Having lived close to the Dorset border for more than twenty years, one is inclined to take an interest in the works of Thomas Hardy. For me the ‘Mellstock Quire’ going their Christmas rounds is a memorable image, and even better is the same cast of characters who appear in a short story, leading the singing in church, then falling asleep during the sermon, and waking up to find themselves playing a dance-tune instead of the final hymn, being thrown out of church for ever by the squire, and replaced by a barrel organ. It is funny and poignant, with scarcely any of the accustomed Hardyesque melancholy.
Because archives are frequently top-heavy with records created by officialdom, it’s easy to lose sight of the amazing things that can be found.Taking music as one example, we have a hugely diverse range of records. One interesting piece is an illuminated fragment of medieval religious music from the 1400s that was re-used as the cover of a manorial court book in the 1500s. Continue reading