Heads and Hats in Tudor England

DSCF0986Everybody seemed to think that Geoffrey Blythe was very clever. Certainly he did well at University and had a law degree. Henry Vll sent him on special missions across Europe. You get the idea that Geoffrey could talk himself out of trouble and when your boss was a Tudor you needed to be able to do that.

Henry Vll got to be king by winning a war not by being the son of the last king so there were plenty of people who thought the crown belonged to the De la Pole family who were related to Richard lll and called Yorkists. So Henry Vll was  pretty hard on anyone that looked like a threat.

Henry had been fond of Geoffrey’s brother John and after Geoffrey came back from Hungary making a treaty with the Hungarian king, he made him bishop of Litchfield Coventry and Chester. Quite a lot of money for Geoffrey. Nice thing is he got to be bishop of his birthplace too. And he sometimes popped home to buy or sell some land with his brother and sign family documents.

When Henry Vll died and his son Henry came to the throne Geoffrey was obviously as well liked by the son as the father, who gave him the difficult job of looking after the welsh borders and called him well beloved. The borderland was full of troublesome argumentative people. Where Henry Vll had come from. Henry Vll put someone there he obviously trusted and who was good at finding out who was likely to be a threat.

Geoffrey was accused twice of committing treason. Quite possibly because he made a number of enemies as the King’s man. He also wrote a lot of reports about failing monasteries which gave Henry good reasons to close the monasteries. And lastly Geoffrey executed some people called Lollards, a Christian group who believed in reading the bible themselves.

In 1513 he was said to have to have persuaded a dying man to give his money and lands to a friend which should have been the Kings. He was found guilty. Although named as treason generally the consequence was a large fine not a chopped off head. The king doesn’t seem to have minded as Geoffrey continued as his Man in the Welsh Borders for several more years.

In 1523 Geoffrey was thrown into the Tower of London and accused of conspiring with the de la Pole family to overthrow the king.

This was much more serious as the Blythe family had many connections with the De la Poles. Geoffrey’s sister had married the family’s lawyer and his nephew had married a Neville, who were also Yorkists. Geoffrey and John had worked for the Archbishop of York in their younger days.
In 1523 Richard de la Pole made joined with the French king with the idea of invading England and seizing back the crown that had been taken from his uncle Richard lll. Pretty scary times for the Tudors and anyone who the Tudors thought might be friends with the enemy.

No one knows how Geoffrey talked himself out of that tight spot but 6 weeks later he was out of the tower and back working.  Richard de la Pole never invaded England as he died fighting alongside the French king.

So Geoffrey was one of the few people who went to the tower and came back without a mark on him.

Bishops have hats called mitres that they wear on special occasions and Geoffrey would have had a mitre but not day to day. Henry Vlll wore all kinds of hats. Even when he went to bed he wore a hat. The reason was that Henry was bald.

Ordinary people often wore wooly knitted hats but their favourite hat often made of woolen cloth is the hat I will show you how to make here.

You will need a tape measure. large piece of cardboard or a large sheet of paper, wool or string, panel pin or drawing pin, marker pen, fabric for the hat, thread and needle (bright coloured thread as well as same colour as fabric) scissors.

First measure round your head.

DSCF4882 Then take some wool or string and tie it round a pen or pencil. My models head is 50cm round. So I measure the wool as a quarter of that. DSCF4887

I drew a circle by holding the wool tight as I drew and it gave me a circle. Then I halved the length of the wool again and drew an inner circle.


Then I cut out the cardboard pattern till it looked like this.


I tried it on my models head to check it would fit. So now we have a hat pattern that we can use over and over again.


Now we need a piece of fabric big enough to draw 3 circles. Then draw 2 circles with an inner circle and 1 circle outside circle only.

DSCF4895So now there are 3 pieces and we need to sew the 2 hoops together along their outside edge outside of the fabric together, So do some big stitches round the outside in a bright thread to hold it all together while you sew.


You could use a sewing machine but I am sewing it by hand using a back stitch.DSCF4897  When you have finished that take the circle and use the bright thread and sew big stitches round it and pull on the thread till it is like a wide bag and the gathered bit fits in the middle of the sewn hoops.

DSCF4929  Try and make the gathers even. and stitch the bag to the inside of one of the hoops. DSCF4930

When you have stitched it  turn it the right way out. and fold over the underside hoop to cover the joins and sew all the way round.


So now you have a Tudor hat. Both men and women wore this kind of hat though women usually wore a white linen cap underneath to keep all their hair covered.



Henry VIII The King of Bling


In 1491 Bishop John Blythe drew up the treaty documents between Henry Vll and Charles VIII of France. This treaty called the treaty of Etaples stopped wars between England and France. It was one of many that Henry Vll signed in his desire to concentrate on making the Tudor family’s claim to the throne stronger without having to worry about possible invasions. A lot of people didn’t think Henry VII should be there. So Henry VII was a very boring king in many ways. He avoided fights. He spent a lot of time with Bishop Blythe drawing up laws and finding jobs for people who were not noblemen so not likely to be a threat.  John Blythe was a yeoman’s son when he first entered the church as a clerk. Henry VII made John’s father gentry by awarding him a coat of arms when he became king, and then went on to make John Bishop of Salisbury.

One of the important people John Blythe made a priest  when he was Bishop of Salisbury was a merchants son called Thomas Wolsey. He was to become one of the most important people in Henry VIII’s court and became Cardinal Wolsey.

Henry VII married his eldest son Arthur to Catherine of Aragon of Spain and no doubt had a suitable marriage in mind for his younger son Henry, which would bring money and keep the peace.

Unfortunately his eldest son didn’t live long after the marriage & so  they asked the Pope if they could marry Henry to her.

Before Henry married Catherine Henry VII died and 2 months before his 18th birthday Henry VIII became king. He married Catherine in the June. He was young, very good at sport especially jousting and a wanted to impress people with his wealth. He built big palaces and put paintings and tapestries on the walls and he wore very colourful clothing with lots of gold and jewels.

By the time he met the French king in 1820 to show how friendly France and England was ,everyone knew of his love of showing off and it became just one big show of wealth between the 2 kings. There was so much gold around including a huge banqueting tent that Henry used and gold leafed monkeys that the place became called the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

Cardinal Wolsey with his great love of events made sure that everything was organised to show off Henry’s wealth and status.  Wolsey himself was not averse to showing off and he had 422 people as servants and body guards.

Bishop John Blythe had died but his younger brother Bishop Geoffrey was on the guest list. Geoffrey worked with Cardinal Wolsey expecting monasteries to see they were properly run.  It is not known how fancy his clothes were but everybody supporting Henry VIII would have been very richly dressed. When Geoffrey died some years later he left a lot of very expensive clothes in his will.  Perhaps some of them were worn at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

Whatever fancy clothes you wore rich or ordinary everyone wore a linen shift underneath (though very rich may have used silk) The shift was there to stop the very expensive outer clothes being damaged with sweat. So what is a shift and how do you make one?


You need a big piece of white cloth, like a bed sheet. Big enough to fold over and it be long enough to go from shoulder to either down to your ankles if a girl or a bit above the knee if a boy. In Tudor times the whiter the cloth and the thinner the richer the person as thin white linen was expensive to make.

To make the shift you will need help from someone to mark the cloth so you know where to cut.

DSCF4142  Lie down on the folded cloth and get your friend to take a pen and put a mark each side of your neck and where your armhole is  and where your hands are and where the shift will end (boy’s length or girl’s length). 



Draw a line from armhole mark to hand mark on a slant so the sleeve will be wider when it gets to your hand. Tudors liked very wide sleeves. Fold the sheet in half again so you can cut both sleeves in the shift together.

DSCF4147You should have something like this. Cut a slit at the top from neck mark to neck mark and then finding the middle cut a slot down the front about 15cms long. Sew up the sides and along the sleeve sides.


Now you need to fold over  all the edges and sew them down.


DSCF4247You should end up with a shift like this. In the next post we shall look at how to make head coverings and some more Tudor History.

Bombing in Norton during WW2

Many people think of Bishop House in the Tudor Period and forget that the House is still here and therefore was there with people living in it during one of the most dangerous times for the area. Bombing Map BlitzThis map shows some of the bombs that fell round Meersbrook Park on 2 nights the 12th and 15th December 1840. This kind of lots of bombing in a very short time was called the Blitz from the German meaning Bombing. This kind of bombing was done by both sides and was different in that often people’s homes were hit not factories or army barracks.

In Bishops House one of the Occupants was an Air raid warden. It was his job to make sure no light was showing through so bombers would see it,  to help rescue  people find shelter when the bombers came.warden2 He would be dressed like this.

All over Norton people built shelters called Anderson Shelters which the government gave them instructions to build. They were made of steel and buried into the ground. It is not certain where the people in Bishops House sheltered. There is a cellar but given that the House is made of a lot of wood probably not very safe. There was a big shelter at Carfield school that many people went to.

The type of bombs that fell were mostly incendiary that means they were fire bombs. Not all of them exploded when they hit the ground so during the Blitz it must have been chaos. The Air raid wardens would have to get people away from the unexploded bombs, but at the same time houses were burning and others had fallen on top of people.

It is hard to imagine how scary that must have been for everyone.Firemen


This helmet was used by a fireman fighting the fires in Norton during the Blitz.

There is a BBC site where you can read stories of people who were there in the Blitz.


If you live near Norton try walking along the streets and looking for gaps in the old housing where a new house may be now. This is often where a bomb knocked the House down.

Valentine’s day

Valentine’s day was a day set by the catholic church to celebrate several saints called Valentine. One particular Valentine was said to have died because he married Roman soldiers (Roman soldiers were not allowed to marry). Whatever the reason gradually the day began to be known as a day to send gifts and poems to someone you loved. Its uncertain when cards began to be sent but by Victorian times very elaborate cards would be made to send to their loved ones. These were handmade cards but with the new postal service and the ability to mass produce cards the printers starting producing lists of suitable poems and printed cards. Here’s how to make your true love a valentine gift.


You need 2 sheets of tissue paper, a bendy straw (preferably green) some sticky tape, and a little PVA glue.

Fold the red tissue length ways and then into petal size.


DSCF0638Cut round the top to make a petal shape. Be careful not to cut too far down as the petals need to be joined together.

DSCF0639 DSCF0614
Curl first strip of petals loosely and fasten end with sticky tape and then roll another strip round the bud. If you roll too tightly the petals will not look lifelike.

DSCF0625Cut a piece of green tissue or crepe paper to make the bottom part of your flower. Use sticky tape to secure.

DSCF0627DSCF0628 Secure bendy straw to flower and wind round a thin strip of green tissue or crepe paper. (Crepe is best because it stretches slightly) to make the stem. You could put thin layer of PVA glue on straw first to help strip stick.This way it hides the sticky tape. Be careful not to use too much glue as it soaks into the crepe paper and the colour runs. Leave to dry.

If you like you can spray the flower with perfume (not too much or colours will run) or put a small scented piece of cotton wool into the centre. Make sure the person you are sending it too isn’t allergic to perfume though. If not sure leave this part out.

Happy Valentines Day

Happy St Thomas’s day

Christmas in Tudor Times was very different from today. No Christmas Tree or presents on Christmas day.

If you were  poor Saint Thomas’s day was the day that the richer neighbours would give you the ingredients to make your Christmas feast.  The poor would go from house to house on the 21st December asking for flour and other things. This was called “going a Thomassing.”

Other ways of getting help would be to organize a Mummers group to put on a traditional play,  sing Wassail songs or  Morris dancing. All involved asking for money and being given food and drink. Or a kind richer person might give you a warm corner in the kitchen and some left overs.

Christmas decorations were made from holly ivy and yew used to decorate the windows. And something called a kissing bough which was made of 2 circles of wood , wire or willow yied together to make a ball shape and wrapped round with green foilage with a sprig of mistletoe at the bottom.  kissing-bough-232x300

Some better off farmhouses might have a big  wax candle to burn instead of the usual tallow candles (which were made of smelly animal fat.)

The big houses would bring in a Yule log to burn which was huge and would burn for the whole of the celebrations but some less well off would make a Yule log by making a bundle of Ash tree branches. The very poor had to ask permission of the wood owners to go in and pick twigs off the ground.

The Blythes had plenty of silverware linen napkins and pewter plates so probably had a good feast at Christmas and possibly even a few gifts at Twelth Night to each other and their farm and smithy workers.

Stephen Bullivant Tudor Story Teller


The Old Horse

An ‘Owd ‘Oss play (Old Horse),was one of the Mummers plays. A group of men had either a wooden head, with jaws operated by strings, or a real horse’s skull, painted black and red, mounted on a wooden pole so that its snapping jaws could be moved by a man under a cloth who played the horse.  The  Poor Old Horse was an old dying horse.

Nor either is he fit to ride,
Nor draw with any team;
So take him and whip him,
He’ll now my master’s…
Chorus— Poor old horse, poor old horse.
To the huntsman he shall go,
Both his old hide and foe, (sic)
Likewise his tender carcase,
The hounds will not refuse.
Chorus— Poor old horse, poor old horse.


His body that so swiftly
Has travelled many miles,
Over hedges, over ditches,
Over five-barred gates and stiles.
Chorus— Poor old horse, poor old horse.

(Here the horse seemed to fall down dead.) 

The horse became alive again and attempted to bite and kick the blacksmith who is trying to shoe him. The play is ended by the these words

The man that shod this horse, sir,
That was no use at all,
He likened to worry the blacksmith,
His hammer and nails and all.
Chorus— Poor old horse, poor old horse.

There is the whole song on Youtube (Totley Christmas Party)

To find out more about a Tudor Christmas try  the following site.


Bishops Blythe and Saint Catherine

St. Catherine of Alexandria was one of the most important . It was claimed that her  body had been found AD at Mount Sinai in 800ad. A  monastery in Rouen claimed to have Catherine’s fingers. The head abbey for Beauchief Abbey was also from Rouen. Her emblem is the wheel and she is said to be the patron saint of  young unmarried women, female students, spinners, lace makers, rope makers, wheelwrights, mechanics, public speakers, and lawyers.

She was such a popular saint that nearly every ancient church has or has had a chapel for Saint Catherine

Bishop Geoffrey Blythe gifted to St Chad’s  shrine in Litchfield Cathedral two silver images, one of St. Chad and the other of St.


Lichfield Cathedral

So it was not unusual that Bishop Geoffrey Blythe also set up a Saint Catherines chapel for his parents tomb to lie in. Especially as Geoffrey and John Blythe as well as being Bishops were also lawyers.

Blythe's Tomb in Norton Church

Blythe’s Tomb in Norton Church

Lace wasn’t made much in England till Catherine of Aragon Henry VIII’s wife came to England and taught local women to make Spanish lace. Legend says she burnt her lace so she could order more from widows who depended on her orders to feed their children.

Cattern cakes” originated in Tudor times by the Nottinghamshire lace makers who made them as part of the celebration of their patron saint day. A lightly spiced cake with a hint of aniseed.  Their consistency is similar to rock cakes . Warning contains nuts

Ingredients: Makes 10

300g flour 100g melted butter
2tsp caraway seeds 25g currants
½ tsp ground cinnamon 1 large egg
225g caster sugar 50g ground almonds
½ packet of dried yeast or 50g fresh yeast  ½ packet of dried yeast or (50g) fresh yeast
a little extra sugar, cinnamon & caraway seeds for sprinkling

 Method  Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

  1. Sift the flour and cinnamon into a bowl and stir in the currants, almonds, caraway seeds and sugar and the dried yeast if used.
  2. Add the melted butter and beaten egg.
  3. If using fresh yeast, mix with 1oz of the sugar until liquefied and add at this point. Mix well to give a soft dough.
  4. Roll out onto a floured board to give a rectangle about 12″x10″.Cattern Cake 1

    rolling out the dough

    Brush dough with water and sprinkle with the extra sugar and cinnamon.

  5. Roll up like a Swiss roll and cut into ¾” slices.
    rolling the dough ready to slice


  6. Cattern cake 2Place these slices spaced well apart, on a greased tray and bake for 20 minutes.  Take care not to overcook as they can become too hard.
  7. Cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with extra caraway seeds if liked. DSCF0675

Tudor Dairy Farming at Bishops House.

The Blythes lived on the land that Bishops House is on from 1377-1759. The earlier Blythes had 3 jobs, working as lawyers and accountants, scythe making and farming.

Looking at their land , farming wasn’t easy. There are some very steep fields. There was of course quite a lot of woods. Some of the land was actually called Stoney Fields. Because the land was poor  farmers in Norton had to have another job.

The Blythes were dairy farmers like most of the farmers in Norton. Cattle were used to plough the fields and pull the wagons . The cattle not only worked but also were used for milk, meat and leather, and their horns could be used to form spoons or drinking vessels.

Horn drinking cup

Milk  was made into butter and cheese, and a small amount of milk was given to little children, the very old and sick to drink.

They kept a few pigs and hens as well..  An enclosure known as a ‘Hogbog ‘ was used by farmers to house both pigs and poultry. The pigs would occupy the ground space while the poultry resided in a raised hen house. This design saved both space and danger to the hens at night.


They also grew peas and oats , and a small amount of wheat. They fed their horses and cattle in winter on hay (dried grass) and also on holly.  Holly was a very good food for dairy cattle.

Butter making was a way for the women to make some money for themselves. The women sold the butter in nearby markets.

How to make butter.

What you need to make butter

Take a clean screw top jar and double cream. The cream must not be straight from the fridge. Keep it out of the fridge for about an hour. Put the cream into the jar.  The cream needs room to move when you shake it so don’t fill it so full and make sure you have put the lid on tightly.

Now comes the hard part as you need to shake the jar very hard till you see a big lump emerging and lots of thin milky liquid.

butter has been made!

Drain all the milky liquid away. Then add cold water, screw on lid and shake gently, drain liquid away, repeat till water is clear. Now comes messy bit. Make sure your hands are clean. Squeeze lump till all the milky liquid is out. Put butter in dish and put in fridge for half an hour at least.

Butter is ready to eat.

The butter may taste a little different as there is usually salt added to shop bought butter.

They are a lot of superstitions about dairy cows and making butter.

When you are churning and the butter will not come, take a red-hot poker and touch each corner of the house with it. You will thereby drive the witch away.

If butter does not come properly when you are churning tie a  withy of wiggin  (sprig of mountain ash) round your churn.

There are also many fairy stories about it too. Many people believed if you did not leave a dish of milk for the fairies called Brownies that the next day the dinner would burn, the cheese wouldn’t curdle and the butter wouldn’t come. Brownies were said to be the fairies of the farmyard and could be helpful but equally could be naughty.

Why don’t you see if you can find some fairy stories about milk maids and brownies?

To find out about tudor farming try looking up these sites. http://www.simplesite.com/theapothecary/4732212