Beggars Bush: A Perambulation through the Disciplines of History, Geography, Archaeology, Literature, Philology, Natural History, Botany, Biography & Beggary

Sticky: Records of Huntingdonshire

My thanks are due to Philip Saunders for many things in my researches into Beggars Bush.

His article Beggar’s Bush to King’s Bush, Records of Huntingdonshire, Vol.3 No.2, (1993) p.13-15, first alerted me to the role of Saxton’s Five Counties Map. He then helped as Principal Archivist at Cambridgeshire Archives and Local Studies Service. I am now grateful to him for resurrecting Records of Huntingdonshire, Journal of the Huntingdonshire Local History Society, and for publishing my article Beggar’s Bush Revisited in Vol.4 No.3 p.32-37. This updates his original article with some of the material from this website on maps, anthologies and John Taylor.

Philip Saunders has also found another map of Beggars Bush for the cover – William Kip’s 1607 version of Saxton’s map, which transforms Saxton’s single tree to a whole forest around Beggesbush. This is likely to be artistic licence rather than any resurvey.

Neil Howlett, Beggar’s Bush Revisited in Vol.4 No.3 (2014) p.32-37

Copies are available from Philip Saunders, 21 Crowlands, Cottenham, Cambridge CB24 8TE

paksaunders@talk21.com

 

Posted: February 23rd, 2014 | Filed under: Places, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »


Sticky: Anthologies – why the OED and Brewer’s Dictionary were wrong

The Oxford English Dictionary gives under Beggars:

8. Special combinations. . . “beggar’s-bush, a bush under which a beggar finds shelter (name of ‘a tree near Huntingdon, formerly a noted rendezvous for beggars’ – Brewer), fig. beggary, ruin;”.

This is taken from E. Cobham Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1868 and all editions until recently when the entry was dropped) which gave;

“Beggars Bush. To go by beggar’s bush, or Go home by beggar’s bush – i.e. to go to ruin. Beggar’s Bush is the name of a tree which once stood on the left hand of the London road from Huntingdon to Caxton; so called because it was a noted rendezvous for beggars. These punning phrases and proverbs are very common.”

This is partly true and partly false – perhaps more correctly this was false when it was first published, but through the influence of these two reference works has become common usage. It has been applied as a post facto explanation for the existence of the place name — see for example Donnybrook, Dublin and the histories of Dublin). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: October 18th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers, Speculations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »


Clause “King of the Beggars”

Clause, King of the Beggars, is a central character in The Beggars Bush (1622) and the later versions of it. At the end of the play it is revealed that he is actually Gerrard, a deposed Earl of Flanders, who before the action starts has rescued his heir Florez and apprenticed him to an English merchant Goswin, whose business and name Florez has inherited. Gerrard has taken the disguise of Clause the beggar, but his natural authority has lead to his election as the King of the beggars, in the episode which formed the droll The Lame Commonwealth. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: May 30th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers, Speculations, The Play | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »


Adam Foulweather A wonderfull, strange and miraculous astrologicall prognostication 1591

A Wonderfull … Astrologicall Prognostication (1591) is a pamphlet by “Adam Fouleweather Student in Asse-tronomy” which has been attributed to Thomas Nashe (“unconvincingly” according to DNB). It was one of a trio of mock prognostications, the others by ‘Francis Fairweather’ and ‘Simon Smellknave’ do not survive. It ridicules the popular prognostications that were published with almanacs. It claimed it was “Discovering such wonders to happen this yeere, as neuer chaunced since Noes floud. Wherein if there be found one lye, the author will lose his credit for ever.”
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Posted: March 27th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »


Christopher Saxton’s Five Counties Map 1576

Saxton’s county maps were the first national cartographic survey of England. They, and later maps based on them, were very important for the preservation and distribution of the place name & literary phrase Beggars Bush. They may have contributed to the mistaken connection of beggars with the site at Godmanchester near Huntingdon.

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Posted: March 20th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »


Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire Beggars Bushe 1615

This is an unusual entry as it refers to an actual bush. It doesn’t refer to any beggars. Inevitably, this being Stratford upon Avon, William Shakespeare must be mentioned. He didn’t use ‘beggars bush’ as a literary phrase, although he does refer to being “married under a bush, like a beggar” in As You Like It (Act III, Scene 3). However, he may have known this actual bush.
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Posted: March 19th, 2011 | Filed under: Places | Tags: , , , | No Comments »


John Taylor The Praise, Antiquity and Commodity of Beggary, Beggars & begging, etc. 1621

“I have here made bold to present to your illiterate protection, a beggarly Pamphlet of my threed-bare invention . . . I thought to have dedicated it to Beggars Bush, neere Andever, or to his Hawthorne brother within a mile of Huntingdon; but I considered at last, that the laps of your long Coate could shelter me as well [o]r better than any beggarly Thorne-bush.”

The Fool

Taylor’s mock dedication from the introduction to his pamphlet was directed towards Archy Armstrong, King James’s Fool, and refers to his coat of motley, the symbol of the Fool. Taylor despised Armstrong, who was renowned for his illiteracy and venality. He refers elsewhere to Armstrong’s “nimble tongue, to make other mens money runne into your purse” and called him “the bright eye-dazeling mirrour of mirth, adelantado of alacrity, the pump of pastime, spout of sport and Regent of ridiculous Confabulations”.
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Posted: March 19th, 2011 | Filed under: Writers, The Play | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »


Godmanchester Huntingdonshire Begersbusshe 1576

This is the best known Beggars Bush site, though for the wrong reason, and through unusual  sources. The site was on Ermine Street, which was the main northern road west of the fens. John Walker’s The Universal Gazetteer (London 1798) lists two Beggars Bushes, including this one and another in Middlesex at Enfield.

It is now the site of the Wood Green Animal Refuge, at King’s Bush Farm.

It is on a summit standing at 138ft above sea level in an area where the average height of the surrounding country is closer to 50ft. From London it is the last of a series of rises, and in both directions the trees on the summit stand out against the skyline. It would be widely visible, not only from the Great North Road, (A1198) but from the roads to Stevenage & London (A1) and the road to Cambridge (A14). It would be passed by travellers from London to the north of England.
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Posted: March 13th, 2011 | Filed under: Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »


Andover Hampshire Beggars Bush 1621

John Taylor, the Water Poet, in the dedication to his The Praise, Antiquity and Commodity of Beggary, Beggars & begging, etc.  (1621) refers to “Beggars Bush, neere Andever, or to his Hawthorne brother within a mile of Huntingdon”. The second is clearly the Beggars Bush at Godmanchester, which is the most well known, probably through Saxton’s map.  The first “neere Andever” is a mystery.

It must refer to Andover, Hampshire. However, I can trace no Beggars Bush site in or near Andover, nor can Hampshire Record Office. It may have been a name for a minor location only used briefly. There is at Andover a Coldharbour a similar derogatory place name often found near Beggars Bushes. East of that and on the south side of London Road is a Folly Copse and an area now named Round Bush Copse.
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Posted: March 13th, 2011 | Filed under: Places | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »