I have just discovered an incredibly dusty old tome on my shelves, Thomas Platter’s Travels in England in 1599. He was a recently qualified physician from Switzerland who came to England fluent in Greek, Latin, and French, with some Spanish, and of course couldn’t find anyone who could understand any of them, not even at Oxford. One eminent don confessed he had not heard Latin for decades. So his observations are mostly visual, but they are fascinating. I had heard of harvest home as being some sort of church celebration, but this is an account of the real thing, near Eton, which reminds me of the blog I did on the last tram in London.
“Their last load of corn they crown with flowers, having besides an image richly dressed, by which perhaps they would signify Ceres; this they kept moving about while men and women, men-and maid-servants, riding through the streets on the cart, shouting as loud as they can till they arrive at the barn,. The farmers here do not bind up their corn in sheaves, as they do with us, but directly as they have reaped or mowed it, put it on the carts and convey it to their barns.”
He is a Protestant, so did not assume the female image was that of a Christian saint, which it may have been, or, given how late in Elizabeth’r reign it was, probably a folk version of Isidore, or a local saint.