T is for Thomas Tusser

Thomas Tusser, born c1525, was a man of many talents. Born at Rivenhall in Essex he became a chorister at St Pauls and attended Eton. In 1543 he was elected to Kings College, Cambridge and spent 10 years at Court in London, probably in a musical capacity.

He then settled as a farmer in Suffolk at Braham Hall, Cattawade, where in 1557 he published his poetical treatise A hundredth points of good husbandry. This was subsequently enlarged in 1573 to be called Five hundredth points of good husbandry, a calendar of rural and domestic economy.

Cover of reprint of both "a hundred and five hundred points of husbandry", by Dorothy Hartley, 1931, SRO local studies collection (Ref 630.9426 )

Cover of reprint of both “a hundred and five hundred points of husbandry”, by Dorothy Hartley, 1931, SRO local studies collection (Ref 630.9426 )

Tusser died in 1580 and was buried in St Mildred’s church in the Poultry, London after periods living in Ipswich, Norwich and Cambridge.

Image of plaque in Manningtree church to Thomas Tusser, East Anglian Magazine, Vol 2, 1930

Image of plaque in Manningtree church to Thomas Tusser, East Anglian Magazine, Vol 2, 1930

The calendar of husbandry relates in anapaestic meter what must be tackled each month by the Elizabethan farmer. For June he tells us

Wash sheep (for the better) where water doth run,

And let him go cleanly, and dry in the sun:

Then shear him, and spare not, at two days an end,

The sooner the better, his corps will amend
……………..
Plough early till ten a’clock, then to thy hay,

In ploughing and carting, so profit ye may.

By little and little thus doing ye win,

That plough shall not hinder, when harvest comes in
…………………………………

Painting of farming in June 1530 by Simon Bening

Painting of farming in June 1530 by Simon Bening,

For many years his calendar was taught at agricultural schools and his wisdom valued. Whilst opinions now differ as to their value, his easy to read poetical writings can be enjoyed as a way of encapsulating rural life back in the 16th century and many of his sayings are still used today.

The stone that is rolling can gather no moss

Look ere thou leap. See ere thou go