Page 162. " A bear-leader, a popular street character of the time "

 Bear-leaders were men who led captive bears on a chain. Between the 12th and 19th century in Britain, bears were used in two ways for public ‘entertainment’. Firstly, they were used in bear-baiting which was particularly popular in Elizabethan times and took place in special arenas known as bear-gardens. In these settings, chained bears were either set upon by dogs, or blinded and whipped.  Secondly, during the same period, tame, trained bears were also taken around the country to perform on their hind legs as ‘dancing bears’. Bear-baiting in Britain was banned in 1835, and dancing bears in 1911.

In the 18th and 19th century, bear-leader was also the name given to a sort of chaperone or tutor who accompanied young gentlemen on their travels.




Etching of a dancing bear
Public DomainEtching of a dancing bear (1822) - Credit: William Frederick Witherington
Page 162. " the old church of Saint Pancras, far off in the fields "

St Pancras Old Church belongs to the Church of England.  It is located in the London borough of Camden (and has not been 'far off in the fields' for a very long time). It is believed to be one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in England, dating from A.D. 314, and is mentioned in the Domesday Book.  Originally, the parish of St Pancras stretched from near Oxford Street, almost to Highgate.  In the 14th century the population abandoned the site and moved to what is now Kentish Town.  The move was probably prompted by the vulnerability of the church plain to flooding, and the availability of better wells at Kentish Town.  The old settlement was abandoned and the church fell into disrepair. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, services were only held in the church on one Sunday each month.  By 1847 the Old Church was derelict, but as the local population grew it was decided to restore it.  Further restorations took place in 1888, 1925 and 1948.

Page 167. " another disciple of Izaak Walton "

Izaak Walton (1593 - 1683) was the author of The Compleat Angler.  While he started life as an ironmonger, he dedicated the last 40 years of his life seem to fishing and writing. 

The Compleat Angler was first published in 1653, but Walton continued to add to it for a quarter of a century. It celebrates the art and spirit of fishing in prose and verse.  There was a second edition in 1655, a third in 1661, a fourth in 1668 and a fifth in 1676. By the fifth edition the original 13 chapters had grown to 21. 

Walton’s Halfhead Farm near Stafford, purchased by him in 1655, is now a museum to his life. The ground floor is set-out in period and has a series of illustrated information boards covering Walton's life, his writings and the story of the Izaak Walton Cottage. Up-stairs is a collection of fishing related items, the earliest dating from the mid-eighteenth century.