1. The Calligraphers

    Eva Driskell and Lynda Jordan, calligraphers, with Esther Kello


    Esther Kello, née Inglis (1570/1-1624) by an unknown artist, dated 1595 © Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

    Eva Driskell: I feel an affinity with Esther that has nothing to do with calligraphy (or her fabulous hat!). She was the daughter of Huguenot refugees from France and my mother was also a refugee at the end of the Second World War and claimed Huguenot heritage. This woman pictured on a gallery wall, who looks so much part of the establishment, was struggling to support her family in a new country and a language that was not her own (just as so many do today).

    In Esther’s time the world was moving fast from illiteracy towards an education in reading and writing for many. We are also at a time of great change for writing – most adults use handwriting only for lists and greetings cards. So just as in Tudor times beautiful writing is an obscure, much-admired and sought-after skill.

    Jobbing calligraphers today make a living through writing envelopes, certificates and placecards, none of which was an option in Esther’s day. However the sheer painstaking craft experience of accurately ruling up and repeating letterforms would be the same for both of us.

    Esther would have used a quill and written on vellum (calfskin) and I have also recently been curing quills for family workshops. This involves soaking the goose feathers, drying them in a pan of hot sand and then trimming and cutting them with a very sharp knife. Thankfully my thumbs have survived unscathed this time.

    Lynda Jordan: Esther Kello wrote around 59 manuscripts between 1586-1624, many for dignitaries and royalty. It is likely she did not work to commission, but rather wrote the manuscripts and presented them in the hope of getting paid. My role as a calligrapher is somewhat different to Kello’s in Elizabethan times. I generally do work to commission, with the client telling me what they would like, which script they prefer and when they would like the work to be finished. Rather than writing manuscripts made into little books like Esther, I usually do calligraphy for events, writing invitations, placecards and envelopes. I do the calligraphy at home or I work on site wherever the event is taking place, which is always fun! My work enables me to meet lots of interesting people, from my clients, to others in the calligraphy and lettering world. 

    I studied calligraphy with the University of Sunderland and am glad of the formal education I received. It was two well-spent years learning the fundamentals of letterforms. Esther’s mother was an accomplished calligrapher and Esther was taught by her. I very much admire the work of people like Esther and am grateful for the chance to study their manuscripts as we can learn so much from them.

    Calligraphy is a traditional craft which is alive and well and is still very relevant in today’s world.


  2. The Brewer

    Chris Waplington from Bad Seed Brewery with Jacob Wittewronghele


    Jacob Wittewronghele (1558-1622) by an unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist, c.1590-1600 © Lawes Agricultural Trust, Rothamsted Manor

    In the world that Jacob Wittewronghele knew, beer was not merely a source of social interactivity and intoxication; it was a way of life. The average person consumed about eight pints of low strength beer every day. It was a source of valuable nutrition and desperately needed calories, and beer was safer to drink than water as it had been boiled during the brewing process.

    Eight pints per day, per person, is a lot of beer to produce, and it would have been a very physical, hands-on process. Like craft brewers today, Jacob would have had to create innovative and delicious recipes whilst working with farmed crops that changed in character every harvest, as well as enduring early starts and long hours. In my experience there would also be lots of lifting and transferring of heavy amounts of malted barley and boiling hot liquids, and careful nurturing of yeast cultures. Jacob would need to know his ingredients and be in control of a living process. And then repeat it.

    For me, the fact that Jacob could do it all so successfully is a real testament to his craft as a brewer and skills as a businessman. He must have been a very busy man; I’m surprised he even had time to pose for this portrait!

    Find out more about Bad Seed Brewery.



  3. The Poet

    Rebecca Perry with John Donne


    John Donne (1572-1631) by an unknown English artist, c.1596 © National Portrait Gallery, London

    It’s almost impossible to know where to start comparing the life of a poet during the reign of Elizabeth I and the life of a poet now, for the very obvious reason that life itself is so fundamentally different. I suppose I wonder what Donne would find most surprising about England in 2013 . The fact that our monarch no longer has the power to decide if a subject’s head should remain attached to her/his shoulders would come as a bit of a shock. I imagine he’d also be surprised to find that his attempts to persuade a woman into bed by means of extended metaphor would likely be met with nothing short of derision and, even if it did take us almost 600 years to get there, a female poet laureate would be unbelievable. Mostly, though, for a writer whose poems were only circulated amongst a select group of admirers during his lifetime, the sheer volume of poetry now being published – not to mention the ability we have to share our thoughts, feelings and writing with people on the other side of the world in just a few clicks – would perhaps be the greatest shock of all.

    But something that hasn’t changed is what poetry, generally speaking (or depending who you ask), is for. As with most arts, the styles and fashions of poetry change often, but we still write about life and love and death, about the world around us, about history and people. And poetry still has the ability to be romantic, or irreverent, or heartbreaking, or political, or shocking, or satirical, or funny, or depressing as hell, just as it was 400 years ago. 

    Find out more about Rebecca Perry.



  4. The Lawyer

    Clare Ferguson, Consultant at Taylor Wessing with William Lovelace


    William Lovelace, ‘Serjeant Lovelace’ (c.1525/30-77) by an unknown English artist, dated 1576 © Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

    Whereas William Lovelace is bearded, be-hatted, ruffed, brown-gowned and has a calm air, today’s lawyer is unlikely to have any of those accoutrements or characteristics. With mobile fixed to the ear, fingers tapping the Blackberry or tablet, today’s lawyer will likely be dressed in black, likely stressed – or at the least under pressure - and possibly on the run between meetings. He or she will not be held in anything like the regard that William enjoyed. In the sixteenth century there were few lawyers and they were revered. Times have changed.

    Of course, there were no female lawyers in 1576 and would not be for another 350 years – women not being ‘persons’ (held the Court of Appeal in 1913) within the meaning of the Solicitors Act 1843. It was not until 1922 that a small trickle of women entered the legal profession.

    It was a half a century after this that I commenced my legal career at the Bar and met my fair share of obstacles in a largely middle/upper class male domain. One of them addressed me in Latin, no doubt to unsettle me. It did not work.

    Unlike William, today’s lawyer might pitch for the next piece of work, and would have to engage in business development and PR. William would have advised on a wide range of civil and criminal issues whereas today’s London lawyers are highly specialised. They often work long late hours, in different time zones and even when on holiday need to respond to clients’ emails, often by return. William would have had much more time to reflect before he opined.

    One grateful client gave William a porpoise, to eat. My equivalent was a brace of bleeding pheasants walked through the office, swinging from a gamekeeper’s shoulder. I hid.

    Find out more about Clare Ferguson.



  5. The Bishop

    The Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Bradford with Edwin Sandys (and his wife Cecily)


    Edwin Sandys (1519?-88) and his wife Cecily Wilford (d.1611) by an unknown English artist, after 1576 © Bishopthorpe Palace, York

    Being a bishop, clearly, never was just a barrel of laughs. Edwin Sandys managed to experience huge reform, imprisonment and exile, constant disappointment, and appointments he didn’t want: Bishop of London in 1570 and Archbishop of York five years later. On the right side of Elizabeth I, he was nevertheless downhearted about some elements of the ‘settlement’ that compromised his Reformed preferences – such as the use of vestments being allowed. Anyway, at least he was allowed to marry and he made the most of this permission by having nine children. He had to get his fun somewhere…

    I sympathise with Sandys. The Church of England is never a comfortable place. Four hundred years ago, Sandys and co were grappling with conflicts and dilemmas that seem less important to most people today. But, there is no limit to what can get them worked up. I became a bishop in 2003 and have worked in both the south and north of England. Like Sandys, I was a linguist – whereas he assisted in the translation of the so-called Bishops’ Bible, I worked in Russian, German and French at GCHQ… but still preach and lecture in German from time to time. Life was as complex then as it is now; it is just that the present issues are different.

    I am clear that the Church exists for the sake of the world it is there to serve and reach. This is a challenge, especially when our culture moves on in some ethical questions and leaves the Church struggling to work out its response. Now, as then, being a bishop makes you a target for the venom of a wide range of people.

    I guess I share Sandys’ struggle with being obedient to a ‘call’ when the going is tough, but also to making the most of the opportunities to serve both church and society with a long-term view – even when it gets you into trouble.

    For the record, I only have three children…

    Read the Bishop of Bradford’s blog.



  6. The Butcher

    Adam Nixon from The Ginger Pig with Gamaliel Pye


    Gamaliel Pye (c.1514-96) by an unknown artist, dated 1596 © Museum of London

    History and tradition still play a huge part in butchery; it is a skill that is passed down from governor (veteran butcher) to apprentice. Every country has its own unique cuts and variations, as does every butcher, so everything I do has been passed down through a long line of butchers before me. Who knows, some of that wisdom may well have come from the Elizabethan era. History is present even in the way we talk, and we sometime use a bit of butchers’ slang - “bir of feeb” for rib of beef and “pmur” for rump. It’s just a bit of fun (though we do get weird looks sometimes).

    Working in Borough Market is amazing, it is so vibrant and diverse, but sometimes it can feel like being a character in Disneyland rather than a butcher. There are cameras flashing around us as we work, and being on show in an open stall means we’re a bit of a spectacle. Having said that, interaction with customers and getting to know the regulars is my favourite partof the job. Before I became a butcher two years ago, I was a chef in New Zealand; the only interaction there came from comments passed on from the waiting staff. That’s one of the reasons I started staying late after the restaurant closed and teaching myself the basics of butchery. I spent hours breaking down carcasses and curing my own prosciutto and bacon; before long I found myself surrounded by pigs’ heads bobbing in brine and strings of sausages.

    Although I really aspired to be a butcher, I’m not sure that the profession is today quite as well regarded as it might have been to Pye’s peers. However, it seems to become more popular each year. We run butchery classes every week in our other shops to teach butchery and the process of ‘farm to fork’, which is something we practise at The Ginger Pig. These classes are always full of enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds. It is my hope that, as people become more careful and conscious about what they eat, a butcher’s trusted place in society will only become more and more valued.

    Find out more about The Ginger Pig