Poetry in Enfield from Henry VIII to Enfield Poets – part one, Henry VIII

Poetry fills Enfield’s air, seeps out of the ground so it is no wonder so many poets are associated with this North London Borough.  The first for me is:Henry-VIII1



Henry VIII who liked to hunt in the vast forest that was the Royal Chase.









His palace, Elsynge was located in, what are now, the grounds of Forty Hall.





[6533] Elsyng

Each year the Enfield Archaeological Society excavate the ruins but have to refill them as the masonry is of such poor quality and would deteriorate if left exposed to the atmosphere:  though current thinking is that Elsynge was every bit as grand as Hampton Court.  It was certainly his favourite palace and was probably more of a family home.  His children Edward and Elizabeth spent a lot of time there and it is where they were told of their father’s death and that Edward was to be king. It is thought that much of the planning of the Reformation was carried out here.  Nearby Waltham Abbey was the last monastery to be dissolved as the abbot was a friend of Henry.

Elsgyne site from House



Looking down towards the site of Elsynge Palace from the second floor of Forty Hall.





In Henry’s time less than 10% of the population were literate.  It was important for the monarch to be perceived as cultured as well as having physical prowess and power,  It was the time of courtly love and romance and Henry writing poetry was in keeping with the times.  Not a great poet by any means but he spent time on it and I feel that a relaxed atmosphere at Elsynge and the hunting encouraged this creative side of the monarch.  He often used his poetry as a political tool, reminding all that he was King and that his will should prevail.

When researching for this blog I was very pleased to discover a book edited by Peter C Herman “Reading Monarchs Writing” which has a series of essays and examples of the poetry of Henry VIII, Mary Stuart, Elizabeth I and James VI/I. Apart from Mary Stuart all had lived in Enfield at one time or another.  I emailed Peter Herman who gave me permission to quote from his book and here is one of Henry’s poems.  It is very political.  Though it begins in a defensive apologetic mood, it ends with an overt statement of Royal power.

Though some say that youth rules me,
I trust in age to tarry.
God and my right, and my duty,
From them shall  I never vary,
Though some say that youth rules me.

I pray you all that aged be
How well did you your youth carry?
I think some worse of each degree.
Therein a wager lay dare I,
Though some say that youth rules me.

Pastimes of youth some time among–
None can say but necessary.
I hurt no man, I do no wrong,
I love true where I did marry,
Though some say that youth rules me.

Then soon discuss that hence we must.
Pray we to God and Saint Mary
That all amend, and here an end.

Thus says the King, the eighth Harry,
Though some say that youth rules me.

Finally a poem that sums Henry up I feel.  It is rather long so I give just the first stanza.

The Kings Ballad

Pastime with good company
I love and shall until I die.
Grudge who likes, but none deny;
So God be pleased, thus live will I,
      For my pastance:
Hunt, sing, and dance.



Lebanese Cedar in Enfield – the first in Europe

Dr Robert Uvedale planted the first Lebanese Cedar in Europe In the grounds of Enfield Palace, roughly where Pearson’s the department store now is,  somewhere between 1662 and 1670.

This is a woodcut showing the tree growing at the back of the palace in, perhaps, the late 19th century.

Enfield Manor House (palace)

Image courtesy of the Enfield Local History library

In 1920 Enfield council demolished the Palace and cut down the tree.  Lloyd George was prime Minister but I suspect it was a Conservative Council who perpetrated this deed.  Luckily he planted a second one on the grounds of Forty Hall and this is still there.

Forty Hall Feature 2

Unfortunately a large branch fell off a few years ago and the bowl in the feature image above was turned from this by a local craftsman.

To mark the spot a Silver Birch has been planted approximately where the tree grew, alongside a granite stele giving details.

Enfield site of cedar edit

It is a pioneer tree, that is to say it is one of the first to occupy land.  It spread across Britain after the last ice age so it is a native of our island which was, in those times, still connected to continental Europe.   I think it an interesting metaphor that the Silver Birch has been chosen the represent a tree as exotic as the Lebanese Cedar which did not arrive on our shores until the late 17th century.

Amelita Galli and Shop Windows

The quality of acoustically recorded, shellac records is often quite remarkable.  Electric microphones were not introduced until 1925 and before then the soloist had to perform into a horn which carried sound to a transducer that converted it to vibrations that were then cut into a wax disc – see link for more detail.

Here is a link to a YouTube video showing the post recording disk-making  process.  They are using microphones to make the recording and the master disc is made of different material but the plating process and stamping is the same as it always has been.  It is about 5 minutes long.

What was achieved by the early record producers and artists was remarkable.  Originally sound was stamped onto just one side of the disk and these can have quite splendid graphics pressed into the back.  They are also heavier, most satisfying to handle.

Back of one sided 78

From time to time I have bought old 78s and have a small collection in boxes that I need to get  out of the junk room and go through them as I have the postcards. It will remind me of why I bought them.

Rootling around in my video files I came across one I made of playing a recording of Amelita Galli ; I had quite forgotten it.  Here are a couple of images I have of her,

She has a beautiful voice.

As it is boring to watch a disk playing I thought to add a slide show of photos of shop windows – there is one exception but it is taken through glass.  These fascinate me with their colour, designs, sometimes flamboyant sometimes plain and, of course, often with interesting reflections, even of me!  I have been trying to think of a poem but so far one has not come to me so, as I wanted to use the photos, I used them in the short video below which I hope that you will play and enjoy.

Memories in photos and postcards

I like the featured image above, the shapes and colours its weirdness. It is also a memory of a wonderful weekend Valerie and I spent in Berlin.  We went down into a subterranean shopping mall and the complexity of what I was seeing struck me and cried out “photograph me”.  That night we were serenaded at our dinner table under the moon and stars by a guitar and violin; the next day it was curry wurst and chips in a converted railway dining car.

The image may be around in a hundred years and someone may like it but will not be aware of what it means to me.

Looking through my collection of postcards over the last couple of days,  I was reminded of why, from time-to-time, I buy them ; I like those from between 1900 and 1920.  They are often beautiful images, sometimes  smaltzy, cheeky and carry memories in the messages on the back.  I preferred used cards as it is a link to people in the past.  How they were produced is also interesting and I hope to write about this in the near future.

Market Place


This is of the market in Enfield Town.  The post date is 1908. As the split back for both message and address did not come into effect in 1904 it may be the photo was taken between these dates.


Market Place back


The message on the back apologises for not coming that day as the writer had had an accident with their horse and would  C. Boosey bring them round on Monday -I think.


Enfield Market Nov 2017


Yesterday I took a photo of the market from about the same place.  The church is dwarfed by trees, the pine on the left is only half way up the tower on the postcard.  The cast-iron bollards are replacements though in the same place.  Pub, and the central structure are still there but mostly hidden by cars and fast food outlets.

St Mary photo back

The cards above  are of St. Mary Magdalene at the top of Windmill Hill.  The sails were taken off the windmill in 1901 and it was demolished in 1904 so the photo and the painting show the scene between these dates.  I feel the painting may be taken from the photograph.  The photo graph was posted to Hants. saying this is our church; can’t read the rest.  Here is a photo of the same scene, taken yesterday, from about the same spot yesterday.

St Mary Magdelene Nov 2017

Not a rural scene now with a farm horse but farms still form 22% of Enfield’s area though 51% is built on.  I suppose the tiled tower is a reference to the windmill though it was a smock windmill which refers to its shape I imagine.

Our French house is in St Maixent L’Ecole where the Porte Chalon is one of the notable buildings.  It is a triumphal arch built in the late 18th century.  Last month we found a postcard of the view from the road.

Porte Chalon road side


It is so busy, covered with fly posters and the writer has continued the message on the front a hangover from the time the back could only be used for an address. this changed in 1904.  the card is of about this time I think.


Porte Chalon road side back

It is impossible for me to understand much of the messages on French postcards but I enjoy just looking at the script. Some are so beautiful.  Mougon is a nearby town and was posted to someone in the same town.  Telephones were rare then.


Porte Chalon from road photo


Here is a photo taken from about the same spot.  see how clean and shiny it is.  The right hand side is now the tourist office.



Porte Chalon from Rue Chalon

And here is the view from Rue Chalon, the other side.  The yellow is hand tinting.  The clothes look about 1910 or just before.  It was much busier then,



Porte Chalon from Rue Chalon Photo




as you can see from a photo from, again, the same spot.  Behind me in Rue Chalon there are sometimes 20 empty shops in a street of about 300 metres.  There is a good food market and street market on Saturdays and it is much busier then.





I just remembered an Audio Visual I made a while ago which has a bit on St Maixent l’Ecole at the end. An early one for me but it was fun making it.


Hope you liked it.