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Oxted & District History Society

Chairman’s Letter 2012

I am delighted to be able to report another successful year for the Society due, in the main, to another outstanding programme arranged by Kath McCarthy which, as usual, has provided us with a wide variety of visiting speakers as well as talks by two of our own members Louis and Roy Eaton and talks by the Rev David Skitt and Chris Bruce-Jones of the United Reformed Church.

We continue to be greatly indebted to the Minister and Elders of the Church for allowing us to meet in the congenial surroundings of the Church.

We have enjoyed an excellent attendance at all meetings even the one threatened by snow and ice and our membership currently stands at 85.

This is undoubtedly due to the quality of Kath McCarthy’s programme and

of the meeting room.

The efficiency of our technology has improved and our thanks are due to John Fogg-Elliott, our Equipment Officer, and his occasional assistants; the only hiccups that have occurred have been when a visiting speaker has brought a laptop which has not been compatible with our projector.

Publicity continues to be a very important aspect of our success and our thanks are due to Keith Louis, our President, for producing the series of eye-catching posters for our meetings, which are posted fortnightly in nine different locations in the Oxted area, and to Stuart Paterson, our Publicity Officer, for his very prompt press reports for local newspapers and magazines. But, in addition, our publicity is now well and truly in the 21st century with our own website for which we are greatly indebted to Chris Pendred, our Vice Chairman, for his hard work on designing and regularly updating the site.

Visit: oxtedanddistricthistorysociety.org

Our Summer Outing to Bletchley Park was a great success with a full coach and an exceptionally interesting guided tour of the different areas; our thanks again to Chris Pendred for organising this visit.

This annual publication continues to attain new peaks of quality of content and presentation due to the hard work of Betty and Brian Shearing and we thank them both for this and printing the membership cards and visitor receipts.

As Chairman, I am fortunate to be supported and guided by the hard work and wise counsel of a strong committee and I must express my sincere thanks to all those already mentioned and to Moyna Bridge, our Hon Secretary, and Anna Burrage, our Hon Treasurer, who carry out the unsung but very important work of keeping the administration of the Society under such good control.

Trevor Burrage - Chairman ODHS

Review of Conspiracy by Ian Shircore - John Blake Publishing, 2012.

We are ruled by dark forces, and Mr. Shircore means to put us on our guard. He has produced fifty case studies of, by my reckoning, about 1,500 words each on average, journalist’s padding included.

Some are vacuous: how World War II began on the German/Polish frontier and why Coca-Cola is not what it used to be. Others are slight: in December 1944 the band-leader Glenn Miller was lost while crossing the Channel in a small, single-engined aircraft; no flight plan was filed; in the midst of a great war, if a U.S. airman chooses to hop over for a few days in Paris and take a friend or two with him, why should one be? Miller was not missed for a week.

And surely there is very little mystery left about Pearl Harbour: Roosevelt himself sent the fleet there; it was a threat (which he intended), an insult (which he did not) and an opportunity (which hardly anyone imagined: the Japanese were puny, short-sighted and unimaginative, simply incapable of attacking Pearl). As for Harold Wilson’s vexed relations with the Security Services, it is by now clear that both Wilson and his opponents (though not the Service heads) made fools of themselves; and if there is any conspiracy left today it is surely aimed at ignoring Wilson’s undoubted paranoia.

In 1961 Secretary-General of the United Nations Mr. Hammarskjold died on his way to a cloak-and-dagger meeting, in an aircraft landing at Ndola in what was then Northern Rhodesia; it made what seems to have been a perfectly regular approach, though not to the runway but into the bush some nine miles short. Mr. Shircore raises some concerns, only to dismiss them all on very reasonable grounds. To my chagrin he does not mention my own pet theory, that, at the end of a long, hard day, the flight-deck crew somehow muddled Ndola with N’Dolo, where the approach is different. But wait: we may have had a hand in it; the evidence? One witness remembered, not then, but forty years later, a mark on the Secretary-General’s forehead that might have been a gunshot wound. And Harry Truman, retired and in his late seventies, is said to have remarked at the time: ‘. . . they [but who?] killed him.’

And Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car hired by the Paris Ritz and driven, on the instructions of the proprietor’s son, by a Ritz employee, probably drunk (this is not quite certain) and without doubt driving at reckless speed. What more need be said? But no: as I remember, at the time there was talk of a small, brightly-coloured car driven, surely, by British Intelligence, or perhaps by The Establishment, that ambushed the Ritz’s two-tonne Mercedes, nudged it to its doom, then got clean away, no-one knew whither. Mr. Shircore has a better idea: a mechanism secretly attached to the Mercedes, radio-controlled to override the driver’s actions. These are deep waters, Watson.

Again, the cloud of volcanic dust that brought North Atlantic air traffic to a standstill for days, but, when at last it was sampled, seemed some- how to be not nearly as dangerous as had been supposed? Well, there was vast misjudgement, of immense cost in wealth and dislocation, but why not something besides: an international security exercise of some sort that we cannot be told about? But did they actually cause the eruption, or just stand by (for years?) waiting for a suitable one? How can we be sure?

In each case, he gives a brief resume ́ of the facts, a theory or two, and arguments for and against. So far as I can tell from the few I feel competent to judge, these are presented fairly though not fully: how could they be, within the limits he has set himself? But sometimes concision leads him into inaccuracy and perhaps injustice, as at p. 234: Roosevelt’s ‘This means war’ was a reaction not to ‘the [Japanese] one o’clock message’ but (far more perceptive) to its first thirteen paragraphs only: the fatal fourteenth was not yet known, nor was the one o’clock deadline.

And is he not a trifle naıve, too? The bombers of July 2005 bought return tickets to London and paid to park a car. So did they expect to return: were they victims, too? But might not those bearded young men, three of Asian appearance, with explosive rucksacks, want to do what- ever they could to avert suspicion? And Mr. Shircore suggests official mishandling of the enquiry did much harm; but our opponents here have not (yet) scored since: surely we did something right? Far too often, he sets up his conspiratorial arguments, demolishes them, then seems to end by saying: well, there may be something in it.

So, in the end, it comes as quite a relief to learn that only seven hundred flying saucer sightings are unexplained, that, after all, our Royal Family are not extra-terrestrial lizards and, probably, Elvis Presley really is dead.


The History of  Bletchinley

During the season, society member Roy Eaton gave an illustrated lecture on ‘The History of Bletchingley’.

He acknowledged that his main source of information was Uvedale Lambert’s 1921 ‘History of Blechingley’. Bletchingley originally covered a large area of 10,000 acres, extending from the North Downs to the Sussex border. Bletchingley has been significant for over 1000 years. Richard Fitzgilbert, a second cousin of William the Conqueror, was given the Manor of Bletchingley after the Norman Conquest, along with several other former Saxon manors. His de Clare family remained close to successive Norman kings. Gilbert de Clare was in the hunting party in the New Forest in 1100, with the future Henry I when William II (Rufus) was killed. Roger de Clare built Bletchingley Castle in the mid-twelfth Century. The north and south deer parks were enclosed soon after.

Richard de Clare attended the signing of Magna Carta in 1215 with his son, Gilbert, who obtained the earldom of Gloucester as well as of Hertford for his family and achieved borough status for Bletchingley. Gilbert extended St. Mary’s Church, which had a hermit in a cell in an outside wall which can still be seen today. Bletchingley also had a market and annual fair for 700 years. After a minority, another Richard de Clare inherited the earldoms and became a soldier, diplomat and a friend of the King. Richard set up Merton College, Oxford. Another Gilbert de Clare fought with Simon de Montfort at the 1264 Battle of Lewes but in the same year Bletchingley Castle was destroyed by Royalist forces.

Stones from the castle were used for extending St. Mary’s Church. The de Clare line died out when the last de Clare was killed in 1314 at Bannockburn. The estates were divided between his three sisters. Some of the de Clare family are buried in Tewkesbury Abbey. Their title passed via one of the sisters to the de Staffords, who unfortunately boasted of their royal lineage. The second Duke of Buckingham was executed for treason in 1483, as was the third Duke in 1521, but not before he built Bletchingley Place (Palace). His estates passed to Henry VIII and Sir Nicholas Carew was given Bletchingley Place but he too was executed for treason in 1539.

In 1540 Anne of Cleves was given Bletchingley Place as part of her divorce settlement along with Richmond Palace. Following her death,

Elizabeth I passed it to the Howard family. The two great deer parks were unparked in Cromwell’s time. From 1295 to 1832 Bletchingley sent two MPs to Parliament. In the 18th and early 19th Centuries it was one of the rotten boroughs with about fifty electors who elected the two MPs after much bribery and treating at the White Hart. SP

Roy Eaton, whose talk on The History of Bletchingley is reported above, has provided additional pictures and text that there was not time to include in his talk. This research also includes interesting discoveries by our Chairman, Trevor Burrage, and appears under ‘The Great Bletchingley Auction of 1835’ on page 10.

The Reredos on the east wall of the chancel of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, installed by the Rector, the Reverend C. Fox Chawner in 1870.

An aumbry containing the Blessed Sacrament with a 15th Century canopy was previously used to fill the lancet window by Roger the Hermit’s cell

The pulpit was given to the Church in 1630. At the restoration in 1870 this fine Jacobean pulpit was removed and given to the parish of Orsett in Essex. It was recovered and restored to its rightful place in 1937.

A note above the Hermit’s Cell includes a copy of the entry in the Close Roll of Henry III being an order to the King’s Treasurer concerning the Hermit. The translation reads:

Order to Peter de Rivallis to provide brother Roger of Bletchingley every VIII weeks with a quarter of corn for his sustenance so long as it shall please the King of his grace. Witness the King at Croydon XXI March 1233.

A plaque commemorates Commander Wilfred Dunderdale R.N.V.R., a distinguished resident of the village and affectionately known as ‘Biffy’.

He played a leading role in obtaining the Enigma Machine. It is said that he was one of the characters who influenced Ian Fleming in creating his secret agent, James Bond ‘007’.

The oldest gravestone in the Churchyard. Despite its pair of ‘crossbones’ it is

unlikely that it marks a pirate’s grave.

There is a beautiful dairy at Sandhills Farm, a National Trust property with a tenant farmer. (I was unable to confirm the blue and white tiled interior mentioned by Peter Gray in his booklet of 1991 because the farmer was busy lambing.) RE

The Great Bletchingley Auction of 1835

On the 15th September 1835 one hundred dwellings and much land were offered for sale by auction by Messrs. Blake of Croydon, which was the forerunner of the firm of chartered surveyors in which our Chairman, Trevor Burrage, was a partner.

The following extracts are from the original Auction Particulars of 1835 and are reproduced by kind permission of Stiles Harold Williams, current successor firm to Messrs. Blake, and Croydon Local Studies Library and Archives Service, the custodians of Messrs. Blakes’ auction archives which are available for inspection at Croydon Central Library.∗

Some of the items of small print in the Auction Particulars speak for themselves:

Telephone 0208 726 6900, extension 61112

‘The situation of Bletchingley is elevated and salubrious, commanding landscape scenery pre-eminently beautiful, with excellent Roads in connexion with Godstone, Westerham, and a direct line to Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, also Reigate, Merstham, and the High Brighton and Lewes Roads, with a regular established daily Coach, and within three hours drive of the Metropolis.

. . . together with a Piece of Freehold Pasture Ground situate at the West End of the Town, containing Three Acres or thereabouts, in occupation of Russell Martingall, a yearly tenant at £3 per annum, subject to the Inhabitants of Bletchingley using the same at all times as a Public Cricket Ground.

. . . pay the residue of the purchase money on or before the 10th day of November next into the Bank of England, with the privity of the Accountant General of the Court of Chancery to be placed to his account there. Exparte the purchasers of the estates in Surrey of the late Matthew Russell, Esquire.’

It is noteworthy that the front cover of the Auction Particulars suggest that the purchase of many of the freehold properties will offer the opportunity to influence the parliamentary votes of the tenants! A clear indication that Bletchingley’s reputation as a rotten borough was still flourishing despite the Reform Act of 1832.

Sir Robert Clayton bought the Manor of Bletchingley in the 17th century and he with his heirs and successors acquired much further land and dwellings in the district. The whole was sold to Matthew Russell of Brancepeth Castle, Co. Durham in 1816.

‘. . . several thousand acres, in the several Parishes of Bletchingley, Godstone, Caterham, Nutfield, Horne and Worth.’

To get the flavour of the sale let us look at three lots, two in outline and one in detail.

LOT XVI The Red Lion Public House – Freehold with a Tenement ad- joining: Rent per annum £18; Guide price £450; sold to John Trees of Bletching

LOT XXIV The White Hart Inn – Freehold with extensive outbuildings, for example a coach house for four carriages, stabling for 16 horses etc. etc.; 3 brick and tile tenements and much land: Rent per an- num £55; Guide price £850; sold to the tenant Ralph Eldridge [who became the landlord] for £1,350.

LOT VII A Freehold Detached Genteel Dwelling House with Coach- house, Stabling Yard and large Gardelate in the occupation of Mr. W. Davis, deceased, but now of Mr. William Clark, Gentleman, a Yearly Tenant. A substantial Brick and Slated Residence with Portico Entrance and Planted Front Enclosure containing five Sleeping Rooms, Dressing Room and Water Closet, Entrance Hall, two par- lours with Marble Chimney Pieces, good Kitchen, Wash-house with Brick Oven, Store Room, Pantry and Cellars, an Engine Pump and large leaden Cistern supplies the Premises with Water, a neatly paved Yard, with Coach-house, 2-stall Stable, other subordinate Offices, and a well planted Garden of considerable extent: Rent per annum £25; Guide price £430; sold to Mr. Nibleth of Dorking for £510.

Lot VII, on the north side of the Square, as it is today.

Extract from the Morning Herald, September 1835:

A very large party of purchasers, solicitors, and their friends, sat down after the sale to an excellent dinner [at the White Hart] and passed the evening most convivially. . . . The sale was most ably conducted by Messrs. Blake of Croydon.


Ancient & Modern Olympic Games

Keith Louis, President of the Society, picked a topical subject, in the year of the 2012 London Olympics, with an illustrated lecture on the ‘Ancient & Modern Olympic Games’.

The Ancient Olympic Games were held every four years for over 1000 years between 776BC and AD395 at Olympia. Held in a beautiful and peaceful but readily accessible setting, all wars and fighting ceased for the period of the Games. Other Games were held at Delphi, Nemea and Corinth but the most popular were those at Olympia. There were close religious associations as part of the Olympic Games. The Temple of Zeus at Olympia contained one of the Seven Wonders of the World, a thirty metre high statue of Zeus, covered in gold and ivory.

Women were banned from attending the Games but virgins and the High Priestess of Demeter, the Goddess of Fertility were allowed ad- mission. Originally competitors wore loin cloths but these could impede movement and could unwind, tripping those wearing them, so soon participants competed naked.

The Ancient Olympic Games took place over five days, with running over various distances, chariot and horse racing. On the third day, a hundred oxen were sacrificed but only after their edible parts had been used for a great feast. Only the inedible parts were burnt. On the final day, wreaths made from branches from a sacred olive tree were awarded to the victors. Much alcoholic drink was consumed throughout the Games. When the winners arrived home they were much honoured with statues, money and gifts.

The main events were on the 200 yard long track made of clay and covered with sand, and for longer races competitors had to keep turning round at each end. In one event runners wore armour and carried shields. There was no marathon in the Ancient Olympics. The pentathlon consisted of javelin, discus, running, long-jump and wrestling and the winner was the first to win three of the five events. There were no high-jump or pole-vault. Long jumpers held weights to, in theory, jump further.

Wrestling was very popular. Biting and eye-gouging were forbidden but other modern fouls were allowed. Boxing was even more dangerous and very popular in Sparta. Competitors were allowed to hit an opponent who had been knocked to the ground. Leather was wound round the hands to protect them, together with sheepskin arm-bands, like modern sweat-bands.

Chariot racing was held in a hippodrome and together with horse racing was also a ‘must see’ event. The ancient hippodrome in Istanbul is 600m long and 200m wide so may indicate the size of the original hippodrome at Olympia. Over time the religious element of the Games declined. After the Games at Olympia were discontinued, the Romans moved them to Rome and there were later Games in Constantinople.

Although what is recognised as the first Modern Olympic Games were held in a purpose-built marble stadium Athens in 1896, there were the Cotswold Games held at Chipping Campden from the early 17th Century (as seen in an illustration of 1636) until 1862, except during the Commonwealth. Women took part in dancing and running events. There were other attempts to revive the Olympic Games at Much Wenlock in the 1860s and in other parts of the world.

The second Modern Olympics in Paris in 1900 was not very well organised. At St. Louis in 1904, pole-climbing and croquet were included and White City was built for the 1908 London Olympics. In 1920, the Olympic flag appeared and the 1936 Berlin Olympics were hijacked by the Nazis for propaganda purposes. The 1972 Munich massacre and boycotts by various countries in the 1970s and 1980s took the edge off the Games’ popularity. Professional competitors were eventually allowed to take part. The first spectacular opening ceremony was at Barcelona in 1992. An increasing variety of events now takes place. Women were only gradually allowed to compete in the Modern Olympics. The

Paralympics first started in 1948. The original aim of the Olympic Games continues to stretch human ability to its utmost. SP

The Show Goes On

Once again the annual Edenbridge and Oxted Agricultural Show will have taken place in Tandridge Lane at the end of August. Although it can trace its history back to 1837 after amalgamation in 1931 with the Croydon-based East Surrey Agricultural Association, the original Oxted & Godstone Association dates from 1890, when it was set up by a group of local farmers and landowners. The first show was held that year in Tandridge Park in the field south of the bridle-path to Broadham Green by courtesy of Mr. J. Cooper, who was the tenant of Tandridge Court at the time and who was the show’s first President.

In addition to the various classes for horses, cattle and sheep there was a ploughing match which included categories for:

  1. the turnwheel plough, with or without driver;

• the Essex or half-swing plough;
   • the round or iron plough, with two horses abreast and reins; and

  1.    • a foot or any other plough.

Do you remember these? We are told that the nine classes of poultry, the pigeon and the rabbit sections were also a great success.

Fertility being all-important in farming, prizes were given (15 shillings) to the shepherd whose flock had produced the largest number of lambs, and also (£1) to the outdoor labourer whose wife had produced the largest number of children still under twelve years old. It is not known, how- ever, whether the £1 was offered as a gesture of encouragement, or alter- natively by way of commiseration.

In the early days draught horses predominated (carts, wagons and carriages) but by the 1930s hunters and jumpers were becoming more numerous. Even so, there was still a rather spectacular race for ridden carthorses until 1958. In 1931 the Caterham Motor Company exhibited motor cars, trucks and motor cycles at the show, and Messrs. Blades of Oxted (as far back as that!) had a stand with Aga cookers.

Music was provided by various military bands: in 1897 by the South Godstone Reed and Brass Band, and, on what must have been a memorable occasion, The Blue Hungarian Band in 1892.

Dinners following the show seem to have been pretty convivial. At- tended by local MPs, clergymen, landowners and farmers, toasts and speeches were made, at least in the 1890s, to ‘The Army, Navy and Re- served Forces’ (no RAF then), to ‘The Bishops and Clergy of the Diocese’, to ‘The Houses of Parliament’, as well as to the Association, to the Committee, to the Judges, to the Prize Winners and to the Hunts.

In 1902 the site of the show was changed to the recreation ground at Old Oxted, where it stayed for over thirty years. After the amalgamation with the Edenbridge Show it moved, first to a site to the north of Eden- bridge, and then latterly to Gabriels at the southern end of the town. In the late 1980s, however, land was purchased at Ardenrun at the southern end of Tandridge Lane for the show ground as we know it.

Most of the material for this article comes from a history of the show written in 1987 by the late Wynk Young of Blackgrove Farm. His family have farmed in the area for over 400 years and the Youngs have played a leading role both in initiating the show and in helping to run it ever since.

It is very pleasing to see how the show has continued to flourish through- out all these years to reach its present impressive size, and it is good to know, too, that after its early beginning in Tandridge Park it has once again returned to the parish. GW

Summer Outing to Bletchley Park

Fifty members of the Society and their friends enjoyed their summer out- ing to Bletchley Park, the home of wartime intelligence. Those attending had to dodge the showers but left at the end of the day with a fascinating insight into wartime intelligence operations. They visited the newly built replicas of the ‘Bombe’ and ‘Colossus’. (See picture on cover.)

Bletchley Park was the former country home of Sir Herbert Leon, a wealthy London financier and Liberal MP. With its extensive grounds and position near good rail and road communications, it was ideally placed to become an intelligence centre. By 1938 the house and estate were in the hands of developers and Government intervention was necessary to secure the site for the intelligence services.

The first arrivals from the Government Code and Cypher School came in August 1938 with a mission to crack the Nazi codes. A German had offered to sell the secrets of the Enigma coding machine in 1931 but the British and French did not take up the offer. However the Poles did, cracked the Enigma code and passed this intelligence to the British in July 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II. There is a memorial to the Polish code-cracking pioneers at Bletchley Park. However the Enigma code was only altered every few months before the war, but, with the advent of war, the codes changed daily.

An intelligence team, working under Dilly Knox, which included John Jeffreys and Alan Turing, cracked the ‘green’ German Enigma code in January 1940 and then the ‘red’ code used by the Luftwaffe. In April 1940 the Germans invaded Denmark and Norway and Bletchley Park broke the ‘yellow’ German Army cipher. The breaking of Enigma was aided by a complex electro-mechanical device called the ‘Bombe’, devised by Turing, based on the earlier Polish ‘Bomba’. The Bombe ran through every possible code permutation to determine the German daily Enigma settings. Turing was joined by Hugh Alexander, a British chess grandmaster, to decipher the German Navy Enigma code.

At first the British commanders were reluctant to take the intelligence seriously but throughout the First Battle of the Atlantic the information helped the Admiralty to track the U-boat packs, considerably reducing their ability to sink merchant navy ships bringing vital supplies to Britain from America. A unit at Bletchley Park also broke the Japanese ciphers, enabling the code-breakers to monitor Japanese preparations for war.

The German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941 brought some of the most distressing messages Bletchley Park ever managed to break, the massacre of tens of thousands of Jews. The evidence was collected for use in the war crimes trials after the war. In 1942 the code-breakers successes enabled the Royal Navy to cut Rommel’s supply lines in North Africa and keep Montgomery informed about Rommel’s every move.

In early 1942 the U-boats introduced a more complex Enigma cipher but this had been broken by the end of 1942. The construction by Tommy Flowers and his team of Post Office engineers of Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer in December 1943, en- abled Bletchley Park to glean details of German defences for the D-Day invasion and allowed the British to dupe Hitler over where the Allies were to land. Early in June 1944 he withdrew some troops from Normandy to Calais, where he expected the Allies to land.

By the end of World War II there were 10,000 people working at 19

Bletchley Park. They did not win the war but certainly shortened it, saving countless lives and left us with the computer technology which dominates our lives today. SP

The Children’s Crusade 1212

In May eight hundred years ago a shepherd boy called Stephen brought the King of France a letter from Jesus Christ Himself; the King told him to go home. Some two hundred years later, Joan of Arc was told the same. Neither went: Joan turned into an inspired soldier; Stephen took his stand at the gate of the great Abbey of St. Denis (near Paris) and proved to be an inspiring preacher: he would lead a host of children against God’s enemies; the sea would part before them as it had for Moses; where their elders had failed, they would reach the Holy Land dry shod and redeem it from the Infidels.

Jerusalem had been a Crusader city for almost a century, but after a catastrophic battle was again in Infidel hands. Of course it must be got back, but easier said than done. There were still Crusaders in the Holy Land: the Kingdom of Outremer ‘Beyond the sea’ whose capital was now Acre, but its barons had reached a comfortable accommodation with God’s enemies;‡ the very last thing they wanted was another Crusade. And there were better, nearer, opportunities for pious ruffians: against the Moors of Spain; the heretics in Languedoc; half-naked Baltic savages; fabulously-wealthy Orthodox schismatics: more convenient, more lucrative, and less dangerous.

Perhaps the sum total of our credulity does not alter much from age to age: it just changes direction. All round France, other children took up the message. A boy called Nicholas preached at Cologne before the magnificent shrine where the Three Kings are buried who attended Jesus’ Nativity: children from the Rhine, too, would go to the Holy Land, not in arms, but preaching the Gospel in peace. Was it not written: ‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings . . .

There is a good account of all this in Steven Runciman’s History of the Crusades, Cambridge 1954, and Harmondsworth 1965, Vol. III pp 139.

‡ A truce, which the Muslims and most Crusaders were willing to renew when it expired. It was not renewed, but neither did they start fighting again with much enthusiasm.

Stephen’s party assembled about the end of June. Most were peas- ants, but a few were from noble families, with or without their parents’ consent, some even riding horses. There were far more boys than girls; it is said few were older than twelve, but how many would know even their own ages? Priests came too, from pastoral duty, pilgrim zeal or expecting preferment: Jerusalem redeemed would provide benefices in plenty. There would of course be the usual tail of vagabonds, whores and mountebanks that straggles behind any great enterprise. How many followers had he? Thirty thousand, it was said. They must have been fewer, but some thousands at the least set out gaily from France to re- possess the Holy Land. They did not call themselves Crusaders; nobody ever did: they were Pilgrims in Arms, though their weapons cannot have amounted to much. Yet, God was with them, how could they fail?

It was the duty and the privilege of all true Christians to give Crusaders whatever help they needed, but times were hard and the people they passed among had little to spare. South of Lyons, the Languedoc was not French. It had its own language and heresy was rife. The locals can hardly have welcomed a disorderly horde demanding free food and lodging. Stephen’s followers had the shorter and easier road than Nicholas’, but some died, others dropped out, and at Marseilles the sea failed to part. Those of little faith now deserted; some reached home, others found some kind of new life on way, or died by the roadside. But at Marseilles, God’s intention soon became clear. The Christian mer- chant seamen thereabouts knew their Muslim counterparts quite well: sometimes as enemies, more often as partners in trade; there would be shipmen there who had sailed the Muslim seas and had Muslim friends. Two merchants now came forward; if their nicknames are anything to go by, their local reputation cannot have been good: Iron Hugh and William the Pig. Now, for the good of their souls, they offered seven ships free of charge to convey the children to the Holy Land. If the two were notorious sinners, then the more welcome was their repentance. Gladly, the Pilgrimage embarked and sailed away, hull down into silence.

As Stephen’s followers marched hopefully into Marseilles, Nicholas’ were struggling across Switzerland in two hordes, by the high, bleak passes of St. Bernard and St. Gotthard.

§ ‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.’ Psalm 8.2

In Roman times, there had been a broad carriage road across the Great St. Bernard; that was gone, but the steep, barren path that remained was a recognised pilgrims’ route, and, for their relief a monastery hospice was quite recently established at the top; the dogs came later. It can hardly have expected the crowd of ragged young suppliants that came. After great hardships, a quarter or so of Nicholas’ own party lived to reach the sea at Genoa. They were received with some suspicion: Popes in Rome and German Emperors had been at loggerheads for generations; Imperial armies, Papal armies, local barons’ armies, all had marched up and down at will and lived off the wretched inhabitants; was this unlooked-for swarm of children just a new German trick? But next day, they said, the sea would part and they should be gone to the Holy Land: very well, they could stay the night. The sea did not part. The Genoese were now rather ashamed of their suspicions: probably many despondent children stayed and some at least prospered. Nicholas and the remainder plodded on along the time- honoured pilgrim road to Rome. At Pisa charitable ships’ captains gave some a free passage to the Holy Land. Not a word ever came back from them, either. At last, Nicholas and a few followers reached Rome. Not many Popes were as adroit as Innocent III: he aggrandised the Holy See, made Kings his vassals and juggled with rival Emperors. He had a good judgement of oddities: the unspeakable Cathars of Languedoc must be exterminated; mere irritants like the Flemish Beguines he could ignore; St. Francis of Assisi and his barefoot, beggarly preachers he would put to good use. No-one knew better God’s need for Crusaders; so, he received the children kindly: they must go home now, and when they grew up they should try again.

The St. Gotthard party had an even more arduous, barren way and even greater hardships, but at last some survivors reached the Adriatic Sea at Ancona. There too it failed to part for them. They drifted on down the Italian coast, hoping for the promised miracle at every port. A remnant reached Brindisi in the far South. Again, ships’ captains took pity on them and offered free passage. The more steadfast sailed, yet again into silence; the rest wandered away.

Kings: among them John of England. Emperors: Otto IV of Swabia and Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, both claimed the Imperial throne.

Few of the French children ever saw their homes again, and far fewer Germans, against whom the Alpine passes were now snowbound until summer: any who found a tolerable life in the South would hardly choose to uproot themselves again. Neither Stephen nor Nicholas, it seems, re- turned. People now remembered that Nicholas’ father had proudly encouraged his son’s preaching. He was hanged. [Such was the Children’s Crusade. Without obvious significant causes or effects, it has not much interested historians. But, there was a sequel.] Eighteen years later, a French wanderer found his way back. Out of all of those who took ship, it seems he alone ever did. He said he had been a young priest ministering to those who sailed by the good charity of the Marseilles merchants. In a gale off Sardinia, two ships of the seven were lost with all on board. Then, and evidently by arrangement, an Arab fleet met the other five; the passengers were trans-shipped and brought ashore in Muslim North Africa. The Arab slave trade was a tricky one: demand was fairly constant, but supply could be highly

irregular: five ships full of prime twelve-year-olds would glut any market. But the Prophet Muhammad had not been a caravan manager for nothing:∥ his Arab followers were now the most expert travellers and traders the world had ever seen, inventors of the magnetic compass and the commercial Bill of Exchange. To get a fair price, they shipped many of the captives on to Muslim Egypt, the young priest among them. Some were

rumoured to have been traded as far off as Baghdad.

In its six hundred years of history, Islam had developed differing strands:

a Ruler inherited The Prophet’s baraka,∗∗ his divine inspiration. A scholarly

elite of teachers, preachers and lawyers guaranteed the pure Prophetic Tradition. The Su ̄fi were grubby, disorderly, populist missioners to the ignorant. The ruling Sultan of Egypt was an urbane connoisseur of

Christendom, an odd hobby for his time and place. A few years later, he would listen courteously to St. Francis of Assisi and send him with honour on his way: clearly, Francis was a kind of Infidel Su ̄fi. The children’s priests who now fell into the Sultan’s hands were of the Infidel elite, valuable exotics to be preserved as secretaries and the like.

It is only fair to mention that there is no direct evidence that Muhammad was ever

a caravan manager: it is a reasonable supposition only. He does seem to have been at

one time a merchant of some sort.
∗∗ Baraka: an Arabic near equivalent of the Greek ‘pneuma’ as in Romans 1.3

As for their deluded juvenile rabble, they were God’s Bounty to the Faithful: put a few likely ones to domestic use and send the rest into the remorseless Egyptian sun to toil and die on his estates.

The priest said some hundreds were still alive when he came away.


The Reverend Desmond Tutu was curate at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Bletchingley from 1965 to 1967.


Newsletter Autumn 2012 by Brian & Betty Shearing

Lecture Programme 2012–13

Chairman’s Letter


The history of Bletchingley

Great Bletchingley Auction

Olympic Games

The Show Goes On

Summer Outing

The Children’s Crusade


Keith Louis.

Trevor Burrage.

Christopher Pendred.

Moyna Bridge.
Anna Burrage.

Kathleen McCarthy.  

John Fogg-Elliot.

Stuart Paterson.




Vice Chairman


Programme Secretary  

Equipment Officer

Press Officer

Society Members with a Colossus Computer.

8pm Evening Lecture Programme for 2012–2013

Michael Compton - The Fishing Fleet – Catching Husbands in India

2 October 2012

16 October

6 November

13 November

27 November

11 December

Tim Tawney - Antique County Maps

Gerry Walkden - Cortes to Castro

Paul Sowen - The Croydon Oxted and East Grinstead Line

Chris Shepheard - The Lost Countryside

Handel’s Messiah followed by the Christmas Party

8 January 2013

Anne Milton-Worsell  - The Wars of the Roses

22 January

Chris McCooey - Despatches from the Home Front

5 February

Rita Jones - Troy Story

19 February

Ian Tolley - The Mail Rail

5 March

Ian Currie - The history of weather forecasting and observing -

The story from Aristotle to TV weather

19 March

AGM & Party