The Lament of Swordy Well (VII)

... and yes, Swaddywell in July 2005

And should the price of grain get high
Lord help and keep it low
I shant posses a single flye
Or get a weed to grow
I shant possess a yard of ground
To bid a mouse to thrive
For gain has put me in a pound
I scarce can keep alive

I own Im poor like many more
But then the poor mun live
And many came for miles before
For what I had to give
But since I fell upon the town
They pass me with a sigh
Ive scarce the room to say sit down
And so they wander bye

Though now I seem so full of clack
Yet when yer' riding bye
The very birds upon my back
Are not more fain to flye
I feel so lorn in this disgrace
God send the grain to fall
I am the oldest in the place
And the worst sereved of all

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The Lament of Swordy Well (VI)

Another July 2005 view

The restoration of Swaddywell Pit is an important part of the Langdyke Countryside Trust's work, and at the end of 2004 the Trust received a grant for £28,000 from the Aggregates Levy Sustainable Fund (ALSF) to support its work at the site.

I am no man to whine and beg
But fond of freedom still
I hing no lies on pitys peg
To bring a gris to mill
On pitys back I neednt jump
My looks speak loud alone
My only tree the've left a stump
And nought remains my own

My mossy hills gains greedy hand
And more then greedy mind
Levels into a russet land
Nor leaves a bend behind
In summers gone I bloomed in pride
Folks came for miles to prize
My flowers that bloomed no where beside
And scarce believed their eyes

Yet worried with a greedy pack
They rend and delve and tear
The very grass from off my back
Ive scarce a rag to wear
Gain takes my freedom all away
Since its dull suit I wore
And yet scorn vows I never pay
And hurts me more and more
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The Lament of Swordy Well (V)

Carry Ackroyd's "A Swaddywell Field" - See

The Langdyke Countryside Trust was founded in 2000 to celebrate John Clare's legacy to natural history and promote and safeguard landscapes and places of importance through his writings.

No now not een a stone can lie
Im just what eer they like
My hedges like the winter flye
And leave me but the dyke
My gates are thrown from off the hooks
The parish thoroughfare
Lord he thats in the parish books
Has little wealth to spare

I couldnt keep a dust of grit
Nor scarce a grain of sand
But bags and carts claimed every bit
And now theyve got the land
I used to bring the summer life
To many a butterflye
But in oppressions iron strife
Dead tussocks bow and sigh

Ive scarce a nook to call my own
For things that creep or flye
The beetle hiding neath a stone
Does well to hurry bye
Stock eats my struggles every day
As bare as any road
He's sure to be in somethings way
If eer he stirs abroad
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The Lament of Swordy Well (IV)

Swaddywell butterflies

Then villagers, and members of the John Clare Society decided to take action and set up the Langdyke Countryside Trust to restore Swaddywell to its natural beauty and turn it into a nature reserve.

Parish allowance gaunt and dread
Had it the earth to keep
Would even pine the bees to dead
To save an extra keep
Prides workhouse is a place that yields
From poverty its gains
And mines a workhouse for the fields
A starving the remains

The bees flye round in feeble rings
And find no blossom bye
Then thrum their almost weary wings
Upon the moss and die
Rabbits that find my hills turned oer
Forsake my poor abode
They dread a workhouse like the poor
And nibble on the road

If with a clover bottle now
Spring dares to lift her head
The next day brings the hasty plough
And makes me miserys bed
The butterflyes may wir to come
I cannot keep em now
Nor can they bear my parish home
That withers on my brow
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The Lament of Swordy Well (III)

Another view from July 2005

During the Second World War, Swaddywell was used as a bomb dump and after the war the site was filled and returned to agricultural land. Then during the 1980s it became a landfill site. In 1997, adding insult to injury, developers bought the site and turned it into the National Auto Showground with plans to host car rallies there.

When war their tyrant prices got
I trembled with alarms
they fell and saved my little spot
Or towns had turned to farms
Let profit keep an humble place
That gentry may be known
Let pedigrees their honours trace
And toil enjoy its own

The silver springs grown naked dykes
Scarce own a buch of rushes
When grain got high the tasteless tykes
Grubbed up trees bank and bushes
And me they turned inside out
For sand and grit and stones
And turned my old green hills about
And pickt my very bones

These things that claim my own as theirs
Where born but yesterday
But ere I fell to town affairs
I were as proud as they
I kept my horses cows and sheep
And built the town below
Ere they had cat or dog to keep
And then to use me so
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The Lament of Swordy Well (II)

Carry Ackroyd's wonderful painting of Swaddywell:
"At Swaddywell Pit" Watercolour 2004 ( Used with permission.

In the 20th century, Swaddywell became one of England's first nature reserves and was leased by the National Trust between 1915 and 1924. However, Swaddywell was sold in 1924 and quarrying resumed.

In parish bonds I well may wail
Reduced to every shift
Pity may grieve at troubles tale
But cunning shares the gift
Harvests with plenty on his brow
Leaves losses taunt with me
Yet gain comes yearly with the plough
And will not let me be

Alas dependance thou'rt a brute
Want only understands
His feelings wither branch and root
That falls in parish hands
The much that clouts the ploughmans shoe
The moss that hides the stone
Now Im become the parish due
Is more then I can own

Though Im no man yet any wrong
Some sort of right may seek
And I am glad if een a song
Gives me the room to speak
Ive got among such grubbing geer
And such a hungry pack
If I brought harvest twice a year
They'd bring me nothing back
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The Lament of Swordy Well (I)

Swaddywell Pit - July 2005

Swaddywell, or Swordywell as it was known 200 years ago when John Clare grew up, lived and worked nearby in Helpston, had been the site of a quarry since Roman times. It takes its name from a nearby spring where an ancient sword was reputedly found. In medieval times, quarries like Swaddywell would have provided stone for local churches and cathedrals such as Peterborough and Ely.

John Clare's "The Lament of Swordy Well"

Pe[ti]tioners are full of prayers
To fall in pitys way
But if her hand the gift forebears
Theyll sooner swear than pray
They're not the worst to want who lurch
On plenty with complaints
No more then those who go to church
Are eer the better saints

I hold no hat to beg a mite
Nor pick it up when thrown
Nor limping leg I hold in sight
But pray to keep my own
Where profit gets his clutches in
Theres little he will leave
Gain stooping for a single pin
Will stick it on his sleeve

For passers bye I never pin
No troubles to my breast
Nor carry round some names
More money from the rest
Im swordy well a piece of land
Thats fell upon the town
Who worked me till I couldnt stand
And crush me now Im down

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from 'November'

Yet but awhile the slumbering weather flings
Its murky prison round--then winds wake loud;
With sudden stir the startled forest sings
Winter's returning song-cloud races cloud.
And the horizon throws away its shroud,
Sweeping a stretching circle from the eye;
Storms upon storms in quick succession crowd,
And oer the sameness of the purple sky
Heaven paints, with hurried hand, wild hues of every dye.
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