Sunday, 10 April 2022
Tracing the hidden lives of the poor in The Low Road
In a few days the family will meet up in Norfolk for Easter - the first time for a couple of years because of Covid. It's a bit of a rolling roster, who ends up meeting at my mother's house, but pretty much every year there's an Easter egg hunt in the garden and a big meal on Easter Sunday. So Happy Easter for those of you who are celebrating - and thank you again for supporting The Low Road. It's nearly at the half-way point after four weeks in terms of support - so please do share with anyone you think might be interested. I hope you enjoy the new visual above...
Easter Sunday falls on the 17 April this year, the day that Mary Turrell's body was taken on a cart down to Lush Bush, 209 years ago. So I'll walk that way Sunday week, and remember her, standing by the beck and wondering exactly where she lies. There are no traces of her, or the life she lived, at Lush Bush, or the farm she worked at. The pond where the baby's body was found is long drained; the watermill pulled down. There are no toys belonging to her daughter, or clothes either of them wore.
Traces of the Georgian poor are hard to find, because the lives of the poor leave few marks. It's a far cry from the many stately homes that can be visited, unveiling furniture, paintings and clothing and other relics of a life lived in relative comfort. You have to look harder for the traces of those born and raised in poverty, in order to follow the thread of their lives back in time.
Walk back into Harleston, along the road that Harleston people took to witness Mary's staking, and it's only when you get to the old doctor's house that the old market town appears. The Swan comes into view next, where Mary's body was laid out, and then you walk up to the market square and the coaching inn, The Magpie, is still there, with the arch through which the stagecoach The Accommodation clattered in from Great Yarmouth, and the horses were changed.
The parish lock-up where Mary took poison on the day of her third interrogration is long gone and even the name of the street it was on, Cage Walk, has disppeared. To trace her life I had to locate old maps, and go into the historical archives to hear even a snatch of her life, and that of her daughter. Her baby daughter was buried in an unmarked grave. I found the entry in the Harleston archives, detailing how much the grave-digger had charged the parish for the burial, which you can see in the image below.
History told is so often that of the rich, often told by men, and with their attitudes permeating every entry. But listen hard and you can hear the voices of the poor, of women and children. The Low Road is my way of raising those dead from the paper traces that still exist. Thank you for supporting.
Collectable, signed first edition