Please come and join us for coffee and cake at Herefordshire Archive and Records Centre on Wednesday 26th, 11am – 1 pm in October half-term.
The final exhibition of the Lugg Embroideries has been set up at Herefordshire Archive and Records Centre as part of an exhibition with three other artists from my art collective Fold, plus a few of our friends.
The premise of our work together for this exhibtion was about folding the map between each others’ houses to find a centre point and then meeting at that point to walk and talk about art and all things rural. This was particularly good for us during lockdown when we could only meet outside.
The whole Lugg Embroideries project was inspired when I met artist Kate Green at the half way point between her house and mine, which happened to be at Mortimer’s Cross. That was the day I went looking for the Gospel Oak/Battle Oak recorded as being there, couldn’t find it and instead found another oak tree by a beautiful Lugg Riverbend. The Miller at Mortimer’s Cross showed us around his mill, gave me nine millsacks and told of his gesture of throwing snowdrops into the Lugg on the anniversary of the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross of 1461, when 3-4000 soldiers allegedly died and the river ran red.
Do visit the exhibition to see the nine millsacks I’ve embroidered as a response, and the 171 snowdrops displayed (stitched by 42 community participants) , alongside my colleague’s work with contributions from other friends too.
We will be having a morning celebratory event in October half-term to meet some of the artists. Details in my next post.
This is the celebratory event I put together with the help of many of the multi talented Lugg Embroiderers, which was kindly hosted by Echo at their beautiful Community Garden at Eaton Barn, that runs down to the Lugg. This coincided with the Mayor’s Save the Lugg Day and enabled it to be enjoyed by the public and Echo participants together. We had Jenny Pipes Morris dancers, musicians Mary, Carol and Kate, and our wonderful poets Robert and Maggie Crompton. It was all finished off with a Mayoral procession down to the Lugg, complete with a beautiful banner and our ribboned wands, with poetry readings by the Lugg by Robert and Maggie.
Maggie had had the idea to read her 12 haikus in her poem ‘A year beside the river’ with music between each one, and Mary and Carol sorted it. It was wonderful. Maggie explained how the haikus started in the cold of Janaury and worked their way through the year; they follow below:
Beneath the willow,
still leafless, dressed for winter,
snowdrops are nodding.Maggie Crompton, 2021
Robert read his poem and then one Rose Tinted Rags has composed called ‘A Charm for the Lugg’. Then we explored the Community garden, followed the Dragonfly trail, and bought plants, produce and craft made by different Echo groups.
The river flows fast,
silent, swelled by recent rain,
the track strewn with twigs.Maggie Crompton, 2021
Black feathers ruffled
by the gale force, sweeping wind,
two crows paired for spring.Maggie Crompton, 2021
A rippling river,
a green woodpecker laughing,
celandine carpet.Maggie Crompton, 2021
A wave of blossom
flows along the river bank,
two ducks rise in flight.Maggie Crompton, 2021
The river sparkles,
soft breeze ruffles the tree tops
sounding like the sea.Maggie Crompton, 2021
Then the Jenny Pipes Morris dancers arrived. They are named after the last woman to be ducked on Leominster’s ducking stool into the Kenwater, which is part of the River Lugg. We are pleased to say she was feisty and came up shouting even though she was ducked twice. Her crime? Scolding her husband!
A flock of Martins
skim the golden barley field,
always chattering.Maggie Crompton, 2021
With stately wing beats
the heron flies silently
over the meadow.Maggie Crompton, 2021
Mist hugs the river,
trees, cattle wrapped in silence,
damp grass, dripping leaves.Maggie Crompton, 2021
The stillest of days,
golden leaves waft gently down,
land on the water.Maggie Crompton, 2021
Surise at my back,
a tiny, plump, brown field mouse,
a frost moon setting.Maggie Crompton, 2021
Beneath slate grey skies
a buzzard calls as it flies,
the old willow bows.Maggie Crompton, 2021
Then the Mayor arrived and we had a procession down to the River Lugg, complete with the ribboned wands, as used in the old tradition of beating the bounds on Rogationtide.
And then we rushed back for a final cup of tea….
A truly wonderful day, thank you to all the volunteers and everyone who came and celebrated the river with us, supported the event and helped raise some money for Echo’s Community Garden.
Do pop into Eaton Barn Community Garden next time you need some plants, fresh grown flowers, produce or eggs. You are sure of a warm welcome. It’s 1/4 mile off the A44, at the corner with Dom’s Bike Stop, down the road leading to Stoke Prior, and on the right.
Many thanks to Maggie Crompton, the poet and Lugg Embroiderer who generously allowed me to display her wondeful poems and helped me to carry the plinths and set up the strewing baskets and snowdrops. Some four hours later….
Also a big thank you to Sue Stevens-Jenkins, also a Lugg Embroiderer but also a fabulous printmaker who was introduced to and walked The Lugg Meadows by Chris, another Lugg Embroiderer, and was inspired to create this seven series of monoprints. This has led to her launching a much bigger project about these Lammas meadows, watch this space.
There were many appreciative comments about the work throughout this short exhibition, and on the night of the River Lugg talks, some 90 people saw the exhibition. I understand from the evening that the Lugg Embroideries Project had helped inspire all the work towards this fabulous day and timely, important event put togther by the Mayor Trish Marsh and her colleague Bryony John.
The next post will tell of the celebratory event I put together with the help of many of the multi talented Lugg Embroiderers, which was kindly hosted by Echo at their beautiful Community Garden at Eaton Barn, that runs down to the Lugg. This coincided with the Mayor’s Save the Lugg Day and enabled it to be enjoyed by the public and Echo participants together. We had Jenny Pipes Morris dancers, musicians Mary, Carol and Kate, and our wonderful poets Robert and Maggie Crompton. It was all finished off with a Mayoral procession down to the Lugg, complete with a beautiful banner and our ribboned wands, with poetry readings by the Lugg by Robert and Maggie, all filmed by Catcher Media. More photos and stories of the day to follow.
For the final session of the 12 week Lugg Embroidery project on its last Thursday morning, Elizabeth Semper O’Keefe came to present her findings of records of the Lugg in the Cathedral Archive.
It was really interesting and I know inspired me for future projects! I had not realised what a great resource the Cathedral Archives are. The unexpected is hidden away in there.
Thank you Elizabeth for this final treat, and for a very well prepared and delivered presentation.
Elizabeth is also an embroiderer and had attended the launch night of this project back on 2nd February 2022, so it was doubly appropriate to have her with us for the last session and she finished her stitched snowdrop just in time!
We finished with a celebration of tea and cakes.
Kate came along to our Thursday morning stitching session and told us about her idea for a Lugg Songbook and talked and sang us through some of the beginnings of songs and tunes she has composed for it. She hopes and plans to develop this in the future but it will likely require some funding. It was a wonderful morning. Here is the recording of it.
Thank you Kate for your time, sharing your music, songs and stories and for your stitched snowdrop!
Quite early on in my meetings with the stitchers at Rose Tinted Rags, I took along my ribboned stave or wand that I had previously made to re-enact the old tradition of ‘Beating the Bounds’ as documented by folklorist Ella Mary Leather in 1912. She describes how the only trace of this old tradition in Herefordshire is the Gospel oak trees which stand at the meeting point of three or four parish boundaries. I took along my ribboned wand as it was February 23rd, the ancient Roman Festival day called Terminalia, in which they honoured the god Terminus who presided over boundaries. I wanted to talk in the session about how rivers cross borders and boundaries whilst the group stitched their snowdrops.
Rose Tinted Rags stitchers requested to make ribboned wands too, so a few weeks later we did.
Incidentally, it had been whilst searching for the Gospel Oak/Battle Oak at Mortimer’s Cross with my friend, the artist Kate Green, back in January 2020, that I had been inspired by the river and the idea of snowdrops which had then led to this whole project. On that day, I found an oak tree by a Lugg riverbend, Kate sat under it and played and sang her tune about processioning. Also the mill owner gave me nine mill sacks and told how he throws a few snowdrops into the Lugg on the anniversary of the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross of 1461, when ‘the river ran red’ from the many soldiers that died. Today I feel the river itself is metaphorically ‘running red’ due to the death of its non-human life forms because of our industry and pollution. For that reason, I had also incorporated a single red ribbon in my original ribboned wand.
On the last day of the twelve week stitching project, we walked through High Town in Hereford with our staves or wands to Bishop’s Palace Gardens for a picnic by the River Wye. One of the stitcher’s had worked for many years as gardener but was now retired. He had told us stories about his experience of the river there and also of living by the Lugg. It was extra special to visit the garden with him and he was our ‘in’ to having a private visit! We planned to launch a model boat we had made that morning for natural materials using the same materials and method I had used to make the strewing baskets for the upcoming exhibition of all the stitched snowdrops.
Anna launched the boat for us (to prevent us slipping in the river!) and we watched it partially submerge and float away
Spot the boat floating down the Wye!
We also tested the Wye for phosphates and nitrartes using the tests from CPRE’s Citizen Science project. Levels were low today.
Many thanks to all the staff of Bishop’s Palace garden who made us so welcome, to Anna for her time, and for a fabulous end to the 12 week stitching programme. We resisted trying on their ‘rags’ as we left!
David very kindly agreed early on to give a talk detailing his speciality of the application of computer software to visualisation or as he put it ‘stitching’ digital maps together inspired by old maps.
He shared his slides with me and I add a few below. He showed us how LiDAR scanning can be used to find hidden or lost features in the landscape, for example managed meadows. I don’t have all the details of all the images.
Example of historical maps of Sutton
Thank you to David for generously sharing his work with us. As you can imagine his re-mapping technique has varoius applications. He does give talks local to Herefordshire so do look out for these.
What became apparent when researching the history of mills, weirs, canals and navigation of the River Lugg is that one use of the river often created structures which hampered other uses of it and also affected the possibilities of fish travelling up the river to spawn. There have been more recent assessments of the instream barriers such as weirs, culverts and dams which have been identified as a significant pressure to physical river habitat – see Atkins report of the need for a multidisciplinary approach (Janet Shaw and colleagues). Below is some history of mills and weirs on the Lugg with references at the end.
Information about the River Lugg: Source: Pool Hill, near Llangynllo. Height at source 1,631 ft, 63 miles long. Joins the Wye at Mordiford. Height at end 151 ft.
At the time of the Domesday Book (1086) the Lugg was an important river for milling. Some 80 mills were recorded in the county of Herefordshire, and of those, around one third were located in the valley of the Lugg, some on tributaries and others on the main river.
In addition, those on the Lugg were valued considerably higher than those elsewhere, with an average value of 15 shillings and 4 pence, compared to 6 shillings and 7 pence for mills on other rivers.
At that time, the hay meadows on the banks of the Lugg were the largest in the county, and the valley produced large crops of hay and corn. At least four of the sites were recorded as having fulling mills subsequently, but none were recorded when a survey of the river was made in 1697.
Mills in Leominster
Leominster had at least nine mills, powered by various river channels, with guilds controlling industries that ranged from weaving and wool-stapling to malting, tanning and glove-making. There were also agricultural ironworks, oil and corn mills, brickfields and an ink mill which later converted to grinding coal for foundry blacking.
On many of Britain’s lowland rivers, there was an uneasy relationship between use of the water for milling, which required weirs to be built, and navigation, which required freedom of movement along the waterway.
Four Acts of Parliament
Between the 17th and 19th centuries, four Acts of Parliament were passed which specifically named the River Lugg in their titles, but the middle two had the most effect on the river.
Idea to build weirs and locks
The first Act was passed on 19 May 1662, entitled:
An Act for the making navigable the Rivers Wye and Lugg, and the Rivers and Brooks running into the same, in the counties of Hereford, Gloucester and Monmouth.
Sir William Sandys was appointed to carry out the work, which involved building weirs and flash locks to maintain water levels, but his previous experience on the Warwickshire Avon did not fit the Wye, which was a much steeper and faster-flowing river, and the work was abandoned by about 1668, before any work had been started on the Lugg.
Survey of Mills on the Lugg before 1695 Act
On the Wye, some of the weirs were associated with fishing, but on the Lugg, all of them were connected with milling. Details of them have survived, because a comprehensive survey was carried out by an anonymous author, thought to be Daniel Dennell, who had previously worked on the Exeter Canal, and Dennell’s document was acquired by the British Museum in 1856. The survey listed ten mills between Lugg Bridge, Leominster and the junction with the Wye, but this was probably the number of wheels or pairs of millstones, rather than the number of buildings where milling occurred. The annual value of each mill was to be established, and the price to buy the mill and weir was then fixed at 16 times that value.
1965 The second Act of Parliament was obtained on 17 March 1695, entitled:
An Act for making navigable the Rivers of Wye and Lugg, in the county of Hereford.
One important effect of this act was that it re-established both rivers as free navigations, for it contained the clause:
Therefore be it enacted that the rivers Wye and Lugg may be henceforth accounted, deemed and taken to be free and common rivers for all to make use of for carrying and conveying of all passenger goods, wares and commodities by boats, barges, lighters and other vessels whatsoever.
Work carried out
After the Act was passed, it is not clear exactly what work was done, since the relevant sheets from the accounts are missing, but a lot of money was spent. Locks may have been put into some of the weirs; this was certainly true at Tidnor, and may have also been the case at the confluence with the Wye, at Mordiford, Hampton Court, and some other sites. Several bridges were altered, by breaking one of the arches and constructing a timber drawbridge or later a raised arch. There are a few mills left, and some obvious mill sites, but many of the mills below Leominster were bought up and their weirs demolished as part of a 1690’s scheme to make the river navigable. This was not a success, as the water levels dropped creating shoals, and in the 1720s, some of the weirs were reinstated, with pound locks to enable boats to bypass them.
Destroying weirs a mistake
A third Act of Parliament was obtained on 15 May 1727, which openly stated that destroying the weirs had been a mistake, and allowed the trustees to reinstate them, with associated locks. Neither the minutes nor the accounts for this phase of the work have survived.
Thomas Chinn, a millwright from Tewkesbury, was employed to build locks around 1748, after money was raised by subscriptions in Leominster. He was later indicted for building locks against four bridges, but this charge may have been malicious. When the case was heard, he was only fined sixpence for each bridge and was not required to remove the locks.
There are known to have been locks at twelve sites between Leominster and the Wye, at Volca Meadow, Ford Bridge, Hampton Court, Bodenham Mill, Kings Mill, Moreton Bridge, Wergins Bridge, Sherwick Mill, Lugg Bridge, Tidnor, Mordiford and the confluence. Some of these may have been half locks or flash locks, but some were definitely pound locks with two sets of gates, and of the three locks still in existence in 1906, both Tidnor and Mordiford were pound locks, but no clear evidence for a second set of gates at Lugg Bridge has been found. Barges on the river were hauled by teams of men.
Wye and Lugg Towing Path Company
A fourth Act of Parliament was obtained in 1809, to allow horse towing paths to be constructed on the Wye and the Lugg, but there is no evidence that such a path was ever started on the Lugg. Navigation by boat up to Leominster was for a time possible, although it was never hugely successful. Some traffic may have used the lower 5 miles (8 km) of the Lugg up to Lugg Bridge until about 1860, when railways had been built in the area.
As a result of the 1695 Act, the Lugg was a free navigation, but in 1995 the National Rivers Authority sought to apply bylaws to both the Wye and the Lugg. Their case was taken to the High Court, and was continued by the Environment Agency, which superseded the National Rivers Authority later that year. This action eventually led to the granting of the Wye Navigation Order in 2002, which:
reaffirmed the right of navigation on both rivers, appointed the Environment Agency as the navigation authority for the rivers, but prohibited the construction of weirs and locks.
Most use of the river is now by canoes and kayaks, although it is still sometimes used by small boats but can be very dangerous when in flood. In February 2020, it was one of several rivers with severe flood warnings following the impact of Storm Dennis.
The river is also used for fishing, as it has good populations of wild brown trout and grayling. Water quality of the river system is moderate, although some of its tributaries have poor water quality, and some bad. In common with many rivers, the chemical quality changed from good to fail in 2019, following the introduction of testing for chemicals not previously included in the quality assessment. The whole of the river is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and since 2003, a policy of building fish passes where there are weirs has led to significant improvements to the presence of migratory fish in the river.
Mills and Weirs as you travel downstream
• Old Mill, Presteigne (formerly known as new Mill House) and close by a weir which once powered the mill
• Near Lyepole Bridge, As the river turns to the south-east, a large weir directs water into a mill leat, which runs on the north side of the main channel to Aymestrey Mill, a grist mill built in the 1860s. Most of the machinery is still in situ, and the wheel now powers a printing press.The A4110 road bridge crosses the river and the mill tailrace, and as the river turns to the south, a similar weir creates a leat to the west of the river.
• Mortimer Cross Water Mill fed by another weir. It is 89 feet (27 m) long and a 220-yard (200 m) leat feeds the mill, which has three sets of stones. It was a paper mill until the 1830s, and then became a grain mill. New machinery was installed in 1870 and it produced animal feed until the 1940s. It is unusual in that it was designed to be operated by one man.
• At Lugg Green, Kingsland is another Lugg Bridge, and after a series of weirs, the river arrives on the northern edge of Leominster.
• A leat to Crowards Mill, now disconnected from the main river, was formerly the main channel of the Lugg, with much of the flow passing over a weir into the Kenwater. Crowards Mill was still used for pumping water until 1974. Most of the mills in Leominster had gone by the time of the 2nd WW, and one of the last surviving sites is now a sports centre in Bridge Street
• Osbourne Mill
• Marsh Mill
• A third corn mill in Leominster
• Pinsley Brook ran through the town just to the south of Kenwater, to power Pinsley Mill, another corn mill just to the north of Leominster Railway station and joined the Lugg below Eaton Bridge. Pinsley Mill was hit by a mysterious fire in 1754, perhaps sealing the towns fate as a backwater of the Industrial Revoultuion. In 1748 cotton magnate Daniel Bourn has invested heavily in upgrading Pinsley Mill as one of only four early cotton spinning complexes, complete with his own patented carding engine. When it burnt down, Leominster never recovered form its early lead in the textiles industry.
Bridges of Leominster
There were once 19 bridges in Leominster, most of them crossing the Lugg, Kenwater or Pinsley Brook.The river system within the town was radically reworked in the 1960s, as part of a flood alleviation scheme. The Lugg continued southwards along the course of the Kenwater, to a new weir close to the former course of the Railway. The Kenwater passed over the weir, while a new channel was cut for the Lugg, following the course of the railway.
• Lugg Bridge at Lugwardine dates from the 14th century, and was repaired in 1409 and 1464. It has three arches, and was widened in the 1960s, when the south side was largely rebuilt. The Little Lugg joins from the east near the bridge, which was the location of corn mills in 1903, when a structure spanned the river to the south of the bridge.
‘Water Poet’ John Taylor
As interest in river navigation increased, shipment of goods along many rivers remained difficult due to the number of weirs. The most vivid description of these obstructions was provided by the ‘Water Poet’ John Taylor. A Gloucester-born, self-educated, eccentric Thames wherryman, Taylor wrote and published numerous pamphlets and verses describing his travels by river, road and sea through Britain between 1618 and 1653. He also wrote about fashion, linen and needlework.
Heather Hurley writes of the difficulties of river navigation and talks about John Taylor whose poetry Robert Crompton later read for us including his poem The Arrant thief (1622) becrying the introduction of horse drawn carriages taking trade away from the Thames wherrymen.
Taylor also wrote The Prayse of the Needle (1631) – 144 lines, an introduction to a book about sewing and includind some stitiching sonnets – which Robert Crompton also later read to the stitchers and inspired Maggie to write two of her own stitiching sonnets.
Heather Hurley very usefully supplies a list of Key Dates for Navigation of the rivers and her book gives more detail about these events.
I found other documents that detailed the histories of the mills on the Lugg for example, Gordon Tucker’s ‘The Mills of the Lugg Valley in Radnorshire‘ or Alan Stoyel’s ‘Pilot study of the mills and associated water arrangements within the catchment area of the River Lugg‘ (January 2015).
I was loaned two useful books by snowdrop stitcher and artist Kate Green. The first is The Rivers Wye and Lugg Navigation – a documentary history 1555- 1951 by Victor Richard Stockinger. Another stitcher (and lifelong canoeist on the River Lugg) was inspired by it and found a copy for her husband’s birthday, which she reported back that he loved.
Kate also loaned another wonderful book ‘Herefordshire’s River Trade – craft and cargo on the Wye and Lugg‘ by Heather Hurley.
And a final loan from Kate: The Lugg Valley, Herefordshire – archaeology, landscape change and conservation by Peter Dorling (2007). I just dipped into this.
The future of water power on the Lugg
More recently (2006) there have been suggestions of using mini hydroelectric power plants along the River Lugg as an alternative to large-scale windfarms in the county.
Around 100 waterwheel driven generators – camouflaged as cottages or other landscape features – have been proposed for the 52km stretch of the river between Presteigne and Mordiford. The wheels would provide electricity for riverside communities or eventually even somewhere the size of Leominster, with any surplus sent into the National Grid.Hereford Times 20th February, 2006
There is much more to investigate in this topic of human uses of the river; a study of any or all of these features along the Lugg, that is the mills, weirs, canals, and boats would be a great future heritage project. Some of the stitchers reported the recent and ongoing excellent renovation of a mill at Mordiford and attended an open day about it.
We had a whole stitching week thinking about the fish of the Lugg. Luckily for us, one of our distance stitcher’s Elaine, had become interested in the project because her Granddad Milton Roland ‘Cosmo’ Barrett (1895 – 1962) had been a famous fly fisherman on the Lugg which runs through Presteigne, and had invented two successful fishing flies. Below she tells his story and also provides us with a poem that she wrote in tribute to him.
Elaine gave permission to use the material she had posted to me about her Granddad that included his descriptive writing about the Lugg and his love of fishing, excerpts from magazines about him and fishing on the Lugg, and some of his writing and his fishing fly designs which she felt could be interesting to embroider in themselves. Her Granddad had moved from Crewe in 1926 and had a cabinet making / upholstery business Barrett Bros. of Presteigne and through this did much work in the local character houses, including one I used to work at, the Jacobian Manor house owned by Lord Rennell of Rodd in 1950’s and now part of Sidney Nolan Trust, the manor house being gifted to the nation in 2019 and so belongs to all of us!
Cosmo’s fishing flies are called Barrett’s Bane and Professor. Here is his ‘Fishing card’.
Here are some family photographs of Cosmo Barrett copied for us by Elaine.
Elaine gives an example from her Granddad’s writing which she feels he wrote from the heart. His writing ‘Thoughts on Fishing’ by Milton Roland Cosmo Barrett was found in a Challenge Duplicate receipt book for his business.
‘The glowing warmth of the pale early Sun begins to revive the sleeping earth, later to penetrate to the dormant roots of the grass and flowers, gently releasing them from the Winter’s cold grip, inviting all nature to prepare to rejoice’Cosmo Barrett
Elaine’s stitching and poem and snowdrop connection
Elaine went on to embroider two beautiful snowdrops for the project although she said it was such a long time since she had done any embroidery. She also shared a personal snowdrop link in that her Dad, Colin Barrett had been commemorated in his lifetime in snowdrops planted on the Warden in Presteigne by ‘Friends of Warden’ in his initials C.B. He had donated to the purchase of bulbs thinking they would be planted randomly! Elaine explains he in turn loved Presteigne and had done much for the town.
Elaine then wrote her own poem as a tribute to her Granddad and Maggie kindly read it out whilst we stitched.
What of the fish in the river today?
Here’s a photo of a salmon caught in the Wye in 1996
Elaine sent in a lovely article which I read to the stitchers from Trout and Salmon Magazine written by Jon Beer
Kate Green loaned me this book Trout in Dirty Places by Theo Pike which has a whole chapter about Leominster and the admirable work of the Angling trust, so I read this to the stitchers too.
If you would like to read more about fishing and flies Elaine recommends two books: ‘Trout flies of Shropshire and the Welsh Borderlands‘ by Michael Leighton, and Fishing the Welsh borderlands by Roger Smith.
Huge thanks to Elaine for illuminating the life of fish in our rivers and sharing her Grandfather’s personal connection to the Lugg.