> Peter Bellamy > Songs > Testimonial


[Peter Bellamy]

Testimonial is one of the earliest songs that Peter Bellamy wrote. He sang it on 22 June 1971 live at the Folk Studio, Norwich. This performance was published in the following year on his Argo LP with Louis Killen, Won’t You Go My Way?. He introduced the song:

After the last album I made, I decided to see if I could write any songs without the help of Rudyard Kipling. The score is two so far, and this is the latest. It’s about the farm that I was brought up on in North Norfolk. Well, there’s also some extra-ordinary things to be seen; there’s an iron-age fortress, and there’s a site of a Roman villa, and there is a site of a Manor house, and there is a site of a medieval nunnery, and every time they plough there they find something, it might be a Roman coin or a stone axe or a piece of willow-pattern plaid or medieval glass. The place has been occupied since the word go, and that is what the song’s about. It’s called Testimonial.


Peter Bellamy sings Testimonial

The valley of the Stiffkey lies a pleasant spread about the stream
With whispering reedbed standing high to fringe the water meadows green.
The curlew pipes his lonely note, the cuckoo calls no far but clear
And neath the turf a tale is wrote, the legend of ten thousand year.

Rude fashioned flint from Brandon Way washed clean beneath the water’s race
Half hid beneath the tangled sway of river weed like emerald lace.
And in the silts where the banks are trod by cattle at the drinking hole
There nestles yet beneath the clod a wondrous neolithic tomb.

And on yonder bank looms from the land the noble rampart ditch and wall
Where the proud Iceni made their stand till prouder Rome had conquered all.
In after years a villa stood when Boudica had been forgot
And Roman bricks beneath the wood mark the Roman farmer’s peaceful plod.

The Saxon ploughman slices the clay and now lies buried on the hill
Near where there stood in later days the bustling medieval mill.
The Manor house left little mark not can from cruel time escape
But how they kept their gracious park is told by the mantrap’s evil gape.

Now the tractor grumbles down the field, the gulls flock round, the soil turns,
Like pages in a book to yield old pots, old glass, old coins, old bones
Of Celts, of Romans, Saxons, Danes, their loves, their hates, their joys and tears
Have passed but Stiffkey still remains to sing their stories down the years.


Thanks to Garry Gillard for a lot of help with the lyrics. By the way, the river Stiffkey in Norfolk is pronounced “Stookie”.