Posts Tagged ‘Cultural history’

Cover

Kindle book ready and waiting.
Roll up! Roll up!

So what’s it about?
It is about how stories, poems, texts, were structured in a certain way from early times, and to the present day. The structure works as a memory system. I investigate how this structure fits into the now well-known Arts of Memory. The book also looks at how the structuring works, and was passed down through time.

I look at twenty-plus texts from ancient times, through the medieval flowering, down to the present day.
You’d be surprised what I found. 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01IRPODPW

Out at the back of this village/small town where I currently live is a long hill. It is still used for quarrying – the local stone has a pink/grey colour, and is quite appealing.
Of course higher up is where the wealthier people live – they can look down on us all from there; it is their natural ‘inclination’.
There are leafy lanes and cart tracks. There are also, criss-crossing these land-owner’s fields, public pathways. These are hard-fought-for, still-being-fought-for public rights of way. Otherwise all this land would be private, prohibited, shut away from people who have lived here generations.

Not far from here is an area of the Peak District known as Kinder Scout. That was all privately owned land, kept for huntin-shootin consortiums.
Well, in 1932 the local Ramblers Groups had had enough, and it came in the Great Depression when many were out of work, and politics was on everyone’s doorstep. The great dream of fairness and equality that Socialist countries were exporting fell on this fertile ground (no matter it never really existed).
In 1932 was the great Mass Trespass of Kinder Scout, when hundreds (for the time that was a significant amount) turned out and walked those forbidden acres. It led to Acts of Parliament granting legal Rights of Way.
Appeasement, maybe; but it worked.

If it wasn’t for the great ideal, even this would not been won. As a great man once said, If you do not aim for the mountains, you will not even make the foothills.

I was walking these leafy lanes and here by an old well at the road side, found this:

cowboy-1

It may be clumsy, but it’s fun, it’s vibrant. But what’s it for?
Later, down a similar lane I came across this one:

owl

Carved out of an old tree stump, an ever-vigilant owl.

I know what these are for: any ideas, anyone?

I must go and find more.

 

Poems B H Fairchild W W Norton and Co 2003

bhf

B H Fairchild has been hailed as an exemplar of the ‘plain style’. His acknowledged predecessors are James Wright, Richard Hugo, and especially Philip Levine. He made a big splash with his previous collection The Art of the Lathe; this new collection has added to and cemented his reputation. He was a finalist in the National Book Critics Circle Award, and winner of the Kingsley Tufts and William Carlos Williams Awards amongst others.

We must distinguish between ‘plain style’ and the ‘ornery’. Fairchild’s themes are of the Southern States blue-collar worker’s experience; but there is no caricature in his work. We encounter narratives, but they are by no means Frost’s Calvinist legacies:

(…)

After the year of troubles – the family business drowning
in red, the broken plates, black words, slammed doors,
my mother and father in separate rooms, the terrible silence
that grows like a clutch of weeds choking the little house –
(…)
from: The Big Bands: Liberal, Kansas, Summer of 1955, Pt1

So, anecdotal then? No, this excerpt is an interlude in a narrative, a yarn that roams the Kansas plains and records:
a pipe seal somewhere making a sobbing sound (…)
(ibid)

He can rhapsodise:
The green Packard I have just washed dries by the curb,
and the evening makes a bronze plunder
of brick streets (…)
(ibid Pt2)

A loose, freewheeling of memory, then? Well, no, not that either; his poems centre on very real events, times, places, but they also explore what it is about them that makes them memorable. And a very assured use of rhythm, metrics; knowing just where to place that caesura for maximum effect in catching the tone of those places, those times.

‘Holy Rollers, Snyder, Texas, 1951’ begins:
Shades of brown: rust of the dirt road in
and the gulleys deepening to umber,
the taupe of winter grass along the shoulder (…)
(ibid)

And the details redolent of authenticity:
Nightmare fades to memory: the grey-brown hair
of Mrs Hill pasted to her neck, the cracked
porcelain of her hands (…)
(ibid)

We encounter Mrs Hill again:
(…).hammering
on our front door shouting (…)
(…) oh I’m so sorry, so sorry
so sorry (…)

(…) He said
he was going to shoot me. He had a shotgun
from: Mrs Hill

This becomes:
In the kitchen now Mrs Hill is playing
gin rummy with my mother and laughing
in those long shrieks that women have
that make you think they are dying.
(ibid)

while her husband:
my father (…)
(…)  his shadow envelops Mr Hill (who)
(…) bows his head and sobs into his hands (…)
(ibid)

It is not straight narrative; I have missed out the sections that plumb the child’s responses. The laughter-shrieks and dying-women association is very much a writer’s connection; the shifts of grammar between present infinitive and immediate modulate our understanding: this not just a poem about marital crisis, but about the relationships between husbands and wives, of family and lack of family.

Similarly, in The Welder, Visited by the Angel of Mercy, the narrative of a truck wrecked by a blown tyre at speed, takes on a greater significance

The red dust of the city at night. Roy Garcia,
a man in a landscape, tries to weld his truck and his life
back together. (…)

(…) and the arc’s flash hammers
his eyes as he stumbles, blind, among the fruit of the earth

We are set up by the title to pick up on a secular Saul, blinded by what he cannot see, but is readily apparent. It is the contextual detail that renders this accessible to us.

And when Fairchild rides we cannot help but go with him over those Kansas plains:
Rumbling over caliche with a busted muffler,
radio blaring Buddy Holly over Baptist wheat fields,
(…) Boredom grows thick as maize in Kansas, heavy as a drill pipe (…)
from: Rave On
The event this poem records is a very scary episode of young kids hungry for kicks, turning a car over at speed with themselves inside.

In that long, strung-out first sentence we travel a long way: from the hot head of youth, to a more muted, reflective age; from the self-absorbed tone to a more abstract tone; from the mid fifties, to the present day.

The book is divided into five parts, which map out wider and wider circles of knowing, from the immediate vicinity where one grew up, to Paris, London, Nuremburg… but at the centre always the same sensibility:
(…) he gazes deep into the Seine,
the face of a glassworker’s son stares back,
and the river that runs through Paris runs
through Ohio past Jimmy Leonard’s shack (…)
from: A Wall Map of Paris

Like Mrs Hill’s hands transfigured into a (secular) saint’s hands, Roy Garcia, stoned truck- driver, transfigured into a Saint Paul figure, Fairchild acknowledges how memory changes what is remembered. But also, by acknowledging and re-identifying with the Southern Baptist religious background, Fairchild avoids the modernist dilemma of alienation from one’s background through the nature of one’s awareness, and revivifies a sense of oneself within one’s past, and the past of one’s community.

The last section of the book is a long poem that narrates the back story to the earlier sections. Here B H Faitchild gives the chronology of an inspiring relationship with secret epileptic, small-towns drifter, and his wife. They had tried Hollywood and film writing, but returned to the small towns.

So where does he stand politically? What of his social awareness? Southern State politics are strange, there are no obvious distinctions: a Republican can display strange Libertarian tendencies, and vice versa. Fairchild’s long ‘narratives’ acknowledge, record, these blended affiliations but refrain from comment.

B H Fairchild                    bhf1

Also, see:

 

bhf2

Whoo-hoo!

Now available on Kindle!

Cover

Kindle book ready and waiting!
Roll up! Roll up!

So what’s it about?
It is about how stories, poems, texts, were structured in a certain way from early times, and to the present day. The structure works as a memory system. I investigate how this structure fits into the now well-known Arts of Memory. The book also looks at how the structuring works, and was passed down through time. 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01IRPODPW

Great Xmas Present!

Meaning Gwyn son of Nudd (pronounced Nith); the forename carries the meaning of light.
So who was Nudd? Many now think the name comes from the old Celtic god, Nodens.
Nodens, in turn, is associated with the old Irish first king of the Tuatha de Danann, Nuatha.
And Nuatha is related to the legendary Finn Mac Cunhail (Finn MaCool).

The Tuatha de Danann were the most successful invaders of Ireland. Some sources give their origins as ‘formorian’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fomorians.
The Celts have been traced back to Iron Age central European regions: ... the people of the Iron Age Hallstat culture  in central Europe (c. 800–450 BC), named for the rich grave finds in Hallstat, Austria.  

The names Finn, and Gwyn are related.
Gwyn is often described as a being of light, with a darkened face.

What is especially interesting here about the Tuatha de Danann connection is that, as Wiki says, The Tuath Dé eventually became the Aos Si or “fairies” of later folklore.
Gwyn ap Nudd became, in turn, the king of the Tylwyth Teg or fair folk and ruler of the Welsh Otherworld, Annwn.
Nodens and Llud seem to be cognates. See below for confusion and consternation.

FALSTAFF: Heavens defend me from that Welsh fairy, lest he/ transform me to a piece of cheese
:  The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 5, Scene 5.

The Welsh, Scottish and Irish fairy, unlike the English, were not to be trifled with. They were dangerous, and no lover of humankind. The concept of Seelie and Unseelie, that is, benign and malign influence, is closely related to the Irish and Welsh fairy.
We know most about Gwyn ap Nudd from the Welsh Mabinogion (the title, the  purists would say,  only strictly relates to the First Branch, the first four tales of the book. Anyone who has read my discussion of the first of these, Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, in GIFTS OF RINGS AND GOLD https://michael9murray.wordpress.com/2016/09/07/gifts-of-rings-and-gold-5/
will  see how they fit the description of teaching tales).
He occurs mostly in what is considered the oldest of the tales, The Tale of Culhwch and Olwen, as part of King Arthur’s band. His expertise is later called on in the hunt of the terrible wild boar, Twrch Trwyth. (Once again, see my  book  above.)
The Mabinogion tales make us aware of another two siblings to Gwyn, Edem, another of King Arthur’s party, and Owain. Nothimg else is known of these two.

Gwyn ap Nudd was king of the Underworld
– and connected to the later Wild Hunt, as ‘psychopomp’, a phrase from psychiatry that describes a symbolic receiver and transporter of the dead.
Before what some see as attempts to tame and lesson his powers, Gwyn ap Nudd was a mighty warrior. He was connected with one of the three pointless battles according to the Welsh Triads: the Battle of the Trees, Cad Godeau.
Wiki relates that his skill as a warrior, as described in The Black Book of Carmarthen’s The Dialogue of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir, had long brought him great renown.
In Culwych and Olwen it is related that Gwyn abducted Creiddylad, the daughter of Llud (his sister?). She was betrothed at the time, to Gwythyr ap Greidawi, who then roused a great host to get her back.
Wiki gives us this result:  Gwyn was victorious and, following the conflict, captured a number of Gwythyr’s noblemen including Nwython and his son Cyledr. Gwyn would later murder Nwython, and force Cyledr to eat his father’s heart. As a result of his torture at Gwyn’s hands, Cyledr went mad,[1] earning the epithet Wyllt.
As we know from a previous post Wyllt denotes madness:  see my The Madman in the Woods: Lailoken
https://michael9murray.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/the-madman-in-the-woods-lailoken/
King Arthur intervened in their fight, and ruled that the two contestants for Creiddylad meet every May Day to continue their fight for her.Every year, forever.
This was sufficient evidence for Robert Graves in his The White Goddess, to read these two contestants as Holly Kings, solar gods of the old and the new year, battling for supremacy, and the hand/blessing of the muse goddess.
In The Life of St Collen of Llangollen, we glimpse him again, this time connected with Glastonbury Tor or Ynys Witrin as it was known (https://ztevetevans.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/the-legend-of-saint-collen-of-llangollen).
St Collen denied him, and so was invited to dine with him in the hill top’s palace. There he was regaled with Gwyn ap Nudd’s splendour, only to banish it all with a dash of holy water.
Fairy as demon. This was the edict of the later middle ages: all supernatural agents were categorised as demons. (See : https://michael9murray.wordpress.com/2016/10/21/magic/)

We maybe begin to glimpse here the importance of the role of Gwyn ap Nudd in the imaginations of earlier periods

All these written sources are from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries.
In the 1360-70 poetry of the famous Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym, translator and scholar Rachel Bromwich notes of poem 26 (:DADYDD AP GWILYM, POEMS, Gomer Press, 1982): Dafydd alludes to him a number of times (for refs see E Rowlands, Ll C. V, 122-3) and always presents him in a sinister light; hence the  Owl is ‘his’ bird; the bog-hole is ‘his’ fish-pond… the Mist a deception caused by him….(page 99 op cit):
‘(The Owl) she is the bird of Gwyn ap Nudd/ Crazy Owl that sings to the robbers…’ or, for those purists: ‘Edn i Wyn fab Nudd ydyw.’ Early Welsh forms of the name Gwyn were Wyn, as here, and in some cases expanded to Windos. In those earlier periods the name denoted pure, holy, sacred.
We see his effects, but no longer the warrior – it was, after all, the time after the fall of the Last Prince, Llewelyn ap Gruddydd (1223 -1282), to the English.

These tales are uncomfortably patriarchal, they are from the long periods when the daughters of nobles, kings, were used as counters in the game of politics, pacifying potential enemies by drawing them into extensive family relationships. Family was the ultimate bond – to break that was the worst moral and ethical act.
Yet some still did step outside, broke those greatest, strongest of bonds. Only the desperate would risk that ultimate shame and banishment. Or the strongest.
If Gwyn ap Nudd did exist as an actual person in history, then we can only surmise he did something, acted in some way, that meant he chose to step outside of normal, acceptable human relations to become a mighty warrior – or an outcast, an oathbreaker.
As prime outsider he was allotted a status befitting his rank in the outside: as king, of the dead, and of the fair folk, of all who existed outside humanity, in mythical, unimaginable realms.
Andrew Lang, in his introduction to Robert Kirk’s The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies, strongly suggests that the otherworld of fairy is the afterlife of the dead, that the fairy mounds are in reality tumuli, resting places of dead chieftains.

King Arthur was another such dweller outside of history- not as an outcast, but one freed from history, from time, one whose story carried great potency for future generations.
The ways in which Gwyn ap Nudd were remembered marks him out as different from Arthur; Gwyn ap Nudd has the mischief about him, like the vestiges of a trickster figure: disruptive, dangerous. Arthur is the pacifier. It is possible to see that both play connected, vital roles.

Earlier I used the terms ‘seelie’ and ‘unseelie’. These are Scottish distinctions between those well-disposed and ill-disposed towards people. The seelie court are benign fairy. according to Katherine Briggs, in her Encyclopedia of Fairies, 1976. It is also thought the seelie dwell within hills, whereas the unseelie host choose barrows. Here again we have intimations of a connection with the dead and the after life. Kathleen Briggs says of the unseelie: ‘They comprise the SLUAGH, ‘The Host’…the unsanctified dead who hover above the earth, snatching up with them  undefended mortals…
It has been suggested the seelie court rule over the waxing year, whilst the unseelie, the waning year.

We can still feel his presence, though, if we approach him with respect.
The only other fairy being in literature to have such a presence must be The Raven King, of Susanna Clarke’s JONATHON STRANGE AND MR NORRIS.
Here is another hugely enigmatic presence, made more so by his absence. His effects and minions are everywhere, but his own brooding presence is felt, rather than seen, sensed rather than known.

You can consult all the odd books in your reach, and there is still the one holds great ptomise that is missing. Katherine Briggs, again, writes on Gwyn ap Nudd, ‘a more sober assessment of him is given by John Rhys in Celtic Folklore.’

Anybody willing to fill in the gaps?

 

 

I first came across the figure of Lailoken when I was reading up on Seamus Heaney’s version of the Sweeney tale: Sweeney Astray, Faber and Faber, 1983.
This version is based on the translation from the original Irish by James G O’Keefe, 1913.

www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T302018/index.html

Often referred to as King Sweeney, the tale has him as cursed by St Ronan on the battlefield of Mag Rath, 637 AD, for repeatedly spurning Ronan and his disciples, the last straw being when Sweeney threw a spear that cracked the Saint’s matins bell, and killed a disciple. Sweeney was cursed, and left the field of battle, to wander mad, part bird, for many years. There were occasions when his madness began to fade, but it was replenished.

mks

A freize of the Sweeney story.

The central part of the Sweeney tale, and where the whole tale turned around, is when Sweeney had left Ireland in his mad wanderings. He eventually arrived in Britain. There he met a madman, in a similar position and condition to himself. This ‘madman in the woods’: Fer Caille, ‘man of the woods’, was called Allan in the Sweeney Astray text, from  O’Keefe’s name, Ealladhan.
Seamus Heaney, in his Introduction, comments that the tale of the madman in the woods is a far older tale, that was incorporated into the Sweeney story.

The madman in the woods has been identified as Lailoken.
According to some sources he was the bard of King Rhydderch Hael, and based at the king’s castle of Dumbarton, on Dumbarton Rock on the River Clyde, just outside Glasgow. This was in the 6th century AD.

dumrock

Dumbarton Rock.

Lailoken himself has been connected with Partick, now part of west Glasgow.

At the time this area was, as the King’s name suggests, a part of the old Welsh territory. This territory took in all the west coast of northern England, through modern Cumbria, Ayreshire and up to the River Clyde. All spoke an earlier form of Welsh.
East of this, Nothumbria and modern Border regions, Lothian, including Edinburgh and to the Firth of Forth was Old English speaking.
North of this Central Lowland region was, to the east, Pictish land; their language has not come to us in any researchable quantity. To the west the new Irish incursions were creating Dal Riata, and their language would soon overtake the Pictish, to develop into the modern version of Gaelic: Scottish Gaelic.

There was a major battle, one of ‘the three pointless battles’ according to readings of the collections of Welsh Triads. The battle of Arfderydd, 573 AD.
This was where Lailoken came unstuck. One version is he killed a cousin of his King, and was cursed. Whatever the cause, he left the battlefield, and lived a life much like Sweeney.
(In the O”Keefe he had insisted his lord’s warriors wore their best silk clothes to battle. The result was predictable.)

We know of Lailoken through St Kentigern (known as St Mungo), and patron saint of Glasgow. St Kentigern’s story was recorded in the 16th century.

The character we know through St Kentigern as Lailoken was closely connected with the Welsh figure of Myrddin Wyllt, that is, Murthin the Mad.
Sweeney’s name in the Irish is Suibne Geilt: Sweeney the mad one. Wikipedia has him as Sweeney mac Colmain, king of Dal Araidhe. The Sweeney Tale is usually attributed to the 12th century.
The closeness of Wyllt and Geillt, Brithonic and Goidelic, is shown here.
Likewise, the closeness of the name Myrddin to our legendary Merlin has drawn many to presume they were one and the same. Geoffrey of Monmouth first made this connection in his twelfth century History of the Kings of Britain.
Following up place names in the text W F Skeen identified the battlefield of Arfderydd as based on or near the present day church of Arthuret, just outside the small village of Longtown, Cumbria.

Like many of these old scenes of importance, they look rather underwhelming in the present day.
https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Longtown,+Carlisle/

From Arfderydd, Lailoken was supposed to have fled into the Caledonian Forest. The area is now an open patch of country, close to the River Esk. There are no woods, never mind forest. The Caledonian Forest clings on, supposedly the last relics of the fir trees that followed the retreat of the ice sheet, only in a couple of patches in Deeside and that area.

So, what happened when Sweeney met Lailoken/Alan/Ealladhan/Myrddin?
He sought him out, befriended him, and travelled with him for the next year. Then Lailoken had a date with his death at the waterfall of the Black Mount.
Sweeney himself then returned to Ireland, and tried to return to his people. The whole story had changed: instead of avoiding people, he now sought them out.

When Sweeney came to Britain both the Heaney and the O’Keefe say ‘he left the fortress of the Britons on his right side’, before meeting Lailoken.
Taking that fortress to be Rhydderch Hael’s Dumbarton Rock, then Sweeney must have travelled either north, from Strathclyde, or west from Stranraer. Either way he was north of the Clyde-Forth border. Language-wide this would make sense also.
Travelling for a year – they could have travelled a long way, or circled, like St Brendan on his voyage.
My argument is they travelled north, up to the Black Mount near modern Bridge of Orchy and the celebrated Ben Dorain.

blkmt

The Black Mount.

The Myrddin story is set in the Border country. This fits with the battlefield being near Longtown in Cumbria.Whether Myrddin’s is a different story, or a corrupted later version are questions as yet unanswered.

Lailoken, like Myrddin Weillt, was also known as a prophet, divinely inspired. Sweeney was not.
Were people looking for a world beyond the world, that only disordered senses could detect? There were few, if any, sane prophets: the speaking in madness was considered the authentic method.
The prophet tradition goes back so far, it is beyond sight. We cannot put it down to the split-world scenario that that the Christian religion promoted: this world, and the next, and ne’er the twain shall meet. It was older than that, this belief in a world, or worlds, beyond our known one, worlds where true reality and authority lay. Yet its communications had not our syntax, barely our vocabulary; their communications with ours were garbled, highly metaphorical, or more probably referential to an order of the world that was not ours, with different priorities, values.
We see this in many religions -and how many now have been influenced by Christianity? Most, if not all – how the ways of God are different from the ways of man. And yet we are to attain to the god’s ways, to ways not of this world, in order to save a part of ourselves, the part that lives on while the this-world part must die.

It could well be that the legendary ‘madman in the woods’ is connected to the Green Man image. Who came first, though?

100_0561

We could posit connections to the legendary Robin Goodfellow character, who appears in Shakespeare (Midsummer Night’s Dream), and who also gave provenance to the Robin Hood tales/songs.
These tales and characters gather more and more barnacles as they travel through the seas of time.

The most moving description I have come across has Lailoken wandering ‘like many battle-maddened men’ in the woods and forests.
Was Lailoken their epitome? Was his figure a way of portraying the effects of post-traumatic stress/battle fatigue? Was this a way of giving these people a measure of dignity by making them ‘holy fools’ of a sort?
Myrddin Weillt was described as telling his tale of the terrible battle, after which he immediately jumped up and ran wildly away. It is the same with Sweeney. This reaction to reliving the trauma does make this theory sound plausible.

See ‘Scotlands’s Merlin’, by Tim Clarkson, John Donaldson Publishers Ltd, 2016
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scotlands-Merlin-Medieval-Legend-Origins/dp/1906566992/

TURTON TOWER, Turton District, Bolton, Lancashire, UK

tt2

The tower itself was modelled on the Scots Border pele towers. It was built in 1420.
This was the same period as the Scottish pele towers. They were fortified farmhouses, built for defence in the centuries-old feuds and political claim-and-reclaim of territory between Scotland and England that was the Scottish Borders.

Why Turton should have a defensive tower, and built by whom, are questions for which we do not know the answers. The setting is that of dominant position between two high land areas: the Winter Hill region to the west, and the Holcombe Hill region to the east. To the south is Bolton, and the north Blackburn.
Bolton was settled by Flemish weavers in the 14th century.
A centre for weaving denotes the area had ideal conditions for, at this period, wool weaving, that is, of continual damp. Bolton and close by Bury were both important towns which came into importance at this period.
Blackburn similarly owed its founding to Flemish weavers in the 13th century.
James Hargreaves, inventor of the spinning jenny, came from Oswaldtwistle, a very near neighbour town, later.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinning_jenny

Why Flemish weavers? This is a fascinating history in itself. See as an introduction:
 https://www.englandsimmigrants.com/page/individual-studies/fourteenth-century-england-a-place-flemish-rebels-called-home

An Elizabethan house was built onto the pele tower, and further extensions were early Stuart period.
The Orrell family built the Tower up, but bankrupted themselves in the process. They had to sell. The purchaser in 1628 was Humphrey Chetham.

Chetham College House in Manchester

chethams

was also built around the same time as the Tower: 1421. It was part of the founding of Manchester Cathedral, and was built as a college for priests.
It was here in Elizabethan times that Dr John Dee and family were quietly settled out-of-the-way. His wife and family died of plague and were buried here.He returned to Mortlake, London.

drdee
Humphrey Chetham rescued the ruined buildings and built up and restored them to house a school and free library.The Chetham’s School was founded in 1653, in the period of Cromwell’s Protectorate.

Speaking of which:

Back at the Tower, the Orrell family rented their Tower from Chetham. Chetham, however, as many major Manchester-based families, were supporters of Cromwell’s cause. The Orrell family were not.
Humphrey Chetham stationed Roundheads in the Tower grounds as their base for the whole district. The Orrell family would indeed have had to ‘put up and shut up’ as a local phrase has it.

1835 brought a mock gothic building program to the Tower under new owners. In 1929 it was given to the Turton Urban District Council.
The tower was originally two stories, but a third was added later, along with the crenellations. The top story used to house a museum of sorts
One exhibit was the skull of a local man, hanged for some heinous crime.
The middle floor was used for Council Meetings

http://www.turtontower.co.uk/a-brief-history.html

What I remember especially about the place, and called me back several times, is the Tower itself.
The ground floor is the homeliest place I have ever found. Amidst all the Do Not Touch displays, old paintings, antique furniture, there is a feeling of great peace, and belonging. I think it comes from this: look out of the ground floor windows and what you see…

… are almost floor-level views of the grounds. The ground floor is built into the earth. As you stand you are up to your waist, higher, underground.
That feeling of being bedded-in is wonderful, unique, and very, very appealing.

 

The Tower has its ghost, of course, the Lady of Turton Tower, and its dead-man’s footprint on the stone stairs of the Elizabethan part.
Even the Chetham School’s Dr Dee room has its own distinctive mark: a burn on a desk supposedly belonging to him, and supposedly due to his conjurings.