Celebrations in Curry Mallet
PUBLISHED: 12:47 15 July 2015 | UPDATED: 12:47 15 July 2015
A vibrant Somerset community has produced a splendid variety of art and craftwork to mark its links to one of the country's most important historical events
The village of Curry Mallet sits on the southern side of a ridge to the south of the A378 Taunton to Langport road. This farming and residential community of about 320 people counts itself fortunate that it has managed to retain its school, church, shop, pub and village hall. Two years ago, when villagers were busy preparing for their history festival, the parish council accepted an invitation to join the Magna Carta Barons Association to work towards the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta. They formed a working group and money came in from: the National Lottery Heritage Fund, main Magna Carta 800 National Committee, local organisations, residents and fund raising events. Since then, different parts of the community have become engaged in the various projects, culminating in a very special weekend of celebration this month. William Malet, who was Lord of the Manor of Curry Mallet in the 13th century, was one of the rebel barons present when the Magna Carta was sealed on 15 June 1215. The village has been preparing to celebrate its links with this great charter and amongst those pivotal in organising events have been a busy working group and the small but impressive Currey Mallet Primary School. The church, shop, pub and village hall are also involved in various aspects of this special occasion – as are talented local arts and crafts people who are contributing their skills to commemorate the anniversary. Ann Collett, one of the organisers, explains: “Commemorative items include mugs carrying a specially designed Curry Mallet Magna Carta seal which have been designed and created by a local potter, Drew Robins, working with the school children.“The mugs will be donated to them and to all other under-16s resident in the village. The same potter has also created a similar mug, plate and utensil jars for sale in our local shop and on our village website to benefit community funds.” On 14 June, there will be a special service in church to dedicate a commemorative banner embroidered by ladies from Curry Mallet headed up by Elaine Going and a new silver Communion Chalice designed and made by a local silversmith, Mike Ive. This will be followed by a medieval day in the field next to the church involving an historical re-enactment society and pageant by the children.
Other commemorative creations include:
*A village sign made by blacksmith Bradley Harris to be located near the village shop and surrounded by a plating of Magna Charter roses donated by a resident.
*A flag design produced for display in the village
*Banners created by local pupils together with other schools, with support from Somerset Art Weeks
*A history tunnel, created by children and the school’s artist in residence Emily Colenso, to be displayed at the school’s open weekend on 13 & 14 June.
*A village map collage for the village hall.
*A time capsule, to be buried by children at Curry Mallet Primary School, will include items such as a newspaper and photographs.
Ann adds: “Tea towels and cards featuring the shields of the 25 rebel barons are also on sale and have proved popular.”
Another exciting aspect of the commemorations is a special excavation to search for the original medieval village.
The key objective of this geophysical survey by the South West Heritage Trust is to shed some light on the origins of Curry Mallet. The excavation will take place in the area between the church and the rectory.
The Magna Carta mug
Having grown up in Australia, potter Drew Robins knew little about the history of the Magna Carta before getting involved with the project.
Working from his log cabin studio surrounded by Duchy land in the village, he has produced 100 hand thrown mugs and 100 limited edition works such as tankards and utensil jars.
He says: “To think that one of the children may hold onto something I have made till they are adults and remember how it was made, where it was made and by whom is a unique opportunity.”
Embroidered by Elaine Going, Sue Nicholls and Marilyn Hayward over 12 months, the design features the Magna Carta scroll with the Mallet and Duchy of Cornwall coat of arms. The images represent the church, an apple tree for Somerset, teasels in the hedgerow and poppies for the men from the village lost in the World Wars. All are embroidered on a background depicting the rural fields.
The communion cup
Silversmith Mike Ive has been thinking about replacing the damaged 16th century communion cup for years; the Magna Carta anniversary celebrations gave him the impetus and deadline he needed.
His design recognises the visual language from the past, as well as being in keeping with current shapes and styles.
He says: “It is a great privilege to be involved in this very special anniversary and to produce something that will, hopefully, last at least as long as its illustrious predecessor.”
A shared history
The charter sealed at Runnymede by King John and his barons on 15 June 1215 has become one of the most important constitutional documents in history. The Magna Carta secured the right of justice for everyone.
The country’s barons, who were opposed to the king’s foreign policy and dictatorial approach, had elected 25 barons who would ensure that King John honour the charter.
Without them, it might just have been another piece of parchment long forgotten by history.
The barons came from communities around the country including Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Essex, Wiltshire – and Somerset. Representatives from what were once those barons’ chief manors have formed the Magna Carta Barons Association and these towns and villages are now celebrating the anniversary of Magna Carta, the role their barons played, and 800 years of their own history.
Commemorative plaques, heritage signage, exhibitions, school history projects, medieval banquets and festivals are just some of the activities taking place for this very special occasion in their shared histories.