Monday, October 19, 2020

Gabriel in Brook Vessons by Whalebone and Jean Atkin

The Romans mined all this land for lead long, long before men came back, in the last century, to this haunted corner of Shropshire. These miners tore up the earth, built engine houeses, sank shafts and buried the golden gorse under piles of rubbish which may still be seen today. 

Those were hard days in a hard country and it must have been about that time that a few shepherds, some perhaps with the courage of despair, made their homes on the lower slopes of the Stiperstones. It is said that those who were able to establish a home here must follow a curious custom. Newcomers must, between sunset and sunrise, build first a hovel with a roof of turf in which must be a hole, or something which would act as a chimney, and then kindle the precious fire which was to give them the right to live there. If by morning smoke was seen above the roof, the neighbours would cry "I see smoke", and the word would go round that strangers had earned the right to live among them.

Malcolm Saville knew the story about squatters cottages on the Stiperstones - this passage comes from Not Scarlet But Gold (1962) - though those dwellings were surely put up by incoming miners.

Brook Vessons, says the Shropshire Wildlife Trust:

lies on the edge of The Paddock - a village that grew up with the local mining industry as people took on smallholdings to supplement their income. It was finally abandoned early in the 20th century, when the industry declined, but the remnants of field and cottage walls remain.

The trust describes it as "extraordinarily atmospheric" and that is certainly true of this video too.

Gabriel in Brook Vessons is taken from Understories. a collaboration between Whalebone and the poet Jean Atkin.

No comments: