In another post today I mentioned Shakespeare. Here is another Shakespearean connection with something that is just too cool.
At The Shakespeare Blog I saw an entry about an October fair held in Stratford-upon-Avon. The post concerns itinerant players and peddlers who would have come to town fairs. But the post also includes this:
Itinerant people, among them acting companies, were still treated with suspicion. During the 1590s legislation was brought in to control these rogues and vagabonds. Itinerants were not only possibly thieves, or people who might be a drain on the resources of the places to which they traveled, they could be political or religious activists. The British Museum’s current exhibition Shakespeare: staging the world, [I saw this during my recent wonderful visit to London.] contains a fascinating and extremely rare object. It’s a trunk which on the outside looks just the sort of thing Autolycus, the peddler, would have carried, but in this case it contains not ribbons and songs, but Catholic vestments, rosary beads, a chalice, and even an altar stone. A Catholic priest, carrying this trunk, had everything he needed to carry out religious services.
The trunk had been walled up in a country house in Lancashire, where it was discovered in the mid-nineteenth century after at least two hundred years. Lancashire was a hotbed for recusancy, and following the banning of Catholic priests in the late 1500s they had to disguise themselves in order to carry on. A travelling peddler would have been a good disguise, as many of the objects he was carrying could be easily taken for legitimate goods for sale.
Will we return to those days?
I have a small kit that fits into lunch box.