Baldock Middle Ages” is the first of a series of books for
those concerned about the lives of their ancestors and the history
of their home town. It relates simple, personal documents to the
grander schemes of history; and describes an ancient town lost and
forgotten as well as its strange replacement in Medieval Times.
The books are designed for local historians and for those with no
personal interest in the town of Baldock; but especially for those
who honour their forefathers by wanting to read and understand their
It provides a preparation and a practice for handling the parchments
themselves, and bridges the impasse of Latin language until a more
familiar English is reached.
preparation: Documentary Evidence - Two - “A Market Town
in Tudor Times”.
Early documents in English; The Reformation; The Parish Register;
Origins of Local Government; Charities.
These old sheep skins, scratched with a quill-pen so long ago, were not
looked at with an unsentimental, logical eye. The ghost of old hands
and immemorial anxieties prodded my mind as I learned to read the words.
But the book does try to separate invention from evidence.
Document 2 is close to a true copy of the original parchment, and the
lines drawn in lead by the scribe are visible on an otherwise clean sheet
of script. Unfortunately, the process of reproduction treats these lines,
however faint on the original as if they were as black as the ink. It
does the same with shadows, creases and the brown stains of age. It also
adds parallel marks of its own and reflections from surrounding areas
of black. As a consequence, photostat reproductions are harder to read
than the original parchments. The eye is a better tool and distinguishes
ink from other marks.
The difficulty is less with microfilm through which a light shines,
but those who have tried to read these old documents on viewers will
appreciate some of the problems. Those are made worse by the necessity
in almost every case for this book to reduce the size of the sheets to
the size of its pages. Many photostats were unreadable in part, and I
have restored them by whiting out the dark areas.
Like other restorations, once started it is difficult to stop without
completing the job. Document 1 is a lightly cleaned-up copy. Some other
documents have been heavily restored and the accidental or honourable
scars of age have been eliminated. In the interests of legibility, some
authenticity has been lost. Some remain as virtually faithful copies
of the parchment.
In the matter of judgement there is no certain aesthetic line; in the
matter of legibility, except for size, what appears is as easy to read
as the original document. Sadly it has lost the midas-touch of real antiquity.
I am proud to live in a town with the unique distinction of having public
toilets that once used to flush only when the organ was playing in the
church. It is of little consequence that others cannot share our privilege,
or imagine such strange distinctions are insubstantial fancies. I believe
what I write, and if given time to get as far as the 18th century, I
Vivian Crellin left school in 1943, at
the age of 17 to join the RAF and served for 4 years as a pilot.
the war he took an M.A. at Christ’s College, Cambridge;
married; and started teaching mathematics and science in Gillingham,
He moved to Baldock in 1960 and until 1984 was headmaster of the Knights
Templar School there. He took a masters degree in philosophy.
In 1977 Eileen and Vivian Crellin bought and restored a condemned and
derelict pub which had once been an Elizabethan alehouse. Since then
it has been their home. They have one son, a consultant onchologist,
and two grandchildren.
Publications: “Tongues of Men”,
Hutchinson. Magazine articles on Cyphering and Writing Copy-books,
School Medals, Captain Cook as a
school boy, Needlework Samplers, Church Guides, Parish Records of Rainham,
Interests: Wilderness, Gardens, and the places in between.