King of Mercy O
ur Medieval ghost guest writer ‘The Venerable Bedestonia’ exclusively digs up an archaeological shocker.
Unless you’ve been holidaying in outer space over the last few weeks, you won’t have missed all the hoo-hah over the Richard the Third reburial in Leicester. Amazingly, there has been a weird parallel right on our doorstep. Everything has been kept well under wraps up to now, but after the lifting of a secrecy order, we can be the first to reveal that a long-dead king has been unearthed right here in Beeston! Many locals and visitors to our fair town have scratched their heads in wonderment, that a short stretch of Humber Road has been closed for over two years whilst utilities are rerouted and tram tracks are laid. The reason is now apparent. The clueless-looking blokes wandering about aimlessly all day and redigging the same ground are in fact archaeologists in disguise, from the universities of Nottingham and Derby. They have been very busy painstakingly excavating the area around the Humber Road/Fletcher Road junction, as workies had discovered a ‘battle grave’ containing the remains of none other than King Bethelbarry the Gaunt. Who? You may well ask. Everybody is familiar with the portraits of portly and ginger Henry the Eighth, and his white-faced daughter Elizabeth the First. These were among the first real ‘national’ monarchs, whose power was far-reaching. Prior to that, a number of regional Kings held sway at any one time, far too many of them to fit in a GCSE textbook. It’s easy to forget that there was no means of mass communication, people didn’t travel very far very easily over land, and there was no way one ruler could command an area bigger than a couple of modern day shires. King Bethelbarry the Gaunt was one of these leaders, and whilst few written records of him survive, we have enough to get a feel for his life and times, as well as his grisly death.
It is from a contemporary manuscript created by the Dark Ages chronicler The Venereal Beade that we glean a physical description of Bethelbarry - “...thynne...twae fyngres on dyxtre hande...trye fyngres on synystre hande...” - in modern parlance, a skinny chap with only two fingers on his right hand and three on his left. An anonymous portrait of an unnamed ruler now known to be Bethelbarry shows him with a distinctive fish-shaped cloak-brooch. Exactly the same cloak-brooch found along with the skeleton of a man missing the right amount of fingers on each hand, underneath a gas main. It is recorded in a separate account that Bethelbarry died in the ‘Battele of Tyttyle’, long thought (and now confirmed) to refer to the Tottle Brook which runs through Beeston. This was one of dozens of skirmishes fought every year in the midlands alone during the time, which may have only involved a few hundred soldiers at the most. This record comes to us courtesy of Hywel Ap Bennette, a Welsh minstrel who travelled the length and breadth of the country documenting such clashes. It goes on to say that Bethelbarry was ‘hedde skywred’ (head skewered), a popular way to quickly despatch an enemy. True to form, the skull unearthed has a small circular entry hole on one side, matched with a corresponding exit hole on the other side. So now that the identity of the man in the trench has been proved beyond doubt, should we Beestonians have cause for wild but dignified celebration? Not yet, for two reasons. The first one being that King Bethelbarry the Gaunt was a very unpopular ruler, mainly due to his proto-puritanical views which were robustly enforced, particularly when it came to food. Shortly before the start of his reign, the market for north sea fish had grown very quickly, thanks to the increasing navigability of the Trent downstream from its junction with the Humber. Preserved fish, either salted or smoked, could be transported from ports to population centres quite far inland within a matter of days. The
frying of this fish in a substance we now refer to as dripping was becoming more and more popular, which angered Bethelbarry, who according to The Venereal Beade had previously been ‘heftye...burlye...portlye’. Pious Bethelbarry saw the sensuous temptation of delicious fried fish as an affront to God, and after a religious vision consumed nothing but ‘sweetenyde mylke’ which accounts for the lean appearance and possibly his name. ‘Gaunt’ may refer to Bethelbarry’s physical characteristics, or actually be a corruption of an Anglo-Saxon expletive still in common use today. Given that the local population were denied fried fish by Bethelbarry and his followers, it’s understandable that he would be subject to such an expletive. The second reason for not getting the bunting out is that Long Eaton have laid claim to Bethelbarry, and are demanding that he is reburied in NG10. Whilst he died and was buried in Beeston, Bethelbarry’s stomping ground was Sawley, and the likelihood is that he only travelled east of the Erewash to raze a fried fish seller to the ground. There has been much debating behind closed council chamber doors, and whilst a high-profile challenge like that issued by York is unlikely, don’t be surprised to see plenty of heated argument on the Bramcote Today website. It is a conflict which is likely to drag on as long as the tramworks themselves, and the biggest irony in all of it is that Bethelbarry is still preventing sales of fried fish, thanks to the continued isolation of Humber Road Chippy in the midst of barriers and cones during the excavations. Whether you’re a supporter of Bethelbarry or not, they are a business which has been particularly shat on from a great height by those responsible for the digging, and deserve our sympathy and business. Watch this space for further updates, preferably whilst enjoying haddock and chips. The Venerable Bedestonia
Published on Apr 15, 2015
Published on Apr 15, 2015
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