We are in Rutland...
[The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Great Casterton]
We are in
, a county of huge significance for John Clare, for there in just a
couple of years he would find a wife, celebrity and himself. The Clare family fortunes were at rock bottom when he walked the
nine miles from Helpston to what was then known as Bridge Casterton to find work as a lime-burner. His
parents were penniless and facing
eviction and agriculture itself collapsing after the withdrawal of subsidies following Rutland .
Clare and a friend named
Stephen Gordon found work with a Mr Wilders who had two
lime-kilns, one at Casterton, the other
at Pickworth. Clare slept three in a bed with fellow labourers and in a
few weeks was able to send home fifty
shillings. Lime-burning would have made him white from head to toe.
He was twenty-two. Waterloo
He was also creating his first, and only successful book, the wonderful Poems, Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery. It would carry him straight from lime-burning into literary society. His portrait would be painted and local peers would give him books and annuities. But he was Sunday-drinking as usual at the Flower Pot Inn in Tickencote — "cote for kids" — when he saw Martha Turner pass by. She was nineteen, the daughter of a small-farmer, and who lived in an isolated house in a beautiful valley - his Patty of the Vale. He married her with some reluctance when she became pregnant, bringing her home to Helpston after the child was born. He had been ‘caught’, as the boys said.
What enchanted Clare about the
countryside was that it had not been
villages were like the
Helpston of his boyhood, full of ancient paths, haphazard trees and brooks, and wild meadows, and without straight lines and destructive
walked nine miles to his wedding
in Rutland Casterton Church,
probably wearing the clothes we
see in 's
Emmerson, his Milton London patron, sent Patty’s wedding-dress and his publisher
Mr Hessey sent the bridegroom a violin. And thus it began, the troubled,
brilliant life — in Cremona . Rutland
© Ronald Blythe
Especially written for the 2010 John Clare Festival
Posted by Arborfield at 1:27 pm