The Ancient Mariner at Watchet

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Rime of the Ancient Mariner monument at Watchet

The Ancient Mariner statue at Watchet harbour, photographed last weekend

The little harbour town of Watchet is hugely proud of its connection with the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who, so Wordsworth said, wrote his epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner following a walk through the Quantock Hills with his sister and Wordsworth in the spring of 1798. There’s some argument on the issue, however, for some say he was inspired to write the poem after visiting Watchet, and others that the Ancient Mariner set sail from Watchet’s harbour.

Which ever way it happened, the Rime of the Ancient Mariner is linked with the town, and in 2003 the town erected a sculpture Ancient Mariner with the famous albatross hung round his neck by the harbour wall.

Written in a powerful, arresting style, the poem begins in this way:

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three
`By thy long beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin ;
The guests are met, the feast is set :
May’st hear the merry din.’

He holds him with his skinny hand,
`There was a ship,’ quoth he.
`Hold off ! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

However, the quotation that seems to have found favour with the locals calls to mind the sense of a ship or boat sailing at her best speed. The couplet appears in various places around the town, and it’s one that would resonate with any sailor.

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;

The next few lines, however, are unexpected and sinister:

We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.

The ship hath been suddenly becalmed.

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
‘Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea !

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

And the Albatross begins to be avenged.

It seems Coleridge knew something about the intense, uncertain feeling of being becalmed at sea. I find it can be a little like looking into the night sky – I can feel suddenly very aware of how powerless and small we are.

But enough of my talk. Please read the poem and use the comment link below to tell use what you find in it.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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Watchet Boat Museum acquires ropery equipment

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Watchet Boat Museum acquires a ropery

Watchet Boat Museum acquires a ropery

Watchet Boat Museum acquires a ropery

Watchet Boat Museum acquires a ropery

The ropery equipment at its old home at Edenfield.
Click on the photos to see larger images

Watchet Boat Museum has acquired some interesting old rope-making equipment and plans to use it to show the process to the public.

The museum at Watchet in Somerset has acquired the equipment from the former Britannia Rope & Twine Ltd factory in Edenfield in Lancashire, which closed its doors in 2001.

The old factory used to be one of the area’s biggest employers, manufacturing products ranging from skipping ropes to ropes for boxing rings; it even made hangman’s nooses and the rope-pulls for toilets used in Butlin’s Holiday Camps.

Honorary curator John Nash told me that when he first saw rope-making equipment being shown by rope and knot expert Des Pawson, he felt strongly that the Boat Museum would benefit from having some similar equipment, not least because he noticed that demonstrations of the the machinery in use were very popular with the public.

‘We had a machine made at great expense and that worked well,’ he told me, ‘but now we have the real thing, and it’s even better.’

Thanks for the information John!

To visit the museum’s website to learn about the Somerset flatner boats and to buy plans, follow this link: Watchet Boat Museum.

And click here for more intheboatshed.net posts on the on Watchet museum.

Des Pawson’s is available at Amazon.co.uk Des Pawson’s Knot Craft and at Amazon.com Des Pawson’s Knot Craft .