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Bonsall: Poems about the village
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Previously unpublished poems by a former Bonsall resident, Mr. William Gregory[1]). His first two poems are observations of Bonsall Urban District Council's actions in the early months of 1899.


7TH MARCH 1899

The season of our holidays
Comes round to us once more
And some have sought the Cities throng
And some the breezy shore;
But I, who love the quiet lanes,
And scent of new mown hay,
Betook myself to Piggytown -
But short has been my Stay.

Arrived in Piggytown all right -
By waggonette or 'bus -
When, hardly had I got me down
Than I was greeted thus:
"Heigh up, theer! Master, take yer time,
Just Caw an' have a glass;"
I called and treated them all round,
'Twas "brewery" alas!

When one, more sober than the rest,
Essayed to Show me round
This extraordinary village of
Fifteen bob in the pound.
It boasts a cross of ancient date
In 'seventy restored;
And also fountains - but tis long
Since water from them poured.

It boasts - or Shall I say there is? -
A Church, though much neglected,
But that is nothing new; in fact,
Its what I half expected.
But one thing - quite original
(I was almost forgetting)
Is an old tree stump, which Strange to say,
Is growing wire netting.

They have an association of
Pig Keepers and their friends,
Who make it all their business to
Look after their own ends.
One night they had a meeting, and
Dressed in a yokel's Coat,
I went, joined in the argument,
And then, joined in the vote.

You see they're not particular
As long as you agree
To help them stop progression
And cry "Economy"!
Thus ends my too brief holiday
And it finished with a wetting;
I'll not forget the village where
A Thorn Tree grows wire netting.


MARCH 1899

Repeat it in Song, and tell it in Story,
The village of Bonsall is Shorn of its glory!
   (This time by the Council's decree.)
The bridges of marble are going to decay,
The Stockin'iers frames are taken away,
And now - they have Cut down the Thorn Tree.

Some say that the Council have done it for Spite,
But the drift of that statement I cannot see quite,
For tho' they drink some things stronger than tea,
The Council are not such a bibulous crew
As to go home at night in a tipsified stew
And get bumping their heads on the Thorn Tree.

Some people say anything but just what they ought,
While others are honest and not easily bought,
And some are as stupid as only mules can be!
So the War Cry of Bonsall is - "Lets all unite"
While they're signing petitions to prove that Blacks' White
But not on account of the Thorn Tree.

Oh no, there's another great work of reform,
Which at present is taking the village by Storm
The result we shall very soon see.
For its causing the pigowners' dander to rise,
'Tis a notice to clear all offending pig Styes,
I can tell you it beats the old Thorn Tree.

But on in the distance, I think I can see
A time of forgiving - or else 'twill cheat me;
A day of rejoicing, when drinks will be free!
And the ratepayers will say "After all they were right,
We'll pull down the Cross, and build a statue to White *
For ousting the pig Styes and Thorn Tree."

* The late Mr C.F. White [this comment added after his death in 1923]

At the Urban District Council's meeting in early February 1899 they discussed a complaint they had received by about a thorn tree overhanging the road in Yeoman Steet, said to be a danger to traffic. Its removal was ordered to be undertaken within 14 days ("Derbyshire Times", 11 February 1899).

There are a number of refererences to Piggytown, pigowners and pig styes above. Indeed, one newspaper stated that "Bonsall is on the eve of a revolution over its pig styes." There were reported to be between 80 and 86 styes in the village by late February, most of them within a few feet of dwellings. Owners did not want to lose them, whilst others wanted to get rid of the pigs and exterminate typhoid ("ibid.", 25 February 1899). Local elections were looming. Bonsall's Ratepayers Association then presented a petition to their District Council. There were 226 signatories, asking for the forced removal of some of them to be rescinded. Attendees of the meeting "made hideous noises with tin cans and kettles"! ("ibid.", 11 March 1899). Fifty two notices had been issued by the Inspector, but they had not expired. He was ordered to make another inspection and report those who had not complied. was it a coincidence that the Medical Officer's report a couple of weeks later noted that the district's general sanitary conditions were satisfactory? Almost all the closets, drain traps and pig styes had been inspected. He had found only where there was a fault, and added that anything requiring attention was quickly dealt with.

The second verse also mentions that the ale on offer was "brewery". By mid 1899 most of the licensed premises in the village were in the hands of brewery companies.


In this day of our trial and struggle,
We raise our voices with pride
To sing of the men who are fighting.
And those who already have died.
To beat back that blood-thirsty brigand
(That eagle whose talons are red
With the blood of poor Women and Children
Whose husbands and fathers are dead.)
Our cause is a just one. We feel it.
And Belgian blood calls from the Sod
For vengeance. So Swift retribution
Must strike this blasphemer of God.

To Arms! Is the cry of our Empire,
Tis answered, South, East and Nor-West,
Our Colonies shout, "We are coming,"
"We're coming , and bringing our best."
Young manhood of England your duty
Is clear. Will you answer the call?
Will you Stand in the ranks with our heroes?
Will you fill up the gaps when they fall?

To the worker at home, it is given
To Stand by, and relieve in their need
Those dear ones, who giving, have given their all
There are Heroines and Heroes indeed.
Give a Song and a cheer for our brothers who dare
March away to the front Side by Side.
Whilst we pray for their safety and speedy return
We will NEVER forget "Those who died".

There had been calls for more recruits to enlist in July that year. The Wakes at the end of the month saw a demonstration on behalf of the Bonsall Local Relief Fund and also in aid of the widow of Mr S. Spencer. There were some cases which the Prince of Wales' Fund had not reached as, unlike other places, Bonsall had not held any of their collection money back for local use. Just a few weeks later the web mistresses great uncle Richard Arnold Walker, who was born in Bonsall in 1886, died of wounds in the conflict at Gallipoli.

More poems about places in Derbyshire:
There is another poem by William Gregory, this time about the Via Gellia, on Matlock & Matlock Bath: Inspiration of Poets. It is just one of a large anthology about the Matlocks.
Poems about Ashbourne includes two from the seventeenth century.

Related pages:


The Church

The Cross (1)

The Cross (2)

[1] William Gregory, a former hosiery mill worker, wrote a number of poems about Bonsall and the surrounding area. He was born in Bonsall and lived there for most of his life, although eventually he moved to Little London in Holloway, which was where he died. Hs daughter seems to have copied them into a small notebook.
They are now part of the collection of and © Susan Tomlinson as the book was given to Susan's parents by William's daughter, as she lived next door to them.

Bonsall is mentioned in the following on-site transcripts:

Derbyshire's Parishes, 1811, Parishes B, which has more about the village.
The Gentleman's Magazine Library, 1731-1868. See p.4 Natural Curiosities.
Kelly's 1891 Directory.

The Wolley Manuscripts, Derbyshire section

William Gregory's poems © Susan Tomlinson collection.
Page designed and researched by and © Ann Andrews, whose grandmother was born in the village.