Beryl’s Charter Day tale
It’s a fine day here in Wellington as we prepare to celebrate Charter Day – the occasion when Wellington’s lord of the manor received the first market charter for the town. The events that will unfold in the Market Square in a few hours time are low on historical accuracy and high on daftness – but let’s not allow the truth to get in the way of a good story. And in that same spirit, Beryl Taylor of the Ironmen & Severn Gilders Morris Dancers (who will be performing today) has written this brilliant and lyrical imagining of that original ‘charter day’ in 1244. Here it is:
On a frosty February morning Bet woke up happily, the year was 1244. Her father, in his leather apron, put something on her straw pallet under their market stall, now laden with riding boots and leather slippers. She gazed at the ankle boots on her bed, then jumped up; it was a special day! The King’s Herald was coming and there would be feasting and dancing, and gentlemen with purses full of gold.
‘Come girl, put on your boots! Look, I’ve sewn on little bells, so you can lead folk to our stall.’
Traders displayed their pots and pans, buckles, cloth, pies and ale, grains, spices, bread and cheddar cheese. The smell was intense, and the worried clerk held a scented cloth to his nose.
Bet ran outside on tinkling feet. The market square was full of excitement; children jostled alongside pigs and geese. Church bells pealed, townsfolk parted, and the Royal horse clattered through. With a flourish the Herald handed a vellum roll to the Squire, and the Town Crier’s voice rang out,
‘By Royal Charter, King Henry III has bestowed on Giles of Erdington the right to host a market here in Wellington.’
Everyone cheered, and as flute and lute were played, Bet danced towards the market like a pied piper.
Another grey morning in Wellington Square. Bet wakes from her daydream to hear chattering voices fall silent. The Royal horse enters, and the Charter is announced to the waiting crowd.
But the Tardis of Time has moved this scene on almost 800 years. The band strikes up, and now local Morris dancers wearing red, black and gold fill the square. Then, with a jingle of bells and a clatter of clogs and sticks, Bet steps out and the merry celebration dance begins once more.
Beryl Taylor, April 2021