the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies, Jason Semmens, pictured left, announced the news to an audience of 200 members in Wadebridge Town Hall.

He said that quite by chance the federation’s publications officer, Anne Knight, had received the missing manuscript to catalogue as part of her work for Cornwall Library Service. It had been deposited at the Cornwall Centre in Redruth after being found and rescued during a house clearance.

Mr Semmens – whose book, The Cornish Witch-finder: William Henry Paynter And The Witchery, Ghosts, Charms And Folklore Of Cornwall was published by the federation last year – said he had been looking for the lost manuscript for many years.

He said the book, entitled Abracadabra, or Confessions Of A Westcountry Witch-finder, had been written by Bill Paynter, who died before it could be published.

It contains a wealth of folklore information collected in the early 20th Century. Founder of Callington Old Cornwall Society, Mr Paynter was made a bard in 1930 and chose the name Whyler Pystry (Seeker of Witchcraft).

Mr Semmens announced the discovery during a talk on the theme of witchcraft, conjurors, cunning folk and charmers in Cornish folklore.

You can visit the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies and learn much more about some of the old histories of Cornwall. You can also find them on Facebook.

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You can also now download a Celtic Myth Podshow App from the iTunes store. This is the most convenient and reliable way to access the Celtic Myth Podshow on your iPhone or iPod Touch. You’re always connected to the latest episode, and our App users have access to exclusive bonus content, just touch and play! To find out more visit the iTunes Store or our Description Page.

 

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Mar 07 2014

The Wild Men of Europe bring fertility to the land

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Sauvage at carnival in Switzerland

Sauvage at carnival in Switzerland

Pic: Charles Fréger

They become bears, stags, and devils. They evoke death but bestow fertile life. They live in the modern era, but they summon old traditions reports Rachel Hartigan Shea for the National Geographic. A primal heart still beats in Europe. Deep beneath the gloss of cell phone sophistication lie rituals that hark back to harvests and solstices and fear of the winter dark. Monsters loom in this shadowy heart, but so does the promise of spring’s rebirth and fertile crops and women cradling newborn babes.

It turns out that Europe—at least pockets of it—has not lost its connection to nature’s rhythms. That connection is rekindled during festivals that occur across the continent from the beginning of December until Easter. The celebrations correspond to Christian holidays, but the rituals themselves often predate Christianity.

The roots are difficult to trace. Men—and until recently, it has almost always been men—don costumes that hide their faces and conceal their true forms. Then they take to the streets, where their disguises allow them to cross the line between human and animal, real and spiritual, civilization and wilderness, death and rebirth. A man “assumes a dual personality,” says António Carneiro, who dresses as a devilish careto for Carnival in Podence, Portugal. “He becomes something mysterious.”

Photographer Charles Fréger set out to capture what he calls “tribal Europe” over two winters of travel through 19 countries. The forms of the costumes that he chronicled vary between regions and even between villages. In Corlata, Romania, men dress as stags reenacting a hunt with dancers. In Sardinia, Italy, goats, deer, boars, or bears may play the sacrificial role. Throughout Austria, Krampus, the beastly counterpart to St. Nicholas, frightens naughty children.

But everywhere there is the wild man. In France, he is l’Homme Sauvage; in Germany, Wilder Mann; in Poland, Macidula is the clownish version. He dresses in animal skins or lichen or straw or tree branches. Half man and half beast, the wild man stands in for the complicated relationship that human communities, especially rural ones, have with nature.

The bear is the wild man’s close counterpart—in some legends the bear is his father. A beast that walks upright, the bear also hibernates in winter. The symbolic death and rebirth of hibernation herald the arrival of spring with all its plenty. For festival participants, says Fréger,

Becoming a bear is a way to express the beast and a way to control the beast.

Festival of Bears, France

Festival of Bears, France

Pic: Charles Fréger

Traditionally the festivals are also a rite of passage for young men. Dressing in the garb of a bear or wild man is a way of “showing your power,” says Fréger. Heavy bells hang from many costumes to signal virility.

The question is whether Europeans—civilized Europeans—believe that these rituals must be observed in order for the land, the livestock, and the people to be fertile. Do they really believe that costumes and rituals have the power to banish evil and end winter? “They all know they shouldn’t believe it,” says Gerald Creed, who has studied mask traditions in Bulgaria. Modern life tells them not to. But they remain open to the possibility that the old ways run deep.

See the original article with all of Fréger’s photographs at the National Geographic website.

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Mar 05 2014

Brandy, Baccy & Laces – Smugglers In Cornwall

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Cornish Smugglers

Cornish Smugglers

Pic: Daphne Du Maurier – Jamaica Inn

It is difficult to separate the myth from the reality with smugglers Cornwall Calling tells us. Were they free traders, organised crime, villains, local heroes? Cornwall was suitable for smuggling in that it had a long expanse of rocky, virtually uninhabited coast, with few revenue men to patrol it. The goods smuggled included tea, brandy, gin, rum and tobacco. Following numerous increases in tea tax, tea could be bought in Europe for 1/6th of the price in Britain, while French brandy was only 1/5th of the price.

Initially, smuggling took place fairly openly with cargoes landed directly on the shore. This was made possible by the involvement of all sections of the community, from the local landowner downwards. The involvement of the gentry would range from turning a blind eye, to full scale involvement. The Killigrew family who established Falmouth, was one family whose money and influence came from smuggling and piracy.

Smuggling boomed until the end of the 18th century. Some sources say 500,000 gallons of French brandy per year were smuggled into Cornwall. In addition ships returning from the far east would heave to off shore and sell china, silk and cotton goods free of tax to local boats. In 1763, three East Indiamen in Falmouth harbour, are said to have sold £20,000 of goods in this way. However from around 1800 the Revenue men became more organised and proactive.

Smuggled goods had to be dropped off in remote coves, and picked up again when the coast was clear. Tunnels and passages were dug out of the rocks to expedite movement. The risks involved in smuggling were high. A minimum penalty of transportation to colonies such as Australia, was common, and often the penalties were much more severe. Robert Lang, a smuggler from Veryan, is recorded as being hung at the crossroads of Ruanlanihorne and St. Mawes as an example to others. Once landed, much of the contraband made its way up country.

On the windswept wastes of Bodmin Moor Jamaica Inn is perhaps the best known of all smuggling haunts, thanks to Daphne Du Maurier‘s novel. It is surrounded by barren country and often hemmed in by chill winds and thick mists, and the approach is perhaps more spectacular than the building itself.

Famous Smugglers

Perhaps most famous of the smugglers at this time was the Carter family of Prussia Cove, where John the eldest son, because it is said, of his deep admiration for Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, named the cove so. His activities were legendary, but he eventually “retired in the early 1800s.

The brother and sister team, Fyn and Joan, were notorious smugglers, who used Looe Island as their base. Black Joan, as she was known, was the more violent of the two and is believed to have murdered a Negro whose ghost now haunts the island. Looe Island has had various owners, it was an ecclesiastical centre, then it passed to the Mayows in the 16th century and the Trelawneys from c 1600, and it was tenants of Trelawney who ran the trade in smuggled goods from the Channel Islands to Looe for over 80 years from the 18th to the 19th century.

One story names the pair as Hamram, and his daughter ‘Tilda’; another account makes them brother and sister, Fyn and Black Joan. The pair stored contraband in a hidden and the smugglers paid a fee for each tub concealed.

Customs Smuggler by William Heath c1830

Customs Smuggler by William Heath c1830

Pic: Old Cornwall

Baring-Gould in “A Book of Cornwall” relates a story of a tavern keeper, an evil faced man, who had been a smuggler in his day: He and his men were rowing a cargo ashore they were pursued by a revenue boat. Tristam Davey,the smuggler, knew this bit of coast perfectly.

There was a reef of short slate rock that ran across the little bay, Tristam knew how to clear the reef,but the revenue boat following did not. It hit the reef, and Tristam shot the mate of the revenue boat, leaving the rest to fend for themselves in the water.

Another legendary smuggler was “Cruel Coppinger”,whose biography was written by Rev RS Hawker. reputed to have coerced villagers through fear and intimidation, into smuggling, when he came to live in Cornwall after shipwrecking on the safe houses, in villages throughout the north coast. His son is said to have inherited his barbarous ways and to have laughingly killed his playmate as a young child.

Smugglers Beaches in Cornwall

Prussia Cove in Cornwall

Prussia Cove in Cornwall

Pic: Cornwall Guide

In 1765 a beach 2 miles west of Padstow was in use as a landing point, and William Rawlings wrote in that year to the earl of Dartmouth that his servants encountered 60 horses carrying a cargo from the beach some 3 miles from St Columb…’having each three bags of tea on them of 56 or 58lbs weight’.

When pepper was taxed heavily, it became a popular item for the Cornwall smugglers, and tiny Pepper Cove a little way north of Porthcothan takes its name from the boatloads of spice that were landed there. 4 miles south of Padstow. Walk across the beach, and South along the cliff path for about 600 yards.

Pepper Cove is the 3rd inlet. It’s an archetypical smugglers’ cove: the entrance from the sea is narrow, and fringed with jagged rocks; once inside, a smuggler’s vessel would be totally hidden by the high cliffs, so that unloading could be a safe and leisurely activity. The beach is sandy and free of rocks, and the gradient is sufficiently gentle that even a large boat could have been beached quite easily.

Nearby is Wills Rock where smugglers left a revenue man on the rock to drown in the rising tide; but the officer lived to tell the tale. On the coast north of Hayle, the B3301 coast road to Portreath passes several landing points: Hell’s Mouth some 5 m from Hayle,was a landing spot; and Ralph’s Cupboard (named after a smuggler), a mile outside Portreath at was used for storage. And there is a report of James Bawden of Gwithian being tried in 1801 for smuggling.

Hayle was a landing place for smugglers, and in the garden of a house that was formerly the local youth hostel there is a tunnel that was probably used for smuggling. A sloping trench leads down from ground level to the arched tunnel entrance, where the hinges for a gate or door can still be seen.

The tunnel is still open, and runs due north for hundreds of yards. It is possible to walk along it. It seems authentic as any: it is the right shape; it runs towards the coast; it even has a drainage gulley along its length to keep the flat floor dry.

Cornish Smugglers Landing

Cornish Smugglers Landing, George Morland, 1793

Pic: Sailing By

At St Ives Bay, the collector of customs was a John Knill, who dabbled in smuggling a little himself. When he was mayor (in 1767) he paid for the fitting out of a privateer, which was used as a smuggler. One story links Knill to a boat loaded with china that ran aground at the Hayle side of Carrack Gladden. The crew escaped, and someone removed the ship’s papers since they implicated Knill and a squire from Trevetho. Roger Wearne, the customs man of the time, helped himself to some of the cargo, but as he was climbing down from the vessel , one of the locals noticed his bulging clothes, and a few well-aimed blows ensured that the china was worthless.

The Blue Bell Inn at St Ives was once the haunt of a Dutch smuggler called Hans Breton. It was said that he was in league with the devil, and that he paid duty on only one keg of brandy. This, however, never seemed to empty, and lasted him 22 years. Also at St Ives in 1851, a notorious local smuggler called James ‘Old Worm’ Williams landed smuggled Irish whisky close to the St Ives breakwater, and hid the barrels in fishing boats and pig sties near the water.

Later that night, three carts collected the haul, a coastguard drinking in the George and Dragon in the market place noticed them, but he was bound and gagged by locals. After some time, though, he managed to free himself, but could not find the carts full of contraband. The case was dismissed for lack of evidence.

The Batman

The “Batman”

Pic: Old Cornwall

At St Ives in the 1870s a local boat called Old Duchy smuggled rum from Holland. The trips ended when the excisemen put spies among the fishermen. At Trencrom Hill, Lelant, one of two granite cottages once known as New Castle was used as a 19th century kiddlewink — a beershop. Smugglers excavated a cave alongside for the concealment of contraband.

The cottages still stand on the hill, but are private houses — there is no public access to them. The church at Lelant was also used for the storage of contraband spirits. At St Just, a short two smugglers – Oats and Permewan – were active around 1818. They employed a middle-man, who paid the merchants in France. But the middle-man, Pridham, got greedy, kept the payments and threatened to report the smugglers to the authorities. An eventual court case never got anywhere.

Sennen was a centre of the free-trade. The inn was owned by the farmer who ran local smuggling operations, with the help of the landlady of the inn, Ann George, and her husband. The Georges fell out with their landlord, and later testified against smugglers in a court case. In 1805 when the excise men impounded a large cargo — 1000 gallons each of brandy, rum and gin, and a quarter of a ton of tobacco. The owner of the cargo eventually appeared in court. The main witness for the prosecution was Ann George, but she was regarded as such a malicious gossip that the case was dismissed.

The Penzance revenue men were ineffective in early years. In 1767 nine smugglers’ vessels, including armed sloops, sailed from Penzance harbour in broad daylight; a man of war looked on, powerless to stop them. Five years later a customs boat from Penzance was plundered and sunk by smugglers, and in the same year, another smugglers’ boat captured the revenue cutter Brilliant, which was lying in Penzance harbour with seized goods on board. The excisemen were weak, and the smugglers had strong local support. In 1770 the Mayor of Penzance was bound over with a large financial surety, to cease smuggling.

At Ludgvan, two miles north east of Penzance, the customs officers could not sell seized liquor in 1748, because of the vast quantity smuggled in. Smugglers were asking 3/3 a gallon for the illegally imported liquor: the reserve price on the seized goods was 5/6. Mousehole is the most westerly of the Mount’s Bay smuggling villages. Contraband was carried around openly during the day — when asked why he had not apprehended the villains, the preventive assigned to the town said he had been pelted with stones, and lay in his bed recovering. Around 1780 charges were brought against the Mousehole officials for accepting bribes and cooperating with the smugglers. Richard ‘Doga’ Pentreath of Mousehole was described by the Penzance Collector of Customs as ‘an honest man in all his dealings though a notorious smuggler’.

Another smuggler, Thomas Mann, was also described as honest. Buildings at Helston were frequently pressed into service to house smuggled goods in transit from the coast. George Michell drove a cart load of silk up to the Angel In pub, but the landlady warned him of a party of searchers, awaiting his arrival. Michell sent his son round to the yard with the cart, walking brazenly into the bar, and bought the crowd of searchers a drink.

Michell spun out the conversation for a good while, eventually, they heard a rumble of cart wheels, and, rushing to the window, the searchers saw an old horse-drawn hearse driving off which they dismissed as a pauper’s funeral. Not surprisingly when the officers eventually got round to searching Michell’s cart, they found only innocent provisions. Mullion Cove at the east of Mounts Bay was a favourite landing place for contraband. On one occasion, Billy of Praow was bringing brandy ashore, when the cargo was captured by a government brig.

Smugglers Rest Inn Sign

Smugglers Rest Inn Sign

Pic: Cornwall Calling

News of this spread, and the local people raided an armoury at Trenance, and opened fire on the brig in the bay until the cargo was returned. The Spotsman, a prominent local smuggler was returning from France with a cargo of brandy, and landed the goods between Predannack Head and Mullion Cove, at a spot called locally ‘the Chair’. On discovering that the excisemen were planning to raid his beach, he hid the casks in a mineshaft.

On another occasion the Spotsman was slow to reply to a challenge by another smuggler, and was mistaken for a revenue man and shot. Fortunately he lost only his thumb in the encounter. There is further background on this smuggler in this information. Lieut Drew, the chief Coastguard for the Mullion area, is credited with smashing the smuggling ring in the district. Drew and a fellow coastguard interrupted a run, and hauled in 100 tubs that had been hidden at sea. Later Drew interrupted another attempt to run goods in at Angrowse Cliffs and recovered nearly 100 tubs that had been sunken by the ship.

By 1840 the game was effectively up. At Gunwalloe a little way to the north, caves on the beach were said to be linked by a tunnel to the belfry of a nearby church, and another passage joined the Halzephron inn to Fishing Cove, the home of a local smuggler called Henry Cuttance. Porthleven. Local legend tells that tunnels connect caves in the cliffs to Methleigh Manor a mile or so away.

The Ship Inn at Porthleven was rumoured to have numerous escape routes; these must be very cunningly concealed, because a search by the present landlord revealed no trace. Falmouth area. The smugglers of Falmouth operated on an extraordinary scale. In 1762 three East Indiamen returning to Britain from China anchored in the bay, and for a fortnight held a regular on-board bazaar, selling silk, muslin, dimityes, china, tea, arrack, handkerchiefs and other goods.

Falmouth Postal Packet Ships

Falmouth Postal Packet Ships

Pic: Cornwall Calling

The Falmouth postal packet ships were also heavily implicated in smuggling. War led to larger crews on the packet boats, and this in itself was good for trade in Falmouth. In 1739 one commentator could scarcely conceal his glee at the prospect of imminent war with Spain…

There is something to be hoped, past experience teaching us that the Town will flourish in a French war, 1743

though, brought an unexpected crack-down which strangled Falmouth trade. A Times report of 1786 tells of a skirmish between the “Happy Go Lucky”, a smugglers boat from Falmouth, and the revenue cutters.

Newspaper reports for 24 May 1839 tell of a schooner loaded with coal docking in the harbour. The coals were gradually unloaded. But a suspicious customs officer bored holes in the hull with a gimlet. Withdrawing the gimlet, the customs officer received a face-full of brandy, from a tub stowed in a cavity between the false interior of the hull and the outside. Altogether there 276 barrels of brandy and gin in the space.

The ship had been operating for 3 years without detection. The creeks south of Falmouth, notably at Gweek and Helford, also proved useful to smugglers seeking privacy for their activities, as did the beaches and small fishing ports at Porthallow, Porthoustock, Godrevy Cove, Coverack, Black Head and Kennack Sands. Smugglers. In September 1840 a 30-strong gang of smugglers using several carts broke open the custom-house at Helford, and removed 126 half ankers of Brandy, which had been confiscated a few days before at Coverack.

They worked from 1 to 1.30, but generously left 3 barrels for the excisemen. The customs-man on station heard the doors being forced, but was powerless to do anything. The tubs had been seized from the Teignmouth — they were lashed to the outside of the boat (although this technique was common in Kent, it was less convenient for the long crossing to Cornwall). When the vessel reached the beach at Gweek, the crew hailed two men on the beach for help — they proved to be customs officers, who drew their pistols and arrested crew, ship and cargo.

Just to the south of Mylor, at Penrhyn, local legend tells of a tunnel linking the shore to St Gluvias’ Vicarage, and farther down the creek on the south side, there are two caves used for storage. A tunnel on the same site has now been blocked.

Near to one of these creeks in 1801 a mounted smuggler carrying two ankers of spirits was surprised by a customs man. The smuggler rode off at speed and eventually plunged into the water to escape. The smuggler escaped, but his horse drowned and with the help of the ferry-man the preventive rescued the barrels.

Carn Brea Smuggler's Cave

Carn Brea Smuggler’s Cave

Pic: Wiki

Close to Truro, Sunset Creek, opposite Malpas, was the site of Penpol Farm, which featured a sunken road, and hiding places in caves and woodland. Tresillian Creek to the east and Mylor creek to the south were also popular landing places: at Mylor can still be seen a memorial dated 1814 to a fishermen who had the misfortune to be shot in error by revenue men.

Smuggling stories here centre around the St Anthony’s Head, and the peninsula of land leading to it. One story tells of a St Mawes customs officer who realized that the Porthscatho smugglers operating in Gerrans Bay kept watch on hills overlooking St Mawes harbour, so that they had time to disperse if a revenue boat approached around the headland.

By carrying a small boat across the isthmus, he mounted a surprise attack. St Mawes was the base for Robert Long, a seventeenth century smuggler who met an untimely end — he was executed, and his body was hung in chains on the road from the town to Ruan Lanihorne. Like Cawsand, Mevagissey was a town renowned for its boat builders.

The large vessels built here in the 18th century when smuggling still took place relatively openly were capable of tremendous speeds, and could make the crossing from Roscoff in France in a day or less. Fowey. The story of an abortive 1835 landing close to Fowey and its court sequel is interesting. Two coastguards from Fowey went to Lantick Hill, and hid in bushes near Pencannon Point. After a wait, at least 100 men arrived on the beach — 20 of them batsmen.

One of the coastguards went to get help, and when reinforcements arrived the party of six preventives challenged the smugglers, and there was a fierce battle; one of the coastguards was knocked unconscious, but 5 smugglers were eventually arrested.  party from the revenue cutter Fox eventually met up with the six coastguards, and captured 484 gallons of Brandy. When the case came to court, the defense argued that the clubs were just walking sticks, the local vicar was called as a character witness for one of the accused, and local farmers vouched for the good name of the others.

The Ghost of battling Billy

The Naval Coastguard

The Naval Coastguard

Pic: Old Cornwall

The jury acquitted, adding that they did not consider the clubs to be offensive weapons. Contraband from this abortive landing may have been headed the Crown and Anchor Inn on the quayside at Fowey, since the smuggler Richard Kingcup was at one time the landlord there. Polperro The Polperro smuggling museum houses a small collection of pictures and other items associated with the free-trade. A colourful Polperro legend involves ‘Battling Billy’, who ran the Halfway House Inn.

Billy used a hearse to carry his contraband inland. One day while brandy was being loaded by daylight, the revenue arrived, Billy was shot in the neck and he was killed instantly, but his whip-hand continued to urge the horses on. When they reached Polperro, the dead man drove straight down the main street, off the quayside and into the harbour. Battling Billy’s ghost still haunts the narrow cobbled streets.

Another tale involves the Lottery, a Polperro smuggling vessel wanted by the customs authorities. When the Cawsand customs men saw the ship becalmed half a mile from Penlee Point, they put to sea several rowing boats. The crew of the Lottery, opened fire when they were still some distance away. One of the crew in the King’s boat died of his wounds.

The crew of the Lottery became outlaws in their home town. Eventually the prime suspect, Tom Potter was arrested and executed. The village of Talland was at one time a thriving community, and the bay was a favourite landfall for smuggling boats from the continent. All that now remains of the village is the church high on the steep hill above Talland Bay. Near the door of the church in the south west corner there is an interesting tombstone commemorating Robert Mark.

Local legends differ about Mark’s identity. One story has it that while on a smuggling trip he died from wounds inflicted by a revenue man’s pistol ball. A smuggler of the same name was sentenced in May 1799 for resisting arrest when the smuggling vessel Lottery was captured. However, another account makes him not a free-trader but a revenue man who was shot in a cellar on dry land; Jonah Puckey, the ringleader of a smuggling gang, reputedly fired the shot that killed him.

The open beaches of Whitsand Bay made a fine landing when the coast was sufficiently clear for covert runs, but smugglers seeking a more discreet approach headed for Looe, and brought the goods ashore on Looe Island.In West Looe Ye Olde Jolly Sailor was a smuggler’s haunt, and here too the story is told of how the quick-thinking landlady once concealed an illicit keg beneath her petticoats during an unexpected search.

While the preventives searched, she calmly knitted. Cawsand and Kingsand.

The vast natural harbour of Plymouth had a naval presence throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The city itself formed the largest market for contraband in Cornwall, so it’s not surprising to find some notorious villages nearby.

The Tubman

The Tubman

Pic: Old Cornwall

Goods brought in to the twin villages of Cawsand and Kingsand there could be easily ferried across the harbour to Plymouth. A Times report of 1785 tells of a naval officer killed by smugglers. Both towns were hotbeds of smuggling — in 1804 the revenue services estimated that 17,000 kegs of spirits had been landed here in just one year.

Harry Carter, a famous Cornwall smuggler, often used Cawsand for his smuggling activities, and on one of these trips his boat was boarded by sailors from a man-of-war anchored nearby. In the hand-to-hand fighting that ensued, he sustained a cutlass wound that almost killed him.

Article source: http://www.cornwall-calling.co.uk/smugglers.htm

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Feb 24 2014

Who was the mysterious sub-Saharan Beachy Head Lady?

Beachy Head Lady

Beachy Head Lady

Pic: Eastbourne Museums

Eastbourne Ancestors project has uncovered a rare archaeological discovery, a skeleton with African ancestry dating to the Roman period, providing further proof of the ethnic diversity within the province of Britannia reported Eastbourne Council. The Heritage Lottery Funded project, which has seen a detailed analysis of the origin, health, diet and social status of human skeletal remains, produced surprising results when the remains of the ‘Beachy Head lady’, discovered near Eastbourne’s most famous beauty spot in 1953, were proven in October 2013 by Oxford University to be that of an African lady from around AD245, the middle of the Roman period in Britain.

The results of this and many more finds, will be shown in a fascinating Eastbourne Ancestors exhibition which opens mid December.

The ground-breaking project, which is the first time an extensive analysis has taken place on one collection in the UK, will use 2D and 3D cranio-facial forensic reconstructions, allowing modern day people to gaze into the eyes of their ancestors.

The exhibition aims to put the flesh on the bones of individuals from Eastbourne’s distant past, and discover a little of their life story. Working with leading Universities, Radio-Isotope Analysis also examines bones and teeth for trace elements absorbed from food and water during an individual’s lifetime, giving a geological fingerprint to the region in which they grew up.

Facial Reconstruction

Facial Reconstruction

Pic: Eastbourne Council

Heritage Officer, Jo Seaman said:

This is a fantastic discovery for the south coast. We know this lady was around 30 years old, grew up in the vicinity of what is now East Sussex, ate a good diet of fish and vegetables, her bones were without disease and her teeth were in good condition.

Without the context of seeing the burial site or grave goods, we don’t yet know why she was here, or her social status. However based on what we know of the Roman era and a similar discovery in York, it’s possible she was the wife of a local official or mistress of the extensive Roman villa which is known to be close to Eastbourne Pier, or she may have been a Merchant, plying the trade routes around the Mediterranean up to this remote European outpost. Another theory is the rather more upsetting possibility that this lady may have been a slave, we just don’t know at this stage.

Our next step is to carry out more research to establish tangible facts about the nature of her burial site and her discovery in 1953. However, from what we have so far established, this is a major find for Roman archaeology in Britain and a highly significant one for the story of Eastbourne and for the Ancestors project in general.

Eastbourne Ancestors project began in 2012 with around 300 skeletons dating from the Bronze Age to Middle Saxon Period , each cleaned and analysed to give an ‘osteo-biography’ or story for each individual. Detailed testing of bones and teeth identifies their national or regional origins, age, gender, size, state of health, diet and in some cases, how they died. This information has been combined with data from excavations relating to their burials and grave goods to also explain their social status and possibly what they did in life.

Eastbourne Borough Council Cabinet Member for Tourism and Leisure, Cllr Carolyn Heaps said:

This fascinating exhibition will be a fantastic addition to our busy Heritage programme which ranges from Saxon events to Napoleonic re-enactments, 1940’s wartime themes and daily cannon firing in summer.

The skeletons in the project are all discoveries from targeted archaeological digs or have been rescued from construction sites across Eastbourne and its downland, and have been handed to the Heritage Service for safe keeping.

The Eastbourne Ancestors exhibition opens mid December at The Pavilion on Eastbourne seafront, running until November 2014. For more information on Eastbourne Ancestors visit Eastbournemuseums.co.uk/ancestors, or contact the Eastbourne Heritage Service on 01323 415396 or localhistory@eastbourne.gov.uk.

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