Ether Signposts #41/52a: Tales From The Kern Baby And Birmingham Library’s Benjamin Stone Archive

  • The Harvest Home “Kerr Baby” of 1901. Whalton, Northumberland. 1902. The Benjamin Stone Collection

    A while ago I came across the collection of Benjamin Stone’s work at Birmingham Library, where apparently they have over 17,000 photographs by him:

    Sir Benjamin Stone travelled around the country in search of unusual festivals and customs. This gallery includes May Day festivals, the Sherborne Pageant, Corby Pole Fair and the Northumberland Baal Fires.

    I think I came across the collection following explorations around his photograph of a Kern Baby which is:

    …from a festival called ‘The Harvest Home’ in Northumberland in 1901. This festival was all about celebrating that fact that the farmers had harvested the corn and this would mean that the community had enough to eat for another year. The last corn that was gathered would be made into a human shape, dressed in fine clothes and crowned with flowers and called the ‘Kern Baby’ or ‘Harvest Queen.’ There would be feasting and music to celebrate the harvest.

    Benjamin Stone-Kern Baby-Birmingham Library-2I had written about the photograph in the first year of A Year In The Country and previous to reading the above I think the photograph existed in my head largely unnamed and unexplained, an example of intriguing folkloric costume from the flipside and undercurrents of folklore.

    One of the things I like about the Birmingham Library’s collection is that the photographs are reproduced with their border of Benjamin Stone’s handwritten notes and dates, it adds a certain something and seems to root them in a particular time and place…

    To see more than a brief snapshot of the Benjamin Stone archive’s you’ll need to personally visit Birmingham Library but there are a selection of images available online.

    (File post under: Other Pathway Pointers And Markers)

    Directions and Destinations:
    The Kern Baby at Birmingham Library
    Benjamin Stone archive of customs and festivals at Birmingham Library

    Local Places Of Interest:
    Day #131/365: John Benjamin Stone; records of folkloric rituals, traditions and light catching from other eras…
    Ether Signposts #5/52a: Homer Sykes Once A Year And A Lineage Of Folk Custom Wanderings

     

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