Saturday, 19 April 2014

Q is for Quemerford

Starting with the local dialect words ... do you know what quamp means?  Who, or what, is a quiddle? What is a quiff?  The answers will be shown at the end of this post.
Today we are in Quemerford which is now part of Calne but used to be a separate village. This is what it looks like today ...

All very pretty, but not the subject of today's post.  Quemerford has been chosen because of something that happened there in 1618.  It was a 'skimmington', which gives an interesting insight into a rather terrifying method of social control.  A skimmington was not an official punishment but was a form of ritual humiliation and punishment meted out by one's peers. 

In 1618, the people on the receiving end of the skimmington in Quemerford were Agnes Mills and her husband, Thomas.  It started on the morning of May 27th when a small group of 3 or 4 men, about 12 young boys and a man beating a drum arrived at the bridge in Quemerford where their purpose for being there was challenged by the locals.  The group explained that they had come to collect a skimmington (i.e. Thomas and Agnes) but the locals told them that the accusation was false and the women of Quemerford attacked the group, breaking the drum.  As a result of this the group returned home to Calne and Thomas and Agnes were saved.

Unfortunately for Thomas and Agnes, that wasn't the end of it.  Later in the day a much bigger crowd returned; this time there were over 300 men all making as much noise as possible, banging drums and bells, shouting, beating pots together, blowing fifes and whistles.  Some of the men carried muskets and one man, who was dressed up to resemble Thomas, was riding a horse. The crowd arrived at the Mills' home, threw stones in at the windows and fired their muskets.  In an attempt to protect himself and his wife, Thomas locked the door and secured Agnes in 'her chamber', but this was unsuccessful and the crowd dragged them outside.  Agnes was thrown into a muddy hole, covered with mud and filth and then trampled and beaten. The skimmington should have ended with Agnes being forced to ride behind the mounted man and taken to the 'cuckold stool', where she should have been placed and washed (ducked), but that didn't happen to Agnes and her ordeal ended in the muddy hole.

I don't know what happened to the Mills after this happened.  In some cases, victims of a skimmington were accepted back into the community but often were forced to leave the area and resettle elsewhere.  Thomas and Agnes are mentioned in records as 'the examinants', when the details of their ordeal was documented.

Oh, I forgot to mention Agnes' crime ... apparently she had beaten her husband!  Definitely tough justice, it must have been terrifying.


Here are the answers to the dialect words:
  • quamp - quiet, still, peaceful
  • quiddle - a fussy person
  • quiff - a trick/knack
Hope to see you again on Monday for the letter R.

1 comment:

  1. Whoa. I wonder why they tried to punish the husband too for being beaten by the wife... Crowd justice is the worst kind of justice.
    Lovely blog! I am learning a lot from it :)

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