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Title: British Popular Customs - Present and Past. Illustrating the Social and Domestic - Manners of the People. Arranged according to the Calendar - of the Wear.
Author: Dyer, T. F. Thistelton
Language: English
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[_Reprinted from Stereotype plates._]


In presenting the following pages to the Public I do not lay claim to
any originality, my object simply having been to collect together, into
a readable and condensed form, from various sources within my reach,
accounts of Customs which, if not already obsolete, are quickly becoming

With regard to the general plan of the book, it speaks for itself. It
should, however, be stated that the movable feasts are placed under the
earliest days on which they can fall.

In conclusion, I would only add that I am much indebted to Mr. James
Britten, of the British Museum, for the valuable help and suggestions
which he has given me whilst passing the proof-sheets through the Press.


  _September 15th, 1875._



New Year’s Day has always been a time of general rejoicing and
festivity, its observance being characterised by many a curious custom
and superstitious practice. History tells us how on this day the Druids
were accustomed, with much pomp and ceremony, to distribute branches of
the sacred mistletoe amongst the people; those precious gifts having the
night before been cut from the oak-tree in a forest dedicated to the
gods. Among the Saxons of the northern nations the new year was ushered
in by friendly gifts, and celebrated with such extraordinary festivity
that people actually used to reckon their age by the numbers of annual
merry-makings in which they had participated. Fosbroke, in his
_Encyclopædia of Antiquities_, notices the continuation of the Roman
practice of interchanging gifts during the middle and later ages; a
custom which prevailed especially amongst our kings, queens, and the
nobility. According to Matthew Paris, Henry III., following the
discreditable example of some of the Roman emperors, even extorted them
from his subjects.

In Rymer’s _Fœdera_ (vol. x. p. 387) a list is given of the gifts
received by Henry VI. between Christmas Day and February 4th, 1428,
consisting of sums of 40_s._, 20_s._, 13_s._ 4_d._, 10_s._, 6_s._ 8_d._,
and 3_s._ 4_d._

In the reign of Henry VII. the reception of the New Year’s gifts
presented by the king and queen to each other and by their household
and courtiers, was reduced to a solemn formula.

Agnes Strickland, in her _Lives of the Queens of England_ (1864, vol.
ii. p. 83), quotes the following extract from a MS. of Henry VII.’s
Norroy herald, in possession of Peter Le Neve, Esq.: “On the day of the
New Year, when the king came to his foot-sheet, his usher of his
chamber-door said to him, ‘Sire, here is a New Year’s gift coming from
the queen;’ then the king replied, ‘Let it come in.’ Then the king’s
usher let the queen’s messenger come within the _yate_” (meaning the
gate of the railing which surrounded the royal bed, instances of which
are familiar to the public in the state bedrooms at Hampton Court to
this day, and it is probable that the scene was very similar), “Henry
VII. sitting at the foot of the bed in his dressing-gown, the officers
of his bed-chamber having turned the top sheet smoothly down to the foot
of the bed when the royal personage rose. The queen,[1] in like manner,
sat at her foot-sheet, and received the king’s New Year’s gift within
the gate of her bed-railing. When this formal exchange of presents had
taken place between the king and his consort, they received, seated in
the same manner, the New Year’s gifts of their nobles. ‘And,’ adds the
herald, assuming the first person, ‘I shall report to the queen’s grace
and them that be about her, what rewards are to be given to them that
bring her grace New Year’s gifts, for I trow they are not so good as
those of the king.’”

  [1] Elizabeth of York.

There is in the possession of the Marquis of Bath, Longleat, a
manuscript, which contains a list of moneys given to King Henry VIII. in
the twenty-fourth year of his reign, as New Year’s gifts. They are from
archbishops, bishops, noblemen, doctors, gentlemen, &c. The amount which
the king’s grace complacently pocketed on this occasion was 792_l._
10_s._ 10_d._--_N. &. Q. 4th S._ vol. xi. p. 8.

Honest old Latimer, however, says Hone (_Every Day Book_, 1836, vol. i.
p. 7), instead of presenting Henry VIII. with a purse of gold, put into
the king’s hand a New Testament, with a leaf conspicuously doubled down
at Hebrews xiii. 4, which, on reference, will be found to have been
worthy of all _acceptation_, though not, perhaps, well accepted.

A manuscript roll of the public revenue of the fifth year of Edward VI.
has an entry of rewards given on New Year’s Day to the king, officers,
and servants, amounting to 155_l._ 5_s._, and also of sums given to the
servants of those who presented New Year’s gifts to the king.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the custom of presenting New Year’s
gifts to the sovereign was carried to an extravagant height. Indeed, Dr.
Drake is of opinion that the wardrobe and jewelry of Queen Elizabeth
were principally supported by these annual contributions on New Year’s
Day. He cites lists of New Year’s gifts presented to her from the
original rolls published in her “progresses” by Mr. Nichols; and from
these it appears that the presents were made by the great officers of
state, peers and peeresses, bishops, knights and their ladies, gentlemen
and gentlewomen, physicians and apothecaries, and others of lower grade,
down to her Majesty’s dustman. The presents consisted of sums of money,
costly articles of ornament for the queen’s person or apartments,
caskets studded with precious stones, valuable necklaces, bracelets,
gowns, embroidered mantles, smocks, petticoats, looking-glasses, fans,
silk stockings, and a great variety of other articles. The largest sum
given by any of the temporal lords was 20_l._; but the Archbishop of
Canterbury gave 40_l._, the Archbishop of York 30_l._, and the other
spiritual lords, 20_l._ and 10_l._ Dr. Drake says, that although
Elizabeth made returns to the New Year’s gifts, in plate and other
articles, yet she nevertheless took sufficient care that the balance
should be in her own favour.

In the reign of James I. the money gifts seem to have been continued for
some time, but the ornamental articles presented seem to have been few
and of small value. No rolls, nor, indeed, any notices of New Year’s
gifts presented to Charles I. seem to have been preserved, though
probably there were such. The custom, no doubt, ceased entirely during
the Commonwealth, and was never afterwards revived, at least, to any
extent worthy of notice. Mr. Nichols mentions that the last remains of
the custom at court consisted in placing a crown-piece under the plate
of each of the chaplains in waiting on New Year’s Day, and that this
custom had ceased early in the nineteenth century.

The New Year’s gifts, says Chambers (_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 31),
presented by individuals to each other were suited to sex, rank,
situation, and circumstances. From Bishop Hall’s _Satires_ (1598), it
appears that the usual gift of tenantry in the country to their
landlords was a capon; and Cowley, addressing the same class of society

    “Ye used in the former days to fall
    Prostrate to your landlord in his hall,
    When with low legs, and in an humble guise,
    Ye offer’d up a capon sacrifice
    Unto his worship, at a New Year’s tide.”

Ben Jonson, in his _Christmas Masque_, among other characters introduces
“New Year’s gift in a blue coat, serving-man like, with an orange, and a
sprig of rosemary on his head, his hat full of brooches, with a collar
of gingerbread, his torch-bearer carrying a marchpane, with a bottle of
wine on either arm.” An orange stuck with cloves was a common present,
and is explained by Lupton, who says that the flavour of the wine is
improved, and the wine itself preserved from mouldiness, by an orange or
lemon stuck with cloves being hung within the vessel, so as not to touch
the liquor.

When pins were first invented, and brought into use about the beginning
of the sixteenth century, they were a New Year’s gift very acceptable to
ladies, instead of the wooden skewers which they had hitherto used.
Sometimes, however, in lieu of pins, they received a composition in
money, called _pin money_, an expression which has been extended to a
sum of money secured by a husband on his marriage for the private
expenses of his wife.

Gloves, too, were customary New Year’s gifts. They were far more
expensive than nowadays, and occasionally a sum of money was given
instead, which was called _glove money_.

A hundred years ago, the Poet Laureate not only wrote a New Year’s ode,
by way of salutation to the sovereign and royal family, but those
illustrious personages sat in state at St. James’s, and heard it, as it
was sung by celebrated vocalists, for whom it had been composed by some
expert in music. Now that the Laureate’s song would be worth the
listening to, we have none written especially for the New Year. This
musical festival has ceased to be.--_N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. xi. p. 8.

Latterly, New Year’s Day has been celebrated with but little public
festivity, the only open joyous demonstration being the sound of merry
peals from the church bells, as they ring out the Old and ring in the
New Year.

Many persons make a point of wearing new clothes on this day, and
consider any omission of the kind unlucky. At court it is one of the
twelve _Offering Days_.--_Med. Ævi Kalend._ Hampson, 1841, vol. i. p 33.

In the North of England it is considered unlucky for any inmate to go
out of the house until some one from without has entered it; and the
first foot across the threshold is watched with great anxiety, the good
or bad luck of the house during the year, depending on the first comer
being a man or a woman.--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. xi. p. 244.

Opening the Bible on this day is a superstitious practice observed in
some parts of the country, and much credit is attached to it. It is
usually set about with some little ceremony on the morning, before
breakfast, as it must be performed fasting. The Bible is laid on the
table unopened, and the parties who wish to consult it are then to open
it in succession. They are not at liberty to choose any particular part
of the book, but must open it at random. Wherever this may happen to be,
the inquirer is to place his finger on any chapter contained in the two
open pages, but without any previous perusal or examination. It is
believed that the good or ill fortune, the happiness or the misery, of
the consulting party, during the ensuing year, will be in some way or
other described and foreshown by the contents of the chapter. The custom
is called _dipping_.--_Pop. Antiq._ Brand, 1849, vol. i. p. 20; _N. & Q.
2nd S._ vol. xii. p. 303.

It is customary in some places for persons to carry about decorated
apples, and present them to their friends. The apples have three skewers
of wood stuck into them, so as to form a tripod foundation; and their
sides are ornamented with oat grains, while various evergreens and
berries adorn the top. A raisin is occasionally fastened on each oat
grain, but this is probably an innovation.--_N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. i. p.

In some parts of the county of Nottingham, on the first day of the New
Year, troops of little children might be seen a few years ago, each
bearing an orange, an apple, or a nutmeg, sometimes gilded, and stuck
with cloves or rosemary, which they were carrying to their friends to
ask their blessing; the present thus given was generally carefully
reserved.--_Jour. of the Archæological Association_, 1853, vol. viii. p.


It appears from a MS. in the British Museum (_Status Scholæ Etonensis_,
A.D. 1560, MS. Brit. Mus. Donat. 4843, fol. 423), that the boys of Eton
School used, on the day of the Circumcision, to play for little New
Year’s gifts before and after supper; and that boys had a custom on that
day, for good luck’s sake, of making verses, and sending them to the
provost, masters, &c., as also of presenting them to each other.


Early in the morning the common people assemble together, carrying
stangs and baskets. Any inhabitant, stranger, or whoever joins not this
ruffian tribe in sacrificing to their favourite saint-day, if
unfortunate enough to be met by any of the band, is immediately mounted
across the stang (if a woman, she is basketed), and carried shoulder
high to the nearest public house, where the payment of sixpence
immediately liberates the prisoner. None, though ever so industriously
inclined, are permitted to follow their respective avocations on that
day.--_Gent. Mag._ 1791, vol. lxi. p. 1169.


Formerly the bailiffs of Maldon sent on the first day of the year, to
the king’s vice-admiral of Essex a present of oysters and wild fowl. Sir
John Bramston notices the arrival of the gift on New Year’s Day (March
26), 1688, in his _Autobiography_, printed for the Camden Society in


At Bromyard and its neighbourhood, as twelve o’clock on the 31st of
December draws near, and the last of the Christmas carols are heard
without doors, and a pleasurable excitement is playing on the faces of
the family around the last Christmas log within, a rush is made to the
nearest spring of water, and whoever is fortunate enough to first bring
in the “cream of the well,” as it is termed, and those who first taste
of it, have “prospect of good luck through the forthcoming year.” Also,
in the early hours of the New Year, after a funeral service has been
said over “Old Tom” as the old year is called, at the public-houses and
ale and cider stores, the streets are filled with boys and men, singing
in the loudest tones possible:

    “I wish you a merry Christmas
      And a happy New Year,
    A pocket full of money,
      And a cellar full of beer,
    And a good fat pig
      To serve you all the year.
    Ladies and gentlemen
      Sat (_sic_) by the fire,
    Pity we poor boys
      Out in the mire.”

  _The Antiquary_, 1873, vol. iii. p. 7.

In the neighbourhood of Ross, it is deemed most unfortunate for a woman
to enter the house first, and therefore an inquiry is generally made
whether a male has previously been there. It is customary for the
peasantry to send about on this day a small pyramid, made of leaves,
apples, nuts, &c.--Fosbroke, _Sketches of Ross_, 1822, p. 58.


Should a female, or a light-haired male, be the first to enter a house
on the morning of New Year’s Day, it is supposed to bring bad luck for
the whole of the year then commencing. Various precautions are taken to
prevent this misfortune: hence many male persons with black or dark
hair are in the habit of going from house to house, on that day, to take
the New Year in; for which they are treated with liquor, and presented
with a small gratuity. So far is the apprehension carried, that some
families will not open the door to any one until satisfied by the voice
that he is likely to bring the house a year’s good luck by entering it.

The most kindly and charitable woman in a neighbourhood will strongly
refuse to give any one a light on the morning of New Year’s Day, as most
unlucky to the one who gives it away.--Harland and Wilkinson’s
_Lancashire Folk-Lore_, 1867, p. 214.


On this day an old custom, says Train in his _History of the Isle of
Man_ (1845, vol. ii. p. 115), is observed called the _quaaltagh_. In
almost every parish throughout the island, a party of young men go from
house to house singing the following rhyme:

    “Again we assemble, a merry New Year
    To wish to each one of the family here,
    Whether man, woman, or girl, or boy,
    That long life, and happiness, all may enjoy,
    May they of potatoes and herrings have plenty,
    With butter and cheese, and each other dainty;
    And may their sleep never, by night or day,
    Disturbed be by even the tooth of a flea;
    Until at the Quaaltagh again we appear,
    To wish you, as now, all a happy New Year.”

When these lines are repeated at the door, the whole party are invited
into the house to partake of the best the family can afford. On these
occasions a person of dark complexion always enters first, as a
light-haired male or female is deemed unlucky to be the first-foot or
_quaaltagh_ on New Year’s morning. The actors of the _quaaltagh_ do not
assume fantastic habiliments like the mummers of England, or the
guisards of Scotland, nor do they, like these rude performers of the
Ancient Mysteries, appear ever to have been attended by minstrels
playing on different kinds of musical instruments.


The following extract, relating to Newcastle-on-Tyne, is taken from the
_North of England Advertiser_ of January 4th, 1873:

The children on New Year’s morn are busy begging their New Year’s gifts,
saying, “Old Year out, New Year in; please give us my New Year’s gift;”
or “A merry Christmas and a happy New Year;” followed by the usual
appeal for a present. The first-foot is an important personage. If he
should be a dark man, it is a sign of good luck; if a light one not so
lucky; but alas! if a woman, the worst luck will befall the household.
Similar to the first hearing of the cuckoo, it is of the greatest
importance whether or not you have money in your pocket and your
cupboard full on New Year’s Day.


In this county it is considered unlucky to remove anything from a house
until something has been brought in, and therefore, early in the
morning, each member of the family carries some trifling thing in. In
the neighbourhood of Newark, this rhyme is sung:

    “Take out, and take in,
    Bad luck is sure to begin;
    But take in and take out.
    Good luck will come about.”

  _Jour. of Arch. Assoc._ 1853, vol. viii. p. 231.

Brand, in his _Pop. Antiq._ (1849, vol. i. p. 15), alludes to this
custom as existing in Lincoln and its neighbourhood. The rhyme he quotes
is slightly different from the above:

    “Take out, then take in,
    Bad luck will begin;
    Take in, then take out,
    Good luck comes in.”


Pointer, in his _Oxoniensis Academia_ (1749, p. 71), alludes to a
custom, observed at Brasenose College, Oxford, of the Bachelors of Arts
and Undergraduates belonging to the college going in a body on New
Year’s Day to their Principal, and each presenting him with an epistle
by way of a New Year’s gift, wishing him a happy New Year.

We learn from the same writer, that it was formerly the practice at
Queen’s College to give a needle and thread to the Fellows, being a
rebus on their founder’s name, Eglesfield, _aiguille_ in French
signifying a needle, and _fil_ a thread (p. 38).


A grotesque manorial custom is described as being kept up in the reign
of Charles II., in connection with Hilton. There existed in that house a
hollow brass image, about a foot high, representing a man kneeling in an
indecorous position. It was known all over the country as Jack of
Hilton. There were two apertures; one very small at the mouth, another
about two-thirds of an inch in diameter at the back, and the interior
would hold rather more than four pints of water, which, says Plot
(_History of Staffordshire_, 1686, p. 433), ‘when set to a strong fire,
evaporates in the same manner as in an Æolopile, and vents itself at the
mouth in a constant blast, blowing the fire so strongly that it is very
audible, and makes a sensible impression in that part of the fire where
the blast lights.’

The custom was this. An obligation lay upon the lord of the adjacent
manor of Essington, every New Year’s Day, to bring a goose to Hilton,
and drive it three times round the hall-fire, which Jack of Hilton was
all the time blowing by the discharge of his steam. He was then to carry
the bird into the kitchen and deliver it to the cook; and when it was
dressed he was to carry it in a dish to the table of his lord paramount,
the lord of Hilton, receiving in return a dish of meat for his own mess.

An annual payment, called Moseley’s Dole, was formerly made by the
corporation, consisting of a penny a piece to all the inhabitants of
Walsall, and of the adjoining parish of Rushall, which is supposed to
have anciently formed part of that of Walsall.

Three persons were employed to make the distribution, who began on New
Year’s Day, and went through the parishes, giving a penny to each inmate
of every house, whether permanently or accidentally abiding there.

It is stated by Plot (_History of Staffordshire_), that the earliest
mention of this dole is in the 36th Henry VIII., when 7_l._ 10_s._ 9_d._
discharged it. The first trace of it, however, that is found in the
documents of the corporation is in 1632, when its amount was 14_l._
9_s._ 4_d._ The amount increased gradually till 1799, when it was
60_l._, and until the time of its cessation in 1825, it remained yearly
about the same.

There are many traditions respecting the origin of this dole, but they
all concur in attributing it to one Thomas Moseley, from whom an estate
at Bascott in Warwickshire was derived. The donor, in granting this
estate to the Corporation, charged it with the annual payment of nine
marks to the Abbot of Hales Owen, “who should keep one mark for his
labours in distributing the remaining eight marks, at the _obit_ of the
said Thomas Moseley at Walsall, for the souls of the said Thomas and
Margary his wife, and others; and this by the oversight of the Vicar of
Walsall, and of all the chaplains of the Guild of St. John the Baptist,
of the church of Walsall.”

The eight marks above named were no doubt the origin of the dole, and
would, before the Reformation, be amply sufficient to supply a penny a
piece to all the parishioners, or at least to all who repaired to the
church on the obit day, to pray for the donor and his wife--a
superstitious custom which caused the estate to be seized by Henry
VIII., when he suppressed the monasteries.--_History of Staffordshire_,
White, 1857, p. 645; _Old English Customs and Charities_, 1842, p. 55.


At Hastings, apples, nuts, oranges, &c., as well as money, are thrown
out of the windows to be scrambled for by the fisher-boys and men. The
custom is not kept up with the spirit of former days.


In the city of Coventry a sort of cake known by the name of _God-cakes_
is sent. They are used by all classes, and vary in price from a
halfpenny to one pound. They are invariably made in a triangular shape,
an inch thick, and filled with a kind of mincemeat. So general is the
use of them on the first day of the New Year, that the cheaper sorts are
hawked about the streets as hot cross buns are on Good Friday in London.
This custom seems peculiar to Coventry.--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. ii. p.


A belief exists in this county, that if the carol singer who first comes
to the door on New Year’s morning be admitted at the front door,
conducted through the house, and let out at the back the inmates will
have good luck during the year.--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. iii. p. 313.


The following quaint account of a whimsical custom formerly observed on
New Year’s Day is taken from Blount’s _Fragmenta Antiquitatis_, 1815, p.

Near Hutton Conyers there is a large common, called Hutton Conyers Moor,
whereof William Aislabie, Esq., of Studley Royal (lord of the Manor of
Hutton Conyers), is lord of the soil, and on which there is a large
coney-warren belonging to the lord. The occupiers of messuages and
cottages within the several towns of Hutton Conyers, Baldersby, Rainton,
Dishforth, and Hewick, have right of estray for their sheep to certain
limited boundaries on the common, and each township has a shepherd.

The lord’s shepherd has a pre-eminence of tending his sheep on every
part of the common; and wherever he herds the lord’s sheep, the several
other shepherds are to give way to him, and give up their
_hoofing-place_ so long as he pleases to depasture the lord’s sheep
thereon. The lord holds his court the first day in the year, to entitle
those several townships to such right of estray; the shepherd of each
township attends the court, and does fealty, by bringing to the court a
large apple-pie, and a twopenny sweetcake (except the shepherd of
Hewick, who compounds by paying sixteen-pence for all, which is drunk as
after mentioned,) and a wooden spoon; each pie is cut in two, and
divided by the bailiff, one half between the steward, bailiff, and the
tenant of the coney-warren before mentioned, and the other half into six
parts, and divided amongst the six shepherds of the above mentioned six
townships. In the pie brought by the shepherd of Rainton an inner one is
made, filled with prunes. The cakes are divided in the same manner. The
bailiff of the manor provides furmenty and mustard, and delivers to each
shepherd a slice of cheese and a penny roll. The furmenty, well mixed
with mustard, is put into an earthen pot, and placed in a hole in the
ground, in a garth belonging to the bailiff’s house; to which place the
steward of the court, with the bailiff, tenant of the warren, and six
shepherds, adjourn with their respective wooden spoons. The bailiff
provides spoons for the stewards, the tenant of the warren, and himself.
The steward first pays respect to the furmenty, by taking a large
spoonful; the bailiff has the next honour, the tenant of the warren
next, then the shepherd of Hutton Conyers, and afterwards the other
shepherds by regular turns; then each person is served with a glass of
ale (paid for by the sixteen-pence brought by the Hewick shepherd), and
the health of the lord of the manor is drank; then they adjourn back to
the bailiff’s house, and the further business of the court is proceeded

Each pie contains about a peck of flour, is about sixteen or eighteen
inches diameter, and as large as will go into the mouth of an ordinary
oven. The bailiff of the manor measures them with a rule, and takes the
diameter; and if they are not of a sufficient capacity, he threatens to
return them, and fine the town. If they are large enough, he divides
them with a rule and compasses into four equal parts; of which the
steward claims one, the warrener another, and the remainder is divided
amongst the shepherds. In respect to the furmenty, the top of the dish
in which it is put is placed level with the surface of the ground; all
persons present are entitled to eat of it, and those who do not, are not
deemed loyal to the lord. Every shepherd is obliged to eat of it, and
for that purpose is to take a spoon in his pocket to the court; for if
any of them neglect to carry a spoon with him he is to lay him down upon
his belly, and sup the furmenty, with his face to the pot or dish; at
which time it is usual, by way of sport, for some of the bystanders to
dip his face into the furmenty; and sometimes a shepherd, for the sake
of diversion, will purposely leave his spoon at home.

In the North Riding of Yorkshire, those who have not the common
materials for making a fire, generally sit without one on New Year’s
Day; for none of their neighbours, although hospitable at other times,
will suffer them to light a candle at their fires. If they do, it is
believed that one of the family will die within the year.--_Gent. Mag._
1811, vol. lxxxi. p. 424.

Subjoined is all that appears to have survived of the Yorkshire _Hagmena

    “To-night it is the New Year’s night, to-morrow is the day,
    And we are come for our right and for our ray,
    As we used to do in old King Henry’s day
        Sing fellows, sing, hag man, ha!

    If you go to the bacon-flick, cut me a good bit;
    Cut, cut, and low, beware of your maw;
    Cut, cut, and round, beware of your thumb,
    That me and my merry men may have some.
        Sing fellows, sing, hag-man, ha!

    If you go to the black ark, bring me ten marks;
    Ten marks, ten pound, throw it down upon the ground,
    That me and my merry men may have some.
        Sing fellows, sing, hag-man, ha!”

  Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._ 1870, vol. i. p. 11.

  [2] See ‘New Year’s Eve.’


In the Memoirs of Lord Langdale by Sir T. D. Hardy, 1852, vol. i. p. 55,
occurs the following:

“Being in Scotland, I ought to tell you of Scotch customs; and really
they have a charming one on this occasion (i.e. New Year’s Day). Whether
it is meant as a farewell ceremony to the old one, or an introduction
to the New Year, I can’t tell; but on the 31st of December, almost
everybody has a party, either to dine or sup. The company, almost
entirely consisting of young people, wait together till twelve o’clock
strikes, at which time every one begins to move, and they all fall to
work. At what? why, kissing. Each male is successively locked in pure
Platonic embrace with each female; and after this grand ceremony, which
of course creates infinite fun, they separate and go home. This matter
is not at all confined to these, but wherever man meets woman it is the
particular privilege of this hour. The common people think it necessary
to drink what they call _hot-pint_, which consists of strong beer,
whisky, eggs, &c.; a most horrid composition; as bad, or worse than that
infamous mixture called _fig-one_,[3] which the English people drink on
Good Friday.”

  [3] Doubtless a misprint for _fig-sue_. See under Good Friday.

The letter from which this is an extract is signed Henry Beckersteth,
and dated Edinburgh, January 1st, 1802.

Till very few years ago, in Scotland (says a correspondent of Chambers’
_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 28), the custom of _first-footing_ was
practised on New Year’s morning.

On the approach of twelve o’clock of the last night of the old year, a
_hot-pint_[4] was prepared--that is, a kettle or flagon full of warm,
spiced, and sweetened ale, with an infusion of spirits. When the clock
had struck the knell of the departed year, each member of the family
drank of this mixture, “and good health, and a happy New Year, and many
of them, to all the rest,” with a general hand-shaking, and perhaps a
dance round the table, with the addition of a song to the tune of Hey
tuttie taitie:

    “Weel may we a’ be,
    Ill may we never see.
    Here’s to the king
    And the gude companie!” &c.

  [4] Called also a _het-pint_. _Time’s Telescope_, 1824, p. 3.

The elders of the family would then most probably sally out with the hot
kettle, and bearing also a competent provision of buns and short-bread,
or bread-and-cheese, with the design of visiting their neighbours, and
interchanging with them the same cordial greetings. If they met by the
way another party similarly bent whom they knew, they would stop, and
give and take sips from their respective kettles. Reaching the friend’s
house, they would enter with vociferous good wishes, and soon send the
kettle circulating. If they were the first to enter the house since
twelve o’clock they were deemed as the _first-foot_; and as such it was
most important for luck to the family in the coming year, that they
should make this entry not empty-handed, but with their hands full of
cakes, and bread-and-cheese; of which, on the other hand, civility
demanded that each individual in the house should partake.

To such an extent did this custom prevail in Edinburgh, in the
recollection of persons still living, that according to their account,
the principal streets were more thronged between twelve and one in the
morning than they usually were at mid-day. Much innocent mirth
prevailed, and mutual good feelings were largely promoted. An unlucky
circumstance which took place on the 1st January, 1812, proved the means
of nearly extinguishing the custom. A small party of reckless boys
formed the design of turning the innocent festivities of _first-footing_
to account for purposes of plunder. They kept their counsel well. No
sooner had the people come abroad on the principal thoroughfares of the
Old Town than these youths sallied out in small bands, and commenced the
business which they had undertaken. Their previous agreement was _to
look out for the white neckcloths_, such being the best mark by which
they could distinguish in the dark individuals likely to carry any
property worthy of being taken. A great number of gentlemen were thus
spoiled of their watches and other valuables. The least resistance was
resented by the most brutal maltreatment. A policeman and a young man of
the rank of a clerk in Leith died of the injuries they had received. An
affair so singular, so uncharacteristic of the people among whom it
happened, produced a widespread and lasting feeling of surprise. The
outrage was expiated by the execution of three of the youthful rioters
on the chief scene of their wickedness; but from that time it was
observed that the old custom of going about with the _hot pint_--the
ancient wassail--fell off.

There was in Scotland also a _first-footing_ independent of the
_hot-pint_. It was a time for some youthful friend of the family to
steal to the door, in the hope of meeting there the young maiden of his
fancy, and obtaining the privilege of a kiss as her _first-foot_. Great
was the disappointment on his part, and great the joking among the
family, if, through accident or plan, some half-withered aunt or ancient
grand-dame came to receive him instead of the blooming Jenny.--_Book of
Days_, vol. i. p. 29.

In the south of Scotland, as soon as the clock has struck the midnight
hour, one of a family goes to the well as quickly as possible, and
carefully skims it; this they call getting the scum or ream (cream) of
the well:

    “Twall struck--twa neebour hizzies raise,
      An’ liltin gaed a sad gate;
    The flower o’ the well to our house gaes
      An’ I’ll the bonniest lad get.”

The _flower of the well_ signifies the first pail of water, and the girl
who is so fortunate as to obtain the prize is supposed to have more than
a double chance of obtaining the most accomplished young man in the
parish.--_Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 129.

As soon as the last night of the year sets in, it is the signal with the
Strathdown Highlander for the suspension of his usual employment, and he
directs his attention to more agreeable callings. The men form into
bands, with tethers and axes, and shaping their course to the juniper
bushes, they return home laden with mighty loads, which are arranged
round the fire to dry until morning. A certain discreet person is
despatched to the _dead and living ford_ to draw a pitcher of water in
profound silence, without the vessel touching the ground, lest its
virtue should be destroyed, and on his return all retire to rest. Early
on New Year’s morning the _usque-cashrichd_, or water from the _dead and
living ford_, is drunk, as a potent charm until next New Year’s Day,
against the spells of witchcraft, the malignity of evil eyes, and the
activity of all infernal agency. The qualified Highlander then takes a
large brush, with which he profusely asperses the occupants of all beds;
from whom it is not unusual for him to receive ungrateful remonstrances
against ablution. This ended, and the doors and windows being thoroughly
closed, and all crevices stopped, he kindles piles of the collected
juniper in the different apartments, till the vapour from the burning
branches condenses into opaque clouds, and coughing, sneezing, wheezing,
gasping, and other demonstrations of suffocation ensue. The operator,
aware that the more intense the “smuchdan” the more propitious the
solemnity, disregards these indications, and continues, with streaming
eyes and averted head, to increase the fumigation, until in his own
defence he admits the air to recover the exhausted household and
himself. He then treats the horses, cattle, and other bestial stock in
the town with the same smothering, to keep them from harm throughout the
year. When the gude wife gets up, and having ceased from coughing, has
gained sufficient strength to reach the bottle _dhu_, she administers
its comfort to the relief of the sufferers; laughter takes the place of
complaint, all the family get up, wash their faces, and receive the
visits of their neighbours, who arrive full of congratulations peculiar
to the day. _Mu nase choil orst_, “My Candlemas bond upon you,” is the
customary salutation, and means, in plain words, “You owe me a New
Year’s gift.” A point of great emulation is, who shall salute the other
first, because the one who does so is entitled to a gift from the person
saluted. Breakfast, consisting of all procurable luxuries, is then
served, the neighbours not engaged are invited to partake, and the day
ends in festivity.--_Popular Superstitions of the Highlanders of
Scotland_, Stewart, 1851.

Pennant, in his _Tour in Scotland_ (1790, vol. i. p. 206), says that on
New Year’s Day the Highlanders burn juniper before their cattle.


At the commencement of the New Year[5] the opulent burghers of Montrose
begin to feast with their friends, and to go a round of visits, which
takes up the space of many weeks. Upon such occasions, the gravest is
expected to be merry, and to join in a cheerful song.--_Stat. Acc. of
Scotland_, Sinclair, 1793, vol. v. p. 48.

  [5] Also at Christmas.


At Lady, companies of men go to the houses of the rich, and awake the
family by singing the New Year’s song, in full chorus. When the song is
concluded, the family entertain the musicians with ale and bread, and
give them a smoked goose or a piece of beef.--_Stat. Acc. of Scotland_,
1845, vol. xv. p. 142.

At the parishes of Cross, Burness, &c., New Year’s gifts, under the
title of “Christmas presents,” are given to maid-servants by their
masters.--_Stat. Account of Scotland_, Sinclair, 1793, vol. vii. p. 488.



The first Monday of the year is a great holiday among the peasantry of
Scotland and children generally, as being the day peculiarly devoted in
that country to the giving and receiving of presents. It is on this
account called _Handsel Monday_, handsel being in Scotland the
equivalent of a Christmas-box, but more especially implying a gift at
the commencement of a season or the induing of some new garment. The
young people visit their seniors in expectation of _tips_ (the _word_,
but not the _action_, unknown in the north). Postmen, scavengers, and
deliverers of newspapers look for their little annual guerdons. Among
the rural population, _Auld Handsel Monday_, i.e. Handsel Monday old
style, or the first Monday after the twelfth of the month, is the day
usually held. The farmers used to treat the whole of their servants on
that morning to a liberal breakfast of roast and boiled, with ale,
whisky, and cake, to their utmost contentment, after which the guests
went about seeing their friends for the remainder of the day. It was
also the day on which any disposed for change gave up their places, and
when new servants were engaged. Even now, when most old fashions are
much decayed, _Auld Handsel Monday_ continues to be the holiday of the
year to the class of farm-labourers in Scotland.--_Book of Days_, vol.
i. p. 52.


At Currie the annual fair and Old Handsel Monday are the only periodical
holidays for the working classes; on which latter occasion the servants
enjoy the pleasure of returning to the bosom of their families, and
spending the close of the day with their friends. The early part is
generally observed in the less innocent amusement of raffles, and
shooting with fire-arms, which, being often old and rusty, as well as
wielded by inexperienced hands, have occasioned some disagreeable
accidents.--_Stat. Acc. of Scotland_ 1845, vol. i. p. 550.


Formerly itinerant minstrels used to bear a bowl of spiced wine to the
houses of the gentry and others, from whom they expected a hospitable
reception, and calling their bowl a wassail-bowl, they drank wassail to
their entertainers.

In ancient kalendars is an observation on the 5th day of January, the
Vigil of the Epiphany, “Kings created by beans,” and the sixth day is
called “Festival of Kings,” with another remark, that “the ceremony of
electing kings was continued with feasting for many days.”--_Med. Ævi
Kalend._ vol. i. p. 134.


At Kingsbridge and Salcombe it was formerly customary for the ciderist,
attended by his workmen with a large can or pitcher of cider, guns
charged with powder, &c., to repair to the orchard, and there at the
foot of one of the best-bearing apple-trees, drink the following toast
three times repeated, discharging the fire-arms in conclusion:

    “Here’s to thee, old apple tree,
    Whence thou may’st bud,
    And whence thou may’st blow!
    And whence thou may’st bear apples enow!
    Hats full! caps full!
    Bushel--bushel-sacks full!
    And my pockets full too! Huzza!”

The pitcher being emptied, they returned to the house, the doors of
which they were certain to find bolted by the females; who, however bad
the weather might be, were inexorable to all entreaties to open them,
till some one had divined what was on the spit. This was generally not
easily thought of, and if edible was the reward of him who first named
it. The party were then admitted.--_Kingsbridge and Salcombe
Historically Depicted_, 1819, p. 71. Vide _Gent. Mag._ 1791, vol. lxi.
p. 403.

Brand, on the authority of a Cornishman, relates it also as a custom
with the Devonshire people to go after supper into the orchard with a
large milk-pan full of cider, having roasted apples pressed into it. Out
of this each person in company takes what is called a _clome_--i.e.
earthenware--cup, full of liquor, and standing under each of the more
fruitful apple-trees, passing by those that are not good bearers, he
addresses them in the following words:

    “Health to thee, good apple tree,
    Well to bear pocket-fulls, hat-fulls,
    Peck-fulls, bushel bag-fulls;”

and then drinking up part of the contents, he throws the rest, with the
fragments of the roasted apples, at the tree. At each cup, the company
set up a shout.--_Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 29.

Herrick thus alludes to this custom and the superstition attached to it:

    “Wassail the trees, that they may bear
    You many a plum and many a pear;
    For more or less fruit they will bring,
    As you do give them wassailing.”


In the parish of Pauntley, and the surrounding neighbourhood, the
servants of each farmer formerly assembled together in one of the fields
that had been sown with wheat. At the end of twelve lands, they made
twelve fires in a row with straw, around one of which, much larger than
the rest, they drank a cheerful glass of cider to their master’s health,
and success to the future harvest; then, returning home, they feasted on
cakes soaked in cider, which they claimed as a reward for their past
labours in sowing the grain.--Fosbrooke, _Hist. of Gloucestershire_,
1807, vol. ii. p. 232.


At the approach of the evening, the farmers with their friends and
servants meet together, and about six o’clock walk out to a field where
wheat is growing. In the highest part of the ground, twelve small fires
and one large one, are lighted up.[6] The attendants, headed by the
master of the family, pledge the company in old cider, which circulates
freely on these occasions. A circle is formed round the large fire, when
a general shout and hallooing takes place, which you hear answered from
all the adjacent villages and fields. Sometimes fifty or sixty of these
fires may be seen all at once. This being finished, the company return
home, where the good housewife and her maids are preparing a good
supper. A large cake is always provided, with a hole in the middle.
After supper, the company all attend the bailiff (or head of the oxen)
to the wain-house, where the following particulars are observed: The
master, at the head of his friends, fills the cup (generally with strong
ale), and stands opposite the first or finest of the oxen. He then
pledges him in a curious toast, the company follow his example with all
the other oxen, addressing each by his name. This being finished, the
large cake is produced, and, with much ceremony put on the horn of the
first ox, through the hole above mentioned.

  [6] These fires represented our Lord and the twelve Apostles.

The ox is then tickled, to make him toss his head; if he throw the cake
behind, it is the mistress’s perquisite; if before (in what is termed
the boosy) the bailiff himself claims the prize. The company then return
to the house, the doors of which they find locked, nor will they be
opened until some joyous songs are sung. On their gaining admittance a
scene of mirth ensues, which lasts the greater part of the
night.--_Gent. Mag._ 1791, vol. lxi. p. 116.


According to Blount the inhabitants of this county at one time made a
fire on the eve of the Epiphany, in memory of the blazing star that
conducted the three Magi to the manger at Bethlehem.


In the neighbourhood of Leeds, families formerly invited their
relations, friends, and neighbours to their houses, for the purpose of
playing at cards, and partaking of a supper of which mince pies were an
indispensable ingredient. After supper was over the wassail-cup or
wassail-bowl was brought in, of which every one partook, by taking with
a spoon out of the ale a roasted apple and eating it, and then drinking
the healths of the company out of the bowl, wishing them a merry
Christmas, and a happy New Year. The festival of Christmas used in this
part of the country to be held for twenty days, and some persons
extended it even to Candlemas.

The ingredients put into the bowl, viz., ale, sugar, nutmeg, and roasted
apples, were usually called _lambs’ wool_, and the night on which it was
drunk was commonly called _Wassail Eve_.--_Gent. Mag._ 1784, vol. liv.
p. 98.


In Ireland “on Twelve Eve in Christmas, they use to set up as high as
they can a sieve of oats, and in it a dozen of candles set round, and in
the centre one larger, all lighted. This in memory of our Saviour and
his Apostles, light of the world.”--Sir Henry Piers’ _Description of the
County of Westmeath_, 1682, in Vallancey’s _Collectanea de Rebus
Hibernicis_, vol. i. No. 1, p. 124.



In its character as a popular festival, Twelfth Day stands only inferior
to Christmas. The leading object held in view is to do honour to “the
three wise men,” or, as they are more generally denominated, “the three
kings.” It is a Christian custom, ancient past memory, and probably
suggested by a paean custom, to indulge in a pleasantry called the
_Election of kings by beans_. Some, however, maintain it to have been
derived from the custom observed by the Roman children, who, at the end
of their saturnalia, drew lots with beans, to see who would be king.

In England in later times, a large cake was made, with a bean or silver
penny inserted, and this was called _Twelfth-cake_. The family and
friends being assembled, the cake was divided by lot, and whoever got
the piece containing the bean was accepted as the king for the day, and
called King of the Bean. It appears also that there was always a queen
as well as a king on Twelfth-Night. A writer, speaking of the
celebration in the South of England in 1774, says: “After tea a cake is
produced with two bowls containing the fortunate chances for the
different sexes. The host fills up the tickets, and the whole company,
except the king and queen, are to be ministers of state, maids of
honour, or ladies of the bed-chamber. Often the host and hostess, more
by design than accident, become king and queen. According to Twelfth Day
law, each party is to support his character till midnight.”

In the sixteenth century it would appear that some peculiar ceremonies
followed the election of the king and queen. Barnaby Googe, in his
paraphrase of the curious poem of Naogeorgus, _The Popish Kingdom_,
1570, states that the king, on being elected, was raised up with great
cries to the ceiling, where with chalk he inscribed crosses on the
rafters to protect the house against evil spirits.--_Book of Days_,
1863, vol. i. p. 62. See also _Every Day Book_, 1827, vol. i. p. 51.

Herrick, the poet of our festivals, has several allusions to the
celebration of this day of our ancestors, as may be seen in the
subjoined poem:


      “Now, now the mirth comes
      With the cake full of plums,
    Where beane’s the king of the sport here;
      Besides, we must know,
      The pea also
    Must revell, as queene, in the court here.

      Begin then to chuse
      (This night as ye use)
    Who shall for the present delight here,
      Be a king be the lot,
      And who shall not
    Be Twelfe-day queene for the night here.

      Which knowne, let us make
      Joy-sops with the cake;
    And let not a man then be seene here.
      Who unurg’d will not drinke,
      To the base from the brink,
    A health to the king and queene here.

      Next crowne the bowle full
      With gentle lamb’s-wooll;
    Adde sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
      With store of ale too;
      And thus ye must doe
    To make the wassaile a swinger.

      Give them to the king
      And queene wassailing;
    And though with ale ye be whet here;
      Yet part ye from hence,
      As free from offence,
    As when ye innocent met here.”

In the last century _Twelfth Night Cards_ represented ministers, maids
of honour, and other attendants of a court, and the characters were to
be supported through the night. John Britton, in his _Autobiography_
tells us “he suggested and wrote a series of Twelfth Night characters,
to be printed on cards, placed in a bag, and drawn out at parties on the
memorable and merry evening of that ancient festival. They were sold in
small packets to pastrycooks, and led the way to a custom which annually
grew to an extensive trade. For the second year my pen-and-ink
characters were accompanied by prints of the different personages by
Cruikshank (father of the inimitable George), all of a comic or
ludicrous kind.” Such characters are still printed.--_Book of Days_,
vol. i. p. 64.

Formerly the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, and the Guilds of London, used to
go to St. Paul’s on Twelfth Day to hear a sermon. This is mentioned as
an old custom in the early part of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

Twelfth Day and its customs appear to have been observed by royalty
almost from time immemorial. At the English court in the eighth year of
the reign of Edward III., the majestic title of _King of the Bean_ was
conferred upon one of the king’s minstrels, as appears by a _Compotus_
of that date, which states that sixty shillings were given by the king
on the day of the Epiphany to Regan, the trumpeter, and his associates,
the court minstrels, in the name of the king of the bean.--Strutt,
_Sports and Pastimes_, 1801, p. 255.

The grand state of the sovereign on Twelfth Day, and the manner of
keeping festival at court, in the reign of King Henry VII., are set
forth in Le Neve’s MS., called _The Royalle Book_, to the following

As for Twelfth Day, the king must go crowned in his royal robes, kirtle,
surcoat, his furred hood about his neck, his mantle with a long train,
and his cutlas before him; his armills upon his arms, of gold set full
of rich stones; and no temporal man to touch it but the king himself;
and the squire for the body must bring it to the king in a fair
kerchief, and the king must put them on himself; and he must have his
sceptre in his right hand, and the ball with the cross in the left hand,
and the crown upon his head. And he must offer that day gold, myrrh, and
sense; then must the dean of the chapel send unto the Archbishop of
Canterbury by clerk or priest the king’s offering that day; and then
must the Archbishop give the next benefice that falleth in his gift to
the same messenger. And then the king must change his mantle when he
goeth to meat, and take off his hood and lay it about his neck, and
clasp it before with a great rich ouche; and this must be of the same
colour that he offered in. And the queen in the same form when she is

The same day that he goeth crowned he ought to go to matins; to which
array belongeth his kirtle, surcoat, tabard, and his furred hood slyved
over his head, and rolled about his neck; and on his head his cap of
estate, and his sword before him.

At even-song he must go in his kirtle and surcoat, and hood laid about
his shoulders, and clasp the tippet and hood together before his breast
with a great rich ouche, and his hat of estate upon his head.

As for the _void_ on the Twelfth Night, the king and the queen ought to
have it in the hall. And as for the wassail, the steward, the treasurer,
and the controller, shall come for it with their staves in their hands;
the king’s sewer and the queen’s having fair towels about their necks,
and dishes in their hands, such as the king and queen shall eat of; the
king’s carvers and the queen’s shall come after with chargers or dishes,
such as the king or the queen shall eat of, and with towels about their
necks. And no man shall bear anything unless sworn for three months. And
the steward, treasurer, comptroller, and marshall of the hall shall
ordain for all the hall. And, if it be in the great chamber, then shall
the chamberlain and ushers ordain, after the above form; and if there be
a bishop, his own squire, or else the king’s, such as the officers
choose to assign, shall serve him; and so of all the other estates, if
they be dukes or earls; and so of duchesses and countesses. And then
there must come in the ushers of the chamber, with the pile of cups, the
king’s cups and the queen’s, and the bishop’s with the butlers and wine
to the cupboard, and then a squire for the body to bear the cup, and
another for the queen’s cup, such as is sworn for hire.

The singers [of the chapel] may stand at the one side of the hall, and
when the steward cometh in at the hall-door, with the wassail, he must
cry thrice “Wassaile,” &c., and then shall the chapel answer it anon
with a good song, and thus in likewise, if it please the king to keep
the great chamber. And then when the king and queen have done, they will
go into the chamber. And there belongeth for the king, two lights with
the void, and two lights with the cup; and for the queen as
many.--_Antiq. Rep._ 1807, vol. i. p. 328.

On Twelfth Day, 1563, Mary Queen of Scots celebrated the French pastime
of the King of the Bean at Holyrood, but with a queen instead of a king,
as more appropriate, in consideration of herself being a female
sovereign. The lot fell to the real queen’s attendant, Mary Fleming, and
the mistress good-naturedly arrayed the servant in her own robes and
jewels, that she might duly sustain the mimic dignity in the festivities
of the night. The English resident, Randolph, who was in love with Mary
Beton, another of the queen’s maids of honour, wrote in excited terms
about this festival to the Earl of Leicester. “Happy was it,” says he,
“unto this realm, that her reign endured no longer. Two such sights, in
one state, in so good accord, I believe was never seen, as to behold two
worthy queens possess, without envy, one kingdom, both upon a day. I
leave the rest to your lordship to be judged of. My pen staggereth, my
hand faileth, further to write.----The Queen of the Bean was that day in
a gown of cloth of silver; her head, her neck, her shoulders, the rest
of her whole body, so beset with stones, that more in our whole
jewel-house were not to be found. The cheer was great. I never found
myself so happy, nor so well treated, until that it came to the point
that the old Queen (Mary) herself, to show her mighty power, contrary
unto the assurance granted me by the younger Queen (Mary Fleming), drew
me into the dance; which part of the play I could with good will have
spared unto your lordship as much fitter for the purpose.”--_Lives of
the Queens of Scotland_, Strickland, vol. iv. p. 20.

Down to the time of the Civil Wars, the feast of the Epiphany was
observed with great splendour, not only at court, but at the Inns of
Court, and the Universities (where it was an old custom to choose the
king by the bean in a cake), as well as in private mansions and smaller
households. We read, too, of our nobility keeping Twelfth Night by the
diversion of blowing up pasteboard castles; letting claret flow like
blood out of a stag made of paste; the castle bombarded from a
pasteboard ship, with cannon, in the midst of which the company pelted
each other with egg-shells filled with rose-water; and large pies were
made, filled with live frogs, which hopped and flew out upon some
curious person lifting up the lid. Twelfth Night grew to be a court
festival, in which gaming was a costly feature. Evelyn tells us that on
Twelfth Night, 1662, according to custom, His Majesty (Charles II.)
opened the revels of that night by throwing the dice himself in the
privy chamber, where was a table set on purpose, and lost his
100_l._--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 63.


In Cumberland, and other northern parts of England, on Twelfth Night,
which finishes the Christmas holidays, the rustics meet together in a
large room. They begin dancing at seven o’clock, and finish at twelve,
when they sit down to _lobscouse_ and _ponsondie_; the former is made of
beef, potatoes, and onions, fried together; and in ponsondie we
recognise the wassail or waes-hael of ale, boiled with sugar and nutmeg,
into which are put roasted apples; the anciently admired lambs’-wool.
The feast is paid for by subscription; two women are chosen, who with
two wooden bowls placed one within the other, so as to leave an opening
and a space between them, go round to the female part of the society in
succession, and what one puts into the uppermost bowl the attendant
collectress slips into the bowl beneath it. All are expected to
contribute something, but not more than a shilling, and they are best
esteemed who give most. The men choose two from themselves and follow
the same custom, except that as the gentlemen are not supposed to be so
fair in their dealings as the ladies, one of the collectors is furnished
with pen, ink, and paper, to set down the subscription as soon as
received.--_Time’s Telescope_, 1825, p. 13.

In many of the small towns they partake of scalded field-peas, and a
hare or some other kind of game. The peas are brought to table with the
hare, and are scalded in water with the husks on, after which a lump of
butter is put in the middle, and they are picked out as they are eaten.
The supper concludes with a _tharve-cake_, a large, flat, oaten cake,
baked on a girdle, sometimes with plums in it. Dancing and drinking then
occupy the remainder of the evening. Tar barrels are common at all their
festivals, and scarcely a town is without them.--_Ibid._ 1829, p. 11.


The morris-dancers who go about from village to village about Twelfth
Day, have their fool, their Maid Marian (generally a man dressed in
woman’s clothes, and called “the fool’s wife,”) and sometimes the
hobby-horse; they are dressed up in ribbons and tinsel, but the bells
are usually discarded.--_Jour. of Arch. Assoc._ 1852, vol. vii. p. 201.


The rector of Piddle Hinton gives away on Old Christmas Day a pound of
bread, a pint of ale, and a mince pie, to every poor person in the
parish. This distribution is regularly made by the rector to upwards of
three hundred persons.--Edwards, _Old English Customs and Charities_,
1842, p. 6.


Anciently the Mowbrays had great possessions in and about the Isle of
Axholme, and a seat, at which they principally resided, and were
considered the greatest folks in that part of the country. It so
happened that on Old Christmas Day, while a young lady (the daughter of
the then Mowbray) was riding over the Meeres to the church by an old
road (at that time the principal one across the village) a gale of wind
blew off her hood. Twelve farming men who were working in the fields saw
the occurrence, and ran to gather up the hood, and in such earnest were
they that the lady took so much amusement at the scene she forbade her
own attendants joining in the pursuit. The hood being captured, and
replaced on the lady’s head, she expressed her obligation to the men,
giving them each some money, and promised a piece of land (to be vested
in certain persons in trust) to throw up a hood annually on Old
Christmas Day.[7] She also ordered that the twelve men engaged to
contest the race for the hood should be clothed (_pro temp._) in scarlet
jerkins and velvet caps: the hood to be thrown in the same place as the
one where she lost hers. The custom is yet followed; and though the
Meeres on which she was riding has long ago been brought into a state of
cultivation, and the road through been diverted, yet an old mill stands
in the field where the road passed through, and is pointed out as the
place where the original scene took place, and the hood is usually
thrown up from this mill. There is generally a great concourse of people
from the neighbouring villages who also take part in the proceedings;
and when the hood is thrown up by the chief of the _boggons_, or by the
officials, it becomes the object of the villagers to get the hood to
their own village, by throwing or kicking it, similar to the foot-ball.
The other eleven men, called _boggons_, being stationed at the comers
and sides of the field to prevent, if possible, its being thrown out of
the field; and should it chance to fall into any of their hands it is
“boggoned,” and forthwith returned to the chief, who again throws it up
from the mill as before. Whoever is fortunate enough to get it out of
the field, tries to get it to his village, and usually takes it to the
public house he is accustomed to frequent, and the landlord regales him
with hot ale and rum.

  [7] The quantity of land given by Lady Mowbray was forty acres, known
  by the name of the Hoodlands.

The game usually continues until dusk, and is frequently attended by
broken shins and bruised heads. The next day is occupied by the boggons
going round the villages, singing as waits, who are regaled with hot
furmenty; from some they get coppers given them, and from others a small
measure of wheat, according to the means of the donor. The day after
that they assume the character of plough bullocks, and at a certain part
of West Woodside they “smoke the fool;” that is, straw is collected by
those who like, and piled on a heap, a rope being tied or slung over
the branches of the tree next the pile of straw; the other end of the
rope is fastened round the waist of the “fool,” and he is drawn up, and
fire is put to the straw, the “fool” being swung to and fro through the
smoke, until he is well nigh choked; after which he goes round with his
cap, and collects whatever the spectator thinks proper to give. The
performance is then at an end until the following year. See _N. & Q. 2nd
S._ vol. v. p. 94. Peek’s _History of Axholme_, 1815, vol. i. p. 277.

In the _History of Lincolnshire_ (vol. ii. p. 214) is the following
account of this custom, differing but little from the notice already
given. At Haxey, Old Twelfth Day is devoted to _throwing the hood_, an
amusement, which according to tradition, was instituted by one of the
Mowbrays. A roll of canvas, tightly corded together, from four to six
pounds in weight, is taken to an open field, and contended for by the
rustics. An individual appointed casts it from him, and the first person
who can convey it into the cellars of any public house receives the
reward of one shilling, paid by the plough-bullocks or _boggins_. A new
hood being furnished when the others are carried off, the contest
usually continues till dark. The next day the plough-bullocks or boggins
go round the town collecting alms, and crying “Largess.” They are
dressed like morris-dancers, and are yoked to and drag a small plough.
They have their farmer, and a fool called Billy Buck, dressed like a
harlequin, with whom the boys make sport. The day is concluded by the
bullocks running with the plough round the cross on the green; and the
man that can throw the other down, and convey the plough into the cellar
of a public house, receives one shilling for his agility.--See _N. & Q.
4th S._ vol. ix. p. 158.


In London on Twelfth Night, in former days, boys assembled round the
inviting shops of the pastrycooks, and dexterously nailed the coat-tails
of spectators who ventured near enough to the bottoms of the window
frames, or pinned them strongly together by their clothes. Sometimes
eight or ten persons found themselves thus connected. The dexterity and
force of the nail-driving was so quick and sure that a single blow
seldom failed of doing the business effectually.--Withdrawal of the nail
without a proper instrument was out of the question, and consequently,
the person nailed was forced either to leave part of his coat as a
cognisance of his attachment, or quit the spot with a hole in it. At
every nailing and pinning shouts of laughter arose from the
perpetrators, yet it often happened to one who turned and smiled at the
duress of another, that he also found himself nailed. Efforts at
extrication increased mirth; nor was the presence of a constable, who
was usually employed to attend and preserve free “ingress, egress, and
regress,” sufficiently awful to deter the offender.--_Every Day Book_,
vol. i. p. 50.

A curious custom of mediæval origin is observed at the Chapel Royal, St.
James’s Palace, on the festival of the Epiphany. After the reading of
the sentence at the offertory, “Let your light so shine before men,”
&c., while the organ plays, two members of her Majesty’s household,
wearing the royal livery, descend from the royal pew and advance to the
altar rails, preceded by the usher, where they present to one of the two
officiating clergymen a red bag, edged with gold lace or braid, which is
received in an offertory basin, and then reverently placed on the altar.
This bag or purse is understood to contain the Queen’s offering of gold,
frankincense, and myrrh, in commemoration of the gifts of the Magi to
the infant Saviour.--_Echo_, Jan. 7th, 1869.

In the _Lady’s Mag._ for 1760, is the following:

Sunday Jan. 6th, being Twelfth Day, and a collar and offering day at St.
James’, his Majesty, preceded by the heralds, pursuivants, &c., and the
knights of the Garter, Thistle, and Bath, in the collars of their
respective orders, went to the Royal Chapel at St. James’, and offered
gold, myrrh, and frankincense, in imitation of the Eastern Magi offering
to our Saviour.


In this island there is not a barn unoccupied on the whole twelve days
after Christmas, every parish hiring fiddlers at the public charge. On
Twelfth Day the fiddler lays his head in the lap of some one of the
wenches, and the _mainstyr fiddler_ asks who such a maid, or such a
maid, naming all the girls one after another, shall marry, to which he
answers according to his own whim, or agreeable to the intimacies he has
taken notice of during the time of merriment, and whatever he says is
absolutely depended on as an oracle; and if he happen to couple two
people who have an aversion to each other, tears and vexation succeed
the mirth; this they call “cutting off the fiddler’s head,” for after
this he is dead for a whole year.--Waldron’s _Description of the Isle of
Man_, 1859, p. 156.


A friend of mine, says Mr. C. W. Bingham in _N. & Q._ (_3rd S._ vol. ix.
p. 33), met a girl on Old Christmas Day, in a village of North Somerset,
who told him that she was going to see the Christmas thorn in blossom.
He accompanied her to an orchard, where he found a tree, propagated from
the celebrated Glastonbury thorn, and gathered from it several sprigs in
blossom. Afterwards the girl’s mother informed him that it had been
formerly the custom for the youth of both sexes to assemble under the
tree at midnight on Christmas Eve, in order to hear the bursting of the
buds into flower, and she added, “As they comed out, you could hear ’um

Jennings, and after him Halliwell, give this word _haffer_ for to
crackle, to patter, to make repeated loud noises.


At Paget’s Bromley a curious custom went out in the seventeenth century.
A man came along the village with a mock horse fastened to him, with
which he danced, at the same time making a snapping noise with a bow and
arrow. He was attended by half a dozen fellow-villagers, wearing mock
deers’ heads, and displaying the arms of the several landlords of the
town. This party danced _the Hays_, and other country dances, to music,
amidst the sympathy and applause of the multitude. There was also a huge
pot of ale with cakes, by general contribution of the village, out of
the very surplus of which “they not only repaired their church, but kept
their poor too; which charges,” quoth Dr. Plot, “are not now, perhaps,
so cheerfully borne.”--Plot’s _Nat. Hist. of Staffordshire_, 1680, p.


Twelfth Night, or Holly Night, was formerly celebrated at Brough, by
carrying through the town a holly-tree with torches attached to its
branches. The procession set out at 8 o’clock in the evening preceded by
music, and stopped at the town-bridge, and again at the cross, where it
was greeted each time with shouts of applause. Many of the inhabitants
carried lighted branches as flambeaux; and rockets, squibs, &c., were
discharged on the joyful occasion. After the tree had been carried
about, and the torches were sufficiently burnt, it was placed in the
middle of the town, when it was again cheered by the surrounding crowd,
and then was thrown among them. The spectators at once divided into two
parties, one of which endeavoured to take the tree to one of the inns,
and the other to a rival inn. The innkeeper whose party triumphed was
expected to treat his partisans liberally.--Hone’s _Table Book_, 1838,
p. 26; _Handbook for the Lakes_, Murray, 1866, p. 113.


In some parts of Pembrokeshire, the following practice is observed. A
wren is secured in a small house made of wood, with door and windows,
the latter glazed. Pieces of ribbon of various colours are fixed to the
ridge of the roof outside. Sometimes several wrens are brought in the
same cage, and oftentimes a stable-lantern, decorated as above
mentioned, serves for the wren’s-house. The proprietors of this
establishment go round to the principal houses in their neighbourhood:
where, accompanying themselves with some musical instrument, they
announce their arrival by singing the ‘Song of the Wren.’ The wren’s
visit is a source of much amusement to children and servants, and the
wren’s men, or lads, are usually invited to have a draught from the
cellar, and receive a present in money. The ‘Song of the Wren’ is
generally _encored_, and the proprietors very commonly commence high
life below stairs, dancing with the maid-servants, and saluting them
under the kissing bush, where there is one. The following is the ‘Song
of the Wren:’

    “Joy, health, love, and peace,
    Be to you in this place.
    By your leave we will sing,
    Concerning our king:
    Our king is well drest;
    In silks of the best;
    With his ribbons so rare,
    No king can compare.
    In his coach he does ride,
    With a great deal of pride;
    And with four footmen
    To wait upon him.
    We were four at watch,
    And all nigh of a match;
    And with powder and ball
    We fired at his hall.
    We have travell’d many miles,
    Over hedges and stiles,
    To find you this king,
    Which we now to you bring.
    Now Christmas is past,
    Twelfth Day is the last.
    Th’ Old Year bids adieu;
    Great joy to the New.”

It would appear from the ninth line of the song that the wren at one
time used to occupy a coach, or that her house was placed upon
wheels.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. v. p. 109.


The day after Twelfth Day was called Rock Day[8] and St. Distaff’s Day,
because on that day women resumed their spinning, which had been
interrupted by the sports of Christmas; for our ancestors, it seems,
returned to their work in a very leisurely manner. From Herrick’s
_Hesperides_ (p. 374) we learn that the men, in boisterous merriment,
burned the women’s flax, and that they in retaliation dashed pails of
water upon the men:

    “Partly work, and partly play
    Ye must on St. Distaff’s Day:
    From the plough soone free your teame,
    Then home and fother them;
    If the maides a spinning goe,
    Burn the flax and fire the tow.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Bring in pails of water, then
    Let the maides bewash the men;
    Give St. Distaff all the night,
    Then bid Christmas sport good night;
    Then next morning, every one
    To his own vocation.”

  _Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 138.

  [8] See ‘Things not generally known,’ by John Timbs, 1859, pp. 1-6.


This was the name of a rustic festival, held the first Monday after
Twelfth Day, formerly of great account in England, bearing in its first
aspect, like St. Distaff’s Day, reference to the resumption of labour
after the Christmas holidays. In Catholic times, the ploughmen kept
lights burning before certain images in churches to obtain a blessing on
their work; and they were accustomed on this day to go about in
procession, gathering money for the support of these _plough lights_, as
they were called. The Reformation put out the lights, but it could not
extinguish the festival. The peasantry contrived to go about in
procession, collecting money, though only to be spent in conviviality in
the public-house. It was at no remote date a very gay and rather
pleasant-looking affair. A plough was dressed up with ribbons and other
decorations--the _Fool plough_. Thirty or forty stalwart swains, with
their shirts over their jackets, and their shoulders and hats flaming
with ribbons, dragged it along from house to house, preceded by one in
the dress of an old woman, but much bedizened, bearing the name of
_Bessy_. There was also a fool, in fantastic attire. In some parts of
the country morris-dancers attended the procession; occasionally, too,
some reproduction of the ancient Scandinavian sword-dance added to the
means of persuading money out of the pockets of the lieges.--_Book of
Days_, vol. i. p. 94.

In Tusser’s _Five Hundred Points of Husbandry_, under the account of the
Ploughman’s Feast Days, are the following lines:

    “Plough Munday, next after that twelf-tide is past,
    Bids out with the plough: the worst husband is last.
    If plowman get hatchet or whip to the skrene,
    Maids loseth their cocke, if no water be seen.”

Which are thus explained in _Tusser Redivivus_ (1744, p. 79): “After
Christmas (which formerly, during the twelve days, was a time of very
little work), every gentleman feasted the farmers, and every farmer
their servants and task-men. _Plough Monday_ puts them in mind of their
business. In the morning, the men and the maid-servants strive who shall
show their diligence in rising earliest. If the ploughman can get his
whip, his ploughstaff, hatchet, or anything that he wants in the field,
by the fireside, before the maid hath got her kettle on, then the maid
loseth her shrove-tide cock, and it wholly belongs to the men. Thus did
our forefathers strive to allure youth to their duty, and provided them
with innocent mirth as well as labour. On this Plough Monday they have a
good supper and some strong drink.” See also _Every Day Book_, 1826,
vol. i. p. 71.

In the _British Apollo_ (fol. 1710, ii. 92), to an inquiry why the first
Monday after Twelfth Day is called _Plough Monday_, answer is given:
“Plough Monday is a country phrase, and only used by peasants, because
they generally used to meet together at some neighbourhood over a cup of
ale, and feast themselves, as well as wish themselves a plentiful
harvest from the great corn sown (as they call wheat and rye), as also
to wish a God-speed to the plough as soon as they begin to break the
ground, to sow barley, and other corn, which they at that time make a
holiday to themselves as a finishing stroke after Christmas, which is
their master’s holiday time, as ’prentices in many places make it the
same, appropriated by consent to revel among themselves.”

Formerly the following custom prevailed in the northern counties of
England on Plough Monday. If a ploughman came to the kitchen-hatch, and
could cry, “Cock in the pot,” before the maid could cry “Cock on the
dunghill,” he was entitled to a cock for Shrove Tuesday.--_N. & Q. 2nd
S._ vol. i. p. 386.


Plough Monday is observed at Cambridge by parties going about the town
variously dressed in ribbons, etc.; some with a female among them, some
with a man in women’s clothes, some with a plough: they dance and
collect money which is afterwards spent in a feast.--_Time’s Telescope_,
1816, p. 3.


On Plough Monday the “Plough bullocks” are occasionally seen; they
consist of a number of young men from various farmhouses, who are
dressed up in ribbons, their shirts (for they wear no coats or
waistcoats) literally covered with rosettes of various colours and their
hats bound with ribbons, and decorated with every kind of ornament that
comes in their way; these young men yoke themselves to a plough, which
they draw about, preceded by a band of music, from house to house,
collecting money. They are accompanied by the Fool and Bessy; the Fool
being dressed in the skin of a calf, with the tail hanging down behind,
and Bessy generally a young man in female attire. The Fool carries an
inflated bladder tied to the end of a long stick, by way of whip, which
he does not fail to apply pretty soundly to the heads and shoulders of
his team. When anything is given a cry of “Largess!” is raised, and a
dance performed round the plough. If a refusal to their application for
money is made they not unfrequently plough up the pathway, door-stone,
or any other portion of the premises they happen to be near.--_Jour. of
Arch. Assoc. 1852_, vol. vii. p. 202.


Plough Monday is observed in this county. The mummers are called
“Plough-Witchers,” and their ceremony, “Plough-Witching.”--_N. & Q. 2nd
S._ vol. ix. p. 381.


Macaulay (_History of Claybrook_, 1791, p. 128,) says: On _Plough
Monday_ I have taken notice of an annual display of morris-dancers at
Claybrook, who come from the neighbouring villages of Sapcote and


A correspondent of the _Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 94, giving the
following interesting account as to how Plough Monday was, in days gone
by, celebrated in the county, says:--Rude though it was, the Plough
procession threw a life into the dreary scenery of winter, as it came
winding along the quiet rutted lanes, on its way from one village to
another; for the ploughmen from many a surrounding hamlet and lonely
farmhouse united in the celebration of Plough Monday. It was nothing
unusual for at least a score of the “sons of the soil” to yoke
themselves with ropes to the plough, having put on clean smock frocks in
honour of the day. There was no limit to the number who joined in the
morris-dance, and were partners with “Bessy,” who carried the money-box;
and all these had ribbons in their hats, and pinned about them wherever
there was room to display a bunch. Many a hardworking country Molly lent
a helping hand in decorating out her Johnny for Plough Monday, and
finished him with an admiring exclamation of “Lawks, John! thou does
look smart, surely.” Some also wore small bunches of corn in their hats,
from which the wheat was soon shaken out by the ungainly jumping which
they called dancing. Occasionally, if the winter was severe, the
procession was joined by threshers carrying their flails, reapers
bearing their sickles, and carters with their long whips, which they
were cracking to add to the noise, while even the smith and the miller
were among the number, for the one sharpened the ploughshares and the
other ground the corn; and Bessy rattled his box, and danced so high
that he showed his worsted stockings and corduroy breeches; and very
often, if there was a thaw, tucked up his gown skirts under his
waistcoat, and shook the bonnet off his head, and disarranged the long
ringlets that ought to have concealed his whiskers. For Bessy is to the
procession of Plough Monday what the leading _figurante_ is to an opera
or ballet, and dances about as gracefully as the hippopotami described
by Dr. Livingstone. But their rough antics were the cause of much
laughter, and rarely do we ever remember hearing any coarse jest that
would call up the angry blush to a modest cheek.

No doubt they were called “plough-bullocks,” through drawing the plough,
as bullocks were formerly used, and are still yoked to the plough in
some parts of the country. The rubbishing verses they recited are not
worth preserving, beyond the line, which graces many a public-house
sign, “God speed the plough.” At the large farmhouse, besides money they
obtained refreshment, and through the quantity of ale they thus drank
during the day managed to get what they called “their load by night.”
Even the poorest cottagers dropped a few pence into Bessy’s box.

But the great event of the day was when they came before some house
which bore signs that the owner was well-to-do in the world, and nothing
was given to them. Bessy rattled his box, and the ploughmen danced,
while the country lads blew the bullocks’ horns, or shouted with all
their might; but if there was still no sign, no coming forth of either
bread-and-cheese or ale, then the word was given, the ploughshare driven
into the ground before the door or window, the whole twenty men yoked
pulling like one, and in a minute or two the ground before the house was
as brown, barren, and ridgy as a newly-ploughed field. But this was
rarely done, for everybody gave something, and were it but little the
men never murmured, though they might talk about the stinginess of the
giver afterwards amongst themselves, more especially if the party was
what they called “well off in the world.” We are not aware that the
ploughmen were ever summoned to answer for such a breach of the law, for
they believe, to use their own expressive language, “they can stand by
it, and no law in the world can touch ’em, ’cause it’s an old charter;”
and we are sure it would spoil their “folly to be wise.”

One of the mummers generally wears a fox’s skin in the form of a hood;
but beyond the laughter the tail that hangs down his back awakens by its
motion as he dances, we are at a loss to find a meaning. Bessy formerly
wore a bullock’s tail behind, under his gown, and which he held in his
hand while dancing, but that appendage has not been worn of late.


Hone’s _Year Book_, p. 29, gives a quotation from a _Briefe Relation_,
&c., 1646, wherein the writer says, that the Monday after Twelfth Day is
called “Plowlick Monday” by the husbandmen in Norfolk, “because on that
day they doe first begin to plough.”


In the northern and eastern parts of the county Plough Monday is more
noticed than in the neighbourhood of Northampton. The pageant varies in
different places; sometimes five persons precede the plough, which is
drawn by a number of boys with their faces blackened and reddled.
Formerly, when the pageant was of a more important character than now,
the plough was drawn by oxen decorated with ribbons. The one who walks
first in the procession is styled the Master, and is grotesquely
attired, having on a large wig; two are gaily bedizened in women’s
clothes; and two others have large hunches on their backs, on which is
sewed the knave of hearts. These two are called Red Jacks, or fools.
Each of the five carries a besom, and one of them a box, which he
rattles assiduously among the spectators to obtain their donations,
which are spent at night in conviviality and jollification. In some
instances they plough up the soil in front of the houses of such
persons as refuse their contributions. Before the inclosure of open
fields, there was another custom in connection with the day. When the
ploughman returned from his labours in the evening, the servant-maid
used to meet him with a jug of toast and ale; and if he could succeed in
throwing his plough-hatchet into the house before she reached the door,
he was entitled to a cock to throw at Shrovetide; but if she was able to
present him with the toast and ale first, then she gained the cock. (See
page 38.)--Baker’s _Northamptonshire Words and Phrases_, 1854, ii. 1257.


On the Monday after Twelfth Day, says Clarkson (_Hist. of Richmond_,
1821, p. 293), a number of young men from the country, yoked to a
plough, drag it about the streets, begging money, in allusion to the
labours of the plough having ceased in that severe weather. In like
manner the watermen in London, when the Thames is covered with ice in
hard frosts, haul a boat about the streets, to show that they are
deprived of the means of earning their livelihood.


Pointer, in his _Oxoniensis Academia_ (1749, p. 96), alludes to a
practice observed at St. John’s and Corpus Christi Colleges, Oxford, of
having a speech spoken on this day, _in laudem Laudi Archiepiscopi_.


This day is observed by the people of Halkirk, as New Year’s Day, a time
when servants are too apt to spend their hard-earned penny in drink and
other equally useless purposes.--_Stat. Acc. of Scotland_, 1845, vol.
xv. p. 75.


St. Hilary is memorable in the annals of Richmond, in the county of
York, as on the anniversary of his festival the mayor is chosen for the
ensuing year, which causes it to be observed as a jubilee-day among the
friends, and those concerned in corporation matters.

St. Hilary likewise gives name to one of the four seasons of the year
when the courts of justice are opened.--Clarkson’s _Hist. of Richmond_,
1821, p. 293.



This day was formerly celebrated in All Souls College, Oxford, in
commemoration of the discovery of a very large mallard or drake in a
drain, when digging for the foundation of the college; and though this
observance no longer exists, yet on one of the college “gaudies” there
is sung in memory of the occurrence a very old song called “The
swapping, swapping mallard.”


    “Griffin, bustard, turkey, capon,
    Let other hungry mortals gape on;
    And on the bones their stomach fall hard,
    But let All Souls’ men have their Mallard.

      Oh! by the blood of King Edward,[9]
      Oh! by the blood of King Edward,
      It was a swapping, swapping Mallard.

    The Romans once admired a gander
    More than they did their chief commander;
    Because he saved, if some don’t fool us,
    The place that’s called th’ ‘_head of Tolus_.’

        Oh! by the blood of King Edward, &c.

    The poets feign Jove turned a swan,
    But let them prove it if they can;
    As for our proof, ’tis not at all hard,
    For it was a swapping, swapping Mallard.

        Oh! by the blood of King Edward, &c.

    Therefore let us sing and dance a galliard,
    To the remembrance of the Mallard;
    And as the Mallard dives in pool,
    Let us dabble, dive, and duck in bowl.

        Oh! by the blood of King Edward,
        Oh! by the blood of King Edward,
        It was a swapping, swapping Mallard.”

  [9] The allusion to King Edward is surely an anachronism, as King
  Henry VI. was reigning at the time of the foundation of the
  college.--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 114.

When Pointer wrote his _Oxoniensis Academia_ (1749), he committed a
grave offence by insinuating that this immortalised mallard was no other
than a _goose_. The insinuation produced a reply from Dr. Buckler,
replete with irresistible irony; but Pointer met a partisan in Mr.
Bilson, chaplain of All Souls, who issued a folio sheet entitled
‘Proposals for printing by subscription the History of the Mallardians,’
with the figure of a cat prefixed, said to have been found starved in
the college library.--_Hist. of Co. of Oxford_, 1852, p. 144.


Septuagesima occurs between this day and February the 22nd, according as
the Paschal full moon falls. It was formerly distinguished by a strange
ceremony, denominated the _Funeral of Alleluia_. On the Saturday of
Septuagesima, at nones, the choristers assembled in the great vestiary
of the cathedral, and there arranged the ceremony. Having finished the
last _benedicamus_, they advanced with crosses, torches, holy waters,
and incense, carrying a turf in the manner of a coffin, passed through
the choir, and went howling to the cloister as far as the place of
interment; and then having sprinkled the water and censed the place,
returned by the same road.--Fosbroke’s _British Monachism_, 1843, p. 56.


This night was formerly much venerated by young maidens who wished to
know when and whom they should marry. It was required that on this day
they should not eat, which was called “fasting St. Agnes’ fast.” Keats
has made this custom the subject of one of his poems. The following are
a few stanzas from it:

    “St. Agnes’s Eve! Ah, bitter chill it was!
    The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
    The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
    And silent was the flock in woolly fold.

           *       *       *       *       *

    They told me how, upon St. Agnes’s Eve
    Young virgins might have visions of delight;
    And soft adorings from their loves receive,
    Upon the honey’d middle of the night,
    If ceremonies due they did aright;
    As supperless to bed they must retire,
    And couch supine their beauties, lilywhite;
    Nor look behind, nor sideways, but require
    Of Heaven, with upward eyes, for all that they desire.

           *       *       *       *       *

                                Her vespers done,
    Of all its wretched pearls her hair she frees;
    Unclasp’d her warmed jewels one by one;
    Loosens her fragrant bodice; by degrees
    Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees:
    Half hidden, like a mermaid in sea-weed,
    Pensive awhile she dreams awake, and sees,
    In fancy, fair St. Agnes in her bed,
    But dares not look behind, or all the charm is fled.”


Formerly on the eve of St. Agnes’ Day the following custom was, and
perchance still is observed in the northern parts of Scotland by the
mountain peasantry. A number of young lads and lasses meeting together
on the eve of St. Agnes, at the hour of twelve, went one by one to a
certain cornfield, and threw in some grain, after which they pronounced
the following rhyme:

    “Agnes sweet and Agnes fair,
    Hither, hither, now repair;
    Bonny Agnes, let me see
    The lad who is to marry me.”

The prayer was granted by their favourite saint, and the shadow of the
destined bride or bridegroom was seen in a mirror on this very
night.--_Time’s Telescope_, 1832, p. 15.


Since the Reformation, St. Agnes has by degrees lost her consequence in
this country as superstition has subsided; though our rural virgins in
the north are yet said to practise some singular rites, in keeping “what
they call St. Agnes’ Fast, for the purpose of discovering their future
husbands.”--_Clavis Calendaria_, Brady, 1815, vol. i. p. 170. See Mother
Bunch’s _Closet Newly Broke Open_, 1825 (?). _Anatomy of Melancholy_,
Burton, 1660, p. 538.



The first red-letter day in the Tinner’s Calendar is St. Paul’s
Pitcher-day, or the Eve of Paul’s Tide. It is marked by a very curious
and inexplicable custom, not only among tin-streamers, but also in the
mixed mining and agricultural town and neighbourhood of Bodmin, and
among the seafaring population of Padstow. The tinner’s mode of
observing it is as follows:--On the day before the Feast of St. Paul, a
water-pitcher is set up at a convenient distance, and pelted with
stones until entirely demolished. The men then leave their work, and
adjourn to a neighbouring ale-house, where a new pitcher bought to
replace the old one is successively filled and emptied, and the evening
is given up to merriment and misrule.

On inquiry whether some dim notion of the origin and meaning of this
custom remained among those who still keep it up, it was found to be
generally held as an ancient festival intended to celebrate the day when
tin was first turned into metal--in fact, the discovery of smelting. It
is the occasion of a revel, in which, as an old streamer observes, there
is an open rebellion against the water-drinking system which is enforced
upon them whilst at work.

The custom of observing _Paul’s Pitcher Night_ is probably
half-forgotten even in Cornwall at the present time, where many of the
ancient provincial usages have been suffered to die out. It was,
however, in full vigour so recently as 1859. The boys of Bodmin parade
the town with broken pitchers, and other earthenware vessels, and into
every house, where the door can be opened, or has been inadvertently
left so, they hurl a “Paul’s pitcher,” exclaiming,

    “Paul’s Eve,
    And here’s a heave.”

According to custom, the first “heave” cannot be objected to; but upon
its repetition the offender, if caught, may be punished.--Brand’s _Pop.
Antiq._ 1870, vol. i. p. 23; _N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. iii. p. 239; _2nd S._
vol. viii. p. 312.


Strype, in his _Ecclesiastical Memorials_ (1822, vol. iii. part i. p.
331), says: On the 25th of January (1554), being St. Paul’s Day, was a
general procession of St. Paul by every parish, both priests and clerks,
in copes, to the number of an hundred and sixty, singing _Salve festa
dies_, with ninety crosses borne. The procession was through Cheap unto
Leadenhall. And before went two schools; that is, first, all the
children of the Gray Friars, and then those of St. Paul’s school. There
were eight bishops, and the Bishop of London, mitred, bearing the
Sacrament, with many torches burning, and a canopy borne over. And so
about the churchyard, and in at the West door, with the Lord Mayor and
Aldermen, and all the Companies in their best liveries. And within a
while after, the King came, and the Lord Cardinal, and the Prince of
Piemont, and divers lords and knights. At the foot of the steps to the
choir, as the King went up, kneeled the gentlemen lately pardoned,
offering him their service. After mass, they returned to the court to
dinner. And at night bonfires, and great ringing of bells in every
church. And all this joy was for the conversion of the realm.

It was on this day that the husbandmen of old used to make prognostics
of the weather, and of other matters for the whole year, a custom which
Bourne (_Antiquitates Vulgares_, chap. xviii. p. 159) has tried to
unravel.--_New Curiosities of Literature_, Soane, 1847, p. 42.

_St. Paul’s Cathedral._--One of the strangest of the old ceremonies in
which the clergy of St. Paul’s Cathedral used to figure was that which
was performed twice a year, namely, on the day of the Conversion, and on
that of the Commemoration of St. Paul. On the former of these festivals
a fat buck, and on the latter a fat doe, was presented to the church by
the family of Baud, in consideration of some lands which they held of
the Dean and Chapter at West Lee in Essex. The original agreement made
with Sir William Le Baud, in 1274, was that he himself should attend in
person with the animals; but some years afterwards it was arranged that
the presentation should be made by a servant, accompanied by a
deputation of part of the family. The priests, however, continued to
perform their part in the show. On the aforesaid days, the buck and doe
were brought by one or more servants at the hour of the procession, and
through the midst thereof, and offered at the high altar of St. Paul’s
Cathedral; after which the persons that brought the buck received of the
Dean and Chapter, by the hands of their chamberlain, twelvepence for
their entertainment; but nothing when they brought the doe. The buck
being brought to the steps of the altar, the Dean and Chapter,
apparelled in copes and proper vestments, with garlands of roses on
their heads, sent the body of the buck to be baked, and had the head and
horns fixed on a pole before the cross in their procession round about
the church, till they issued at the West door, where the keeper that
brought it blowed the death of the buck, and then the horns that were
about the city answered him in like manner; for which they had each of
the Dean and Chapter three and fourpence in money, and their dinner; and
the keeper, during his stay, meat, drink, and lodging, and five
shillings in money at his going away; together with a loaf of bread,
having on it the picture of St. Paul. This custom was continued till the
reign of Elizabeth.--_Beauties of England_, Brayley and Britton, 1803,
vol. v. p. 486.


The anniversary of the execution of King Charles I. was formerly
celebrated, and a special form of prayer made use of, which was removed
from the Prayer Book by an Act of Parliament (22 Vict. c. 2, March 25,

The following extract is taken from the _Courier_, of the 30th of
January, 1826:

“This being the anniversary of King Charles’ Martyrdom (in 1649), the
Royal Exchange gates were shut till twelve o’clock, when they were
opened for public business.”

There is a story told regarding a Miss Russell, great granddaughter of
Oliver Cromwell, who was waiting-woman to the Princess Amelia, daughter
of George II., to the effect that, while engaged in her duty one 30th of
January, the Prince of Wales came into the room, and sportively said,
“For shame, Miss Russell! why have you not been at church, humbling
yourself with weepings and wailings for the sins on this day committed
by your ancestor?” To which Miss Russell answered, “Sir, for a
descendant of the great Oliver Cromwell, it is humiliation sufficient to
be employed, as I am, in pinning up the tail of your sister!”--Rede’s
_Anecdotes_, 1799, quoted in _Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 192.


On the eve of the 1st of February a festival was formerly kept, called
in the Manks language _Laa’l Breeshey_, in honour of the Irish lady who
went over to the Isle of Man to receive the veil from St. Maughold. The
custom was to gather a bundle of green rushes, and standing with them in
the hand on the threshold of the door, to invite the holy Saint Bridget
to come and lodge with them that night. In the Manks language, the
invitation ran thus:--“Brede, Brede, tar gys my thie, tar dyn thie ayms
noght. Foshil jee yn dorrys da Brede, as lhig da Brede e heet staigh.”
In English, “Bridget, Bridget, come to my house, come to my house
to-night--open the door for Bridget, and let Bridget come in.” After
these words were repeated, the rushes were strewn on the floor by way of
a carpet or bed for St. Bridget.--Train’s _History of the Isle of Man_,
1845, vol. ii. p. 116.


The following extract from the _Newark Advertiser_ of Feb. 2nd. 1870,
describes a custom that existed for a long time at Newark:

“For many years past the last day in January has been observed in Newark
as a raffling day for oranges in the market-place. On Monday last
application was made to Mr. Superintendent Riddell, at the Post Office,
as to whether the practice would be allowed this year as usual. He
advised them to apply to the sitting magistrates, and upon doing so Mr.
Wallis (deputy clerk) read to them the Act of Parliament, which stated
that they would be liable to three months’ hard labour if they raffled.
The applicants said they believed there was some old charter which gave
them the privilege in Newark for raffling on that day, but they were
told the Act of Parliament made no exceptions, and the magistrates said
they could not give them permission to break the law. On Monday,
therefore, no raffling took place, and we may regard the practice as
finally put an end to, which will be a matter of great satisfaction to
many.--See, _Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 161.


By the common people, the Saturday preceding Shrove Tuesday is called
Egg Saturday. This name is employed as a date by Anthony à Wood: “One
hundred and ninety-two bachelors to determine this Lent, but
twenty-three or thereabouts were not presented on Egg Saturday.”--_Med.
Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 158. _Lives of Leland, Hearne, and Wood_, 1772,
vol. ii. p. 297.


On Candlemas Eve was kindled the _yule-brand_, which was allowed to burn
till sunset, when it was quenched and carefully laid by to _teend_ (i.e.
light) the Christmas clog or log at the next return of the season. Thus
Herrick, _Hesperides_, p. 337, says:

    “Kindle the _Christmas Brand_, and then
      Till sunne-set let it burne;
    Which quencht, then lay it up agen
      Till Christmas next returne.

    Part must be kept wherewith to teend
      The _Christmas Log_ next yeare;
    And where ’tis safely kept, the fiend
      Can do no mischiefe there.”

The rosemary, the bay, the ivy, the holly, and the mistletoe, the
Christmas decorations of hall and cottage, were now pulled down, when,
according to the popular superstition, not a branch, nor even a leaf,
should be allowed to remain.

    “Down with the _Rosemary_ and so
    Down with the _Baies_ and the _Misleto_:
    Down with the _Holly, Ivie, all
    Wherewith ye dress the Christmas Hall_:
    That so the superstitious find
    _No one least branch there left behind_:
    For look, _how many leaves_ there be
    Neglected there (maids trust to me),
    _So many goblins you shall see_.”

  Herrick (_Hesperides_, p. 361).

In the place, however, of the Christmas decorations, the “greener box
was upraised,” and Christmas now was positively at an end. Some indeed,
considered this to have been the case on Twelfth Night, and old Tusser,
in his _Five Hundred Points of good Husbandry_, strongly contends for
it; but then his head was more full of the cart and plough than of
regard for old customs; and like any other master, he was naturally
anxious that the holidays should be ended, and the labourers should get
to work again as soon as possible; and merry-making, however agreeable
it may be, will not help to dig the land or sow the grain. But in spite
of these wise saws, the truth of which nobody would contest, human
feelings are stronger than human reason, and customs, when they tend to
pleasure, will maintain their ground till they are superseded, not by
privations, but by other forms of amusement.--_New Curiosities of
Literature_, Soane, 1847, vol. i. p. 52.

The following is from Herrick’s _Hesperides_, p. 337.

          “Down with the Rosemary and Bayes,
            Down with the Misleto;
          Instead of Holly, now up-raise
            The greener Box for show.

          The Holly hitherto did sway,
            Let Box now domineere,
          Until the dancing Easter Day,
            Or Easter’s Eve appeare.

          Then youthful Box, which now hath grace
            Your houses to renew,
          Grown old, surrender must his place
            Unto the crisped Yew.

          When Yew is out, then Birch comes in,
            And many flowers beside;
          Both of a fresh and fragrant kinne
            To honour Whitsontide.

          Green Rushes then, and sweetest Bents,
            With cooler Oaken boughs,
          Come in for comely ornaments
            To re-adorn the house.

    Thus times do shift; each thing his turne does hold;
    New things succeed, as former things grow old.”


It was at one time customary, in the villages bordering on the Trent, to
decorate not only churches but houses with branches of box, and to light
up a number of candles in the evening, as being the last day of
Christmas rejoicings. “On Candlemas Day throw candles away” is a popular
proverb for the following day.--_Jour. Arch. Assoc._ 1853, vol. viii. p.


This day, the festival of the “Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary,”
is sometimes called _Christ’s Presentation_, the _Holiday of St.
Simeon_, and _The Wives’ Feast_. The ceremony of candle-bearing (which
continued in England till it was repealed for its Popish tendency by an
order in council in the second year of King Edward VI.) is generally
considered to refer to what Simeon said when he took the infant Jesus in
his arms, and declared that he was _a light to lighten the Gentiles_.

Pope Innocent, in a sermon on this festival quoted in _Pagano Papismus_,
in reply to the question “Why do we (the Catholics) in this feast carry
candles?” says, “Because the Gentiles dedicated the month of February to
the infernal gods; and as at the beginning of it Pluto stole Proserpine,
and her mother, Ceres, sought her in the night with lighted candles, so
they in the beginning of this month, walked about the city with lighted
candles. Because the holy fathers could not utterly extirpate this
custom, they ordained that Christians should carry about candles in
honour of the blessed Virgin Mary; and thus what was done before to the
honour of Ceres is now done to the honour of the Virgin.”

From whatever cause, however, the ceremony originated, it acquired many
additional rites in the process of time, according to the manners and
habits of those who adopted it. We are told in Dunstan’s _Concord of
Monastic Rules_ that “the monks went in surplices to the church for
candles, which were to be consecrated, sprinkled with holy water, and
incensed by the abbot. Every monk took a candle from the sacrist and
lighted it. A procession was made, thirds and mass were celebrated, and
the candles, after the offering, were presented to the priest. The
monks’ candles signified the use of them in the parable of the wise

According to some authorities, there was on this day a general
consecration of all the candles to be burnt in the Catholic churches
throughout the whole year; and it should also be mentioned that from
Candlemas the use of tapers at vespers and litanies, which had continued
through the whole winter, ceased until the ensuing _All Hallow Mass_,
which will serve to explain the old English proverb in Ray’s collection:

    “On Candlemas Day,
    Throw candle and candlestick away.”

  _New Curiosities of Literature_, vol. i. p. 25.


Formerly at Lyme Regis the wood-ashes of the family being sold
throughout the year as they were made, the person who purchased them
annually sent a present on this day of a large candle. When night came,
this candle was lighted, and, assisted by its illumination, the inmates
regaled themselves with cheering draughts of ale, and sippings of punch,
or some other animating beverage, until the candle had burnt out. The
coming of the Candlemas Candle was looked forward to by the young ones
as an event of some importance; for of usage they had a sort of right to
sit up that night, and partake of the refreshment, till all retired to
rest, the signal for which was the self-extinction of the Candlemas
Candle.--_Every Day Book_, vol. i. p. 206.


Formerly at Ripon, on the Sunday before Candlemas Day, the collegiate
church was illuminated with candles.--_Gent. Mag._ 1790, vol. lx. p.


At grammar schools it is, or was, an universal custom for the children
attending schools to make small presents of money to their teachers. The
master sits at his desk or table, exchanging for the moment his usual
authoritative look for one of bland civility, and each child goes up in
turn and lays his offering down before him, the sum being generally
proportioned to the abilities of the parent. Sixpence and a shilling are
the usual sums in most schools, but some give half, and whole crowns,
and even more. The boy and girl who give most are respectively styled
king and queen. The children being then dismissed for a holiday proceed
along the streets in a confused procession, carrying the king and queen
in state, exalted upon that seat, formed of crossed hands, which,
probably from this circumstance, is called “the king’s chair.” In some
schools it used to be customary for the teacher, on the conclusion of
the offerings, to make a bowl of punch, and regale each boy with a glass
to drink the king and queen’s health, and a biscuit. The latter part of
the day was usually devoted to what was called the _Candlemass bleeze_
or blaze, namely, the conflagration of any piece of furze which might
exist in their neighbourhood, or, were that wanting, of an artificial

According to Sinclair the king’s power lasted for six weeks, and during
his reign he was not only entitled to demand an afternoon’s play for the
scholars once a week, but had also the royal privilege of remitting
punishments.--_Book of Days_, vol i. p. 214. _Stat. Acc. of Scotland_,
Sinclair, 1794, vol. xiii. p. 211.

It was formerly customary in Scotland to hold a football match, the east
end of a town against the west, the unmarried men against the married,
or one parish against another. The “Candlemas ba’,” as it was called,
brought the whole community out in a state of high excitement. On one
occasion when the sport took place in Jedburgh, the contending parties,
after a struggle of two hours in the streets, transferred the contention
to the bed of the river Jed, and there fought it out amidst a scene of
fearful splash and dabblement, to the infinite amusement of a multitude
looking on from the bridge.--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 214.


As Candlemas Day comes round, the mistress and servants of each family
taking a sheaf of oats, dress it up in woman’s apparel, and after
putting it in a large basket, beside which a wooden club is placed, they
cry three times, “Briid is come! Briid is welcome!” This they do just
before going to bed, and as soon as they rise in the morning, they
look among the ashes, expecting to see the impression of Briid’s
club there, which if they do, they reckon it a true presage of
a good crop and prosperous year, and the contrary they take as an
ill-omen.--_Description of the Western Isles of Scotland_, Martin, 1703,
p. 119.


The Monday before Shrove Tuesday is so called because it was the last
day of flesh-eating before Lent, and our ancestors cut their fresh meat
into collops or steaks, for salting or hanging up until Lent was over;
and hence in many places it is customary to have eggs and collops, or
slices of bacon at dinner on this day.--_Every Day Book_, vol. i. p.


At Eton it was the custom for the scholars to write verses either in
praise or dispraise of Father Bacchus, poets being considered as
immediately under his protection. He was therefore sung on this occasion
in all kinds of metres, and the verses of the boys of the seventh and
sixth, and some of the fifth forms, were affixed to the inner doors of
the college. Verses are still written and put up on this day, but the
young poets are not confined to the subject of writing eulogiums on the
God of Wine. It retains, however, the name of Bacchus.--Brand’s _Pop.
Antiq_., vol. i. p. 62. _Status Scholæ Etonensis_, A.D. 1560, fol. 423.


On the day termed Hall’ Monday, which precedes Shrove Tuesday, about the
dusk of the evening it is the custom for boys, and in some cases for
those who are above the age of boys, to prowl about the streets with
short clubs, and to knock loudly at every door, running off to escape
detection on the slightest sign of a motion within. If, however, no
attention be excited, and especially if any article be discovered
negligently exposed, or carelessly guarded, then the things are carried
away; and on the following morning are discovered displayed in some
conspicuous place, to expose the disgraceful want of vigilance supposed
to characterise the owner. The time when this is practised is called
“Nickanan night;” and the individuals concerned are supposed to
represent some imps of darkness, who seize on and expose unguarded

On the following eve (Shrove Tuesday), the clubs are again in
requisition; but on this occasion the blows on the door keep time to the
following chant:

    “Nicka, nicka nan;
    Give me some pancake, and then I’ll be gone.
    But if you give me none,
    I’ll throw a great stone,
    And down your doors shall come.”

  _Report of the Royal Institution of Cornwall for 1842_; _N. & Q. 1st
  S._ vol. xii. p. 297.


In the neighbourhood of Bridestow, Okehampton, the children go round to
the different houses in the parish on the Monday before Shrove Tuesday,
generally by twos and threes, and chant the following verses, by way of
extracting from the inmates sundry contributions of eggs, flour, butter,
halfpence, &c., to furnish out the Tuesday’s feast:

    “Lent Crock, give a pancake,
    Or a fritter, for my labour,
    Or a dish of flour, or a piece of bread,
    Or what you please to render.
    I see, by the latch,
    There’s something to catch;
    I see, by the string,
    There’s a good dame within.
    Trap, trapping throw,
    Give me my mumps, and I’ll be go” (gone).

The above is the most popular version, and the one indigenous to the
place; but there is another set, which was introduced some years ago by
a late schoolmistress, who was a native of another part of the country,
where her version was customary:

    “Shrovetide is nigh at hand,
    And we are come a-shroving;
    Pray, Dame, give something,
    An apple, or a dumpling,
    Or a piece of crumple cheese,
    Of your own making,
    Or a piece of pancake.
    Trip, trapping throw;
    Give me my mumps, and I’ll be go.”

This custom existed also in the neighbourhood of Salisbury.--_N. & Q.
1st S._ vol. v. p. 77. _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 62.


St. Blasius was Bishop of Sebaste, a city of Cappadocia, in the Lesser
Asia, and is said to have suffered martyrdom in the persecution of
Licinus in 316. The fact of iron combs having been used in tearing the
flesh of the martyr appears to be the reason for his having been adopted
by the wool-combers as their patron saint. The large flourishing
communities engaged in this business in Bradford, and other English
towns, are accustomed to hold a septennial jubilee on the 3rd of
February, in honour of Jason of the Golden Fleece and St. Blaize; and
not many years ago the fête was conducted with considerable state and
ceremony.--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 219.

In 1825 the procession was drawn up in the following order:

  _Herald_ bearing a flag.

  _Woolstaplers_ on horseback, each horse caparisoned with a fleece.

  _Worsted Spinners and manufacturers_ on horseback, in white stuff
  waistcoats, with each a sliver over the shoulder, and a white stuff
  sash; the horses’ necks covered with nets made of thick yarn.

  _Merchants_ on horseback, with coloured sashes.

  Three guards. Masters’ Colours. Three guards.

  _Apprentices and Masters’ Sons_, on horseback, with ornamented caps,
  scarlet stuff coats, white stuff waistcoats, and blue pantaloons.

  _Bradford_ and _Keighley Bands_.

  _Mace-bearer_, on foot.

  Six guards. King. Queen. Six guards.

  Guards. Jason. Princess Medea. Guards.

  Bishop’s Chaplain.

  Bishop Blase.

  _Shepherd and Shepherdess._

  _Shepherd Swains._

  _Woolsorters_, on horseback, with ornamented caps, and various
  coloured slivers.

  _Comb Makers._

  _Charcoal Burners._

  _Combers’ Colours._


  _Woolcombers_, with wool wigs, &c.


  _Dyers_, with red cockades, blue aprons, and crossed slivers of red
  and blue.

Before the procession started it was addressed by Richard Fawcett, Esq.,
in the following lines:

    Hail to the day, whose kind auspicious rays
    Deign’d first to smile on famous Bishop Blase!
    To the great author of our Combing trade,
    This day’s devoted, and due honour’s paid
    To him whose fame thro’ Britain’s isle resounds,
    To him whose goodness to the poor abounds.
    Long shall his name in British annals shine,
    And grateful ages offer at his shrine!
    By this our trade are thousands daily fed,
    By it supplied with means to earn their bread.
    In various forms our trade its work imparts,
    In different methods, and by different arts:
    Preserves from starving indigents distress’d,
    As Combers, Spinners, Weavers, and the rest.
    We boast no gems, or costly garments vain,
    Borrow’d from India or the coast of Spain;
    Our native soil with wool our trade supplies,
    While foreign countries envy us the prize.
    No foreign broil our common good annoys,
    Our country’s product all our art employs;
    Our fleecy flocks abound in every vale,
    Our bleating lambs proclaim the joyful tale.
    So let not Spain with us attempt to vie,
    Nor India’s wealth pretend to soar so high;
    Nor Jason pride him in his Colchian spoil,
    By hardships gain’d, and enterprising toil;
    Since Britons all with ease attain the prize,
    And every hill resounds with golden cries,
    To celebrate our founder’s great renown.
    Our shepherd and our shepherdess we crown.
    For England’s commerce and for George’s sway
    Each loyal subject give a loud Huzza.

  _Every Day Book_, vol. i. p. 209. See also _Northamptonshire Words and
  Phrases_, ii. p. 416.

Minshen, in his _Ductor in Linguas_, (1617, p. 236), under the word
Hock-tide speaks of S. Blase his day, about Candlemas, when countrywomen
goe about and make good cheere; and if they finde any of their neighbour
women a spinning that day, they burne and make a blaze of fire of the
distaffe, and thereof called S. Blaze his day.

Dr. Percy, in his _Notes to the Northumberland Household Book_ (1825,
pp. 333-435), tells us that the anniversary of St. Blasius is the 3rd
of February, when it is customary in many parts of England to light
fires on the hills on St. Blayse night: a custom anciently taken up,
perhaps, for no better reason than the jingling resemblance of his name
to the word “blaze.”

_Candles offered to St. Blaze._--In honour of St. Blaze there formerly
were offered to him candles, which after receiving benediction were
considered holy, and became highly serviceable to all pious uses.

_Clavis Calendaria_, Brady, 1812. vol. i. p. 299. _Beauties of England
and Wales_, Brayley and Britton, 1809, vol. ii. p. 418.


Shrove Tuesday derives its distinctive epithet in English, from the
custom of the people in applying to the priest to _shrive_ them, or hear
their confessions, before entering on the great fast of Lent the
following day. Its Latin and Continental names have all a reference to
the last time of eating flesh. After the people had made the confession
required by the ancient discipline of the Church, they were permitted to
indulge in festive amusements, though restricted from partaking of any
repasts beyond the usual substitutes for flesh; hence the name
_carnaval_, etymologically signifying, _Flesh, fare thee well_. From
this cause originated the custom of eating pancakes at Shrovetide, which
began on the Sunday before the first in Lent.--_Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol.
i. p. 158.

That none, however, might plead forgetfulness of the ceremony of
confessing and being _shriven_, the great bell was rung at an early hour
in every parish, and in after times this ringing was still kept up in
some places, though the cause of it ceased with the introduction of
Protestantism; it then got the name of the _Pancake Bell_.

Taylor, the water poet (in his _Jacke-a-Lent Workes_, 1630, vol. i. p.
115), gives the following curious account as to the way in which Shrove
Tuesday was celebrated in olden times:

“Always before Lent there comes waddling a fat, grosse groome, called
_Shrove Tuesday_, one whose manners show he is better fed than taught,
and indeed he is the only monster for feeding amongst all the dayes of
the yeere, for he devoures more flesh in fourteene houres than this old
kingdom doth (or at least should doe) in sixe weekes after. Such boyling
and broyling, such roasting and toasting, such stewing and brewing, such
baking, frying, mincing, cutting, carving, devouring, and gorbellied
gurmondizing, that a man would thinke people did take in two months’
provision at once. Moreover it is a goodly sight to see how the cookes
in great men’s kitchins doe frye in their master’s suet, that if ever a
cooke be worth the eating, it is when Shrove Tuesday is in towne, for he
is so stued and larded, basted, and almost over-roasted, that a man may
eate every bit of him and never take a surfet. In a word, they are that
day extreme cholerike, and too hot for any man to meddle with, being
monarchs of the marrow-bones, marquesses of the mutton, lords high
regents of the spit and kettle, barons of the gridiron and sole
commanders of the frying-pan. And all this hurly burly is for no other
purpose than to stop the mouth of the land-wheale, _Shrove-Tuesday_, at
whose entrance in the morning all the whole kingdome is in quiet, but by
the time the clocke strikes eleven--which by the help of a knavish
sexton is commonly before nine,--then there is a bell rung called the
_Pancake-Bell_, the sound whereof makes thousands of people distracted
and forgetful either of manner or humanitie. Then there is a thing cal’d
wheat’n flowre, which the sulphory, necromanticke cookes doe mingle with
water, eggs, spice, and other tragicall, magicall inchantments, and then
they put it little by little into a frying-pan of boyling suet, where it
makes a confused dismal hissing--like the Lernean snakes in the reeds of
Acheron, Stix, or Phlegeton--until at last by the skill of the cooke it
is transformed into the forme of a _flap-jack_, which in our translation
is call’d a _pancake_, which ominous incantation the ignorant people doe
devoure very greedily--having for the most part well dined before--but
they have no sooner swallowed that sweet candied baite, but straight
their wits forsake them, and they runne starke mad, assembling in routs
and throngs numberlesse of ungovernable numbers, with uncivill civil

“Then Tim Tatters--a most valiant villaine--with an ensign made of a
piece of a baker’s maukin fixed upon a broomstaffe, he displaies his
dreadful colours, and calling the ragged regiment together, makes an
illiterate oration, stuft with most plentiful want of discretion, the
conclusion whereof is that somewhat they will doe, but what they know
not; until at last comes marching up another troupe of tatterdemalions,
proclayming wars against no matter who, so they may be doing. Then these
youths arm’d with cudgels, stones, hammers, rules, trowels, and
handsawse, put play-houses to the sacke, and *   *   * to the spoyle, in
the quarrel breaking a thousand _quarrels_--of glasse, I mean--making
ambitious brickbats breake their neckes, tumbling from the tops of lofty
chimnies, terribly untyling houses, ripping up the bowels of feather
beds, to the inriching of upholsters, the profit of plaisterers and
dirt-dawbers, the gaine of glasiers, joyners, carpenters, tylers and
bricklayers; and, what is worse, to the contempt of justice; for what
avails it for a constable with an army of reverend rusty bill-men to
command peace to these beastes? for they with their pockets, instead of
pistols, well charged with stone-shot, discharge against the image of
authority whole volleys as thicke as hayle, which robustious repulse
puts the better sort to the worst part, making the band of unscowered
halberdiers retyre faster than ever they come on, and show exceeding
discretion in proving tall men of their heels. So much for _Shrove
Tuesday_, Jacke-a-Lent’s gentleman usher; these have been his humours in
former times, but I have some better hope of reformation in him
hereafter, and indeed I wrote this before his coming this yeere, 1617,
not knowing how hee would behave himselfe; but tottering betwixt
despaire and hope I leave him.”

In connection with the custom of eating pancakes on this day, Fosbroke
in his _Encyclopædia of Antiquities_ (vol. ii. p. 572) says that
“Pancakes, the Norman _Crispellæ_, are taken from the Fornacalia, on
Feb. 18th, in memory of the practice in use before the goddess Fornax
invented ovens.”

The Saxons called February “Solmonath,” which Dr. F. Sayers, in his
_Disquisitions_, says is explained by Bede’s “Mensis Placentarum,” and
rendered by Spelman, in an inedited MS., “Pancake month,” because in the
course of it cakes were offered by the Pagan Saxons to the Sun.

Our most usual name of this Tuesday, says Hampson (_Med. Ævi Kalend._
vol. i. p. 158), is originally Swedish: _pankaka_, an omelette; but, it
has been absurdly derived from the Greek παν and κακοι, _all bad_, in
reference to the penitents at confession.

At one time Shrove Tuesday was the great holiday of the apprentices. Why
it should have been so, says Hone (_Every Day Book_, 1826, vol. i. p.
258), is easy to imagine, on recollecting the sports that boys were
allowed on that day at school. The indulgences of the ancient city
apprentices were great, and their licentious disturbances stand recorded
in the annals of many a fray. The old plays make us aware of a licence
which they took on Shrove Tuesday to assail houses of dubious repute,
and cart the unfortunate inmates through the city.--_Book of Days_, vol.
i. p. 239; See Dekker’s _Seven Deadly Sinnes_, 1606, p. 35.

_Cock-Fighting._--Cock-fighting was a very general amusement up to the
end of the last century. It entered into the occupations of the old and
young. Schools had their cockfights. Travellers agreed with coachmen
that they were to wait a night if there was a cock-fight in any town
through which they passed. A battle between two cocks had five guineas
staked upon it. Fifty guineas, about the year 1760, depended upon the
main or odd battle. This made the decision of a “long-main” at
cock-fighting an important matter. The church bells at times announced
the winning of a “long-main.” Matches were sometimes so arranged as to
last the week. When country gentlemen had sat long at table, and the
conversation had turned upon the relative merits of their several birds,
a cock-fight often resulted, as the birds in question were brought for
the purpose into the dining-room.--Roberts, _Social History of S.
Counties of England_, 1856, p. 421.

Formerly cock-fighting was practised on Shrove Tuesday to a very great
extent; and in the time of King Henry VII. this diversion seems to have
been practised within the precincts of the court. In a royal household
account, occurs the following:--“March 2, 7 Hen. VII. Item, to Master
Bray for rewards to them that brought Cokkes at Shrovetide, at
Westm^{r}. xx^{s}.”

The earliest mention of cock-fighting in England is by FitzStephens, who
died in 1191. He mentions it as one of the amusements of the Londoners,
together with the game of foot-ball. He says; “Yearly at Shrove-tide the
boys of every school bring fighting-cocks to their masters, and all the
forenoon is spent at school, to see these cocks fight together. After
dinner all the youth of the city goeth to play at the ball in the
fields; the scholars of every study have their balls; the practisers
also of the trades have everyone their ball in their hands. The
ancienter sort, the fathers, and the wealthy citizens, come on horseback
to see these youngsters contending at their sport, with whom, in a
manner, they participate by motion; stirring their own natural heat in
the view of the active youth, with whose mirth and liberty they seem to
communicate.” Cock-fighting is now happily by law a misdemeanour, and
punishable by penalty.

_Throwing at Cocks._--In days not very long gone by, the inhuman sport
of throwing at cocks was practised at Shrovetide, and nowhere was it
more certain to be seen than at the grammar-schools. The poor animal was
tied to a stake by a short cord, and the unthinking men and boys who
were to throw at it took their station at the distance of about twenty
yards. Where the cock belonged to some one disposed to make it a matter
of business, twopence was paid for three _shies_ at it, the missile used
being a broomstick. The sport was continued till the poor creature was
killed outright by the blows. Such outrage and tumult attended this
inhuman sport a century ago that it was sometimes dangerous to be near
the place where it was practised.--_Book of Days_, 1863, vol. i. p. 238.

The following extract is taken from the _Daily London Advertiser_,
Wednesday, March 7th, 1759:--Yesterday, being Shrove Tuesday, the orders
of the justices in the City and Liberty of Westminster were so well
observed that few cocks were seen to be thrown at, so that it is hoped
this barbarous custom will be left off.

In _Men-Miracles_ (by M. Lluellin, student of Christ Church, Oxon,
1679, p. 48), quoted by Brand, _Pop. Antiq._, 1849, vol. i. p. 78, is
the following ironical song on cock-throwing:

    “Cocke a doodle doe, ’tis the bravest game,
    Take a cock from his dame,
      And bind him to a stake:
    How he struts, how he throwes,
    How he staggers, how he crowes,
      As if the day newly brake.

    “How his mistress cackles,
    Thus to find him in shackles.
      And tied to a packe-thread garter.
    Oh, the beares and the bulls
    Are but corpulent gulls
      To the valiant Shrove-tide martyr.”

_Shying at Leaden Cocks._--This was probably in imitation of the
barbarous custom already described of “shying” or throwing at the living
animal. The “cock” was a representation of a bird or beast, a man, a
horse, or some device, with a stand projecting on all sides, but
principally behind the figure. These were made of lead cast in moulds.
They were shyed at with dumps from a small distance agreed upon by the
parties, generally regulated by the size or weight of the dump, and the
value of the cock. If the thrower overset or knocked down the cock, he
won it; if he failed, he lost his dump.

_Shy for Shy._--This was played at by two boys, each having a cock
placed at a certain distance, generally at about four or five feet
asunder, the players standing behind their cocks, and throwing
alternately; a bit of stone or wood was generally used to throw with;
the cock was won by him who knocked it down.

Corks and dumps were exposed for sale on the butchers’ shambles on a
small board and were the perquisites of the apprentices who made them;
and many a pewter plate, and many an ale-house pot, were melted at this
season for shying at cocks, which was as soon as fires were lighted in
the autumn.

These games, and all others among the boys of London, had their
particular times or seasons; and when any game was out, as it was
termed, it was lawful to steal the thing played with; this was called
_smugging_, and it was expressed by the boys in a doggrel air.

    “Tops are in, spin ’em agin.
    Tops are out, smugging about.”


    “Tops are in, spin ’em agin.
    Dumps are out, &c.”

The fair cock was not allowed to have his stand extended behind more
than his height and half as much more, nor much thicker than himself,
and he was not to extend in width more than his height, nor to project
over the stand; but fraudulent cocks were made extending laterally over
the side, so as to prevent his lying down sideways, and with a long
stand behind; the body of the cock was made thinner, and the stand
thicker, by which means the cock bent upon being struck, and it was
impossible to knock him over.--_Every Day Book_, vol. i. p. 253.

_Threshing the Hen_ was a custom formerly practised on this day. The
following account taken from _Tusser Redivivus_, 1710 (8vo. June, p.
15), is curious. “The hen,” says the writer, “is hung at a fellow’s
back, who also has some horse-bells about him, the rest of the fellows
are blinded, and have boughs in their hands, with which they chase this
fellow and his hen about some large court or small enclosure. The fellow
with his hen and bells shifting as well as he can, they follow the
sound, and sometimes hit him and his hen; other times, if he can get
behind one of them, they thresh one another well favouredly; but the
jest is, the maids are to blind the fellows, which they do with their
aprons, and the cunning baggages will endear their sweethearts with a
peeping-hole, whilst the others look out as sharp to hinder it. After
this the hen is boiled with bacon, and store of pancakes and fritters
are made.”

The same writer adds that after the hen-threshing, “she that is noted
for lying a-bed long, or any other miscarriage, hath the first pancake
presented to her, which most commonly falls to the dogs’ share at last,
for no one will own it their due.”

With regard to the origin of this custom, it has been conjectured that
as the fowl was a delicacy to the labourer, it was therefore given to
him on Shrove Tuesday for sport and food.--Tusser, in his _Five Hundred
Points of Good Husbandry_ (1620), has the following lines:

    “At Shrovetide to shroving, go thresh the fat hen,
    If blindfold can kill her, then give it thy men.
    Maids, fritters, and pancakes enough see you make,
    Let Slut have one pancake, for company sake.”

In some places, if flowers are to be procured so early in the season,
the younger children carry a small garland, for the sake of collecting a
few pence, saying:

    “Flowers, flowers, high do!
    Shreeny, greeny, rino!
    Sheeny greeny, sheeny greeny,
    Rum tum fra!”

  Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 68.


At Eaton, on Shrove Tuesday, as soon as ever the clock strikes nine, all
the boys in the school cry ΤΩ ΒΑΚΧΩ, ΤΩ ΒΑΚΧΩ, ΤΩ ΒΑΚΧΩ, as loud they
can yell, and stamp and knock with their sticks; and then they doe all
runne out of the schoole.--_Aubrey MS._, A.D. 1686, Brit. Mus.

A MS. in the British Museum already alluded to (_Status Scholæ
Etonensis_, A.D. 1560, MS. Brit. Mus. Donat. 4843 fol. 423) mentions a
custom of the boys of Eton school being allowed to play from eight
o’clock for the whole day; and of the cook’s coming in and fastening a
pancake to a crow, which the young crows are calling upon, near it, at
the school door.


Pennant, in his _Journey from Chester to London_, tells us of a place at
Chester without the walls, called the Rood-Eye, where the lusty youth in
former days exercised themselves in manly sports of the age: in archery,
running, leaping, and wrestling, in mock fights and gallant romantic
triumphs. A standard was the prize of emulation.

In a pamphlet also, entitled, _Certayne Collection of Anchiante Times,
concerninge the Anchiante and Famous Cittie of Chester_, published in
Lysons’ _Magna Britannia_ (1810, vol. ii. p. 585), is the following:

“That whereas the Companye and Corporation of Shoemakers within the
cittie of Chester did yearely, time out of memory of man, upon Tewsday,
commonly called Shrove Tuesday, or otherwise Goteddesse day afternoon,
at the Cross upon the Roode-Dee, before the Mayor of the said cittie,
offer unto the Company of Drapers of the same cittie a ball of leather,
called a foote-ball, of the value of 3_s._ 4_d._ or thereabouts: and by
reason of the greate strife which did arise among the younge persons of
the same cittie (while diverse parties were taken with force and strong
handes to bring the said ball to one of these three houses, that is to
say, to the Mayor’s house, or any one of the two Sheriffs’ houses of the
time being), much harme was done, some in the great thronge fallinge
into a trance, some having their bodies brused and crushed; some their
arms, heades, or legges broken, and some otherwise maimed, or in perill
of life: to avoid the said inconveniences, and also to torne and
converte the said homage to a better use, it was thought good by the
Mayor of the saide cittie and the rest of the Common-Council to exchange
of the said foote-ball as followeth: that in place thereof, there be
offered by the Shoemakers to the Drapers, six gleaves[10] of silver, the
which gleaves they appoynted to be rewards unto such men as would come,
and the same day and place, passe and overcome on foot all others: and
the said gleaves were presently delivered according to the runninge of
every one; and this exchange was made in the time when Henry Gee was
Mayor of Chester,[11] A.D. 1539, and in the thirty-firste yeare of Kinge
Henry the Eighth.

  [10] An obsolete word for a hand-dart.

  [11] The following is a copy of the order for the above-mentioned
  change, extracted from “the Orders and Acts of Assembly, of the Mayor,
  Aldermen, and Common Council of the City of Chester,” in the Town
  Clerk’s Office:

  “_Jan 10_ 3 _Hen._ viii. HENRY GEE, MAYOR.”--After reciting the
  ancient use of archery and shooting in the long bow, for the honour
  and defence of the realm, and that the same is much decayed, and other
  unlawful games much in use: “Ordered by the Mayor, Aldermen, and
  Common Council, with the consent of the whole occupation of drapers,
  sadlers, and shoemakers, that the said occupation of shoemakers (which
  always have, time out of mind, given and delivered yearly, on Shrove
  Tuesday in the afternoon, unto the drapers, before the Mayor at the
  Cross on the Roodee, one ball of leather, called a foot-ball, of the
  value of 3_s._ 4_d._, or above, to play at from thence to the
  common-hall of the said city, and further at the pleasure of the
  evil-disposed persons; whereof hath arisen great inconveniences) shall
  give and deliver yearly to the said drapers, before the Mayor at the
  said time and place: six silver gleaves, each of the value of 27_d._
  or above, to be disposed of at the pleasure of the said Mayor and
  drapers, to him that shall win a foot-race before them, that or any
  other day; and that the sadlers (who have time out of mind given, and
  delivered yearly, at the same time and place, every master of them,
  unto the drapers, before the Mayor, one painted ball of wood, with
  flowers and arms, upon the point of a spear, being goodly arrayed upon
  horseback accordingly) shall henceforth give and deliver to the said
  drapers, before the Mayor, at the same time and place upon horseback,
  a bell of silver, to the value of 3_s._ 4_d._, to be disposed of at
  the discretion of the Mayor and drapers, to him that shall get the
  horse races on that day; and that every man that hath been married in
  the said city, since Shrove Tuesday, then last past, shall then and
  there also deliver to the said drapers before the Mayor, an arrow of
  silver, to the value of 5_s._ or above, instead of such ball of silk
  and velvet, which such married men ought then to have given and
  delivered by the ancient custom of the said city (used time out of
  mind), which silver arrow shall be disposed of by the Mayor and
  drapers, for the preferment of the said feat and exercise of shooting
  in the long-bow, for avoiding the said inconveniences, any use or
  prescription to the contrary notwithstanding; and also, the said
  drapers and their successors, shall keep yearly their recreation and
  drinking, as they used to do, time out of mind, and that the
  shoemakers and sadlers, and persons hereafter to be married, shall
  observe this order upon pain of 10_l._ for every offence, _toties
  quoties_, to be forfeited to the drapers according to ancient custom.”

“Alsoe, whereas the Companye and occupation of the Sadlers within the
Cittie of Chester did yearely by custome, time out of memorie of man,
the same day, hour, and place, before the Mayor, offer upon a truncheon,
staffe or speare, a certaine homage to the Drapers of the cittie of
Chester, called the Sadler’s ball, profitable for few uses or purposes,
as it was, beinge a ball of silk of the bigness of a bowle, was torned
into a silver bell; weighing about two ozs., as is supposed, of silver:
the which saide silver bell was ordayned to be the rewarde for that
horse, which with speedy runninge, then should rune before all others,
and there presently should be given the daye and place. This alteration
was made the same time, and by the same mayor, like as the Shoemakers’
foote-ball was before exchanged into six silver gleaves.

“Also, whereas of an anchant custom whereof man’s memorie nowe livinge
cannot remember the original and beginninge, the same daye, hower and
place, before the mayor for the time beinge, every person which is
married within the liberties of the saide cittie, dwelling wheresoever
without, and all those that dwelle within the saide cittie, for one
yeare before, and marye elswhere, did offer likewise a homage to the
said Companye of Drapers before the Mayor, a ball of silke, of the like
bignesse of a bowle; the same mayor torned the same balls into silver
arrowes, the which arrowes they tooke order should be given to those
which did shoote the longest shoote, with divers kind of arrowes: this
exchange was made as before is mentioned of the Shoemakers’ foote-ball
and the Sadlers’ ball. In which exchange there appeared greate wisdom,
anchent and sage senators, whoe had great studye and regarde to torne
the foresaid thinges unto soe profitable uses and exercises; so that
there is three of the most commendable exercises and practices of
war-like feates, as running of men on foot, runninge of horses, and
shootinge of the broad arrowe, the flighte and the butt-shafte, in the
long-bowe, are yearely there used; which is done in a very few (if in
any) citties of England, soe far as I understand.”


It was customary at one time to tie fowls to stakes, and set them as
marks for boys to kill with bats.--Hitchins, _History of Cornwall_,
1824, vol. i. p. 723.


Formerly the scholars of the free school of Bromfield, about the
beginning of Lent, or, in the more expressive phraseology of the
country, at Fasting’s Even, used to _bar out the master_, i.e., to
depose and exclude him from his school, and keep him out for three days.
During the period of this expulsion, the doors of the citadel, the
school, were strongly barricaded within; and the boys, who defended it
like a besieged city, were armed in general with _bore-tree_ or elder
pop-guns. The master meantime made various efforts, both by force and
stratagem, to regain his lost authority. If he succeeded, heavy tasks
were imposed, and the business of the school was resumed and submitted
to, but it more commonly happened that he was repulsed and defeated.
After three days’ siege, terms of capitulation were proposed by the
master, and accepted by the boys. These terms were summed up in an old
formula of Latin Leonine verses, stipulating what hours and times should
for the year ensuing be allotted to study, and what to relaxation and
play. Securities were provided by each side for the due performance of
these stipulations, and the paper was then solemnly signed by both
master and pupils.

One of these articles, always stipulated for and granted, was the
privilege of immediately celebrating certain games of long standing:
viz. a foot-ball match and a cock-fight. Captains, as they were called,
were then chosen to manage and preside over these games: one from that
part of the parish, which lay to the westward of the school; the other
from the east. Cocks and foot-ball players were sought for with great
diligence. The party whose cocks won the most battles was victorious in
the cock-pit; and the prize, a small silver bell, suspended to the
button of the victor’s hat, and worn for three successive Sundays. After
the cock-fight was ended, the foot-ball was thrown down in the
churchyard; and the point then to be contested was, which party could
carry it to the house of his respective captain, to Dundraw, perhaps, or
West Newton, a distance of two or three miles, every inch of which
ground was keenly disputed. All the honour accruing to the conqueror at
foot-ball was that of possessing the ball.[12]--Hutchinson’s _Hist. of
Cumberland_, vol. ii. p. 322.

  [12] Addison is described by his biographers as having been the leader
  of a barring out at the Grammar School of Lichfield.

Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ (1849, vol. i. p. 441), says, that the custom of
_barring-out_ was practised in other places towards Christmas time, e.
g., at the school of Houghton-le-Spring, in the county of Durham.

Among the statutes of the grammar-school founded at Kilkenny, in
Ireland, March 18, 1684, in Vallancey’s _Collectanea de Rebus
Hibernicis_, vol. ii. p. 512, is the following:

“In the number of stubborn and refractory lads, who shall refuse to
submit to the orders and correction of the said school, who are to be
forthwith dismissed, and not re-admitted without due submission to
exemplary punishment, and on the second offence to be discharged and
expelled for ever,” are reckoned, “such as shall offer to shut out the
master or usher, but the master shall give them leave to break up eight
days before Christmas, and three days before Easter and Whitsuntide.”


Formerly the inhabitants of Derby had a foot-ball match between the
parishes of All Saints and St. Peter’s; the conflicting parties being
strengthened by volunteers from the other parishes, and from the
surrounding country. The bells of the different churches rang their
merry peals on the morning, and gave rise to the following jingle on the
five parishes of All Saints’, St. Peter’s, St. Werburgh’s, St.
Alkmund’s, and St. Michael’s:

    “Pancakes and fritters,
    Say All Saints’ and St. Peter’s;
    When will the _ball_ come,
    Say the bells of St. Alkmum;
    At _two_ they will throw,
    Says Saint Werabo’;
    O! very well,
    Says little Michel.”

The goal of All Saints’ was the water-wheel of the nun’s mill, and that
of St. Peter’s, on the opposite side of the town, at the gallow’s balk,
on the Normanton Road; the ball, which was of a very large size, was
made of leather, and stuffed quite hard with shavings, and about noon
was thrown into the market-place, from the Town Hall, into the midst of
an assembly of many thousand people, so closely wedged together, as
scarcely to admit of locomotion. The moment the ball was thrown, the
“war cries” of the rival parishes began, and thousands of arms were
uplifted in the hope of catching it during its descent. The opposing
parties endeavoured by every possible means, and by the exertion of
their utmost strength, to carry the ball in the direction of their
respective goals, and by this means the town was traversed and
retraversed many times in the course of the day; indeed, to such an
extent has the contest been carried, that some years ago the fortunate
holder of the ball, having made his way into the river Derwent, was
followed by the whole body, who took to the water in the most gallant
style, and kept up the chase to near the village of Duffield, a distance
of five miles, the whole course being against the rapid stream, and one
or two weirs having to be passed; on another occasion, the possessor of
the ball is said to have quietly dropped himself into the culvert or
sewer which passes under the town, and to have been followed by several
others of both parties, and, after fighting his way the whole distance
under the town, to have come out victorious at the other side where, a
considerable party having collected, the contest was renewed in the

On the conclusion of the day’s sport the man who had the honour of
“goaling” the ball was the champion of the year; the bells of the
victorious parish announced the conquest, and the victor was chaired
through the town. So universal has been the feeling with regard to this
game, that it is said a gentleman from Derby having met with a person in
the backwoods of America, whom from his style and conversation he
suspected to be from the Midland Counties of England, cried out when he
saw him, “_All Saints’ for ever_;” to this the stranger instantly
retorted, “_Peter’s for ever_;” and this satisfied them that they were
fellow-townsmen. A foot-ball match is also played at Ashborne nearly in
the same manner as at Derby.--_Jour. Arch. Assoc._, 1852, vol. vii. p.

A custom prevailed, too, in some parts of Derbyshire which gave licence
to the young men and boys to kiss any young women or girls whom they
chose. This, together with the general holiday observed in the afternoon
of that day, and the customary sports then indulged in, is of course a
remnant of the mediæval carnival.


In the south-eastern part of Devon the children at this season of the
year visit people’s houses, singing:

    “Tippetty, tippetty to,
    Give me a pancake and I’ll be go.”

  _N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. xi. p. 244.

At Tavistock, the following lines are sung by the children at the houses
of the principal inhabitants:

    “Lancrock (?) a pancake,
    A fritter for my labour;
    I see by the string
    The good dame’s in.
    Tippy tappy, toe,
    Nippy, nappy, no;
    If you’ll give something.
    I’ll be ago (i.e., gone).”

  _N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. v. p. 380.


In these, if not in other counties, a practice called _Lent Crocking_ is
observed. The boys go about in small parties visiting the various
houses, headed by a leader, who goes up and knocks at the door, leaving
his followers behind him, armed with a good stock of potsherds--the
collected relics of the washing-pans, jugs, dishes, and plates, that
have become the victims of concussion in the hands of unlucky or
careless housewives for the past year. When the door is opened, the
hero--who is, perhaps, a farmer’s boy, with a pair of black eyes
sparkling under the tattered brim of his brown milking-hat--hangs down
his head, and, with one corner of his mouth turned up into an
irrepressible smile pronounces the following lines:

    “A-shrovin, a-shrovin,
    I be come a-shrovin;
    A piece of bread, a piece of cheese,
    A bit of your fat bacon;
    Or a dish of dough nuts,
    All of your own makin!

    “A-shrovin, a-shrovin,
    I be come a-shrovin,
    Nice meat in a pie,
    My mouth is very dry!
    I wish a wuz zoo well-a-wet,
    I’de zing the louder for a nut!
              Chorus.--A shrovin, a-shrovin,
                       We be come a shrovin!”

Sometimes he gets a bit of bread and cheese, and at some houses he is
told to be gone; in which latter case he calls up his followers to send
their missiles in a rattling broadside against the door.--_Book of
Days_, vol. i. p. 239.

The late Dr. Husenbeth in _N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. ix. p. 135, gives
another version of the above rhyme:

    “I’m come a shroveing,
    For a piece of pancake,
    Or a piece of bacon,
    Or a little truckle cheese,
    Of your own making.
    Give me some, or give me none,
    Or else your door shall have a stone.”


At Basingstoke, and in some other parts of this county, the boys and
girls go to the houses of the well-to-do classes in little companies,
and, knocking at the door, repeat the following rhyme:

    “Knick a knock upon the block;
    Flour and lard is very dear,
    Please we come a shroving here.
    Your pan’s hot, and my pan’s cold,
    (Hunger makes us shrovers bold)
    Please to give poor shrovers something here.”

They then knock again, and repeat both knocks and verses until they
receive something. The line in brackets is not said in Basingstoke and
several other places.--_N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. xii. p. 100.


At Baldock, Shrove Tuesday is long anticipated by the children, who
designate it Dough-Nut-Day; it being usual to make a good store of small
cakes fried in hog’s lard, placed over the fire in a brass skillet,
called dough-nuts, with which the young people are plentifully
regaled.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._, 1849, vol. i. p. 83.

At Hoddesdon, in the same county, the old curfew-bell, which was
anciently rung in that town for the extinction and relighting of “all
fire and candle-light,” still exists, and has from time immemorial been
regularly rang on the morning of Shrove Tuesday at four o’clock, after
which hour the inhabitants are at liberty to make and eat pancakes until
the bell rings again at eight o’clock at night. So closely is this
custom observed, that after that hour not a pancake remains in the
town.--_Every Day Book_, vol. i. p. 242.


Formerly there prevailed in this county a custom called _cock-running_,
which, though not quite so cruel as _cock-throwing_, was not much
inferior to it. A cock was procured, and its wings were cut: the
_runners_ paid so much a head, and with their hands tied behind them ran
after it, and the person who caught it in his mouth, and carried it to a
certain place or goal, had the right of claiming the bird as his own. In
this race there was much excitement, and not a little squabbling, and
the one who was lucky enough to secure the bird frequently had his face
and eyes very much pecked.--_Time’s Telescope_, 1823, p. 40.


At All Saints’, Maidstone, the ancient custom of ringing a bell at
mid-day on Shrove Tuesday is observed, and is known as the
“Fritter-Bell.”--_Gent. Mag._ 1868, _4th S._ vol. v. p. 761.


Part of the income of the head-master and usher of the grammar-school at
Lancaster arises from a gratuity called a cock-penny, paid at Shrovetide
by the scholars, who are sons of freemen; of this money the head-master
has seven-twelfths, the usher five-twelfths. It is also paid at the
schools at Hawkshead and Clithero, in Lancashire; and formerly was paid,
also at Burnley, and at Whiteham and Millom, in Cumberland, near
Bootle.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._, 1849, vol. i. p. 72.

The tossing of pancakes (and in some places fritters) on this day was a
source of harmless mirth, and is still practised in the rural parts of
Lancashire and Cheshire, with its ancient accompaniments:

    “It is the day whereon both rich and poor,
    Are chiefly feasted on the self-same dish;
    When every paunch, till it can hold no more,
    Is fritter fill’d, as well as heart can wish;
    And every man and maide doe take their turne,
    And tosse their pancakes up for feare they burne
    And all the kitchen doth with laughter sound,
    To see the pancakes fall upon the ground.”

  Pasquil’s _Palinodia_. Harland and Wilkinson, _Lancashire Folk Lore_,
  1867, p. 218.


In the Newark, says Throsby (_History of Leicester_ 1791, p. 356), on
Shrove Tuesday is held the annual fair, chiefly for the amusement of the
young. Formerly, there was practised in its full extent the barbarous
custom of throwing at cocks, but now the amusement is confined to the
purchase of oranges, ginger-bread, &c., and to a custom known by the
name of “_Whipping-Toms_;” a practice no doubt instituted by the
dwellers in the Newark to drive away the rabble, after a certain hour,
from the fair. Two, three, or more men, armed with cart-whips, and with
a handkerchief tied over one eye, are let loose upon the people to flog
them, who are generally guarded with boots on their legs and sticks in
their hands. These whip-men, called “_Whipping-Toms_,” are preceded by a
bell-man, whose shake of his hand-bell gives a token or authority for
the whipping the legs of those who dare to remain in the Newark. Many
arts and devices are practised by the Whipping-Toms to take the people
by surprise; but quarrels sometimes ensue.

At Claybrook, in the same county, a bell rings at noon, which is meant
as a signal for people to commence frying their pancakes.--Macaulay,
_History of Claybrook_, 1791.


On this occasion it was formerly customary for the Manks to have
_Sollaghyn_ or _Crowdy_ for dinner, instead of for breakfast, as at
other times; and for supper, flesh meat, with a large pudding and
pancakes; hence the Manks proverb:

    “Ee shibber oie innid vees olty volg lane,
    My jig laa caisht yon traaste son shen.”

    “On Shrove Tuesday night, though thy supper be fat,
    Before Easter Day thou may’st fast for that.”

  Train, _History of the Isle of Man_, 1845, vol. ii. p. 117.


At Westminster School, London, the following is observed to this day. At
11 o’clock A.M. a verger of the Abbey, in his gown, bearing a silver
bâton, emerges from the college kitchen, followed by the cook of the
school, in his white apron, jacket, and cap, and carrying a pancake. On
arriving at the school-room door, he announces himself, ‘The Cook;’ and
having entered the school-room, he advances to the bar which separates
the upper school from the lower one, twirls the pancake in the pan, and
then tosses it over the bar into the upper school, among a crowd of
boys, who scramble for the pancake; and he who gets it unbroken, and
carries it to the deanery, demands the honorarium of a guinea (sometimes
two guineas) from the Abbey funds, though the custom is not mentioned in
the Abbey Statutes: the cook also receives two guineas for his
performance.--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 237.


It is customary at Norwich to eat a small bun called
cocque’els--cook-eels--coquilles (the name being spelt indifferently),
which is continued throughout the season of Lent. Forby, in his
_Vocabulary of East Anglia_, calls this production “a sort of
cross-bun,” but no cross is placed upon it, though its composition is
not dissimilar. He derives the word from _coquille_ in allusion to their
being fashioned like an escallop, in which sense he is borne out by
Cotgrave, who has “_pain coquillé_, a fashion of an hard-crusted loafe,
somewhat like our stillyard bunne.” A correspondent of _Notes and
Queries_ says that he has always taken the word to be “coquerells,” from
the vending of such buns at the barbarous sport of “throwing at the
cock” (which is still called a cockerell in E. Anglia) on Shrove
Tuesday.--_N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. i. pp. 293 and 412.

Formerly there used to be held at Norwich on Shrove Tuesday a most
curious festivity, to which Blomefield in his _History of Norfolk_
(1806, vol. iii. p. 155) incidentally alludes. In 1442, he says, there
was a great insurrection at Norwich, for which the citizens were
indicted, who among other things pleaded in their excuse:

“That John Gladman, of Norwich, who ever was, and at thys our is, a man
of sad disposition, and trewe and feythfull to God and to the Kyng, of
disporte, as hath been acustomed in ony cite or burgh thorowe alle this
reame, on Tuesday in the last ende of Crestemesse, viz. _Fastyngonge
Tuesday_, made a disport with his neighbours, havyng his hors trappyd
with tynnsoyle, and other nyse disgisy things, corouned as Kyng of
Crestemesse, in tokyn that seson should ende with the twelve monethes of
the yere: aforn hym [went] yche moneth, disguysed after the seson
requiryd, and _Lenton_ clad in whyte and red heryngs skinns, and his
hors trappyd with oystyr-shells after him, in token that sadnesse should
folowe, and an holy tyme; and so rode in diverse stretis of the cite,
with other people with hym disguyssd, and makyng myrth, disportes, and


In many parts of this county the church bell is rung about noon, as the
signal for preparing pancakes. At Daventry the bell which is rung on
this occasion is muffled on one side with leather, or _buffed_, as it is
termed, and obtains the name of _Pan-burn-bell_. Jingling rhymes in
connection with this day are repeated by the peasantry, varying in
different districts. The following are the most current:

    “Pancakes and fritters,
    Says the bells of St. Peter’s.
    Where must we fry ’em?
    Says the bells of Cold Higham.
    In yonder land thurrow [furrow],
    Says the bells of Wellingborough.
    You owe me a shilling,
    Says the bells of Great Billing.
    When will you pay me?
    Says the bells at Middleton Cheney.
    When I am able,
    Says the bells at Dunstable.
    That will never be,
    Says the bells at Coventry.
    Oh, yes it will,
    Says Northampton Great Bell.
    White bread and sop,
    Says the bells at Kingsthrop.
    Trundle a lantern,
    Says the bells at Northampton.”

That the bells of the churches of Northampton used also to be rung on
this day may be inferred from the following similar doggerel:

    “Roast beef and marsh-mallows,
    Says the bells of All Hallow’s,
    Pancakes and fritters.
    Says the bells of St. Peter’s.
    Roast beef and boil’d,
    Says the bells of St. Giles’.
    Poker and tongs,
    Says the bells of St. John’s.[13]
    Shovel, tongs, and poker,
    Says the bells of St. Pulchre’s.[14]”

  Baker, _Northamptonshire Words and Phrases_, vol. ii. p. 92.

  [13] St. John’s Hospital.

  [14] The church of St. Sepulchre is often called “Pulchre’s” in

At Earls Barton the custom of making “leek pasties” is observed. A party
of shoemakers, after procuring a chaff-cutter and a quantity of leeks,
proceed to the green, where they publicly chop the vegetable to the
amusement of the spectators.--See _Gent. Mag._, 1867, _4th S._ vol. iv.
p. 219.


Formerly at Alnwick the waits belonging to the town used to come playing
to the Castle every year on Shrove Tuesday at two o’clock P.M., when a
foot-ball was thrown over the Castle walls to the populace.--Brand,
_Pop. Antiq._, 1849, vol i. p. 92.


At Aspley Old Hall, in days gone by, butter and lard, fire and
frying-pans were provided for all the poor families of Wollaston,
Trowell, and Cossall, who chose to come and eat their pancakes at this
mansion. The only conditions attached to the feast were, that no
quarrelling should take place, and that each wife and mother should fry
for her own family, and that when the cake needed turning in the pan,
the act should be performed by tossing it in the air and catching it
again in the pan with the uncooked side downwards. And many were the
roars of laughter which took place among the merry groups in the
kitchen, at the mishaps which occurred in the performance of this feast,
in which his Honour and Madam joined.

In addition to the pancakes, each man was allowed a quart of good ale,
women a pint, and children a gill.--Sutton, _Nottingham Date Book_,
1852, p. 75.

There is a curious tradition existing in Mansfield, Woodhouse, Bulwell,
and several other villages near Sherwood Forest, as to the origin of
pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. The inhabitants of any of the villages will
inform the questioner that when the Danes got to Linby all the Saxon men
of the neighbouring villages ran off into the forest, and the Danes
took the Saxon women to keep house for them. This happened just before
Lent, and the Saxon women, encouraged by their fugitive lords, resolved
to massacre their Danish masters on Ash Wednesday. Every woman who
agreed to do this was to bake pancakes for this meal on Shrove Tuesday
as a kind of pledge to fulfil her vow. This was done, and that the
massacre of the Danes did take place on Ash Wednesday is a well-known
historical fact.--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. vii. p. 450.


In this county children go about singing the following rhyme, begging at
the same time for half-pence:

    “Knick, knock, the pan’s hot,
    And we be come a shroving:
    A bit of bread, a bit of cheese,
    A bit of barley dompling,
    That’s better than nothing.
    Open the door and let us in,
    For we be come a pancaking.”

At Islip in the same county this version is used:

    “Pit a pat; the pan is hot,
    We are come a shroving;
    A little bit of bread and cheese
    Is better than nothing.
    The pan is hot, the pan is cold;
    Is the fat in the pan nine days old?”

  Brand, _Pop. Antiq._, 1849, vol. i. p. 88.


The boys celebrate the evening of this day by throwing stones against
the doors of the dwellers’ houses: a privilege which they claim from
time immemorial. The terms demanded by them are pancakes or money to
capitulate. Some of the older sort, exceeding the bounds of this
whimsical practice, in the dusk of the evening, set a bolted door or
window-shutter at liberty, by battering in a breach with large pieces of
rock stones, which sometimes causes work for the surgeon, as well as for
the smith, glazier, and carpenter. The way of making reprisal, in such
cases, is by a rope drawn across the road of the mischievous, by means
of which their flight is suddenly interrupted, and themselves
ignominiously hurled to the ground with the loss of their
artillery.--Heath, _Account of Islands of Scilly_, 1750, p. 127.


In _The History and Antiquities of Ludlow_, 1822 (pp. 188-189), occurs
the following account of a custom formerly observed on this day: “The
corporation provide a rope, three inches in thickness, and in length
thirty-six yards, which is given out at one of the windows of the
Market-House as the clock strikes four, when a large body of the
inhabitants divided into two parties--one contending for Castle Street
and Broad Street wards, and the other for Old Street and Corve Street
wards--commence an arduous struggle, and as soon as either party gains
the victory by pulling the rope beyond the prescribed limits, the
pulling ceases, which is, however, renewed by a second, and sometimes by
a third contest; the rope being purchased by subscription from the
victorious party, and given out again. Without doubt this singular
custom is symbolical of some remarkable event, and a remnant of that
ancient language of visible signs, which, says a celebrated writer,
“imperfectly supplies the want of letters, to perpetuate the remembrance
of public or private transactions.” The sign, in this instance, has
survived the remembrance of the occurrence it was designed to represent,
and remains a profound mystery. It has been insinuated that the real
occasion of this custom is known to the corporation, but that for some
reason or other, they are tenacious of the secret. An obscure tradition
attributes this custom to circumstances arising out of the siege of
Ludlow by Henry VI., when two parties arose within the town, one
supporting the pretensions of the Duke of York, and the other wishing to
give admittance to the king; one of the bailiffs is said to have headed
the latter party. History relates that, in this contest, many lives were
lost, and that the bailiff, heading his party in an attempt to open
Dinham Gate, fell a victim there.”


An odd practice seems to prevail in some parts of Somersetshire, and
also in Devonshire and Dorsetshire on Shrove Tuesday, which is locally
nick-named _Sharp Tuesday_. The youngsters go about after dusk, and
throw stones against people’s doors, by what is considered by them an
indefeasible right. They at the same time sing in chorus:

    “I be come a shrovin
    Vor a little pankiak;
    A bit o’ bread o’ your baikin,
    Or a little truckle cheese o’ your maikin,
    If you’ll gi’ me a little, I’ll ax no more,
    If you don’t gi’ me nothin, I’ll _rottle_ your door.”

  Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ (Ed. Hazlitt), 1870, vol. i. p. 48.


In this county Shrove Tuesday goes by the name of Goodish Tuesday.--_N.
& Q. 2nd S._ vol. v. p. 209.


At Bury St. Edmund’s on Shrove Tuesday, Easter Monday, and the
Whitsuntide festivals, twelve old women side off for a game at
trap-and-ball, which is kept up with the greatest spirit and vigour
until sunset. Afterwards they retire to their homes, where

    “Voice, fiddle, or flute,
    No longer is mute,”

and close the day with apportioned mirth and merriment.--_Every Day
Book_, vol. i. p. 430.


The following is taken from the _Times_ of March 7th, 1862:

“Shrove Tuesday was observed, as in days of yore, at Dorking,[15] first
by a perambulation of the streets by the foot-ball retinue, composed of
grotesquely-dressed persons, to the sounds of music, and in the
afternoon by the kicking of the ball up and down the principal
thoroughfares of the town. The usual number of men and boys joined in
the sport, and played, especially towards the end of the game, with a
roughness extremely dangerous to the limbs of the competitors. As 6
o’clock drew near the struggle for victory became more vehement; the
palm, however, was obtained, for the fifth year, by the players from the
west end of the town. The old custom of tolling the ‘pancake bell’
during the morning was, on this occasion, as during the last two or
three years, dispensed with.”--_West Surrey Times._

  [15] This custom prevails at Epsom. _N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. i. p. 439.
  It seems to have been observed also at Twickenham, Bushy, Teddington,
  Kingston. See _Every Day Book_, vol. i. p. 245.


At Brighstone parties of young boys, girls, and very small children
parade the village, singing the following words:

    “Shroving, shroving, I am come to shroving.
      White bread and apple pie,
      My mouth is very dry;
      I wish I were well a-wet,
      As I could sing for a nut.

    Shroving, shroving, I am come to shroving.
      A piece of bread, a piece of cheese,
      A piece of your fat bacon,
      Dough nuts and pancakes,
      All of your own making.
    Shroving, shroving, I am come to shroving.”[16]

  _N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. xi. p. 239.

  [16] For a more detailed account of the Isle of Wight Shrovers, see
  Halliwell’s _Popular Rhymes_, 1849, p. 246.


A correspondent of _N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. v. p. 391, says that all the
apprentices in the town of Hedon whose indentures terminate before the
return of the day assemble in the belfry of the church at eleven
o’clock, and in turn toll the tenor bell for an hour, at the sound of
which all the housewives in the parish commence frying pancakes. The
sexton, who is present receives a small fee from each lad.

At Scarborough on the morning of Shrove Tuesday hawkers parade the
streets with barrows loaded with party-coloured balls, which are
purchased by all ranks of the inhabitants. With these, and armed with
sticks, men, women, and children repair to the sands below the old town,
and indiscriminately commence a contest, one party trying to drive the
ball into the sea, and another equally zealous in their attempts to
rescue it.


Formerly it was customary to take such hens as had not laid eggs before
Shrove Tuesday, and to thrash them to death, as being no longer of any
use. The same custom also prevailed in some parts of Cornwall.--Brand,
_Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 81; _Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 238.

At Harding, in Flintshire, the lord of the manor, attended by his
bailiff, formerly provided a foot-ball, and after throwing it down in a
field near the church (called thence _foot-ball field_) the young and
old assembled together to play at foot-ball.--Kennett MS. British

At Tenby Shrove Tuesday was formerly a general holiday, when the time
was divided between foot-ball-kicking and pancake-eating. The shutters
remained upon the shop-windows, while the windows of the private houses
were barricaded with wood, or blinded with laths, bags, and
sacking.--Mason, _Tales and Traditions of Tenby_, 1858, pp. 17, 18.


Fastren’s E’en is celebrated annually, after the Border fashion, in the
month of February, the day being fixed by the following antiquated

    “First comes Candlemas, syne the New Moon;
    The next Tuesday after is Fastren’s E’en.”

_Crowdie_ is mentioned by Sir F. M. Eden (_State of the Poor_, 1797,
vol. i. p. 498) as a never-failing dinner on Shrove Tuesday, with all
ranks of people in Scotland, as pancakes are in England; and that a ring
is put into the basin or porringer of the unmarried folks, to the finder
of which by fair means it was an omen of marriage before the rest of the


In the Highlands the most substantial entertainment peculiar to the
evening of Shrove Tuesday is the matrimonial _brose_ (pottage), a
savoury dish, generally made of the _bree_ (broth) of a good fat piece
of beef or mutton, which being sometimes a good while _in retentum_,
renders the addition of salt to the meal unnecessary. Before the bree is
put in the bicker or plate, a ring is mixed with the meal, which it will
be the aim of every partaker to get. The first bicker being discussed,
the ring is put into two other bickers successively; and should any of
the candidates for matrimony find the ring more than once, he may rest
assured of his marrying before the next anniversary.

The brose, and plenty of other good cheer, being dispatched, the guests
betake themselves to another part of the night’s entertainment. Soon as
the evening circle convenes, the _Bannich Junit_, or “sauty bannocks,”
are resorted to. The component ingredients of those dainties are eggs
and meal, and a sufficient quantity of salt to sustain their ancient and
appropriate appellation of “sauty.” These ingredients, well mixed
together, are baked or roasted on the gridiron, and are regarded by old
and young as a most delicious treat; and, as may be expected, they have
a charm attached to them which enables the happy Highlander to discover
the object of all his spells--his connubial bedfellow. A sufficient
number of those designed for the palate being prepared, the great or
matrimonial bannock is made, of which all the young people in the house
partake. Into the ingredients of it there is some article intermixed,
which, in the distribution, will fall to the lot of some happy person,
who may be sure, if not already married, to be so before the next

Last of all are made the _Bannich Bruader_, or dreaming bannocks, to the
ingredients composing which is added a little of that substance which
chimney-sweeps call soot, and which contains some charm. In baking these
last bannocks the baker must be as mute as a stone--one word would
destroy the charm of the whole concern. One is given to each individual,
who slips off with it quietly to bed, and, reposing his head on his
bannock, he will be gratified by the sight of his beloved in the course
of his midnight slumbers.--Stewart, _Popular Superstitions of the
Highlanders of Scotland_, 1851, p. 178.


On Shrove Tuesday, in the parish of Inverness, there is a standing match
at football between the married and unmarried women, in which the former
are always victorious.--_Stat. Acc. of Scotland_, Sinclair, 1795, vol.
xvi. p. 19.


Formerly, on this day, the bachelors and married men drew themselves up
at the Cross of Scone, on opposite sides. A ball was then thrown up, and
they played from two o’clock till sunset. The game was this: He who at
any time got the ball into his hands, ran with it till overtaken by one
of the opposite party, and then, if he could escape from those of the
opposite side who seized him, he ran on; if not, he threw the ball away,
unless it was wrested from him by the other party; but no person was
allowed to kick it. The object of the married men was to _hang it_,
i.e., to put it three times into a small hole in the moor, the _goal_ or
limit, on the one hand; that of the bachelors was to drown it, i.e., to
dip it three times into a deep place in the river, the limit of the
other. The party who could effect either of these objects won the game.
But, if neither party won, the ball was cut into equal parts at sunset.
In the course of the play, one might always see some scene of violence
between the parties; but, as the proverb of that part of the country
expresses it, “All was fair at the Ball of Scone.” This custom is
supposed to have had its origin in the days of chivalry.

An Italian, it is said, came into that part of the country, challenging
all the parishes, under a certain penalty in case of declining his
challenge. All the parishes declined the challenge except Scone, which
beat the foreigner, and in commemoration of this gallant action the game
was instituted. Whilst the custom continued, every man in the parish,
the gentry not excepted, was obliged to turn out and support the side to
which he belonged; and the person who neglected to do his part on that
occasion was fined.--Sinclair, _Stat. Acc. of Scotland_, 1796, vol.
xviii. p. 88.


On this occasion the town of Melrose presents a most singular
appearance, from the windows of the shops and dwellings in the main
streets being barricaded. This precaution is necessary to prevent
breakage, as football-playing on a most indiscriminate and unlimited
scale is the order of the day. The ball is thrown up at the cross at one
o’clock, when the young men of the town and neighbourhood, with a
sprinkling of the married athletes, assemble in considerable numbers.
The foot-balls used are previously supplied by a general public
subscription, and from one o’clock the sport is kept up with great
spirit until darkness sets in and puts a stop to the game. Business
throughout the town is almost entirely suspended during the day.--Wade,
_History of Melrose Abbey_, 1861, p. 144.


At Kilrush in the county of Clare, this is the greatest day in the year
for weddings, and consequently the Roman Catholic priests are generally
occupied in the celebration of matrimony from sunrise till midnight. The
general fee on this occasion is two guineas and a half; and many
thoughtless couples, under the age of sixteen, pay it with cheerfulness
when they have not another penny in their possession. Those who do not
marry on this day must wait until Easter Monday on account of the
intervening Lent.--Mason, _Stat. Acc. of Ireland_, 1814, vol. ii. p.


Among the Anglo-Saxons Ash Wednesday had its ceremonial of strewing
ashes upon not merely the public penitent, but all; and thereby spoke
its awful teachings and warnings unto all--unto the young and old--the
guiltless and the guilty. As soon as none-song was over, that is, about
mid-afternoon, the ashes were hallowed and then put upon each one’s
forehead. From their own parish church the people then went in
procession to some other church, and on coming back heard mass. Then,
and only then, did such as were bound and able to fast take any kind of
food.--D. Rock, _The Church of our Fathers_, 1849-53, vol. iii. part ii.
p. 63.

Formerly, on this day, boys used to go about _clacking_ at doors, to get
eggs or bits of bacon wherewith to make up a feast among themselves;
and, when refused, would stop the keyhole up with dirt, and depart with
a rhymed denunciation.--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 240. We learn also
from Fosbroke’s _British Monachism_ (1843) that in days gone by boys
used on the evening of Ash Wednesday to run about with firebrands and

In former times during the season of Lent, an officer denominated “The
King’s Cock-Crower” crowed the hour every night within the precincts of
the palace, instead of proclaiming it in the ordinary manner. On the
first Ash Wednesday after the accession of the House of Hanover, as the
Prince of Wales, afterwards George II., was sitting down to supper, this
officer suddenly entered the apartment, before the chaplain said grace,
and crowed “past ten o’clock.” The astonished Prince, not understanding
English, and mistaking the tremulation of the crow for mockery,
concluded that this ceremony was intended as an insult, and instantly
rose to resent it; when, with some difficulty, he was made to understand
the nature of the custom, and that it was intended as a compliment, and
according to court etiquette. From that period the custom was

The intention of crowing the hour of the night was no doubt intended to
remind waking sinners of the august effect the third crowing of the cock
had on the guilty Apostle St. Peter; and the limitation of the custom to
the season of Lent was judiciously adopted; as, had the practice
continued throughout the year, the impenitent would become as habituated
and as indifferent to the crow of the mimic cock as they are to that of
the real one, or to the cry of the watchmen. The adaptation to the
precincts of the Court seems also to have had a view, as if the
institutor (probably the Royal Confessor) had considered that the
greater and more obdurate sinners resided within the purlieus of the
palace.--_Gent. Mag._ 1785, vol. lv. p. 341.

The beginning of Lent was at one time marked by a custom now fallen into
disuse. A figure, made up of straw and cast-off clothes, was drawn or
carried through the streets amid much noise and merriment; after which
it was either burnt, shot at, or thrown down a chimney. This image was
called “Jack o’Lent,” and was, according to some, intended to represent
Judas Iscariot. Elderton, in a ballad, called _Lenton Stuff_, in a MS.
in the Ashmolean Museum, thus concludes his account of Lent:

    “Then Jake a’ Lent comes justlynge in,
      With the hedpecce of a herynge,
    And saythe, repent yowe of yower syn,
      For shame, syrs, leve yower swerynge:
    And to Palme Sonday doethe he ryde,
      With sprots and herryngs by hys syde,
    And makes an end of Lenton tyde!”

  _N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. xii. p. 297.

In Ben Jonson’s _Tale of a Tub_, occurs the following:

              --“On an Ash Wednesday,
    When thou didst stand six weeks the Jack o’ Lent,
    For boys to hurl three throws a penny at thee.”

  Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 101.

It was once customary for persons to wear black cloth during Lent.
Roberts in his _Cambrian Pop. Antiq._ (1815, 112), says this usage was
entirely laid aside in his time; but of late years it has been somewhat

It is observed by Mr. Fosbroke that ladies wore friars’ girdles during
this season, and quoting from _Camden’s Remains_ he tells us how Sir
Thomas More, finding his lady scolding her servants during Lent,
endeavoured to restrain her. “Tush, tush, my lord,” said she, “look,
here is one step to heavenward,” showing him a friar’s girdle. “I fear
me,” said he, “that one step will not bring you one step higher.”

In a curious tract written about 1174 by FitzStephen, a monk of
Canterbury, and entitled _Descriptio Nobilissimæ Civitatis Londoniæ_,
there is an interesting account of the metropolis and its customs in
Henry II.’s time. Speaking of the season of Lent the writer says, “Every
Friday afternoon a company of young men ride out on horses fit for war
and racing, and trained to the course. Then the citizens’ sons flock
through the gates in troops, armed with lances and shields, and practise
feats of arms; but the lances of the more youthful are not headed with
iron. When the king lieth near, many courtiers, and young striplings
from the families of the great, who have not yet attained the warlike
girdle, resort to these exercises. The hope of victory inflames every
one. Even the neighing and fierce horses shake their joints, chew their
bridles, and cannot endure to stand still. At length they begin their
race; afterwards the young men divide their troops and contend for


At Felstead the churchwardens distribute, as the gift of Lord Rich,
seven barrels of white herrings and three barrels and a half of red on
Ash Wednesday, and the six following Sundays, to ninety-two poor
householders of the parish, selected by the churchwardens, in shares of
eight white herrings and four red a piece. A list is kept of the persons
receiving this donation, and they continue to receive it during their
lives, unless they misconduct themselves or enter the workhouse.--_Old
English Customs and Charities_, 1842, p. 9.


P. Le Neve Foster, Esq., who in 1835 held the rectorial tithes of the
parish of Great Witchingham, under a lease from the warden and fellows
of New College, Oxford, was bound by a covenant contained therein, to
provide and distribute to and amongst the poor inhabitants and
parishioners, two seams of peas, containing in all sixteen bushels. The
practice has been to give to every person who happens to be in the
parish on Ash Wednesday, whether rich or poor, one quart of peas
each.--_Old English Customs and Charities_, 1842, p. 34.


The days so called were Mondays and Saturdays in Lent, when no regular
meals were provided, and the members of our great families scambled. In
the old household-book of the fifth Earl of Northumberland there is a
particular section appointing the order of service for these days, and
so regulating the licentious contentions of them. Shakespeare, in his
play of Henry V. (act v. scene 2), makes King Henry say: “If ever thou
be’st mine, Kate, I get thee with _scambling_, and thou must therefore
needs prove a good soldier-breeder.”

The word _scambling_ is conjectured to be derived from the Greek
σκαμβος, oblique, indirect, &c.

    “The scambling and unquiet time.”

  Shak. _Henry V._ act i. sc. 1.

--_Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. ii. p. 350. _Antiq. Repert._ 1809, vol. iv.
pp. 87, 91, 305.


In Smith’s MS. _Lives of the Lords of Berkeley_, in the possession of
the Earl of Berkeley (p. 49), we read that on the anniversary of the
founder of St. Augustine’s, Bristol, i.e., Sir Robert Fitzharding, on
the 5th of February, “at that monastery there shall be one hundred poore
men refreshed in a dole made unto them in this forme: Every man of them
hath a chanon’s loaf of bread, called a myche (a kind of bread), and
three hearings therewith. There shall be doaled also amongst them two
bushells of peys.”--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._, 1849, vol., i. p. 116.


In Leeds and the neighbourhood they eat a sort of pancake on the
Thursday following Shrove Tuesday, which in that part they call Fruttors
(Fritters) Thursday. The Leeds fritter, it is said in the _Dialect of
Leeds_, 1862, p. 307, is about one-fourth the size of a pancake,
thicker, and has an abundance of currants in it.



In the west of Ireland nine-tenths of the marriages that take place
among the peasantry are celebrated the week before Lent, and
particularly on Shrove Tuesday, on which day the Roman Catholic priests
have hard work to get through all their duties. On the first Sunday in
Lent it is usual for the girls slyly to chalk the coats of those young
men who have allowed the preceding festival to pass without having made
their choice of a partner; and “illigible” young men strut about with
affected unconsciousness of the numerous stripes which decorate their
backs, while boys just arrived at manhood hold their heads higher, and
show tokens of great satisfaction, if any good-natured lass affixes the
coveted mark.--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. iii. p. 207.



This festival was formerly observed at Oxford. The following extract is
taken from _The Lives of Leland, Hearne, and Wood_ (1772. vol. ii. p.
312): Friday, the burghers or citizens of Oxford appeared in their full
number on St. Scholastica’s Day at St. Mary’s. Alderman Wright, their
oracle, told them that if they did not appear there might be some hole
picked in their charter, as there was now endeavouring to be done in
that of the city of London; he told them moreover that, though it was a
popish matter, yet policy ought to take place in this juncture of

  [17] See ibid. p. 295.

The origin of this custom was a furious contest between the citizens of
Oxford and the students. Some of the latter being at a tavern, on the
10th of February, 1354, broke the landlord’s head with a vessel in which
he had served them with bad wine. The man immediately collected together
a number of his neighbours and fellow-citizens, who, having for a long
time waited for such an opportunity, fell upon the students, and in
spite of the mandates of the Chancellor, and even the King himself, who
was then at Woodstock, continued their outrages for several days, not
only killing or wounding the scholars, but, in contempt of the
sacerdotal order, destroying all the religious crosses of the town. For
this offence the King deprived the city of many valuable privileges, and
bestowed them on the University, and the Bishop of Lincoln forbade the
administration of the sacraments to the citizens. In the following year
they petitioned for a mitigation of this sentence, but without success;
but in 1357 a total abrogation of it was granted upon condition that the
city should annually celebrate on St. Scholastica’s day, the 10th of
February, a number of masses for the souls of the scholars killed in the
conflict; the mayor and bailiffs with sixty of the chief burgesses being
bound also to swear at St. Mary’s Church observance of the customary
rights of the University, under the penalty of 100 marks in case of
omission of this ceremony. It was further ordered, that the said
citizens should afterwards offer up singly at the high altar one penny,
of which sum forty pence were to be distributed to poor scholars, and
the remainder given to the curate of St. Mary’s. This offering being
omitted upon the pretence that masses were abolished, the University in
Queen Elizabeth’s reign sued them for the sum of 1,500 marks due for
such neglect during fifteen years; when it was decreed that instead of
mass there should be a sermon and a communion at St. Mary’s (which at
length came only to public prayers), and that the said offering should
be made. The traditional story that the mayor was obliged to attend with
a halter round his neck, which was afterwards, to lessen the disgrace,
changed into a silken string, has no real foundation.--_Ibid._, p. 296.


Misson, in his _Travels in England_ (translated by Ozell, p. 330),
describes the amusing practices of his time connected with this day. He
tells us that on the eve of the 14th February, St. Valentine’s day, the
young folks in England and Scotland, by a very ancient custom, celebrate
a little festival. An equal number of maids and bachelors get together,
and each writes their true or some feigned name upon separate billets,
which they roll up, and draw by way of lots, the maids taking the men’s
billets, and the men the maids’; so that each of the young men lights
upon a girl that he calls his Valentine, and each of the girls upon a
young man which she calls hers. By this means each has two Valentines;
but the man sticks faster to the Valentine that is fallen to him, than
the Valentine to whom he is fallen. Fortune having thus divided the
company into so many couples, the Valentines give balls and treats to
their mistresses, wear their billets several days upon their bosoms or
sleeves, and this little sport often ends in love. There is another
kind of Valentine, which is the first young man or woman that chance
throws in your way in the street, or elsewhere, on that day.

In some places, says Hone (_Every Day Book_, vol. i. p. 226), at this
time, and more particularly in London, the lad’s Valentine is the first
lass he sees in the morning, who is not an inmate of the house; the
lass’s Valentine is the first youth she sees.

Gay mentions this usage on St. Valentine’s Day; he makes a rustic
housewife remind her good man--

    “I early rose just at the break of day,
    Before the sun had chas’d the stars away;
    A-field I went, amid the morning dew
    To milk my kine (for so should house-wives do);
    Thee first I spied, and the first swain we see,
    In spite of Fortune shall our true-love be.”

Shakespeare bears witness to the custom of looking for your Valentine,
or desiring to be one, through poor Ophelia’s singing:

    “Good morrow! ’tis St. Valentine’s day,
      All in the morning betime,
    And I a maid at your window,
      To be your Valentine!”


At Ashborne the following custom is observed on Valentine’s Eve. When a
young woman wishes to divine who her future husband is to be, she goes
into the churchyard at midnight, and as the clock strikes twelve
commences running round the church, repeating without intermission:

    “I sow hempseed, hempseed I sow,
    He that loves me best
    Come and after me mow.”

Having thus performed the circuit of the church twelve times without
stopping, the figure of her lover is supposed to appear and follow
her.--_Jour. Arch. Assoc._ 1852, vol. vii. p. 209.


The peasants and others believe that if they go to the porch of a
church, waiting there till half-past twelve o’clock on the Eve of St.
Valentine’s day, with some hempseed in his or her hand, and at the time
above-named, then proceed homewards, scattering the seed on either side,
repeating these lines:

    “Hempseed I sow, hempseed I mow,
    She (or he) that will my true-love be,
    Come rake this hempseed after me,”

his or her true love will be seen behind raking up the seed just sown,
in a winding-sheet.--_N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. v. p. 55.


As soon as it is dark, packages may be seen being carried about in a
most mysterious way; and as soon as the coast seems clear, the parcel is
laid on the doorstep, the bell rung, and the bearer runs away. Inside
the house is all on the _qui vive_, and the moment the bell is heard,
all the little folks (and the old ones too, sometimes) rush to the door,
and seize the parcel and scrutinize the direction most anxiously, and
see whether it is for papa or mamma, or one of the youngsters. The
parcels contain presents of all descriptions, from the most magnificent
books or desks, to little unhappy squeaking dolls. These presents are
always sent anonymously, and nearly always contain a few verses, ending
with the distich:

    “If you’ll be mine, I’ll be thine,
    And so good morrow, Valentine.”

The last three words are for the most part written on the wrapper also,
with the address, thus:


  _St. Giles,’_


  _Good Morrow, Valentine._

  _N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. x. p. 5; _4th S._ vol. xi. p. 173.

At Swaffham, also, Valentines are sent on this evening. Watching for a
convenient opportunity, the door is slyly opened, and the Valentine
attached to an apple or an orange, is thrown in; a loud rap at the door
immediately follows, and the offender taking to his heels, is off
instantly. Those in the house, generally knowing for what purpose the
amusing rap was made, commence a search for the juvenile billet-doux: in
this manner numbers are disposed of by each youth. By way of teasing the
person who attends the door, a white oblong square the size of a letter
is usually chalked on the step of the door, and should an attempt be
made to pick it up, great amusement is thus afforded to some of the
urchins, who are generally watching.--_Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 222.


This is a festival which lovers have observed and poets have honoured
from time immemorial. The observance is much more than sixteen hundred
years old, when the Christian Valentine was beaten by clubs and
beheaded, at the time of the great heathen festival of love and
purification. A few years ago the observance was dying out; but it has
lately revived, especially in London.--_N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. xi. p. 129.

In that curious record of domestic life in England in the reign of
Charles II., _Pepys’ Diary_, we find some notable illustrations of the
customs connected with this day.

It appears that married and single were then alike liable to be chosen
as a Valentine; and that lady Valentines were honoured not by anonymous
verses, but by substantial gifts. Four days after Pepys had chosen
Martha Batten for his Valentine, he took her to the Exchange, and there,
“upon a pair of embroidered, and six pair of plain white gloves, I laid
out 40_s._” The question of expense troubled the diarist. When, in 1667,
he took his wife for (honorary) Valentine, he wrote down the fact that
it would cost him 5_l._; but he consoled himself by another fact, that
he must have laid out as much “if we had not been Valentines.” The
outlay at the hands of princes and courtiers was enormous. When the
Duke of York was Miss Stewart’s Valentine, he gave her a jewel of about
800_l._ in value; and in 1667, Lord Mandeville, being that lady’s
Valentine, presented her with a ring worth 300_l._ The gifts of Pepys to
his wife look small by the side of presents made by lovers to ladies.
Pepys came to an agreement with Mrs. Pepys to be her Valentine (which
did not preclude others from being so) every year, “and this year,” he
remarks, in 1668, “it is likely to cost 4_l._ or 5_l._ in a ring for
her, which she desires.” In 1669, he bought more useful things for his
cousin Turner, who told him she had drawn him for her Valentine.
Straightway he went to the New Exchange, and bought her a pair of
fashionable “green silk stockings, and garters, and shoe-strings, and
two pairs of jessimy gloves, all coming to about 28_s._” London shops do
not now exhibit green silk stockings, but they tempt buyers with gallant
intentions; and “Valentine gifts” are in windows or on counters at
prices to suit a few and terrify many.

Other old customs have not been revived, but we may learn some of these
from old makers of Notes, and specially from Pepys, as to the old
methods of choosing, or avoiding to choose, Valentines. When he went
early on Valentine’s Day to Sir W. Batten’s, he says he would not go in
“till I asked whether they that opened the doors was a man or a woman;
and Mingo who was there, answered, a woman, which, with his tone, made
me laugh; so up I went, and took Mrs. Martha for my Valentine (which I
do only for complacency); and Sir W. Batten, he go in the same manner to
my wife, and so we were very merry.” On the following anniversary the
diarist tells us that Will Bowyer came to be his wife’s Valentine, “she
having (at which I made good sport to myself) held her hands all the
morning, that she might not see the painters that were at work gilding
my chimney-piece and pictures in my dining-room.” It would seem,
moreover, that a man was not free from the pleasing pains of
Valentineship when the festival day was over. On Shrove Tuesday, March
3rd, 1663, after dinner, says Pepys, “Mrs. The. showed me my name upon
her breast as her Valentine, which,” he added, “will cost me 30_s._”
Again, in 1667, a fortnight after the actual day Pepys was with his wife
at the Exchange, “and there bought things for Mrs. Pierce’s little
daughter, my Valentine (which,” he says, “I was not sorry for, it easing
me of something more than I must have given to others), and so to her
house, where we find Knipp, who also challenged me for her Valentine;”
of course, Pepys had to pay the usual homage in acknowledgment of such
choice. Then, as Pepys had a little girl for Valentine, so boys were
welcomed to early gallantry by the ladies. A thoroughly domestic scene
is revealed to us on Valentine’s Day, 1665:

“This morning comes betimes Dickie Pen, to be my wife’s Valentine, and
came to our bedside. By the same token, I had been brought to my bedside
thinking to have made him kiss me; but he perceived me, and would not,
so went to his Valentine--a notable, stout, witty boy.”

When a lady drew a Valentine, a gentleman so drawn would have been
deemed shabby if he did not accept the honour and responsibility. On the
14th February, 1667, we have the following:

“This morning called up by Mr. Hill, who, my wife thought, had come to
be her Valentine--she, it seems, having drawn him; but it proved not.
However, calling him up to our bedside, my wife challenged him.”

Where men could thus intrude, boys like Dickie Pen could boldly go. Thus
in 1667:

“This morning came up to my wife’s bedside little Will Mercer, to be her
Valentine; and brought her name writ upon blue paper, in gold letters,
done by himself very pretty; and we were both well pleased with it.”

The drawing of names and name-inscriptions were remnants of old customs
before the Christian era. Alban Butler, under the head of “St.
Valentine, Priest and Martyr,” says:

“To abolish the heathens’ lewd, superstitious custom of boys drawing the
names of girls in honour of their goddess, Februata Juno, on the 15th of
the month (the drawing being on the eve of the 14th), several zealous
pastors substituted the names of saints in billets given on this day.”
This does not, however, seem to have taken place till the time of St.
Francis de Sales, who, in the beginning of the seventeenth century, as
we are told in his Life, “severely forbade the custom of Valentines, or
giving boys in writing the names of girls to be admired or attended on
by them; and to abolish it, he changed it into giving billets with the
names of certain saints for them to honour and imitate in a particular

To the drawing of names--those of the saints gave way to living objects
of adoration--was first added, in 1667, a custom out of which has sprung
the modern epistolary Valentine. In the February of that year Pepys

“I do first observe the fashion of drawing of mottoes as well as names;
so that Pierce, who drew my wife’s, did draw also a motto, ‘most
courteous and most fair;’ which, as it may be used, or an anagram made
upon each name, might be very pretty.”

The Valentines of chance were those who drew names; the Valentines by
choice were made by those who could not open their eyes on Valentine’s
morn till the one he or she most desired to see was near. The one by
chance sometimes proved to be the one by choice also, and such were true
Valentines. _N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. xi. p. 129, 130.

Pennant, in his _Tour in Scotland_, tells us that in February young
persons draw Valentines, and from thence collect their future fortune in
the nuptial state; and Goldsmith, in his _Vicar of Wakefield_,
describing the manners of some parties, tells us they sent true-love
knots on Valentine morning.

St. Valentine’s Day is alluded to by Shakspeare and by Chaucer, and also
by the poet Lydgate, the monk of Bury (who died in 1440). One of the
earliest known writers of Valentines was Charles, Duke of Orleans, who
was taken at the Battle of Agincourt. See _Every Day Book_, vol. i. p.

A singular custom prevailed many years ago in the west of England. Three
single young men went out together before daylight on St. Valentine’s
Day, with a clap-net to catch an old owl and two sparrows in a
neighbouring barn. If they were successful and could bring the birds
without injury to the inn before the females of the house had risen,
they were rewarded by the hostess with three pots of purl in honour of
St. Valentine, and enjoyed the privilege of demanding at any house in
the neighbourhood a similar boon. This was done as an emblem that the
owl, being the bird of wisdom, could influence the feathered race to
enter the net of love as mates on that day, whereon both single lads and
maidens should be reminded that happiness could alone be secured by an
early union.--_Every Day Book_, vol. i. p. 227.


In the village of Duxford and other adjoining parishes the custom of
“valentining” is still in feeble existence. The children go in a body
round to the parsonage and the farm-houses, singing:

    “Curl your looks as I do mine,
    Two before and three behind,
    So good morning, Valentine.
              Hurra! Hurra! Hurra!”

They start about 9 A.M. on their expedition, which must be finished by
noon; otherwise their singing is not acknowledged in any way. In some
few cases the donor gives each child a halfpenny, others throw from
their doors the coppers they feel disposed to part with amongst the
little band of choristers, which are eagerly scrambled after.--_The
Antiquary_, 1873, vol. iii. p. 103.


The following customs, which have nearly died out, were very prevalent
about fifty or sixty years ago:

_Valentine Dealing._--Each young woman in the house would procure
several slips of paper, and write upon them the names of the young men
she knew, or those she had a preference for. The slips when ready were
put into a boot or shoe (a man’s), or else into a hat, and shaken up.
Each lassie then put in her hand and drew a slip, which she read and
retained until every one had drawn. The slips were then put back and the
drawing done over again, which ceremony was performed three times. If a
girl drew the same slip thrice, she was sure to be married in a short
time, and to a person of the same name as that which was written upon
the thrice drawn slip.

_Looking through the Keyhole._--On the early morn of St. Valentine,
young women would look through the keyhole of the house door. If they
saw only a single object or person they would remain unmarried all that
year. If they saw, however, two or more objects or persons, they would
be sure to have a sweetheart, and that in no distant time; but if
fortune so favoured them that by chance they saw a cock and a hen, they
might be quite certain of being married before the year was out.

_Sweeping the girls_ was another real old Derbyshire custom. If a girl
did not have a kiss, or if her sweetheart did not come to see her early
on this morning, it was because she was _dusty_, and therefore it was
needful that she should be well swept with a broom, and then afterwards
equally well kissed by the young men of the house, and those living
near, who used to go round to their intimate friends’ houses to perform
this custom.--_N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. ix. p. 135.


In many parts the poor and middling classes of children assemble
together in some part of the town or village where they live, and
proceed in a body to the house of the chief personage of the place, who,
on their arrival, throws them wreaths and true lovers’ knots from the
window, with which they adorn themselves. Two or three of the girls then
select one of the youngest among them (generally a boy), whom they deck
out more gaily than the rest, and placing him at their head, march
forward, singing as they go along:

    “Good morrow to you, Valentine;
    Curl your locks as I do mine,
    Two before and three behind.
    Good morrow to you, Valentine.”

This they repeat under the windows of all the houses they pass, and the
inhabitant is seldom known to refuse a mite towards the merry
solicitings of these juvenile serenaders.--Hone’s _Year Book_, 1838, p.


The following extract is taken from the _Gentleman’s Magazine_, 1779,
vol. xlix. p. 137: “Being on a visit in a little obscure village in
Kent, I found an odd kind of sport going forward: the girls, from
eighteen to five or six years old, were assembled in a crowd, and
burning an uncouth effigy, which they called an _holly-boy_, and which
it seems they had stolen from the boys, and in another part of the
village the boys were assembled together, and burning what they called
an _ivy-girl_, which they had stolen from the girls; all this ceremony
was accompanied with loud huzzas, noise, and acclamation.”


Independent of the homage paid to St. Valentine on this day at Lynn, it
is in other respects a red-letter day amongst all classes of its
inhabitants, being the commencement of its great annual mart. This mart
was granted by a charter of Henry VIII. in the twenty-seventh year of
his reign, “to begin on the day next after the feast of the purification
of the blessed Virgin Mary, and to continue six days next following.”
Since the alteration of the style, in 1752, it has been proclaimed on
Valentine’s Day. About noon, the Mayor and Corporation, preceded by a
band of music, and attended by twelve decrepit old men, called from
their dress “Red Coats,” walk in procession to proclaim the mart,
concluding by opening the antiquated and almost obsolete court of
“Piepowder.” Like most establishments of this nature, it is no longer
attended for the purpose it was first granted, business having yielded
to pleasure and amusement. Formerly Lynn mart and Stourbridge
(Stirbitch) fair, were the only places where small traders in this and
the adjoining counties supplied themselves with their respective goods.
No transactions of this nature now take place, and the only remains to
be perceived are the “mart prices,” still issued by the grocers. Here
the thrifty housewives, for twenty miles round, laid in their annual
store of soap, starch, &c., and the booth of Green, from Limehouse, was
for three generations the emporium of such articles; but these no longer
attend. A great deal of money is however spent, as immense numbers of
persons assemble from all parts. Neither is there any lack of
incitements to unburthen the pockets: animals of every description, tame
and wild, giants and dwarfs, tumblers, jugglers, peep-shows, &c., all
unite their attractive powers, in sounds more discordant than those
which annoyed the ears of Hogarth’s “enraged musician.”

In the early part of the last century, an old building, which, before
the Reformation, had been a hall belonging to the guild of St. George,
after being applied to various uses, was fitted up as a theatre (and, by
a curious coincidence, where formerly had doubtless been exhibited, as
was customary at the guild feasts, religious mysteries and pageants of
the Catholic age, again were exhibited the mysteries and pageants of the
Protestant age) during the mart and a few weeks afterwards, but
apparently with no great success.--_Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 223.

In the parish of Ryburgh it is customary for the children to go round to
the houses in the village for contributions, saying:

    “God bless the baker;
    If you will be the giver,
    I will be the taker.”

  _N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. v. p. 595.


In this county children go from house to house, on the morning of St.
Valentine’s Day, soliciting small gratuities. The children of the
villages go in parties, sometimes in considerable numbers, repeating at
each house the following salutations, which vary in different

    “Good morrow, Valentine!
    First it’s yours, and then it’s mine,
    So please give me a Valentine.”

    “Morrow, morrow, Valentine!
    First ’tis yours, and then ’tis mine,
    So please to give me a Valentine.
    Holly and ivy tickle my toe,
    Give me red apples and let me go.”

    “Good morrow, Valentine!
    Parsley grows by savoury,
    Savoury grows by thyme,
    A new pair of gloves on Easter day.
    Good morrow, Valentine!”

  [18] See _History and Antiquities of Weston Favell_ (1827, p. 6).
  Brand in his _Pop. Antiq._ mentions this custom as existing in
  Oxfordshire.--1849, vol. i. p. 60.

It was formerly customary for young people to _catch_ their parents and
each other on their first meeting on St. Valentine’s morning. _Catching_
was no more than the exclamation, “Good morrow, _Valentine_!” and they
who could repeat this before they were spoken to, were entitled to a
small present from their parents or the elderly persons of the family;
consequently there was great eagerness to rise early, and much
good-natured strife and merriment on the occasion.[19]

  [19] The custom was observed at Norfolk.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ vol. i.
  p. 60.

In Peterborough and in some of the villages in the northern part of the
county sweet plum buns were formerly given, and I believe are still
made, called Valentine buns; and these buns, I am told, are in some
villages given by godfathers and godmothers to their godchildren on the
Sunday preceding and the Sunday following St. Valentine’s Day.--Baker,
_Glossary of Northamptonshire Words and Phrases_, 1854, vol. ii. p. 373.


Drawing lots or billets for Valentines is a custom observed in the
neighbourhood of Mansfield, where a few young men and maidens meet
together, and having put each their own name on a slip of paper, they
are all placed together in a hat or basket, and drawn in regular
rotation. Should a young man draw a girl’s name, and she his, it is
considered ominous, and not unfrequently ends in real love and a
wedding.--_Jour. of the Arch. Assoc._ 1853, vol. viii. p. 231.


In this county the following rhymes were used:

    “Good morrow, Valentine!
    I be thine, and thou be’st mine,
    So please give me a Valentine!”


    “Good morrow, Valentine!
        God bless you ever!
      If you’ll be true to me,
      I’ll be the like to thee.
        Old England for ever!”


    “Good morrow, Valentine,
      First ’tis yours, then ’tis mine,
      So please give me a Valentine.”

_The Antiquary_, 1873, vol. iii. p. 107; Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol.
i. p. 60.


“On Valentine’s Day,” says Clarkson (_Hist. of Richmond_, 1821, p. 293),
“the ceremony of drawing lots called Valentines is seldom omitted. The
names of a select number of one sex with an equal number of the other
are put into a vessel, and every one draws a name, which is called their
Valentine; and which is looked upon as a good omen of their being
afterwards united.”


Various attempts have been made to account for the custom of wearing the
leek. Owen, in his _Cambrian Biography_ (1803), considers it to have
originated from the custom of _cymhortha_, or the neighbourly aid
practised among farmers. He says that it was once customary in some
districts of South Wales for all the neighbours of a small farmer
without means to appoint a day, when they all met together for the
purpose of ploughing his land, or rendering him any service in their
power. On such an occasion each individual carried with him his portion
of leeks to be used in making the pottage for the company. Some also are
of opinion that the practice took its rise in consequence of a victory
obtained by Cadwallo over the Saxons on the 1st of March, 640, when the
Welsh, to distinguish themselves, wore leeks in their hats. Shakespeare
introduces the custom into his play of Henry V., act iv. sc. 7. Fluellin
addressing the monarch says:

“Your grandfather of famous memory, an’t please your majesty, and your
great uncle Edward the plack prince of Wales, as I have read in the
chronicles, fought a most prave pattle here in France.

“_K. Hen._ They did, Fluellin.

“_Flu._ Your majesty says very true: if your majesty is remembered of
it, the Welshmen did goot service in a garden where leeks did grow,
wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps; which, your majesty knows, to this
hour is an honourable padge of the service; and I do believe your
majesty takes no scorn to wear the leek upon Saint Tavy’s day.”

This allusion by Fluellin to the Welsh having worn the leek in a battle
under the Black Prince, is not, as some writers suppose, wholly decisive
of its having originated in the fields of Cressy or Poictiers, but shows
that when Shakespeare wrote Welshmen wore leeks. In the same play the
well-remembered Fluellin’s enforcement of Pistol to eat the leek he had
ridiculed, further establishes the wearing as a usage.--_Every Day
Book_, vol. i. p. 318.

A contributor to a periodical work, entitled _Gazette of Fashion_ (March
9th, 1822), rejects the notion that wearing leeks on St. David’s Day
originated at the battle between the Saxons and the Welsh in the sixth
century; and considers it more probable that leeks were a Druidic symbol
employed in honour of the British _Ceudven_, or Ceres. In which
hypothesis he thinks there is nothing strained in presuming that the
Druids were a branch of the Phœnician priesthood. Both were addicted to
oak worship; and during the funereal rites of Adonis at Byblos, leeks
and onions were exhibited in “pots with other vegetables, and called the
gardens of that deity.”

In the fifteenth century, the celebration of St. David’s Day was
honoured with the patronage of royalty; and numerous entries of
payments, such as the following, are recorded in the “Privy Purse
Expenses of Henry the Seventh,” a monarch whose liberality is not

“March 1 (1492). Walshemen on Saint David Day, £2.” “March 6 (1494). To
the Walshemen towardes their feste, £2.”--_Med. Ævi Kalend._, vol. i. p.

From _Poor Robin’s Almanack_ for 1757 it appears that, in former times
in England, a Welshman was burnt in effigy on this anniversary:

    “But it would make a stranger laugh
    To see th’ English hang poor Taff:
    A pair of breeches, and a coat,
    Hat, shoes, and stockings, and what not,
    All stuffed with hay to represent
    The Cambrian hero thereby meant:
    With sword sometimes three inches broad,
    And other armour made of wood,
    They drag hur to some publick tree,
    And hang hur up in effigy.”

To this custom Pepys probably alludes in his Diary for 1667 (Bohn’s
Edition, 1858, vol. iii. p. 761):

“In Mark Lane I do observe (it being St. David’s Day) the picture of a
man dressed like a Welshman, hanging by the neck upon one of the poles
that stand out at the top of the merchant’s houses, in full proportion;
and very handsomely done, which is one of the oddest sights I have seen
a good while.”

Brand, in his _Pop. Antiq._ (1849, vol. i. p. 105), thinks that from
this custom arose the practice, at one time in vogue amongst
pastrycooks, of hanging or skewering _taffies_ or Welshmen of
gingerbread for sale on St. David’s Day.

The goat has by time-honoured custom been attached to the regiment of
the Royal Welsh (23rd) Fusiliers, and the following extract, taken from
the _Graphic_ (No. 171, March, 8th, 1873), shows how St. David’s Day is
observed by the officers and men of this regiment:

The drum-major, as well as every man in the regiment, wears a leek in
his busby; the goat is dressed with rosettes and ribbons of red and
blue. The officers have a party, and the drum-major, accompanied by the
goat, marches round the table after dinner, carrying a plate of leeks,
of which he offers one to each officer or guest who has never eaten one
before, and who is bound to eat it up, standing on his chair, with one
foot on the table, while a drummer beats a roll behind his chair. All
the toasts given are coupled with the name of St. David, nor is the
memory of Toby Purcell forgotten. This worthy was gazetted major of the
regiment when it was first raised, and was killed in the Battle of the


St. David’s Day is observed in London, says Hampson (_Med. Ævi Kalend._
vol. i. p. 168), by the Charitable Society of Ancient Britons, who were
established in 1714, in behalf of the Welsh Charity School in Gray’s Inn
Road. On this occasion each man wears an artificial leek in his hat.


On St. David’s Day at Jesus College, Oxford, an immense silver gilt
bowl, containing ten gallons, which was presented to the College by Sir
Watkin Williams Wynne in 1732, is filled with “swig,” and handed round
to those who are invited to sit at the festive and hospitable
board.--Hone’s _Year Book_, 1838, p. 265.


At Tenby one of the benefit clubs marched through the town bearing the
leek in their hats. In the evening a ball took place, at which
artificial leeks were worn by both sexes.--Mason, _Tales and Traditions
of Tenby_, 1858, p. 19.


Simnel Sunday is better known as Mid-Lent or Mothering Sunday, and was
so called because large cakes called Simnels were made on this day.

Bailey in his _Dictionary_ (fol. 1764, by Scott,) says, _Simnel_ is
probably derived from the Latin _Simila_, fine flour, and means a sort
of cake, or bun, made of fine flour, spice, &c.

Frequent mention is made of the Simnel in the household allowances of
Henry the First.

“Cancellarius v solidos in die et i Siminellum dominicum, et ii salum,
et i sextarium de vino claro, et i sext. de vino expensabili, et unum
grossum cereum, et xl frusta Candell.”--_Libr. Nigr. Scaccarii_, p. 341.

The “Siminellum Dominicum,” Hearne thinks, was a better kind of
bread[20] and that “Siminellum Salum,” from ~sal~, cibus, victus, was
the ordinary bread; if it be not the Latin _Salis_ (Siminellum Salinum),
in which case it denotes that more salt is contained in it than in the
other. If the derivation from Simnel be not satisfactory, perhaps the
Anglo-Saxon ~symbel~, a feast or banquet, whence ~simbel~, ~dæg~, a
festival day, may suffice.--_Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 177.

  [20] Alderman Wilkinson of Burnley, a well known able Lancashire
  antiquary, some time since stated that it “originally meant the _very
  finest_ bread. _Pain demain_ is another term for it, on account of its
  having been used as Sunday bread.”

  In Wright’s _Vocabularies_ it appears thus:--‘_Hic artæcopus, a
  symnylle_.’ This form was in use during the fifteenth century.

  In the _Dictionarius_ of John de Garlande, compiled at Paris in the
  thirteenth century, it appears thus:--“_Simeneus_ = placentæ =
  simnels.” Such cakes were signed with the figure of Christ, or of the

At Bury, in Lancashire, from time beyond memory, thousands of persons
come from all parts, and eat “simnels” on Simnel Sunday. Formerly,
nearly every shop was open, quite in defiance of the law respecting the
closing during “service,” but of late, through the improved state of
public opinion, the disorderly scenes to which the custom gave rise have
been partially amended. Efforts have been repeatedly made to put a stop
to the practice altogether, but in vain. The clergy, headed by the
rector, and the ministers of all denominations (save the Romanists) have
drawn up protests and printed appeals against this desecration, but, as
just stated, with scarcely any visible effect.

It is not a little singular that the practice of assembling in one town,
upon one day--the middle Sunday in Lent, to eat simnel cake, is a
practice confined to Bury. Much labour has been expended to trace the
origin of this custom, but without success.--_Gent. Mag._ (New Series)
1866, vol. i. p. 535; Baines, _History of Lancashire_, 1836, vol. ii. p.

Herrick in his _Hesperides_ has the following:



    “I’ll to thee a Simnell bring,
    ’Gainst thou go’st a _mothering_;
    So that, when she blesseth thee,
    Half that blessing thou’lt give me.”

  1, p. 2787.

Again, the bread called “simnel bread” is mentioned by Jehoshaphat
Aspin, in his _Pictures of Manners, &c., of England_, p. 126, who quotes
from a statute of 51st of Henry III.:--_A farthing symnel_ (a sort of
small cake, twice baked, and also called a _cracknel_) should weigh two
ounces less than the _wastel_ (a kind of cake made with honey, or with
meal and oil).

Curious are some of the tales which have arisen to explain the meaning
of the name _simnel_. Some pretend that the father of Lambert Simnel,
the well-known pretender in the reign of Henry VII., was a baker, and
the first maker of simnels, and that, in consequence of the celebrity he
gained by the acts of his son, his cakes have retained his name. There
is a story current in Shropshire, which is more picturesque. Long ago
there lived an honest old couple, boasting the names of Simon and Nelly,
but their surnames are not known. It was their custom at Easter to
gather their children about them, and thus meet together once a year
under the old homestead. The fasting season of Lent was just ending, but
they had still left some of the unleavened dough which had been from
time to time converted into bread during the forty days. Nelly was a
careful woman, and it grieved her to waste anything, so she suggested
that they should use the remains of the lenten dough, for the basis of a
cake to regale the assembled family. Simon readily agreed to the
proposal, and further reminded his partner that there were still some
remains of their Christmas plum-pudding hoarded up in the cupboard, and
that this might form the interior, and be an agreeable surprise to the
young people when they had made their way through the less tasty crust.
So far all things went on harmoniously; but when the cake was made, a
subject of violent discord arose, Sim insisting that it should be
boiled, while Nell no less obstinately contended that it should be
baked. The dispute ran from words to blows, for Nell not choosing to let
her province in the household be thus interfered with, jumped up, and
threw the stool she was sitting on at Sim, who, on his part, seized a
besom, and applied it with right good will to the head and shoulders of
his spouse. She now seized the broom, and the battle became so warm,
that it might have had a very serious result, had not Nell proposed as a
compromise that the cake should be boiled first and afterwards baked.
This Sim acceded to, for he had no wish for further acquaintance with
the heavy end of the broom. Accordingly, the big pot was set on the
fire, and the stool broken up and thrown on to boil it, whilst the besom
and broom furnished fuel for the oven. Some eggs, which had been broken
in the scuffle, were used to coat the outside of the pudding when
boiled, which gave it the shining gloss it possesses as a cake. This new
and remarkable production in the art of confectionery became known by
the name of the cake of Simon and Nelly, but soon only the first half of
each name was alone preserved and joined together, and it has ever since
been known as the cake of Sim-Nel or Simnel.--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p.

_Mothering Sunday._--In many parts of England it was formerly customary
for servants, apprentices, and others to carry presents to their parents
on this day. This practice was called Going a-Mothering, and originated
in the offerings made on this day at the mother-church.

In the _Gent. Mag._ (vol. liv. p. 98) a correspondent tells us that
whilst he was an apprentice the custom was to visit his mother on
Mid-Lent Sunday (thence called Mothering Sunday) for a regale of
excellent furmety.[21]

  [21] Furmenty, Furmity, or Frumity; still a favourite dish in the
  north, consisting of hulled wheat boiled in milk and seasoned. It was
  especially a Christmas dish. In the _True Gentlewoman’s Delight_,
  1676, p. 17, the following receipt is given for making furmity:

  Take a quart of sweet cream, two or three sprigs of mace, and a nutmeg
  cut in half, put it into your cream, so let it boil; then take your
  French barley or rice, being first washed clean in fair water three
  times and picked clean, then boil it in sweet milk till it be tender,
  then put it into your cream, and boil it well, and when it hath boiled
  a good while, take the yoke of six or seven eggs, beat them very well
  to thicken on a soft fire, boil it, and stir it, for it will quickly
  burn; when you think it is boiled enough sweeten it to your taste, and
  so serve it in with rosewater and musk-sugar, in the same manner you
  make it with wheat.--Nares’ _Glossary_ (Halliwell and Wright), 1859,
  vol. i. p. 340.

Another correspondent of the same journal for May (vol. liv. p. 343)
says, “I happened to reside last year near Chepstow, in Monmouthshire;
and there, for the first time, heard of _Mothering Sunday_. My inquiries
into the origin and meaning of it were fruitless; but the practice
thereabouts was for servants and apprentices on Mid-Lent Sunday to
_visit their parents_, and _make them a present of money_, _a trinket_,
or _some nice eatable_; and they are anxious not to fail in this

A mothering-cake is alluded to in Collins’s _Miscellanies_, 1762, p.

    “Why, rot thee, Dick! see Dundry’s Peak
    Lucks like a shuggard motherin’-cake.”

A sort of spiced ale called Braggot, Bragget, or Braggat, was used in
many parts of Lancashire on these visits of relations, whence the day
was called _Braggot Sunday_.

In Nares’ _Glossary_ (Halliwell and Wright, 1859, vol. i. p. 102) the
following receipt for making _bragget_ is given from the _Haven of
Health_, chap. 239, p. 268:

Take three or four galons of good ale, or more as you please, two dayes
or three after it is densed, and put it into a pot by itselfe; then draw
forth a pottle thereof, and put to it a quart of good English honey, and
set them over the fire in a vessell, and let them boyle faire and
softly, and alwayes as any froth ariseth skumme it away, and so clarifie
it, and when it is well clarified, take it off the fire and let it
coole, and put thereto of pepper a pennyworth, cloves, mace, ginger,
nutmegs, cinamon, of each two pennyworth, beaten to powder, stir them
well together, and set them over the fire to boyle againe awhile, then
bring milke warme, put it to the reste, and stirre alltogether, and let
it stand two or three daies, and put barme upon it, and drink it at your

Minshen in his _Ductor in Linguas_ (1617, p. 50) tells us that Braggot
is composed of two Welsh words, _Bräg_, malt, and _Gots_, honeycombs.

In Ben Jonson’s masque of the _Metamorphosed Gipsies_ is the following
reference to this word:

    “And we have serv’d there, armed all in ale,
    With the brown bowl, and charg’d in _braggat_ stale.”

On this day also boys went about in ancient times into the villages with
a figure of death made of straw, from whence they were generally driven
by the country people, who disliked it as an ominous appearance, while
some gave them money to get the mawkin carried off. Its precise meaning
under that form is doubtful, though it seems likely to have purported
the death of winter, and to have been only a part of another ceremony
conducted by a larger number of boys, from whom the death carriers were
a detachment, and who consisted of a large assemblage carrying two
figures to represent Spring and Winter. These two figures they bore
about, and fought; in the fight, Summer or Spring got the victory over
Winter, and thus was allegorized the departure or burial of the death of
the year, and its commencement or revival as Spring.--_Every Day Book_,
vol. i. p. 358.

In the north of England, and also in the Midland Counties, the following
names are given to the Sundays of Lent, the first of which however is

    “Tid, Mid, Misera,
    Carling, Palm, Paste Egg-day.”

Another version of this couplet is given in the _Gent. Mag._, 1788, vol.
lviii. p. 288.

    “Tid, and Mid, and Misera,
    Carling, Palm, and Good-Pas-Day.”

The first three names are no doubt corruptions of some part of the
ancient Latin service or psalms used on each.--Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._
1849, vol. i. p. 116; see the _Festa Anglo-Romana_, 1678.

In the _Gent. Mag._ (1785, p. 779) an advertisement for the regulation
of Newark fair is quoted, which mentions that “_Careing Fair_ will be
held on Friday before Careing Sunday;” and Nichols remarks on this
passage that he had heard the following old Nottinghamshire couplet:

    “Care Sunday, Care away,
    Palm Sunday and Easter Day.”

  --_Ibid._ p. 113.


Fig-pies, or, as they are called in this country, “fag-pies,” are, or
were, eaten on a Sunday in Lent, thence known as Fag-pie Sunday.--_N. &
Q. 2nd S._ vol. i. p. 322.


Fig-pie Wake is kept in the parish of Draycot-in-the-Moors and in the
neighbouring villages on Mid-Lent Sunday. The fig-pies are made of dry
figs, sugar, treacle, spice, etc.; they are rather too luscious for
those who are not “to the manner born.” But yet on this Sunday, the
friends of the parishioners come to visit them, and to eat their
fig-pies.--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol, i. p. 227.



The first Monday in March being the time when shoemakers in the country
cease from working by candle-light, it used to be customary for them to
meet together in the evening for the purpose of _wetting the block_. On
these occasions the master either provided a supper for his men, or made
them a present of money or drink; the rest of the expense was defrayed
by subscriptions among themselves, and sometimes by donations from
customers. After the supper was ended, the block candlestick was placed
in the midst, the shop candle was lighted, and all the glasses being
filled, the oldest hand in the shop poured the contents of his glass
over the candle to extinguish it; the rest then drank the contents of
theirs standing, and gave three cheers. The meeting was usually kept to
a late hour.[22]--_Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 470.

  [22] In some places this custom took place on Easter Monday.



The first Friday in March is so called from _lide_, Anglo-Saxon for
March. This day is marked by a serio-comic custom of sending a young lad
on the highest mound or hillock of the work, and allowing him to sleep
there as long as he can; the length of his _siesta_ being the measure of
the afternoon nap for the tinners throughout the ensuing twelve months.
The weather which usually characterizes Friday in Lide is, it need
scarcely be said, not very conducive to prolonged sleep. In Saxon times
labourers were generally allowed their mid-day sleep; and it has been
observed that it is even now permitted to husbandmen in some parts of
East Cornwall during a stated portion of the year. Browne appears to
allude to this practice in Devonshire, when he says in the third song of
his first book, in reference to the song-birds in the woodland:

    “Whose pleasing noates the tyred swaine have made
    To steale a nap at noontide in the shade.”

  Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1870, vol. i. p. 64.


Sinclair, in his _Statistical Account of Scotland_ (1795, vol. xvi. p.
460), says, “At Sandwick the people do no work on the third day of
March, in commemoration of the day on which the church of Sandwick was
consecrated; and, as the church was dedicated to St. Peter, they also
abstain from working for themselves on St. Peter’s day (29th June), but
they will work for another person who employs them.”



The tinners observe this day, says Hitchins in his _History of Cornwall_
(1844, vol. i. p. 725), as a holiday, which they call St. Piran’s Day.
This, by a custom established from time immemorial, sanctions a
suspension from all labour, because St. Piran is supposed to have
communicated some important information relative to the tin manufacture.


This day, the ancient _Passion Sunday_, is the fifth Sunday after Shrove
Tuesday. The word _Care_, which is also applied to Christmas Cakes, has
been a stumbling-block to etymologists. The following remarks respecting
its derivation are taken from Hampson’s _Med. Ævi Kalend._ (1841, vol.
i. p. 178):--T. Mareschall observes that the day on which Christ
suffered, is called in German both _Gute Freytag_ and _Karr Freytag_,
and that _Karr_ signified a satisfaction for a fine or penalty. Adelung
speaking of _Charfreytag_ (_Care_ or _Carr_ Friday) and _Charwoche_
(_Care_ or _Carr-week_), observes that the first syllable is supposed to
be the old _Cara_, preparation (_Zubereitung_), and that this week,
conformably to the usage of the Jews, was called _Preparation Week_
(_Zubereitungswoche_) because the sixth day was _Preparation day_
(_Zubereitungstag_), when the Jews prepared themselves for Easter. Hence
the Greeks called Carfriday, _Dies Parasceves_, of which the Gothic
_Gartag_, or _Garfreytag_ is a translation.

Tatian (Cap. 58) names the Friday before Easter “Garotag fora Ostrum,”
and renders the phrase, “My heart is prepared,” “Karo ist mein herza.”
Schiller’s opinion, however, that _Char_, _Kar_, signifies mourning,
complaint, sorrow, has equal probability; for it appears from ancient
manuscripts that _Car_ formerly bore the signification of _Care_ or
grief, and in Sweden, where the fifth Sunday in Lent is denominated
_Kaersunnutag_, the verb _Kæra_ is actually to lament, to complain.

Dr. Jameson, adopting the opinion of Mareschall, observes, “This name
may have been imposed in reference to the satisfaction made by our
Saviour. Some, however, understand it, as referring to the accusations
brought against him on this day, from the Sueo-Gothic _Kæra_, to
complain.”--_Etymol. Dict._, Art. _Care Sunday_.

On this day, in the northern counties, and in Scotland, a custom obtains
of eating _Carlings_, which are grey peas, steeped all night in water,
and fried the next day with butter:

    “There’ll be all the lads and lassies
      Set down in the midst of the ha’,
    With sybows, and ryfarts, and _carlings_
      That are bath sodden and raw.”

  Ritson’s _Scottish Songs_, vol. i. p. 211.

As to the origin of this custom, Brand (_Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p.
114) offers the following explanation:--“In the Roman Calendar, I find
it observed on this day, that a dole is made of _soft beans_. I can
hardly entertain a doubt but that our custom is derived from hence. It
was usual among the Romanists to give away beans in the doles at
funerals; it was also a rite in the funeral ceremonies of heathen Rome.
Why we have substituted peas I know not, unless it was because they are
a pulse somewhat fitter to be eaten at this season of the year.” Having
observed from Erasmus that Plutarch held pulse (_legumina_) to be of the
highest efficacy in invocation of the _Manes_, he adds: “Ridiculous and
absurd as these superstitions may appear, it is quite certain that
_Carlings_ deduce their origin from thence.” This explanation, however,
is by no means regarded as satisfactory.

Hone (_Every Day Book_, 1826, vol. i. p. 379) says, How is it that _Care
Sunday_ is also called _Carl_ and _Carling_ Sunday; and that the peas,
or beans of the day are called _Carlings_? _Carle_, which means a
_Churle_, or rude boorish fellow, was anciently the term for a working
countryman or labourer; and it is only altered in the spelling, without
the slightest deviation in sense, from the old Saxon word ~Ceorl~, the
name for a husbandman. The older denomination of the day, then, may not
have been _Care_, but _Carl Sunday_, from the benefactions to the
_Carles_ or _Carlen_. A correspondent of _Notes & Queries_ (_1st S._
vol. iii. 449) tells us that on the north-east coast of England, where
the custom of frying dry peas on this day is attended with much augury,
some ascribe its origin to the loss of a ship freighted with peas on the
coast of Northumberland. Carling is the foundation beam of a ship, or
the beam on the keel.


In several villages in the vicinity of Wisbeach, in the Isle of Ely, the
fifth Sunday in Lent has been, time immemorial, commemorated by the name
of _Whirlin Sunday_, when cakes are made by almost every family, and are
called, from the day, _Whirlin Cakes_.--_Gent. Mag._ 1789, vol. lix. p.


The rustics go to the public-house of the village, and spend each their
_Carling-groat_, i.e., that sum in drink, for the Carlings are provided
for them gratis; and a popular notion prevails that those who do not do
this will be unsuccessful in their pursuits for the following
year.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._, 1849, vol. i. p. 114.


William Handy, by will dated the 10th of March, 1622, bequeathed to the
parish of St. Giles’, Oxford, £40, upon condition that, upon the 10th of
March for ever, in the morning, about 5 o’clock, they should ring one
peal with all the bells, and about 8 or 9 o’clock should go to service,
and read all the service, with the Litany and the Communion, as it is
commanded to be read in the cathedral church, and after that to have a
sermon, and in it to give God thanks for His great blessings in
delivering and bringing the giver from Papistry and idolatry to the
light and truth of the blessed Gospel; and he desired that the preacher
might have 10_s._ for his sermon, and the minister 5_s._ for leading
service, and the poor to have given them in bread or money 10_s._

This sum, with other money, was laid out in 1633, in purchasing a
tenement, garden, and one acre of pasture ground, situated in Corn
Street, Witney, to the uses of the donor’s will; of the rent, 15_s._ a
year was accordingly commanded to be paid to the minister for reading
prayers and preaching a sermon on the 10th of March, 5_s._ to the clerk,
5_s._ to the ringer, and 15_s._ to be distributed at the church, with
other money in small sums to the poor.[23]--_Old English Customs and
Charities_, 1842, p. 249.

  [23] There was a similar gift of the same donor to the parish of St.
  Mary Magdalen, Oxford; but since 1800 nothing has been paid in respect
  of this charity.


Formerly, there lived at Newark one Hercules Clay, a tradesman of
considerable eminence, and an alderman of the borough of Newark. During
the siege, in the night of the 11th of March 1643, he dreamed three
times that his house was on fire; on the third warning he arose much
alarmed, awoke the whole of his family, and caused them to quit the
premises, though at that time all appeared to be in perfect safety. Soon
afterwards, however, a bomb from a battery of the Parliamentarian army
on Beacon Hill, an eminence near the town, fell upon the roof of the
house, and penetrated all the floors, and happily did little other
execution. The bomb was intended to destroy the house of the governor of
the town, which was in Stadman Street, exactly opposite Clay’s house. In
commemoration of this extraordinary deliverance, Mr. Clay, by his will,
gave £200 to the Corporation in trust to pay the interest of £100 to the
Vicar of Newark, for a sermon to be preached every 11th of March. The
interest of the other £100 he directed to be given in bread to the poor.
Penny loaves were, accordingly, given to every one who applied, and the
day on which they were distributed, was called “Penny Loaf Day.”--Hone’s
_Year Book_, 1838, p. 301.



The feast of St. Gregory the Great, 12th of March, was formerly observed
as a holiday, and one of festivity in all the rural schools in the
baronies of Forth and Baigy (the Strongbonian Colony), in the county of
Wexford. The manner was this: the children, for some days previous,
brought contributions, according to the means and liberality of their
parents, consisting of money, bread, butter, cream, &c., and delivered
them to the teacher. On the morning of the joyous day, the children
repaired to the school-house in holiday dress, where the teacher had
everything prepared for the festivity, the simple temple of learning
decorated with the richest flowers within his means of obtaining, and
the presence of two or more kind-hearted females to do the honours and
duties of the tea-table to the happy juveniles. A “king” and a “queen”
were nominated, who, of course, took the seat of honour, and the proud
and busy teacher was everywhere all attention to his little pupils. The
day passed off in hilarity and innocent enjoyment, and the competitive
system of free offerings left, generally, something pleasing to tell for
some days in the pockets and humble cupboard of the teacher. This custom
prevailed until after the commencement of the present century.--_N. & Q.
2nd S._ vol. vii. p. 392.



On the Saturday before Palm Sunday the boys belonging to the
grammar-school at Lanark, according to ancient usage, used to parade the
streets with a palm, or its substitute, a large tree of the willow kind,
(_Salix caprea_), in blossom, ornamented with daffodils, mezereon, and
box-tree. This day was called Palm Saturday, and supposed to be a popish
relic of very ancient standing.--_Stat. Acc. of Scotland_, Sinclair,
1795, vol. xv. p. 45.


Palm Sunday receives its English and the greater part of its foreign
names from the custom of bearing palm branches, in commemoration of
those which were strewn in the path of Christ on his entry into
Jerusalem. “It is a custom among churchmen,” says the author of a
Normano-Saxon homily in the reign of Henry II., or Richard I., “to go in
procession on this day. The custom has its origin in the holy procession
which our Saviour made to the place where he chose to suffer death.”

The ceremony of bearing palms on Palm Sunday was retained in England
after some others were dropped, and was one of those which Henry VIII.
in 1536 declared were not to be discontinued. In a proclamation in the
library of the Society of Antiquaries, dated the 26th February, 1539,
“Concernyng rites and ceremonies to be used in due fourme in the Churche
of Englande,” occurs the following clause: “On Palme Sonday it shall be
declared that bearing of palmes renueth the memorie of the receivinge of
Christe in lyke maner into Jerusalem before his deathe.” Again, in
Fuller’s _Church History_ (1655, p. 222), we read that “bearing of palms
on Palm Sunday is in memory of the receiving of Christ into Jerusalem a
little before his death, and that we may have the same desire to receive
him into our hearts.”

In Howe’s edition of _Stow’s Chronicle_ (1615, fol. p. 595), it is
stated, under the year 1548, that “this yeere the ceremony of bearing of
palmes on Palme Sunday was left off, and not used as before.”--_Med. Ævi
Kalend._ vol. i. p. 181; Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 124.

It is still customary with our boys, both in the south and north of
England, to go out and gather slips with the willow-flowers or buds at
this time. These seem to have been selected as substitutes for the real
palm, because they are generally the only things which can be easily
obtained at this season. This practice is still observed in the
neighbourhood of London. The young people go _a-palming_; and the sallow
is sold in London streets for the whole week preceding Palm Sunday. In
the north it is called going a-palmsoning or palmsning.--Brand, _Pop.
Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 127.

Stow in his _Survey of London_ (1603, p. 98) says that “in the weeke
before Easter had ye great shewes made for the fetching in of a _twisted
tree or with_, as they termed it, out of the woodes into the kinge’s
house, and the like into every man’s house of honor or worship.”
Probably this was a substitute for the palm.

An instance of the great antiquity of this practice in England is
afforded by the Domesday Survey, under Shropshire, vol. i. p. 252, where
a tenant is stated to have rendered in payment a bundle of box twigs on
Palm Sunday, “Terra dimid. car unus reddit inde _fascem buxi in die

By an Act of Common Council, 1 and 2 Phil. and Mary, for retrenching
expenses, it was ordered, “that from henceforth _there shall be no wyth
fetcht home at the Maior’s or Sheriff’s Houses_. Neither shall they keep
any lord of misrule in any of their houses.”--Strype’s _Stow_, 1720,
book i. p 246.

It was formerly the custom in some of the northern parts of England for
the young men and maids who received the sacrament to walk after dinner
into the corn-fields, and to bless the corn and fruits of the
earth.--Kennett, MS. Brit. Mus.


In former days persons resorted to “Our Lady of Nantswell” with a palm
cross in one hand and an offering in the other. The offering fell to the
priest’s share: the cross was thrown into the well, and if it swam was
regarded as an omen that the person who threw it would outlive the year;
if however it sank, a short ensuing death was foreboded.--Carew, _Survey
of Cornwall_, 1811.


On Palm Sunday morning, the boys go into the fields and gather branches
of the willow; these are carried about during the day, and in some
churches it is customary to use them for decoration.--_Jour. of Arch.
Assoc._, 1852, vol. vii. p. 204.


The return of Palm Sunday has, from time immemorial, been observed at
Hentland Church in a peculiar manner. The minister and congregation
receive from the churchwardens a cake or bun, and, in former times, a
cup of beer also. This is consumed within the church, and is supposed to
imply a desire on the part of those who partake of it to forgive and
forget all animosities, and thus prepare themselves for the festival of
Easter.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. vii. p. 275.


Hone, in his _Year Book_ (1838, p. 1593), states that at Kempton it has
long been a custom for the inhabitants to eat figs on this day, there
termed _Fig Sunday_, where it is also usual for them to keep wassel, and
make merry with their friends.


A curious and quaint custom existed for very many years at Caistor
Church, in Lincolnshire, on Palm Sunday, connected with a tenure of
property; and in the particulars of sale, circulated in 1845, is the
following account of it:

“This estate is held subject to the performance, on Palm Sunday in every
year, of the ceremony of cracking a whip in Caistor Church, in the said
county of Lincoln, which has been regularly and duly performed on Palm
Sunday, from time immemorial, in the following manner:

“The whip is taken every Palm Sunday by a man from Broughton to the
parish of Caistor, who, while the minister is reading the first lesson,
cracks it three distinct times in the church porch, then folds it neatly
up, and retires to a seat. At the commencement of the second lesson, he
approaches the minister, and kneeling opposite to him with the whip in
his hand, and the purse at the end of it, held perpendicularly over his
head, waves it thrice, and continues in a steadfast position throughout
the whole of the chapter. The ceremony is then concluded. The whip has a
leathern purse tied at the end of it, which ought to contain thirty
pieces of silver, said to represent, according to Scripture, “the price
of blood.” Four pieces of weechelm[24] tree, of different lengths, are
affixed to the stock, denoting the different Gospels of the holy
Evangelists; the three distinct cracks are typical of St. Peter’s denial
of his Lord and Master three times; and the waving it over the
minister’s head as an intended homage to the Blessed Trinity.”

  [24] Properly Wych elm (_Ulmus montana_).

In an article on this subject in the _Archæological Journal_ (1849, vol.
vi. p. 239), the writer says: “I have not been able to trace this custom
to its source. It would appear to have prevailed in very primitive
times, and yet the circumstance of the custom requiring the more
essential part of the ceremony to be performed during the reading of the
_second lesson_ is scarcely reconcilable with this idea; but I am
induced to think that the custom prevailed long before our present
ritual existed, and that it has in this respect been accommodated to the
changes which time has effected in the services of the Church.
Unfortunately, the title-deeds do not contain the slightest reference to
the custom. I have no means of tracing the title beyond 1675. The parish
of Broughton is a very large one, and anterior to 1675 belonged, with
small exceptions, to the Anderson family; but whether Stephen Anderson,
the then owner of the manor, and the 2200 acres of land sold in 1845,
was owner of the other part of Broughton, which has long been in the
possession of Lord Yarborough’s ancestors, I cannot say. A partition of
the property appears to have been made between the co-heiresses, and the
manor and 2200 acres being settled in 1772 by Sir Stephen Anderson, of
Eyeworth, on his niece, Frances Elizabeth Stephens, and her issue; upon
her death it became the property of her son, Ellys Anderson Stephens,
who died in 1844, leaving four daughters and co-heiresses, and who, in
1845, sold the property to a client of mine, Mr. John Coupland, and who
afterwards sold the manor and about 600 acres to Lord Yarborough, 982
acres to myself, and other portions to different purchasers, reserving
to himself about 200 acres. I cannot make out when this partition (above
alluded to) took place. The deed or will by which it was effected would
probably refer to the custom and provide for the performance of it, but
there is no document with the title deeds tending to show whether the
custom was due only in respect of the manor, and 2200 acres, or in
respect of Lord Yarborough’s portion of the parish as well. The fact of
a partition having taken place, rests rather upon tradition than
evidence; but supposing it, as I do, to be a fact, it seems strange that
the title-deeds should be silent as to the obligation imposed upon the
owner of the manor to perform the service by which the whole property
was held. The manor and estate sold in 1845, were of the tenure of
ancient demesne; a tenure which is very rare at this time of day, at
least in this part of the world. Probably a reference to Lord
Yarborough’s title-deeds would clear up the mystery, or Sir Charles
Anderson may have the means of doing so.

“I may also refer to Sir Culling Eardley as possibly in a position to
throw some light on the subject; for it was to him and his ancestors, as
lords of the manor of Hundon, in Caistor, to whom this service was due,
and for whose use the whip was deposited after the service in the pew of
Caistor Church, belonging to the lord of the manor of Hundon. All the
versions that I have seen of the custom favour the opinion that it had
some reference to the subject of the second lesson for Palm Sunday,
which is the 26th chapter of St. Matthew, and if so, it would seem
likely to follow, that the principal part of the ceremony took place at
the reading of that chapter; but in that case it has clearly undergone
some change, because, until the last revision of the Book of Common
Prayer, there was no proper second lesson for the morning of Palm
Sunday; but the 26th chapter of St. Matthew was part of the Gospel for
that day, and had been so from Anglo-Saxon times.

Perhaps the better opinion is, that this custom, recently discontinued,
had been so varied from time to time as to have borne at last little
resemblance to what originally took place. I do not suppose at its
commencement it was regarded as at all irreverent, or was intended to be
otherwise than most decorous, according to the idea of a semi-barbarous
age; what it really was at first it is now impossible to conjecture or
discover. The explanation suggested in the particulars of sale appears
too much in accordance with modern notions to be altogether correct.
Some allege a tradition that it was a self-inflicted penance by a former
owner of the Broughton estate for killing a boy with such a whip.”

In May, 1836, the following petition was presented to the House of Lords
by the lord of the manor against the annual observance of this custom;
but without effect:

“_To the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled._

“The petition of the undersigned Sir Culling Eardley Smith, of Bedwell
Park, in the county of Hertford, sheweth, that your petitioner is lord
of the manor of Hundon, near Caistor, in the county of Lincoln.

“That the lord of the manor of Broughton, near Brigg, in the same
county, yearly, on Palm Sunday, employs a person to perform the
following ceremony in the parish church at Caistor, etc.; that the
performance of this superstitious ceremony is utterly inconsistent with
a place of Christian worship.

“That it is generally supposed that it is a penance for murder, and
that, in the event of the performance being neglected, the lord of the
manor of Broughton would be liable to the penalty to the lord of the
manor of Hundon.

“That your petitioner being extremely anxious for the discontinuance of
this indecent and absurd practice, applied to the lord of the manor of
Broughton for the purpose, who declined entering into any negotiation
until the deed should be produced under which the ceremony was
instituted, which deed (if it has ever existed) your petitioner is
unable to produce.

“That your petitioner subsequently applied to the Bishop of Lincoln to
use his influence to prevent the repetition of the ceremony, and offered
to guarantee the churchwardens against any loss in consequence of their
refusal to permit it.

“That your petitioner believes there are no trustees of a dissenting
chapel who would permit the minister or officers of their chapel to
sanction such a desecration.

“That the ceremony took place, as usual, on Palm Sunday, in this year.

“Your petitioner therefore prays that your Lordships will be pleased to
ascertain from the bishop of the diocese why the ceremony took place;
that, if the existing law enables any ecclesiastical persons to prevent
it, the law may be hereafter enforced; and that, if the present law is
insufficient, a law may be passed enabling the bishop to interfere for
the purpose of saving the national Church from scandal.

“And your petitioner will ever pray.”


It is the universal custom, with both rich and poor, to eat figs on this
day. On the Saturday previous, the market at Northampton is abundantly
supplied with figs, and there are more purchased at this time than
throughout the rest of the year; even the charity children, in some
places, are regaled with them.

No conjecture is offered as to the origin or purpose of this singular
custom. May it not have some reference to Christ’s desiring to eat figs
the day after his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem?--Baker, _Glossary
of Northamptonshire Words and Phrases_, 1854, i. p. 232.


In some parts of this country figs are eaten on Palm Sunday, which is in
consequence called Fig Sunday.[25]--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. i. p. 227.

  [25] See Mid-Lent Sunday.


From time immemorial a fair, or wake, has been held in the churchyard of
Crowhurst on Palm Sunday. Formerly, excesses were frequently committed
on the occasion through the sale of liquors; but of late years the fair
has been conducted with great decorum.--Brayley, _Topographical History
of Surrey_, 1841, iv. p. 132.


On St. Martin’s Hill, near Marlborough, at which there is an ancient
camp more than thirty acres in extent, Palm Sunday is kept; and persons
in great numbers used to assemble there, each carrying a hazel-nut bough
with the catkins hanging from it.--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ v. p. 447.


In Yorkshire and the northern counties Palm Sunday is a day of great
diversion, young and old amusing themselves with sprigs of willow, or in
manufacturing palm-crosses, which are stuck up or suspended in houses.
In the afternoon and evening a number of impudent girls and young men
sally forth and assault all unprotected females whom they meet out of
doors, seizing their shoes, and compelling them to redeem them with
money. These disgraceful scenes are continued until Monday morning, when
the girls extort money from the men by the same means; these
depredations were formerly prolonged till Tuesday noon.--_Time’s
Telescope_, 1822, p. 68.

At Filey figs are also eaten on this day.--Cole, _History of Filey_,
1826, p. 135.


In South Wales Palm Sunday goes by the name of Flowering Sunday, from
the custom of persons assembling in the churchyards, and spreading fresh
flowers upon the graves of friends and relatives.--TIMES, 13th April,
1868, p. 7.


A rural celebration used to be held at Poulton-in-the-Fylds on the
Monday before Good Friday, by young men, under the name of “Jolly Lads,”
who visited such houses as were likely to afford good entertainments,
and excited mirth by their grotesque habits and discordant noises. This
was evidently borrowed from the practice of the _pace_ or _pask eggers_,
of other parts of the county, merely preceding instead of following
Easter.--Baines, _Hist. of Lancashire_, 1836, vol. iv. p. 436.


Aubrey, in MS. Lansd., 231, gives the following: It is the custom for
the boys and girls in country schools in several parts of Oxfordshire,
at their breaking up in the week before Easter, to go in a gang from
house to house, with little clacks of wood, and when they come to any
door, there they fall a-beating their clacks, and singing this song:

    “Herrings, herrings, white and red,
    Ten a penny, Lent’s dead;
    Rise, dame, and give an egg,
    Or else a piece of bacon.
    One for Peter, two for Paul,
    Three for Jack a Lent’s all.
            Away, Lent, away!”

They expect from every house some eggs, or a piece of bacon, which they
carry baskets to receive, and feast upon at the week’s end. At first
coming to the door, they all strike up very loud, “Herrings, herrings,”
&c., often repeated. As soon as they receive any largess, they begin the

    “Here sits a good wife,
    Pray God save her life;
    Set her upon a hod,
    And drive her to God.”

But if they lose their expectation and must goe away empty, then, with a
full cry,--

    “Here sits a bad wife,
    The devil take her life;
    Set her upon a swivell,
    And send her to the devil.”

And, in further indignation, they commonly cut the latch of the door, or
stop the key-hole with dirt, or leave some more nasty token of
displeasure.--Thom’s _Anecdotes and Traditions_, 1839, p. 113.


In the metropolis, says Stow in his _Sports, Pastimes, and Customs of
London_ (1847, p. 241), this anniversary is generally observed at court
as a high festival, and the nobility crowd and pay their compliments in
honour of the tutelary saint of Ireland. It is usually selected, also,
for soliciting aid to a great national object--the promotion of


In the _Illustrated London News_ of 22nd March, 1862, p. 285, is the
following paragraph:

“Lord Langford, as the highest Irish nobleman in Eton School, presented,
on St. Patrick’s Day, the beautifully-embroidered badges, in silver, of
St. Patrick, to the head master, the Rev. E. Balston, and the lower
master, the Rev. W. Carter, which were worn by the reverend gentlemen
during the day. About twenty-four of the Irish noblemen and gentlemen in
the school were invited to a grand breakfast with the head master, as is
customary on these occasions.”


The shamrock is worn in all parts of Ireland on this day. Old women,
with plenteous supplies of trefoil, may be heard in every direction,
crying “Buy my shamrock, green shamrocks;” and children have “Patrick’s
crosses” pinned to their sleeves. This custom is supposed to have taken
its origin from the fact that when St. Patrick was preaching the
doctrine of the Trinity he made use of this plant, bearing three leaves
upon one stem, as a symbol of the great mystery.[26]

  [26] Mr. Jones in his _Historical Account of the Welsh Bards_ (1794,
  p. 13) says: When St. Patrick landed near Wicklow the inhabitants were
  ready to stone him for attempting an innovation in the religion of
  their ancestors. He requested to be heard, and explained unto them,
  that God is an omnipotent, sacred Spirit, who created heaven and
  earth, and that the Trinity is contained in the Unity; but they were
  reluctant to give credit to his words. St. Patrick, therefore, plucked
  a trefoil from the ground, and expostulated with the Hibernians: “Is
  it not as possible for the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as for these
  three leaves to grow upon a single stalk?” Then the Irish were
  immediately convinced of their error, and were solemnly baptized by
  St. Patrick.

In _Contributions towards a Cybele Hibernica_ (D. Moore and A. G. More,
1866, p. 73) is the following note: “_Trifolium repens_, Dutch clover,
Shamrock.--This is the plant still worn as shamrock on St. Patrick’s
Day, though _Medicago lupulina_ is also sold in Dublin as the shamrock.
Edward Lhwyd, the celebrated antiquary, writing in December 1699 to
Tancred Robinson, says, after a recent visit to Ireland: ‘Their shamrug
is our common clover’ (_Phil. Trans._, No. 335). Threkeld, the earliest
writer on the wild plants of Ireland, gives _Seamar-oge_ (young trefoil)
as the Gaelic name for _Trifolium pratense album_, and says expressly
that this is the plant worn by the people in their hats on St. Patrick’s
Day. Wade also gives _Seamrog_ as equivalent to _Trifolium repens_,
while the Gaelic name given for _Oxalis_ by Threkeld is _Sealgan_.”

A correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_4th S._ vol. iii. p. 235) says the
_Trifolium filiforme_ is generally worn in Cork. It grows in thick
clusters on the tops of walls and ditches, and is to be found in
abundance in old limestone quarries in the south of Ireland. The
_Trifolium minus_ is also worn.

The following whimsical song descriptive of St. Patrick is given on
Hone’s authority as one often sung by the Irish:

    St. Patrick was a gentleman, and he came from decent people,
    In Dublin town he built a church, and on it put a steeple;
    His father was a Wollaghan, his mother an O’Grady,
    His aunt she was a Kinaghan, and his wife a widow Brady.

                Tooralloo, tooralloo, what a glorious man our saint was!
                Tooralloo, tooralloo, O whack fal de lal, de lal, etc.

    Och! Antrim hills are mighty high, and so’s the hill of Howth too;
    But we all do know a mountain that is higher than them both too;
    ’Twas on the top of that high mount St. Patrick preach’d a sermon.
    He drove the frogs into the bogs, and banished all the vermin.

                                    Tooralloo, tooralloo, etc.

    No wonder that we Irish lads, then, are so blythe and frisky;
    St. Patrick was the very man that taught us to drink whisky;
    Och! to be sure he had the knack, and understood distilling,
    For his mother kept a sheebeen shop near the town of Enniskillen.

                                    Tooralloo, tooralloo, etc.--

  _Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 387.

It is customary early in February for wealthy farmers and landowners in
Ireland to brew ale to be kept till the 17th of March, St. Patrick’s
Day; and there is a delicious cake made this day, to be eaten with
pickled salmon.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. ix. p. 367.

Some years ago this day was welcomed, in the smaller towns or hamlets,
by every possible manifestation of gladness and delight. The inn, if
there was one, was thrown open to all comers, who received a certain
allowance of oaten bread and fish. This was a benevolence from the host,
and to it was added a “Patrick’s pot,” or quantum of beer; but of late
years whisky is the beverage most esteemed. The majority of those who
sought entertainment at the village inn were young men who had no
families, whilst those who had children, and especially whose families
were large, made themselves as snug as possible by the turf fire in
their own cabins. Where the village or hamlet could not boast of an inn,
the largest cabin was sought out, and poles were extended horizontally
from one end of the apartment to the other; on these poles, doors
purposely unhinged, and brought from the surrounding cabins, were
placed, so that a table of considerable dimensions was formed, round
which all seated themselves, each one providing his own oaten bread and
fish. At the conclusion of the repast they sat for the remainder of the
evening over a “Patrick’s pot,” and finally separated quietly.--_Every
Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 386.

The following description of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is taken from
the _Time’s Telescope_ (1827, p. 66): Every one is expected, says the
writer, to wear a sprig of shamrock in honour of the saint and his
country, and a few pence will supply a family with plenty of this
commodity. In the morning upon the breakfast table of the “master” and
“the mistress” is placed a plateful of this herb for a memento that it
is Patrick’s Day, and they must “drown the shamrock,” a figurative
expression for what the servants themselves do at night in glasses of
punch, if the heads of the family are so kind as to send down the plate
of shamrock crowned with a bottle of whisky, under which is also
expected to be found a trifle towards a treat. While the lower circles
are, on this blessed of all Irish days, thus enjoying themselves in the
evening, the higher are crowding into that room of the castle entitled
St. Patrick’s Hall, which is only opened two nights in the year--this,
and the birth-night (the 23rd of April); it is a grand ball, to which
none can be admitted who have not been presented and attended the
Viceroy’s drawing-rooms; and of course every one must appear in court
dress, or full uniforms, except that, in charity to the ladies, trains
are for that night dispensed with on account of the dancing. A few
presentations sometimes take place, after which the ball commences,
always with a country dance to the air of “Patrick’s Day,” and after
this quadrilles, etc., take their turn.



The day after St. Patrick’s Day is “Sheelah’s Day,” or the festival in
honour of Sheelah. Its observers are not so anxious to determine who
“Sheelah” was as they are earnest in her celebration. Some say she was
“Patrick’s wife,” others that she was “Patrick’s mother,” while all
agree that her immortal memory is to be maintained by potations of
whisky. The shamrock worn on St. Patrick’s Day should be worn also on
Sheelah’s Day, and on the latter night be drowned in the last glass. Yet
it frequently happens that the shamrock is flooded in the last glass of
St. Patrick’s Day, and another last glass or two, or more, on the same
night deluges the over-soddened trefoil. This is not “quite correct,”
but it is endeavoured to be remedied the next morning by the display of
a fresh shamrock, which is steeped at night in honour of “Sheelah” with
equal devotedness.--_Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 387.


The day before Good Friday is termed Maundy Thursday, because, says the
_British Apollo_ (1709, ii. 7), on this day our Saviour washed his
disciples’ feet, to teach them the great duty of being humble; and
therefore he gave them a command to do as he had done, to imitate their
Master in all proper instances of condescension and humility. The
origin, consequently, of this custom is of very great antiquity, and,
unlike many other ceremonies connected with the Church before the
Reformation, remains in existence in a modified form up to the present
day. The original number of poor persons whose feet were washed by the
king or queen was thirteen, but this number was afterwards extended so
as to correspond with the age of the reigning sovereign.

Matthew Paris mentions Maundy money, and the Benedictional of Archbishop
Robert at Rouen, a manuscript of the 10th century, cap. xxix., contains
a “Benedictio ad mandatum ipso die” (_Archæologia_, vol. xxiv. p. 119),
and Wlnothus, Abbot of St. Alban’s, ordained a daily performance of the
mandate. In other houses it was customary to wash the feet of as many
poor people as there were monks in the convent, on Holy Thursday, and on
Saturday before Palm Sunday: the day of the latter ablution received the
name of _mandatum pauperum_, to distinguish it from the _Mandati Dies_.
During the ceremony the whole choir chanted the words of Christ,
“Mandatum novum do vobis” (“A new commandment I give unto you”). Du
Cange quotes from the life of St. Brigida by Chilienus:

    “Proxima cœna fuit Domini, qua sancta solebat
    Mandatum Christi calido complere lavacro.”

  (Du Cange, _Gloss._, tom. iv., col. 399.)

Archdeacon Nares, however, apparently following Spelman and Skinner
whose opinion is adopted by Junius, in opposition to Minsheu, says that
this day is so named from the _maunds_, in which the gifts were
contained, and he maintains that _maund_ is a corruption of the Saxon
_mand_, a basket.

The glossographer on Matthew Paris explains the word _mandatum_, to be
alms, from the Saxon _Mandye_, charity. Somner has no such word in his
Dictionary; and it seems more probable that Maunday Thursday has
originally been Mandate Thursday; _Mandati Dies_ being the name where
the Saxon _mands_ were totally unknown.

Ælfric, Archbishop of Canterbury, having employed the Latin name of this
day, Cœna Domini, gives these directions to the Saxon priests: “On
Thursday you shall wash the altars before you celebrate mass, otherwise
you must not. After vespers you must uncover the altars and let them
remain bare until Saturday, washing them in the interior. You shall then
fast until nones. _Imple mandata Domini in cœna ipsius._ ‘Do on Thursday
as our Lord commands you;’ wash the feet of the poor, feed and clothe
them; and, with humility, wash your feet among yourselves as Christ
himself did, and commanded us so to do.” On the whole there seems to be
no reason to doubt that the name _maundy_ is derived from the mandate
obeyed on this day.

The bread given to the poor on Maundy Thursday was named mandate bread,
_mandati panes_, in the monasteries; as the coin given was called
mandate money.--_Med. Ævi Kalend._ i. 183-185.

One of the earliest instances on record of a monarch observing this
custom, and which is the more curious as it shows that the practice of
regulating the amount of the dole given on Maundy Thursday by the age of
the king was then in existence, is preserved in the “_Rotulus Misæ_, or
role of the wardrobe expenses of the 14th year of King John,” in which
there appears an item of “fourteen shillings and one penny, for alms to
thirteen poor persons, every one of whom received thirteen pence at
Rochester, on Thursday, in Cœna Domini” (Holy Thursday), John having
then reigned thirteen complete years.

In the wardrobe expenses of Edward I. we find money given on Easter eve
to thirteen poor people whose feet the Queen had washed; which latter
custom is said to have been performed by the sovereign so late as the
reign of James II.--Thoms, _Book of the Court_, 1844, p. 311.

Henry VII. gave, when thirty-eight years old, thirty-eight coins and
thirty-eight small purses to as many poor people:

“_March 25._ To thirty-eight poor men in almes, £6 0_s._ 4_d._ For
thirty-eight small purses, 1_s._ 8_d._

There are several entries for the Maundy in the “Privy Purse expenses”
of this sovereign, as in 1496:

“April 10. For bote hire for the Maundy and the kinges robe, payed by
John Flee, 4_s._”

The order of the Maundy, as practised by Queen Elizabeth in 1579 is here
given--(from No. 6183, Add. MSS. in the British Museum):

  “_Order of the Maunday made, at Greenwich,
  19th March 1579, 14 Elizabeth._”

“First.--The hall was prepared with a long table on each side, and
formes set by them; on the edges of which tables, and under those formes
were lay’d carpets and cushions for her Majestie to kneel when she
should wash them. There was also another table set across the upper end
of the hall somewhat above the foot pace, for the chappelan to stand at.
A little beneath the midst whereof, and beneath the said foot-pace, a
stoole and cushion of estate was pitched for her Majestie to kneel at
during the service time. This done the holy water, basons, alms, and
other things being brought into the hall, and the chappelan and poor
folks having taken the said places, the laundresse, armed with a faire
towell, and taking a silver-bason filled with warm water and sweet
flowers, washed their feet all after one another and wiped the same with
his towell, and soe making a crosse a little above the toes kissed them.
After hym, within a little while, followed the sub-almoner, doing
likewise, and after him the almoner himself also. Then, lastly, her
Majestie came into the hall, and after some singing and prayers made,
and the gospel of Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet read, 39
ladyes and gentlewomen (for soe many were the poor folks, according to
the number of the yeares complete of her Majesties age), addressed
themselves with aprons and towels to waite upon her Majestie; and she,
kneeling down upon the cushions and carpets under the feete of the poore
women, first washed one foote of every one of them in soe many several
basons of warm water and sweete flowers, brought to her severally by the
said ladies and gentlewomen; then wiped, crossed, and kissed them, as
the almoner and others had done before. When her Majestie had thus gone
through the whole number of 39 (of which 20 sat on the one side of the
hall, and 19 on the other), she resorted to the first again, and gave to
each one certain yardes of broad clothe to make a gowne, so passing to
them all. Thirdly; she began at the first, and gave to each of them a
pair of gloves. Fourthly; to each of them a wooden platter, wherein was
half a side of salmon, as much ling, six red herrings and lofes of cheat
bread. Fifthly; she began with the first again, and gave to each of them
a white wooden dish with claret wine. Sixthly; she received of each
waiting-lady and gentlewoman their towel and apron, and gave to each
poor woman one of the same, and after this the ladies and gentlewomen
waited no longer, nor served as they had done throughout the courses
before. But then the treasurer of the chamber, Mr. Hennage, came to her
Majestie with thirty-nine small white purses, wherein were also
thirty-nine pence (as they saye) after the number of yeares to her
Majestie’s saide age, and of him she received and distributed them
severally. Which done she received of him soe many leather purses alsoe,
each containing 20_sh._ for the redemption of her Majestie’s gown, which
(as men saye) by ancient order she sought to give some of them at her
pleasure but she to avoid the trouble of suite, which accustomablie was
made for that preferment, had changed that reward into money, to be
equally divided amongst them all, namely, 20_sh._ a piece, and she also
delivered particularly to the whole company. And so taking her ease upon
the cushion of estate and hearing the quire a little while, her Majestie
withdrew herself and the companye departed, for it was by that time the
sun was setting.”

Charles II. observed this custom, as we find in a letter preserved in
the _Rawdon Letters_, p. 175:

“On Thursday last his Majesty washed poor men’s feet in the Banquetting
House, an act of humility used by his predecessors on Maundy Thursday to
as many poor men as he had lived years. To each poor man he gave two
yards of cloth for a coat, three ells of linen for a shirt, shoes,
stockings, two purses, the one with thirty-three pence, the other with
twenty pence, one jole of ling, one jole of salmon, a quantity of red
and white herrings, one barrel with beer, and another with wine, with
which they drank his Majesty’s health. The queen did pay the same
observance to several women about one of the clock at St. James.”

After these illustrations of the ceremonies formerly observed in the
distribution of the royal alms on Maundy Thursday, it becomes
interesting to witness those which obtain at the present time.

The following is taken from the _Times_ newspaper (April 6th, 1871):

“Those ancient and royal charities designated the Queen’s Maundy were
distributed yesterday in Whitehall Chapel during Divine service with the
customary formalities, to fifty-two aged men and fifty-two aged women,
the number of each one corresponding with the age of her most gracious

At three o’clock a procession, consisting of a detachment of the yeomen
of the guard under the command of a sergeant-major (one of the yeomen
carrying the royal alms on a gold salver), the Rev. Dr. Jelf, D.D.,
Sub-Almoner, Mr. Joseph Hanby, Secretary and Yeoman of the Royal
Almonry, and his Assistant, Mr. John Hanby, accompanied by senior
children from the National Schools in the parish of St. John the
Evangelist and St. Margaret, Westminster, who had been selected to
participate in this privilege for their good conduct, proceeded from the
Almonry office, in Scotland Yard, to the Chapel Royal, Whitehall.

The arrival of the procession having been signified to the Hon. and Very
Rev. the Dean of Windsor, Lord High Almoner, and to the Sub-Dean of the
Chapels Royal, they, preceded by Mr. Chapman, Sergeant of the Vestry,
met it at the entrance, and took their places immediately after the
yeoman of the guard bearing the salver with the royal alms.

The whole procession then advanced in the following order:

  Boys of the Chapel Royal,

  Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal,

  Priests of the Chapel Royal,

  Sergeant-Major of the Yeoman of the Guard,

  The Yeoman with the Salver of Alms,

  The Sergeant of the Vestry,

  The Lord High Almoner,

  The Sub-Almoner and Sub-Dean,

  The Children of the National Schools,

  The Yeoman of the Almonry and his Assistant,

  And the Yeomen of the Guard.

The procession having passed up the centre aisle to the steps of the
altar, the Lord Almoner, the Sub-Almoner, and the Sub-Dean, and those
forming the procession having taken their assigned places on either side
of the chapel, the royal alms being deposited in front of the royal
closet, the afternoon service (a special service for the occasion) was
read by the Rev. Dr. Vivian, senior priest in waiting, commencing with
the Exhortation, Confession, Absolution, &c. Then followed the



  _First Anthem_ (Psalm xxxiv.)--“O taste and see how gracious the Lord


  £1. 15_s._ distributed to each woman. To each man, shoes and

  _Second Anthem._--“O Saviour of the world.”


  Woollen and linen clothes distributed to each man.

  _Third Anthem.-_--“I waited for the Lord.”


  Money purses distributed to each man and woman.

  SECOND LESSON, ST. MATTHEW, CHAP. xxv. v. 31, to the end.

  _Fourth Anthem_ (Psalm xxi.)--“The king shall rejoice in thy


Then were read two prayers composed for the occasion, after which
followed the prayer for the Queen, and so on to the end.”

The minor bounty and royal gate alms, &c., were, in accordance with
ancient usage, distributed at the Almonry Office, in Scotland Yard, on
Friday and Saturday in the past week, and on Monday and Tuesday during
the current week, to aged, disabled, and meritorious persons who had
been previously recommended by the clergy of the various parishes in and
round London.

There were over four thousand persons relieved.

The selections were made by the Lord High Almoner, assisted by the Rev.
Dr. Jelf, D.D. The payments were conducted by Mr. Joseph Hanby,
secretary and yeoman of Her Majesty’s Almonry in ordinary, who has
officiated on these occasions since Easter, 1812, inclusive.--See also
the _True Briton_, 1801.

In Nares’ _Glossary_ (1859, vol. i. p. 151) occurs the following

“_Chare Thursday._--The Thursday in Passion week, corrupted, according
to the following ancient explanation, from _Shear Thursday_, being the
day for shearing, or shaving, preparatory to Easter. Called also Maundy

“‘Upon _Chare Thursday_ Christ brake bread unto his disciples, and bade
them eat it, saying it was his flesh and blood.’--Shepherd’s _Kalendar_.

“‘If a man asks why _Shere Thursday_ is called so, ye may say that in
holy Chirche it is called _Cena Domini_, our Lordes Super day. It is
also in Englyshe called _Sher Thursday_, for in old faders dayes the
people wolde that day shere theyr hedes, and clippe theyr berdes, and
poll theyr hedes, and so make them honest agenst Ester day. For on Good
Fryday they doo theyr bodyes none ease, but suffre penaunce in mynde of
him that that day suffred his passyon for all mankynde. On Ester even it
is time to here theyr service, and after service to make holy daye.

“‘Then, as Johan Bellet sayth, on _Sher Thursday_ a man sholde so poll
his here, and clype his berde, and a preest sholde shave his crowne, so
that there sholde nothynge be between God and hym.’”--Festival, quoted
by Dr. Wordsworth, in _Eccles. Biog._ vol. i. p. 297.

In Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._ (revised by Sir Henry Ellis), London, 1841, in
the chapter headed “Shere Thursday, also Maundy Thursday,” the same
derivation is given; and in one of the notes, a passage is quoted from
the _Gent. Mag._ (July 1779, p. 349), in which the writer says:

“Maundy Thursday, called by Collier _Shier Thursday_, Cotgrave calls by
a word of the same sound and import, _Sheere Thursday_. Perhaps--for I
can only go upon conjecture--as _shear_ means _purus_, _mundus_, it may
allude to the washing of the disciples’ feet (John xiii. 5., _et seq._),
and be tantamount to clean. See 10th verse, and Lye’s _Saxon Dictionary
v. Scip_. If this does not please, the Saxon _scipan_ signifies
_dividere_, and the name may come from the distribution of alms upon
that day, for which see _Archæol. Soc. Antiq._, vol. i. p. 7, _seq._;
Spelman, _Gloss._ _v._ Mandatum; and Du Fresne, vol. iv. p. 400. Please
to observe, too, that on that day _they also washed the altars_, so that
the term in question may allude to that business.--See Collier’s
_Eccles. History_, vol. ii. p. 157.”

_Chare Thursday_, however, says Dr. Hahn (_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. viii. p.
389), is the correct expression, and has nothing whatever to do with
_shearing_ or _sheer_, or _scipan_. _Shere_ is only a corruption of
chare = char, care, or carr.

In Germany Passion Week is called _Charwoche_, and Good Friday
_Charfreitag_. But in former times _Char_ was prefixed to every day of
Passion Week, and we find _Charmontag_ (Chare Monday), _Chardienstag_
(Chare Tuesday), &c. The origin of Chare Thursday is therefore evident.
_Char_ is an old German word signifying _luctus_, _solicitudo_; Goth.
_kar_, _kara_; Old Saxon _cara_; O.-H.-G. _chara_; Anglo-Saxon _cearu_,
_caru_, allied to Latin _cura_, &c.[27]

  [27] See Care Sunday, p. 121.

The original signification _chare_ having become obsolete, a word of
similar sound was substituted in its place, and hence _Shere Thursday_.


Robert Halliday, by his will, dated 6th May, 1491, gave estates in the
parish of St. Leonard, Eastcheap, London, the rents to be applied to
various purposes, and, amongst others, five shillings to the
churchwardens yearly, either to make an entertainment among such persons
of the said parish of St. Clement, who should be at variance with each
other, in the week preceding Easter, to induce such persons to beget
brotherly love amongst them; or if none should be found in the said
parish, then to make an entertainment with the said five shillings, at
the tavern, amongst the honest parishioners of the said parish on the
day of our Lord’s Supper, commonly called Shere Thursday, that they
might pray more fervently for the souls of certain persons named in his
will.--Edwards, _Old English Customs and Charities_, 1842, p. 146.

By indenture, bearing date 11th April, 1691, John Hall, granted a
messuage, in the parish of St. Martin Ongar, to Francis Kenton and
another, in trust to pay out of the rents thereof, amongst other sums,
ten shillings a year, to the churchwardens of the parish of St. Clement,
Eastcheap, London, on the Thursday next before Easter, to provide two
turkeys for the parishioners, to be eaten at their annual feast, called
the reconciling or love feast, usually made on that day. The house is in
the possession of the Weavers’ Company, who make the payment for the
turkeys annually.--_Ibid._ p. 60.


The Thursday before Easter is called Bloody Thursday by some of the
inhabitants of this and the neighbouring county of Yorkshire.--_N. & Q.
1st S._ vol. x. p. 87; _4th S._ vol. v. p. 595.


The term Good Friday is erroneously said to be peculiar to the English
Church; but it is certainly an adoption of the old German _Gute
Freytag_, which may have been a corruption of _Gottes Freytag_, God’s
Friday, so called on the same principle that Easter Day in England was
at one period denominated God’s Day.

In a manuscript homily, entitled _Exortacio in die Pasche_, written
about the reign of Edward IV., we are told that the Paschal Day “in some
place is callede Esterne Day, and in sum place Goddes Day.”--Harl. MSS.
Cod. id. fol. 94.

Another MS. quoted by Strutt (_Horda Angel-Cynna_, vol. iii. p. 175)
says it is called Good Friday, because on this day good men were
reconciled to God. The length of the services in ancient times on this
day, occasioned it to be called Long Friday, the ~Lang Frigdæg~ of the
Anglo-Saxons, which they probably received from the Danes, by whom at
the present time the day is denominated _Lang Freday_.--_Med. Ævi
Kalend._ 1841, vol. i. p. 186.

The old ceremony of Creeping to the Cross on Good Friday is given from
an ancient book of the ceremonial of the Kings of England, in the _Notes
to the Northumberland Household Book_. The usher was to lay a carpet for
the king to “creepe to the Crosse upon.” The Queen and her ladies were
also to creepe to the Crosse.

In an original Proclamation, black letter, dated 26th February, 30th
Henry VIII., in the first volume of a _Collection of Proclamations_ in
the archives of the Society of Antiquaries of London (p. 138), we read:

“On Good Friday it shall be declared howe creepyng of the Crosse
signifyeth an humblynge of ourselfe to Christe before the Crosse, and
the kyssynge of it a memorie of our redemption made upon the Crosse.”

Anciently it was a custom with the kings of England on Good Friday to
hallow, with great ceremony, certain rings, the wearing of which was
believed to prevent the falling sickness. The custom originated from a
ring, long preserved with great veneration in Westminster Abbey, which
was reported to have been brought to King Edward by some persons coming
from Jerusalem, and which he himself had long before given privately to
a poor person, who had asked alms of him for the love he bare to St.
John the Evangelist. The rings consecrated by the sovereign were called
“Cramp-rings,” and there was a special service for their consecration.

Andrew Boorde, in his _Breviary of Health_, 1557, speaking of the cramp,
says, “The Kynge’s Majestie hath a great helpe in this matter in
halowyng crampe-ringes, and so geven without money or petition.”

Good Friday has now almost ceased to be considered a fast by a great
number of people. By many indeed its solemn significance is by no means
neglected; but while these attend the churches others make high holiday.
On this day excursion trains begin running, foot-races are advertised,
donkeys and gipsy drivers make their first appearance for the season on
heaths and commons, and Cornish and Devonshire wrestlers struggle for
muscular triumphs in the presence of excited multitudes.--_N. & Q. 5th
S._ vol. i. p. 261.

In many parts a small loaf of bread is baked on the morning of Good
Friday, and then put by till the same anniversary in the ensuing year.
This bread is not intended to be eaten, but to be used as a medicine,
and the mode of administering it is by grating a small portion of it
into water and forming a sort of panada. It is believed to be good for
many disorders, but particularly for diarrhœa, for which it is
considered a sovereign remedy. Some years ago, a cottager lamented that
her poor neighbour must certainly die of this complaint, because she had
already given her two doses of Good Friday bread without any
benefit.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 155; see _N. & Q. 3rd
S._ vol. iii. pp. 262, 263; see also p. 157.

In London, and all over England (not, however, in Scotland), the morning
of Good Friday is ushered in with a universal cry of _Hot cross buns!_ A
parcel of them appears on every breakfast-table. It is rather a small
bun, more than usually spiced, and having its brown sugary surface
marked with a cross. The ear of every person who has ever dwelt in
England is familar with the cry of the street bun-vendors:

    “One a penny, buns,
    Two a penny, buns,
    One a penny, two a penny,
    Hot Cross buns!”

  _Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 418.

The following lines are taken from _Poor Robin’s Almanac_ for 1733:

    “Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs
    With one or two a penny _hot cross buns_,
    Whose virtue is, if you believe what’s said,
    They’ll not grow mouldy like the common bread.”

It seems more than probable that the cross upon the Good Friday bun is
intended to remind the devout of a Saviour’s sufferings. The following
extract in illustration of the ancient name and use of the bun is from
Bryant’s _Analysis of Ancient Mythology_, 1807, vol. i. pp. 371-373:
“The offerings which people in ancient times used to present to the gods
were generally purchased at the entrance of the Temple, especially every
species of consecrated bread, which was denominated accordingly. One
species of sacred bread which used to be offered to the gods was of
great antiquity, and called _Boun_. Hesychius speaks of the _Boun_, and
describes it as a ‘kind of cake with a representation of two horns.’”
Julius Pollux mentions it after the same manner, “a sort of cake with
horns.” It must be observed, however, as Dr. Jamieson remarks, that the
term occurs in Hesychius in the form of βους, and that for the support
of the etymon Bryant finds it necessary to state that “the Greeks, who
changed the nu final into a sigma, expressed it in the nominative βους,
but in the accusative more truly βουν.” Winckelman relates this
remarkable fact, that at Herculaneum were found two entire loaves of the
same size, a palm and a half, or five inches in diameter; they were
marked by a _cross_, within which were four other lines, and so the
bread of the Greeks was marked from the earliest period.--_Med. Ævi
Kalend._ vol. i. p. 187.

The Romans divided their sacred cakes with lines intersecting each other
in the centre at right angles, and called the quarters _Quadra_.

    “Et violare manu malisque audacibus orbem
    Fatalis crusti, patulis nec parcere quadris.”

  Virg. _Æn._ lib. vii. 114, 115.

    “Nec te liba juvant, nec sectæ quadra placentæ.”

  Mart. lib. iii. _Epig._ 77.

In the North of England a herb-pudding, in which the leaves of the
_passion-dock_ (_Polygonum Bistorta_) are a principal ingredient, is an
indispensable dish on this day. The custom is of ancient date, and it is
not improbable that this plant, and the pudding chiefly composed of it,
were intended to excite a grateful reminiscence of the Passion, with a
suitable acknowledgment of the inestimable blessings of the
Redemption.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 150.


A yearly contribution is made of one quarter of wheat, one quarter of
barley, and one quarter of beans, by the proprietor of the great tithes
of the parish of Eaton Bray, to be distributed among the poor of the
parish on Good Friday. The great tithes of Eaton Bray are vested in the
Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, by whose lessee the
quantity of grain above specified is regularly supplied; the whole of
which is distributed on Good Friday by the churchwardens and overseers,
among poor persons selected by them, in proportion to their several
wants and necessities.--_Old English Customs and Charities_, p. 33.


John Blagrave, by will dated 30th June, 1611, devised to Joseph Blagrave
and his heirs a mansion-house in Swallowfield, and all his lands and
messuages in Swallowfield, Eversley, and Reading, on condition that they
should yearly, for ever, upon Good Friday, between the hours of six and
nine in the morning, pay 10_l._, in a new purse of leather, to the mayor
and burgesses, to the intent that they should provide that the same
should yearly be bestowed in the forenoon of the same day in the
following manner, viz., twenty nobles to one poor maiden servant who
should have served, dwelt, and continued in any one service within any
of the three parishes of Reading, in good name and fame, five years at
the least, for her preferment in marriage; and to avoid partiality in
the choice, he ordered that there should be every Good Friday three such
maidens in election, to cast and try by lot whose the fortune should be,
and that of those three one should be taken out of each parish, if it
could be, and that every fifth year one of the three should be chosen
from Southcote, if any there should have lived so long; and that there
should be special choice of such maids as had served longest in any one
place, and whose friends were of least ability to help them. That ten
shillings should be given on the same day to the preacher of St.
Laurence for a sermon; and that afterwards there should be twenty
shillings given to threescore of the poorest householders of the same
parish who should accompany the maiden to whom the lot had fallen home
to her dwelling-place, and there leave her with her purse of twenty
nobles. That the ringer should have three shillings and fourpence to
ring a peal till the same maiden reached home.--_Old English Customs and
Charities_, p. 147.


In some parishes in these counties the clerk carries round to every
house a few white cakes as an Easter offering; these cakes, which are
about the eighth of an inch thick, and of two sizes--the larger being
seven or eight inches, the smaller about five in diameter--have a
mingled bitter and sweet taste. In return for these cakes, which are
always distributed after Divine service on Good Friday, the clerk
receives a gratuity according to the circumstances or generosity of the
householder.--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 426.


In the centre of Waltham Church, and suspended from the ceiling, there
formerly was a large and handsome brass chandelier, which had thirty-six
candles, and used to be lighted up only on the evening of Good Friday,
when the church was thronged with persons from the surrounding parishes
for miles, who were chiefly attracted by the singing of the parish
choir, at that time deservedly in repute. The chandelier was removed in
effecting the restoration of the church.--Maynard, _History of Waltham
Abbey_, 1865, p. 40.


The practice of eating fig-sue is prevalent in North Lancashire on Good
Friday. It is a mixture consisting of ale, sliced figs, bread, and
nutmeg for seasoning, boiled together, and eaten hot like soup.--_N. &
Q. 3rd S._ vol. p. 221.

If an unlucky fellow is caught with his lady-love on this day in
Lancashire, he is followed home by a band of musicians playing on
pokers, tongs, pan-lids, etc., unless he can get rid of his tormentors
by giving them money to drink with.--_N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. ii. p. 516.

In some places in this county, Good Friday is termed “Cracklin Friday,”
as on that day it is customary for children to go with a small basket to
different houses, to beg small wheaten cakes, which are something like
the Jews’ Passover bread, but made shorter or richer, by having butter
or lard mixed with the flour. “Take with thee loaves and cracknels” (1
Kings, xiv. 3).--Harland and Wilkinson, _Lancashire Folk-Lore_, 1867, p.


In Glentham Church there is a tomb with a figure known as _Molly Grime_.
Formerly this figure was regularly washed every Good Friday by seven old
maids of Glentham, with water brought from Newell Well, each receiving a
shilling for her trouble, in consequence of an old bequest connected
with some property in that district. About 1832 the custom was
discontinued.--_Old English Customs and Charities_, 1842, p. 100.


Good Friday is in some instances superstitiously regarded in the Isle of
Man. No iron of any kind must be put into the fire on that day, and even
the tongs are laid aside, lest any person should unfortunately forget
this custom and stir the fire with them; by way of a substitute a stick
of the rowan tree is used. To avoid also the necessity of hanging the
griddle over the fire, lest the iron of it should come in contact with a
spark of flame, a large hammock or _soddog_ is made, with three corners,
and baked on the hearth.--Train, _History of the Isle of Man_, 1845,
vol. 2, p. 117.


It was for a considerable period customary on Good Friday for a sermon
to be preached in the afternoon at St. Paul’s Cross,[28] London, the
subject generally being Christ’s Passion. The Lord Mayor and Aldermen
usually attended.

  [28] Respecting the age of St. Paul’s Cross, Stow declares himself
  ignorant. Dugdale, however, records, on the authority of Ingulphus,
  that its prototype, a cross of stone, was erected on the same spot,
  A.D. 870, to induce the passers-by to offer prayers for certain monks
  slain by the Danes. St. Paul’s Cross consisted of some steps, on which
  was formed a wooden pulpit, covered with lead, whence sermons were
  preached to the people every Sunday morning. It was not, however,
  specially reserved for this purpose; since from this place, at times,
  the anathema of the Pope was thundered forth, or the ordinances of the
  reigning king were published, heresies were recanted, and sins atoned
  for by penance.

  So early as 1256, we find John Mancell calling a meeting at _Powly’s
  Crosse_, and showing the people that it was the king’s desire that
  they should be “rulyd with justyce, and that the libertyes of the
  cytie shulde be maynteyned in every poynt.” In 1299 the Dean of St.
  Paul’s proclaimed from the Cross that all persons who searched for
  treasure in the church of St. Martin-le-Grand, or consented to the
  searching, were accursed; and it was here that Jane Shore, with a
  taper in one hand, and arrayed in her ‘kyrtell onelye,’ was exposed to
  open penance. After 1633, sermons were no longer preached at the
  Cross, but within the cathedral; and in 1643 it was altogether taken
  down.--Godwin and Britton, _Churches of London_, 1839; Pennant,
  _Account of London_, 1793; Brayley, _Londiniana_, 1829.

At the church of All Hallows, Lombard Street, a sermon is preached every
Good Friday in accordance with the directions of the will of Peter
Symonds, dated 1587. Gifts, also, are distributed, consisting of a new
penny and a packet of raisins, to a certain number of the younger
scholars of Christ’s Hospital.--_City Press_, April 12th, 1873.[29]

  [29] Under the same will the children of Langbourn Ward Schools who
  help in the choir, and the children of the Sunday School, receive each
  a bun, and various sums of new money, ranging from 1_d._ to 1_s._,
  besides the poor of the parish, on whom it bestowed 1_s._ each and a
  loaf. The money used to be given away over the tomb of the donor,
  until the railway in Liverpool Street effaced the spot.--_City Press_,
  April 12, 1873.

Just outside the church of St. Bartholomew-the-Great, Smithfield, the
rector places twenty-one sixpences on a gravestone, which the same
number of poor widows pick up. The custom is nearly as old as the
church, and originated in the will of a lady, who left a sum of money to
pay for the sermon, and to yield these sixpences to be distributed over
her grave. As however, her will is lost, and her tomb gone, the
traditionary spot of her interment is chosen for the distribution, a
strange part of the tradition being that any one being too stiff in the
joints to pick up the money is not to receive it.--_Ibid._

On Good Friday the Portuguese and South American vessels in the London
Docks observe their annual custom of flogging Judas Iscariot. The
following extract is taken from the _Times_ (April 5th, 1874):--“At
daybreak a block of wood, roughly carved to imitate the Betrayer, and
clothed in an ordinary sailor’s suit, with a red worsted cap on its
head, was hoisted by a rope round its neck into the fore-rigging; the
crews of the various vessels then went to chapel, and on their return,
about 11 a.m., the figure was lowered from the rigging, and cast into
the dock, and ducked three times. It was then hoisted on board, and
after being kicked round the deck was lashed to the capstan. The crew,
who had worked themselves into a state of frantic excitement, then with
knotted ropes lashed the effigy till every vestige of clothing had been
cut to tatters. During this process the ship’s bell kept up an incessant
clang, and the captains of the ships served out grog to the men. Those
not engaged in the flogging kept up a sort of rude chant intermixed with
denunciations of the Betrayer. The ceremony ended with the burning of
the effigy amid the jeers of the crowd.”

There is an indorsement on one of the indentures of gift to the parish
of Hampstead stating that £40 had been given by a maid, deceased, to the
intent that the churchwardens for the time being should provide and give
to every one--rich and poor, great and small, young and old
persons--inhabiting the parish, upon every Good Friday yearly for ever,
one halfpenny loaf of wheaten bread.--_Old English Customs and
Charities_, p. 16.


Formerly, at Brazen-nose College, Oxford, the scholars had almonds,
raisins, and figs for dinner on Good Friday, as appears by a receipt of
thirty shillings, paid by the butler of the College, for “eleven pounds
of almonds, thirty-five pounds of raisins, and thirteen pounds of figs,
serv’d into Brazen-nose College, March 28th, 1662.”--Pointer’s
_Oxoniensis Academia_, 1749, p. 71.


A custom, the origin of which is lost in the obscurity of time, prevails
in the neighbourhood of Guildford of making a pilgrimage to St. Martha’s
(or Martyr’s) Hill on Good Friday. Thither from all the country side
youths and maidens, old folks and children, betake themselves, and
gathered together on one of the most beautiful spots in Surrey, in full
sight of an old Norman Church which crowns the green summit of the
hill, beguile the time with music and dancing. Whatever the origin of
this pilgrimage to St. Martha’s, it is apparently one that commends
itself to the taste of the present generation, and is not likely to die
out with the lapse of years, but to increase in popular estimation as
long as the green hill lasts to attract the worshippers of natural
beauty, or to furnish the mere votaries of pleasure with the excuse and
the opportunity for a pleasant holiday.--_Times_, April 18th, 1870.


At Brighton, on this day, the children in the back streets bring up
ropes from the beach. One stands on the pavement on one side, and one on
the other, while one skips in the middle of the street. Sometimes a pair
(a boy and a girl) skip together, and sometimes a great fat
bathing-woman will take her place, and skip as merrily as the grandsire
danced in Goldsmith’s _Traveller_. They call the day “Long Rope Day.”
This was done as lately as 1863.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. iii. p. 444.


The parish church at Leigh is decked on this day with “funereal yew.”
The same custom exists also at Belbroughton in the same county.--_N. &
Q. 2nd S._ vol. i. p. 267.


In East Yorkshire it was customary to keep a hot-cross-bun from one Good
Friday to the next, as it was reputed not to turn mouldy, and to protect
the house from fire. Presents of eggs and buns are made on this
day.--_N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. v. p. 595.


At Tenby, as late as the end of the last century, the old people were in
the habit of walking barefooted to the church--a custom continued from
times prior to the Reformation. Returning home from church they regaled
themselves with hot-cross-buns, and having tied a certain number in a
bag, they hung them up in the kitchen, where they remained till the next
Good Friday for medicinal purposes, the belief being that persons
labouring under any disease had only to eat of a bun to be cured.

About this time many young persons would meet together to “make Christ’s
bed.” This was done by gathering a quantity of long reed-leaves from the
river, and weaving them into the shape of a man; they then laid the
figure on a wooden cross in a retired part of a field or garden, where
they left it. This custom is perhaps derived from an old popular popish
custom of burying an image of Christ on Good Friday, which is described
in Barnabe Googe’s translation of _Nao-Georgus_:

    “Another image do they get, like one but newly deade,
    With legges stretcht out at length, and hands upon his body spreade:
    And him with pomp and sacred song they beare unto his grave.”

--Mason, _Tales and Traditions of Tenby_, 1858, p. 19.


In the midland districts of Ireland, viz., the province of Connaught, on
Good Friday, it is a common practice with the lower orders of Irish
Catholics to prevent their children having any sustenance, even to those
at the breast, from twelve o’clock on the previous night to the same
hour on Friday, and the fathers and mothers will only take a small piece
of dry bread and a draught of water during the day. It is a common sight
to see along the roads between the different market towns, numbers of
women with their hair dishevelled, barefooted, and in their worst
garments: all this is in imitation of Christ’s Passion.--_Every Day
Book_, vol. ii. p. 411.


On Easter Eve it was customary in our own country to light in the
churches what was called the Paschal Taper. In Coates’s _History of
Reading_ (1802, p. 131) is the following extract from the Churchwarden’s
accounts: “Paid for makynge of the Paschall and the Funte Taper, 5_s._
8_d._” A note on this observes, “The Pascal taper was usually very
large. In 1557 the Pascal taper for the Abbey Church of Westminster was
300 pounds weight.”--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._, 1849, vol. i. p. 158.

On the eves of Easter and Whitsunday _Font-hallowing_ was one of the
very many ceremonies in early times. The writer of a MS. volume of
Homilies in the Harleian Library, No. 2371, says, “in the begynning of
holy chirch, all the children weren kept to be chrystened on thys even,
at the font-hallowyng; but now, for enchesone that in so long abydynge
they might dye without chrystendome, therefore holi chirch ordeyneth to
chrysten in all tymes of the yeare, save eyght dayes before these evenys
the chylde shalle abyde till the font-hallowing, if it may safely for
perill of death, and ells not.”


In Cumberland and Westmoreland, and other parts of the north of England,
boys beg, on Easter Eve, eggs to play with, and beggars ask for them to
eat. These eggs are hardened by boiling, and tinged with the juice of
herbs, broom-flowers, &c. The eggs being thus prepared, the boys go out
and play with them in the fields; rolling them up and down like bowls
upon the ground, or throwing them up like balls into the air.--Brand,
_Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 172.


During the last century it was customary in this county, on Easter Eve,
for the boys to form a procession bearing rough torches, and a small
black flag, chanting the following lines:

    “We fasted in the light,
    For this is the night.”

This custom was no doubt a relic of the Popish ceremony formerly in
vogue at this season.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._, 1849, vol. i. p. 160.


Brayley in his _Londiniana_ (1829, vol. ii. p. 207) mentions a custom of
the sheriffs, attended by the Lord Mayor, going through the streets on
Easter Eve, to collect charity for the prisoners in the city prisons.


In East Yorkshire young folks go to the nearest market-town to buy some
small article of dress or personal ornament, to wear for the first time
on Easter Sunday, as otherwise they believe that birds--notably rooks or
“crakes”--will spoil their clothes.--_N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. v. p. 595.

In allusion to the custom of wearing new clothes on Easter Day Poor
Robin says:

    “At Easter let your clothes be new,
    Or else be sure you will it rue.”


The day before Easter Day is in some parts called “Holy Saturday.” On
the evening of this day, in the middle parts of Ireland, great
preparations are made for the finishing of Lent. Many a fat hen and
dainty piece of bacon is put into the pot, by the cotter’s wife, about
eight or nine o’clock, and woe be to the person who should taste it
before the cock crows. At twelve is heard the clapping of hands, and the
joyous laugh, mixed with an Irish phrase which signifies “out with the
Lent.” All is merriment for a few hours, when they retire, and rise
about four o’clock to see the sun dance in honour of the Resurrection.
This ignorant custom is not confined to the humble labourer and his
family, but is scrupulously observed by many highly respectable and
wealthy families.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 161.


Easter, the anniversary of our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead, is one
of the three great festivals of the Christian year--the other two being
Christmas and Whitsuntide. From the earliest period of Christianity down
to the present day, it has always been celebrated by believers with the
greatest joy, and accounted the queen of festivals. In primitive times
it was usual for Christians to salute each other on the morning of this
day by exclaiming, ‘Christ is risen;’ to which the person saluted
replied, ‘Christ is risen indeed,’ or else, ‘And hath appeared unto
Simon’--a custom still retained in the Greek Church.

The term _Easter_ is derived, as some suppose, from _Eostre_,[30] the
name of a Saxon deity, whose feast was celebrated every year in the
spring, about the same time as the Christian festival--the name being
retained when the character of the feast was changed, or, as others
suppose, from _Oster_, which signifies rising. If the latter supposition
be correct, Easter is in name, as well as reality, the feast of the
Resurrection.--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 423; _see Med. Ævi Kalend._
vol. ii. p. 100.

  [30] _Eostre_ is perhaps a corruption of Astarte, the name under which
  the Assyrians, Babylonians, Phœnicians, and the most ancient nations
  of the east worshipped the moon, in like manner as they adored the
  sun, under the name of Baal.

In former times it was customary to make presents of gloves at Easter.
In Bishop Hall’s _Virgidemarium_, 1598, iv. 5, allusion is made to this

    “For Easter gloves, or for a Shrovetide hen,
    Which bought to give, he takes to sell again.”

It was an old custom for the barbers to come and shave the parishioners
in the churchyard on Sundays and high festivals (at Easter, etc.,)
before matins, which liberty was retained by a particular inhibition of
Richard Flemmyng, Bishop of Lincoln, A.D. 1422.--_Time’s Telescope_,
1826, p. 73.

Allusion is made by Mr. Fosbroke (_British Monachism_, 1843, p. 56) to
a custom in the thirteenth century of seizing all ecclesiastics who
walked abroad between Easter and Pentecost, because the Apostles were
seized by the Jews after Christ’s Passion, and making them purchase
their liberty by money.

The custom of eating a “_gammon at Easter_,” says Aubrey (which is still
kept up in many parts of England), was founded on this, viz., to show
their abhorrence of Judaism at that solemn commemoration of our Lord’s
Resurrection. Of late years the practice of decorating churches with
flowers on this festival has been much revived.


A very singular custom prevailed at Lostwithiel on Easter Sunday. The
freeholders of the town and manor having assembled together, either in
person or by their deputies, one among them, each in his turn, gaily
attired and gallantly mounted, with a sceptre in his hand, a crown on
his head, and a sword borne before him, and respectfully attended by all
the rest on horseback, rode through the principal street in solemn state
to the church. At the churchyard stile the curate, or other minister,
approached to meet him in reverential pomp, and then conducted him to
church to hear divine service. On leaving the church he repaired, with
the same pomp and retinue, to a house previously prepared for his
reception. Here a feast, suited to the dignity he had assumed, awaited
him and his suite, and being placed at the head of the table, he was
served, kneeling, with all the rites and ceremonies that a real prince
might expect. The ceremony ended with a dinner; the prince being
voluntarily disrobed, and descending from his momentary exaltation to
mix with common mortals. On the origin of this custom but one opinion
can be reasonably entertained, though it may be difficult to trace the
precise period of its commencement. It seems to have originated in the
actual appearance of the prince, who resided at Restormel Castle in
former ages; but on the removal of royalty this mimic grandeur stepped
forth as its shadowy representative, and continued for many generations
as a memorial to posterity of the princely magnificence with which
Lostwithiel had formerly been honoured.--Hitchins, _History of
Cornwall_, 1824, vol. i. p. 717.


At one time it was customary to send reciprocal presents of eggs at
Easter to the children of families respectively betwixt whom any
intimacy existed. For some weeks preceding Good Friday the price of eggs
advanced considerably, from the great demand occasioned by this custom.

The principal modes adopted to prepare the eggs for presentation were
the following:--The eggs being immersed in hot water for a few moments,
the end of a common tallow-candle was made use of to inscribe the names
of individuals, dates of particular events, &c. The warmth of the eggs
rendered this a very easy process. Thus inscribed, the egg was placed in
a pan of hot water, saturated with cochineal, or other dye-woods; the
part over which the tallow had been passed was impervious to the
operation of the dye; and, consequently, when the egg was removed from
the pan, there appeared no discoloration of the egg where the
inscription had been traced, but the egg presented a white inscription
on a coloured ground. The colour of course depended upon the taste of
the person who prepared the egg; but usually much variety of colour was
made use of.

Another method of ornamenting “pace eggs” was, however, much neater,
although more laborious than that with the tallow candle. The egg being
dyed, it was decorated, by means of a penknife, with which the dye was
scraped off, leaving the design white on a coloured ground. An egg was
frequently divided into compartments, which were filled up according to
the taste and skill of the designer. Generally, one compartment
contained the name and also the age of the party for whom the egg was
intended. In another there was perhaps a landscape, and sometimes a
cupid was found lurking in a third; so that these “pace eggs” became
very useful auxiliaries to the missives of St. Valentine.--_Every Day
Book_, vol. i. p. 426.

The words pays, _pas_, _pace_, _pase_, _pasce_, _pask_, _pasch_,
_passhe_, formerly used in this county, and still used in the north,
are clearly derived from the Hebrew through the Greek πασχα. The Danish
_Paaske-egg_, and the Swedish _Paskegg_, both likewise signify coloured
eggs. Brand considers this custom a relic of ancient Catholicism, the
egg being emblematic of the Resurrection; but it is not improbable that
it is in its origin like many other ancient popular customs, totally
unconnected with any form of Christianity, and that it had its
commencement in the time of heathenism.

The egg was a symbol of the world, and ancient temples in consequence
sometimes received an oval form. This typification is found in almost
every oriental cosmogony. The sacred symbol is still used in the rites
of the Beltein, which are, unquestionably of heathen origin, and eggs
are presented about the period of Easter in many countries. “Easter,”
says a recent tourist, “is another season for the interchange of
civilities when, instead of the coloured egg in other parts of Germany,
and which is there merely a toy for children, the Vienna Easter egg is
composed of silver, mother-of-pearl, bronze, or some other expensive
material, and filled with jewels, trinkets, or ducats.--(_Sketches of
Germany and the Germans in 1834, 1835, and 1836_, vol. ii. p. 162; _Med.
Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 202.) This latter custom has lately become very
popular in London.

John Troutbeck, by will, October 27th, 1787, gave to the poor of Dacre,
the place of his nativity, 200_l._ the interest thereof to be
distributed every Easter Sunday on the family tombstone in Dacre
churchyard, provided the day should be fine, by the hands and at the
discretion of a Troutbeck of Blencowe, if there should be any living,
those next in descent having prior right of distribution; and if none
should be living that would distribute the same, then by a Troutbeck, as
long as one could be found that would take the trouble of it; otherwise
by the ministers and churchwardens of the parish for the time being;
that not less than five shillings should be given to any individual, and
that none should be considered entitled to it that received alms, or any
support from the parish.--_Old English Customs and Charities_, p. 115.


On Easter Sunday the old custom of sugar-cupping at the dripping-torr,
near Tideswell, is observed; when the young people assemble at the torr,
each provided with a cup and a small quantity of sugar or honey, and
having caught the required quantity of water, and mixed the sugar with
it, drink it, repeating a doggerel verse.[31]--_Jour. of the Arch.
Assoc._ 1852, vol. vii. p. 204.

  [31] It is also a general belief in this county that unless a person
  puts on some new article of dress he will be injured by the birds, and
  have no good fortune that year--_Ibid._ p. 205; see also p. 160.


Hasted, in his _History of Kent_ (1798, vol. vii. p. 138), states that,
in the parish of Biddenden there is an endowment of old but unknown date
for making a distribution of cakes among the poor every Easter Day in
the afternoon. The source of the benefaction consists in twenty acres of
land, in five parcels, commonly called the Bread and Cheese Lands.
Practically, in Mr. Hasted’s time, six hundred cakes were thus disposed
of, being given to persons who attended service, while two hundred and
seventy loaves of three and a half pounds weight each, with a pound and
a half of cheese, were given in addition to such as were parishioners.

The cakes distributed on this occasion were impressed with the figures
of two females side by side, and close together.[32] Amongst the country
people it was believed that these figures represented two maidens named
Preston, who had left the endowments; and they further alleged that the
ladies were twins, who were born in bodily union, that is, joined side
to side, as represented on the cakes; who lived nearly thirty years in
this connection, when at length one of them died, necessarily causing
the death of the other in a few hours. It is thought by the Biddenden
people that the figures on the cakes are meant as a memorial of this
natural prodigy, as well as of the charitable disposition of the two
ladies. Mr. Hasted, however, ascertained that the cakes had only been
printed in this manner within the preceding fifty years, and concluded
more rationally that the figures were meant to represent two widows, “as
the general objects of a charitable benefaction.”

  [32] An engraving of one of these cakes will be found in the _Every
  Day Book_, 1827, vol. ii. p. 443.

If Mr. Hasted’s account of the Biddenden cakes be the true one, the
story of the conjoined twins--though not inferring a thing impossible or
unexampled--must be set down as one of those cases, of which we find so
many in the legends of the common people, where a tale is invented to
account for certain appearances, after the real meaning of the
appearance was lost.--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 427; see Britton and
Brayley, _Beauties of England and Wales_, 1803, vol. viii. p. 208; _Old
English Customs and Charities_, 1842, p. 60.


According to Lysons’ _Environs of London_ (1795, vol. iii. p. 603) there
was an ancient custom at Twickenham of dividing two great cakes in the
Church upon Easter Day, among the young people; but it being looked upon
as a superstitious relic, it was ordered by Parliament, 1645, that the
parishioners should forbear this custom, and, instead thereof, buy
loaves of bread for the poor of the parish with the money that should
have bought the cakes. It appears that the sum of £1 _per annum_ is
still charged upon the vicarage for the purpose of buying penny loaves
for poor children on the Thursday before Easter. Within the memory of
man they were thrown from the church-steeple to be scrambled for; a
custom which prevailed also at Paddington.


In this county it is customary to eat baked custards at Easter, and
cheesecakes at Whitsuntide.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. i. p. 248.


At University College, Oxford, on this day, the representation of a
tree, dressed with evergreens and flowers, is placed on a turf close to
the buttery, and every member there resident, as he leaves the Hall
after dinner, chops at the tree with a cleaver. The College cook stands
by holding a plate, in which the Master deposits half a guinea, each
Fellow five shillings and sixpence. This custom is called “chopping at
the tree.”--_N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. ix. p. 468.

On Easter Day the rector of Ducklington for the time being, as long as
can be remembered, has paid £10 per annum, which was formerly given away
in the church amongst the parishioners, in veal or apple pies: of late
years it has been given away in bread. All the parishioners of
Ducklington and Hardwick who apply, whether rich or poor, without any
distinction, partake of it according to the size of their families. Many
of the farmers take the bread as they say, for the sake of keeping up
their right. It is stated that there is no document or record relating
to this payment, nor any tradition respecting its origin.--_Old English
Customs and Charities_, p. 14.

The rector of Swerford supplies a small loaf for every house in the
parish on Easter Sunday, which is given after evening service. It is
understood that this is given on account of a bushel of wheat, which is
payable out of a field called Mill Close, part of the glebe. Each house,
whether inhabited by rich or poor, receives a loaf.--_Ibid._ p. 18.


It was customary in this country, for the young men in the villages to
take off the young girls’ buckles, and, on the Easter Monday, the young
men’s shoes and buckles were taken off by the young women. On the
Wednesday they were redeemed by little pecuniary forfeits, out of which
an entertainment called a _Tansey Cake_, was provided, and the jollity
concluded with dancing. At Ripon, where this custom also prevailed, it
is reported that no traveller could pass the town without being
stopped, and, if a horseman, having his spurs taken away, unless
redeemed by a little money, which was the only means to get them
returned. This seems to bear an affinity to the custom of hocking.

Cole in his _Hist. of Filey_ (1828, p. 136) mentions a similar custom as
practised in that place. He says, the young men seize the shoes of the
females, collecting as many as they can, and, on the following day, the
girls retaliate by getting the men’s hats, which are to be redeemed on a
subsequent evening, when both parties assemble at one of the inns, and
partake of a rural repast.--_Gent. Mag._ 1790, vol. lx. p. 719.

Two farms lying in the township of Swinton, and which belong to Earl
Fitzwilliam, every year change their parish. For one year, from Easter
Day at twelve at noon till next Easter Day at the same hour, they lie in
the parish of Mexbrough, and then till Easter Day following at the same
hour, they are in the parish of Wath-upon-Dearne, and so
alternately.--Blount’s _Ancient Tenures of Land_.


Easter Day is generally kept in Wales as the Sunday, that is, with much
and becoming respect to the sacredness of the day. It is also marked by
somewhat better cheer, as a festival, of which lamb is considered as a
proper constitutional part. In some places, however, after morning
prayer, vestiges of the sundry sports and pastimes remain. It is thought
necessary to put on some new portion of dress at Easter and unlucky to
omit doing so, were it but a new pair of gloves or a ribbon. This idea
is evidently derived from the custom of former times, of baptizing at
Easter, when the new dress was in some degree symbolical of the new
character assumed by baptism.


The solemnity of Easter (says Bishop Kennett) was anciently observed in
Ireland with so great superstition that they thought it lawful to steal
all the year, to hoard up provisions against this festival
time.--Kennett _MS_.

In some parts of Ireland at Easter a cake, with a garland of meadow
flowers, is elevated upon a circular board upon a pike, apples being
stuck upon pegs around the garland. Men and women then dance round, and
they who hold out longest win the prize.[33]--_Time’s Telescope_, 1826,
p. 37.

  [33] Plutarch mentions a trial for dancing: a cake the prize.



In the Parliamentary Returns of 1786 a donor of the name of Randell is
stated to have given by deed, in 1597, five quarters of wheat and money
to the poor of Edlesborough. Forty-nine bushels of wheat were yearly
sent by Lady Bridgewater to the mill to be ground in respect of this
charity. They were ground, and the flour baked at her expense; the bread
was made up in four-pound loaves, which were given away by the parish
officers on Easter Monday to all the poor of the parish, in shares
varying according to the size of the families, a loaf being given to
each individual.--_Old English Customs and Charities_, p. 18.


Pasch eggs are begged at the farmhouses; the children sing a short song,
asking for--

    “Eggs, bacon, apples, or cheese,
    Bread or corn, if you please,
    Or any good thing that will make us merry.”

These eggs are in some parts of the county boiled in vinegar, and
otherwise ornamented, and hung up in the houses until another year. In
some cottages as many as a score may be seen hanging. The custom of
lifting is also observed.--_Jour. of Arch. Assoc._, 1850, vol. v. p.

In a pamphlet entitled _Certayne Collections of Anchiante Times,
concerning the Anchiante and Famous Cittie of Chester_, already
referred to and published in Lysons’ _Magna Britannia_, is the following
account of a curious practice once observed at Chester, “There is an
anchant custome in this cittie of Chester: the memory of man now livinge
not knowing the original, that upon Monday in Easter weeke, yearely,
commonly called Black Mondaye, the two sheriffes of the cittie do shoote
for a breakfaste of calves-heades and bacon, commonly called the
Sheriffes’ Breakfaste, the maner being thus: the day before, the drum
soundeth through the cittie, with a proclamation for all gentlemen,
yeomen, and good fellowes, that will come with their bowes and arrowes
to take part with one sheriff or the other, and upon Monday morning, on
the Rode-dee, the Mayor, shreeves, aldermen, and any other gentlemen
that be there, the one sherife chosing one, and the other sherife
chosing another, and soe of the archers; the one sherife shoteth, and
the other sherife he shoteth to _shode_ him, beinge at length some
twelve score, soe all the archers on one side to shote till it be
_shode_, and so till three shutes be wonne, and then all the winners’
side goe up together, first with arrowes in their hands, and all the
loosers with bowes in their hands together, to the common hall of the
cittie, where the maior, aldermen, and the reste, take parte together of
the saide breakfaste in loveing manner. This is yearely done, it beinge
a commendable exercise, a good recreation, and a lovinge assemblye.”

In the year 1640 the sheriffs gave a piece of plate to be run for,
instead of the calves’-head breakfast. In 1674, a resolution was entered
in the Corporation journals that the calves’-head feast was held by
ancient custom and usage, and was not to be at the pleasure of the
sheriffs and leave-brokers. In the month of March, 1676-7, the sheriffs
and leave-brokers were fined £10, for not keeping the calves’-head
feast. For this feast an annual dinner was afterwards substituted,
usually given by the sheriffs at their own houses on any day most
suitable to their convenience.


During a visit to the little village of Castleton, says a correspondent
of _N. & Q._ (_4th S._ vol. v. p. 595), I noticed every child without
exception had a bottle of _elecampane_--the younger ones having one tied
round their necks--all sucking away at this curious compound of Spanish
juice, sugar, and water with great assiduity. I was informed by a very
old man that the custom had always obtained at Castleton on this day as
long as he could remember.

The custom of lifting was practised in some of the northern parts of
this county.--_Jour. of Arch. Assoc._, 1852, vol. vii. p. 205.


Easter Monday was formerly appropriated to the grand “Epping Hunt.” So
far back as the year 1226, King Henry III. confirmed to the citizens of
London _free-warren_, or liberty to hunt a circuit about their city, in
the warren of Staines, &c.; and in ancient times, the Lord Mayor,
aldermen, and corporation, attended by a due number of the constituents,
are said to have availed themselves of this right of chase “in solemn
guise.” But years ago, the “Epping Hunt” lost the Lord Mayor and his
brethren in their corporate capacity; the annual sport subsequently
dwindled into a mere burlesque and farcical show amongst the mob, and
even that has died away, and is now numbered “amongst the things that
were.”--_Sports, Pastimes and Customs of London_, 1847, p. 27.

The following extract illustrative of this ancient custom is taken from
the _Chelmsford Chronicle_ (April 15th, 1805): “On Monday last Epping
Forest was enlivened with the celebrated stag-hunt. The road from
Whitechapel to the Bald-faced Stag, on the forest, was covered with
cockney sportsmen, chiefly dressed in the costume of the chase, in
scarlet-frock, black jockey cap, new boots, and buckskin breeches. By
ten o’clock the assemblage of civil hunters, mounted on all sorts and
shapes, could not fall short of 1,200. There were numberless Dianas,
also of the chase, from Rotherhithe, the Minories, &c., some in
riding-habits, mounted on titups, and others by the side of their
mothers, in gigs, tax-carts, and other vehicles appropriate to the
sports of the field. The Saffron Walden stag-hounds made their joyful
appearance about half after ten, but without any of the Melishes or
Bosanquets, who were more knowing sportsmen, than to risk either
themselves, or their horses, in so desperate a burst. The huntsmen
having capped their half crowns, the horn blew just before twelve, as a
signal for the old fat one-eyed-stag (kept for the day) being enlarged
from the cart. He made a bound of several yards, over the heads of some
pedestrians, at first starting, when such a clatter commenced as the
days of Nimrod never knew. Some of the scarlet-jackets were sprawling in
the high road a few minutes after starting--so that a lamentable return
of the maimed, missing, thrown, and thrown out, may naturally be
supposed.--_Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 460; see _Long Ago_, 1873, vol.
i. pp. 19, 44, 83, 146; also _N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. x. pp. 373, 399, 460,
478; xi. p. 26.


At this season, in the neighbourhood of Ross, the rustics have a custom
called _corn-showing_. Parties are made to pick out cockle from the
wheat. Before they set out they take with them, cake, cider, and _a
yard_ of toasted cheese. The first person who picks the cockle from the
wheat has the first kiss of the maid and the first slice of the cake.
This custom, doubtless, takes its origin from the Roman as appears from
the following line of Ovid (_Fasti_, i. 691):--

    “Et careant loliis oculos vitiantibus agri.”

    “Let the fields be stripped of eye-diseasing cockle.”

  --Fosbroke, _Ariconensia or Archæological Sketches of Ross and
  Archenfield_, 1822.


At this season young people go out holiday-making in public-houses, to
eat _pudding-pies_, and this practice is called going a
_pudding-pieing_. The pudding-pies are from the size of a teacup to that
of a small tea-saucer. They are flat, like pastrycooks’ cheesecakes,
made with a raised crust to hold a small quantity of custard, with
currants lightly sprinkled on the surface. Pudding-pies and cherry-beer
usually go together at these feasts.--Hone’s _Year Book_, 1838, p. 361.


In Lancashire, and in Cheshire, Staffordshire, and Warwickshire, and
perhaps in other counties, the ridiculous custom of ‘lifting’ or
‘heaving’ is practised. On Easter Monday the men lift the women, and on
Easter Tuesday the women lift or heave the men. The process is performed
by two lusty men or women joining their hands across each other’s
wrists, then, making the person to be heaved sit down on their arms,
they lift him up aloft two or three times, and often carry him several
yards along a street. A grave clergyman who happened to be passing
through a town in Lancashire on an Easter Tuesday, and having to stay an
hour or two at an inn, was astonished by three or four lusty women
rushing into his room, exclaiming they had “come to lift him!” “To lift
him!” repeated the amazed divine; “what can you mean?” “Why, your
reverence, we’ve come to lift you, ’cause it’s Easter Tuesday.” “Lift me
because it’s Easter Tuesday! I don’t understand you--is there any such
custom here?” “Yes to be sure; why, don’t you know? All us women was
lifted yesterday, and us lifts the men to-day in turn. And, in course,
it’s our reights and duties to lift ’em.” After a little further parley
the reverend traveller compromised with his fair visitors for
half-a-crown, and thus escaped the dreaded compliment.--_Book of Days_,
vol. i., p. 425.

Agnes Strickland in her _Lives of the Queens of England_ (1864, vol. i.
p. 303), narrates how on the Easter Monday of 1290 seven of Queen
Eleanora’s ladies unceremoniously invaded the chamber of King Edward
(I.), and seizing their majestic master, proceeded to “heave him” in his
chair, till he was glad to pay a fine of fourteen pounds to enjoy his
own peace and be set at liberty.

The following extract is taken from the _Public Advertiser_, April 13th,
1787:--The custom of rolling down Greenwich-hill at Easter is a relique
of old city manners, but peculiar to the metropolis. Old as the custom
has been, the counties of Shropshire, Cheshire and Lancashire boast of
one of equal antiquity, which they call heaving, and perform with the
following ceremonies, on the Monday and Tuesday in the Easter week. On
the first day, a party of men go with a chair into every house into
which they can get admission, force every female to be seated in their
vehicle, and lift them up three times with loud huzzas. For this they
claim the reward of a chaste salute, which those who are too coy to
submit to may get exempted from by a fine of one shilling, and receive a
written testimony which secures them from a repetition of the ceremony
for that day. On the Tuesday the women claim the same privilege, and
pursue their business in the same manner, with this addition--that they
guard every avenue to the town, and stop every passenger, pedestrian,
equestrian or vehicular.”

A correspondent of the _Gent. Mag._, 1784, vol. xcvi. p. 96, says that
_lifting_ was originally designed to represent our Saviour’s


In the Easter holidays the young men, says Fitzstephen (in his tract
entitled ‘_Descriptio Nobilissimæ Civitatis Londoniæ_,’ _circa_ 1174),
counterfeit a fight on the water: a pole is set up in the midst of the
river, with a target strongly fastened to it, and a young man standing
in the fore part of a boat, which is prepared to be carried on by the
flowing of the tide, endeavours to strike the target in his passage.

If he succeeds so as to break his lance, and yet preserve his footing,
his aim is accomplished; but if he fail, he tumbles into the water, and
his boat passes away with the stream. On each side, however, of the
target, ride two vessels, wherein are stationed several young men ready
to snatch him from the water, as soon as he appears again above the

Formerly the Lord Mayors and the sheriffs were accustomed to,
separately, ask each of their friends as were aldermen or governors of
the hospitals, whom they saw at church, to dine with them at their own
houses. But, in process of time, however, it was agreed that the Lord
Mayor should invite all that were at church on the first day; and the
two sheriffs, in their turn, on the next succeeding days. Hence, by
degrees, they began to invite other of the friends, and the aldermen
bringing their ladies, other ladies were also invited, so that the
private houses not being large enough, they began to entertain at their
respective halls.--Brayley, _Londiniana_, 1829, vol. ii. p. 28.


Formerly, at Easter and Whitsuntide, the mayor, aldermen, and sheriff of
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with a great number of the burgesses, went yearly
to the Forth, or Little Mall of the town, with the mace, sword, and cap
of maintenance carried before them, and patronised the playing at
hand-ball, dancing, and other amusements, and sometimes joined in the
ball-play, and at others joined hands with the ladies.--_Every Day
Book_, vol. i. p. 430.


Deering, in his _Historical Account of Nottingham_ (1751, p. 125),
says:--By a custom time beyond memory, the mayor and aldermen of
Nottingham and their wives have been used on Monday in Easter week,
morning prayer ended, to march from the town to St. Anne’s Well, having
the town waits to play before them, and attended by all the clothing,
i.e., such as have been sheriffs, and ever after wear scarlet gowns,
together with the officers of the town, and many other burgesses and
gentlemen, such as wish well to the woodward--this meeting being first
instituted, and since continued for his benefit.


Easter Monday and Tuesday, says a correspondent of Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._
(1849, vol. i. p. 183), were known by the name of _heaving-days_,
because, on the former day, it was customary for the men to heave and
kiss the women, and on the latter for the women to retaliate upon the
men. The women’s heaving-day was the most amusing. Many a time have I
passed along the streets inhabited by the lower orders of people, and
seen parties of jolly matrons assembled round tables on which stood a
foaming tankard of ale. There they sat in all the pride of absolute
sovereignty, and woe to the luckless man that dared to invade their
prerogatives! As sure as he was seen he was pursued; as sure as he was
pursued he was taken; and, as sure as he was taken, he was heaved and
kissed, and compelled to pay sixpence for “leave and licence” to depart.

At one time a custom was observed at Birmingham, on the Easter Monday,
called “Clipping the Church.” This ceremony was performed amid crowds of
people and shouts of joy, by the children of the different charity
schools, who at a certain hour flocked together for the purpose. The
first comers placed themselves hand in hand with their backs against the
Church, and were joined by their companions, who gradually increased in
number, till at last the chain was of sufficient length completely to
surround the sacred edifice. As soon as the hand of the last of the
train had grasped that of the first, the party broke up, and walked in
procession to the other Church (for in those days Birmingham boasted but
of two), where the ceremony was repeated.--_Every Day Book_, vol. i. p.

They have an ancient custom at Coleshill, says Blount, (_Jocular
Tenures_, Beckwith’s Edition, p. 286), that if the young men of the town
can catch a hare, and bring it to the parson of the parish before ten
o’clock on Easter Monday, the parson is bound to give them a
calf’s-head, and a hundred eggs for breakfast, and a groat in money.


At sunset upon Easter Monday, and at no other period throughout the
year, a game is played by the children of Evesham called
“thread-my-needle.” From the season of this observance, as well as the
cry of the players while elevating their arms arch-wise, which _now_ is:

    “Open the gates as high as the sky,
    And let Victoria’s troops pass by,”

it is probable, says May in his _Hist. of Evesham_ (1845, p. 319), that
the custom originally had reference to the great festival of the church
and the triumphant language of the Psalmist, applied to the event
commemorated at this period--Psalm xxiv. 9: ‘Lift up your heads, O ye
gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory
shall come in.” The accuracy of this supposition, however, may be fairly


In North Wales, says Pennant, the custom of heaving upon Monday and
Tuesday in Easter week is preserved; and on Monday the young men go
about the town and country, from house to house, with a fiddle playing
before them, to heave the women. On the Tuesday the women heave the men.

At Tenby Easter Monday was always devoted to merry-making; the
neighbouring villages (Gumfreston especially) were visited, when some
amused themselves with the barbarous sport of cock-fighting, while
others frequented the two tea-parties held annually at Tenby and
Gumfreston, and known as the “Parish Clerks’ Meeting.”--Mason’s _Tales
and Traditions of Tenby_, 1858, p. 21.



It is pleasurable, says Fuller in his _History of Berwick-upon-Tweed_
(1799, p. 445), to see what a great number of lovely and finely-dressed
children make their appearance on Easter Monday, which is known in this
neighbourhood as the Children’s Day. Being attended by a multitude of
servants, they parade and run about for many hours, amusing themselves
in a variety of ways. This charming group is joined more or less by the
parents of the children, who, together with such as are attracted by
curiosity, form, on such occasions, a company of a great many hundreds.
They assemble in greatest numbers behind the barracks, where the rampart
is broadest. The fruiterers attend in full display, as well as many
itinerants in various pursuits. The whole company may be called a
_sportive fair_.


In the County of Antrim this day is observed by several thousands of the
working classes of the town and vicinity of Belfast resorting to the
Cave-hill, about three miles distant, where the day is spent in dancing,
jumping, running, climbing the rugged rocks, and drinking. Here many a
rude brawl takes place, many return home with black eyes, and in some
cases with broken bones. Indeed it is with them the greatest holiday of
the year, and to not a few it furnishes laughable treats to talk about
till the return of the following spring. On this evening a kind of
dramatic piece is usually brought forward at the Belfast Theatre, called
_The Humours of the Cave-hill.--The Table Book_, p. 507.


On Easter Monday multitudes go to Scattery Island for the purpose of
performing penance on their bare knees, round the stony beach and holy
well there. Tents are generally erected on this occasion, and often
times more whisky is taken by the pilgrims than is found convenient on
their return in crowded boats.--Mason, _Stat. Acc. of Ireland_, 1814,
vol. ii. p. 459.


At Holywood the trundling of eggs, as it is called, is an amusement
common at Easter. For this purpose the eggs are boiled hard, and dyed of
different colours, and, when they are thus prepared, the sport consists
in throwing or trundling them along the ground, especially down a
declivity, and gathering up the broken fragments to eat them. Formerly
it was usual with the women and children to collect in large bodies for
this purpose, though nothing can be, to all appearance, more unmeaning
than this amusement. They yet pursue it in the vicinity of Belfast. It
is a curious circumstance that this sport is practised only by the
Presbyterians.--Mason, _Stat. Acc. of Ireland_, 1819, vol. iii. p. 207.

On Easter Monday several hundreds of young persons of the town and
neighbourhood of Portaferry resort, dressed in their best, to a pleasant
walk near that town, called “The Walter.” The avowed object of each
person is to see the fun, which consists in the men kissing the females,
without reserve, whether married or single. This mode of salutation is
quite a matter of course; it is never taken amiss, nor with much show of
coyness; the female must be very ordinary indeed, who returns home
without having received at least a dozen hearty kisses. Tradition is
silent as to the origin of this custom, which of late years is on the
decline, especially in the respectability of the attendants.--_The Table
Book_, p. 506.



Every Easter Tuesday, in pursuance of an ancient custom, the boys of
Christ’s Hospital, London, pay a visit to the Mansion House, and receive
from the Lord Mayor the customary Easter gifts. On reaching the Mansion
House, they march into the Egyptian Hall, and on passing the Lord Mayor,
receive a gratuity in coins fresh from the mint. To the fifteen Grecians
a guinea each is given; nine probationers, half-a-guinea; forty-eight
monitors, half-a-crown; and the ordinary scholars, one shilling each.
Each boy also before leaving receives a glass of wine and two buns. The
boys wear linen badges on their coats, on which the words “He is risen”
are inscribed. After this ceremony, the Lord Mayor and the rest of the
civic authorities go in the customary state to Christ Church, Newgate
Street, where the second Spital sermon is preached. At this service the
whole of the Christ’s Hospital boys attend.--See _Daily News_, April
12th, 1871, and April 3rd, 1872.


Holly-bussing, says a writer in the _Newcastle Express_ (April 16th,
1857), is a vernacular expression for a very ancient custom celebrated
at Netherwitton, the origin of which is unknown. On Easter Tuesday the
lads and lasses of the village and vicinity meet, and, accompanied by
the parish clerk, who plays an excellent fiddle, the inspiring strains
of which put mirth and mettle in their heels, proceed to the wood to get
holly; with which some decorate a stone cross that stands in the village
while others are “bobbing around” to “Speed the Plough” or “Birnie


The _Festival of the Annunciation_ commemorates in the Christian world
the message of the Angel to the Virgin Mary: hence it was anciently
called St. Mary’s Day in Lent, to distinguish it from other festivals in
her honour:

    “Seinte Marie Daye in Leynte, among
      All other dayes gode,
    Is ryt for to holde heghe
      He so [whoso] bein vnderstode.”

  Harl. MS. Codex 2277, fol. i.

All the festivals of the Virgin are properly Lady Days, but this falling
in Lent, and being the first quarter day for rents and other payments,
readily became Lady Day _par excellence_. Otherwise considered, it is
simply an abridgment of “Our Lady Day the Annunciation,” as we find it
written in the reign of Henry the Sixth. Some old customs on paying
quarterly rents are noticed in Gascoigne’s _Flowers of Poesie_, 4to,

    And when the tenantes come to paie their quarter’s rent,
    They bring some fowle at Midsummer, a dish of fish in Lent,
    At Christmasse a capon, at Michaelmasse a goose,
    And somewhat else at New Yeare’s tide for feare their lease flie

  --_Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 206; Forster, _Perenn. Calend._ 1841,
  p. 515.


At St. Alban’s certain buns called “Pope Ladies” are sold on Lady Day,
their origin being attributed by some to the following story:--A noble
lady and her attendants were travelling on the road to St. Alban’s (the
great North road passes through this town), when they were benighted and
lost their way. Lights in the clock-tower at the top of the hill enabled
them at length to reach the monastery in safety, and the lady in
gratitude gave a sum of money to provide an annual distribution on Lady
Day of cakes, in the shape of ladies, to the poor of the neighbourhood.
As this bounty was distributed by the monks, the “Pope Ladies” probably
thus acquired their name.--See _N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. x. p. 412. Another
correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_4th S._ vol. x. 341) says these buns are
sold on the first day of each year, and that there is a tradition that
they have some relation to the myth of Pope Joan.--See also the _Gent.
Mag._ 1820, vol. xc. p. 15.


The gyst-ale, or guising-feast, was an annual festival of the town of
Ashton-under-Lyne. It appears from the rental of Sir John de Assheton,
compiled A.D. 1422, that twenty shillings were paid to him as lord of
the manor for the privilege of holding this feast by its then
conductors. The persons named in the roll as having paid 3_s._ 4_d._
each are:--“Margret, that was the wife of Hobbe the Kynges (of misrule);
Hobbe Adamson; Roger the Baxter; Robert Somayster; Jenkyn of the Wode;
and Thomas of Curtual.” The meaning of the term _gyst-ale_ is involved
in some obscurity--most probably the payments above were for the _gyst_,
or hire, for the privilege of selling ale and other refreshments during
the festivals held on the payment of the rents of the manor. These
_guisings_ were frequently held in the spring, most probably about Lady
Day, when manorial rents were usually paid; and, as the fields were
manured with _marl_ about the same period, the term _marlings_ has been
supposed to indicate the rough play or _marlocking_ which was then
practised. This, however, must be a mistake, since the term relates to
merry pranks, or pleasure gambols only, and has no connection with marl
as a manure.

These gyst-ales, or guisings, once ranked amongst the principal
festivals of Lancashire, and large sums of money were subscribed by all
ranks of society in order that they might be celebrated with becoming
splendour. The lord of the manor, the vicar of the parish, the farmer,
and the operative, severally announced the sums they intended to give,
and when the treasurer exclaimed “A largesse,” the crowd demanded “from
whom?” and then due proclamation was made of the sum subscribed. The
real amount, however, was seldom named, but it was announced that “Lord
Johnson,” or some other equally distinguished person had contributed “a
portion of ten thousand pounds” towards the expenses of the feast.

After the subscription lists were closed an immense garland was
prepared, which contained abundance of every flower in season,
interspersed with a profusion of evergreens and ribbons of every shade
and pattern. The framework of this garland was made of wood, to which
hooks were affixed, and on these were suspended a large collection of
watches, jewels, and silver articles borrowed from the richer residents
in the town. On the day of the gyst this garland was borne through the
principal streets and thoroughfares, attended by crowds of townspeople
dressed in their best attire. These were formed into a procession by a
master of the ceremonies, locally termed the king. Another principal
attendant was the Fool, dressed in a grotesque cap, a hideous grinning
mask, a long tail hanging behind him, and a bell with which he commanded
attention when announcements were to be made. In an early period of
these guisings the fool was usually mounted on a hobby-horse, and
indulged in grotesque pranks as he passed along--hence we obtained the
term “hob-riding,” and more recently the proverbial expression of
“riding one’s hobby to death.”--Harland and Wilkinson, _Legends and
Traditions of Lancashire_, 1873, p. 86.


On a table of benefactions in the Church at Oxburgh it is stated that
Sir Henry Bedingfield paid at Lady Day annually £2 for lands belonging
to the township of Oxburgh; that this was called _walk money_, and was
given to the poor.--_Old English Customs and Charities_, p. 124.


Evelyn in his _Diary_, under the date of March 25th, 1672 (Bohn’s
Edition, 1859, vol. ii. p. 78), says: “Observing almost every tall tree
to have a weather-cock on the top bough, and some trees half-a-dozen, I
learned that on a certain holiday the farmers feast their servants, at
which solemnity they set up these cocks as a kind of triumph.”


At Kilmacteige, Co. of Sligo, the Lady Days are observed with most
scrupulous attention, that is to say, so far as abstaining from all kind
of daily labour, or following any trade or calling, although their
sanctity does not operate on their minds so as to induce them to refrain
from sports and pastimes, cursing or swearing, or frequenting
tippling-houses and drinking to excess.--Mason, _Stat. Acc. of Ireland_,
1814-19, vol ii. p. 864.


The Octave or first Sunday after Easter.

The author of _Christian Sodality_, a collection of discourses, 1652,
says:--This day is called White or Low Sunday because in the Primitive
Church those neophytes that on Easter Eve were baptized and clad in
white garments did to-day put them off, with this admonition, that they
were to keep within them a perpetual candour of spirit, signified by the
_Agnus Dei_ hung about their necks, which, falling down upon their
breasts, put them in mind what innocent lambs they must be, now that of
sinful, high, and haughty men they were by baptism made low, and little
children of Almighty God, such as ought to retain in their manners and
lives the Paschal feasts which they had accomplished.

Seymour in his _Survey of London_ (1734, B. iv. p. 100) tells us that
the aldermen used to meet the Lord Mayor and sheriffs at St. Paul’s in
their scarlet gowns, furred, without their cloaks, to hear the sermon.


Fenton in his _Tour through Pembrokeshire_ (1811, p. 495) alludes to the
game of _Knappan_ as being played at Pwlldu, in the parish of Penbedw,
on low Easter-day. He says the knappan was a ball of some hard wood, of
such a size as a man might hold in his hand, and was boiled in tallow to
make it slippery. The players at this game were very numerous,
frequently amounting to a thousand or fifteen hundred people, parish
against parish, hundred against hundred, and sometimes county against
county. When the company assembled, about one or two o’clock in the
afternoon, entirely naked, with the exception of a light pair of
breeches, a great shout was given as the signal to begin, and the ball
was hurled bolt upright into the air by one of the parties and at its
fall he that caught it hurled it towards the county or goal he played
for. The players consisted of horse and foot, who in the purest times of
the game never mixed, being governed by certain rules and regulations
that were never violated; but long before this game was disused various
abuses and disorders had crept into it, so that it served to inflame
every bad passion, engender revenge, foment private quarrels, and
stimulate even to bloodshed and murder.


On this day a custom prevails not only in Britain, but on the Continent,
of imposing upon and ridiculing people in a variety of ways. It is very
doubtful what is the precise origin of this absurd custom. In France the
person imposed upon on All Fools’ Day is called _Poisson d’Avril_, an
April Fish, which Bellingen, in his _Etymology of French Proverbs_,
published in 1656, thus explains. The word _Poisson_, he contends, is
corrupted through the ignorance of the people from _Passion_, and length
of time has almost totally defaced the original intention, which was as
follows: that as the Passion of our Saviour took place about this time
of the year, and as the Jews sent Christ backwards and forwards to mock
and torment him, that is, from Annas to Caiaphas, from Caiaphas to
Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and from Herod back again to Pilate, this
ridiculous custom took its rise from thence, by which we send about from
one place to another such persons as we think proper objects of our
ridicule. A writer in the _Gent. Mag._, 1783, vol. liii. p. 578, also
conjectures that this custom may have an allusion to the mockery of the
Saviour of the world by the Jews. Another attempt to explain it has been
made by referring to the fact that the year formerly began in Britain on
the 25th of March, which was supposed to be the Incarnation of our Lord,
and the commencement of a new year was always, both among the ancient
heathens and among modern Christians, held as a great festival. It is to
be noted then that the 1st of April is the octave of the 25th of March,
and the close consequently of that feast which was both the festival of
the Annunciation and of the New Year. Hence it may have become a day of
extraordinary mirth and festivity.

Alluding to this custom, Charles Dickens, jun. (_Gent. Mag._ 1869, New
Series, vol. ii. p. 543), says: A prince of the house of Lorraine,
confined in one of Louis XIII.’s prisons, made his escape on the 1st of
April by swimming across the moat, and is accordingly commemorated as a
_poisson d’Avril_ to this day. Why this should be so is not very clear,
inasmuch as the gaolers and not the prince would have been the April
fools on the occasion. A later version of the same story would appear to
be the correct one. Here the prince and his wife, escaping in the
disguise of peasants on the 1st of April, were recognised by a
servant-maid as they were passing out of the castle-gates. She
immediately made for the guard-room, giving the alarm to a sentinel by
the way, but, unfortunately for her, yet happily for the fugitives,
although she may have forgotten that it was All Fool’s Day, the soldiers
on guard had not. The information was treated with the utmost contempt,
the soldiers declining to be made game of, and while the royal
prison-breakers got clear off, it is said that the luckless informer was
soundly buffetted by the guard for her ill-timed jocularity. This
version of the story, however, goes to prove nothing beyond the fact
that the custom of making April fools was well known in the time of
Louis XIII., but in nowise accounts for the curious expression _poisson
d’Avril_; while the swimming story explains the fish, but leads one to
believe that the incident was the origin of the dedication of the 1st of
April to fools.

Another curious explanation of this peculiar custom, giving it a Jewish
origin, has also been suggested. It is said to have begun from the
mistake of Noah sending the dove out of the Ark before the water had
abated on the first day of the Hebrew month, answering to our month of
April, and to perpetuate the memory of this deliverance it was thought
proper, whoever forgot so remarkable a circumstance, to punish them by
sending them upon some sleeveless errand similar to that ineffectual
message upon which the bird was sent by the patriarch.--_Public
Advertiser_, April 13th, 1769.

Maurice, in his _Indian Antiquities_ (vi. 71), says that the custom
prevailing both in England and India had its origin in the ancient
practice of celebrating with festival rites the period of the vernal
equinox, or the day when the new year of Persia anciently began.

Addison, in the _Spectator_, referring to the year 1711, remarks that “a
custom prevails everywhere among us on the 1st of April, when everybody
takes it in his head to make as many fools as he can. A neighbour of
mine--a very shallow, conceited fellow, makes his boast that for these
ten years successively he has not made less than a hundred April fools.
My landlady had a falling-out with him, about a fortnight ago, for
sending every one of her children upon some “sleeveless errand,” as she
terms it. Her eldest son went to buy a halfpenny-worth of inkle at a
shoemaker’s; the eldest daughter was dispatched half a mile to see a
monster; and, in short, the whole family of innocent children were made
April fools. Nay, my landlady herself did not escape him. The empty
fellow has laughed upon these conceits ever since.”

In the north of England persons imposed upon on this day are called
“April Gouks.” A gouk, or gowk, is properly a cuckoo, and is used here,
metaphorically, in vulgar language, for a fool. The cuckoo is, indeed,
everywhere a name of contempt.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._, 1849, vol. i. p.


In this county the following rhyme is said after twelve o’clock:--

    “April fool’s gone past,
    You’re the biggest fool at last;
    When April fool comes again
    You’ll be the biggest fool then.”

  _N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. xii. p. 100.


In connection with the ancient custom of making “April fools” on the 1st
of April, the following hoax was practised on the London public on the
1st April, 1860. Some days previous thousands of persons received a
neatly printed and official-looking card, with a seal marked by an
inverted sixpence at one of the angles. It was to this effect:--“Tower
of London. Admit the Bearer and Friend to view the Annual Ceremony of
washing the White Lions on Sunday April 1st, 1860. Admitted at the White
Gate. It is particularly requested that no gratuity be given to the
Warders or their Assistants.” The hoax succeeded remarkably well, and
consequently several thousand persons were taken in. For many hours cabs
might have been seen wending their way towards Tower Hill on that Sunday
morning; the drivers asking every one they met “How they should get to
the White Gate.” At last this piece of deception was found out, and the
many thousands who had been thus imposed upon returned home highly


The Scotch have a custom of Hunting the Gowk, as it is termed. This is
done by sending silly people upon fools’ errands from place to place by
means of a letter, in which is written:--

    “On the first day of April
    Hunt the Gowk another mile.”

  Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 140.


Aubrey, in _MS. Lansd._ 231, says: “This custome is yearly observed at
Droitwich, in Worcestershire, where, on the day of St. Richard, they
keep holyday, and dresse the well with green boughs and flowers. One
yeare in the Presbyterian time it was discontinued in the civil warres,
and after that the springe shranke up or dried up for some time; so
afterwards they revived their annual custom, notwithstanding the power
of the parliament and soldiers, and the salt water returned again and
still continues. This St. Richard was a person of great estate in these
parts, and a briske young fellow that would ride over hedge and ditch,
and at length became a very devout man, and after his decease was
canonized for a saint.”


A popular holiday mentioned by Matthew Paris and other ancient writers.
It was usually kept on the Tuesday following the second Sunday after
Easter Day, and distinguished by various sportive pastimes, which
consisted, according to Spelman, in the men and women binding each
other, and especially the women the men, and so was called “Binding
Tuesday.” Jacob (_Law Dictionary_, 1797) says that “Hokeday, or Hock
Tuesday (_Dies Martis, quem quindenam Paschæ vocant_), was a day so
remarkable that rents were reserved and payable thereon; and in the
accounts of Magdalen College, Oxford, there is a yearly allowance _pro
mulieribus hockantibus_, in some manors of theirs in Hants, where the
men hock the women on Monday, and the contrary on Tuesday; the meaning
of it is, that on that day the women in merriment stop the way with
ropes, and pull passengers to them, desiring something to be laid out in
pious uses. The following remarks are taken from _Book of Days_, vol. i.
p. 499:--

The meaning of the word _hoke_ or _hock_ seems to be totally unknown,
and none of the derivations yet proposed seem to be deserving of our
consideration.[34] The custom may be traced, by its name at least, as
far back as the thirteenth century, and appears to have prevailed in all
parts of England, but it became obsolete early in the last century. At
Coventry, which was a great place for pageantry, there was a play or
pageant attached to the ceremony, which, under the title of “The old
Coventry play of Hock Tuesday,” was performed before Queen Elizabeth
during her visit to Kenilworth, in July 1575. It represented a series of
combats between the English and Danish forces, in which twice the Danes
had the better, but at last, by the arrival of the Saxon women to assist
their countrymen, the Danes were overcome, and many of them were led
captive in triumph by the women. Queen Elizabeth laughed well at this
play, and is said to have been so much pleased with it that she gave the
actors two bucks and five marks in money. The usual performance of this
play had been suppressed in Coventry soon after the Reformation, on
account of the scenes of riot which it occasioned.

  [34] Some have supposed that the term hock-day is equivalent to “_dies
  irrisionis_,” or _irrisiorius_, a day of scorn and triumph, or, as we
  now say, “a day of hoaxing”--_Med. Ævi Kalend._, 1841, vol. ii. p.
  198. Verstegan derives Hoc-tide from _Heughtyde_, which, he says, in
  the Netherlands means a festival season.

  Denne conjectures the name of this festivity to have been derived from
  _Hockzeit_, the German word for a wedding. Skinner mentions a
  derivation from the Dutch _hocken_, _desidere_, and adds, “mallem
  igitur deducere ab A.S. _Heah-tid_.” Kennett (_Paroch. Antiq._ p. 495)
  suggests the Saxon _headœg_, which answers to the French
  _haut-jour_.--See Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. pp. 184-191.

It will be seen that this Coventry play was founded on the statement
which had found a place in some of our chronicles as far back as the
fourteenth century, that these games of hock-tide were intended to
commemorate the massacre of the Danes on St. Brice’s Day, 1002; while
others, alleging the fact that St. Brice’s Day is the 13th of November,
suppose it to commemorate the rejoicings which followed the death of
Hardicanute, and the accession of Edward the Confessor, when the country
was delivered from Danish tyranny. Others, however, and probably with
more reason, think that these are both erroneous explanations; and this
opinion is strongly supported by the fact that Hock Tuesday is not a
fixed day, but a movable festival, and dependent on the great
Anglo-Saxon pagan festival of Easter, like the similar ceremony of
heaving, still practised on the borders of Wales on Easter Monday and
Tuesday. Such old pagan ceremonies were preserved among the Anglo-Saxons
long after they became Christians, but their real meaning was gradually
forgotten, and stories and legends, like this of the Danes, afterwards
invented to explain them. It may also be regarded as a confirmation of
the belief that this festival is the representation of some feast
connected with the pagan superstitions of our Saxon forefathers, that
the money which was collected was given to the church, and was usually
applied to the reparation of the church buildings. We can hardly
understand why a collection of money should be thus made in
commemoration of the overthrow of the Danish influence, but we can
easily imagine how, when the festival was continued by the Saxons as
Christians, what had been an offering to some one of the pagan gods
might be turned into an offering to the church. The entries on this
subject in the old churchwardens’ registers of many of our parishes not
only show how generally the custom prevailed, but to what an extent the
middle classes of society took part in it.

In Reading these entries go back to a rather remote date, and mention
collections by men as well as women, while they seem to show that there
the women “hocked,” as the phrase was, on the Monday, and the men on the

In the registers of the parish of St. Laurence, under the year 1499, we

  “Item, received of Hock money gaderyd of women, xx^{s.}

  Item, received of Hock money gaderyd of men, iiij^{s.}”

In the parish of St. Giles, under the date 1535:

  “Hoc money gatheryd by the wyves (women), xiij^{s.} ix^{d.}”

In St. Mary’s parish, under the year 1559:

  “Hoctyde money, the mens gatheryng, iiij^{s.}

  The womens, xij^{s.}”

In the “Privy Purse Expenses” of Henry VIII. for the year 1505, is the
following entry:--

  “May 2.--To Lendesay for the wiffs at Grenewiche upon Hock Monday,
  3_s._ 4_d._”

Higgins, in his _Short View of English History_, says that, “At Hoctide
the people go about beating brass instruments, and singing old rhymes in
praise of their cruel ancestors.” Dr. Plot says that one of the uses of
the money collected at _Hoketyde_ was the reparation of the several
parish churches where it was gathered. This is confirmed by extracts
from the _Lambeth Book_.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 189.


Some singular Hocktide customs observed at Hungerford are thus described
in the _Standard_ of April 14th, 1874:--These customs are connected with
the Charter for holding by the Commons the rights of fishing, shooting,
and pasturage of cattle on the lands and property bequeathed to the town
by John O’Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. The proceedings commenced on Friday
evening with a supper, at which the fare was macaroni, Welsh rare-bits,
watercress, salad, and punch. To-day--John O’Gaunt’s Day--known in the
town as “Tuth” Day, the more important business of the season is
transacted at the Town Hall, from the window of which the town-crier
blows the famous old horn, which has done service on these occasions for
many long years. The tything or “tuth” men thereupon proceed to the high
constable’s residence, to receive their “tuth” poles, which are usually
decorated with ribbons and flowers. The first business of these
officials, who are generally tradesmen of the borough, is to visit the
various schools and ask a holiday for the children; then to call at each
house and demand a toll from the gentlemen, and a kiss from the ladies,
and distribute oranges _ad libitum_ throughout the day, in expectation
of which a troop of children follow them through the streets, which are
for several hours kept alive by the joyous shouts and huzzas. The high
constable is elected at the annual court held to-day, and one of the
curious customs is the sending out by that officer’s wife of a bountiful
supply of cheesecakes among the ladies of the place.


The 20th of April is the great fair-day of Tenbury, and there is a
belief in the county that the cuckoo is never heard till Tenbury
fair-day, or after Pershore fair-day, which is the 26th of
June.[35]--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. i. p. 429.

  [35] Formerly there prevailed a singular custom peculiar to the county
  of Shropshire, called the “cuckoo-ale,” which was celebrated in the
  month of May, and sometimes near the latter end of April. As soon as
  the first cuckoo had been heard all the labouring classes left off
  work, even if in the middle of the day, and the time was devoted to
  mirth and jollity over what was called the cuckoo-ale.--_Morning
  Post_, May 17th, 1821.


St. George’s Day, though now passed over without notice, was formerly
celebrated by feasts of cities and corporations, as we learn from Johan
Bale, who, speaking of the neglect of public libraries, has the
following curious apostrophe:

“O cyties of Englande, whose glory standeth more in bellye chere then in
the serche of wysdome godlye. How cometh it that neyther you, nor your
ydell masmongers, have regarded thys most worthy commodyte of your
countrey? I mean the conservacyon of your antiquytees, and of the worthy
labours of your lerned men. I thynke the renowne of suche a notable acte
wolde have muche longar endured than of all your belly bankettes and
table tryumphes, eyther yet of your newly purchased hawles to kepe St.
Georges feast in.”--Preface to the _Laboryeuse Journey and Serche of
John Lyelande for Englande’s Antiquitees_ in _Lives of Leland, Hearne,
and Wood_, vol. i., sign C.

Among courtiers and people of fashion blue coats were worn on this day.
Captain Face, a character in the _Ram Alley_, alludes to the custom
among the knights:--

    “Do you bandy tropes? By Dis I will be knight,
    Wear a blue coat on great St. George’s Day,
    And with my fellows drive you all from Paul’s.”

  Dodsley’s _Old Plays_, vol. v. p. 486.

In Epigram 33 of _The Seconde Bowle_, by Thomas Freeman, 4to, 1614,
quoted also in Dodsley’s _Old Plays_, vol. xii. p. 398, its this

    “With’s eorum nomine keeping greater sway,
    Than a Court blew coat on St. George’s Day.”

Dr. Forster, in his _Perennial Calendar_ (1824, p. 185), mentioning an
allusion to this dress in Reed’s _Old Plays_ (vol. xii.), observes that
it was probably because blue was the fashionable colour of Britain, over
which St. George presides, and not in imitation of the clothing of the
fields in blue, by the flowering of the blue-bells, as many have

The king’s spurs became the fee of the choristers at Windsor on
installations and feasts on St. George’s Day. In the “Privy Purse
Expenses of Henry VII.” is an entry under the year 1495:

“Oct. 1. At Windesor. To the children for the spoures.”

A similar disbursement occurs thrice in the Privy Purse Expenses of
Henry VIII. in 1530.--_Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 214.

Strype, in his _Ecclesiastical Memorials_ (1822, vol. iii. pt. ii. p.
3), says, “April 23rd [1557], being St. George’s Day, the King’s grace
went a procession at Whitehall, through the hall, and round about the
court hard by the gate, certain of the Knights of the Garter
accompanying him, viz., the Lord Mountagu, the Lord Admiral St. Anthony
St. Leger, the Lord Cobham, the Lord Dacre, Sir Thomas Cheyne, the Lord
Paget, the Earl of Pembroke, the Earl of Arundel, the Lord Treasurer,
and Secretary Petre, in a robe of crimson velvet, with the garter
embroidered on his shoulder (as Chancellor of the Garter). One bare a
rod of black, and a doctor the book of records. Then went all the
heralds, and then the Lord Talbot bare the sword, and after him the
sergeant-at-arms. And then came the king, the Queen’s grace looking out
of a window beside the court on the garden side. And the bishop of
Winchester did execute the mass, wearing his mitre. The same afternoon
were chosen three Knights of the Garter, viz., the Lord Fitz-Water, the
deputy of Ireland; Lord Grey of Wilton, deputy of Guynes; and Sir Robert
Rochester, comptroller of the Queen’s house. After, the duke of Muscovia
(as that ambassador was usually termed) came through the hall and the
guard stood on a row, in their rich coats, with halberts; and so passed
up to the Queen’s chamber, with divers aldermen and merchants. And after
came down again to the chapel to evensong, to see the ceremonies. And
immediately came the king, (the Lord Strange bearing the sword), and the
Knights of the Garter, to evensong, which done, they went all up to the
chamber of presence. After came the ambassador, and took his barge to

  [36] See also Machyn’s _Diary_, 1848, p. 195.


The following is a curious account of the expenses for decorating a
figure of St. George on this day, taken from Coates’s _History of
Reading_, p. 221:

“_Charge of Saynt George._

“First payd for iij caffes-skynes, and ij horse-skynnes, iij^{s.}

“Payd for makeying the loft that Saynt George standeth upon, vj^{d.}

“Payd for ij plonks for the same loft, viij^{d.}

“Payd for iiij pesses of clowt lether, ij^{s.} ij^{d.}

“Payd for makeyng the yron that the hors resteth upon, vj^{d.}

“Payd for makeyng of Saynt George’s cote, viij^{d.}

“Payd to John Paynter for his labour, xlv^{s.}

“Payd for roses, bells, gyrdle, sword, and dager, iij^{s.} iiij^{d.}

“Payd for settyng on the bells and roses, iij^{d.}

“Payd for naylls necessarye thereto, x^{d.} ob.”


In a pamphlet entitled _Certayne Collections of Anchiante Times,
concerninge the Anchante and Famous Cittie of Chester_ (already alluded
to) and published in Lysons’ _Magna Britannia_, 1810, vol. ii. pt. ii.
pp. 588-590, is the following account of races at one time annually held
at Chester on St. George’s Day: In A.D. 1609, Mr. William Lester,
mercer, being mayor of Chester, one Mr. Robert Amerye, ironmonger,
sometime sherife of Chester (A.D. 1608), he, with the assent of the
mayor and cittie, at his own coste chiefly, as I conceive, caused three
silver cuppes of good value to be made, the whiche saide silver cuppes
were, upon St. George’s Daye, for ever to be thus disposed. All
gentlemen that would bringe their horses to the Rood-dee that daye, and
there rune, that horse which with spede did over-rune the rest, should
have the beste cuppe there presently delivered, and that horse which
came seconde, nexte the firste, before the rest, had the seconde cuppe
there also delivered, and for the third cuppe it was to be rune for at
the ringe, by any gentleman that would rune for the same upon the said
Rood-dee, and upon St. George’s Daye, being thus decreed, that every
horse putt in soe much money as made the value of the cupps or bells,
and had the money, which horses did winne the same, and the use of the
cupps, till that day twelve month, being in bond to deliver in the cupps
that daye, soe also for the cuppe for the ringe, which was yearly
continued accordingly untill the yeare of our Lord 1623; John Brereton,
inn-holder, being mayor of Chester, he altered the same after this
manner and caused the three cupps to be sould, and caused more money to
be gathered and added, soe that the intereste thereof woulde make one
faire silver cuppe, of the value of £8, as I suppose, it may be more
worth, and the race to be altered, viz., from beyonde the New-tower a
great distance, and soe to rune five times from that place rownd about
the Rood-dee, and he that overcame all the rest the last course, to have
the cup freely for ever, then and there delivered, which is continued to
this daye. But here I must not omitt the charge, and the solemnitie
made, the first St. George’s daye; he had a poet, one Mr. Davies, who
made speeches and poeticale verses, which were delivered at the high
crosse before the mayor and aldermen, with shewes of his invention,[37]
which booke was imprinted and presented to that famous Prince Henry,
eldest sonne to the blessed King James, of famous memorie. Alsoe, he
caused a man to go upon the spire of St. Peter’s steeple in Chester, and
by the fane, at the same time he sounded a drum, and displayed a baner
upon the top of the same spire. And this was the original of St.
George’s race, with the change thereof.

  [37] The following description of this show, written as it appears by
  Mr. Amorye himself, is copied from some Cheshire collections, among
  the Harleian MSS. No. 2150, f. 356. It appears that instead of three
  cups, as stated by Mr. Rogers, the prizes that year were two bells and
  one cup:

  “The manner of the showe, that is, if God spare life and health, shall
  be seene by all the behoulders upon St. George’s Day next, being the
  23rd April, 1610, and the same with more addytions to continue, being
  for the kyng’s crowne and dignitie, and the homage to the Kyng and
  Prynce, with that noble victor St. George, to be continued for
  ever.--God save the Kyng.

  “Item.--Two men in greene liveries set with worke upon their other
  habit, with blacke heare, and blacke beards, very ougly to behoulde,
  and garlands upon their heads, with firworks to scatter abroad, to
  maintaine way for the rest of the showe.

  “It. One on horseback, with the buckler and head-peece of St. George,
  and three men to guide him, with a drum before him, for the honor of

  “It. One on horsebacke, called Fame, with a trumpet in his hand, and
  three men to guide him, and he to make an oration, with his habit in

  “It. One called Mercury to descend from above in a cloude, his wings
  and all other matters, in pompe, and heavenly musicke with him; and
  after his oration spoken, to ryde on horsebacke, with his musicke
  before hym.

  “It. One on horsebacke, with the Kynge’s arms upon a shield, in pompe.

  “It. One called Chester, with an oration, and drums before him, his
  habit in pompe.

  “It. One on horsebacke, conteening the Kynge’s crowne and dignity,
  with an oration in pompe.

  “It. One on horsebacke with a bell, dedicated to the kynge, being
  double-gilt with the kynge’s armes upon it, carried upon a septer in
  pompe, and before him a noise of trumpets, in pompe.

  “It. One on horsebacke, with an oration for the Prynce, in pompe.

  “It. One on horsebacke, with a bell, dedicated to the Prynce, his
  armes upon it, in pompe, and to be carried on a septer, and before the
  bell, a noyse of trumpets.

  “It. One on horsebacke, with a cup for St. George, carried upon a
  septer, in pompe.

  “It. One on horsebacke, with an oration for St. George, in pompe.

  “It. St. George himself on horseback, in complete armor, with his stag
  and buckler, in pompe, and before him a noyse of drums.

  “It. One on horsebacke, called Peace, with an oration, in pompe.

  “It. One on horsebacke, called Plentye, with an oration, in pompe.

  “It. One on horsebacke, called Envy, with an oration, whom Love will
  comfort, in pompe.

  “It. One on horseback, called Love, with an oration to maintaine all,
  in pompe.

  “It. The Maior and his bretheren, at the pentes of this citye, with
  ther best apparell, and in scarlet; and all the orations to be made
  before him, and seene at the high crosse, as they passe to the Roodye,
  wher by Gent shall be runne for by thirr horses, for the two bells on
  a double staffe and the cup to be runne for at the rynge in some place
  by Gent and with a greater mater of the showe by armes, and shott, and
  with more than I can recyte, with a banket after in the Pentis to make
  welcome the Gent; and when all is done, then judge what you have seen,
  and so speak on your mynd, as you fynd the--

  “Actor for the presente
  “Robert Amorye.”

    “Amor is love, and Amorye is his name,
    That did begin this pomp and princelye game;
    The charge is great to him that all begun,
    Who now is satisfied to see all so well done.”

  Notwithstanding Mr. Amorye had entertained the citizens so well in
  1610, it was ordered in 1612 “that the sports and recreations used on
  St. George’s Day should in future be done by the direction of the
  Mayor and citizens, and not of any private person.”--_Corporation


At Leicester, the “Riding of the George” was one of the principal
solemnities of the town. The inhabitants were bound to attend the
Mayor, or to “ride against the king,” as it is expressed, or for “riding
the George” or for any other thing to the pleasure of the Mayor and
worship of the town.

St. George’s horse, harnessed, used to stand at the end of St. George’s
Chapel, in St. Martin’s Church, Leicester.--Fosbroke, _Dict. of Antiq._


St. George’s Day was at one time celebrated at Dublin with high
veneration. In the Chain-book of the city of Dublin are several entries
to that purpose:

“Item 1. It was ordered in maintenance of the pageant of St. George,
that the Mayor of the foregoing year should find the Emperor and Empress
with their train and followers well apparelled and accoutered, that is
to say, the Emperor attended with two doctors, and the Empress with two
knights, and two maidens richly apparelled to bear up the train of her

“Item 2. The Mayor for the time being was to find St. George a horse,
and the wardens to pay 3_s._ 4_d._ for his wages that day. The bailiffs
for the time being were to find four horses, with men mounted on them,
well apparelled, to bear the pole-axe, the standard, and the several
swords of the Emperor and St. George.

“Item 3. The elder master of the guild was to find a maiden well attired
to lead the dragon, and the clerk of the market was to find a golden
line for the dragon.

“Item 4. The elder warden was to find for St. George four trumpets; but
St. George himself was to pay their wages.

“Item 5. The younger warden was obliged to find the King of Dele and the
Queen of Dele, as also two knights, to lead the Queen of Dele, and two
maidens to bear the train of her gown, all being entirely clad in black
apparel. Moreover, he was to cause St. George’s Chapel to be well hung
in black, and completely apparelled to every purpose, and was to provide
it with cushions, rushes, and other necessaries for the festivity of
that day.”--Harris, _History of Dublin_, 1766, p. 146.


In _Poor Robin’s Almanac_ for 1770 is the following:--

    “On St. Mark’s Eve, at twelve o’clock,
    The fair maid will watch her smock,
    To find her husband in the dark,
    By praying unto good St. Mark.”

_Ass-ridlin_ is another superstition practised in the northern counties.
The ashes being riddled or sifted on the hearth, if any of the family be
to die within the year the mark of the shoe, it is supposed, will be
impressed on the ashes; and many a mischievous wight has made some of
the credulous family miserable by slyly coming down stairs, after the
rest have retired to bed, and marking the ashes with the shoe of one of
the members.--Jamieson, _Etymol. Dict._


On St. Mark’s Eve it is customary in this county for young maidens to
make the _dumb-cake_, a mystical ceremony which has lost its origin. The
number of the party never exceeds three; they meet in silence to make
the cake, and as soon as the clock strikes twelve, they each break a
portion off to eat, and when done they walk up to bed backwards without
speaking a word, for if one speaks the spell is broken. Those that are
to be married see the likeness of their sweethearts hurrying after them,
as if wishing to catch them before they get into bed; but the maids
being apprised of this beforehand (by the cautions of old women who have
tried it), take care to unpin their clothes before they start, and are
ready to slip into bed before they are caught by the pursuing shadow. If
nothing is seen, the desired token may be a knocking at the doors, or a
rustling in the house, as soon as they have retired. To be convinced
that it comes from nothing else but the desired cause, they are always
particular in turning out the cats and dogs before the ceremony begins.
Those that are to die unmarried neither see nor hear anything; but they
have terrible dreams, which are sure to be of newly-made graves,
winding-sheets, and churchyards, and of rings that will fit no finger,
or which, if they do, crumble into dust as soon as put on. There is
another dumb ceremony, of eating the yolk of an egg in silence and then
filling the shell with salt, when the sweetheart is sure to make his
visit in some way or other before morning.--_Every Day Book_, vol. i. p.


In Yorkshire it is usual for the common people to sit and watch in the
church-porch from eleven o’clock at night until one in the morning. In
the third year, for this must be done thrice, it is supposed that they
will see the ghosts of all those who are to die the next year pass into
the church. When any one sickens, who is thought to have been seen in
this manner, it is presently whispered about that he will not recover,
for that such a one who has watched St. Mark’s Eve, says so. The
superstition is in such force that, if the patients themselves hear of
it, they almost despair of recovery, and many are actually said to have
died by the influence of their imaginations on this occasion.

    “‘’Tis now,’ replied the village belle,
      ‘St. Mark’s mysterious Eve;
    And all that old traditions tell
      I tremblingly believe.

    ‘How, when the midnight signal tolls,
      Along the churchyard green
    A mournful train of sentenced souls
      In winding-sheets are seen!

    ‘The ghosts of all whom Death shall doom
      Within the coming year,
    In pale procession walk the gloom
      Amid the silence drear.’”

  Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1819, vol. i. p. 192; J. Montgomery, _Vigil of
  St. Mark_.


This day is distinguished in old kalendars by a second appellation,
_Litania Major_, which had reference to the prayers, and solemn
processions of covered crosses on this day. It was frequently
confounded with the processions of the Rogations, which depended upon
the movable feast of the Ascension, and were also called Litanies,
though it does not appear that the processions of St. Mark were ever
called Rogations. A mistake of this kind was committed by the author of
a Saxon homily on the Litania Major, by applying to it the term Gang
Days, the Saxon name of the three days preceding Holy Thursday.--_Med.
Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 219.


St. Mark’s Day is observed at Alnwick by a ridiculous custom in
connection with the admission of freemen of the common, alleged to have
reference to a visit paid by King John to Alnwick. It is said that this
monarch, when attempting to ride across Alnwick Moor, then called the
Forest of Aidon, fell with his horse into a bog or morass where he stuck
so fast that he was with great difficulty pulled out by some of his
attendants. Incensed against the inhabitants of that town for not
keeping the roads over the moor in better repair, or at least for not
placing some post or mark pointing out the particular spots which were
impassable, he inserted in their charter, both by way of memento and
punishment, that for the future all new created freemen should on St.
Mark’s Day pass on foot through that morass, called the Freemen’s Well.
In obedience to this clause of their charter, when any new freeman is to
be made, a small rill of water which passes through the morass is kept
dammed up for a day or two previous to that on which this ceremonial is
to be exhibited, by which means the bog becomes so thoroughly liquified
that a middle sized man is chin deep in mud and water in passing over
it. Besides which, not unfrequently, holes and trenches are dug; in
these, filled up and rendered invisible by the liquid mud, several
freemen have fallen down and been in great danger of suffocation. In
later times, in proportion as the new-made freemen are more or less
popular the passage is rendered more or less difficult.

Early in the morning of St. Mark’s Day the houses of the new freemen are
distinguished by a holly-tree planted before each door, as the signal
for their friends to assemble and make merry with them. About eight
o’clock the candidates for the franchise, being mounted on horseback and
armed with swords, assemble in the market place, where they are joined
by the chamberlain and bailiff of the Duke of Northumberland, attended
by two men armed with halberds. The young freemen arranged in order,
with music playing before them and accompanied by a numerous cavalcade,
march to the west end of the town, where they deliver their swords. They
then proceed under the guidance of the moorgrieves through a part of
their extensive domain, till they reach the ceremonial well. The sons of
the oldest freemen have the honour of taking the first leap. On the
signal being given they pass through the bog, each being allowed to use
the method and pace which to him shall seem best, some running, some
going slow, and some attempting to jump over suspected places, but all
in their turns tumbling and wallowing like porpoises at sea, to the
great amusement of the populace, who usually assemble in vast numbers on
this occasion. After this aquatic excursion, they remount their horses
and proceed to perambulate the remainder of their large common, of which
they are to become free by their achievement. In passing the open part
of the common the young freemen are obliged to alight at intervals, and
place a stone on a cairn as a mark of their boundary, till they come
near a high hill called the Twinlaw or Tounlaw Cairns, when they set off
at full speed, and contest the honour of arriving first on the hill,
where the names of the freemen of Alnwick are called over. When arrived
about two miles from the town they generally arrange themselves in order
and, to prove their equestrian abilities, set off with great speed and
spirit over bogs, ditches, rocks, and rugged declivities till they
arrive at Rottenrow Tower on the confines of the town, the foremost
claiming the honour of what is termed “winning the boundaries,” and of
being entitled to the temporary triumphs of the day. Having completed
the circuits the young freemen, with sword in hand, enter the town in
triumph,[38] preceded by music, and accompanied by a large concourse of
people in carriages, &c. Having paraded the streets, the new freemen and
the other equestrians enter the Castle, where they are liberally
regaled, and drink the health of the lord and lady of the manor. The
newly-created burgesses then proceed in a body to their respective
houses, and around the holly-tree drink a friendly glass with each
other. After this they proceed to the market-place, where they close the
ceremony over an enlivening bowl of punch.--_Antiquarian Repertory_,
1809, vol. iv. p. 387; _History of Alnwick_, 1822, pp. 304-309; _Gent.
Mag._, 1756, vol. xxvi. p. 73.

  [38] It appears by a traditionary account that at one time they were
  met by women dressed up with ribbons, bells, and garlands of
  gumflowers, who welcomed them with dancing and singing; they were
  called _timber-waits_, probably a corruption of _timbrel-waits_,
  players on timbrels, waits being an old appellation for those who play
  on musical instruments in the street.

In the _Lonsdale Magazine_ (1828, vol. iii. p. 312) occurs the
following: On Wednesday (St. Mark’s Day) twelve persons were made free
of the Borough of Alnwick, by scrambling through a muddy pool, and
perambulating the boundaries of the moor.


At the fairs held in Wednesbury on the 25th of April and 23rd of July
(old style) a custom prevailed for many years called “Walking the Fair.”
The ceremonies connected with it were conducted in the following manner:
On the morning of the fair the beadle appeared in the market-place
dressed for the occasion, and wearing as badges of his office a bell, a
long pike, &c. To him assembled a number of the principal inhabitants of
the parish, often with a band of music. They then marched in procession,
headed by the beadle, through different parts of the town; called at the
Elephant and Castle, in the High Bullen, drank two tankards of ale, and
then returned into the market-place where they quenched their thirst
again with the same kind of beverage. After this they dined together at
one of the public-houses. The expenses incurred in this “Walking the
Fair” were defrayed by the parish funds.--_Hist. of Wednesbury_, 1854,
p. 153.


Rogation Sunday received and retains its title from the Monday, Tuesday,
and Wednesday immediately following it, which are called _Rogation
Days_, derived from the Latin _rogare_, to beseech; the earliest
Christians having appropriated extraordinary prayers and supplications
for those three days, as a preparation for the devout observance of our
Saviour’s Ascension on the day next succeeding to them, denominated Holy
Thursday, or Ascension Day.

So early as the year 550, Claudius Mamertus, bishop of Vienne in France,
extended the object of Rogation Days, before then solely applied to a
preparation for the ensuing festival of the Ascension, by joining to
that service other solemnities, in humble supplication for a blessing on
the fruits of the earth at this season blossoming forth. Whether, as is
asserted by some authors, Mamertus had cause to apprehend that any
calamity might befall them by blight or otherwise at this particular
period, or merely adapted a new Christian rite on the Roman
_terminalia_, is a matter of dispute. Sidonius, bishop of Clermont, soon
followed the example, and the first Council of Orleans, held in the
sixth century, confirmed its observance throughout the Church. The whole
week in which these days happen is styled Rogation Week; and in some
parts it is still known by the other names of Cross Week, Grass Week,
and Gang or Procession Week: Rogation, in token of the extraordinary
praying; Cross, because anciently that symbol was borne by the priest
who officiated at the ceremonies of this season; Grass, from the
peculiar abstinence observed, such as salads, green-sauce, &c., then
substituted for flesh; and Gang, or Procession, from the accustomed
perambulations. Supplications and abstinence are yet enjoined by the
Reformed Church, and also such part of the ceremony of the processions
as relates to the perambulating of the circuit of parishes, conformably
to the regulation made in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. One of our
church homilies of the day is composed particularly for this occasion.
“The people shall once a year, at the time accustomed,” says the
injunction of that Sovereign, “with the curate and substantial men of
the parish, walk about the parishes as they were accustomed, and at
their return to church make their common prayers; provided that the
curate in the said common perambulations, as heretofore in the days of
Rogations, at certain convenient places, shall admonish the people to
give thanks to God, in the beholding of God’s benefits, for the increase
and abundance of his fruits upon the face of the earth, with the saying
of Psalm civ., _Benedic, anima mea_, &c.: at which time also the same
minister shall inculcate this and such like sentences, “Cursed be he
which translateth the bounds and dales of his neighbour,” or such other
words of prayer as shall be hereafter appointed.” The bearing of willow
wands makes part of this ceremony.

Before the Reformation, the processions in this week were observed with
every external mark of devotion; the Cross was borne about in solemn
pomp, to which the people bowed the ready knee; with other rites
considered of too superstitious a nature to warrant their
continuance.--Brady, _Clavis Calendaria_, 1815, vol. i. p. 348.


A certain estate in Husborne Crawley has to pay 4_l._ on Rogation Day,
once in seven years, to defray the expenses of perambulating, and
keeping up the boundaries of the parish.--_Old English Customs and
Charities_, p. 116.


On Monday in Rogation week was formerly held in the town of Shaftesbury
or Shaston a festival called the Bezant, a festival so ancient that no
authentic record of its origin exists.

The borough of Shaftesbury stands upon the brow of a lofty hill, and
until lately, owing to its situation, was so deficient in water that its
inhabitants were indebted for a supply of this necessary article of life
to the little hamlet of Enmore Green, which lies in the valley below.
From two or three wells or tanks, situate in the village, the water
with which the town was provided was carried up the then precipitous
road, on the backs of horses and donkeys, and sold from door to door.

The Bezant was an acknowledgment on the part of the mayor, aldermen and
burgesses of the borough to the lord of the manor of Mitcombe, of which
Enmore Green forms a part, for the permission to use this privilege; no
charter or deed, however, exists among their archives, as to the
commencement of the custom, neither are there any records of interest
connected with its observances beyond the details of the expenses
incurred from year to year. On the morning of Rogation Monday, the mayor
and aldermen accompanied by a lord and lady appointed for the occasion,
and by their mace-bearers carrying _the Bezant_, went in procession to
Enmore Green. The lord and lady performed at intervals, as they passed
along a traditional kind of dance to the sound of violins; the steward
of the manor meeting them at the green, the mayor offered for his
acceptance, as the representative of his lord, _the Bezant_,--a calf’s
head, uncooked,--a gallon of ale, and two penny loaves, with a pair of
gloves edged with gold lace, and gave permission to use the wells, as of
old, for another year. The steward, having accepted the gifts, retaining
all for his own use, except the Bezant, which he graciously gave back,
accorded the privilege, and the ceremony ended.

The Bezant, which gives its name to the festival is somewhat difficult
to describe.[39] It consisted of a sort of trophy, constructed of
ribbons, flowers, and peacock’s feathers, fastened to a frame, about
four feet high, round which were hung jewels, coins, medals, and other
things of more or less value, lent for the purpose by persons interested
in the matter;[40] and many traditions prevailed of the exceeding value
to which in earlier times it sometimes reached, and of the active part
which persons of the highest rank in the neighbourhood took in its
annual celebration.

  [39] Bezant being the name of an ancient gold coin, the ceremony
  probably took its name from such a piece of money being originally
  tendered to the lord of the manor.--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 585.

  [40] Hutchins says this _beson_ or _byzant_ was so richly adorned with
  plate and jewels, borrowed from the neighbouring gentry, as to be
  worth no less than 1500_l._--_History of Dorset_, 1803, vol. ii. p.

Latterly, however, the festival sadly degenerated, and in the year 1830,
the town and the manor passing into the hands of the same proprietor, it
ceased altogether, and is now one of those many observances which are
numbered with the past. If this had not happened, however, the necessity
for it no longer exists. The ancient borough is no longer indebted to
the lord of the manor for its water, for, through the liberality of the
Marquis of Westminster, its present owner, the town is bountifully
supplied with the purest water from an artesian well sunk at his
expense.--_The Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 585; Hutchins, _History of
Dorset_, 1803, vol. ii. p. 425.


In Rogation week, about Keston and Wickham, a number of young men meet
together and with a most hideous noise run into the orchards, and,
encircling each tree, pronounce these words:

    “Stand fast, root; bear well top;
    God send us a youling sop!
    Every twig, apple big;
    Every bough, apple enow.”

For this incantation the confused rabble expect a gratuity in money, or
drink, which is no less welcome; but if they are disappointed of both,
they with great solemnity anathematize the owners and trees with
altogether as insignificant a curse. It seems highly probable that this
custom has arisen from the ancient one of perambulation among the
heathen, when they made prayers to the gods for the use and blessing of
the fruits coming up, with thanksgiving for those of the preceding year;
and as the heathens supplicated Æolus, god of the winds, for his
favourable blasts, so in this custom they still retained his name with a
very small variation: this ceremony is called _youling_, and the word is
often used in their invocations.--Hasted, _History of Kent_, vol. i. p.


At Stanlake, says Plot, the minister of the parish, in his procession in
Rogation Week, reads the Gospel at a barrel’s head, in the cellar of the
Chequer Inn, in that town, where, according to some, there was formerly
a hermitage, according to others a cross, at which they read a Gospel in
former times; over which the house, and particularly the cellar, being
built, they are forced to continue the custom.--_History of
Oxfordshire_, 1705, p. 207.


Among the local customs which formerly prevailed at Wolverhampton may be
noticed that which was popularly called “Processioning.” Many of the
older inhabitants can well remember when the sacrist, resident
prebendaries, and members of the choir assembled at morning prayers on
Monday and Tuesday in Rogation Week, with the charity children bearing
long poles clothed with all kinds of flowers then in season, and which
were afterwards carried through the streets of the town with much
solemnity, the clergy, singing-men and boys, dressed in their sacred
vestments, closing the procession, and chanting, in a grave and
appropriate melody, the Canticle, _Benedicite, omnia opera_, &c. This
ceremony, innocent at least, and not illaudable in itself, was of high
antiquity, taking probably its origin in the Roman offerings of the
Primitiæ, from which (after being rendered conformable to our purer
worship) it was adapted by the first Christians, and handed down,
through a succession of ages, to modern times. The idea was, no doubt,
that of returning thanks to God, by whose goodness the face of nature
was renovated, and fresh means provided for the sustenance and comfort
of his creatures. It was discontinued about 1765.

The boundaries of the township and parish of Wolverhampton are in many
points marked out by what are called _Gospel trees_, from the custom of
having the Gospel read under or near them by the clergyman attending the
parochial perambulations. Those near the town were visited for the same
purpose by the _processioners_ before mentioned, and are still preserved
with the strictest care and attention.--Shaw, _History of
Staffordshire_, vol. ii. part i. p. 165.

Thus Herrick in his _Hesperides_ says:--

                      “Dearest, bury me
    Under that Holy-Oke, or Gospel-Tree,
    Where (though thou seest not) thou may’st think upon
    Me, when thou yerely go’st procession.”



The following extract is taken from the _Whitby Gazette_ of May 28th

THE PENNY HEDGE.--The formality of planting the penny hedge in the bed
of the River Esk, on Ascension Eve, was performed on Wednesday last by
Mr. Isaac Herbert, who has for fifty years discharged this _onerous_
duty. The “nine stakes,” “the nine strout-stowers,” and the “nine
gedders” have all been once more duly “planted.” The ceremony was
witnessed by a number of ladies and gentlemen, and that highly important
functionary, the bailiff of the lord of the manor, Mr. George Welburn,
of Fylingdales, was present, and blew the usual malediction, “Out on
you! Out on you! Out on you!” through the same identical horn which
seventeen centuries ago roused with its lugubrious notes, on Ascension
Eve, our ancestors from their peaceful slumbers. Whether the wood was
cut at the “stray head,” and with a “knife of a penny price,” we are not
able to say, but a good hedge was planted; and although each stake may
not be quite “a yard from another,” the hedge will doubtless be of such
strength as to withstand the effect of the prescribed number of
tides.--See Young’s _History of Whitby_.

Some time in the spring, says a writer in the _Gent. Mag._ (1790, vol.
lx. p. 719), I think the day before Holy Thursday, all the Clergy,
attended by the singing men and boys of the choir, perambulate the town
(Ripon) in their canonicals, singing hymns, and the blue-coat
charity-boys follow singing, with green boughs in their hands.


In England Ascension Day has been known as “Bounds Thursday,” from
beating the bounds of the parish, transferred by a corruption of
Rogation processions to this day.--_Kalendar of English Church_, 1865,
p. 72.


In the parish of Edgcott there was about an acre of land, let at 3_l._ a
year, called “Gang Monday land,” which was left to the parish officers
to provide cakes and beer for those who took part in the annual
perambulation of the parish.

At Clifton Reynes, in the same county, a bequest of land for a similar
purpose directs that one small loaf, a piece of cheese, and a pint of
ale should be given to every married person, and half a pint of ale to
every unmarried person resident in Clifton, when they walked the parish
boundaries in Rogation Week.--_Old English Customs and Charities_, pp.
120, 122.


Pennant, in his _Tour from Chester to London_ (1811, p. 40), tells us
that on Ascension Day the old inhabitants of Nantwich piously sang a
hymn of thanksgiving for the blessing of the Brine. A very ancient pit,
called the Old Brine, was also held in great veneration, and till within
these few years was annually on this festival decked with flowers and
garlands, and was encircled by a jovial band of young people,
celebrating the day with song and dance. Aubrey (in _MS. Lansd._ 231)
says, in Cheshire, when they went in perambulation, they did blesse the
springs, i.e. they did read a gospel at them, and did believe the water
was the better.

Formerly there existed at Frodsham the following custom:--In the
walking of the boundaries of the parish the “men of Frodsham” passed,
across the brook dividing it from Helsby (then in the adjoining parish
of Durham), the Frodsham banner to the “men of Helsby,” who in their
turn passed over the Helsby banner.


One of the prettiest customs of the county of Derby is that of
well-dressing on Holy Thursday or Ascension Day at Tissington, near
Dovedale. In the village are five springs or wells, and these are
decorated with flowers, arranged in the most beautiful devices. Boards
are cut into arches, pediments, pinnacles, and other ornamental forms,
and are covered with moist clay to the thickness of about half-an-inch;
the flowers are cut off their stems and impressed into the clay as
closely together as possible, forming mottoes, borders, and other
devices; these are then placed over the wells, and it is impossible to
conceive a more beautiful appearance than they present, the water
gurgling from beneath them, and overhung by the fine foliage of the
numerous evergreens and forest trees by which they are surrounded. There
is one particular variety of the double daisy known to gardeners as the
Tissington daisy, which appears almost peculiar to the place, and is in
much repute for forming the letters of the texts and mottoes, with which
the wells are adorned. The day is observed as a complete holiday, and
the festival attracts a considerable number of visitors from all the
neighbouring towns and villages. Divine Service is performed in the
Church, and on its conclusion the minister and congregation join in
procession and visit each well. A portion of Scripture is read at each,
and a psalm or appropriate hymn is sung. The whole of the wells being
visited, and a prayer offered up, the company separate and, from the
absence of public-houses in the village, spend the rest of the day in
temperate enjoyment. The same custom was observed at Brewood and
Bilbrook, in the County of Stafford.--_Gent. Mag._ 1794, lxiv. pp. 115,
226; _Jour. of the Arch. Assoc._ 1852, vol. vii p. 205; vide _Times_,
May 19th, 1874.


A correspondent of the _Gent. Mag._ (1787, vol. lvii, p. 718), says: It
is the custom in many villages in the neighbourhood of Exeter “to hail
the Lamb,” upon Ascension morn. That the figure of a lamb actually
appears in the east upon this morning is the popular persuasion; and so
deeply is it rooted, that it has frequently resisted (even in
intelligent minds) the force of the strongest argument.

At Exeter, says Heath in his _Account of the Islands of Scilly_ (1750,
p. 128), the boys have a custom of throwing water, that is, of damming
up the channel in the streets, at going the bounds of the several
parishes in the city, and of splashing the water upon the people passing
by. Neighbours as well as strangers, are forced to compound hostilities
by giving the boys of each parish money to pass without ducking; each
parish asserting its own prerogative in this respect.


The _Oyster Fishery_ has always formed a valuable part of the privileges
and trading property of the town of Colchester. Richard I. granted to
the burgesses the fishery of the River Colne, from the North Bridge as
far as Westnesse; and this grant was confirmed to them by subsequent
charters, especially that of Edward IV. This fishery includes not merely
the plain course of the Colne, but all the creeks, &c., with which it
communicates: that is to say, the entire _Colne Water_, as it is
commonly called. It is, moreover, proved by records that the burgesses
of Colchester are legally entitled to the sole right of fishing in this
water, to the exclusion of all others not licensed and authorized by
them; “and have, and ever had, the full, sole, and absolute power to
have, take, and dispose of to their own use, all oysters and other fish
within the said river or water.” There are some parishes adjoining the
water whose inhabitants are admitted, upon licence from the mayor, to
fish and dredge oysters therein, these parishes being Brightlingsea,
Wivenhoe, and East Doniland. For the better preservation of this
privilege Courts of Admiralty or Conservancy have been customarily held
on Colne Water; at which all offences committed within the limits of the
aquatic royalty are presented by a jury, and fines exacted on the
offenders. In March or April yearly, proclamation is made by the legal
authorities on the water near Mersea Stone, “that the River Colne is
shut, and that all persons are forbidden to dredge, or take any oysters
out of the said river or the creeks thereto appertaining before the
feast of St. Mary Magdalen, the 22nd of July.” This is called _Setting_
(i.e. Shutting) the Colne.--Cromwell, _History of Colchester_, 1825, pp.


Under the name of Richardson’s Charity, a distribution takes place at
Ince on the feast of the Ascension, of five loads of oatmeal, each load
weighing two hundred and forty pounds. Three loads are given to the poor
of the township of Ince, one to the poor of Abram, and the other to the
poor of Hindley.--_Old English Customs and Charities_, p. 36.


In St. Magnus and other city churches in London, the clergy are
presented with ribbons, cakes, and silk staylaces.--_N. & Q. 1st S._
vol. ix. p. 9.


It is customary to go in triennial processions on Holy Thursday, to
perambulate the parishes and beat the boundaries, for the purpose of
marking and retaining _possession_; hence the ceremony is called
_possessioning_. The parochial authorities are accompanied by other
inhabitants and a number of boys, to whom it is customary to distribute
buns, &c., in order to impress it upon their memory should the
boundaries at any future period be disputed.--Baker, _Glossary of
Northamptonshire Words and Phrases_, vol. ii. p. 131.

In the town of Northampton the ceremony of beating the bounds is termed
“beating the cross.”


On Ascension Day, says Mackenzie in his _History of Newcastle_ (1827,
vol. ii. p. 744), every year the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle survey
the boundaries of the River Tyne. This annual festive expedition starts
at the Mansion-House Quay, and proceeds to or near the place in the sea
called Sparhawk, and returns up the river to the utmost limits of the
Corporation at Hedivin Streams. They are accompanied by the brethren of
the Trinity House and the River Jury in their barges.

Brockett mentions the _smock-race_ on Ascension Day, a race run by
females for a smock. These races were frequent among the young country
wenches in the north. The prize, a fine Holland chemise, was usually
decorated with ribbons. The sport is practised at Newburn, near
Newcastle.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 210.


In Rogation week the bounds of many of the parishes are still beaten
with as much pomp by the beadle as ever; and it is believed that if an
egg which is laid on Ascension Day be placed in the roof of a house, the
building will be preserved from fire and other calamities.--_Jour. of
Arch. Assoc._, 1853, vol. viii. p. 233.


At Oxford the little crosses cut in the stones of buildings to denote
the division of the parishes are whitened with chalk. Great numbers of
boys, with peeled willow rods in their hands, accompany the minister in
the procession.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 200.

Aubrey, in his _Remains of Gentilism and Judaism_, says: “The fellows of
New College have, time out of mind, every Holy Thursday, betwixt the
hours of eight and nine, goune to the hospital called Bart’lemews neer
Oxford, when they retire into the chapell, and certaine prayers are
read, and an antheme sung, from thence they goe to the upper end of the
grove adjoining to the chapell (the way being before them strewed with
flowers by the poor people of the hospitall), they place themselves
round about the spring there, where they warble forth melodiously a song
of three, four, or five parts; which being performed they refresh
themselves with a morning’s draught there, and retire to Oxford before


Formerly, at Lichfield, the clergyman of the parish, accompanied by the
churchwardens and sidesmen and followed by a concourse of children
bearing green boughs, repaired to different reservoirs of water and
there read the gospel for the day, after which they were regaled with
cakes and ale; during the ceremony the door of every house was decorated
with an elm bough. This custom was founded on one of the early
institutions of Christianity, that of blessing the springs and
wells.--_Account of Lichfield_, 1818-19, p. 133.


By his will, proved in December 1527, John Cole of Thelnetham, directed
that a certain farm-rent should be applied yearly to the purpose of
providing “a bushell and halffe of malte to be browne, and a bushell of
whete to be baked to _fynde a drinkinge upon Ascension Even everlastinge
for ye parishe of Thelnetham to drinke at the Cross of Trappetes_.”


At Evesham it is customary for the master-gardeners to give their
work-people a treat of baked peas, both white and grey (and pork), every
year on Holy Thursday.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 208.


An old Roman kalendar, cited by Brand (_Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p.
216), says that on the 30th of April boys go to seek the May-trees
(Maii arbores a pueris exquiruntur), and in Dryden’s time this early
observance of May seems to have been customary; one of his heroines

    “Wak’d, as her custom was, before the day,
    To do th’ observaunce due to sprightly May;
    For sprightly May commands our youth to keep
    The vigils of her night, and breaks their rugged sleep.”--

  _Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 229.


At Penzance a number of young men and women assemble together at a
public-house, and sit up till the clock strikes twelve, when they go
round the town with violins, drums, and other instruments, and by sound
of music call upon others to join them. As soon as the party is formed,
they proceed to different farm-houses within four or five miles of the
neighbourhood, where they are expected as regularly as May morning
comes; and they there partake of a beverage called junket, made of raw
milk and rennet, or running, as it is called, sweetened with sugar, and
a little cream added. After this they take tea, and “heavy country
cake,” composed of flour, cream, sugar, and currants, then partake of
rum and milk, and conclude with a dance. After thus regaling themselves
they gather the May. While some are breaking down the boughs, others sit
and make the “May-music.” This is done by cutting a circle through the
bark at a certain distance from the bottom of the May branches; then, by
gently and regularly tapping the bark all round from the cut circle to
the end, the bark becomes loosened, and slips away whole from the wood,
and a hole being cut in the pipe, it is easily formed to emit a sound
when blown through and becomes a whistle. The gathering and the
“May-music” being finished, they then “bring home the May” by five or
six o’clock in the morning, with the band playing and their whistles
blowing. After dancing throughout the town they go to their respective
employments. Although May-day should fall on a Sunday, they observe the
same practice in all respects, with the omission of dancing in the
town.--_Every Day Book_, vol. i. p. 561.


On the last day of April, the proprietor of every flower-garden in the
neighbourhood of Torquay receives visits from a great number of girls,
who solicit “some flowers for the May-dolls.” This is usually complied
with, and at no great cost, as flowers are commonly very abundant. Soon
after nine o’clock on May-day, or the day following when that falls on
Sunday, the same young folk call at every house, and stop everyone they
meet, to show their May-dolls, collecting, at the same time, such small
gratuities as may be offered.--_Once a Week_, Sept. 24th, 1870.


At Great Gransden on the evening or night preceding May-day, the young
men (farmers’ servants) go and cut the May or hawthorn boughs, which
they bring home in bundles, and leave some at almost every house,
according to the numbers of young persons in it, singing what they call
_The Night Song_. On the evening of May-day, and the following evenings,
they go round to every house where they left a bough, and sing the _May
Song_. One is dressed with a shirt over his other clothes, and decorated
with ribbons, and is called the _May Lord_, another in girls’ clothes,
is called the _May Lady_, or _Mary_. One has a handkerchief on a pole or
stick as a flag, whose business is to keep off the crowd. The rest have
ribbons in their hats. The money collected is spent in a feast of
plum cake, bread and cheese, and tea.


The evening before May-day is termed “Mischief Night” by the young
people of Burnley and the surrounding district, when all kinds of
mischief are perpetrated. Formerly shop-keepers’ sign-boards were
exchanged: “John Smith, Grocer,” finding his name and vocation changed,
by the sign over his door, to “Thomas Jones, Tailor,” and _vice versâ_;
but the police have put an end to these practical jokes. Young men and
women, however, still continue to play each other tricks by placing
branches of trees, shrubs, or flowers under each others’ windows, or
before their doors. All these have a symbolical meaning, as
significant, if not always as complimentary, as “the Language of
Flowers.” Thus “a thorn” implies “scorn;” “wicken” (the mountain ash),
“my dear chicken;” “a bramble,” for one who likes to ramble, &c. Much
ill-feeling is at times engendered by this custom.--Harland and
Wilkinson, _Lancashire Folk Lore_, 1867, p. 239; see _N. & Q. 1st S._
vol. v. p. 580; _4th S._ vol. vii. p. 525.

While reading one evening towards the close of April 1861, says a writer
in the _Book of Days_ (vol. i. p. 546), I was on a sudden aware of a
party of waits or carollers who had taken their stand on the lawn in my
garden,[41] and were serenading the family with a song. There were four
singers, accompanied by a flute and a clarionet, and together they
discoursed most simple and rustic music. I was at a loss to divine the
occasion of this loyal custom, seeing the time was not within any of the
great festivals, Easter, May-day, or Whitsuntide. Inquiry resulted in my
obtaining from an old “Mayer” the words of two songs, called by the
singers themselves “May Songs,” though the rule and custom are that they
_must_ be sung before the 1st of May. My chief informant, an elderly man
named Job Knight, tells me that he went out a May-singing for about
fourteen years, but has now left it off. He says that the Mayers usually
commence their singing-rounds about the middle of April, though some
parties start as early as the beginning of that month. The singing
invariably ceases on the evening of the 30th of April. Job says he can
remember the custom for about thirty years, and he never heard any other
than the two songs which follow. These are usually sung, he says, by
five or six men, with a fiddle or flute and clarionet accompaniment. The
songs are verbally as recited by Job Knight, the first of which leaves
marks of some antiquity, both in construction and phraseology. There is
its double refrain--the second and fourth lines in every stanza--which
both musically and poetically are far superior to the others. Its quaint
picture of manners, the worshipful master of the house in his chain of
gold, the mistress with gold along her breast, &c., the phrases “house
and harbour,” “riches and store,”--all seem to point to earlier times.
The last line of this song appears to convey its object and to indicate
a simple superstition that these songs were charms to draw or drive
“these cold winters away.” There are several lines in both songs, in
which the sense, no less than the rhythm, seems to have been marred from
the songs having been handed down by oral tradition alone, but I have
not ventured on any alteration.

    [41] In the hamlet of Swinton, township of Worsley, parish of

In the second, and more modern, song, the refrain in the fourth line of
each stanza is again the most poetical and musical of the whole.


    All in this pleasant evening, together comers (? come are) we,
      For the summer springs so fresh, green, and gay;
    We’ll tell you of a blossom and buds on every tree,
      Drawing near to the merry month of May.

    Rise up, the master of this house, put on your chain of gold,
      For the summer springs so fresh, green, and gay;
    We hope you’re not offended, (with) your house we make so bold,
      Drawing near to the merry month of May.

    Rise up, the mistress of this house, with gold along your breast,
      For the summer springs so fresh, green, and gay;
    And if your body be asleep, we hope your soul’s at rest,
      Drawing near to the merry month of May.

    Rise up, the children of this house, all in your rich attire,
      For the summer springs so fresh, green, and gay;
    For every hair upon your head(s) shines like the silver wire,
      Drawing near to the merry month of May.

    God bless this house and harbour, your riches and your store,
      For the summer springs so fresh, green, and gay;
    We hope the Lord will prosper you, both now and evermore,
      Drawing near to the merry month of May.

    So now we’re going to leave you, in peace and plenty here,
      For the summer springs so fresh, green, and gay;
    We shall not sing you May again until another year,
      For to draw you these cold winters away.


    Come listen awhile to what we shall say,
    Concerning the season, the month we call May;
    For the flowers they are springing, and the birds they do sing,
    And the baziers[42] are sweet in the morning of May.

    When the trees are in bloom, and the meadows are green,
    The sweet-smelling cowslips are plain to be seen;
    The sweet ties of nature, which we plainly do see,
    For the baziers are sweet in the morning of May.

    All creatures are deem’d, in their station below,
    Such comforts of love on each other bestow;
    Our flocks they’re all folded, and young lambs sweetly do play,
    And the baziers are sweet in the morning of May.

    So now to conclude with much freedom and love,
    The sweetest of blessings proceeds from above;
    Let us join in our song that right happy may we be,
    For we’ll bless with contentment in the morning of May.”[43]

  [42] The _bazier_ is the name given in this part of Lancashire to the
  auricula, which is usually in full bloom in April.

  [43] The Cheshire May-song is very similar to this.


Oliver in his _Monumental Antiquities of Great Grimsby_ (1825, p. 39),
speaking of Holm Hill and Abbey Hill, two of the seven hills on which
the British town of Grym-by was situated, says they were united by an
artificial bank, called the _Ket Bank_, in connection with which he
relates the following curious ceremony:--

The great female divinity of the British Druids was Ket, or Ceridwen; a
personification of the Ark of Noah; the famous Keto of Antiquity, or, in
other words Ceres, the patroness of the ancient mysteries. To enter into
a full explanation of these mysteries is unnecessary. Suffice it to say
that the aspirant, at the conclusion of the ceremony of initiation, was
placed in a small boat, to represent the confinement of Noah in the
Ark;--which boat was a symbol of the helio-arkite deity,--and committed
to the waves with directions to gain a proposed point of land, which was
to him a shore, not only of safety, but of triumph. On this shore he was
received by the hierophant and his attendants, who had placed themselves
there for the express purpose, and pronounced a favourite of Ket, by
whom he was now said to be purified with water, and consequently
regenerated and purged from all his former defilements. The Abbey Hill
was the place where these sacred mysteries were celebrated, and the
designation of this bank fully corroborates the conjecture, for whoever
will attentively consider the situation of these two hills, connected
by an extended embankment even at the present day, will be convinced
that a more convenient spot could not be found for the performance of
the above ceremony. The sacred rites were solemnized within the stone
circle, which doubtless existed on the Abbey Hill, and the candidate at
the highest time of the tide was committed to the mercy of the waves
from the point now known by the name of Wellow Mill, and he had to
struggle against the declining tide, until he was cast at the foot of
Holm Hill, upon the bank of Ket, the presiding deity, under whose
special protection he was ever after placed.

This ceremony always took place on May Eve, for at no other season was
the final degree of perfection conferred, and as soon as the fortunate
aspirants had succeeded in gaining the safe landing-place of Ket, which
led by an easy gradation to the summit of the hill, fires were lighted
on the apex of this and all the neighbouring hills, and the most
extravagant joy was visible throughout the district.


On May Eve, the juvenile branches of nearly every family in the Isle of
Man, used to gather primroses, and strew them before the doors of their
dwellings, in order to prevent the entrance of fairies on that night. It
was quite a novel sight to a stranger to the custom to see this delicate
flower plentifully arranged at the door of every house he might pass,
particularly in the towns on the night in question or early on the
following morning. This custom is now abandoned: indeed, it was
continued to a late date more through the habit and amusement of
children than from superstition. Persons more advanced in life
congregated on the mountains on May Eve, and to scare fairies and
witches, supposed to be roaming abroad on that particular night in
numbers greater than ordinary, set fire to the gorse or _Koinney_, and
blew horns. Many of them remained on the hills till sunrise,
endeavouring to pry into futurity by observing particular omens. If a
bright light was observed to issue, seemingly, from any house in the
surrounding village, it was considered a certain indication that some
member of the family would soon be married; but if a dim light were
seen moving slowly in the direction of the parish church, it was then
deemed equally certain that a funeral would soon pass that way to the
churchyard.--Train, _History of the Isle of Man_, 1845, vol. ii. p. 118.


“At Woodstock,” says Aubrey, “they every May Eve goe into the parke and
fetch away a number of hawthorne trees, which they set about their
dores: ’tis pity that they make such a destruction of so fine a tree.”


At Tenby the inhabitants went out in troops, bearing in their hands
boughs of thorn in full blossom, which were bedecked with other flowers,
and then stuck outside the windows of the houses. Maypoles were reared
up in different parts of the town, decorated with flowers, coloured
papers, and bunches of variegated ribbon.--Mason’s _Tales and Traditions
of Ireland_, 1858, p. 21.


The following custom of the Irish is described in a MS. of the sixteenth
century, and seems to have been of Pagan origin: “Upon Maie Eve they
will drive their cattell upon their neighbour’s corne, to eate the same
up; they were wont to begin from the vast, and this principally upon the
English churl. Unlesse they do so upon Maie daie, the witch hath power
upon their cattell all the yere following.”--_N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. vii.
p. 81.

Sir Henry Piers, in his _Account of Westmeath_, 1682, says:--“On May
Eve, every family sets up before their door a green bush, strewed over
with yellow flowers, which the meadows yield plentifully. In counties
where timber is plentiful, they erect tall slender trees, which stand
high, and they continue almost the whole year; so that a stranger would
go nigh to imagine that they were all signs of ale-sellers, and that all
houses were ale-houses.”


The festival of May Day has existed in this country, though its form has
often changed, from the earliest times, and we find abundant traces of
it both in our poets and old chroniclers. Tollet imagines that it
originally came from our Gothic ancestors; and certainly, if this is to
be taken for a proof, the Swedes and Goths welcomed the first of May
with songs and dance, and many rustic sports; but there is only a
general, not a particular, likeness between our May-day festivities and
those of our Gothic ancestors. Others again have sought for the origin
of our customs in the _Floralia_, or rather the _Maiuma_, of the Romans,
which were established at a later period under the Emperor Claudius, and
differed perhaps but little from the former, except in being more
decent. But though it may at first seem probable that our May-games may
have come immediately from the _Floralia_ or _Maiuma_ of the Romans,
there can be little question that their final origin must be sought in
other countries, and far remoter periods. Maurice says (_Indian
Antiquities_, vol i. p. 87) that our May-day festival is but a
repetition of the phallic festivals of India and Egypt, which in those
countries took place upon the sun entering Taurus, to celebrate Nature’s
renewed fertility. Φαλλος (_phallos_) in Greek signifies _a pole_, in
addition to its more important meaning, of which this is the type; and
in the precession of the Equinoxes and the changes of the calendar we
shall find an easy solution of any apparent inconsistencies arising from
the difference of seasons.

That the May-festival has come down to us from the Druids, who
themselves had it from India, is proved by many striking facts and
coincidences, and by none more than the vestiges of the god _Bel_, the
Apollo, or Orus, of other nations. The Druids celebrated his worship on
the first of May, by lighting immense fires in honour of him upon the
various carns, and hence the day is called by the aboriginal Irish and
the Scotch Highlanders--both remnants of the Celtic stock--la Bealtine,
Bealtaine or Beltine, that is, the _day of Belen’s fire_, for, in the
Cornish, which is a Celtic dialect, we find that _tan_ is fire, and _to
tine_ signifies to light the fire.

The Irish still retain the Phœnician custom of lighting fires at short
distances, and making the cattle pass between them. Fathers, too, taking
their children in their arms, jump or run through them, thus passing the
latter as it were through the flames--the very practice so expressly
condemned in Scripture. But even this custom appears to have been only a
substitute for the atrocious sacrifice of children as practised by the
elder Phœnicians. The god Saturn, that is, Moloch, was represented by a
statue bent slightly forward, and so placed that the least weight was
sufficient to alter its position. Into the arms of this idol the priest
gave the child to be sacrificed, when, its balance being thus destroyed,
it flung or rather dropt, the victim into a fiery furnace that blazed
below. If other proofs were wanting of Eastern origin, we might find
them in the fact that Britain was called by the earlier inhabitants the
Island of Beli, and that Bel had also the name of Hu, a word which we
see again occurring in the _Huli_ festival of India.--_New Curiosities
of Literature_, vol. i. p. 229. See Higgins’ _Celtic Druids_, chap. v.
sect. 23, p. 181; _Household Words_, 1859, vol. xix. p. 557; Tolan’s
_History of the Druids_, 8vo, p. 115; _Celtic Researches_, 1806, 8vo, p.
191; Vossius, _On the Origin of Idolatries_: _Essai sur le Culte des
Divinités Génératrices_.

_Going a-Maying._--Bourne (_Antiquitates Vulgares_, chap. xxv.)
describes this custom as it existed in his time:--On the calends, or
first of May, commonly called May-day, the juvenile part of both sexes
are wont to rise a little after midnight and walk to some neighbouring
wood, accompanied with music and blowing of horns, where they break down
branches from the trees, and adorn themselves with nosegays and crowns
of flowers; when this is done they return with their booty homewards,
about the rising of the sun, and make their doors and windows to triumph
with their flowery spoils.

In Chaucer’s _Court of Love_ we read that early on May-day “Fourth goth
al the court, both most and lest, to fetche the flowris fresh and

In the old romance, too, _La Morte d’Arthur_, translated by Sir Thomas
Maleor, or Mellor, in the reign of Edward IV., is a passage descriptive
of the customs of the times. “Now it befell in the moneth of lusty May,
that Queene Guenever called unto her the knyghtes of the Round Table,
and gave them warning that early in the morning she should ride on
maying into the woods and fields beside Westminster.” The rural clergy,
who seem to have mingled themselves with their flock on all occasions,
whether of sorrow, devotion, or amusement, were reproved by Grostete, or
Greathead, Bishop of Lincoln, for going a-maying.--_Med. Ævi Kalend._
vol. i. p. 233.

Shakespeare likewise, alluding to this custom, says (_Henry VIII._ Act
v. sc. 3), it was impossible to make the people sleep on May-morning,
and (_Midsummer Night’s Dream_, Act i. sc. 1) that they rose up early to
observe May day.

                “If thou lovest me then,
    Steal forth thy father’s house to-morrow night;
    And in the wood, a league without the town,
    Where I did meet thee once with Helena,
    To do observance to a morn of May,
    There will I stay for thee.”

And again:

    “No doubt they rise up early to observe
    The rite of May.”--Act. iv. sc. 1.

_May-dew._--This was held of singular virtue in former times, and thus
in the _Morning Post_ of 2nd May, 1791, we are told that the day before,
being the First of May, according to annual and superstitious custom, a
number of persons went into the fields and bathed their faces with the
dew on the grass, under the idea that it would render them beautiful.
Pepys on a certain day in May makes this entry in his _Diary_: “My wife
away, down with Jane and W. Hewer to Woolwich, in order to a little ayre
and to lie there to-night, and so to gather May-dew to-morrow morning,
which Mrs. Turner hath taught her is the only thing in the world to wash
her face with.”

_May-games._--When Christianity, says Soane (_Curiosities of
Literature_, p. 230), found its way into Britain, the same mode would
seem to have been adopted in regard to the May-games by the wise
liberality of the first missionaries that we see them employing in so
many other cases. Conceding to the prejudices of the people, they did
not attempt to root out long established characters, but invested them
with another character as bees close in with wax the noxious substance
they are unable to remove. Thus in course of time the festival was not
only diverted from its original intention, but even the meaning of its
various symbols was forgotten. It degenerated into a mere holiday, and
as such long continued to be the delight of all ages and of all classes,
from king and queen upon the throne to the peasant in his cottage. Thus,
for example, Henry VIII. appears to have been particularly attached to
the exercise of archery and the observance of May. “Some short time
after his coronation,” says Hall (_Vit. Henry VIII._, fol. vi. 6), “he
came to Westminster with the Queen and all their train. And on a time
being there, his Grace, the Earls of Essex, Wiltshire, and other
noblemen, to the number of twelve, came suddenly into the Queen’s
chamber, all apparelled in short coats of Kentish Kendal, with hoods on
their heads, and hosen of the same, every one of them his bow and
arrows, and a sword and buckler, like outlaws or Robin Hood’s men;
whereof the Queen, the ladies, and all others there, were abashed, as
well for the strange sight, as also for their sudden coming; and after
certain dances and pastimes made, they departed.”

Stow, too, in his _Survey of London_ (1603, 4to, p. 99) has the
following:--“In the moneth of May, namely on May-day in the morning,
every man, except impediment, would walke into the sweete meadows and
greene woods, there to rejoyce their spirites with the beauty and savour
of sweete flowers, and with the harmony of birds praysing God in their
kind; and for example hereof Edward Hall hath noted that K. Henry the
Eighth, as in the 3 of his reigne and divers other years, so namely on
the seventh of his reigne on May day in the morning, with Qween Katheren
his wife, accompanied with many lords and ladies, rode a-maying from
Greenwitch to the high ground of Shooter’s hill, where as they passed by
the way they espied a company of tall yeomen clothed all in greene, with
greene whoodes and with bowes and arrowes, to the number of 100. One
being their chieftaine was called Robin Hoode, who required the king and
his companie to stay and see his men shoote, whereunto the king
graunting, Robin Hoode whistled, and all the 200 archers shot off,
losing all at once, and when he whistled againe, they likewise shot
againe; their arrowes whistled by craft of the head, so that the noyse
was strange and loude, which greatly delighted the king, queene, and
their companie.”

It may seem strange, remarks Soane, that Robin Hood should be so
prominent a figure in a festival which originated long before he was
born, since we first find mention of him and his forest companions in
the reign of King John, while the floral games of England, as we have
seen, had their rise with the Druids. The sports of Robin Hood were most
probably first instituted for the encouragement of archery, and it is
not surprising if a recreation so especially connected with summer and
the forest, was celebrated at the opening of the year--the opening, that
is, so far as it related to rural sports and pleasures. By degrees it
would become blended with the festival already existing, and in a short
time, from its superior attraction, it would become the principal
feature of it.

Douce, in his _Illustrations of Shakespeare_ (vol. ii. p. 454), says the
introduction of Robin Hood into the celebration of May probably
suggested the addition of a king or lord of May. Soane, however, takes a
very different view, being of opinion that the custom of electing a Lord
and Lady of the May in the popular sports existed at a far earlier
period--long indeed before the time of Robin Hood’s introduction--at the
same time supporting his statement from a command given in the synod at
Worcester, A. D. 1240, Canon 38, “Ne intersint ludis inhonestis, nec
sustineant ludos fieri de rege et regina.” For an interesting account of
the Robin Hood games see Strutt’s novel, _Queen Hoo Hall_ (quoted in
_Book of Days_, vol. i. p 580). Consult also Ritson’s _Collection of
Poems_ relating to Robin Hood (1853), and Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._ 1849,
vol. i. pp. 247-272.

_Morris-dance._--It is supposed to be of Moorish origin, and to be
derived to us from Spain. Hence its name. The principal characters of it
generally were Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Scarlet, Stokesley, Little John,
the Hobby Horse, the Bavian or Fool, Tom the Piper with his pipe and
tabor, the Dragon, of which we have no mention before 1585. The number
of characters varied much at different times and places. See Brand’s
_Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. pp. 247-270, and _Book of Days_, vol i. pp.

_Maypoles._--The earliest representation of an English maypole is that
published in the _Variorum_ Shakespeare, and depicted on a window at
Betley in Staffordshire, then the property of Mr. Tollet, and which he
was disposed to think as old as the time of Henry VIII. The pole is
planted in a mound of earth, and has affixed to it St. George’s
red-cross banner, and a white pennon or streamer with a forked end. The
shaft of the pole is painted in a diagonal line of black colour upon a
yellow ground, a characteristic decoration of all these ancient
maypoles, as alluded to by Shakespeare in his _Midsummer Night’s Dream_,
where it gives point to Hermia’s allusion to her rival Helena as, “a
painted maypole.”--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 575.--See Brand’s _Pop.
Antiq._ 1849, pp. 234-247.

It was, says Hone (_Every Day Book_, vol. i. p. 556), a great object
with some of the more rigid reformers to suppress amusements, especially
maypoles; and these idols of the people were taken down as zeal grew
fierce, and put up as it grew cool, till, after various ups and downs,
the favourites of the populace were by the Parliament, on the 6th April,
1644, thus provided against: “The Lords and Commons do further order and
ordain that, all and singular maypoles that are or shall be erected,
shall be taken down and removed by the constables, bossholders,
tithing-men, petty constables, and churchwardens of the parishes where
the same be, and that no maypole be hereafter set up, erected, or
suffered to be set up within this kingdom of England or dominion of
Wales; the said officers to be fined five shillings weekly till the said
maypole be taken down.” Accordingly down went all the maypoles that were
left. The restoration of Charles II. however was the signal for their
revival. On the very 1st of May afterwards, in 1661, the maypole in the
Strand was reared with great ceremony and rejoicing. A contemporary
writer (in _Cities Loyalty Displayed_, 1661, 4to) speaking of it, says,
“This tree was a most choice and remarkable piece; ’twas made below
Bridge, and brought in two parts up to Scotland Yard, near the King’s
Palace, and from thence it was conveyed, April 14th, to the Strand to be
erected [nearly opposite Somerset House]. It was brought with a streamer
flourishing before it, drums beating all the way, and other sorts of
musick; it was supposed to be so long that landsmen (as carpenters)
could not possibly raise it; (Prince James, the Duke of York, Lord High
Admiral of England, commanded twelve seamen off aboord to come and
officiate the business, whereupon they came and brought their cables,
pullies, and other tacklins, with six great anchors); after this was
brought three crowns borne by three men bare-headed, and a streamer
displaying all the way before them, drums beating, and other musick
playing; numerous multitudes of people thronging the streets with great
shouts and acclamations all day long. The maypole then being joyned
together, the crown and cane with the King’s arms richly gilded was
placed on the head of it. This being done, the trumpets did sound, and
in four hours space it was advanced upright, after which being
established fast in the ground, six drums did beat, and the trumpets did
sound; again great shouts and acclamations the people give that it did
ring throughout all the Strand. After that came a morris-dance finely
deckt, with purple scarfs in their half-shirts with a tabor, and pipe,
the ancient musick, and danced round about the maypole, and after that
danced the rounds of their liberty. Upon the top of this famous standard
is likewise set up a royal purple streamer, about the middle of it is
placed four crowns more, with the King’s arms likewise; there is also a
garland set upon it of various colours of delicate rich favours, under
which is to be placed three great lanthorns, to remain for three
honours; that is, one for Prince James, Duke of York, Lord High Admiral
of England; the other for the Vice-Admiral; and the third for the
rear-Admiral: these are to give light in dark nights, and to continue so
long as the pole stands, which will be a perpetual honour for
seamen.”--See _The Town_, Leigh Hunt (1859, p. 161).

The author of a pamphlet entitled _The Way to Things by Words, and Words
by Things_, considers the maypole in a curious light. We gather from
him, says Brand (_Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 245), that our ancestors
held an anniversary assembly on May-day, and that the column of May
(whence our maypole) was the great standard of justice in the
Ey-commons, or fields of May. Here it was the people, if they saw
cause, deposed or punished their governors, their barons, and their
kings. The judge’s bough or wand (now discontinued, and only faintly
represented by a trifling nosegay), and the staff or rod of authority in
the civil and in the military (for it was the mace of civil power, and
the truncheon of the field-officers), are both derived from hence.

A mayor, he says, received his name from this May, in the sense of
lawful power; the crown--a mark of dignity and symbol of power, like the
mace and sceptre--was also taken from the May, being representative of
the garland or crown, which when hung on the top of the May or pole, was
the great signal for convening the people; the arches of it, which
spring from the circlet and meet together at the mound or round bell,
being necessarily so formed, to suspend it to the top of the pole. The
word maypole, he observes, is a pleonasm; in French it is called singly

In front of the spot now occupied by St. Mary-le-Strand anciently stood
a cross, at which, says Stow, “In the year 1294 and other times, the
justices itinerant sat without London.”

In the _British Apollo_ (1708, vol. i.) a writer says: It was a custom
among the ancient Britons, before converted to Christianity, to erect
these maypoles, adorned with flowers, in honour of the goddess Flora.

Keysler, says Mr. Borlase, thinks that the custom of the maypole took
its origin from the earnest desire of the people to see their king, who,
seldom appearing at other times, made his procession at this time of
year to the great assembly of the states held in the open air.--_Pop.
Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 246.

_Chimney-sweepers._--How or when the chimney-sweepers contrived to
intrude their sooty persons into the company of the gay and graceful
Flora upon her high festival does not appear. It is certain, however,
that in London they have long observed the early days of May as an
established holiday, on which occasion they parade the streets in
parties, fantastically tricked out in tawdry finery, enriched with
strips of gilt and various coloured papers, &c. With their faces
chalked, and their shovels and brushes in hand, they caper the
“Chimney-sweeper’s Dance” to a well-known tune, considered by amateurs
as more noisy than musical. Some of the larger parties are accompanied
by a fiddle, a “Jack-in-the-Green,” and a “Lord and lady of the May.”
The “Jack-in-the-Green” is a man concealed within a frame of wickerwork
covered with leaves, flowers, &c.--Soane, _New Curiosities of
Literature_, p. 261; _Sports, Pastimes, and Customs of London_, 1847, p.
34; See _Every Day Book_, vol. i. p. 583, vol. ii. p. 619.

_Milkmaid’s Dance._--On the first day of May, says a writer in the
_Spectator_ (vol. v.), “the ruddy milkmaid exerts herself in a most
sprightly manner under a pyramid of silver tankards, and, like the
virgin Tarpeia, oppressed by the costly ornaments which her benefactors
lay upon her.” These decorations of silver cups, tankards, and salvers
were borrowed for the purpose, and hung round the milk-pails, with the
addition of flowers and ribbons, which the maidens carried upon their
heads when they went to the houses of their customers, and danced in
order to obtain a small gratuity from each of them. Of late years the
plate, with the other decorations, was placed in a pyramidical form, and
carried by two chairmen upon a wooden horse. The maidens walked before
it, and performed the dance without any incumbrance. Sometimes in place
of the silver tankards and salvers they substituted a cow. The animal
had her horns gilt, and was nearly covered with ribbons of various
colours, formed into bows and roses, and interspersed with green oaken
leaves and bunches of flowers.--Strutt, _Sports and Pastimes_, 1801, b.
iv. p. 266.[44]

  [44] At Baslow, in the county of Derby, the festival of kit-dressing
  is, occasionally, observed. The kits or milk pails are fancifully and
  tastefully decorated with ribbons, and hung with festoons of flowers
  and ornaments of muslin and silk, and with gold and silver thread. The
  kits are carried on the heads of the young women of the village, who,
  attended by the young men and preceded by a band of music, parade the
  streets, and end the day’s proceedings by a dance. _Jour. of Arch.
  Assoc._ 1852, vol. vii. p. 208.

Pepys in his _Diary_, May 1st, 1667, says, “To Westminster; on the way
meeting many milkmaids, with their garlands upon their pails, dancing
with a fiddler before them, and saw pretty Nelly [Nell Gwynne] standing
at her lodgings’ door in Drury Lane in her smock sleeves and bodice,
looking upon one; she seemed a mighty pretty creature.”

In a set of prints called the _Tempest Cryes of London_, one is called
the Merry Milkmaid, whose proper name was Kate Smith. She is dancing
with her milk-pail on her head, decorated with silver cups, tankards,
and salvers borrowed for the purpose, and tied together with ribbons,
and ornamented with flowers. Misson, too, in his _Observations on his
Travels in England_, alludes to this custom. He says: On the 1st of May,
and the five and six days following, all the pretty young country girls
that serve the town with milk dress themselves up very neatly, and
borrow abundance of silver plate, whereof they make a pyramid, which
they adorn with ribbons and flowers, and carry upon their heads instead
of their common milk-pails. In this equipage, accompanied by some of
their fellow milkmaids and a bag-pipe or fiddle, they go from door to
door, dancing before the houses of their customers, in the midst of boys
and girls that follow them in troops, and everybody gives them
something.--Ozell’s _Translation_, 8vo, 1719, p. 307.

In Read’s _Weekly Times_, May 5th, 1733, occurs the following:--On
May-day the milk-maids who serve the Court danced minuets and rigadoons
before the Royal family, at St. James’s House, with great applause.

The following lines descriptive of the milkmaid’s garland are taken from
_Every Day Book_, vol. i. pp. 569, 570:--

    “In London thirty years ago,
      When pretty milkmaids went about,
    It was a goodly sight to see
      Their May-day pageant all drawn out.

    Themselves in comely colours drest,
      Their shining garland in the middle,
    A pipe and tabor on before,
      Or else the foot-inspiring fiddle.

    They stopt at houses where it was
      Their custom to cry ‘milk below!’
    And, while the music play’d, with smiles
      Join’d hands and pointed toe to toe.

    Thus they tripp’d on, till--from door to door
      The hop’d-for annual present sent--
    A signal came, to courtsey low,
      And at that door cease merriment.

    Such scenes and sounds once blest my eyes
      And charm’d my ears; but all have vanish’d.
    On May-day now no garlands go,
      For milkmaids and their dance are banish’d.

  See Chappell’s _Popular Music of the Olden Time_, 1855-9; also _Every
  Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 1562.

_May-gosling._--A writer in the _Gent. Mag._ (1791, vol. lxi. p. 327)
says a May-gosling, on the 1st of May, is made with as much eagerness in
the north of England as an April noddy (noodle) or fool on the 1st of

“U. P. K. spells May-goslings” is an expression used by boys at play as
an insult to the losing party. U. P. K. is _up-pick_, that is, up with
your pin or peg, the mark of the goal. An additional punishment was
thus: the winner made a hole in the ground with his heel, into which a
peg about three inches long was driven, its top being below the surface;
the loser, with his hands tied behind him, was to pull it up with his
teeth, the boys buffeting with their hats, and calling out, “Up-pick!
you May gosling!” or “U. P. K., gosling in May.”[45]

  [45] See p. 265.


At Abingdon the children and young people formerly went about in groups
on May morning, singing the following carol:--

    “We’ve been a-rambling all the night,
      And sometime of this day;
    And now returning back again,
      We bring a garland gay.
        Why don’t you do as we have done
          On this first day of May?
        And from our parents we have come,
          And would no longer stay.

    A garland gay we bring you here,
      And at your door we stand;
    It is a sprout well budded out,
      The work of our Lord’s hand.
        Why don’t you do, &c.

    So dear, so dear as Christ loved us,
      And for our sins was slain;
    Christ bids us turn from wickedness
      Back to the Lord again.
        Why don’t you do,” &c.--

  _N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. iii. p. 401.


In a MS. in the British Museum entitled _Status Scholæ Etonensis_, A.D.
1560, it is stated that on the day of St. Philip and St. James, if it be
fair weather, and the master grants leave, those boys who choose it may
rise at four o’clock, to gather May-branches, if they can do it without
wetting their feet; and that on that day they adorn the windows of the
bed-chambers with green leaves, and the houses are perfumed with
fragrant herbs.


Some derive May from Maia, the mother of Mercury, to whom they offered
sacrifices on the first day of it; and this seems to explain the custom
which prevails on this day at Cambridge of children having a figure
dressed in a grotesque manner, called a _May-lady_, before which they
set a table having on it wine, &c. They also beg money of passengers,
which is considered as an offering to the _Maulkin_; for their plea to
obtain it is “Pray remember the poor May-lady.” Perhaps the garlands,
for which they also beg, originally adorned the head of the goddess. The
bush of hawthorn, or, as it is called, May, placed at the doors on this
day, may point out the firstfruits of the spring, as this is one of the
earliest trees which blossoms.--Audley, _Companion to the Almanack_,
1816, p. 71.


In this county the young men formerly celebrated May-day by placing
large bidden boughs over the doors of the houses where the young women
resided to whom they paid their addresses; and an alder bough was often
placed over the door of a scold.--Lysons’ _Magna Britannia_, 1810, vol.
ii. pt. ii. p. 462.

Maypoles are also erected, and danced round in some villages with as
much avidity as ever.--_Jour. of Arch. Assoc._, 1850, vol. v. p. 254.
Washington Irving in his _Sketch Book_ says, I shall never forget the
delight I felt on first seeing a Maypole. It was on the banks of the
Dee, close by the picturesque old bridge that stretches across the
river from the quaint little city of Chester. I had already been carried
back into former days by the antiquities of that venerable place, the
examination of which is equal to turning over the pages of a
black-letter volume, or gazing on the pictures in Froissart. The Maypole
on the margin of that poetic stream completed the illusion. My fancy
adorned it with wreaths of flowers, and peopled the green bank with all
the dancing revelry of May-day.


In Cornwall this day is hailed by the juveniles as “dipping-day.” On
May-morning the children go out into the country and fetch home the
flowering branches of the white-thorn, or boughs of the narrow-leaved
elm, which has just put forth its leaves, both of which are called
“May.” At a later hour all the boys of the village sally forth with
their bucket, can, and syringe, or other instrument, and avail
themselves of a licence which the season confers “to dip” or well nigh
drown, without regard to person or circumstances, the passenger who has
not the protection of a piece of “May” in his hat or button-hole. The
sprig of the hawthorn or elm is probably held to be proof that the
bearer has not failed to rise early “to do observance to a morn of
May.”--_N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. xii. p. 297. Borlase, in his _Natural
History of Cornwall_, tells us that an ancient custom still retained by
the Cornish is that of decking their doors and porches on the 1st of May
with green sycamore and hawthorn boughs, and of planting trees, or
rather stumps of trees, before their houses.

Bond, in his _History of East and West Looe_ (1823, p. 38), says:--On
May-day the boys dress their hats with flowers and hawthorn, and furnish
themselves with bullocks’ horns, in which sticks of about two feet long
are fixed, and with these instruments filled with water they parade the
streets all day, and dip all persons who pass them if they have not what
is called May in their hats, that is, a sprig of hawthorn.

A writer also in _Once a Week_ (Sept. 24th, 1870), speaking of certain
Cornish customs, tells us that dipping was admitted by the boys of Looe
to be very great fun, and a May-day without any would have been voted
an utter failure; nevertheless the coppers of commutation were very
acceptable, as the great two-day fair of the town was held towards the
close of the week, when cash was generally in demand. Hence when any one
flung pence among them, they were wont to chant during the scramble--

    “The First of May is dipping-day,
    The Sixth of May is Looe’s fair day.”

On the 1st of May a species of festivity, Hitchins tells us, was
observed in his time at Padstow: called the _Hobby-horse_, from the
figure of a horse being carried through the streets. Men, women, and
children flocked round it, when they proceeded to a place called Traitor
Pool, about a quarter of a mile distant, in which the hobby-horse was
always supposed to drink. The head after being dipped into the water,
was instantly taken out, and the mud and water were sprinkled on the
spectators, to the no small diversion of all. On returning home a
particular song was sung, which was supposed to commemorate the event
that gave the hobby-horse birth. According to tradition the French once
upon a time effected a landing at a small cove in the vicinity, but
seeing at a distance a number of women dressed in red cloaks, whom they
mistook for soldiers, they fled to their ships and put to sea. The day
generally ended in riot and dissipation.--Hitchins, _History of
Cornwall_, 1824, vol. i. p. 720.

On the first Sunday after May-day it is a custom with families at
Penzance to visit Rose-hill, Poltier, and other adjacent villages, by
way of recreation. These pleasure-parties generally consist of two or
three families together. They carry flour and other materials with them
to make the “heavy cake”[46] at the farm-dairies, which are always open
for their reception. Nor do they forget to take tea, sugar, rum, and
other comfortable things for their refreshment, which, by paying a
trifle for baking and for the niceties awaiting their consumption,
content the farmers for the house-room and pleasure they afford their
welcome visitants.--_Every Day Book_, vol. i. p 561.

  [46] See May-eve, Penzance, p. 216.


Maypoles are to be seen in some of the village-greens still standing,
and adorned with garlands on May-day. On this morning, too, the young
village women go out about sunrise for the purpose of washing their
faces in the May-dew, and return in the full hope of having their
complexions improved by the process.--_Jour. of Arch. Assoc._, 1852,
vol. vii. p. 206.


At the village of Holne, situated on one of the spurs of Dartmoor, is a
field of about two acres, the property of the parish, and called the
Ploy (play) Field. In the centre of this stands a granite pillar
(Menhir) six or seven feet high. On May-morning before daybreak the
young men of the village used to assemble there, and then proceed to the
moor, where they selected a ram lamb (doubtless with the consent of the
owner), and after running it down, brought it in triumph to the Ploy
Field, fastened it to the pillar, cut its throat, and then roasted it
whole, skin, wool, &c. At midday a struggle took place, at the risk of
cut hands, for a slice, it being supposed to confer luck for the ensuing
year on the fortunate devourer. As an act of gallantry the young men
sometimes fought their way through the crowd to get a slice for the
chosen amongst the young women, all of whom, in their best dresses,
attended the Ram Feast, as it was called. Dancing, wrestling, and other
games, assisted by copious libations of cider during the afternoon,
prolonged the festivity till midnight.--_N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. vii. p.

In some places it is customary for the children to carry about from
house to house two dolls, a large and a small one--beautifully dressed
and decorated with flowers. This custom has existed at Torquay from time


At Saffron-Walden, and in the village of Debden, an old May-day song
(almost identical with that given under BERKSHIRE, which see) is sung
by the little girls, who go about in parties, carrying garlands from
door to door.

The garlands which the girls carry are sometimes large and handsome, and
a doll is usually placed in the middle, dressed in white, according to
certain traditional regulations.--_Illustrated London News_, June 6th,
1857, p. 553.


In the village of Randwick, hard by the Stroud cloth-mills, at the
appointed daybreak, three cheeses were carried upon a litter, festooned
and garlanded with blossoms, down to the churchyard, and rolled thrice
mystically round the sacred building; being subsequently carried back in
the same way upon the litter in triumphal procession, to be cut
up on the village-green and distributed piecemeal among the
bystanders.--_Household Words_, 1859, vol. xix. p. 515.

In this county the children sing the following song as they dance round
the Maypole:

    “Round the Maypole, trit-trit-trot!
    See what a Maypole we have got;
              Fine and gay.
              Trip away,
        Happy is our new May-day.”--

  _Aunt Judy’s Magazine_, 1874, No. xcvii. p. 436.


In the village of Burley, one of the most beautiful villages of the New
Forest, a maypole is erected, a fête is given to the school-children,
and a May-queen is chosen by lot; a floral crown surmounts the pole, and
garlands of flowers hang about the shaft.


At Baldock, in former times, the peasantry were accustomed to make a
“my-lord-and-my-lady” in effigy on the first of May. These figures were
constructed of rags, pasteboard, old masks, canvas, straw, &c., and were
dressed up in the holiday habiliments of their fabricators--“my lady” in
the best gown’d, apron, kerchief, and mob cap of the dame, and “my
lord” in the Sunday gear of her master. The tiring finished, “the pair”
were seated on chairs or joint-stools, placed outside the cottage-door
or in the porch, their bosoms ornamented with large bouquets of May
flowers. They supported a hat, into which the contributions of the
lookers-on were put. Before them, on a table were arranged a mug of ale,
a drinking-horn, a pipe, a pair of spectacles, and sometimes a

The observance of this usage was exclusively confined to the wives of
the labouring poor resident in the town, who were amply compensated for
their pains-taking by the contributions, which generally amounted to
something considerable. But these were not the only solicitors on
May-day; the juveniles of Baldock constructed a garland of hoops
transversed, decorated with flowers, ribbons, &c., affixed to the
extremity of a staff, by which it was borne, similar to those at
Northampton and Lynn.--Hone, _The Year Book_, 1838, p. 1593.

The following amusing account of the manner in which May-day was
formerly observed at Hitchin is given by a correspondent of _Every Day
Book_, 1826, vol. i. p. 565:

Soon after three o’clock in the morning a large party of the
townspeople, and neighbouring labourers parade the town, singing the
_Mayer’s Song_. They carry in their hands large branches of May, and
they affix a branch either upon or at the side of the doors of nearly
every respectable house in the town. Where there are knockers they place
their branches within the handles. The larger the branch is that is
placed at the door the more honourable to the house, or rather to the
servants of the house. If in the course of the year a servant has given
offence to any of the mayers, then, instead of a branch of May, a branch
of elder, with a bunch of nettles, is affixed to her door: this is
considered a great disgrace, and the unfortunate subject of it is
exposed to the jeers of her rivals. On May-morning, therefore, the girls
look with some anxiety for their May-branch, and rise very early to
ascertain their good or ill-fortune. The houses are all thus decorated
by four o’clock in the morning. Throughout the day parties of these
mayers are seen dancing and frolicking in various parts of the town. The
group that I saw to-day, which remained in Bancroft for more than an
hour, was composed as follows:--First came two men with their faces
blacked, one of them with a birch broom in his hand, and a large
artificial hump on his back; the other dressed as a woman, all in rags
and tatters, with a large straw bonnet on, and carrying a ladle; these
are called “Mad Moll and her husband;” next came two men, one most
fantastically dressed with ribbons, and a great variety of
gaudy-coloured silk handkerchiefs tied round his arms, from the
shoulders to the wrists, and down his thighs and legs to the ancles; he
carried a drawn sword in his hand; leaning upon his arm was a youth
dressed as a fine lady in white muslin, and profusely bedecked from top
to toe with gay ribbons--these were called the “Lord and Lady” of the
company; after these followed six or seven couples more, attired much in
the same style as the lord and lady, only the men were without the
swords. When this group received a satisfactory contribution at any
house the music struck up from a violin, clarionet, and fife,
accompanied by the long drum, and they began the merry dance. While the
dancers were merrily footing it the principal amusement to the populace
was caused by the grimaces and clownish tricks of Mad Moll and her
husband. When the circle of spectators became so contracted as to
interrupt the dancers, then Mad Moll’s husband went to work with his
broom, and swept the road-dust, all round the circle, into the faces of
the crowd, and when any pretended affronts were offered to his wife, he
pursued the offenders, broom in hand; if he could not overtake them,
whether they were males or females, he flung his broom at them. These
flights and pursuits caused an abundance of merriment.

The _Mayer’s Song_ is a composition, or rather a medley of great
antiquity, and is as follows:--

    “Remember us poor mayers all.
      And thus do we begin
    To lead our lives in righteousness,
      Or else we die in sin.

    We have been rambling all this night,
      And almost all this day,
    And now returned back again
      We have brought you a branch of May.

    A branch of May we have brought you,
      And at your door it stands,
    It is but a sprout, but it’s well budded out
      By the work of our Lord’s hands.

    The hedges and trees they are so green,
      As green as any leek,
    Our Heavenly Father, he watered them
      With his heavenly dew so sweet.

    The heavenly gates are open wide,
      Our paths are beaten plain,
    And if a man be not too far gone,
      He may return again.

    The life of man is but a span,
      It flourishes like a flower;
    We are here to day, and gone to-morrow,
      And are dead in an hour.

    The moon shines bright, and the stars give a light
      A little before it is day.
    So God bless you all, both great and small,
      And send you a joyful May.”


In the village of Glatton, May-day is observed by the election of Queen
of the May, and the making of the garland.

The garland is of a pyramidal shape, and in this respect resembles the
old milk-maid’s garland; it is composed of crown-imperials, tulips,
anemones, cowslips, kingcups, daffodils, meadow-orchis, wallflowers,
primroses, lilacs, laburnums, and as many roses and bright flowers as
the season may have produced. These, with the addition of green boughs,
are made into a huge pyramidal nosegay, from the front of which a
gaily-dressed doll stares vacantly at her admirers. This doll is
intended to represent Flora. From the base of the nosegay hang ribbons,
handkerchiefs, pieces of silk, and any other gay-coloured fabric that
can be borrowed for the occasion. The garland is carried by the two
maids of honour to the May queen who place their hands beneath the
nosegay, and allow the gay-coloured streamers to fall towards the
ground. The garland is thus some six feet high.

The following song was sung by “the Mayers” on May-day, 1865, in the
village of Denton and Chaldecote, when they went round with their

    “Here comes us poor Mayers all,
      And thus do we begin
    To lead our lives in righteousness,
      For fear we should die in sin.

    To die in sin is a dreadful thing,
      To die in sin for nought;
    It would have been better for us poor souls
      If we had never been born.

    Good morning, lords and ladies,
      It is the first of May;
    I hope you’ll view the garland,
      For it looks so very gay.

    The cuckoo sings in April,
      The cuckoo sings in May,
    The cuckoo sings in June,
      In July she flies away.

    Now take a Bible in your hand,
      And read a chapter through;
    And when the day of judgment comes
      The Lord will think of you.”--

  _N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. vii. p. 373.

It is the custom at Warboys for certain of the poor of the parish to be
allowed to go into Warboys Wood on May-day morning for the purpose of
gathering and taking away bundles of sticks. It may possibly be a relic
of the old custom of going to a wood in the early morning of May-day for
the purpose of gathering May-dew.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. xii. p. 42.


Sir Dudley Diggs, by his will, dated 1638, left the yearly sum of £20 to
be paid to two young men and two maids, who on May 19th yearly should
run a tye at Old Wives Lees in Chilham and prevail; the money to be paid
out of the profits of the land of this part of the manor of Selgrave,
which escheated to him after the death of Lady Clive. These lands, being
in three pieces, lie in the parishes of Preston and Faversham, and
contain about forty acres, all commonly called the _Running Lands_. Two
young men and two young maids run at Old Wives Lees in Chilham yearly on
May 1st, and the same number at Sheldwich Lees on the Monday following,
by way of trial; and the two who prevail at each of those places run
for the £10 at _Old Wives Lees_ as above mentioned on May 19th.--Hasted,
_History of Kent_, vol ii. p. 787.

At Sevenoaks the children carry their tasteful boughs and garlands from
door to door. The boughs consist of a bunch of greenery and wild flowers
tied at the end of a stick, which is carried perpendicularly. The
garlands are formed of two hoops interlaced cross-wise, and covered with
blue and yellow flowers from the woods and hedges. Sometimes the
garlands are fastened at the end of a stick carried perpendicularly, and
sometimes hanging from the centre of a stick borne horizontally by two
children. Either way the effect is pleasing, and fully worth the few
pence which the appeal of “May-day, garland-day! please to remember the
May-bough!” makes one contribute.--_N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. iii. p. 424.


In most places it is customary for each driver of a team to decorate his
horses with gaudy ribbons on May-day. In Liverpool and Birkenhead,
however, where some thousands of men are employed as carters, this
May-day dressing has grown into a most imposing institution. Every
driver of a team in and around the docks appears to enter into rivalry
with his neighbours, and the consequence is that most of the horses are
gaily dressed and expensively decorated. The drivers put on their new
suits, covered with white linen slops, and sport new whips in honour of
the occasion. Some of the embellishments for the horses are of a most
costly character; not a few are disposed in most admirable taste; and in
several instances they amount to actual art-exhibitions, since the carts
are filled with the articles in which their owners deal. Real and
artificial flowers are disposed in wreaths and other forms upon
different parts of the harness, and brilliant velvet cloths, worked in
silver and gold, are thrown over the loins of the horses; and if their
owners are of sufficient standing to bear coats-of-arms, these are
emblazoned upon the cloths, surrounded with many curious and artistic
devices. Not only are the men interested in these displays, but wives
and daughters, mistresses and servants, vie with each other as to who
shall produce the most gorgeous exhibition. A few years ago the
Corporation of Liverpool exhibited no fewer than one hundred and
sixty-six horses in the procession, the first cart containing all the
implements used by the scavenging department, most artistically
arranged. The railway companies, the brewers, the spirit-merchants, and
all the principal dock-carriers, &c., send their teams with samples of
produce to swell the procession. After parading the principal streets,
headed by bands of music and banners, the horses are taken home to their
respective stables, and public drinks are given to the carters by the
Corporation, the railway companies, and other extensive firms. The Mayor
and other members of the Corporation attend these annual feasts, and
after the repasts are ended the carters are usually addressed by some
popular speaker, and much good advice is frequently given them.--Harland
and Wilkinson, _Legends and Traditions of Lancashire_, 1873, p. 96.

In the _Life of Mrs. Pilkington_ (_Gent. Mag._ 1754, vol. xxiv. p. 354)
allusion seems made to this custom. The writer says, They took places in
the waggon, and quitted London early on May-morning; and it being the
custom in this month for the passengers to give the waggoner at every
inn a ribbon to adorn his team, she soon discovered the origin of the
proverb, “as fine as a horse;” for before they got to the end of their
journey the poor beasts were almost blinded by the tawdry party-coloured
flowing honours of their heads.

In connection with this custom may be mentioned one practised at
Gilmerton, in the parish of Liberton, county of Edinburgh. The carters
have friendly societies for the purpose of supporting each other in old
age or during ill-health, and with the view partly of securing a day’s
recreation, and partly of recruiting their numbers and funds, they have
an annual procession. Every man decorates his cart, horse, and ribbons,
and a regular procession is made, accompanied by a band of music. To
crown all there is an uncouth uproarious race with cart-horses on the
public road, which draws forth a crowd of Edinburgh idlers, and all ends
in a dinner, for which a fixed sum is paid.--_Stat. Acc. of Scotland_,
1845, vol. i. p. 12.

The maypole of Lostock, a village near Bolton, in Lancashire, is
probably the most ancient on record. It is mentioned in a charter by
which the town of West Halton was granted to the Abbey of Cockersand,
about the reign of King John. The pole, it appears, superseded a cross,
and formed one of the landmarks which defined the boundaries, and must
therefore have been a permanent and not an annual erection. The words of
the charter are, “De Lostockmepull, ubi crux sita fuit recta linea in
austro, usque ad crucem-super-le-Tunge.”--Dugd., _Monast. Anglic._ 1830,
vol. vi. p. ii. n. ii. p. 906; _Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 238.


Formerly it was customary in some parts of this county to change
servants on May-day.--_Time’s Telescope_, 1823, p. 118.

A peculiar rustic ceremony used annually to be observed at Horncastle
towards the close of the last century. On the morning of May-day, when
the young people of the neighbourhood assembled to partake in the
amusements which ushered in the festival of the month, a train of youths
collected themselves at a place called the _May-bank_. From thence with
wands enwreathed with cowslips, they walked in procession to the
maypole, situated to the west end of the town, and adorned on that
morning with every variety in the gifts of Flora. Here, uniting in the
wild joy of young enthusiasm, they struck together their wands, and,
scattering around the cowslips, testified their thankfulness for that
bounty which, widely diffusing its riches, enabled them to return home
rejoicing at the promises of the opening year.--Weir, _Sketches of

Dr. Stukeley, in his _Itinerarium Curiosum_ (1724, p. 29), alluding to
this custom, says there is a maypole hill near Horncastle, where
probably stood an Hermes in Roman times. The boys annually keep up the
festival of the _Floralia_ on May-day, making a procession to this hill
with May-gads (as they call them) in their hands. This is a white willow
wand, the bark peeled off, tied round with cowslips. At night they have
a bonfire, and other merriment, which is really a sacrifice or religious


May Day is ushered in with blowing of horns on the mountains, and with a
ceremony which, says Waldron, has something in the design of it pretty
enough. In almost all the great parishes they choose from among the
daughters of the most wealthy farmers a young maid for the _Queen of
May_. She is dressed in the gayest and best manner they can, and is
attended by about twenty others, who are called maids of honour. She has
also a young man, who is her captain, and has under his command a good
number of inferior officers. In opposition to her is the Queen of
Winter, who is a man dressed in woman’s clothes, with woollen hood,
fur-tippets, and loaded with the warmest and heaviest habits one upon
another. In the same manner are those, who represent her attendants,
drest; nor is she without a captain and troop for her defence. Both
being equipt as proper emblems of the Beauty of the Spring and the
Deformity of the Winter, they set forth from their respective quarters,
the one preceded by violins and flutes, the other with the rough music
of the tongs and the cleavers. Both parties march till they meet on a
common, and then their trains engage in a mock battle. If the Queen of
the Winter’s forces get the better, so as to take the Queen of May
prisoner, she is ransomed for as much as pays the expenses of the day.
After this ceremony Winter and her company retire, and divert themselves
in a barn, and the others remain on the green, where, having danced a
considerable time, they conclude the evening with a feast, the queen at
one table with her maids, the captain with his troop at another. There
are seldom less than fifty or sixty at each board.

For the seizure of her Majesty’s person that of one of her slippers
was substituted more recently, which was in like manner ransomed
to defray the expenses of the pageant. The procession of the
_Summer_--which was subsequently composed of little girls, and called
the _Maceboard_[47]--outlived that of its rival, the _Winter_, some
years, and now, like many other remnants of antiquity, has fallen into
disuse.--Train, _History of the Isle of Man_, 1845, vol. ii. p. 118;
Waldron, _Description of the Isle of Man_, p. 154.

  [47] The _maceboard_ (probably a corruption of May sports) went from
  door to door inquiring if the inmates would buy the queen’s favour,
  which was composed of a small piece of ribbon.


London boasted several maypoles before the days of Puritanism. Many
parishes vied with each other in the height and adornment of their own.
One famed pole stood in Basing Lane, near St. Paul’s Cathedral, and was
in the time of Stow kept in the hostelry called Gerard’s Hall. “In the
high-roofed hall of this house,” says he, “sometime stood a large fir
pole, which reached to the roof thereof--a pole of forty feet long and
fifteen inches about, fabled to be the justing staff of Gerard the
Giant.” A carved wooden figure of this giant, pole in hand, stood over
the gate of this old inn until March 1852, when the whole building was
demolished for city improvements.--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 576. See
_Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 612.

A maypole was annually erected on May-day morning in Leadenhall Street,
then called Cornhill, before the south door of the church known as that
of St. Andrew the Apostle; and, in order to distinguish this church from
others dedicated to the same saint, it was termed in consequence St.
Andrew’s-Under-Shaft.[48] On the 1st May, 1517 (9th of Henry VIII.), a
violent tumult occurred in the city, and this pole was not raised
afterwards.[49] The inhabitants had long regarded with much jealousy the
numerous foreigners who about that time took up their abode in
London[50] and practised various trades, to the great injury, as was
then thought, of the citizens, and on the 28th of April a quarrel took
place between some of the London apprentices--at that time a powerful
body--and two or three foreigners whom they met in the street, when
blows were exchanged. This disturbance, however, was quickly quelled,
but a rumour suddenly became general, although none knew on what
grounds, that on the ensuing May-day, taking advantage of the sports and
pastimes which were expected, all foreigners then in the city would be
slain. In consequence of this various precautions were adopted by the
authorities with a view to prevent if possible any contemplated outrage,
and all men were commanded to stay in their houses. Notwithstanding this
injunction, on the evening before May-day two striplings were found in
Cheapside “playing at the bucklers,” and having been commanded to
desist, the cry of “’Prentices, ’prentices, bats and clubs!” the usual
gathering words at that period, was heard through the streets, and many
hundreds of persons, armed with clubs and other weapons, assembled from
all quarters, broke open the prisons, destroyed many houses occupied by
foreigners, and committed other excesses. After some exertions on the
part of the city authorities,[51] nearly three hundred of the rioters
were captured. A commission was appointed to inquire into the
insurrection, and a great number of the prisoners were condemned to die,
but with the exception of one John Lincolne, who was hung, they were all
ultimately pardoned. After this circumstance, which acquired for the day
on which it happened the title of “Evil May-day,” and induced those in
power to discountenance sports which led to large congregations, the
Cornhill shaft was hung on a range of hooks under the “pentises[52]” of
a neighbouring row of houses, where it remained till 1549. In that year,
one Sir Stephen, curate of St. Catherine Cree, in a sermon which he
preached at Paul’s Cross, persuaded the people that this pole had been
made into an idol by naming the church of St. Andrew with the addition
of Under that Shaft; and so worked upon them, that in the afternoon of
the same day, “after they had dined,” the inhabitants with great labour
raised the pole off the hooks on which it had rested thirty-two years,
and each man sawing off for himself a piece equal to the length of his
house, it was quickly demolished and burned.--Godwin and Britton,
_Churches of London_, 1839; Brayley, _Londiniana_, 1829, vol. iii. p.
223; Hall’s _Chronicle_, 1517.

  [48] This pole, when it was fixed in the ground, was higher than the
  church steeple; and it is to this that Chaucer the poet refers when he
  says, speaking of a vain boaster, that he bears his head “as he would
  bear the great shaft of Cornhill.”--Stow’s _Survey_, B. ii. p. 65;
  Godwin and Britton, _Churches of London_, 1839.

  [49] Pennant, _London_ (5th edition, p. 587), says this shaft gave
  rise to the insurrection. Godwin and Britton deny this was the case.

  [50] Hall, in his _Chronicle_, says these foreigners “compassed the
  citie rounde aboute, in Southwarke, in Westminster, Temple Barre,
  Holborne, Sayncte Martynes, Sayncte John’s Strete, Algate, Toure Hyll,
  and Sainct Katherines.”

  [51] Cholmondeley, constable of the Tower, discharged some guns into
  the streets, while the Earls of Shrewsbury and Surrey, collecting the
  gentlemen of the Inns of Court, restrained the violence of the
  populace.--Lyttleton, _History of England_, vol. ii. p. 167.

  [52] Of the pent-house, or shelving roof projecting from the main
  wall, by which the shops at that period were ordinarily protected,
  many examples, Godwin and Britton say, existed in their time.

Brayley in his _Londiniana_ (vol. iv. p. 318) says, nearly opposite to
Craven Buildings is a low public-house, bearing the sign of the _Cock
and Pye_ (a contraction for the Cock and Magpye), which two centuries
ago was almost the only dwelling in the eastern part of Drury Lane,
except the mansion of the Drewries. Hither the youths and maidens of the
metropolis, who, in social revelry on May-day threaded the jocund dance
around the maypole in the Strand, were accustomed to resort for cakes
and ale and other refreshments.

_May Fair._--This saturnalia was held by a grant of the Abbot of
Westminster, “with revelry for fourteen days.” It took place annually,
commencing on the first of May. The locality was anciently called Brook
Field, the site of which is now covered with Curzon Street, Hertford
Street, and Chesterfield House. Frequent allusions to the fair are found
in plays and pamphlets of Charles II.’s time, and hand-bills and
advertisements of the reign of James II. and his successors are in

May Fair was granted by James II., in the fourth year of his reign, to
Sir John Coell and his heirs for ever, in trust for Henry Lord Dover,
and his heirs for ever. Before 1704 the ground became much built upon,
as we learn from the old rate-books, and in November 1708 the gentlemen
of the grand jury for the county of Middlesex and the city of
Westminster made presentment of the fair, in terms of abhorrence, as a
“vile and riotous assembly.” The Queen listened to a petition from the
bench of justices for Middlesex, and a royal proclamation, dated April
28th, 1709, prohibiting the fair (at least as far as the amusements were
concerned), was the result. It was, however, soon revived “as of old,”
and, we are told, was much patronised “by the nobility and gentry.” It
had also its attractions for the ruder class of holiday-makers, as we
learn from the following copy of a hand-bill formerly in the Upcott
Collection, dated 1748:

“_May Fair._--At the Ducking Pond on Monday next, the 27th inst., Mr.
Hooton’s dog Nero (ten years old, with hardly a tooth in his head to
hold a duck, but well known for his goodness to all that have seen him
hunt), hunts six ducks for a guinea against the bitch called the Flying
Spaniel, from the Ducking Pond on the other side of the water, which has
beat all she has hunted against, excepting Mr. Hooton’s Good Blood. To
begin at two o’clock.

“Mr. Hooton begs his customers won’t take it amiss to pay twopence
admittance at the gate, and take a ticket, which will be allowed as cash
in their reckoning; no person admitted without a ticket, that such as
are not liked may be kept out.

“_Note_--Right Lincoln ale.”

Mr. Morley, in his _History of Bartholomew Fair_ (1859, p. 103), after
noticing the presentment of the grand jury in 1708 and the prohibition
of May Fair, tells us that the fair was revived, and “finally abolished
in the reign of George II. after a peace-officer had been killed in the
attempt to quell a riot.” The statement, however, of the fair having
been finally abolished in the reign of George II. is perfectly
gratuitous on the part of the historian of “Bartlemy,” as it existed
until near the end of another reign. Carter the antiquary wrote an
account of it in 1816, and he says that a few years previously it was
much in the same state as it had been for fifty years. This description,
full of curious interest, was communicated to the _Gentleman’s Magazine_
for March 1816 (vol. lxxxvi. p. 228). It has been reprinted in Hone’s
_Every Day Book_, 1826, vol. i. p. 572; See Soane’s _New Curiosities of
Literature_, 1867, vol i. p. 250, &c.; _N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. x. p. 358.


On the morning of May-day the girls from the neighbouring villages of
Kingsthorpe, &c., bring into Northampton their garlands, which they
exhibit from house to house (to show, as the inhabitants say, what
flowers are in season), and usually receive a trifle from each house.

The skeleton of the garland is formed of two hoops of osier or hazel
crossing each other at right angles, affixed to a staff about five feet
long, by which it is carried; the hoops are twined with flowers and
ribbons so that no part of them is visible. In the centre is placed one,
two, or three dolls, according to the size of the garland and the means
of the youthful exhibitors. Great emulation is excited amongst them, and
they vie with each other in collecting the choicest flowers, and
adorning the dolls in the gayest attire; ribbon streamers of the varied
colours of the rainbow, the lacemakers adding their spangled bobbins,
decorate the whole. The garlands are carried from house to house
concealed from view by a large pocket-handkerchief, and in some villages
it is customary to inquire if the inmates would like to see the Queen of
the May.

Wherever the young people receive a satisfactory contribution they chant
their simple ditties, which conclude with wishing the inhabitants of the
house “a joyful May,” or “a merry month of May.” The verses sung by the
Dallington children are entirely different from those of any other
village, and are here subjoined:--

    “The flowers are blooming everywhere,
      O’er every hill and dale;
    And oh! how beautiful they are,
      How sweetly do they smell!

    Go forth, my child, and laugh and play,
      And let your cheerful voice,
    With birds, and brooks, and merry May,
      Cry out, Rejoice! rejoice!”

When the Mayers have collected all the money they can obtain, they
return to their homes, and regale themselves, concluding the day with a
merry dance round the garland.--_Every Day Book_, 1826, vol. ii. p.
615; _Glossary of Northamptonshire Words and Phrases_, 1854, vol. ii. p.

Clare, “the Peasant Poet” of Northampton, in one of his MS. ballads,
describes the manner in which May-day is observed in his native village,
Helpstone, near Peterborough, and the neighbourhood. His delightful
ballad is printed by Miss Baker in her work already quoted (vol. ii. p.

    “How beautiful May and its morning comes in!
    The songs of the maidens, you hear them begin
    To sing the old ballads while cowslips they pull,
    While the dew of the morning fills many pipes full.

    The closes are spangled with cowslips like gold,
    Girls cram in their aprons what baskets can’t hold;
    And still gather on to the heat of the day,
    Till force often throws the last handful away.

    Then beneath an old hawthorn they sit, one and all,
    And make the May-garlands, and round _cuck_ a ball
    Of cowslips and blossoms so showy and sweet,
    And laugh when they think of the swains they shall meet.

    Then to finish the garland they trudge away home,
    And beg from each garden the flowers then in bloom;
    Then beneath the old eldern, beside the old wall,
    They set out to make it, maid, misses and all.

    The ribbons the ploughmen bought maids at the fair
    Are sure to be seen in a garland so fair;
    And dolls from the children they dress up and take,
    While children laugh loud at the show they will make.

    Then they take round the garland to show at each door,
    With kerchief to hide the fine flowers cover’d o’er;
    At cottages also, when willing to pay,
    The maidens their much-admired garland display.

    Then at _duck-under-water_[53] adown the long road
    They run with their dresses all flying abroad;
    And ribbons all colours, how sweet they appear!
    May seems to begin the life of the year.

    Then the garland on ropes is hung high over all,
    One end to a tree, and one hooked to a wall;
    When they _cuck_ the ball over till day is nigh gone,
    And then tea and cakes and the dancing comes on.

    And then, lawk! what laughing and dancing is there,
    While the fiddler makes faces within the arm-chair;
    And then comes the _cushion_,[54] the girls they all shriek,
    And fly to the door from the old fiddler’s squeak.

    But the doors they are fastened, so all must kneel down,
    And take the rude kiss from the unmannerly clown.
    Thus the May games are ended, to their houses they roam,
    With the sweetheart she chooses each maiden goes home.”

  [53] Duck-under-the-water. A game in which the players run, two and
  two, in rapid succession, under a handkerchief held up aloft by two
  persons standing apart with extended arms. Formerly in this northern
  part of Northamptonshire even married women on May-day played at this
  game under the garland, which was extended from chimney to chimney
  across the village street.--_Glossary of Northamptonshire Words and
  Phrases_, 1854, vol. i. p. 204.

  [54] The cushion dance appears to be of some antiquity: it is thus
  mentioned by Selden in his _Table Talk_, under “King of
  England”:--“The court of England is much altered. At a solemn dancing,
  first you have the great measures, then the Corrantoes and the
  Galliards, and this is kept up with ceremony; at length to French-more
  [Frenchmore] and the cushion dance, and then all the company
  dance--lord and groom, lady and kitchen maid, no distinction. So in
  our court in Queen Elizabeth’s time gravity and state were kept up. In
  King James’ time things were very pretty well. But in King Charles’
  time there was nothing but Frenchmore and the cushion-dance, omnium
  gatherum, tolly polly, hoite come toite.” In Playford’s _Dancing
  Master_ (1698, p. 7) it is described as follows:--“This dance is begun
  by a single person (either man or woman), who, taking a cushion in
  hand, dances about the room, and at the end of the tune stops and
  sings, ‘This dance it will no further go;’ the musician answers, ‘I
  pray you, good sir, why say you so?’ _Man._ ‘Because Jean Sanderson
  will not come to.’ _Musician._ ‘She must come to, and she shall come
  to, and she must whether she will or no.’ Then he lays down the
  cushion before a woman, on which she kneels, and he kisses her,
  singing, ‘Welcome, Joan Sanderson, welcome, welcome.’ Then she rises,
  takes up the cushion, and both dance, singing, ‘Prinkum prankum is a
  fine dance, and shall we go dance it once again?’ Then making a stop,
  the woman sings as before, ‘This dance it will no further go.’
  _Musician._ ‘I pray you, madam, why say you so?’ _Woman._ ‘Because
  John Sanderson will not come to.’ _Musician._ ‘He must come to,’ &c.
  (as before). And so she lays down the cushion before a man, who,
  kneeling upon it, salutes her, she singing ‘Welcome, John Sanderson,’
  &c. Then he taking up the cushion, they dance round, singing as
  before, and thus they do till the whole company are taken into the
  ring. Then the cushion is laid before the first man, the woman singing
  ‘This dance,’ &c. (as before), only instead of ‘not come to,’ they
  sing, ‘go fro;’ and instead of ‘Welcome, John Sanderson,’ ‘Farewell,
  farewell;’ and so they go out one by one as they came in.”

  This dance was well known in Holland in the early part of the
  seventeenth century, and an interesting engraving of it may be seen in
  the ‘Emblems of John de Brunnes,’ Amst. 1624.--Nares’ _Glossary_
  (Halliwell and Wright), 1859, vol. i. p. 219.

A native of Fotheringhay, Mr. W. C. Peach, relates that he was formerly
accustomed to go into the fields over-night and very early on May-day to
gather cowslips, primroses, wood-anemones, blue bells, &c., to make the
garlands. The garland, if possible, was hung in the centre of the street
on a rope stretched from house to house. Then was made the trial of
skill in tossing balls (small white leather ones) through the framework
of the garland, to effect which was a triumph. Speaking of the May-bush
(a large tree selected for being tall, straight, full of branches, and
if possible flowers), Mr. W. C. Peach says, “I have been looking out for
a pretty bush days before the time, and if hawthorn and in blossom, then
it was glorious. I have seen them ten or twelve feet high, and many in
circumference, and they required a stalwart arm to carry and put them
into a hole in the ground before the front door, where they were wedged
on each side so as to appear growing. Flowers were then thrown over the
bush and around it, and strewn as well before the door. Pretty little
branches of whitethorn, adorned with the best flowers procurable, were
occasionally put up, unperceived by others if possible, against the
bed-room of the favourite lass, to show the esteem in which she was
held, and the girls accordingly were early on the alert to witness the
respective favours allotted them. Elder, crab-tree, nettles, thistles,
sloes, &c., marked the different degrees of respect in which some of
them were held.”--_Glossary of Northamptonshire Words and Phrases_, vol.
ii. p. 427.

At Nassington they carry garlands about, and beg for money; in the
evening they tie them across the street from chimney to chimney, and
dance under them. Formerly married women used to amuse themselves by
playing under them at the game of Duck-under-the-water.[55]--_Ibid._ p.

  [55] See note on page 252.

At Nassington a curious pasture custom also takes place on May-day.
There is a large tract of meadow-land lying on the side of the river
Nen, which the inhabitants of the village have the right of pasturing
cows upon.[56] The pasture season commences on May-day, and on the
evening preceding a rail is put across the entrance to the pasture,
which the cows must leap to get into. Much rivalry takes place on this
occasion. The lads watch through the night and the dawning of May-day,
the lasses with their cows being ready at the proper moment to see which
cow shall leap the rail first into the meadow, and the cow which does
this is led round the village in the afternoon, her horns decorated with
ribbons, &c. Degradation only awaits the hindmost cow, she has to carry
elder, nettles, and thistles as her badge, and the lass who milks her
has to bear the gibes and jeers of the villagers.--_Glossary, &c._, p.

  [56] _Vide_ Bridge’s _Hist. of Co. of Northampton_, 1791, vol. ii. p.

At Morton-Pinkeney the following song is sung by the children on

    “I have a little purse in my pocket,
      All fixed with a silver pin;
    And all that it wants is a more little silver
      To line it well within.
    The clock strikes one, I must be gone,
      Or else it will be day;
    Good morning to you, my pretty fair maid,
      I wish you the merriment of May.”--

  _Ibid._ p. 426.

At Polebrook, on the last few days of April, the Queen of May and her
attendants gather what flowers they can from the surrounding meadows,
and call at the houses of the principal inhabitants to beg flowers, the
gift or the loan of ribbons, handkerchiefs, dolls, &c., with which to
form their garland. This being arranged on hoops, the young maidens
assemble on May-morning, and carry it round the village, preceded by a
fiddler; and the following quaint song--very similar to the one used at
Hitchin, and thought from its phraseology to have been written in the
time of the Puritans--is sung by the Queen and her company at the
different houses, and a gratuity is solicited.

    “Remember us poor mayers all,
      For now we do begin
    To lead our lives in righteousness,
      For fear we die in sin.

    To die in sin is a serious thing,
      To go where sinners mourn;
    ’Twould have been better for our poor souls
      If we had ne’er been born.

    Now we’ve been travelling all the night,
      And best part of this day;
    And now we’re returning back again,
      And have brought you a branch of May.

    A branch of May, which looks so gay,
      Before your door to stand;
    ’Tis but a sprout, but ’tis well spread out,
      The work of our Lord’s hand.

    Arise, arise, you pretty fair maid,
      Out of your drowsy dream,
    And step into your dairy-house
      For a sup of your sweet cream.

    O, for a sup of your sweet cream,
      Or a jug of your own beer;
    And if we tarry in the town,
      We’ll call another year.

    Now take the Bible in your hand,
      And read a chapter through,
    And when the day of judgment comes,
      The Lord will think of you.

    Repent, repent, ye wicked men,
      Repent before you die;
    There’s no repentance in the grave,
      When in the ground you lie.

    But now my song is almost done,
      I’ve got no more to say;
    God bless you all, both great and small,
      I wish you a joyful May.”

The garland is afterwards suspended by ropes from the school-house to an
opposite tree, and the mayers and other children amuse themselves by
throwing balls over it. With the money collected tea and cakes are
provided for the joyous party. The Queen of the May takes her seat at
the head of the tea-table, under a bower composed of branches of may and
blackthorn; a wreath of flowers is placed on her head, and she is hailed
“Lady of the May.” The attendants wait round her, the party of mayers
seat themselves at a long table below, and the evening concludes with
mirth and merriment.--_Glossary, &c._, p. 424.


The young people of both sexes go out early in the morning to gather the
flowering thorn and the dew off the grass, which they bring home with
music and acclamations; and having dressed a pole on the town-green with
garlands, dance around it. A syllabub is also prepared for the
May-feast, which is made of warm milk from the cow, sweet cakes, and
wine; and a kind of divination is practised by fishing with a ladle for
a wedding-ring which is dropped into it for the purpose of
prognosticating who shall be first married.--Hutchinson, _Hist. of
Northumberland_, 1778, vol. ii., Appendix, p. 14.

At Newcastle-upon-Tyne it was formerly usual on May-mornings for the
young girls to sing these lines in the streets, at the same time
gathering flowers:--

    “Rise up, maidens, fie for shame!
    For I’ve been four long miles from hame,
    I’ve been gathering my garlands gay,
    Rise up, fair maids, and take in your May!”--

  Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 219.


The May-day customs observed in this county are in many respects similar
to those of other counties, but Nottinghamshire has the honour of being
the parent of most of the happy sports which characterise this joyous
period of the year, from the fact of most of the May-day games having
had their origin in the world famous Robin Hood, whose existence and
renown are so intimately connected with this district. His connection
with “Merry Sherwood” and the Sheriff of Nottingham have been universal
themes for centuries; and these and the “Miller of Mansfield” and the
“Wise Men of Gotham” have done more towards making this county famous
than all the rest of the ballads and popular literature put together.
Maypoles and morris-dances were formerly very general, and the
characters of Robin Hood, Little John, Friar Tuck, Maid Marian, and the
Hobby-horse were well sustained. The maypoles were sometimes very
elegantly ornamented, and surmounted by flags and streamers of various
colours. One was not many years ago remaining by Hucknall Folkard, and
at the top were portions of the ironwork and decorations still in being.
The morris-dance was unquestionably one of the most popular of the many
games incident to this season, and was very generally prevalent
throughout this county, and many are the ballads dedicated to its
observance. The following is of 1614:--

    “It was my hap of late by chance
    To meet a country morris-dance,
    When, chiefest of them all the foole
    Plaid with a ladle and a toole;
    When every younker shak’t his hels,
    And fine Maid Marian with her smoile,
    Showed how a rascal plaid the voile,
    And when the hobby horse did wihy,
    Then all the wenches gave a tihy,” &c.

May-day, although a day of general holiday and rejoicing, is
nevertheless considered, as is the whole of the month, unlucky for
marriage, and few are celebrated on this day; more weddings being
hastened, so as to be over before this day, than postponed until June.
This does not apply to divinations for future partners, for in some
parts of the county it is usual to prepare a sweet mixture on the first
of May, composed of new milk, cakes, wine, and spice, and for the
assembled company to fish with a ladle for a ring and a sixpence, which
have been dropped into the bowl; the young man who gains the ring and
the young woman the sixpence being supposed to be intended for each
other.--_Jour. of Arch. Assoc._ 1853, vol. viii. p. 234.


Previous to the Reformation a requiem mass is said to have been
performed every May-morning at an early hour on the top of Magdalen
tower, Oxford, for the repose of the soul of Henry VII., who had
honoured that college with a visit in 1486-7. The choristers continue to
execute in the same place, at five o’clock in the morning of the same
day, certain pieces of choir-music, for which service the rectory of
Slimbridge in Gloucestershire pays the yearly sum of £10. The ceremony
has encouraged the notion that Henry contributed to the erection of the
tower, but his only recorded act of favour to the college is the
confirmation of its claim to the rectory charged with the annual

The following hymn is sung on the occasion of this ceremony:

    “Te Deum Patrem colimus,
    Te laudibus prosequimur,
    Qui corpus cibo reficis
    Cœlesti mentem gratia.

    Te adoramus, O Jesu!
    Te, Fili unigenite!
    Te, qui non dedignatus es
    Subire claustra Virginis.

    Actus in crucem factus es,
    Irato Deo victima;
    Per te, Salvator unice,
    Vitæ spes nobis rediit.

    Tibi, æterne Spiritus,
    Cujus afflatu peperit
    Infantem Deum Maria,
    Æternum benedicimus!

    Triune Deus, hominum
    Salutis Auctor optime,
    Immensum hoc mysterium
    Ovanti lingua canimus.”

A correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_2nd S._ vii. p. 446) thinks this hymn was
composed by Dr. Thomas Smith, a very learned fellow of Magdalen College,
soon after the Restoration, and that it was not sung till about the
middle of the last century.[57]--Akerman, _History of Oxford_, vol. i.
p. 251; Wade, _Walks in Oxford_, 1817, vol. i. p. 132.

  [57] Whilst making some researches in the library of Christchurch,
  Oxford, Dr. Rimbault discovered what appeared to him to be the first
  draft of the hymn in question. It has the following note:--“This hymn
  is sung every day in Magdalen College Hall, Oxon, dinner and supper,
  throughout the year for the after-grace, by the chaplain, clerks, and
  choristers there. Composed by Dr. Benjamin Rogers, Doctor of Musicke,
  of the University of Oxon, 1685.” It has been popularly supposed, says
  Dr. Rimbault, to be the Hymnus Eucharisticus, written by Dr. Nathaniel
  Ingelo, and sung at the civic feast at Guildhall on the 5th of July,
  1660, while the King and the other exalted personages were at dinner;
  but this is a mistake, for the words of Ingelo’s hymn, very different
  from the Magdalen hymn, still exist, and are to be found in Wood’s
  Collection in the Ashmolean Museum.

Dr. Rimbault, in a communication to the _Illustrated London News_ (May
17th, 1856), speaking of this custom, says:--In the year of our Lord God
1501, the “most Christian” King Henry VII. gave to St. Mary Magdalen
College the advowsons of the churches of Slimbridge, county of
Gloucester, and Fyndon, county of Sussex, together with one acre of land
in each parish. In gratitude for this benefaction, the college was
accustomed, during the lifetime of their royal benefactor, to celebrate
a service in honour of the Holy Trinity, with the collect still used on
Trinity Sunday, and the prayer, “Almighty and everlasting God, we are
taught by Thy Holy Word that the hearts of kings,” &c.; and after the
death of the king to commemorate him in the usual manner. The
commemoration service ordered in the time of Queen Elizabeth is still
performed on the 1st of May, and the Latin hymn in honour of the Holy
Trinity, which continues to be sung on the tower at sun-rising, has
evidently reference to the original service. The produce of the two
acres above mentioned used to be distributed on the same day between the
President and Fellows; it has however for many years been given up to
supply the choristers with a festal entertainment in the college-hall.

It was also the custom at Oxford a generation ago for little boys to
blow horns about the streets early on May-day, which they did for the
purpose of “calling up the old maids.” “I asked an aged inhabitant,”
says a correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_4th S._ vol. vii. p. 430), “how long
the horn-blowing had ceased, and he replied, ever since the Reform Bill
came in; but that he remembered the time when the workhouse children
were let out for May-day early in the morning with their horns and
garlands, and a worthy alderman whom he named always kept open house on
that day, and gave them a good dinner.” “Calling up the old maids” no
doubt refers to the practice of calling up the maids, whether old or
young, to go a-maying. Hearne, in his preface to Robert of Gloucester’s
_Chronicle_, alluding to the custom (p. 18) says:--“’Tis no wonder,
therefore, that upon the jollities on the first day of May formerly the
custom of blowing with, and drinking in, horns so much prevailed, which,
though it be now generally disused, yet the custom of blowing them
prevails at this season, even to this day at Oxford, to remind people of
the pleasantness of that part of the year, which ought to create mirth
and gayety.”

Aubrey has this memorandum in his _Remains of Gentilisme and Judaisme_
(MS. Lansd. 266, p. 5):--At Oxford the boys do blow cows’ horns and
hollow canes all night; and on May-day the young maids of every parish
carry about garlands of flowers, which afterwards they hang up in their

At Combe, in the same county, troops of little girls dressed up
fantastically parade the village, carrying sticks, to the top of which
are tied bunches of flowers, and singing the following song:--

    “Gentlemen and ladies,
      We wish you a happy May;
    We’ve come to show our garlands,
      Because it is May-day.”

The same verse, substantially, is the May-day song at Wootton, an
adjoining parish. The last two of the four lines are sometimes as

    “Come, kiss my face, and smell my mace,
    And give the lord and lady something.”

  _N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. vii. p. 425.

At Headington, about two miles from Oxford, the children gather garlands
from house to house. Each garland is formed of a hoop for a rim, with
two half hoops attached to it and crossed above, much in the shape of a
crown; each member is adorned with flowers, and the top surmounted by a
crown imperial or other showy bunch of flowers. Each garland is attended
by four children, two girls dressed in all their best, who carry the
garland, supported betwixt them by a stick passed through it between the
arches. These are followed by the “lord and lady,” a boy and girl, who
go from house to house and sing the same song as is sung at Combe. In
the village are upwards of a dozen of these garlands, with their “lords
and ladies,” which give to the place the most gay and animated
appearance.--_Literary Gazette_, May 1847.

At Islip the children, carrying May-garlands, go about in little groups,
singing the following carol:--

    “Good morning, mi-sus and master,
      I wish you a happy day;
    Please to smell my garland,
      Because it is the first of May.”

  Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 219.


It has been usual for the people in this neighbourhood to assemble on
the Wrekin hill on the Sunday after May-day, and the three successive
Sundays, to drink a health “to all friends round the Wrekin;” but as on
this annual festival various scenes of drunkenness and licentiousness
were frequently exhibited, its celebration has of late been very
properly discouraged by the magistracy, and is going deservedly to
decay.--_Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 599.


At Minehead May-day is observed by the celebration of a custom called
“Hobby-horsing.” A number of young men, mostly fishermen and sailors,
having previously made some grotesque figures of light stuff, rudely
resembling men and horses with long tails, sufficiently large to cover
and disguise the persons who are to carry them, assemble together and
perambulate the town and neighbourhood, performing a variety of antics,
to the great amusement of the children and young persons. They never
fail to pay a visit to Dunster Castle, where, after having been
hospitably regaled with strong beer and victuals, they always receive a
present in money. Many other persons, inhabitants of the places they
visit, give them small sums, and such persons as they meet are also
asked to contribute a trifle; if they are refused, the person of the
refuser is subjected to the ceremony of booting or pursuing. This is
done by some of the attendants holding his person while one of the
figures inflicts ten slight blows on him with the top of a boot, he is
then liberated, and all parties give three huzzas. The most trifling sum
buys off this ceremony, and it is seldom or never performed but on
those who purposely throw themselves in their way, and join the party,
or obstruct them in their vagaries. This custom probably owes its origin
to some ancient practice of perambulating the boundaries of the
parish.--Savage, _History of Carthampton_, p. 583.


At Uttoxeter groups of children carry garlands of flowers about the
town. The garlands consist of two hoops, one passing through the other,
which give the appearance of four half circles, and they are decorated
with flowers and evergreens and surmounted with a bunch of flowers as a
sort of crown, and in the centre of the hoops is a pendent orange and
flowers. Mostly one or more of the children carry a little pole or
stick, with a collection of flowers tied together at one end, and
carried vertically, and the children themselves are adorned with ribbons
and flowers. Thus they go from house to house, which they are encouraged
to do by the pence they obtain.--Redfern, _History of Uttoxeter_, 1865,
p. 262.


Formerly in this county it was the custom in most farm-houses for any
servant who could bring in a branch of hawthorn in full blossom to
receive a dish of cream for breakfast. To this practice the following
rhyme apparently alludes:--

    “This is the day,
    And here is our May,
    The finest ever seen,
    It is fit for the queen;
    So pray, ma’am, give us a cup of your cream”--

  Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 229.


In the parish of St. Thomas, Southwark, says Allen (_History of Surrey
and Sussex_, 1829, vol. i. p. 261), there was an ancient custom for the
principal inhabitants to meet and dine together annually on the first of
May. This was called the “May-feast.” The gentleman who presided on the
occasion was called the steward. At the meeting in 1698, Mr. John
Panther, being in that office, proposed to make a collection for binding
out as apprentices the children of poor persons having a legal
settlement. This was readily acceded to, and it was resolved that the
minister of the parish, and such gentlemen as had served the office of
steward, and should afterwards serve it, should be governors. This
excellent plan has been followed ever since: the members for the borough
are always invited to the feast, and a liberal collection is made. By
means of donations and good management on the part of the governors a
considerable sum has been invested in the public funds. These boys are
apprenticed annually, and if so many are not found in St Thomas’s
parish, the stewards in rotation may each appoint one from any other
parish.--Brayley, _History of Surrey_, 1841, vol. v. p. 399.


In very early times May-day was celebrated with great spirit in the town
of Rye; young people going out at sunrise and returning with large
boughs and branches of trees, with which they adorned the fronts of the
houses. About three hundred years ago the Corporation possessed certain
woodlands, called the common woods, whither the people used to go and
cut the boughs, until at length they did so much damage that the
practice was prohibited. A few years ago here and there a solitary
may-bough graced a house, but they have now ceased to appear altogether.
A garland or two carried by little children, and the chimney-sweepers in
their ivy-leaves, representing “Jack of May,” are the only relics of
these May-day sports, so characteristic of merry England in former
times.--Holloway, _Hist. of Rye_, 1847, p. 608.


At a village called Temple Sowerby it is customary for a number of
persons to assemble together on the green, and there propose a certain
number as candidates for contesting the various prizes then produced,
which consist of a grindstone as the head prize; a hone, or whetstone
for a razor, as the second; and whetstones of an inferior description
for those who can only reach a state of mediocrity in “the noble art of
lying!” The people are the judges. Each candidate in rotation commences
a story such as his fertile genius at the moment prompts, and the more
marvellous and improbable his story happens to be, so much the greater
chance is there of his success. After being amused in this manner for a
considerable length of time, and awarding the prizes to the most
deserving, the host of candidates, judges, and other attendants adjourn
to the inns, where the sports of the day very often end in a few
splendid battles.--_Every Day Book_, vol ii. p. 599.

In this county it is the practice, every May-morning, to make folks
May-goslings,[58] a practice similar to that on the first of April. This
custom prevails till twelve o’clock at noon, after which time none carry
on the sport. On this day, too, ploughmen and others decorate themselves
with garlands and flowers, and parade through different towns for their
annual collection, which they spend in the evening with their
sweethearts at the maypole.--_Time’s Telescope_, 1829, p. 176.

  [58] See page 233.


The dance round the Maypole is kept up, says Cuthbert Bede (_N. & Q. 1st
S._ vol. x. p. 92), at the village of Clent, near Hagley.


About a fortnight previous to May-day the question among the lads and
lasses is, “Who will turn out to dance in the summer this year?” From
that time the names of the performers are buzzed in the village, and
rumour proclaims them throughout the surrounding neighbourhood. Nor is
it asked with less interest, “Who will carry the garland?” and “Who will
be the Cadi?” About nine days or a week previous to the festival a
collection is made of the gayest ribbons that can be procured. During
this time, too, the chosen garland-bearer is busily employed.
Accompanied by one from among the intended dancers who is best known
among the farmers for good conduct, they go from house to house
throughout their parish, begging the loan of watches, silver spoons, and
other utensils of this metal, and those who are satisfied with the
parties, and have a regard for the celebration of this ancient day,
comply with their solicitation. When May-day morn arrives the group of
dancers assemble at the village tavern. From thence (when permission can
be obtained from the clergyman of the parish) the procession sets forth,
accompanied by the ringing of bells. The arrangement and march are
settled by the Cadi, who is always the most active person in the
company, and is, by virtue of his office, the chief marshal, orator,
buffoon, and money-collector. He is always arrayed in comic attire,
generally in a partial dress of both sexes, a coat and waistcoat being
used for the upper part of the body, and for the lower petticoats
somewhat resembling Moll Flagon, in the “Lord of the Manor.” His
countenance is also distinguished by a hideous mask, or is blackened
entirely over, and then the lips, cheeks, and orbits of the eyes are
sometimes painted red. The number of the rest of the party, including
the garland-bearer, is generally thirteen, and with the exception of the
varied taste in the decoration of their shirts with ribbons, their
costume is similar. It consists of clothing entirely new, made of a
light texture for dancing. White decorated shirts, are worn over the
rest of their clothing; the remainder of the dress is black velveteen
breeches, with knee-ties depending halfway down to the ancles, in
contrast with yarn hose of a light grey. The ornaments of the hats are
large rosettes of varied colours, with streamers depending from them;
wreaths of ribbon encircle the crown, and each of the dancers carries in
his right hand a white pocket-handkerchief. The garland consists of a
long staff or pole, to which is affixed a triangular or square frame,
covered with strong white linen, on which the silver ornaments are
fixed, and displayed with great taste. Silver spoons, &c. are placed in
the shape of stars, squares, and circles. Between these are rows of
watches, and at the top of the frame, opposite to the pole in its
centre, the whole collection is crowned with the largest and most costly
of the ornaments, generally a large silver cup or tankard. This
garland, when completed on the eve of May-day, is left for the night at
that farm-house from whence the dancers have received the most liberal
loan of silver and plate for its decoration, or with that farmer who is
distinguished in his neighbourhood as a good master, and liberal to the
poor. Its deposit is a token of respect, and it is called for early on
the following morning. The whole party being assembled, they march,
headed by the Cadi. After him follows the garland-bearer, and then the
fiddler, while the bells of the village merrily ring the signal of their
departure. As the procession moves slowly along the Cadi varies his
station, hovers about his party, brandishes a ladle, and assails every
passenger for a customary and expected donation. When they arrive at a
farm-house they take up their ground on the best station for dancing. In
the meantime the buffoonery of the Cadi is exhibited without
intermission. He assails the inmates of the house for money, and when
this is obtained the procession moves off to the next farm-house. They
do not confine the ramble of the day to their own parish, but go from
one to another, and to any county town in the vicinity. When they return
to their resident village in the evening, the bells, ringing merrily,
announce their arrival. The money collected during the day’s excursion
is appropriated to defray whatever expenses may have been incurred in
the necessary preparations, and the remainder is spent in jovial
festivity.--_Every Day Book_, vol. i. p. 562.

At Tenby, says Mason (_Tales and Traditions of Tenby_, 1858, p. 22), it
was customary for the possessors of a maypole to try and pull down those
set up in other places. A watch was therefore set up round each.


In some parts of Scotland, says Pennant, there is a rural sacrifice on
May-day. A cross is cut on some sticks, each of which is dipped in
pottage, and the Thursday before Easter one of these is placed over the
sheep-cote, the stable, or the cow-house. On the first of May they are
carried to the hill, where the rites are celebrated, all decked with
wild flowers, and after the feast is over replaced over the spots they
were taken from. This was originally styled _Clonau-Beltein_, or the
split branch of the fir of the rock.--_Tour in Scotland_, 1790, vol. i.
p. 206.


At Edinburgh about four o’clock in the morning there is an unusual stir;
and a hurrying of gay throngs through the King’s Park to Arthur’s Seat
to collect the May-dew. In the course of half an hour the entire hill is
a moving mass of all sorts of people. At the summit may be seen a
company of bakers and other craftsmen, dressed in kilts, dancing round a
maypole. On the more level part is usually an itinerant vendor of
whisky, or mountain (not May) dew. These proceedings commence with the
daybreak. About six o’clock the appearance of the gentry, toiling up the
ascent, becomes the signal for servants to march home; for they know
that they must have the house clean and everything in order earlier than
usual on May-morning. About eight o’clock the fun is all over; and by
nine or ten, were it not for the drunkards who are staggering towards
the “gude town,” no one would know that anything particular had taken
place.--See _Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 609.

Fergusson the Scottish poet thus describes this custom:--

    “On May-day in a fairy ring
    We’ve seen them, round St. Anthon’s spring,
    Frae grass the caller dew-drops wring,
            To wet their ein,
    And water clear as crystal spring,
            To synd them clean.”

Formerly the magistrates of Canongate, Edinburgh, used to walk in
procession to church upon the first Sunday after Beltane, carrying large
nosegays. This observance was evidently a modified relic of the ancient
festival of the sun; and the original meaning of the custom must have
been an expression of gratitude to that luminary, deified under the name
of Baal, for the first-fruits of his genial influence.--_Household
Words_, 1859, vol. xix. p. 558.


On the first of May the herdsmen of every village hold their Beltein, a
rural sacrifice. They cut a square trench on the ground, leaving the
turf in the middle; on that they make a fire of wood, on which they
dress a large caudle of eggs, butter, oatmeal, and milk; and bring,
besides the ingredients of the caudle, plenty of beer and whisky, for
each of the company must contribute something. The rites begin with
spilling some of the caudle on the ground, by way of libation; on that
every one takes a cake of oatmeal, upon which are raised nine square
knobs, each dedicated to some particular being, the supposed preserver
of their flocks and herds, or to some particular animal, the real
destroyer of them: each person then turns his face to the fire, breaks
off a knob, and flinging it over his shoulder, says, This I give to
thee, preserve thou my horses; this to thee, preserve thou my sheep; and
so on. After that they use the same ceremony to the noxious animals.
This I give to thee, O fox! spare thou my lambs; this to thee, O
hooded-crow! and this to thee, O eagle!

When the ceremony is over they dine on the caudle, and, after the feast
is finished, what is left is hid by two persons deputed for that
purpose; but on the next Sunday they re-assemble, and finish the
reliques of the first entertainment.--Pennant’s _Tour in Scotland_,
1790, vol. i. p. 112.


In Sinclair’s _Stat. Acc. of Scotland_ (1794, vol. xi. p. 620) the
Minister of Callander says:--Upon the first day of May all the boys in a
township or hamlet meet on the moors. They cut a table in the green sod
of a round figure, by casting a trench in the ground of such
circumference as to hold the whole company. They kindle a fire, and
dress a repast of eggs and milk of the consistence of a custard. They
knead a cake of oatmeal, which is toasted at the embers against a stone.
After the custard is eaten up, they divide the cake into so many
portions, as similar as possible to one another in size and shape, as
there are persons in the company. They daub one of these portions all
over with charcoal until it is perfectly black. They put the pieces of
the cake into a bonnet. Every one blindfold draws out a portion; he who
holds the bonnet is entitled to the last piece. Whoever draws the black
piece is the devoted person who is to be sacrificed to Baal, whose
favour they mean to implore in rendering the year productive of the
sustenance of man and beasts. There is little doubt of these inhuman
sacrifices having been once offered in this country as well as in the
East, although they now omit the act of sacrificing, and only compel the
_devoted_ person to leap three times through the flames: with which the
ceremonies of this festival are closed.--See _N. & Q. 1st. S._, vol.
viii. p. 281.

At Logierait the 1st of May, old style, is chiefly celebrated by the
cowherds, who assemble by scores in the fields to dress a dinner for
themselves of boiled milk and eggs. These dishes they eat with a sort of
cakes baked for the occasion, and having small lumps raised all over the
surface.--_Ibid._ vol. v. p. 84.


Martin, in his _Account of the Western Islands of Scotland_ (1703, p.
7), speaking of the Isle of Lewis, says that the natives in the village
Barvas retain an ancient custom of sending a man very early to cross
Barvas river every first day of May, to prevent any females crossing it
first; for that they say would hinder the salmon from coming into the
river all the year round. They pretend to have learned this from a
foreign sailor, who was shipwrecked upon that coast a long time ago.


In the south-eastern parts of Ireland (and no doubt all over the island)
a custom used to prevail--perhaps so still--on May-day, when the young
people of both sexes, and many old people too, collected in districts
and localities, and selected the handsomest girl, of from eighteen to
twenty-one years of age, as queen of the district for twelve months. She
was then crowned with wild flowers; and feasting, dancing, and rural
sports were closed by a grand procession in the evening. The duties of
her majesty were by no means heavy, as she had only to preside over
rural assemblies of young folks at dances and merrymakings, and had the
utmost obedience paid to her by all classes of her subjects. If she got
married before the next May-day her authority was at an end, but still
she held office until that day, when her successor to the throne was
chosen. If not married during her reign of twelve months, she was
capable of being re-elected; but that seldom happened, as there was
always found some candidate put forward by the young men of the district
to dispute the crown the next year.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. iv. p. 229.

In Ireland, says Mr. Crofton Croker, May-day is called _La na Beal
tina_, and May-eve _neen na Baal tina_, that is, the day and eve of
Baal’s fire, from its having been in ancient times consecrated to the
god Beal, or Belus; whence also the month of May is termed in Irish _Mi
na Beal tine_. May-day is the favourite festival of the mummers. They
consist of a number, varying according to circumstances, of the girls
and young men of the village or neighborhood, usually selected for their
good looks, or their proficiency--the females in the dance, the youths
in hurling and other athletic exercises. They march in procession, two
abreast, and in three divisions: the young men in the van and the rear,
dressed in white or other gay-coloured jackets or vests, and decorated
with ribbons on their hats and sleeves. The young women are dressed also
in light-coloured garments, and two of them bear each a holly-bush, on
which are hung several new hurling balls, the May-day present of the
girls to the youths of the village. The bush is decorated with a
profusion of long ribbons, or paper cut in imitation, which adds greatly
to the gay and joyous, yet strictly rural, appearance of the whole. The
procession is always preceded by music, sometimes of the bagpipe, but
more commonly of a military fife, with the addition of a drum or
tambourine. A clown is of course in attendance: he wears a frightful
mask, and bears a long pole, with shreds of cloth nailed to the end of
it, like a mop, which ever and anon he dips in a pool of water or
puddle, and besprinkles such of the crowd as press upon his companions,
much to the delight of the younger spectators. The mummers during the
day parade the neighbouring villages, or go from one gentleman’s seat to
another, dancing before the mansion house, and receiving money. The
evening of course terminates with drinking.--_Fairy Legends and
Traditions of the South of Ireland_, 1825.


On the first of May from time immemorial, until the year 1798, a large
pole was planted in the market-place at Maghera, and a procession of May
boys, leaded by a mock king and queen, paraded the neighbourhood,
dressed in shirts over their clothes, and ornamented with ribbons of
various colours. This practice was revived in 1813, and the May-boys
collected about £17 at the different places where they called: this
defrayed the expense of a public dinner next day. Circumstances,
however, occurred soon after which induced one of the neighbouring
magistrates to come into the town and cut down the pole, which had been
planted in the market-place.--Mason, _Stat. Acc. of Ireland_, 1814, vol.
i. p. 593.


On the first day of May in Dublin and its vicinity it is customary for
young men and boys to go a few miles out of town in the morning, for the
purpose of cutting a _May-bush_. This is generally a white-thorn, of
about four or five feet high, and they carry it to the street or place
of their residence, in the centre of which they dig a hole, and having
planted the bush, they go round to every house and collect money. They
then buy a pound or more of candles, and fasten them to various parts of
the tree or bush in such a manner as to avoid burning it. Another
portion of “the collection” is expended in the purchase of a heap of
turf sufficient for a large fire, and, if the funds will allow, an old
tar-barrel. Formerly it was not considered complete without having a
horse’s skull and other bones to burn in the fire. The depôts for these
bones were the tanners’ yards in a part of the suburbs, called
Kilmainham; and on May morning groups of boys drag loads of bones to
their several destinations. This practice gave rise to a threat, yet
made use of--“I will drag you like a horse’s head to the bone-fire.”
About dusk, when no more money can be collected, the bush is trimmed,
the turf and bones are made ready to set on fire, the candles are all
lighted, the bush fully illuminated, and the boys, giving three huzzas,
begin to dance and jump round it. After an hour or so the heap of turf
and bones is set fire to, and when the candles are burnt out the bush is
taken up and thrown into the flames. They continue playing about until
the fire is burnt out, each then returns to his home, and so ends their

About two or three miles from Dublin on the great Northern road is a
village called Finglass. A high pole is decorated with garlands, and
visitors come in from different parts of the country, and dance round it
to whatever music chance may have conducted there. The best male and
female dancers are chosen king and queen, and placed on chairs. When the
dancing is over they are carried by some of the party to an adjacent
public-house, where they regale themselves with ham, beef, whisky-punch,
ale, cakes, and porter, after which they generally have a dance indoors,
and then disperse. There is an old song relating to the above custom,

    “Ye lads and lasses all, to-day,
    To Finglass let us haste away,
    With hearts so light and dresses gay,
        To dance around the maypole.”--

  _Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 595.

On May-day also, or on the preceding night, women put a stocking filled
with yarrow under their pillow, and recite the following lines:--

    “Good morrow, good yarrow, good morrow to thee;
    I hope ’gain [by] the morrow my lover to see,
    And that he may be married to me;
    The colour of his hair, and the clothes he does wear;
    And if he be for me may his face be turned to me;
    And if he be not, dark and surly he may be,
    And his back be turned to me.”--

  _N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. iv. p. 505.



From the following passage in Atkinson’s _Cleveland Glossary_ (p. 417),
it would appear that this is known in that district as St. Helen’s Day;
although the feast, properly so called, is held on August 18th (which
see). The transfer seems to have originated in the fact that the
Invention (or Discovery) of the Cross was due to St. Helen, who was thus
connected with the feast kept on May 3rd under that title.

At Cleveland, Yorkshire, the 2nd of May, St. Helen’s Day, is Rowan-tree
day, or Rowan-tree Witch-day, and on that day even yet with some the
method of proceeding is for some member of the household or family to go
the first thing in the morning, with no thought of any particular
rowan-tree--rather, I believe, it might be said, till some rowan-tree is
fallen in with of which no previous knowledge had been possessed by the
seeker. From this tree a supply of branches is taken, and (a different
path homewards having been taken, by the strict observers, from that by
which they went) on reaching home twigs are stuck over every door of
every house in the homestead, and scrupulously left there until they
fall out of themselves. A piece is also always borne about by many in
their pockets or purses, as a prophylactic against witching. Not so very
long since either the farmers used to have whipstocks of rowan-tree
wood--rowan-tree-gads they were called,--and it was held that, thus
supplied, they were safe against having their draught fixed, or their
horses made restive by a witch. If ever a draught came to a
standstill--there being in such cases no rowan-tree-gad in the driver’s
hands, of course--then the nearest witchwood-tree was resorted to, and a
stick cut to flog the horses on with, to the discomfiture of the
malevolent witch who had caused the stoppage.


On May 2nd, the eve of the Invention of the Holy Cross, it is customary
in Aberdeenshire to form crosses of twigs of the rowan-tree and to place
them over the doors and windows as a protection against evil
spirits.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. ii. p. 483.


Pennant, in his _Tour in Scotland_ (1790, vol. i. p. 111) says that a
Highlander never begins anything of consequence on the day of the week
on which the 3rd of May falls, which he styles _La Sheachanna na
bleanagh_, or the dismal day.



The most remarkable observance of antiquity remaining in this county is
the “Furry festival” which has been celebrated from time immemorial on
the 8th of May. At Helston the day used to be ushered in very early in
the morning by the music of drums and kettles, and other pleasant
sounds, the accompaniments of a song:--

    “Robin Hood and Little John,
      They both are gone to the fair, O;
    And we will to the merry greenwood,
      To see what they do there, O.
    And for to chase, O,
      To chase the buck and doe
      With Hal-an-tow,
      Jolly rumble, O.

    And we were up as soon as any day, O
      And for to fetch the summer home,
    The summer and the may, O,
      For the summer is a come, O,
      And winter is a go, O.
    Where are those Spaniards
      That make so great a boast, O?
    They shall eat the grey goose-feather,
      And we will eat the roast, O.
      In every land, O,
    The land that ere we go,
      With Hal-an-tow, &c.,
      And we were up, &c.

    As for St. George, O,
      St. George he was a knight, O,
    Of all the kings in Christendom,
      King George is the right, O.
      In every land, O,
      The land that ere we go
      With Hal-an-tow, &c.

    God bless Aunt Mary Moses,
      With all her power and might, O;
    And send us peace in merry England,
      Both day and night, O.”

It was a general holiday: so strict, indeed, used the observance of this
jubilee to be held that if any person chanced to be found at work, he
was instantly seized, set astride on a pole, and hurried on men’s
shoulders to the river, where he was sentenced to leap over a wide
space, which if he failed in attempting he of course fell into the
water. There was always, however, a ready compromise of compounding for
a leap. About nine o’clock the revellers appeared before the
grammar-school, and demanded a holiday for the school-boys, after which
they collected money from house to house. They then used to _fadé_ into
the country (_fadé_ being an old English word for to go), and about the
middle of the day returned with flowers and oak-branches in their hats
and caps, and spent the rest of the day until dusk in dancing through
the streets to the sound of the fiddle, playing a particular tune; and
threaded the houses as they chose--claiming a right to go through any
person’s house, in at one door and out of the other. In the afternoon
the ladies and gentlemen visited some farmhouse in the neighbourhood;
whence, after regaling themselves with syllabubs, they returned, after
the fashion of the vulgar, to the town, dancing as briskly the
_fadé-dance_, and entering the houses as unceremoniously. In later times
a select party only made their progress through the streets very late
in the evening, and having quickly vanished from the scene, reappeared
in the ballroom. Here meeting their friends, they went through the usual
routine of dancing till supper; after which they all _faddéd_ it out of
the room, breaking off by degrees to their respective houses. At present
this custom is fast falling into disuse, and the day is only celebrated
by a few of the lower classes.

Murray, in his _Handbook for Cornwall_, 1865, p. 301, says that the
furry festival is in commemoration of the following curious legend:--A
block of granite, which for many years had lain in the yard of the Angel
Inn, was in the year 1783 broken up and used as a part of the building
materials for the assembly-room. This stone, says the legend, was
originally placed at the mouth of hell, from which it was one day
carried away by the devil as he issued forth in a frolicsome mood on an
excursion into Cornwall. Here he traversed the country, playing with his
pebble; but it chanced that St. Michael (who figures conspicuously in
the town arms and is the patron saint of the town) crossed his path; a
combat immediately ensued, and the devil, being worsted, dropped the
_Hell’s stone_ in his flight; hence the name of the town.

There have been many opinions regarding the meaning and derivation of
the word _furry_. Polwhele says (_History of Cornwall_, 1826, vol. ii.
p. 41) that _furry_ is derived from _fer_, a fair: a derivation which
seems probable from the expression in the _furry-song_. “_They both are
gone to the fair, O_.” Some think that the word in question is derived
from the Greek φερω, to bear. The rites of the _furry_ correspond most
intimately with the ανθες φορεα, a Sicilian festival, so named απο τε
φερειν ανθεα, or from _carrying flowers_, in commemoration of the rape
of Proserpine, whom Pluto stole as she was gathering flowers--“herself a
fairer flower!” Others derive the word _furry_ from the Cornish
_furrier_, a thief, from the green spoils they brought home from the
woods.--See Potter’s _Antiquities_, vol. i., and _Gent. Mag._ vol. lx.
pp. 520, 873, 1100.


In the Catholic times of England it was usual to dramatise the descent
of the Holy Ghost, which this festival commemorates,--a custom we find
alluded to in Barnaby Googe’s translation of _Naogeorgus_:

    “On Whit-sunday whyte pigeons tame in strings from heaven flie,
    And one that framed is of wood still hangeth in the skie.
    Thou seest how they with idols play, and teach the people too;
    None otherwise than little gyrls with puppets used to do.”

In an old _Computus_, anno 1509, of St. Patrick’s, Dublin, we find
iv^{s.} vii^{d.} paid to those playing with the great and little angel
and the dragon; iii^{s.} paid for little cords employed about the Holy
Ghost; iv^{s.} vi^{d.} for making the angel (_thurificantis_) censing,
and ii^{s.} ii^{d.} for cords of it--all on the feast of
Pentecost.--_Every Day Book_, vol. i. p. 685.

Whitsunday is observed as a _Scarlet Day_ in the Universities of Oxford
and Cambridge.--_Kalendar of the English Church_, 1865, p. 73.

The origin of the term Whitsunday has been warmly contested by various
writers, and still seems to be an undecided question. For an interesting
article on this subject, see _N. & Q. 5th S._ vol. i. pp. 401-403.
Consult also _N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. ii. p. 154; _3rd S._ vol. vii. p.
479; _4th S._ vol. xi. p. 437. Dr. Neale’s _Church Festivals and their
Household Words._--_The Prayer Book Interleaved_ (Champion and

_Whitsun Ale._--Ale was so prevalent a drink amongst us in old times, as
to become a part of the name of various festal meetings, as Leet-ale,
Lamb-ale, Bride-ale (bridal), and, as we see, Whitsun-ale. It was the
custom of our ancestors to have parochial meetings every Whitsuntide,
usually in some barn near the church, consisting of a kind of picnic, as
each parishioner brought what victuals he could spare. The ale, which
had been brewed pretty strong for the occasion, was sold by the
churchwardens, and from its profits a fund arose for the repair of the
church.--See _Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 637; also Brand, _Pop. Antiq._
1849, vol. i. pp. 276, 283.


Whitsuntide is observed at Polperro by a custom of the young people
going in droves into the country to partake of milk and cream.--_N. & Q.
1st S._ vol. xii. p. 298.

Carew in his _Survey of Cornwall_ (p. 68), speaking of the church ale,
says that “two young men of the parish are yerely chosen by their last
foregoers to be wardens, who, dividing the task, make collection among
the parishioners of whatsoever provision it pleaseth them voluntarily to
bestow. This they employ in brewing, baking, and other acates
[provisions] against Whitsuntide; upon which holy-days the neighbours
meet at the church-house, and there merrily feed on their owne victuals,
contributing some petty portion to the stock, which, by many smalls,
groweth to a meetly greatness; for there is entertayned a kind of
emulation between these wardens, who, by his graciousness in gathering
and good husbandry in expending, can best advance the churche’s profit.
Besides, the neighbour parishes at those times lovingly visit each one
another and this way frankly spend their money together. The afternoones
are consumed in such exercises as olde and yong folke (having leisure)
doe accustomably weare out the time withall. When the feast is ended,
the wardens yeeld in their account to the parishioners, and such money
as exceedeth the disbursement is layd up in store, to defray any
extraordinary charges arising in the parish or imposed on them for the
good of the country or the prince’s service, neither of which commonly
gripe so much but that somewhat still remayneth to cover the purse’s
bottom.” This custom is falling into desuetude, if it be not already
discontinued.--See _N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. xii. 298.


At this season, and also at Martinmas, are held _hirings_ for farmers’
servants. Those who offer their services stand in a body in the
market-place, and to distinguish themselves hold a bit of straw or green
branch in their mouths. When the market is over the girls begin to file
off, and gently pace the streets with a view of gaining admirers, while
the young men, with similar designs, follow them, and, having eyed the
lasses, each picks up a sweetheart, whom they conduct to a dancing-room,
and treat with punch and cake. Here they spend their afternoon, and part
of their half-year’s wages, in drinking and dancing, unless, as it
frequently happens, a girl becomes the subject of contention, when the
harmony of the meeting is interrupted, and the candidates for her
affection settle the dispute by blows without further ceremony. Whoever
wins the victory secures the maid for the present, but she is sometimes
finally won by the vanquished pugilist. When the diversions of the day
are concluded, the servants generally return to their homes, where they
pass about a week before they enter on their respective
services.--Britton and Brayley, _Beauties of England and Wales_, 1803,
vol. iii. p. 243.


Heybridge Church, near Maldon, was formerly strewn with rushes, and
round the pews, in holes made apparently for the purpose, were placed
small twigs just budding.--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. i. p. 471.


At St. Briavels, after divine service, formerly, pieces of bread and
cheese were distributed to the congregation at church. To defray the
expenses, every householder in the parish paid a penny to the
churchwardens, and this was said to be for the liberty of cutting and
taking the wood in Hudnalls. According to tradition, the privilege was
obtained of some Earl of Hereford, then lord of the Forest of Dean, at
the instance of his lady, upon the same hard terms that Lady Godiva
obtained the privileges for the citizens of Coventry.--Rudder, _History
of Gloucestershire_, 1779, p. 307. See _N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. x. p. 184.

A remnant of the old customs of Whitsuntide is retained at the noble old
church of St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, which is annually strewn with
rushes in accordance with ancient practice.--See Edwards, _Old English
Customs and Charities_, pp. 216, 217.

A custom existed at Wickham for the lord of the manor to give a certain
quantity of malt to brew ale to be given away at Whitsuntide, and a
certain quantity of flour to make cakes. Every one who kept a cow sent
curd; others, plums, sugar and flour. A contribution of sixpence from
each person was levied for furnishing an entertainment, to which every
poor person of the parish who came was presented with a quart of ale, a
cake, a piece of cheese, and a cheesecake.--Rudder, _History of
Gloucestershire_, 1779, p. 817.


At Monk Sherborne, near Basingstoke, both the Priory and parish churches
were decorated with birch on Whitsunday.--_N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. ii. p.


On Whitsunday, says a correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_4th S._ vol. i. p.
551), I was in the church of King’s Pion, near Hereford, and was struck
with what seemed to me a novel style of church decoration. Every pew
corner and “point of vantage” was ornamented with a sprig of birch, the
light green leaves of which contrasted well with the sombreness of the
woodwork. No other flower or foliage was to be seen in the church.


Miss Baker (_Glossary of Northamptonshire Words_, 1854, vol. ii. p. 433)
describes the celebration of a Whitsun-ale early in the present century
in a barn at King’s Sutton, fitted up for the entertainment, in which
the lord, as the principal, carried a mace made of silk, finely plaited
with ribbons, and filled with spices and perfumes for such of the
company to smell as desired it; six morris dancers were among the

In a Whitsun-ale, last kept at Greatworth in 1785, the fool, in a motley
garb, with a gridiron painted, or worked with a needle, on his back,
carried a stick with a bladder, and a calf’s tail. Majordomo and his
lady as Queen of May, and my lord’s morris (six in number) were in this
procession. They danced round a garlanded maypole. A banquet was served
in a barn, and all those who misconducted themselves were obliged to
ride a wooden horse, and if still more unruly were put into the stocks,
which was termed being my lord’s organist.--_Glossary, &c._, p. 434.


An unchartered Whitsun Tryste Fair is still held annually on Whitsunbank
Hill, near Wooler.--_N. & Q. 5th S._ vol. i. p. 402.


A custom formerly prevailed amongst the people of Burford to hunt deer
in Wychwood Forest. An original letter, in the possession of the
corporation, dated 1593, directs the inhabitants to forbear the hunting
for that year, on account of the plague that was then raging, and states
an order that should be given to the keepers of the forest, to deliver
to the bailiffs two bucks in lieu of the hunting; which privilege, was
not, however, to be prejudiced in future by its remittance on that
occasion.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 284.


Collinson, in his _History of Somersetshire_ (vol. iii. p. 620),
speaking of Yatton, says that, “John Lane of this parish, gentleman,
left half an acre of ground, called the Groves, to the poor for ever,
reserving a quantity of the grass for the strewing church on


The Irish kept the feast of Whitsuntide with milk food, as among the
Hebrews; and a breakfast composed of cake, bread, and a liquor made by
hot water poured on wheaten bran.--_Every Day Book_, vol. i. p. 685.

At Holy Island, as regularly as the season of Whitsuntide comes, a
concourse of people is assembled to perform penance. They make two
hundred and eighty rounds, the circumference of some being a mile,
others half a mile, till they are gradually diminished to a circuit of
the church of St. Mary. A detailed and probably much exaggerated account
of the scene upon this occasion will be found in Hardy’s _Holy Wells of
Ireland_, 1836, p. 29.



The Whitsun Mysteries were acted at Chester, seven or eight on each day
during the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Whitsun week. The drapers,
for instance, exhibited the “Creation;” the tanners took the “Fall of
Lucifer;” the water-carriers of the Dee reproduced the “Deluge;” the
cooks had the “Harrowing of Hell.” The performers were carried from one
station to another by means of a movable scaffold, a huge and ponderous
machine mounted on wheels, gaily decorated with flags, and divided into
two compartments, the upper of which formed the stage, and the lower,
defended from vulgar curiosity by coarse canvas draperies, answered the
purposes of the green-room. The performers began at the Abbey gates,
where they were witnessed by the high dignitaries of the Church; they
then proceeded to the High Cross, where the Mayor and the civic magnates
were assembled; and so on, through the city, until their motley history
of God and His dealings with man had been played out. The production of
these pageants was costly; each mystery has been set down at fifteen or
twenty pounds, present money. The dresses were obtained from the
churches, until, this practice being denounced as scandalous, the guilds
had then to provide the costume and other properties.--See _Edinburgh
Essays_, 1856; also _Book of Days_, vol. i. pp. 633-637.


Derby having for many centuries been celebrated for its ale, which
Camden says was made here in such perfection, that wine must be very
good to deserve a preference, and Fuller remarks, “Never was the wine of
Falernum better known to the Romans than the canary of Derby is to the
English,” it is not a matter of surprise to find some remnants of the
Whitsun-ales in the neighbourhood. In a manuscript in the Bodleian
Library is a record of the Whitsun-ales at Elvaston and Ockbrook, from
which it appears that they were formerly required to brew four ales of a
quarter of malt each. Every inhabitant of Ockbrook was obliged to be
present at each ale; every husband and his wife to pay twopence, and
every cottager one penny; the inhabitants of Elvaston, Thurlaston, and
Ambaston to receive all the profits and advantages arising from the ales
to the use and behalf of the church at Elvaston. The inhabitants of
Elvaston, Thurlaston, and Ambaston to brew eight ales, each inhabitant
to be present as before, or to send their money.--_Jour. of the Arch.
Assoc._ 1852, vol. vii. p. 206.


At St. Mary’s College, Winchester, the _Dulce Domum_ is sung on the
evening preceding the Whitsun holidays; the masters, scholars, and
choristers, attended by a band of music, walk in procession round the
courts of the College, singing it.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._, 1849, vol. i.
p. 452. See _Gent. Mag._, 1811, vol. lxxxi. p. 503.


A correspondent of the _Gent. Mag._ (1783, vol. liii. p. 578) says there
seems to be a trace of the descent of the Holy Ghost on the heads of the
Apostles in what passes at Whitsuntide Fair, in some parts of
Lancashire, where one person holds a stick over the head of another,
whilst a third, unperceived, strikes the stick, and thus gives a smart
blow to the first.


A fair used to be held on Whitsun Monday at Hinckley, when the millers
from various parts of the country walked in procession dressed in
ribbons, with what they called the _King of the Millers_ at their head.

A writer (in 1787) describing one of these fairs says: To the old
ceremony of riding millers, many improvements were made upon a more
extensive and significant plan: several personages introduced that bore
allusions to the manufacture, and were connected with the place. Old
Hugo Baron de Grentemaisnel, who made his first appearance in 1786,
armed in light and easy pasteboard armour, was this second time armed
cap-a-pie in heavy sinker plate, with pike and shield, on the latter the
arms of the town. The representative baron of Hinckley had the
satisfaction of being accompanied by his lady, the Baroness Adeliza,
habited in the true antique style, with steeple hat, ruff-points,
mantle, &c., all in suitable colours; each riding on nimble white steeds
properly caparisoned; they were preceded by the town banner, and two red
streamers embroidered with their respective names. Several bands of
music gave cheerful spirit to the pageant, but more particularly the
militia band from Leicester. The frame-work knitters, wool-combers,
butchers, carpenters, &c., had each their plays, and rode in companies
bearing devices or allusions to their different trades. Two characters,
well supported, were Bishop Blaise and his chaplain, who figured at the
head of the wool-combers. In their train, appeared a pretty innocent
young pair, a gentle shepherd and shepherdess: the latter carrying a
lamb, the emblem of her little self more than of the trade. Some other
little folks, well dressed, were mounted on ponies, holding instruments,
the marks of their fathers’ businesses, and ornamented with ribbons of
all colours waving in the air.--See Nichols, _History of Hinckley_,
1813, p. 678.

Throsby, in his _History of Leicester_ (1791, vol. iii. p. 85), gives
the following account of a custom observed in his time at Ratby. He
says:--There shall be two persons chosen annually, by a majority, to be
called caterers, which shall on every Whit Monday go to Leicester, to
what inn they shall think proper, where a calf’s head shall be provided
for their breakfast; and when the bones are picked clean, they are to be
put into a dish and served up with the dinner. Likewise, the innkeeper
is to provide two large rich pies, for the caterers to take home, that
their families may partake of some of their festivity. Likewise, there
shall be provided for every person a short silk lace, tagged at both
ends with silver, which, when so equipped, they shall all proceed to
Enderby, and sell the grass of the Wether (a meadow so called) to the
best bidder; from thence they shall go to the meadow, and all dismount,
and each person shall take a small piece of grass from the
before-mentioned Wether, and tie it round with their tagged lace, and
wear it in their hats, and ride in procession to the High Cross in
Leicester, and there throw them among the populace; from thence proceed
to their inn, and go in procession to St. Mary’s Church, where a sermon
shall be preached for the benefit of the hospital founded by Henry, Earl
of Leicester. When service is over, a deed shall be read over by the
clergyman, concerning the gift of the above Wether, and the church shall
be stuck with flowers. When the ceremony is over, they are to return to
their inn to dinner, and close the day with mirth and festivity.


At Corby near Rockingham, every twentieth year, the inhabitants assemble
at an early hour, and stop up all roads and bye-ways in the parish, and
demand a certain toll of every person, gentle or simple, who may have
occasion to pass through the village on that day. In case of
non-compliance a stout pole is produced, and the nonconformist is placed
thereon, in a riding attitude, carried through the village, and taken to
the parish stocks and imprisoned until the authorities choose to grant a
dismissal. It appears that Queen Elizabeth granted to the inhabitants of
Corby a charter to free them from town toll throughout England, Wales,
and Scotland; and also to exempt them from serving on juries at
Northampton, and to free the knights of the shire from the militia law.
This custom of taking toll has been observed every twenty years in
commemoration of the granting of the charter.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. i.
p. 424.


Until within the last century, a custom prevailed in the parish of
Ensham, by which the towns-people were allowed on Whitsun Monday to cut
down and carry away as much timber as could be drawn by men’s hands into
the Abbey yard, the churchwardens previously marking out such timber by
giving the first chop; so much as they could carry out again,
notwithstanding the opposition of the servants of the Abbey to prevent
it, they were to keep for the reparation of the church. By this service
they held their right of commonage at Lammas and Michaelmas, but about
the beginning of last century this practice was laid aside by mutual
consent.--_Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 669.


An old custom, called the “Boy’s Bailiff,” formerly prevailed at
Wenlock, in Whitsun week. It consisted of a man who wore a hair-cloth
gown, and was called the bailiff, a recorder, justices, and other
municipal officers. There were a large retinue of men and boys mounted
on horseback, begirt with wooden swords, which they carried on their
right sides, so that they were obliged to draw their swords out with
their left hands. They used to call at the gentlemen’s houses in the
franchise, where they were regaled with refreshment; and they afterwards
assembled at the Guildhall, where the town clerk read some sort of
rigmarole which they called their charter, one part of which was--

    “We go from Bickbury, and Badger, to Stoke on the Clee,
    To Monkhopton, Round Acton, and so return we.”

The first three named places are the extreme points of the franchise,
and the other two are on the return to Much Wenlock. This custom is
supposed to have originated in going a bannering.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._,
1849, vol. i. p. 284.


The Court of Array, or view of men and arms, was held on Whitsun Monday
in the vicinity of Lichfield, called Greenhill, where every householder
failing to answer his name when called from the dozeners’ list was fined
a penny. The origin of this singular ceremony is unknown; it existed
long before the charters of incorporation, and may perhaps be the
remains of the commissions of array issued in the time of Henry V., who
ordered every man to keep in his possession arms and armour, according
to his goods and station in life, whence the enrolment of a regular
armour took place. These statutes of array were repealed. Something,
however, like the old custom was continued, and a booth erected for this
purpose, in which the magistrates received all the inhabitants who chose
to visit them, and partake of a collation provided for that purpose.

The business of the day commenced about eight o’clock in the morning,
when the constables, attended by armed men wearing their colours of
distinction, with drums beating, preceded by morris dancers, with the
Maid Marian, tabor and pipe, &c., conducted the bailiffs and sheriff,
and other city officers, to the bower, where they were received with a
salute from the men at arms. The constable then returned to collect the
dozeners with their standards or posies, who, with the inhabitants of
each separate ward, were with like ceremonies conducted to the bower.
The posies were probably originally images of saints: they afterwards
became emblems of trades, or in many instances mere puppets or garlands
borne upon the heads of their ancient halberds; these were in every ward
received with a volley from the men at arms, who also fired over every
separate house, for which they received money and liquor from the
inhabitants. Greenhill was on these occasions crowned with shows,
booths, and stalls, and the day was regarded as a festival for the city
and neighbourhood. About nine o’clock in the evening, the whole of the
posies being collected, a procession was formed to conduct them to what
was called the christening, and was in the following order:--

  Tabor and pipe decorated with ribands.

  Tom fool and Maid Marian.

  Morrice dancers, dancing sarabands, clashing their staves.

  Two captains of the armed men.

  Twenty-four armed men with drums.

  Twenty-one dozeners with standards or posies.

  Two constables.



  Serjeants at Mace and Town Crier.

  Bailiffs, and Town Clerk.

  Citizens, inhabitants, &c.

On arriving at the door of St. Mary’s Church, after passing up Boar
Street, and down Sadler Street, an address was made by the town clerk,
recommending a peaceable demeanour, and watchful attendance to their
duty; and a volley being fired over the posies the business of the day
ended. At one time the images were deposited in the belfry of the
adjoining church, from which it may be concluded that the origin of this
procession was religious. This custom was abolished by the magistrates
in 1805, at which time the expense was annually about £70; but was
afterwards in some degree continued by private subscription.--_Account
of Lichfield_, 1818, 1819, p. 87.

Southey, in his _Common Place Book_ (1849, 2nd S. p. 336), gives the
following extract from Mrs. Fienne’s MSS:--

“At Lichfield they have a custom at Whitsuntide, ye Monday and Tuesday,
called the Green Bower Feast, by which they hold their charter. The
bailiff and sheriff assist at the ceremony of dressing up babies with
garlands of flowers and greens, and carry them in procession through all
the streets, and then assemble themselves at the market-place, and so go
in a solemn procession through the great street to a hill beyond the
town, where is a large green bower made, in which they have their feast.
Many smaller bowers are made around for company, and for booths to sell
fruit, sweetmeats, ginger-bread,” &c.


At Tenby a women’s benefit club walked in procession to church with band
and banners before them and bunches of flowers in their hands. After the
service they dined, and wound up the evening by dancing.--Mason’s _Tales
and Traditions of Tenby_, 1858, p. 23.



At Biddenham there is an ancient customary donation of a quantity of
malt, made at Whitsuntide by the proprietor of Kempston Mill, near the
parish. The malt is always delivered to the overseers of the poor for
the time being, and brewed by them into ale, which is distributed among
all the poor inhabitants of Biddenham on Whit Tuesday.--_Old English
Customs and Charities_, 1842, p. 65.


The Eton Montem was a long celebrated and time-honoured ceremony
peculiar to Eton, and said to have been coeval with the foundation of
the college, and was observed biennially but latterly triennially down
to the year 1844, when it was totally abolished. It was a procession of
the scholars dressed either in military or fancy costume, to a small
mount on the south side of the Bath Road (supposed to be a British or
Saxon barrow), where they exacted money for salt, as the phrase was,
from all persons present, and from travellers passing. The ceremony was
called the _Montem_. The procession of boys, accompanied by bands of
music, and carrying standards, was usually followed by many old
Etonians, and even by members of the royal family--in some cases by the
king and queen. Arrived at Salt-hill, the boys ascended the “mons,” or
mount, the “captain” unfolded the grand standard, and delivered a speech
in Latin, and the “salt” was collected. The principal “salt-bearers”
were superbly dressed, and carried embroidered bags for the money. The
donation of the king and queen was called the “royal salt,” and tickets
were given to those who had paid their salt.[59] Immense numbers of
people used to assemble to witness the procession, and the money
collected frequently exceeded £1000. After deducting the necessary
expenses, the remainder was given to the senior scholar, who was elected
to Cambridge, for his support at that University.

  [59] The mottoes on the tickets varied in different years. In 1773,
  the words were “Ad Montem;” in 1781 and 1787 “Mos pro lege est;” in
  1790, 1796, 1808, 1812, “Pro more et monte;” and in 1799 and 1805,
  “Mos pro lege.”--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._, 1849, vol. i. p. 436.

The origin of this custom, notwithstanding much antiquarian research, is
unknown. Some, however, are of opinion that it was identical with the
_bairn_ or _boy_-bishop. It originally took place on the 6th of
December, the festival of St. Nicholas (the patron of children; being
the day on which it was customary at Salisbury, and in other places
where the ceremony was observed, to elect the _boy_-bishop, from among
the children belonging to the cathedral), but afterwards it was held on
Whitsun Tuesday.--Sheahan, _History of Buckinghamshire_, 1862, p. 862;
Lysons’ _Magna Britannia_, 1813, vol. i. pt. ii. p. 558; _Gent. Mag._,
1820, vol. xc. p. 55; See _N. & Q. 1st S._, vol i. pp. 110, 322; _2nd
S._ vol. ii. p. 146.


The ten principal estates in the parish of Hesket were formerly called
_Red Spears_, from the titles of the owners, obtained from the curious
tenure of riding through the town of Penrith on every Whitsun Tuesday,
brandishing their spears. These _Red-Spear Knights_ seem to have been
regarded as sureties to the sheriff for the peaceable behaviour of the
inhabitants.--Britton and Brayley, _Beauties of England and Wales_,
1802, vol. iii. p. 171.


On the evening of Whitsun Tuesday, a sermon is annually preached in the
ancient church of St. James, Mitre Court, Aldgate, London, from a text
having special reference to flowers. This is popularly called the
“Flower sermon.”--_Kalendar of the English Church_, 1865, p. 74.

On this day is delivered in St. Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch, a
“Botanical sermon”--the Fairchild Lecture,--for which purpose funds were
left by Thomas Fairchild, who died in 1729. It was formerly the custom
of the President and several Fellows of the Royal Society to hear this
sermon preached.--Timbs’ _Something for Everybody_, 1861, p. 80.


The custom of “riding the marches” existed at Lanark, and took place
annually on the day after Whitsun Fair, by the magistrates and
burgesses, known by the name of the Langemark or Landsmark Day, from the
Saxon _langemark_.[60]--Sinclair’s _Stat. Acc. of Scotland_, 1795, vol.
xv. p. 45.

  [60] See _Riding the Marches_, p. 307.


The vicinity of Chipping Campden was the theatre of the Coteswold Games,
which, in the reign of James I. and his unfortunate successor, were
celebrated in this part of England. They were instituted by a
public-spirited attorney of Burton-on-the-Heath, in Warwickshire, named
Robert Dover, and like the Olympic games of the ancients, consisted of
most kinds of manly exercises. The victors were rewarded by prizes,
distributed by the institutor, who, arrayed in a discarded habit of
James’, superintended the games in person for many years. The meetings
were annually held on Whitsun Thursday, and were frequently attended by
an immense number of people.

Ben Jonson, Drayton, and other poets[61] of that age, wrote verses on
this festivity, which, in 1636, were collected into one volume, and
published under the title of _Annalia Dubrensia_.

  [61] Thomas Randolph, Thomas Heywood, Owen Feltham, and Shackerly

These diversities were at length terminated by the breaking out of the
civil wars, but were revived at the Restoration; and the memory of their
founder is still preserved in the name Dover’s Hill, applied to an
eminence of the Cotswold range, about a mile from the village of
Campden.--Britton and Brayley, _Beauties of England and Wales_, 1803,
vol. v. p. 655; see _Book of Days_, vol. i. 712.


In the parish of Rockland, annually on the 16th of May, a sort of
country fair is held, called by the villagers the “Guild,” and which is
evidently a relic of the Guild of St. John the Baptist, held here in St.
Peter’s Church before the Reformation. On this occasion a mayor of the
Guild is elected, and he is chaired about the three parishes of
Rockland, and gathers largess, which is afterwards spent in a frolic.
There is another antique custom connected with the guild which yet
obtains: the inhabitants of certain houses in the “Street” have the
privilege of hanging oaken-boughs outside their doors (and their houses
are thence called “bough houses”), and on the day of the guild they draw
home-brewed ale for all customers, and are not interfered with for so
doing, either by the village licensed publican or the excise
authorities.--_N. &. Q. 2nd S._ vol. vii. p. 450.



About the middle of May there is an annual migration of young eels up
the Thames at Kingston. They appear in shoals, giving to the margin of
the river an appearance not altogether agreeable; but their origin and
destination are alike matter of conjecture. It is reasonably supposed
that these swarms migrate from the lakes in Richmond Park, where immense
numbers are annually bred, and that they descend the rivers, stocking
the creeks and streams for some miles above the town. There is generally
a crowd of eager men, women, and children, provided with every possible
vessel wherein to catch the slippery prey on the first intimation of
their approach; and the animated scene has caused the occasion to be
called Eel Fair.--Biden, _History of Kingston-upon-Thames_, 1852, p.


Its observance is said to have first been established by Archbishop
Becket, soon after his consecration. “Hic post consecrationem suam
instituit festivitatem principalem S. Trinitatis annis singulis in
perpetuam celebrandam, quo die primam missam suam celebravit.”--Wharton,
H., _Anglia Sacra_, 1691, fol. pt. i. p. 8.

It is still customary for the judges and great law-officers of the
Crown, together with the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council, to
attend Divine Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, and hear a sermon.

On Trinity Sunday, formerly, processions of children, with garlands of
flowers and ribbons, were common.--Timbs’ _Something for Everybody_,
1861, p. 83.


The parish of Clee possesses a right of cutting rushes from a piece of
land, called “Bescars,” for the purpose of strewing the floor of the
church every Trinity Sunday. A small quantity of grass is annually cut
to preserve this right.--Edwards, _Old English Customs and Charities_,
p. 217.


The following extract is taken from the Newcastle _Daily Journal_ of
June 17th, 1867:--

Yesterday being Trinity Sunday, in pursuance of a time-honoured custom,
the Master, Deputy-Master, and Brethren of the Ancient and Honourable
Corporation of the Trinity House attended officially in All Saints’
Parish Church, Newcastle. A noteworthy relic of the past in connection
with the service was the performance on the organ (on the entrance and
exit of the Master and Brethren) of the national air, ‘Rule Britannia.’
The rendering of a secular air--even as an evidence of respect--has been
objected to; but the organist cites the custom of half a century.


Aubrey, in his _Miscellanies_ (1714, p. 49), speaking of Newnton, says:
“Upon every Trinity Sunday, the parishioners being come to the door of
the hayward’s house, the door was struck thrice in honour of the Holy
Trinity; they then entered. The bell was rung; after which, silence
being ordered, they read their prayers aforesaid. Then was a ghirland of
flowers (about the year 1660 one was killed striving to take away the
ghirland) made upon an hoop, brought forth by a maid of the town upon
her neck, and a young man (a bachelor) of another parish first saluted
her three times in honour of the Trinity, in respect of God the Father.
Then she puts the ghirland upon his neck and kisses him three times in
honour of the Trinity, particularly God the Son. Then he puts the
ghirland on her neck again, and kisses her three times in honour of the
Holy Trinity and particularly the Holy Ghost. Then he takes the ghirland
from her neck, and, by the custom, must give her a penny at least,
which, as fancy leads, is now exceeded, as 2_s._ 6_d._, &c. The method
of giving this ghirland is from house to house annually, till it comes
round. In the evening, every commoner sends his supper to this house,
which is called the _Eale-house_; and having before laid in there
equally a stock of malt, which was brewed in the house, they sup
together, and what was left was given to the poor.”


A very ancient custom is observed on Trinity Sunday in Carnarvonshire:
the offerings of calves and lambs which happen to be born with the _Nod
Beuno_, or mark of St. Beuno--a certain natural mark in the ear,--have
not yet entirely ceased. They are brought to church (but formerly to the
monastery[62]) of Clynnok Vaur on Trinity Sunday, and delivered to the
churchwardens, who sell and account for them, depositing the money in a
great chest, called _Cyff St. Beuno_, made of one oak, and secured with
three locks. From this, the Welsh have a proverb for attempting any very
difficult thing. “You may as well try to break open St. Beuno’s chest.”
The little money resulting from the sacred beasts, or casual offerings,
is applied either to the relief of the poor or in aid of repairs.--
Pennant, _Tour through North Wales_, 1781, vol. ii. p. 210.

  [62] This monastery was founded A.D. 616, by Guithin of Gwydaint. It
  was afterwards turned into a monastery of white monks, but these seem
  soon to have been suppressed, for, at the time of Pope Nicholas IV.’s
  taxation it was a collegiate church, consisting of five Portionists or
  Prebendaries, and continued so to the time of the
  dissolution.--Leland, _Itin._ vol. v. p. 15; Dugdale, _Monast.
  Anglic._ 1825, vol. v. p. 631.



An annual fair is held on Trinity Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at
Southampton. It is opened by the Mayor and bailiffs, with much ceremony,
on the preceding Saturday afternoon. The Mayor erects a pole with a
large glove fixed to the top of it, near the miller’s house; and the
bailiff then takes possession of the fair, as chief magistrate in its
precinct during the fair, and invites the Mayor and his suite to a
collation in his tent. He appoints a guard of halberdiers who keep the
peace by day, and watch the fair by night. During the fair no person can
be arrested for debt within its precincts. On the Wednesday at noon, the
Mayor dissolves the fair, by taking down the pole and glove, or rather
ordering it to be taken down; which at one time was done by the young
men of the town, who fired at it with single balls, till it was
destroyed, or they were tired of the sport.--Englefield, _Walk through
Southampton_, 1805, p. 75.


Deptford Fair originated in trifling pastimes for persons who assembled
to see the Master and Brethren of the Trinity House, on their annual
visit to the Trinity House, at Deptford. First there were juggling
matches; then came a booth or two; afterwards a few shows.--_Every Day
Book_, vol. i. p. 724.


At Kidlington, says Blount (_Jocular Tenures_, Beckwith’s edition, p.
281), the custom is that on Monday after Whitsun week there is a fat
live lamb provided; and the maids of the town, having their thumbs tied
behind them, run after it, and she that with her mouth takes and holds
the lamb, is declared _Lady of the Lamb_, which being dressed, with the
skin hanging on, is carried on a long pole before the lady and her
companions to the green, attended with music, and a Morisco dance of
men, and another of women, where the rest of the day is spent in
dancing, mirth, and merry glee. The next day the lamb is part baked,
boiled, and roasted, for the lady’s feast, where she sits majestically
at the upper end of the table, and her companions with her, with music
and other attendants, which ends the solemnity.


In North Wales, at Llanasaph, there is a custom of strewing green herbs
and flowers at the doors of houses on Corpus Christi Eve.--Pennant’s
_Manuscript_ quoted by Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 297.

At Caerwis on Thursday after Trinity Sunday, which they call _Dudd Son
Duw_, or _Dydd Gwyl Duw_, on the Eve before, they strew a sort of fern
before their doors, called _red yn mair_--Pennant’s MS.


Corpus Christi Day is held on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, to
celebrate, as the name indicates, the doctrine of Transubstantiation,
and was instituted in the year 1264 by Pope Urban IV.

In olden times the Skinners’ fraternity of Corpus Christi made their
procession on this day, having “borne before them more than two hundred
torches of wax, costly garnished, burning bright” (or painted and gilded
with various devices); and “above two hundred clerks and priests, in
surplices and copes, singing,” after which came the officers; “the mayor
and aldermen in scarlet, and then the skinners in their best liveries.”
A temporary revival of these imposing shows took place in Mary’s days
previously to their discontinuance.--Timbs’ _Something for Everybody_,
1861, p. 84.


At one time on Corpus Christi Day the crafts or companies of Norwich
walked in procession from the common hall, by Cutter Row, and round the
market to the hall again. Each company had its banner, on which was
painted its patron or guardian saint.--See _History of Norwich_, 1768,
vol. i. p. 175.


The earliest mention of the religious ceremony of Corpus Christi play
and procession in Newcastle-upon-Tyne occurs in the Ordinary of the
Coopers’ Company, dated January 20th, 1426; though the great popularity
of these exhibitions at York and other places must have induced the
clergy, merchants, and incorporated traders of that town, to adopt them
long before this time. There can be but little doubt that the several
trades strove to outvie each other in the splendour of their
exhibitions. The Company of Merchant Adventurers were concerned in the
representation of five plays. The hoastmen, drapers, mercers, and
boothmen had probably each one.

“Hoggmaygowyk” was the title of one of their plays, the representing of
which, in 1554, cost 4_l._ 2_s._ This Company, in 1480, made an act for
settling the order of their procession on Corpus Christi Day. In 1586
the offering of Abraham and Isaac was exhibited by the slaters.

By the Ordinary of the goldsmiths, plumbers, glaziers, pewterers, and
painters, dated 1436, they were commanded to play at their feast the
three Kings of Coleyn. In the books of the fullers and dyers, one of the
charges for the play of 1564 is: “Item, for 3 yards of lyn cloth for
God’s coat, 3_s._ 2_d._ ob.” About the year 1578, the Corpus Christi
plays seem to have been on the decline; for the Ordinary of the millers,
dated that year, says, “Whensoever the general plaies of the town shall
be commanded by the mayor, &c.,” they are to play, “the Antient playe
of, &c.” Similar expressions are used in the Ordinary of the house
carpenters in 1579, in that of the masons in 1581, and also in that of
the joiners in 1589. Weaver, in his _Funeral Monuments_, says that these
plays were finally suppressed in all towns of the kingdom, about the
beginning of the reign of James I. The only vestige that remains of the
Newcastle Mysteries was preserved by Bourne. It is entitled “Noah’s Ark;
or, the Shipwright’s Ancient Play or Dirge,” wherein God, an Angel, Noah
and his wife, and the Devil are the characters. Mackenzie, _History of
Newcastle_, 1827, vol. ii. p. 708; Hone’s _Ancient Mysteries Described_,
1823, p. 213.


The play of Corpus Christi was acted in the City of York till the
twenty-sixth year of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, 1584.

It consisted of a solemn procession, in remembrance of the Sacrament of
the Body of Christ; the symbolic representation being borne in a shrine.
Every trade in the city was obliged to furnish a pageant at its own
expense, and join the procession, and each individual had to personify
some particular passage in the Old or New Testament, and to repeat some
poetry on the occasion. The whole was preceded by a great number of
lighted torches, and a multitude of priests in their proper habits;
after which followed the mayor and citizens, surrounded by an immense
concourse of spectators. Commencing at the great gate of the priory of
the Holy Trinity, they proceeded to the Cathedral Church and thence to
St. Leonard’s Hospital, where they left the sacrament. There are several
public orders yet remaining in the old register of the city relative to
the regulation of this ceremony; and indulgences were granted from the
Pope to those who contributed to the relief of the fraternity, or who
observed the annual ceremony in the most devout manner, particularly if
they personally attended from the country.--Drake’s _Eboracum_, 1736;
Hargrove, _History of York_, 1818, vol. ii. p. 494.


Corpus Christi Day was formerly celebrated at Dublin with high
veneration. In the Chain-book of the City of Dublin are several entries
to that purpose. We are told that there was a grand procession, in which
the glovers were to represent Adam and Eve, with an angel bearing a
sword before them.

The corrisees (perhaps curriers) were to represent Cain and Abel, with
an altar and their offering.

Mariners and vintners, Noah and the persons in his Ark, apparelled in
the habit of carpenters and salmon-takers.

The weavers personated Abraham and Isaac, with their offering and altar.

The smiths represented Pharaoh, with his host.

The skinners, the camell with the children of Israel, &c.--See Harris,
_History of Dublin_, 1766, p. 147.


This celebrated fair, says Brand (_Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 286),
commences upon Friday in Trinity week, and lasts for eight days. The
charter for it was granted by Henry III. in 1218, at the instigation of
Randle, Earl of Chester. For many years it was one of the chief marts in
the kingdom, and was celebrated for the show designated the Procession
of Lady Godiva, of which Brand has given a long account.


In the _Book of Days_ (vol. i. pp. 704-708) will be found an interesting
and amusing account of the Shrewsbury Show, which appears, from the
records of the reign of Henry VI., to have been held time out of mind on
the second Monday after Trinity Sunday.



The 25th of May, as the Whitsunday term (old style), is a great day in
Scotland, being that on which, for the most part, people change their
residences. The Scotch generally lease their houses by the year, and are
thus at every twelve-month’s end able to shift their place of abode.
Accordingly, every Candlemas a Scotch family gets an opportunity of
considering whether it will, in the language of the country, sit or
flit. The landlord or his agent calls to learn the decision on this
point; and if “flit” is the resolution, he takes measures by advertising
to obtain a new tenant. The two or three days following upon the
Purification, therefore, become distinguished by a feathering of the
streets with boards projected from the windows, intimating “A House to
Let.”--See _Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 679.


In the _Diary_ of John Evelyn (1859, vol. i. p. 373), under the date of
May 29th, 1665, is the following statement:--

This was the first anniversary appointed by Act of Parliament to be
observed as a day of General Thanksgiving for the miraculous restoration
of His Majesty: our vicar preaching on Psalm cxviii., 24, requiring us
to be thankful and rejoice, as indeed we had cause.[63]

  [63] The special form of prayer in commemoration of the Restoration of
  Charles II., was removed from the Prayer Book by Act of Parliament (22
  Vict. c. 2. March 25, 1859).

On this day the chaplain of the House of Commons preached in St.
Margaret’s Church, Westminster, before “the House,” usually represented
by the Speaker, the Sergeant-at-arms, the clerks, and other officers,
and some half-dozen members. This observance has been discontinued since
1858.--Timbs’ _Something for Everybody_, 1861, p. 74.

It is customary, especially in the North of England, for the common
people to wear in their hats the leaves of the oak, which are sometimes
covered with gold leaf.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._, 1849, vol. i. p. 273.


At Looe, as well as in other districts of East Cornwall, the usage of
wearing an oaken leaf on the 29th of May was enforced by spitting at, or
“cobbing,” the offender.--_Once a Week_, September 24th, 1870.


On the 29th of May branches of young oak are gathered and put up over
the doors of many houses, and a small sprig of the same tree is commonly
worn in the button-hole.--_Jour. of Arch. Assoc._, 1852, vol. viii. p.


In the vicinity of Starcross the children celebrate this anniversary by
carrying about what they call May babies, i.e., little dolls, carefully
and neatly dressed, decked with flowers, and laid in boxes somewhat
resembling coffins, though such resemblance is not, apparently, the
intention of the artists.--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. ii. p. 405.

In the _Every Day Book_ (1826, vol. i. p. 718) occurs the following:--

At Tiverton, on the 29th of May, it is customary for a number of young
men, dressed in the style of the seventeenth century, and armed with
swords, to parade the streets, and gather contributions from the
inhabitants. At the head of the procession walks a man called “Oliver,”
dressed in black, with his face and hands smeared over with soot and
grease, and his body bound by a strong cord, the end of which is held by
one of the men to prevent his running too far. After these come another
troop, dressed in the same style, each man bearing a large branch of
oak; four others, carrying a kind of throne made of oaken boughs, on
which a child is seated, bring up the rear. A great deal of merriment is
excited among the boys at the pranks of “Master Oliver,” who capers
about in a most ludicrous manner. Some of them amuse themselves by
casting dirt, whilst others, more mischievously inclined, throw stones
at him: but woe betide the young urchin who is caught; his face assumes
a most awful appearance from the soot and grease with which “Oliver”
begrimes it, whilst his companions, who have been lucky enough to escape
his clutches, testify their pleasure by loud shouts. In the evening the
whole party have a feast, the expenses of which are defrayed by the
collection made in the morning.


Mr. Cuthbert Carlton, of Durham, gives in the _Durham Chronicle_, of
November 29th, 1872, the following account of a curious custom called
“Push Penny.” He says: “This custom, which has been discontinued nearly
a quarter of a century, is thus referred to in the _Derbyshire Times_ of
Saturday last:--‘There is a custom which has been upheld from time
immemorial by the Dean and Chapter of Durham on three days in the
year--30th of January, 29th of May, and 5th of November, the anniversary
of King Charles’ Martyrdom, Royal Oak Day, and Gunpowder Plot, which is
known among Durham lads as “push-penny.” On these days the Chapter
causes twenty shillings in copper to be scrambled for in the college
yard by the juveniles, who never fail to be present.’ The practice
observed every 29th of May, and 5th of November, was to throw away
within the college thirty shillings in penny pieces. Whether the custom
dates from time immemorial, it is difficult to say, but the two last
dates would seem only to point to the origin of the custom at the end of
the seventeenth, or beginning of the eighteenth centuries, to testify
the loyalty of the Dean and Chapter to the Throne, and their
appreciation of the happy restoration of the ‘Merry Monarch,’ and the
escape of the King and his Parliament on the 5th of November. There was
some such custom, however, during the monastic period, when pennies were
thrown away to the citizens who were wont to assemble in the vicinity of
the Prior’s mansion. At Bishop Auckland the bishop was accustomed to
throw away silver pennies at certain times of the year, and it is even
said that so much as a peck of copper was in earlier times scattered
broad-cast among the people. The Reformation, however, swept these and
many other old customs away, but after the Restoration of Charles II.,
the Dean and Chapter no doubt considered the 29th of May and the 5th of
November ought to be kept as days of rejoicing, and as one means of
doing so caused one of their officials to throw a bag full of pennies to
the people who met in the college. The duty was entrusted to the senior
verger of the cathedral. For many years it was the practice for the
children of the Blue Coat Schools to attend Divine service in the
cathedral, who were drawn up in rank and file in the nave, for the
inspection of the prebends, who minutely examined the new scholastic
garments of the Blue Coat scholars. This being done they were ushered
into the choir, and at the end of the service a regular pell-mell rush
was made for the cloister doors, in order to be present at ‘push-penny.’
The scenes on these occasions were almost beyond description. For a few
years the custom thus continued, the attendants at ‘push-penny’
gradually diminishing; for twenty-five years, however, it has been
discontinued, nor is it likely to be revived.”

At Durham also on the 29th of May, the choir ascend the large tower of
the cathedral, and sing anthems from the three sides of it. This is done
in remembrance of the monks chanting masses from it in behalf of Queen
Philippa, when engaged in the sanguinary battle of Redhills with the
Scotch King, David I., 1346. The battle is commonly called the battle of
Neville’s Cross, from the beautiful cross erected on the field of
victory by the powerful Baron of that name, a fragment of which still
remains. The reason given why anthems are only sung from three sides of
the tower, not from the fourth, is that a chorister once overbalanced
himself, and falling from it was killed.--_Times_, May 6th, 1875.


The working men of Basingstoke and other towns in Hampshire arise early
on the 29th of May to gather slips of oak with the galls on; these they
put in their hats or anywhere about their persons. They also hang pieces
to the knockers, latches, or other parts of the house-doors of the
wealthy, who take them in to place in their halls, &c. After breakfast
these men go round to such houses for beer, &c. Should they not receive
anything the following verses should be said:

    “Shig-shag, penny a rag
    [Bang his head in Croommell’s bag],
    All up in a bundle.”--

but fear often prevents them. However, the lads have no fear, and use it
freely to any one without an oak-apple or oak leaf on some part of his
person, and visible--ill-treating him for his want of loyalty. After
noon the loyalty ceases and then if any one be charged with having
_shig-shag_, the following verses are said:

    “Shig-shag’s gone past,
    You’re the biggest fool at last;
    When shig-shag comes again,
    You’ll be the biggest fool then.”

And the one who charges the other with the oak-leaf receives the
ill-treatment.--_N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. xii. p. 100.


It was the custom, some years ago, to decorate the monument of Richard
Penderell (in the churchyard of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, London), on the
29th of May, with oak branches; but in proportion to the decay of
popularity in kings, this practice has declined.--Canfield, _Portraits,
Memoirs, and Characters of Remarkable Persons_, 1794, p. 186.


Formerly all the principal families in the town of Northampton placed a
large branch of oak over the door of their houses, or in their
balconies, in remembrance of the restoration of Charles II. The
oak-boughs are gradually disappearing, but the corporate body still goes
in procession to All Saints Church, accompanied by the boys and girls of
the different charity schools, each of them having a sprig of oak, with
a gilt _oak-apple_ placed in the front of their dress; and should the
season be unpropitious, and oak-apples be scarce, small gilded potatoes
are substituted. The commemoration of this day has probably been more
generally and loyally observed in this town than in many other places,
from a feeling of gratitude to that monarch, who munificently
contributed 1000 tons of timber out of Whittlewood Forest and remitted
the duty of chimney-money in Northampton for seven years, towards the
rebuilding of the town after the destructive fire of 1675. The statue of
the king, which is placed in the centre of the balustrade on the portico
of All Saints’ Church, is always enveloped in oak-boughs on this
day.--_Glossary of Northamptonshire Words and Phrases_, vol. ii. p. 68.


At one time the boys at Newcastle-upon-Tyne had a taunting rhyme, with
which they used to insult such persons as they met on this day who had
not oak-leaves in their hats:

    “Royal oak,
    The Whigs to provoke.”

There was a retort courteous by others, who contemptuously wore
plane-tree leaves:

    “Plane-tree leaves;
    The Church folk are thieves.”

  Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 274.


On Royal Oak Day branches of that tree are carried in procession, and
decorate many of the signs of public houses in Nottingham and
elsewhere.--_Jour. of the Arch. Assoc._, 1853, vol. viii. p. 234.

On this day the Notts juveniles not only wear the usual piece of
oak-twig, but each young loyalist is armed with a nettle, with which
instrument of torture are coerced those unfortunates who are unprovided
with “royal oak,” as it is called. Some who are unable to procure it
endeavour to avoid the penalty by wearing “dog oak” (maple), but the
punishment is always more severe on discovery of the imposition.--_N. &
Q. 1st S._ vol. viii. p. 490.


In some parts of this county a garland, similar to the May-day one, is
taken about on the 29th of May.--_N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. x. p. 92.

At Upton-upon-Severn oak-apple day is anxiously looked forward to by old
and young. Early in the morning ropes are stretched across the street,
upon which are hung garlands, composed of all such flowers as are in
bloom. The garlands are also ornamented with coloured ribbons and
handkerchiefs, and all the tea-spoons which can be collected are hung in
the middle. Maypoles, though less common, and large boughs of oak are
pressed into service. Many are the penn’orths of gold leaf sold the day
before, with which to gild the oak-apple for the button-hole. A benefit
club meets on this day, and walks in procession with band and flags to
church, after which they make a progress through the town, with music
playing and colours flying, finishing up with a dinner.--_Illustrated
London News_, May 30th, 1857, p. 515.


_Riding the Marches._--The practice of Riding the Marches, says a writer
in the _Stat. Acc. of Scotland_ (1845, vol. iii. p. 399), is observed in
the parish of Hawick, Roxburghshire. This ancient ceremonial takes place
on the last Friday of May (old style), and is considered one of the most
important days of the year. The honour of carrying the standard of the
town devolves upon the cornet, a young man previously elected for the
purpose; and he and the magistrates of the town on horseback, and a
large body of the inhabitants and the burgesses, set out in procession
for the purpose of riding round the property of the town, and making
formal demonstration of their legal rights.

The following are a few stanzas from an ancient song, which is sung by
the cornet and his attendants from the roof of an old tenement belonging
to the town, and loudly joined in by the surrounding multitudes:--

    “We’ll a’ hie to the muir a riding,
    Drumlanrig gave it for providing
    Our ancestors of martial order
    To drive the English off our border.

    At Flodden field our fathers fought it,
    And honour gained, though dear they bought it;
    By Teviot side they took this colour,
    A dear memorial of their valour.

    Though twice of old our town was burned,
    Yet twice the foemen back we turned,
    And ever should our rights be trod on,
    We’ll face the foe to Tirioden.[64]

    Up wi’ Hawick its rights and common!
    Up wi’ a’ the border bowmen!
    Tiribus and Tirioden.
    We are up to guard the common.”

  [64] The slogan or war-cry of the burgh was “Tiribus and Tirioden,” a
  phrase probably derived from the Saxons or Danes. The first word may
  be understood as making tolerably good Anglo-Saxon. Tyr hœbbe us; May
  Tyr have us in his keeping. Whilst the other conjoins the names of Tyr
  and Odin, whose united aid is supposed to be invoked.

  Mr. Wilson, author of _Annals and Old Memories of Hawick_, thinks that
  the meaning of the phrase, in our sense, is, “Gods of thunder and war,
  protect us;” in another sense, “To battle, sons of the gods.”

The ancient feudal system of “the Riding of the Marches” by the
burgesses still exists also at Inveresk, once within the fifty years.
They appear mounted on horseback, and armed with swords. The seven
incorporated trades, each headed by its captain, follow in the train of
the magistrates and town-council, the whole cavalcade being preceded by
the town officers, with their ancient Brabant spears, and a champion
armed cap-a-pie. A gratuity is also allowed to a minstrel, who attends
at the succeeding feast, and recites in verse the glories of the
pageantry.[65]--_Stat. Acc. of Scotland_, 1845, vol. i. p. 268.

  [65] Until about the year 1830, on the annual payment of their rent to
  the agent of the Duke of Buccleuch, an entertainment was given by the
  magistrates, under the title of “the Hen Feast.” It derived this title
  from the consideration that “the kain fowls” due by the lessees of the
  burgh mills were served up on this occasion.--_Ibid._, p. 269.



A correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_1st S._ vol. viii. p. 66) quotes from an
old newspaper (June 7th, 1809) the following account of Paignton Fair,
held at Exeter. At this fair, says the writer, the ancient custom of
drawing through the town a plum-pudding of immense size, and afterwards
of distributing it to the populace, was revived on Tuesday last. The
ingredients which composed this enormous pudding were--four hundred
pounds of flour, one hundred and seventy pounds of beef suet, one
hundred and forty pounds of raisins, and two hundred and forty eggs. It
was kept constantly boiling in a brewer’s copper from Saturday morning
to the Tuesday following, when it was placed on a car, decorated with
ribbons, evergreens, &c., and drawn along the streets by eight oxen.


A solemn festival in the Scotch Metropolis is ordained by the _Statutes_
of George Heriot’s Hospital (cap. ii.) in the following words: “But
especially upon the first Monday in June, every year, shall be kept a
solemn commemoration and thanksgiving unto God, in this form which
followeth: In the morning, about eight of the clock of that day, the
lord provost, all the ministers, magistrates, and ordinary Council of
the city of Edinburgh, shall assemble themselves in the
Committee-chamber of the said hospital; from thence, all the scholars
and officers of the said hospital going before them two-by-two, they
shall go, with all the solemnity that may be, to the Grey-Friars’ Church
of the said city, where they shall hear a sermon preached by one of the
said ministers, every one yearly in their courses, according to the
antiquity of their ministry in the said city.” On this occasion the
statue of the founder is fancifully decorated with flowers. Each of the
boys receives a new suit of clothes; their relations and friends
assemble, and the citizens, old and young, being admitted to view the
hospital, the gaiety of the scene is highly gratifying.--_Every Day
Book_, vol. ii. p. 747.


Lord Viscount Palmerston, in 1734, by deed, gave for thrashers of
Charlton about an acre of land in Rushall Field, the rent whereof was
to be applied annually to give them a dinner wherewith to commemorate
Stephen Duck the poet, who was originally a thrasher of Charlton. The
parish of Rushall was afterwards inclosed, and by the award date, 12th
January, 1804, a piece of arable land, measuring one acre and fifteen
poles, was awarded in a different part of Rushall Field. The land is now
called Duck’s Acre, and let at a rent of £2 9_s._ 9_d._ per annum. The
land tax, amounting to 3_s._ per annum, was reduced by a subscription
raised in the parish.

The rent is paid for a dinner, which is annually given on the 1st June,
to the thrashers of this parish.--_Old English Customs and Charities_,
p. 169.



The titular saint of this parish is Columbkill. The 9th of June is his
festival day, and formerly on this day many of the inhabitants drove
down their cattle to the beach, and swam them in that part of the sea
into which runs the water of St. Columb’s Well--_Mason’s Stat. Acc. of
Ireland_, 1814, vol. i. p. 185.


On the feast of St. Barnabas it seems to have been usual to decorate
some churches with garlands of flowers. Brand (1849, vol. i. 293) quotes
the following disbursements from the Churchwardens’, Accounts of St.
Mary-at-Hill, London, in the reigns of Edward IV. and Henry VII.:--

“For Rose garlondis and Woodrove garlondis on St Barnabe’s Daye, xj^{d.}

“Item, for two doss’ (dozen?) di bocse (box) garlands for prestes and
clerkes on St. Barnabe Daye, j^{s.} x^{d.}”


Hesket, an extensive parish in this county, is noted for the singular
circumstance of the Court of Inglewood Forest (in the precincts of
which it is wholly included) being held in it annually, on St. Barnabas’
Day, in the open air. The suitors assemble by the highway-side, at a
place only marked by an ancient thorn, where the annual dues to the lord
of the forest, compositions for improvements, &c., are paid; and a jury
for the whole jurisdiction chosen from among the inhabitants of twenty
mesne manors who attended on this spot.--Britton and Brayley, _Beauties
of England and Wales_, 1802, vol. iii. p. 171.


On St. Vitus’ Day, says Hazlitt (Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._ 1870, vol. i. p.
166), the Skinners’ Company, accompanied by girls strewing herbs in
their path, and by Bluecoat boys placed by their patronage on the
foundation of Christ’s Hospital, march in procession from Dowgate Hill,
where their hall is, to St. Antholin’s Church, in Watling Street, to
hear service.[66] The sermon, says Hampson (in his _Med. Ævi Kalend._
vol. i. p. 296), for which the chaplain (who is usually a member of the
company, educated at Christ’s Hospital or Tunbridge) receives two
guineas, has probably arisen out of a pious bequest for the purpose.

  [66] In Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._, 1849, this custom is said to take place
  on Corpus Christi Day.


On this eve people were in former times accustomed to go into the woods,
and break down branches of the trees, which they brought to their homes,
and planted over their doors, amidst great demonstrations of joy, to
make good the scripture prophecy respecting the Baptist, that many
should rejoice in his birth. This custom was at one time universal in
England.--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 815.

It was a popular superstition that if any unmarried woman fasted on
Midsummer Eve, and at midnight laid a clean cloth with bread, cheese,
and ale, and then sat down as if going to eat, the street door being
left open, the person whom she was afterwards to marry would come into
the room and drink to her by bowing; and after filling the glass would
leave it on the table, and, making another bow, retire.--_Grose._

The same writer also tells us that any person fasting on Midsummer Eve,
and sitting in the church porch, will at midnight see the spirits of the
persons of that parish who will die that year come and knock at the
church door, in the order and succession in which they will die.

The _fern_ was a most important object of popular superstition at this
season. It was supposed at one time to have neither flower nor seed, the
seed which lay on the back of the leaf being so small as to escape the
sight of the hasty observer. Hence, probably, proceeding on the
fantastic doctrine of signatures, our ancestors derived the notion that
those who could obtain and wear this invisible seed would be themselves
invisible, a belief of which innumerable instances may be found in our
old dramatists.--Soane’s _Book of the Months_.--See Brand’s _Pop.
Antiq._, 1849, vol. i. p. 314.

People also gathered on this night the rose, St. John’s wort, vervain,
trefoil, and rue, all of which were thought to have magical properties.
They set the orpine in clay upon pieces of slate or potsherd in their
houses, calling it a Midsummer-man. As the stalk was found next morning
to incline to the right or left, the anxious maiden knew whether her
lover would prove true to her or not. Young men sought also for pieces
of coal, but in reality certain hard, black, dead roots, often found
under the living mugwort, designing to place these under their pillows,
that they might dream of themselves.--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 816.

In addition to the superstitious customs already mentioned there was the
Dumb Cake:[67]

    Two make it,
    Two bake it,
    Two break it;

and the third must put it under each of their pillows, but not a word
must be spoken all the time. This being done, the diviners are sure to
dream of the man they love. There was the divination by hemp-seed,[68]
which consisted of a person sowing hemp-seed, saying at the same time,

    Hemp-seed I sow,
    Hemp-seed I hoe.
    And he that is my true love,
    Come after me and mow.

The lover was sure then to make his appearance.--Soane’s _Book of the

  [67] See page 199.

  [68] See page 100.

Towards night, materials for a fire were collected in a public place and
kindled. To this the name of bonfire was given, a term of which the most
rational explanation seems to be that it was composed of contributions
collected as _boons_ or gifts of social and charitable feeling. Around
this fire the people danced with almost frantic mirth, the men and boys
occasionally jumping through it, not to show their agility, but as a
compliance with ancient custom.[69]--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p. 86.

  [69] Fuller (_Mixt Contemplations in Better Times_, 1858, p. 25) says
  he has met with “two etymologies of bone-fires. Some deduce it from
  fires made of bones, relating it to the burning of martyrs, first made
  fashionable in England in the reign of King Henry the Fourth; but
  others derive the word from _boon_, that is, good, and fires.” The
  more probable explanation seems to be that of Dr. Hickes, and which
  has been adopted by Lye in the _Etymologicon of Junius_, namely, that
  it was derived from the Anglo-Saxon _bælfyr_, a burning pile, by the
  change of a single letter only, baal in the Islandic signifying a

In the reign of Henry VII. these fires were patronised by the Court, and
numerous entries appear in the “Privy purse Expenses” of that monarch,
by which he either defrayed the charges, or rewarded the firemen. A few
are subjoined, as examples of the whole:

  “June 23 (1493). To making of the bonefuyr on Midsomer Eve, 10^{s}.

  “June 28 (1495). For making the king’s bonefuyr, 10^{s}.

  “June 24 (1497). Midsomer Day, for making of the bone-fuyr, 10^{s}.

  “June 30 (1498). The making of the bone-fuyr, £2.”

  _Med. Ævi Kalend._, 1841, vol. i. p. 303.

In the months of June and July, says Stow, on the vigils of festival
days, and on the same festival days in the evening after the sun
setting, there were usually made bonfires in the streets, every man
bestowing wood or labour towards them; the wealthier sort also, before
their doors near to the said bonfires, would set out tables on the
vigils, furnished with sweet bread and good drink, and on the festival
days with meats and drinks plentifully, whereunto they would invite
their neighbours and passengers also to sit and be merry with them in
great familiarity, praising God for His benefit bestowed on them. On
these occasions it appears that it was customary to bind an old wheel
round about with straw and tow, to take it to the top of some hill at
night, to set fire to the combustibles, and then roll it down the


The _Status Scholæ Etonensis_, A.D. 1560 (MS. Addit. Brit. Mus. 4843),
says:--“In hac vigilia moris erat (quamdiu stetit) pueris, ornare lectos
variis rerum variarum picturis, et carmina de vita rebusque gestis
Joannis Baptistæ et præcursoris componere: et pulchre exscripta affigere
clinopodiis lectorum, eruditis legenda.”


The annual setting of the watch on St. John’s Eve, in the city of
Chester, was an affair of great moment. By an ordinance of the mayor,
aldermen, and common councilmen, of that corporation, dated in the year
1564, and preserved among the _Harleian_ MSS. in the British Museum, a
pageant which is expressly said to be “according to ancient custom,” is
ordained to consist of four giants, one unicorn, one dromedary, one
camel, one luce, one dragon, and six hobby-horses, with other figures.
By another MS. in the same library, it is said that Henry Hardware,
Esq., the mayor in 1599, caused the giants in the Midsummer show to be
broken, “and not to goe the devil in his feathers;” and it appears that
he caused a man in complete armour to go in their stead; but in the year
1601, John Ratclyffe, being mayor, set out the giants and Midsummer show
as of old it was wont to be kept. In the time of the Commonwealth the
show was discontinued, and the giants with the beasts were destroyed. At
the Restoration of Charles II. the citizens of Chester replaced their
pageant, and caused all things to be made new, because the old models
were broken.--See _Every Day Book_, vol. i. p. 834.


In Cornwall the festival fires, called bonfires, are kindled on the eve
of St. John the Baptist and St. Peter’s Day; and Midsummer is thence in
the Cornish tongue called “Goluan,” which signifies both light and
rejoicing. At these fires the Cornish attend with lighted torches,
tarred and pitched at the end, and make their perambulations round their
fires, and go from village to village, carrying their torches before
them; and this is certainly the remains of the Druid superstition, for
“faces præferre,” to carry lighted torches, was reckoned a kind of
Gentilism and as such particularly prohibited by the Gallick Councils:
they were in the eye of the law “accensores facularum,” and thought to
sacrifice to the devil, and to deserve capital punishment.--Borlase,
_Antiquities of Cornwall_, 1754, p. 130.

On Whiteborough (a large tumulus with a fosse round it), on St.
Stephen’s Down, near Launceston, there was formerly a great bonfire on
Midsummer Eve: a large summer pole was fixed in the centre, round which
the fuel was heaped. It had a large bush on the top of it.[70] Round
this were parties of wrestlers contending for small prizes.--Brand,
_Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 318.

  [70] The boundary of each tin-mine in Cornwall is marked by a long
  pole with a bush at the top of it. These on St. John’s Day are crowned
  with flowers.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._, 1849, vol. i. p. 318.


Hutchinson (_Hist. of Cumberland_, vol. i. p. 177), speaking of the
parish of Cumwhitton, says: They hold the wake on the Eve of St. John,
with lighting fires, dancing, &c.


The custom of making large fires on the Eve of St. John’s Day is
annually observed by numbers of the Irish people in Liverpool.
Contributions in either fuel or money to purchase it with are collected
from house to house. The fuel consists of coal, wood, or in fact
anything that will burn: the fire-places are then built up and lighted
after dark.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. xii. p. 42.


Formerly the inhabitants lighted fires to the windward side of every
field, so that the smoke might pass over the corn; they folded their
cattle and carried blazing furze or gorse around them several times;
they gathered _bawan fealoin_ or mugwort as a preventive against the
influence of witchcraft; and it was on this occasion they bore green
meadow grass up to the top of Barule in payment of rent to
Mannan-beg-mac-y-heir.--Train, _History of Isle of Man_, 1845, vol. ii.
p. 120.


The date of the first establishment of a regular watch or guard for the
City of London is uncertain. Stow assures us it has been instituted
“time out of mind;” and we have, as early as the 39th Henry VI., the
following entries:

“Payde to iiij men to wacche w^{t} the Mayre and to goo w^{t} him a
nyghtes, xvj^{d.}”

“Payde in expenses for goyng about w^{t} the Mayre in the town in the
wacche, iiij^{d.}”

The watch for the ensuing year was always appointed with much pomp and
ceremony on the vigil of St. John, or Midsummer’s Eve; hence the
appellation of the Midsummer Watch. On this night, as we learn from
Stow, the standing watches in every ward and street of the city and
suburbs were habited in bright harness. There was also a marching watch
consisting of as many as 2000 persons, most of them old soldiers, who
appeared in appropriate habits, armed, and many of them, especially the
musicians and standard-bearers, rode on horseback. The watch was
attended by men bearing cresset-lights,[71] which were provided partly
by the companies, and partly by the City Chamber. Every cresset-bearer
was presented with a “strawen hat and a painted badge, beside the
donation of his breakfast next morning.” The constables, one half of
whom went out on the Eve of St. John, and the other half on the Eve of
St. Peter, were dressed in “bright harnesse, some over gilt, and every
one had a jornett of scarlet thereupon, and a chain of gold, his
henchman following him, and his minstrels before him, and his cresset
light at his side. The Mayor himself came after them, well mounted, with
his sword-bearer before him, in fair armour on horseback, preceded by
the waits, or city minstrels, and the Mayor’s officers in liveries of
woosted, or sea-jackets party-coloured. The sheriff’s watches came one
after the other in like order, but not so numerous; for the Mayor had,
beside his giant, three pageants; whereas the sheriff had only two
besides their giants, each with their morris-dancer and one henchman.”

  [71] _Cresset-light._--A kind of fire-basket let into an iron frame at
  the end of a long pole, and so contrived that the basket remained in a
  horizontal position, whichever way the pole was carried. These poles
  were usually borne on men’s shoulders. Cresset-lights were also used
  as beacons and served instead of lighthouses for signals along the
  coast. The badge of the Admiralty was anciently a cresset.--Shakspeare
  makes Glendower say, in “Henry IV.” (Act iii. s. 1):

                    “At my nativity,
    The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes,
    Of burning cressets.”

  Douce, in his _Illustrations of Shakspeare_, imagines the word to have
  been derived from the French word _croiset_--a cruet, or earthen pot.

Stow says that King Henry VIII., in the first year of his reign, came
privately into Westcheap to view the setting of this watch, “being
clothed in one of the coates of his guard,” and at the next muster,
which was on St. Peter’s night, “the king and queene came roially riding
to the signe of the King’s Head in Cheape, and there beheld the watche
of the citie, which watche was set out with divers goodly shewes, as had
been accustomed.” In the 31st year of this reign (1539), however, the
Midsummer Watch was discontinued; but it was revived, for one year only,
by Sir Thomas Gresham, then Lord Mayor, in the second year of Edward
the Sixth’s reign.--Stow’s _Survey of London_; Jupp, _History of the
Carpenter’s Company_, 1848, pp. 40-44.


In the ordinary of the Company of Cooks at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1575,
quoted by Brand (_Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 318), is the following
clause:--“And alsoe that the said fellowship of Cookes, shall yearelie
of theire owne cost and charge mainteigne and keep the bonefires,
according to the auntient custome of the said towne on the Sand-hill;
that is to say, one bone-fire on the even of the Feast of the Nativitie
of St. John Baptist, commonly called Midsomer Even, and the other on the
even of the Feast of St. Peter the Apostle, if it shall please the Maior
and Aldermen of the said towne for the time being to have the same


Deering, in his _Nottinghamia Vetus et Nova_ (1751, p. 123), quoting
from an old authority, gives the following curious account of the watch
once held at Nottingham. He says: “Every inhabitant of any ability sets
forth a man, as well voluntaries as those who are charged with arms,
with such munition as they have; some pikes, some muskets, calivers, or
other guns; some partisans, or halberts; and such as have armour send
their servants in their armour. The number of these are yearly about two
hundred, who at sun-setting meet on the Row, the most open part of the
town, where the Mayor’s serjeant-at-mace gives them an oath, the tenor
wherof followeth in these words: ‘You shall well and truly keep this
town till to-morrow at the sun-rising; you shall come into no house
without license or cause reasonable. Of all manner of casualties, of
fire, of crying of children, you shall due warning make to the parties,
as the case shall require. You shall due search make of all manner of
affrays, bloudsheds, outcrys, and all other things that be suspected,’
&c. Which done, they all march in orderly array through the principal
streets of the town, and then they are sorted into several companies,
and designed to several parts of the town, where they are to keep the
watch until the sun dismisses them in the morning. In this business the
fashion is for every watchman to wear a garland, made in the fashion of
a crown imperial, bedecked with flowers of various kinds, some natural,
some artificial, bought and kept for that purpose, as also ribbands,
jewels; and for the better garnishing whereof, the townsmen use the day
before to ransack the gardens of all the gentlemen within six or seven
miles round Nottingham, besides what the town itself affords them: their
greatest ambition being to outdo one another in the bravery of their
garlands.” This custom was kept up till the reign of Charles I.


About the year 750, says Plott, a battle was fought near Burford,
perhaps on the place still called Battle-Edge, west of the town, towards
Upton, between Cuthred or Cuthbert, a tributary king of the West Saxons,
and Ethelbald, king of Mercia, whose insupportable exactions the former
king not being able to endure, he came into the field against Ethelbald,
met and overthrew him there, winning his banner, whereon was depicted a
golden dragon; in memory of which victory, the custom of making a dragon
yearly, and carrying it up and down the town in great jollity on
Midsummer Eve, to which they added the picture of a giant, was in all
likelihood first instituted.--Plott, _Natural History of Oxfordshire_,
1705, p. 356.


A very curious practice is observed on Midsummer Eve at Kidderminster,
arising from the testamentary dispositions of two individuals once
resident there. A farthing loaf is given to every person born in Church
Street, Kidderminster, who chooses to claim it. The bequest is of very
ancient standing, and the farthing loaf, at the time of its date, was
far different to what it is now-a-days. The day is called Farthing Loaf
Day, and the bakers’ shops are amply provided with these diminutives, as
it is the practice of the inhabitants throughout the town to purchase
them. Superadded to this bequest is another. About the year 1788 an old
bachelor left a sum for the purchase of a twopenny cake for every
unmarried resident in Church Street, to be given on Farthing Loaf Day,
and also the sum of two guineas to be paid to a household in the said
street, as remuneration for providing a supper of bread and cheese and
ale, to which every householder in the street should be invited. The
householders each take their turn in being host, but with a promise,
that none except the occupiers of front houses should enjoy this
dignity. The toast directed to be drunk after supper is, “Peace and good
neighbourhood.” The money required arises from a sum which is lent at
interest, annually, to any competent inhabitant of this favoured street,
upon his producing two good sureties for the repayment at the end of the
year.--Hone’s _Year Book_, 1838, p. 745; _Old English Customs and
Charities_, p. 241.


On Midsummer Eve, at Ripon, in former days, every housekeeper, who in
the course of the year had changed his residence into a new
neighbourhood, spread a table before his door in the street with bread,
cheese, and ale for those who chose to resort to it. The guests, after
staying awhile, if the master was liberally disposed, were invited to
supper, and the evening was concluded with mirth and good
humour.--_Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 866.


Bingley, in his _Tour Round North Wales_ (1800, vol. ii. p. 237), says:
On the Eve of St. John the Baptist they fix sprigs of the plant called
St. John’s-wort over their doors, and sometimes over their windows, in
order to purify their houses, and by that means drive away all fiends
and evil spirits.


The Eve of St. John is a great day among the mason-lodges of Scotland.
What happens with them at Melrose may be considered as a fair example of
the whole.

Immediately after the election of office-bearers for the year ensuing,
the brethren walk in procession three times round the Cross, and
afterwards dine together under the presidency of the newly-elected grand
master. About six in the evening the members again turn out, and form
into line two abreast, each bearing a lighted flambeau, and decorated
with their peculiar emblems and insignia. Headed by the heraldic banners
of the lodge, the procession follows the same route, three times round
the Cross, and then proceeds to the abbey. On these occasions the
crowded streets present a scene of the most animated description. The
joyous strains of a well-conducted band, the waving torches, and
incessant showers of fire-works make the scene a carnival. But at this
time the venerable abbey is the chief point of attraction and resort,
and as the torch-bearers thread their way through its mouldering aisles,
and round its massive pillars, the outlines of its gorgeous ruins become
singularly illuminated, and brought into bold and striking relief. The
whole extent of the abbey is, with “measured step and slow,” gone three
times round. But when near the _finale_, the whole masonic body gather
to the chancel, and forming one grand semicircle around it, where the
heart of King Robert Bruce lies deposited near the high altar, the band
strikes up the patriotic air, “Scots wha hae wi’ Wallace bled,” and the
effect thus produced is overpowering. Midst showers of rockets and the
glare of blue lights the scene closes.--Wade’s _History of Melrose
Abbey_, 1861, p. 146.


The following extract is taken from the _Liverpool Mercury_, June 29th,

The old pagan fire-worship still survives in Ireland, though nominally
in honour of St. John. On Sunday night bonfires were observed throughout
nearly every county in the province of Leinster. In Kilkenny, fires
blazed on every hillside at intervals of about a mile. There were very
many in the Queen’s county, also in Kildare and Wexford. The effect in
the rich sunset appeared to travellers very grand. The people assemble,
and dance round the fires, the children jump through the flames, and in
former times live coals were carried into the corn fields to prevent
blight: of course, people are not conscious that this Midsummer
celebration is a remnant of the worship of Baal. It is believed by many
that the round towers were intended for signal fires in connection with
this worship.--See _Gent. Mag._ 1795, vol. lxv. pt. ii. p. 124; see Sir
Henry Piers’s _Description of Westmeath_, 1682; and _The Comical
Pilgrim’s Pilgrimage into Ireland_, 1723 p. 92.

Croker, in his _Researches in the South of Ireland_ (1824, p. 233),
mentions a custom observed on the eve of St. John’s Day, and some other
festivals, of dressing up a broomstick as a figure, and carrying it
about in the twilight from one cabin to the other, and suddenly pushing
it in at the door. The alarm or surprise occasioned by this feat
produced some mirth. The figure thus dressed up was called a _Bredogue_.

At Stoole, near Downpatrick, there is a ceremony commencing at twelve
o’clock at night on Midsummer Eve. Its sacred mount is consecrated to
St. Patrick; the plain contains three wells, to which the most
extraordinary virtues are attributed. Here and there are heaps of
stones, around some of which appear great numbers of people, running
with as much speed as possible; around others crowds of worshippers
kneel with bare legs and feet as an indispensable part of the penance.
The men, without coats, with handkerchiefs on their heads instead of
hats, having gone seven times round each heap, kiss the ground, cross
themselves, and proceed to the hill; here they ascend, on their bare
knees, by a path so steep and rugged that it would be difficult to walk
up. Many hold their hands clasped at the back of their necks, and
several carry large stones on their heads. Having repeated this ceremony
seven times, they go to what is called St. Patrick’s Chair, which are
two great flat stones fixed upright in the hill; here they cross and
bless themselves as they step in between these stones, and, while
repeating prayers, an old man, seated for the purpose, turns them round
on their feet three times, for which he is paid; the devotee then goes
to conclude his penance at a pile of stones, named the Altar. While this
busy scene is continued by the multitude, the wells and streams issuing
from them are thronged by crowds of halt, maimed, and blind, pressing to
wash away their infirmities with water consecrated by their patron
saint, and so powerful is the impression of its efficacy on their minds,
that many of those who go to be healed, and who are not totally blind,
or altogether crippled, really believe for a time that they are by means
of its miraculous virtues perfectly restored.--_Hibernian Magazine_,
July 1817.


The general customs connected with this season commenced on the
preceding evening.--_See_ Midsummer Eve.


The _Status Scholæ Etonensis_, A.D. 1560 (MS. Addit. Brit. Mus. 4813),
says: “_Mense Junii_, in Festo Natalis D. Johannis post matutinas
preces, dum consuetudo floruit accedebant omnes scholastici ad rogum
extructum in orientali regione templi, ubi reverenter a symphoniacis
cantatis tribus Antiphonis, et pueris in ordine stantibus venitur ad


On a common called Midsummer Green, in the parish of Barnwell, an annual
fair is held, commencing on Midsummer Day, and continuing for a
fortnight. This fair is supposed to have originated with the assemblages
of children at this place on the eve of St. John the Baptist’s Day,
whose yearly gatherings being attended by a considerable concourse of
people, attracted the notice of some pedlars, who began to dispose of
their merchandise on this spot as early as the reign of Henry I. The
articles brought for sale are chiefly earthen-wares, whence the festival
has attained the name of _Pot fair_. The fair is proclaimed on the eve
of Midsummer Day by the heads of the University, first in the middle of
the village, and afterwards on the green where it is celebrated. It
appears to have assumed its legal form in the reign of Henry
III.--Brayley and Britton, _Beauties of England and Wales_, 1809, vol.
ii. p. 110.


In former times there was a privilege of licensing the minstrels,
peculiar to the ancient family of Dutton. The original grant came from
Earl Randal Blundeville to Roger Lacy, constable of Chester; and his
son, John Lacy, assigned the privilege to the family of Dutton. The
anniversary of this solemnity was constantly celebrated on the festival
of St. John the Baptist by a regular procession of all the minstrels to
the church of this tutelary saint in the city of Chester. But after
having been constantly observed for at least 550 years, it seems to have
been discontinued in 1758; and, as an instance how sacred these
exclusive privileges were esteemed by legislative wisdom, the Act of the
29th of Elizabeth, which declares all _itinerant minstrels_ to be
vagabonds, particularly excepts the minstrel-jurisdiction of John
Dutton, of Dutton in Cheshire, Esq.--Gower, _Materials for a History of
Cheshire_, 1771, p. 67.


Hitchins, in his _History of Cornwall_ (1824, vol. i. p. 717), says:
Midsummer Day is considered as a high holiday, on which either a pole is
erected, decorated with garlands, or some flags displayed, to denote the
sanctity of the time. This custom has prevailed from time immemorial, of
which it is scarcely possible to trace the origin.


Lynton revel begins on the first Sunday after Midsummer Day. It formerly
lasted a week. As in the days before the Reformation, revels until
lately began on a Sunday in Lynton and Lynmouth, a barrel of beer having
been placed near the church gate in readiness for the people coming out
of church, who partook of a glass and a cake, called revel cake, made
with dark flour, currants, and carraway seeds. Wrestling formed a chief
feature in the amusements, and large sums were raised by subscription to
purchase prizes. However odd it may appear, it is not more than twenty
years since the silver spoons, bought as prizes to be wrestled for, were
exhibited hung in front of the gallery in Countisbury Church during
divine service on Revel Sunday. Of late years, however, owing to the
prevalence of drunkenness, especially on the Sunday afternoon, the
respectable inhabitants have set their faces against these revels, which
have now dwindled into insignificance. The collusion which sprang up
among the wrestlers to share the prizes, without their being won by a
real trial of skill and strength, hastened also greatly to abate the
enthusiasm of the subscribers, so that of late the prizes have not been
beyond a few shillings collected from the people on the ground. This of
itself has given a death-blow to the revel.--Cooper, _Guide to Lynton
and Lynmouth_, 1853, p. 38.


On this day a tent is erected on the summit of the Tynwald Hill (called
also Cronk-y-Keeillown, i.e., St. John’s Church Hill, a mound said to
have been originally brought from each of the seventeen parishes of the
island), and preparations are made for the reception of the officers of
state, according to ancient custom. Early in the morning the Governor
proceeds from Castletown under a military escort to St. John’s Chapel,
situated a few hundred yards to the eastward of the Tynwald Hill. Here
he is received by the Bishop, the Council, the clergy, and the keys, and
all attend Divine service in the chapel, the Government chaplain
officiating. This ended, they march in a procession from the chapel to
the mount, the military formed in line on each side of the green turf
walk. The clergy take the lead, next comes the Vicar-General, and the
two Deemsters, then the bearer of the sword of state in front of the
Governor, who is succeeded by the Clerk of the Rolls, the twenty-four
keys, and the captains of the different parishes.

The ceremony of the Tynwald Hill is thus stated in the _Lex Scripta_ of
the Isle of Man, as given for law to Sir John Stanley, in 1417:

“This is the constitution of old time, how yee should be governed on the
Tinwald day. First you shall come thither in your royal array, as a king
ought to do by the prerogatives and royalties of the land of Mann, and
upon the hill of Tinwald sitt in a chair covered with a royal cloath and
quishions, and your visage in the east, and your sword before you,
holden with the point upward. Your Barrons in the third degree sitting
beside you, and your beneficed men and your Deemsters before you
sitting, and your clarke, your knight, esquires, and yeomen about you in
the third degree, and the worthiest men in your land to be called in
before your Deemsters, if you will ask anything of them, and to hear the
government of your land and your will; and the Commons to stand without
the circle of the hill, with three clearkes in their surplices, and your
Deemsters shall call the coroner of Glanfaba, and he shall call in all
the coroners of Man, and their yardes in their hands, with their weapons
upon them, either sword or axe; and the moares, that is to witt of every
sheading; then the chief coroner, that is, the coroner of Glanfaba,
shall make affence upon pain of life or lyme, that no man make a
disturbance or stirr in the time Tinwald, or any murmur, or rising in
the King’s presence, upon pain of hanging and drawing; and then to
proceed in your matters whatsoever you have to doe, in felonie or
treason, or other matters that touch the government of your land of
Manne.”--Cumming’s _History of the Isle of Man_, 1848, pp. 185, 186.


“There is this solemn and charitable custom in y^{e} Ch. of St.
Mary-Hill, London. On the next Sunday after Midsummer Day, every year,
the fellowship of the Porters of y^{e} City of London, time out of mind,
come to this church in y^{e} morning, and whilst the Psalms are reading,
they group two and two towards the rails of y^{e} Communion table, where
are set two basons; and there they make their offering, and so return to
the body of y^{e} Church again. After then the inhabitants of y^{e}
parish and their wives, and others also then at church, make their
offering likewise; and the money so offered is given to the poor
decrepit Porters of the said fellowship for their better
subsistence.”--Newcomb’s _MS. Collect._, cited by Bishop Kennett.


It was the custom to strew the church of Middleton Chenduit, in summer,
with hay gathered from six or seven swaths in Ash Meadow, which were
given for this purpose. In the winter the rector found straw.--Bridges’s
_History of Northamptonshire_, 1791, vol. i. p. 187.


It is customary on this day to dress out stools with a cushion of
flowers. A layer of clay is placed on the stool, and therein is stuck,
with great regularity, an arrangement of all kinds of flowers, so close
as to form a beautiful cushion. These are exhibited at the doors of
houses in the villages, and at the ends of streets and cross lanes of
larger towns, where the attendants beg money from passengers to enable
them to have an evening _fête_ and dancing.

This custom is evidently derived from the “Ludi Compitalii” of the
Romans; this appellation was taken from the _compita_, or cross lanes,
where they were instituted and celebrated by the multitude
assembled before the building of Rome. It was the feast of the
_lares_, or household gods, who presided as well over houses as
streets.--Hutchinson’s _History of Northumberland_.


The following notice of a curious custom, formerly observed at Magdalen
College, Oxford, is taken from the _Life of Bishop Horne_, by the Rev.
William Jones (Works, vol. xii. p. 131):--“A letter of July the 25th,
1755, informed me that Mr. Horne, according to an established custom at
Magdalen College, in Oxford, had begun to preach before the University,
on the day of St. John the Baptist. For the preaching of this annual
sermon, a permanent pulpit of stone is inserted into a corner of the
first quadrangle; and so long as the stone pulpit was in use (of which I
have been a witness), the quadrangle was furnished round the sides with
a large fence of green boughs, that the preaching might more nearly
resemble that of John the Baptist in the wilderness; and a pleasant
sight it was: but for many years the custom has been discontinued, and
the assembly have thought it safer to take shelter under the roof of the

At the mowing of _Revel-mede_, a meadow between Bicester and Wendlebury,
most of the different kinds of rural sports were usually practised; and
in such repute was the holiday, that booths and stalls were erected as
if it had been a fair. The origin of the custom is unknown; but as the
amusements took place at the time when the meadow became subject to
commonage, some have supposed it originated in the rejoicings of the
villagers on that account. These sports entirely ceased on the enclosure
of Chesterton field.--Dunkin, _History of Bicester_, 1816, p. 269.


Collinson, in his _History of the County of Somerset_ (1791, vol. iii.
p. 586), gives an account of a custom that was celebrated on the
Saturday before old Midsummer Day in the parishes of Congresbury and
Puxton, at two large pieces of common land, called East and West
Dolemoors. These, he says, were divided into single acres, each bearing
a peculiar and different mark cut on the turf, such as a horn, four oxen
and a mare, two oxen and a mare, pole-axe, cross, dung-fork, oven,
duck’s nest, hand reel, and hare’s tail. On the Saturday before old
Midsummer Day, several proprietors of estates in the parishes of
Congresbury, Puxton, and Week St. Lawrence, or their tenants, assembled
on the commons. A number of apples were previously prepared, marked in
the same manner with the before-mentioned acres, which were distributed
by a young lad to each of the commoners from a bag or hat. At the close
of the distribution, each person repaired to his allotment as his apple
directed him, and took possession for the ensuing year. An adjournment
then took place to the house of the overseer of Dolemoors (an officer
annually elected from the tenants), where four acres, reserved for the
purpose of paying expenses, were let by inch of candle, and the
remainder of the day was spent in sociability and hearty mirth.


At Chiltern there is a sport widely practised by the boys, which they
call “egg-hopping.” At the commencement of summer the lads forage the
woods in quest of birds’ eggs. These, when found, they place on the road
at distances apart in proportion to the rarity or abundance of the
species of egg. The hopper is then blindfolded, and he endeavours to
break as many as he can in a certain number of jumps. The universality
of the game, and the existence of various superstitions, combined with
their refusal to part with the eggs for money, would warrant a
supposition that some superstition is connected with it.--_N. & Q. 3rd.
S._ vol. iv. p. 492.


Old Midsummer Day, says Cole (_History of Scalby_, 1829, p. 44), is, at
Scalby, a kind of gala time, when the sports, as they are termed, take
place, consisting of the most rustic description of amusements, such as
donkey-racing, &c., and when booths are erected for the accommodation of
the several visitors, and the village presents a motley fair-like



A pilgrimage to the source of the River Lee is one frequently performed
by two very different classes of persons--the superstitious and the
curious; the first led by a traditional sanctity attached to the place,
the latter by the reputed sublimity of its scenery, and a desire of
witnessing the religious assemblies and ceremonies of the peasantry. The
scenery of Gougaun lake is bold and rugged, surrounded by rocky and
barren mountains; in its centre is a small and solitary island,
connected with the shore by a narrow artificial causeway, constructed to
facilitate the rites of religious devotees, who annually flock thither
on the 24th June (St. John’s Day), and the celebration of a pious
festival. The principal building on the island is a rudely formed
circular wall of considerable solidity, in the thickness of which are
nine arched recesses or cells, called chapels, severally dedicated to
particular saints, with a plain flag-stone set up in each as an altar.

On the celebration of the religious meeting these cells are filled with
men and women in various acts of devotion, almost all of them on their
knees. Croker, in his _Researches in the South of Ireland_ (1824, p.
275), describing one of these pilgrimages, says: To a piece of rusty
iron considerable importance seems to have been attached; it passed from
one devotee to another with much ceremony. The form consisted in placing
it three times, with a short prayer[72] across the head of the nearest
person to whom it was then handed, and who went through the same
ceremony with the next to him, and thus it circulated from one to the
other. The banks of the lake were the scenes of merry-making. Almost
every tent had its piper, two or three young men and women dancing the

  [72] “Copy of the prayer to be said at the well of St. John.--‘O
  Almighty God, as I have undertaken this journey by way of pilgrimage
  in and through a penitential spirit, in the first place I hope to
  render myself worthy of the favour I mean to ask, to avoid drunkenness
  and licentiousness, and hope to find favour in thy sight; I therefore
  pay this tribute and fulfil the promise I have made; I ask you
  therefore, through the intercession of St. John, to grant me the
  following favour (here mention your ailment, the particular favour you
  stand in need of). I know how unworthy I am of being heard, but I
  resolve, with thy gracious assistance, henceforward to render myself
  worthy of your favour. I implore this gift through the intercession of
  St. John, and the sufferings of Christ our Lord. Amen.’

  “N.B. You must be careful to avoid all excess in drinking, dancing in
  tents, for it is impossible characters can find favour in the sight of
  God, such as these. Fasting going there had formerly been the custom.”


At one time, the tradesmen of Limerick marched, on Midsummer Day,
arranged under their respective leaders, decorated with sashes, ribbons,
and flowers, and accompanied with a band of musicians, and the shouts of
the delighted populace, through the principal streets of the city, while
their merry-men played a thousand antic tricks, and the day generally
ended in a terrible fight between the Garryowen and Thomond-gate boys
(the tradesmen of the north and south suburbs).--Fitzgerald and
Macgregor’s _History of Limerick_, 1827, p. 540.


In the village of Micklefield, about ten miles east of Leeds, it is the
custom on the second day of the feast, (June 25th) for about twelve of
the villagers,[73] dressed, in their best garb, and wearing a white
apron _à l’épicier_, to carry a large basket (generally a
clothes-basket) to each farm-house in the village, the occupier of which
seems to consider it his bounden duty to give them a good supply of
confectionery of some kind to take away with them, and ale _ad libitum_
to drink in his house.--_N. &. Q. 3rd S._ vol. iii. p. 263.

  [73] These villagers call themselves “_Joss Weddingers_.” (?)


On this day many of the rites peculiar to the festival of St. John the
Baptist were repeated.


It appears from the _Status Scholæ Etonensis_ (A.D. 1560) that the Eton
boys had a great bonfire annually on the east side of the church on St.
Peter’s Day, as well as on that of St. John Baptist.


The stranger who chances to attend Divine service in Farnborough parish
church on the Sunday next after the feast of St. Peter, has his
attention arrested by the floor of the porch being strewed with reeds.
By an abstract of the will of George Dalton, Gent., of Farnborough,
dated December 3rd, 1556, set forth on a mural tablet in the interior of
the church, he learns that this gentleman settled a perpetual annuity of
13_s._ 4_d._ chargeable upon his lands at Tuppendence: 10_s._ to the
preacher of a sermon on the Sunday next after the feast of St. Peter,
and 3_s._ 4_d._ to the poor. Local traditional lore affirms that Mr.
Dalton was saved from drowning by reeds, and that the annual sermon and
odd manner of decorating the porch are commemorative of the event. This
day is called by the inhabitants of the village, Reed Day or Flag
Day.--_Maidstone Gazette_, 1859.


Cole, in his _History of Weston Favell_ (1829, p. 58), says:--The feast
follows St. Peter’s Day. The amusements and sports of the week consist
of dinner and tea parties formed from the adjacent towns, which meetings
are frequently concluded with a ball, indeed a dance at the inns on the
few first days of the feast is indispensable. Games at bowls and quoits
are pursued with great dexterity and interest by the more athletic
visitants, and in the evening the place presents a motley, fair-like
appearance; but this continues for no longer period than the second or
third day in the feast week.


Formerly, says Brand (_Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 337), on the
evening of St. Peter’s Day, the inhabitants of this county carried
firebrands about the fields of their respective parishes. They made
encroachments on these occasions upon the bonfires of the neighbouring
towns, of which they took away some of the ashes by force; this they
called “carrying off the flower (probably the flour) of the wake.”


In an old account of Gisborough, in Cleveland, and the adjoining coast,
printed in the _Antiquarian Repertory_ (1808, vol. iii. p. 304) from an
ancient MS. in the Cotton Library (marked Julius F. C., fol. 455),
speaking of the fishermen, it is stated that “Upon St. Peter’s Daye they
invite their friends and kinsfolk to a festyvall kept after their
fashion with a free hearte, and noe shew of niggardnesse; that daye
their boates are dressed curiously for the shewe, their mastes are
painted, and certain rytes observed amongst them, with sprinkling their
prowes with good liquor, sold with them at a groate the quarte, which
custom or superstition, suckt from their auncestors, even contynueth
down unto this present tyme.”

The feast day of Nun-Monkton is kept on St. Peter’s Day, and is followed
by the “Little Feast Day,” and a merry time extending over a week. On
the Saturday evening preceding the 29th a company of the villagers,
headed by all the fiddlers and players on other instruments that could
be mustered at one time went in procession across the great common to
“May-pole Hill,” where there is an old sycamore (the pole being near it)
for the purpose of “rising Peter,” who had been buried under the tree.
This effigy of St. Peter, a rude one of wood, carved--no one professed
to know when--and in these later times clothed in a ridiculous fashion,
was removed in its box-coffin to the neighbourhood of the public-house,
there to be exposed to view, and, with as little delay as possible,
conveyed to some out-building, where it was stowed away and thought no
more about till the first Saturday after the feast day (or the second if
the 29th had occurred at the back end of a week), when it was taken back
in procession again, and re-interred with all honour which concluding
ceremony was called “Buryin’ Peter.” In this way did St. Peter preside
over his own feast. On the evening of the first day of the feast, two
young men went round the village with large baskets for the purpose of
collecting tarts, cheese-cakes, and eggs for mulled ale--all being
consumed after the two ceremonies above indicated. This last good
custom is not done away with yet, suppers and, afterwards, dancing in a
barn being the order while the feast lasts.--_N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. i. p.


In Sinclair’s _Stat. Acc. of Scotland_ (1792, vol. iii. p. 105) we are
told that at Loudoun, in Ayrshire, the custom still retains among the
herds and young people to kindle fires in the high grounds, in honour of
Beltan. Beltan was anciently the time of this solemnity. It is kept on
St. Peter’s day.



In the University of Cambridge, the first Tuesday in July is usually the
Commencement Day. The Commencement Sunday is the Sunday immediately
before the Commencement Day. It is a commemoration day.

On Commencement Sunday, the Vice-Chancellor invites to dinner all
noblemen, the three Regius Professors, and their sons and the public
orator.--Adam Wall, _Ceremonies observed in the Senate House of the
University of Cambridge_, 1798, p. 76.


At Old Weston a piece of green sward belongs by custom to the parish
clerk for the time being, subject to the condition of the land being
mown immediately before Weston feast, which occurs in July, and the
cutting thereof being strewed on the church floor previously to Divine
service on the feast Sunday, and continuing there during Divine
service.--Edwards, _Old English Customs and Charities_, p. 220.


At Altcar the parish church is dedicated to St. Michael, and, in
accordance with a very old custom, a rush-bearing takes place in
July.--See _Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 341.


In the _History of Alnwick_ (1822, pp. 241-244) the following account is
given of an ancient custom celebrated on the proclamation of the fair
held in July. On the Sunday evening preceding the fair, the
representatives of the adjacent townships that owe suit and service to
his Grace the Duke of Northumberland, and the constables of Alnwick,
with several of the freeholders and tradesmen, attend at the castle,
where they are freely regaled. The steward of the Court, and the bailiff
with their attendants, then proceed from the castle to the cross in the
market-place, where the bailiff proclaims the fair in the name of the
Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, and calls over the names of the
various townships that owe suit and service; viz. the townships of
Chatton and Chillingham, four men, Coldmarton and Fowbury, four men;
Hetton and Hezebrigge, four men; Fawdon and Clinch, four men; Alnham and
Alnham Moor, two men; Tughall and Swinhoe, two men; Longhoughton and
Denwick, four men; Lesbury and Bilton, two men; Lyham and Lyham-hall,
one man; with the principal inhabitants of the borough of Alnwick. The
representatives who attend for the several townships in service are
obliged to keep watch at different parts of the town the night before
the fair, which has been a custom from time immemorial. On the fair-day
the tenants of the Duke within the barony of Alnwick attend at the
castle, when the steward and bailiff proceed from thence to the market,
and proclaim the fair as before. They then go to Clayport Street, where
the fair is again proclaimed, and from thence to the castle. The above
townships, by their attendance, are exempt from paying toll in the
borough for twelve months, but if they do not attend, they must pay the
same till the next year.



The Leith Races take place either in the month of July or August. As
they were under the patronage of the magistrates of Edinburgh, it was
usual for one of the city officers to walk in procession every morning
during the week from the Council Chamber down to Leith, bearing aloft a
silk purse, gaily decorated with ribbons, styled the City Purse, on the
end of a pole, accompanied by the town-guard drummer, who, being
stationed in the rear of this dignitary, continued beating a tattoo at
his heels all the way to the race-ground.

The procession which at the onset consisted only of the officer and the
drummer, and sometimes a file or two of the town-guard, gathered
strength as it moved along the line of march, from a constant accession
of boys, who were every morning on the look out for this procession, and
who preferred, according to their own phrase, “gaun down wi’ the purse,”
to any other way. Such a dense mass of these finally surrounded the
officer and his attendant drummer that, long before the procession
reached Leith, both had wholly disappeared. Nothing of the former
remained visible but the purse, and the top of the pole on which it was
borne. These, however, projecting above the heads of the crowd, still
pointed out the spot where he might be found: of the drummer, no vestige
remained; but he was known to exist by the faint and intermittent sounds
of his drum. The town-guard also came in for a share of the honours and
the business of this festive week. These were marched down to Leith
every day in full costume. Having arrived upon the sands, the greater
part, along with the drummer, took their station at the starting-point,
where the remainder surrounded the heights. The march of these veterans
to Leith is thus humorously described by Ferguson:--

    “Come, hafe a care (the captain cries),
      On guns your bagnets thraw:
    Now mind your manual exercise,
      And march down row by row.
    And as they march he’ll glour about,
      Tent a’ ther cuts an’ scars;
    Mang these full many a gausy snout
      Has gusht in birth-day wars
                          Wi’ blude that day.”

  Campbell, _History of Leith_, 1827, p. 187.


A very curious custom existed at Greenock, and in the neighbouring town
of Port Glasgow, at the fair held on the first Monday in July, and the
fourth Tuesday in November. The whole trades of the town, in the dresses
of their guilds, with flags and music, each man armed, made a grand
rendezvous at the place where the fair was to be held, and with drawn
swords and array of guns and pistols, surrounded the booths, and greeted
the baillie’s announcement by tuck of drum, “that Greenock Fair was
open,” by a tremendous shout, and a struggling fire from every
serviceable barrel in the crowd.--_N. &. Q. 1st S._, vol. ix. p. 242.


Haig, in his _History of Kelso_ (1825, p. 107), tells us that in his
time the Society of Gardeners, on the second Tuesday in July, the day of
their annual general meeting, paraded the streets, accompanied by a band
of music, and carrying an elegant device composed of the most beautiful
flowers, which, on the company reaching the inn where they dined, was
thrown from the window to the crowd, who soon demolished it in a
scramble for the flowers.

Fuller, too, in his _History of Berwick-upon-Tweed_ (1799, p. 447), says
the association of gardeners, which took place in 1796, had in his time
a procession through the streets yearly. It was accompanied with music;
and, in the middle of the procession, a number of men carried a large
wreath of flowers. The different officers belonging to this institution
wore their respective insignia, and the whole society dined together.


Mason, in his _Stat. Acc. of Ireland_ (1814, vol. ii. p. 528), says that
the great holiday in Seagoe is on the first of July (Old Style), being
the anniversary of the battle of the Boyne. A procession takes place,
the whole population wear orange lilies, and the day is spent in


At Glenfield, the parish clerk, in accordance with an old custom, strews
the church with new hay on the first Sunday after the 5th of
July.--Edwards, _Old English Customs and Charities_, p. 219.



The festival called Bodmin Riding was kept on Sunday and Monday after
St. Thomas à Becket’s Day (July 7th). A puncheon of beer having been
brewed in the preceding October, and bottled in anticipation of the
time, two or more young men who were entrusted with the chief management
of the affair, and who represented the “wardens,” went round the town
attended by a band of drums and fifes, or other instruments. The crier
saluted each house with, “To the people of this house a prosperous
morning, long life, and a merry riding!” The musicians then struck up
the riding tune, and the householder was solicited to taste the riding
ale, which was carried round in baskets. A bottle was usually taken in,
and it was acknowledged by such a sum as the means or humour of the
townsman permitted, to be spent on the public festivities of the season.
Next morning a procession was formed: all who could afford to ride
mounted on horse or ass, which proceeded first to the Priory, to receive
two large garlands of flowers fixed on staves, and then through the
principal streets to the Town End, where the games were formally opened.
The sports, which lasted two days, consisted of wrestling, foot-racing,
jumping in sacks, &c. It should be remarked that a second or inferior
brewing, from the same wort, was drunk at a minor merry-making at
Whitsuntide. In an order, dated November 15th, 1583, regulating the
business of the shoemakers, a class of tradesmen which seems for ages to
have been more than usually numerous in Bodmin, it is directed by the
mayor and the masters of the occupation, “that at the _Rydyng_ every
master and journeyman shall give their attendance to the steward, and
likewise bring him to church, upon pain of 12_d._ for every master, and
6_d._ for every journeyman, for every such default, to the discretion of
the master of the occupation.”

At this festival there was held a curious kind of mock trial. A Lord of
Misrule was appointed, before whom any unpopular person, so unlucky as
to be captured, was dragged to answer a charge of felony; the imputed
crime being such as his appearance might suggest, a negligence in his
attire, or a breach of manners. With ludicrous gravity a mock trial was
then commenced, and judgment was gravely pronounced, when the culprit
was hurried off to receive his punishment. In this his apparel was
generally a greater sufferer than his person, as it commonly terminated
in his being thrown into the water or the mire.[74] “Take him before the
mayor of Halgaver;” “Present him in Halgaver Court,” are old Cornish
proverbs.--_Parochial History of Cornwall_, 1868, vol i. p. 104. Murray,
_Handbook for Cornwall_, 1865, p. 244.

  [74] Carew, in his _Survey of Cornwall_ (1811, p. 296), speaking of
  this custom, says: “The youthlier sort of Bodmin townsmen use
  sometimes to sport themselves by playing the box with strangers whom
  they summon to Halgaver. The name signifieth the goat’s moor, and such
  a place it is, lying a little without the town, and very full of
  quagmires. When these mates with any raw serving man, or other young
  master, who may serve and deserve to make pastime, they cause him to
  be solemnly arrested, for his appearance before the mayor of Halgaver,
  where he is charged with wearing one spur, in going untrussed or
  wanting a girdle, or some such like felony; and after he hath been
  arraigned and tried, with all requisite circumstances, judgment is
  given in formal terms, and executed in some ungracious prank or other,
  more to the scorn than hurt of the party condemned. Now and then they
  extend their merriment with the largest, to the prejudice of
  over-credulous people, persuading them to fight with a dragon lurking
  in Halgaver, or to see some strange matter there; which concludeth at
  least with a training them into the mire.”


Becket’s Fair, says Hasted in his _History of Canterbury_ (1801, vol. i.
p. 104), was held on the feast of St. Thomas à Becket, and was so called
from this day being the anniversary of the Archbishop’s translation
from his tomb to his shrine, and as such was fixed for this purpose, as
a means of gathering together a greater multitude for the celebration of
this solemn day.


In some parts of this county the Sunday after St. Thomas à Becket’s Day
goes by the name of Relic Sunday.--_Time’s Telescope_, 1822, p. 192.


There existed at one time, at Wolverhampton, an annual procession, on
July 9th (the eve of the great fair), of men in antique armour, preceded
by musicians playing the “fair tune,” and followed by the steward of the
Deanery Manor, the peace-officers, and many of the principal
inhabitants. Tradition says the ceremony originated at the time when
Wolverhampton was a great emporium of wool, and resorted to by merchants
of the staple from all parts of England. The necessity of an annual
force to keep peace and order during the fair (which is said to have
lasted fourteen days, but the charter says only eight) is not
improbable. It was finally discontinued by Sir William Pulteney, who was
the lessee of the Deanery Manor, to the great dissatisfaction of the
people of Wolverhampton. These processions were the remains of the
Corpus Christi pageantry, which were always celebrated at the annual
fairs, and attended by men armed and equipped as if for war.--Shaw,
_History of Staffordshire_, 1798-1801, p. 165; Oliver, _Historical
Account of the Collegiate Church of Wolverhampton_, 1836, p. 44.


At Maghera, County Down, on the 12th of July, the anniversary of the
battle of Aughrim, the Orangemen assemble, walk in their insignia, and
dine together.--Mason, _Stat. Acc. of Ireland_, 1844, vol. i. p. 594.


St. Swithin was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the time of King
Ethelbert, and the great patron saint of the cathedral and city of
Winchester. In some church-books there are entries of gatherings of
“Saint Swithine’s farthyngs” on this day. There is an old proverb which

    “St. Swithin’s Day, if thou dost rain,
    For forty days it will remain:
    St. Swithin’s Day, if thou be fair,
    For forty days ’twill rain na mair.”

There is also a quaint saying, that when it rains on St. Swithin’s Day,
it is the saint christening the apples.--See Timbs’ _Things not
Generally Known_, 1856, p. 153.


In the Churchwardens’ accounts of the parish of Horley, under the years
1505-6, is the following entry, which implies a gathering on this
saint’s day:--

“Itm. Saintt Swithine farthyngs the said 2 yeres, 30_s._ 8_d._”


Sports were at one time annually celebrated at Cloughton on Saturday
evening after the 15th July.--Cole, _Historical Sketches of Scalby,
Burniston, and Cloughton_, 1829, p. 63.



At Clent, in the parish of Hales Owen, a fair was formerly held in a
field in which St. Kenelm’s Chapel is situated. It is, says Brand, of
very ancient date, and probably arose from the gathering together of
persons to visit the shrine of St. Kenelm on the feast of the saint,
17th of July. On the Sunday after this fair, St. Kenelm’s wake was held,
at which a curious custom was practised, called “Crabbing the Parson,”
the origin of which is said to have arisen on this wise:--“Long, long
ago, an incumbent of Frankley, to which St. Kenelm’s is attached, was
accustomed, through horrid, deep-rutted, miry roads, occasionally to
wend his way to the sequestered depository of the remains of the
murdered saint-king, to perform Divine service. It was his wont to carry
some provisions with him, with which he refreshed himself at a
farm-house near the scene of his pastoral duties. On one occasion,
however, having eaten up his store of provisions, he was tempted (after
he had donned his sacerdotal habit, and in the absence of the good dame)
to pry into the secrets of a huge pot, in which was simmering the
savoury dish the lady had provided for her household; among the rest
dumplings formed no inconsiderable portion of the contents. The story
runs that the parson poached sundry of them, hissing hot, from the
cauldron, and, hearing the footsteps of his hostess, he, with great
dexterity, deposited them in the sleeves of his surplice. She, however,
was conscious of her loss, and, closely following the parson to the
church, by her presence prevented him from disposing of them, and, to
avoid her accusation, he forthwith entered the reading-desk, and began
to read the service, the clerk beneath making the responses. Erelong, a
dumpling slipped out of the parson’s sleeve, and fell on the clerk’s
head; he looked up with astonishment, but taking the matter in good
part, proceeded with the service. Presently, however, another dumpling
fell on his head, at which he, with upturned eyes and ready tongue,
responded, “Two can play at that, master,” and, suiting the action to
the word, he immediately began pelting the parson with crabs, a store of
which he had gathered, intending to take them home in his pocket to
foment the sprained leg of his horse, and so well did he play his part,
that the parson soon decamped, amid the jeers of the old dame, and the
laughter of the few persons who were in attendance.”--Brand, _Pop.
Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 344.



On the feast of St. Margaret in 1511, the Miracle Play of the Holy
Martyr St. George was acted on a stage in an open field at Bassingborne
in Cambridgeshire, at which there were a minstrel and three waits hired
from Cambridge, with a property-man and a painter. The following extract
from an old churchwarden’s book belonging to the parish of Bassingborne,
gives the various subscriptions and expenses connected with it:--

Memorandum:--Received at the play held on St. Margaret’s day, A.D.
MDXI., in Basingborn of the holy martyr St. George.

Received of the Township of Royston xii^{s}. Tharfield vi^{s} viii^{d},
Melton v^{s} iiii^{d}, Lillington x^{s} vi^{d}, Whaddon iv^{s} iiii^{d},
Steeplemenden iiii^{s}, Barly iv^{s} i^{d}, Ashwell iiii^{s}, Abingdon
iii^{s} iv^{d}, Orwell iii^{s}, Wendy ii^{s} ix^{d}, Wimpole ii^{s}
vii^{d}, Meldreth ii^{s} iv^{d}, Arrington ii^{s} iv^{d}, Shepreth
ii^{s} iv^{d}, Kelsey ii^{s} v^{d}, Willington i^{s} x^{d}, Fulmer i^{s}
viii^{d}, Gilden Morden i^{s}, Tadlow i^{s}, Croydon i^{s} i^{d}, Hattey
x^{d}, Wratlingworth ix^{d}, Hastingfield ix^{d}, Barkney viii^{d},
Foxten iv^{d}, Kneesnorth vi^{d}.

Item received of the town of Bassingborn on the Monday and Friday after
the play, together with other comers on the Monday, xiv^{s} v^{d}.

Item received on the Wednesday after the play, with a pot of ale at
Kneesnorth, all costs deducted, i^{s} vii^{d}.

_Expenses of the said Play._

First paid to the garnement man for garnements and propyrts and
playbooks, xx^{s}.

To a minstrel and three waits of Cambridge for the Wednesday, Saturday,
and Monday. Two of them the first day, and three the other days, v^{s}

Item in expences on the Players, when the play was shewed, in bread and
ale and for other vittails at Royston for those players, iii^{s} ii^{d}.

Item in expences on the play day for the bodies of vi. sheep, xxii^{d}
each, ix^{s} ii^{d}.

Item for three calves and half a lamb, viii^{s} ii^{d}.

Item paid five days board of one Pyke Propyrte, making for himself and
his servant one day, and for his horses pasture vi. days, i^{s} iv^{d}.

Item paid to turners of spits and for salt, ix^{d}.

Item for iv chickens for the gentlemen, iv^{d.}

Item for fish and bread and setting up the stages, iv^{d}.

Item to John Beecher for painting of three Fanchoms and four Tormentors.

Item to Giles Ashwell for easement of his croft to play in, i^{s}.

Item to John Hobarde, Brotherhood Priest, for the play book, ii^{s}

  _Antiquarian Repertory_, 1808, vol. iii. p. 320.


To the west of Wereham Church, Norfolk, a well, called St. Margaret’s,
was much frequented in the times of Popery. Here, on St. Margaret’s Day,
the people regaled themselves with ale and cakes, music and dancing.
Alms were given, and offerings and vows made, at sainted wells of this
kind.--_Excursions in the County of Norfolk_, 1829, vol. ii. p. 145.



On St. Bridget’s Eve every farmer’s wife in Ireland makes a cake, called
_Bairinbreac_; the neighbours are invited, the madder of ale and the
pipe go round, and the evening concludes with mirth and festivity.--Col.
Vallancey, _Essay on the Antiquity of the Irish Language_, 1772, p. 21;
see Fosbroke’s _Encyclopædia of Antiquities_, 1840, p. 657.


It is customary in London to begin eating oysters on St. James’s Day,
and in the course of the few days following upon their introduction,
the children of the humbler class employ themselves diligently in
collecting the shells which have been cast out from taverns and
fish-shops, and of these they make piles in various rude forms. By the
time that old St. James’s Day (August 5th) has come about, they have
these little fabrics in nice order, with a candle stuck in the top, to
be lighted at night. As the stranger occasionally comes in contact with
these structures, he is suddenly surrounded by a group of boys,
exclaiming, “Pray, remember the grotto!” by which is meant a demand for
a penny wherewith professedly to keep up the candle. Mr. Thoms considers
that in the grotto thus made, we have a memorial of the world-renowned
shrine of St. James at Compostella, which may have been formerly erected
on the anniversary of St. James by poor persons, as an invitation to the
pious, who could not visit Compostella to show their reverence to the
saint by alms giving to their needy brethren.--_Book of Days_, vol. ii.
p. 122; _N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. i. p. 6.


The rector of Cliff distributes at his parsonage-house, on St. James’s
day, annually, a mutton pie and a loaf to as many as choose to demand
it; the expense amounts to about £15 per annum.


It was customary at one time for the Corporation of Liverpool to give an
annual public dinner, in the Exchange, to two or three hundred of the
principal inhabitants, on the 25th July and 11th November, the days of
the commencement of the Liverpool fairs, which were considered as days
of festivity by all ranks of the community. On these days the mayor,
bailiffs, and burgesses, in their gowns, went in procession with a band
of music, from the Exchange to the middle of Dale Street, where they
passed round a large stone, whitewashed for the occasion, and thence
proceeded to another stone in the centre of Castle Street, and back to
the Exchange, where they dined. This ancient custom was discontinued
about the year 1760.--Corry, _History of Liverpool_, 1810, p. 94.



The first Monday after St. Anne’s Day, July 26th, a feast is held at
Newbury, the principal dishes being bacon and beans. In the course of
the day a procession takes place; a cabbage is stuck on a pole, and
carried instead of a mace, accompanied by similar substitutes for other
emblems of civic dignity.--_Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 1045.


Strype in his _Ecclesiastical Memorials_ (1822, vol. iii. pt. ii. p.
11), says: “On the 29th July, 1557, being St. Olave’s Day, was the
church holiday in Silver Street, the parish church whereof was dedicated
to that saint. And at eight of the clock at night began a stage play of
a goodly matter (relating, it is like, to that saint), that continued
unto twelve at midnight, and then they made an end with good song.”


Formerly the members of the Corporation of London, in gaily-decorated
barges, went up the Thames annually in August, for the purpose of
_nicking_ or marking, and counting their swans. They used to land off
Barnes Elms, and partake of a collation. This yearly progress was
commonly but incorrectly called “swan-hopping:” the correct designation
is shown by the ancient statutes to be “swan-upping,” the swans being
taken up and nicked, or marked. A “swan-with-two-nicks” indicated, by
his second nick, that he had been taken up twice.[75]

  [75] Among the Loseley MSS. is an original roll of swan-marks, showing
  the beaks of the swans to have been notched with stars, chevrons,
  crosses, the initials of the owners’ names, or other devices.--See _N.
  & Q. 2nd S._ vol. x. p. 393.

In the accounts of the Vintner’s Company (Egerton MS. 1143, fol. 2,) is
the following entry:--

  “Money payd for expense } Item.--Payd in the grete ffroste to
    for uppyng of         }   James the under swanyerd for
    Swanes                }   upping of the Maister Swannes    iiij_s._
                          } It--For bote hyr at the same tyme  iiij_d._


Gule of August, or Lammas Day, is variously explained. _Gule_, from the
Celtic or British _Wyl_ or _Gule_, signifies a festival or holiday, and
explains Gule of August to mean the holiday of St. Peter _ad vincula_ in
this month, when the people of England, in Roman Catholic times, paid
their Peter-pence. _Lammas_ is, by some, derived from lamb-masse,
because on that day the tenants who held lands of the cathedral church
in York, which is dedicated to St. Peter _ad vincula_, were bound by
their tenure to bring a live lamb into the church at high mass. Others
derive it from the Saxon word Hlafmaesse, signifying _loaf-mass_ or
_bread-mass_, because on this day our forefathers made an offering of
bread from new wheat. Blount says, “Lammas Day, the 1st of August,
otherwise called the _Gule_ or _Yule_ of August, which may be a
corruption of the British word _Gwul Awst_, signifying the 1st of
August.” Blount further says, “that Lammas is called _Alaf-Mass_, that
is, loaf or bread mass, which signifies a feast of thanksgiving for the
first fruits of the corn. It was observed with bread of new wheat; and
in some places tenants were bound to bring new wheat to their lord on or
before the 1st of August. New wheat is called Lammas wheat.” Vallancey
further affirms that this day was dedicated to the fruits of the soil;
that _Laeith_ was the day of the obligation of grain, particularly of
wheat, and that _Mas_ signifies fruits of all kinds, especially the
acorn, whence the word “mast.”

Lammas is one of the four cross-quarter days of the year, as they are
now denominated. Whitsuntide was formerly the first, Lammas the second,
Martinmas the third, and Candlemas the last. Some rents are yet payable
at these ancient quarter-days in England, and they continue general in
Scotland.--Timbs, _Things not Generally Known_, 1856, p. 154; see
Soane’s _New Curiosities of Literature_, vol ii. p. 123; Brand’s _Pop.
Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 347.

It was once customary in England to give money to servants on Lammas
Day, to buy gloves; hence the term _glove-silver_. It is mentioned among
the ancient customs of the Abbey of St. Edmund, in which the clerk of
the cellarer had 2_d._, the cellarer’s squire, 11_d._, the granger,
11_d._, and the cowherd a penny.--_Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 334.


The charter for Exeter Lammas Fair is perpetuated by a glove of immense
size, stuffed and carried through the city on a very long pole,
decorated with ribbons, flowers, &c., and attended with music, parish
beadles, and the nobility. It is afterwards placed on the top of the
Guildhall, and then the fair commences; on the taking down of the glove
the fair terminates.--_Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 1059.


The first Sunday in August is called, by the Manks peasantry, _yn chied
doonaght a ouyr_. On that day they crowd in great numbers to the tops of
the highest hills, in the north to the summit of Snafeld, and in the
south to the top of Barule. Others visit the sanative wells of the
island, which are held in the highest estimation. The veneration with
which the Pagan deities were regarded having been transferred along with
their fanes and fountains to Christian saints, sanctified and sanative
wells became the resort of the pious pilgrim, and by the credulous
invalid libations and devotions were, according to ancient practice,
performed at these holy springs, which were believed to be guarded by
presiding powers to whom offerings were left by the visitants. Many a
wonderful cure is said to have been effected by the waters of St.
Catherine’s Well at Port Erin; by the Chibbyr Parick, or well of St.
Patrick, on the west end of the hill of _Lhargey-graue_; by Lord Henry’s
Well on the south beach of Laxey, and by the well at Peel, also
dedicated to St. Patrick, which, says the tradition, just sprang forth
where St. Patrick was prompted by Divine instinct to impress the sign of
the cross on the ground. Many extraordinary properties were ascribed to
the Nunnery Well, but the most celebrated in modern times for its
medicinal virtues is the fine spring which issues from the rocks of the
bold promontory called Maughold Head, and which is dedicated to the
saint of the name, who, it appears, had blessed the well and endowed it
with certain healing virtues. On this account it is yet resorted to, as
was the pool of Siloam of old, by every invalid who believes in its

On the first Sunday in August the natives, according to ancient custom,
still make a pilgrimage to drink its waters; and it is held to be of the
greatest importance to certain females to enjoy the beverage when seated
in a place called the _saint’s chair_, which the saint, for the
accommodation of succeeding generations, obligingly placed immediately
contiguous.--Bennet, _Sketches of the Isle of Man_, 1829, p. 65;
Waldron, _Description of Isle of Man_, p. 151; Train, _History of the
Isle of Man_, 1845, vol. ii. p. 121.


Lammas Day is noted in London for an annual rowing match on the Thames,
instituted by Thomas Doggett,[76] an actor of celebrity, in honour of
the accession of George I. to the throne of England. Doggett was so
warmly attached to the Brunswick family that Sir Richard Steele termed
him “a Whig up to the head and ears.” In the year after George I. came
to the throne, Doggett gave a waterman’s coat and silver badge, to be
rowed for by six watermen on the 1st of August. This he not only
continued till his death, but he bequeathed a certain sum of money, the
interest of which was to be appropriated annually, for ever, to the
purchase of a like coat and badge, by six young watermen, whose
apprenticeships had expired the year before. This ceremony is performed
every year, the competitors setting out, at a signal given, at that
time of the tide when the current is strongest against them, and
rowing from the old Swan, near London Bridge, to the White Swan at
Chelsea.--_Sports, Pastimes, and Customs of London_, 1847, p. 35.

  [76] He first appeared on the Dublin stage, and afterwards, with
  Colley Cibber and Robert Wilkes, became joint manager of Drury Lane
  Theatre. He died in 1721.--Faulkner, _History of Chelsea_, 1829, p.

In the parish of St. Luke, Chelsea, were formerly “The Lotts,” Lammas
land, for ages appurtenant to the manor of Chelsea. The lord of the
manor possessed the right of letting the land on lease for the spring
and summer quarters, beginning with March and ending in August, and the
inhabitants at large enjoyed the privilege of turning in their cattle
from August till February, being the autumn and winter quarters. This
state of appropriation continued till the year 1825 or 1826, when the
directors of the Kensington Canal Company took possession of them for
their own use immediately upon the completion of the canal; they have
detained them ever since, and have let them successively to several
persons, and received rent for the same. The Chelsea Lammas lands had
hitherto been opened on the 12th of August, being the first of the month
according to the old style. The graziers, butchers, and others with
their cattle, used formerly to assemble in the lane leading to “The
Lotts,” on the eve of Lammas, and when the clock had struck twelve they
entered the meadow.--Timbs, _Things not Generally Known_, 1856, p. 154.


The following curious custom once existed at Eastbourne. On the three
first Sundays in August a public breakfast, says Royer (_History of
Eastbourne_, 1787, p. 126), is given at the parsonage-house by the
tenants of the great tythes to the farmers and their servants, each
farmer being entitled to send two servants for every waggon that he
keeps. So that if a farmer have five waggons to do his necessary
business he may send ten servants, and so on in proportion for a less or
greater number. The farmers are entertained in the parlour with a
sirloin of hot roast beef, cold ham, Sussex cheese, strong ale, and
Geneva; the men are entertained in the barn with everything the same as
their masters except the beef. It is presumed that this custom had its
origin from the time the tythes were first taken in kind in this parish,
in order to keep all parties in good humour.

A petition to Parliament for the abolition of this custom was presented
as far back as 1640, and, in 1649, an ordinance was enacted that 20_l._
per annum should be paid for the relief of the poor in lieu of the
feast. In 1687 the custom was revived; more recently an annual payment
of 20_l._ for the education of poor children was substituted, and this
amount now figures year by year in the accounts of St. Mary’s schools as
paid by the Duke of Devonshire.--Chambers’ _Handbook of Eastbourne_,
1872, p. 35.



Hutton in his _Trip to Coatham_ (1810, p. 63), says the great annual
feast at Coatham in his time was celebrated on the first Sunday after
Lammas Day, old style, and called St. Wilfrid’s Feast, kept in
commemoration of the prelate’s return from exile. On the evening before
the feast commenced, the effigy of this favourite of the people, having
been previously conveyed some miles out of the town, made his public
entry as returning after a long absence, being met by crowds of people,
who, with shouts and acclamations, welcomed the return of the prelate
and patron. The same custom seems also to have been observed at
Ripon.--See _Every Day Book_, vol. ii. p. 1059.


What appears as a relic of the ancient Pagan festival of the Gule of
August, was practised in Lothian till about the middle of the eighteenth
century. The herdsmen within a certain district, towards the beginning
of summer, associated themselves into bands, sometimes to the number of
a hundred or more. Each of these communities agreed to build a tower in
some conspicuous place, near the centre of their district, which was to
serve as the place of their rendezvous on Lammas Day. This tower was
usually built of sods, for the most part square, about four feet in
diameter at the bottom and tapering to a point at the top, which was
seldom above seven or eight feet from the ground. In building it, a hole
was left in the centre for a flagstaff, on which to display their

From the moment the foundation of the tower was laid, it became an
object of care and attention to the whole community; for it was reckoned
a disgrace to suffer it to be defaced; so that they resisted, with all
their power, any attempts that should be made to demolish it, either by
force or fraud; and, as the honour that was acquired by the demolition
of a tower, if effected by those belonging to another, was in proportion
to the disgrace of suffering it to be demolished, each party endeavoured
to circumvent the other as much as possible, and laid plans to steal
upon the tower unperceived, in the night time, and level it with the
ground. Great was the honour that such a successful exploit conveyed to
the undertakers; and, though the tower was easily rebuilt, yet the news
was quickly spread by the successful adventurers, through the whole
district, which filled it with shouts of joy and exultation, while their
unfortunate neighbours were covered with shame. To ward off this
disgrace, a constant nightly guard was kept at each tower, which was
made stronger and stronger, as the tower advanced; so that frequent
nightly skirmishes ensued at these attacks, but were seldom of much
consequence, as the assailants seldom came in force to make an attack in
this way, but merely to succeed by surprise; as soon, therefore, as they
saw they were discovered, they made off in the best manner they could.

To give the alarm on these and other occasions, every person was armed
with a “tooting horn,” that is, a horn perforated in the small end,
through which wind can be forcibly blown from the mouth, so as to
occasion a loud noise; and as every one wished to acquire as great
dexterity as possible in the use of the “tooting horn,” they practised
upon it during the summer while keeping their beasts; and towards Lammas
they were so incessantly employed at this business, answering to, and
vieing with each other, that the whole country rang continually with the

As Lammas Day approached each community chose one from among themselves
for their captain, and they prepared a stand of colours to be ready to
be then displayed. For this purpose they borrowed a fine table-napkin of
the largest size from one of the farmers’ wives within the district, and
ornamented it with ribbons. Things being thus prepared, they marched
forth early in the morning on Lammas Day, dressed in their best apparel,
each armed with a stout cudgel, and, repairing to their tower, there
displayed their colours in triumph, blowing horns, and making merry in
the best manner they could: about nine o’clock they sat down upon the
green and had their breakfast.

In the meantime scouts were sent out towards every quarter to bring them
notice if any hostile party approached, for it frequently happened,
that, on that day, the herdsman of one district went to attack those of
another district, and to bring them under subjection to them by main
force. If news were brought that a hostile party approached, the horns
sounded to arms, and they immediately arranged themselves in the best
order they could devise; the stoutest and boldest in front, and those of
inferior prowess behind. Seldom did they await the approach of the
enemy, but usually went forth to meet them with a bold countenance, the
captain of each company carrying the colours, and leading the van. When
they met they mutually desired each other to lower their colours in sign
of subjection. If there appeared to be a great disproportion in the
strength of the parties, the weakest usually submitted to this ceremony
without much difficulty, thinking their honour was saved by the evident
disproportion of the match; but, if they were nearly equal in strength,
neither of them would yield, and it ended in blows, and sometimes
bloodshed. It is related that, in a battle of this kind, four were
actually killed, and many disabled from work for weeks. If no opponent
appeared, or if they themselves had no intention of making an attack, at
about mid-day they took down their colours, and marched, with horns
sounding, towards the most considerable village in their district; where
the lasses and all the people came out to meet them, and partake of
their diversions. Boundaries were immediately appointed, and a
proclamation made, that all who intended to compete in the race should
appear. A bonnet ornamented with ribbons was displayed upon a pole as a
prize to the victor; and sometimes five or six started for it, and ran
with as great eagerness as if they had been to gain a kingdom; the prize
of the second race was a pair of garters, and the third a knife. They
then amused themselves for some time with such rural sports as suited
their taste, and dispersed quietly to their respective homes before

When two parties met, and one of them yielded to the other, they marched
together for some time in two separate bodies, the subjected body behind
the other, and then they parted good friends, each performing their
races at their own appointed place. Next day, after the ceremony was
over, the ribbons and napkin that formed the colours were carefully
returned to their respective owners, the tower was no longer a matter of
consequence, and the country returned to its usual state of
tranquillity.--_Trans. Soc. Antiq. of Scotland_, vol. i. p. 194.


Hunting the ram was a very ancient custom observed at Eton, but is now
abolished. Lipscomb, in his _History of Buckinghamshire_ (1847, vol. iv.
p. 467), thus describes it:--

The college had an ancient claim upon its butcher to provide a ram on
the Election Saturday, to be hunted by the scholars; but the animal
having upon one occasion been so pressed as to swim across the Thames,
it ran into Windsor Market, with the boys after it, and much mischief
was caused by this unexpected accident. The health of the scholars had
also occasionally suffered from the length of the chase, or the heat of
the season. The character of the sport was therefore changed about 1740,
when the ram was ham-strung, and, after the speech, was knocked on the
head with large twisted clubs, which are reported to have been
considered as Etonian curiosities. But the barbarity of the amusement
caused it to be altogether laid aside at the election in 1747, and the
flesh of the ram was given to be prepared in pasties. The dish still
continues nominally to grace the Election Monday, though the meat no
longer boasts its original toughness, being in fact the flesh of
excellent wethers.

Browne Willis (quoted by Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 441)
would derive this custom from what was used in the manor of East
Wrotham, Norfolk, where the lord of the manor, after the harvest, gave
half an acre of barley and a ram to the tenants thereof; the which ram,
if they caught it was their own; if not, it was for the lord again.

In the _Gent. Mag._ (Aug. 1731, vol. i. p. 351) is the following:--

“Monday, August 2nd, was the election at Eton College, when the
scholars, according to custom, hunted a ram, by which the provost and
fellows hold a manor.”


The City apprentices, about the time of Charles II., had an annual
feast. On one occasion Charles II. sent them a brace of bucks for dinner
at Saddlers’ Hall, where several of his courtiers dined with them, and
his natural son, the duke of Grafton, officiated as one of the
stewards.--Noorthouck, _History of London_, 1773, p. 248.



Dr. Whitaker (_History of Richmond_, vol. ii. p. 293) quotes a
manuscript description of a rush-bearing observed at Warton, on St.
Oswald’s Day, or the Sunday nearest to it--he being the patron of the
church. “The vain custom,” says the writer, “of dancing, excessive
drinking, &c., having been many years laid aside, the inhabitants and
strangers spend that day in duly attending the service of the church
and making good cheer, within the rules of sobriety, in private houses;
and the next in several kinds of diversions, the chiefest of which is
usually a rush-bearing, which is on this manner:--They cut hard rushes
from the marsh, which they make up into long bundles, and then dress
them in fine linen, silk ribbons, flowers, &c.; afterwards, the young
women of the village which perform the ceremony that year, take up the
burdens erect, and begin the procession (precedence being always given
to the churchwardens’ burden), which is attended not only with
multitudes of people, but with music, drums, ringing of bells, and all
other demonstrations of joy they are able to express. When they arrive
at the church they go in at the west end, and setting down their burdens
in the church, strip them of their ornaments, leaving the heads or
crowns of them decked with flowers, cut paper, &c., in some part of the
church, generally over the cancelli. Then the company return to the town
and partake of a plentiful collation provided for that purpose, and
spend the remaining part of the day, and frequently a great part of the
night also, in dancing, if the weather permits, about a Maypole, adorned
with greens and flowers, or else in some other convenient place.”



On the first day of a fair held annually in Muncaster, called Ravenglass
Fair, the lord’s steward was attended by the serjeant of the borough of
Egremont with the insignia called the Bow of Egremont, the foresters
with their bows and horns, and all the tenants of the forest of
Copeland, whose special service was to attend the lord and his
representatives at Ravenglass Fair, and abide there during its
continuance. On the third day, at noon, the officers and tenants of the
forest departed, after proclamation made; Lord Muncaster and his tenants
took a formal re-possession of the place, and the day was concluded with
horse races and rural diversions. Afterwards the fair was held for one
day.--Lysons, _Magna Britannia_, 1816, vol. iv. p. 141.


Formerly a silver arrow used annually to be shot for by the scholars of
the Free School at Harrow. The following extract is taken from the
_Gent. Mag._, 1731, vol. i., p. 351:--

Thursday, August 5th, according to an ancient custom, a silver arrow,
value £3, was shot for at the butts on Harrow-on-the-Hill, by six youths
of the Free School, in archery habits, and won by a son of Captain
Brown, commander of an East Indiaman. This diversion was the gift of
John Lyon, Esq., founder of the said school.



Henry VI., in the eighteenth year of his reign (1440), granted to John
de Harmondesnorth, Abbot of Chertsey, the right to hold a fair on St.
Anne’s Day, July 26th, old style; but this is now held in the town on
the 6th of August, and called “Black Cherry Fair,” from the abundance of
that fruit sold there.--Brayley, _History of Surrey_, 1841, vol. ii. p.


This was formerly a great festival; and it was customary to implore
blessings upon herbs, plants, roots, and fruits, bundles of which were
taken to the church and consecrated against hurtful things.--Timbs’
_Something for Everybody_, 1861, p. 98.


The following abridged account of the Minstrels’ Festival at Tutbury,
celebrated at this season, is taken from _The Book of Days_, vol. i. p.

During the time of the Dukes of Lancaster the little town of Tutbury was
so enlivened by the noble hospitality they kept up, and the great
concourse of people who gathered there, that some regulations became
necessary for keeping them in order; more especially those disorderly
favourites of both the high and low, the wandering jugglers or
minstrels, who displayed their talents at all festive boards, weddings,
and tournaments. A court was, therefore, appointed by John of Gaunt, to
be held every year on the day after the festival of the Assumption of
the Virgin, to elect a king of the minstrels, try those who had been
guilty of misdemeanours during the year, and grant licences for the
future year, all which were accompanied by many curious observances.

The wood-master and ranger of Needwood Forest began the festivities by
meeting at Berkley Lodge, in the forest, to arrange for the dinner which
was given them at this time at Tutbury Castle, and where the buck they
were allowed for it should be killed, as also another, which was their
yearly present to the prior of Tutbury for his dinner. These animals
having received their death blow, the master, keepers, and deputies met
on the Day of Assumption, and rode in gay procession two and two, into
the town to the High Cross, each carrying a green bough in his hand, and
one bearing the buck’s head, cut off behind the ears, garnished with a
rye of pease and a piece of fat fastened to each of the antlers. The
minstrels went on foot, two and two, before them, and when they reached
the cross, the keeper blew on his horn the various hunting signals,
which were answered by the others; all passed on to the churchyard,
where, alighting from their horses, they went into the church, the
minstrels playing on their instruments during the time of the offering
of the buck’s head, and whilst each keeper paid one penny as an
offering to the church. Mass was then celebrated, and all adjourned to
the good dinner which was prepared for them in the castle, towards the
expenses of which the prior gave them thirty shillings.

On the following day the minstrels met at the bailiff’s house in
Tutbury, where the steward of the court, and the bailiff of the manor,
with the wood-master, met them. A procession was formed to go to church,
the trumpeters walking first, and then the musicians on stringed
instruments all playing; their king, whose office ended on that day, had
the privilege of walking between the steward and bailiff; after them
came the four stewards of music, each carrying a white wand, followed by
the rest of the company. The psalms and lessons were chosen in
accordance with the occasion, and each minstrel paid a penny as a due to
the vicar of Tutbury.

On their return to the castle-hall one of the minstrels cried out,
“Oyez, oyez, oyez! all minstrels within this honour, residing in the
counties of Stafford, Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, and Warwick, come in
and do your suit and service or you will be amerced.” All were then
sworn to keep the king of music’s counsel, their fellows’, and their
own; and a lengthy charge from the steward followed, in which he
expatiated on the antiquity and excellence of their noble science. After
this the jurors proceeded to choose a new king, who was taken
alternately from the minstrels of Staffordshire and Derbyshire, as well
as four stewards, and retired to consider the offences which were
alleged against any minstrel, and fine him if necessary. In the meantime
the old stewards brought into the court a treat of wine, ale, and cakes,
and the minstrels diverted themselves and the company by playing their
merriest airs. The new king entered, and was presented by the jurors,
the old one rising from his place, and giving the white wand to his
successor, pledging him in a cup of wine; the old stewards followed his
example, and at noon all partook of a dinner prepared for them by the
old king.

In the afternoon they all met at the abbey gate, where a bull was given
by the prior. The poor beast, after having had the tips of his horns
sawed off, his ears and tail cut off, his body smeared with soap, and
his nose filled with pepper, was let loose, and if the surrounding
minstrels could succeed in cutting off a piece of his skin before he
crossed the river Dove into Derbyshire, he became the property of the
king of music, but if not he was returned to the prior again. After
becoming the king’s own, he was brought to the High Street, and there
baited with dogs three times. It has been supposed that John of Gaunt,
who assumed the title of King of Castile and Leon, introduced this sport
in imitation of the Spanish bull-fights. In course of time, however, the
pursuit of the bull, which had been confined to the minstrels, became
general, and the multitude promiscuously joined in the barbarous sport,
which sometimes terminated in broken heads. In 1778 the custom was
abolished by the Duke of Devonshire, after lasting four hundred
years.--See Pitt’s _History of Staffordshire_, 1817, p. 49;
_Archæologia_, vol. ii. p. 86; Plot, _Natural History of Staffordshire_,
1686, p. 439; Shauff, _History of Staffordshire_, vol. i. p. 52.


This day was anciently kept like a wake, or general harvest-home, with
dances in the churchyard in the evening.--Fosbrooke, _Dict. Antiq._


This saint gives name to numerous wells in the north of England. Dr.
Kuerden, in the middle of the seventeenth century, describing one in the
parish of Brindle, says: “To it the vulgar neighbouring people of the
Red Letter do much resort with pretended devotion, on each year upon St.
Ellin’s Day, where and when, out of a foolish ceremony, they offer, or
throw into the well, pins, which, there being left, may be seen a long
time after by any visitor of that fountain.” A similar custom was
observed some years ago by the visitors of St. Helen’s well in Sefton,
but more in accordance with an ancient practice than from any devotion
to the saint.--Baines, _History of County of Lancaster_, 1836, vol. iii.
p. 497; _Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. pp. 336, 337.


Bartholomew Fair--The origin of Bartholomew Fair was a grant from Henry
I., in 1133, to a monk named Rayer, or Rahere, who had been his jester,
and had founded the Priory of St. Bartholomew, in later times
transformed into a hospital. The fair was annually held at the festival
of St. Bartholomew, and, like all other ancient fairs, was originally
connected with the Church, under whose auspices miracle-plays, founded
on the legends of saints, were represented, which gave place to
mysteries, and these again to moralities; afterwards, profane stories
were introduced, the origin of the modern English drama. It was
discontinued after 1855, having flourished for seven centuries and a
half. Established originally for useful trading purposes, it had long
survived its claim to tolerance, but, as London increased, became a
great public nuisance, with its scenes of riot and obstruction in the
very heart of the city. After the opening of the fair, it was customary
anciently for wrestlers to exercise their art, of which Paul Hentzner, a
German tutor, travelling in the year 1598 through England has given an
account. He says, “that every year upon St. Bartholomew’s day, when the
fair is held, it is usual for the mayor, attended by the twelve
principal aldermen, to walk in a neighbouring field, dressed in his
scarlet gown, and about his neck a golden chain to which is hung a
golden fleece, and, besides, that particular ornament which
distinguishes the most noble Order of the Garter. When the mayor goes
out of the precincts of the city a sceptre and sword and a cap are borne
before him, and he is followed by the principal aldermen in scarlet
gowns with gold chains, himself and they on horseback. Upon their
arrival at a place appointed for that purpose, where a tent is pitched,
the mob begin to wrestle before them, two at a time; the conquerors
receiving rewards from the magistrates. After this is over, a parcel of
live rabbits are turned loose among the crowd, which are pursued by a
number of boys, who endeavour to catch them, with all the noise they can
make.” In a proclamation, made in 1608, we find the following command
laid down in reference to the wrestling: “So many aldermen as dine with
my Lord Mayor and the sheriffs, be apparelled in their scarlet gowns
lined, and after dinner their horses be brought to them where they dine,
and those aldermen which dine with the sheriffs, ride with them to my
lord’s house, to accompany him to the wrestling. Then when the wrestling
is done, they take their horses, and ride back again through the fair,
and so in at Aldersgate, and so home again to the said Lord Mayor’s
house.” Mr. Samuel Pepys (1663) alludes to this wrestling in his diary.

The scholars from the different London schools met at the Priory for
disputations on grammar and logic, and wrangled together in verse. John
Stow says: “I myself, in my youth, have yearly seen on the eve of St.
Bartholomew the Apostle, the scholars of divers grammar schools repair
unto the churchyard of St. Bartholomew, the Priory in Smithfield, where
upon a bank boarded about under a tree, some one scholar hath stepped
up, and there hath opposed and answered till he were by some better
scholar overcome and put down; and then the overcomer taking his place
did like as the first. And in the end, the best opposers and answerers
had rewards, which I observed not but it made both good schoolmasters
and also good scholars, diligently against such times to prepare
themselves for the obtaining of this garland. I remember there repaired
to these exercises, amongst others, the masters and scholars of the free
schools of St. Paul’s in London, of St. Peter’s at Westminster, of St.
Thomas Acon’s Hospital, and of St. Anthonie’s Hospital; whereof the last
named commonly presented the best scholars, and had the prize in those
days. This Priory of St. Bartholomew being surrendered to Henry VIII.,
those disputations of scholars in that place surceased; and was again,
only for a year or twain, revived in the cloister of Christ’s Hospital,
where the best scholars, then still of St. Anthonie’s School, howsoever
the same be now fallen both in number and estimation, were rewarded with
bows and arrows of silver, given to them by Sir Martin Bower, goldsmith.
Nevertheless, however, the encouragement failed; the scholars of St.
Paul’s, meeting with them of St. Anthonie’s, would call them Anthonie’s
Pigs, and they again would call the other Pigeons of Paul’s, because
many pigeons were bred in St. Paul’s Church, and St. Anthonie was always
figured with a pig following him; and mindful of the former usage, did
for a long season disorderly provoke one another in the open street with
_Salve tu quoque, placet mecum disputare? Placet!_ And so proceeding
from this to questions in grammar, they usually fell from words to
blows, with their satchels full of books, many times in great heaps that
they troubled the streets and passengers; so that finally they were
restrained with the decay of St. Anthonie’s School.”

In the first centuries of its existence Bartholomew Fair was one of the
great annual markets of the nation and the chief cloth fair of the
kingdom. It was the great gathering in the metropolis of England, for
the sale of that produce upon which England especially relied for her
prosperity. Two centuries after the Conquest our wealth depended upon
wool, which was manufactured in the time of Henry II., in whose days
there arose guilds of weavers. In King John’s reign there was
prohibition of the export of wool and of the import of cloth. A
metropolitan cloth fair was therefore a commercial institution, high in
dignity and national importance. There was a trade also at Bartholomew
Fair in live stock, in leather, pewter, and in other articles of
commerce, but cloth ranked first among the products of our industry. The
clothiers of England, and the drapers of London, had their standings
during the fair in the Priory churchyard. In the reign of Queen
Elizabeth, however, Bartholomew Fair ceased to be a cloth fair of any
importance; but its name and fame is still preserved in the lane running
parallel to Bartholomew Close, termed “Cloth Fair,” which was generally
inhabited by drapers and mercers in the days of Strype.

A Pedlars’ Court of Piepowder was held within the Priory gates, for
debts and contracts, before a jury of traders formed on the spot, at
which the prior, as lord of the fair, presided by his representative. It
remained always by its original site, being held in Cloth Fair to the
last. There is no record to be found of any ordinance by which the court
of Piepowder was first established in this country. There never had been
known a fair in Europe to which such a court was not by usage attached.
Such courts were held in the markets of the Romans, which some writers
regard as fairs, and in which they find the origin of modern fairs. The
court of Piepowder in Bartholomew Fair, or the corresponding court in
any other fair in England, had jurisdiction only in commercial
questions. It could entertain a case of slander if it was slander of
wares, not slander of person: not even the king, if he should sit in a
court of Piepowder, could extend its powers. In 1445 four persons were
appointed by the court of aldermen as keepers of the fair and of the
court of Piepowder, the city being thus in that case represented as
joint lord of the fair with the prior. As the fair prospered it was
rendered attractive by a variety of popular amusements. All manner of
exhibitions, theatrical booths, &c., thronged the fair, and tumblers,
acrobats, stilt-walkers, mummers, and mountebanks, resorted to it in
great numbers. Shows were exhibited for the exhibition of puppet-plays,
sometimes constructed on religious history, such as “The Fall of
Nineveh,” others were constructed on classic story, as “The Siege of
Troy.” Shows of other kinds abounded, and zoology was always in high
favour. In 1593 the keeping of the fair was for the first time
suspended, by the raging of the plague. The same thing happened in 1603,
in 1625, in 1630, in 1665, and in 1666. The licence of the Restoration
mainly arising from the low personal character of the king, but greatly
promoted by the natural tendency to reaction after the excess of
severity used by the Puritans in suppressing what was not to be
suppressed, at once extended Bartholomew Fair from a three days’ market
to a fortnight’s--if not even at one time to a six weeks’--riot of
amusement. In 1678 the civil authorities had already taken formal notice
of the “Irregularities and Disorders” of Bartholomew and Lady Fairs, and
referred it to a committee “to consider how the same might be
prevented, and what damages would occur to the city by laying down the
same.” This is the first hint of suppression that arises in the history
of the fair, and its arising is almost simultaneous with the decay of
the great annual gathering as a necessary seat of trade. In 1685 the
fair was leased by the city to the sword bearer for three years at a
clear rent of £100 per year. At the expiration of two years a committee
having reported that the net annual profit for those years had amounted
to not more than £68, the city fair, then lasting fourteen days, was, on
his application, leased to the same sword-bearer for twenty-one years at
the same rent. As time went on, however, the Corporation of London was
still setting daily against the evil that was in the fair. In 1691, and
again in 1694, a reduction to the old term of three days was ordered, as
a check to vice, and in order that the pleasures of the fair might not
choke up the avenues of the traffic. In 1697, the Lord Mayor, on St.
Bartholomew’s Day, published an ordinance recorded in the _Postman_ “for
the suppression of vicious practices in Bartholomew Fair, as obscene,
lascivious, and scandalous plays, comedies and farces, unlawful games
and interludes, drunkenness, etc., strictly charging all constables and
other officers to use their utmost diligence in persecuting the same.”
But there was no suppression of the puppet-theatres. _Jephthah’s Rash
Vow_ was performed that year at Blake’s Booth, as in the following years
at Blake and Pinkethman’s. Again on the 18th of June, 1700, stage-plays
and interludes at the fair were for that year prohibited: they were
again prohibited by the mayor who ruled in the year 1702. In 1698, a
Frenchman, Monsieur Sorbière, visiting London, says, “I was at
Bartholomew Fair. It consists most of toy-shops, also fiacres and
pictures, ribbon shops, no books; many shops of confectioners, where any
woman may be commodiously treated. Knavery is here in perfection,
dextrous cut-purses and pickpockets. I went to see the dancing on the
ropes, which was admirable. Coming out, I met a man that would have took
off my hat, but I secured it, and was going to draw my sword, crying out
“Begar! damn’d rogue! morbleu!” &c., when on a sudden I had a hundred
people about me, crying, “Here, monsieur, see _Jephthah’s Rash Vow_;”
“Here, monsieur, see _The Tall Dutchwoman_;” “See _The Tiger_,” says
another; “See _The Horse and No Horse_, whose tail stands where his head
should do;” “See the _German Artist_, monsieur;” “See _The Siege of
Namur_, monsieur;” so that betwixt rudeness and civility I was forced to
get into a fiacre, and, with an air of haste and a full trot, got home
to my lodgings.”

In 1701 Bartholomew Fair was presented as a nuisance by the Grand Jury
of London, and in 1750 it was reduced to its original three days. By the
alteration of the calendar in 1752, the fair, in the following year,
was, for the first time, proclaimed on September 3rd.

On the 3rd of December, 1760, the London Court of Common Council
referred to its City Lands Committee to consider the tenures of the City
fair, with a view to their abolition. The subject was then carefully
discussed, and a final report sent in, with the opinion of counsel, upon
which the court came to a resolution, that, owing to the interest of
Lord Kensington in Bartholomew Fair, that was a nuisance which they
could endeavour only by a firm practice of restriction to abate. In 1769
plays, puppet-shows, and gambling were suppressed. In 1798, when the
question of abolishing the fair was discussed, a proposal to restrict it
to one day was made and set aside, because the measure might produce in
London a concentrated tumult dangerous to life. In the course of a trial
at Guildhall in 1817, involving the rights of Lord Kensington, it was
stated on Lord Kensington’s behalf, that considering the corrupt state
of the fair, and the nuisance caused by it in the neighbourhood of
Smithfield, he should throw no obstacle in the way of its removal, and
was ready to give up his own rights over it, on being paid their value.
His receipts from toll were stated to be 30_l._ or 40_l._ a year, and
their estimated value 500_l._ or 600_l._ In the year 1830 the
Corporation of London did accordingly buy from Lord Kensington the old
Priory rights, vested in the heirs of Chancellor Rich, and all the
rights and interests in Bartholomew Fair then became vested in the City.
Having thus secured full power over the remains in question, the
Corporation could take into its own hands the whole business of their
removal. The fair at this time had long ceased to be a place of traffic,
and was only a haunt of amusement, riot, and dissipation. Latterly it
had only been attended by the keepers of a few gingerbread stalls; and
consequently in 1839 measures were for the first time seriously adopted
for its suppression, and in the following year the exhibitions were
removed to Islington. In 1850 the last proclamation by the Lord Mayor
took place, and in 1855 the once famous Bartholomew Fair came to an
end.--_History and Origin of Bartholomew Fair_, published by Arliss and
Huntsman, 1808; Chambers’ _Encyclopædia_ (1860), vol. i. p. 719; Morley,
_Memoirs of Bartholomew Fair_, 1859; Chambers’ _Book of Days_, vol. ii.
pp. 263-267.


In the morning a number of maidens, clad in their best attire, went in
procession to a small chapel, situated in the parish of Dorrington, and
strewed its floor with rushes, from whence they proceeded to a piece of
land called the “Play-Garths,” where they were joined by most of the
inhabitants of the place, who passed the remainder of the day in rural
sports, such as foot-ball, wrestling and other athletic exercises, with
dancing, &c.--_History of County of Lincoln_, 1834, vol. ii. p. 255.

It was customary at Croyland Abbey to give little knives to all comers
on St. Bartholomew’s Day. Mr. Gough, in his _History of Croyland Abbey_,
p. 73. says that this abuse was abolished by Abbot John de Wisebech, in
the time of Edward IV., exempting both the abbot and convent from a
great and needless expense. This custom originated in allusion to the
knife wherewith St. Bartholomew was flayed. Three of these knives were
quartered, with three of the whips so much used by St. Guthlac, in one
coat borne by this house. Mr. Hunter had great numbers of them, of
different sizes, found at different times in the ruins of the abbey and
in the river.


Dr. Johnston, quoted by Hampson (_Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 342), has
preserved an account of a pageant exhibited at Dent on the rush-bearing
(St. Bartholomew’s Day) after the Restoration, in which, among other
characters, Oliver and Bradshaw, Rebellion and War, were represented,
all decked by times with vizardes on, and strange deformities; and
Bradshaw had his tongue run through with a red hot iron, and Rebellion
was hanged on a gibbet in the market-place. Then came Peace and Plenty,
and Diana with her nymphs, all with coronets on their heads, each of
which made a several speech in verses of their loyalty to their king.



Concerning this curious custom, Britton, in his _Lancashire_ (1818, p.
109), gives the following account:--

It is a sort of public carnival or _jubilee_, and is held every twenty
years, as appears by the records of the corporation. The last
confirmation was by Charles II., in 1684, since which time it has been
regularly held, in the first of Anne, ninth of George I., sixteenth of
George II., and second, twenty-second, and again in the forty-second
year of George III., the only monarch, except Queen Elizabeth, who has
reigned during the time of three guilds. It begins about the latter end
of August, and, by the Charter, which obliges the corporation to
celebrate it at the end of every twenty years, on pain of forfeiting
their elective franchises and their right as burgesses, twenty-eight
days of grace are allowed to all who are disposed to renew their
freedom. By public proclamation it is declared that, on failure of doing
so, they are ever after to be debarred of the same on any future
occasion. The last guild commenced on the 30th of August, 1802, when an
immense concourse of people of all ranks were assembled, and processions
of the gentlemen at the heads of the different classes of manufactories
with symbolical representations of their respective branches of trade
and commerce; and bands of music passed through the principal streets of
the town. The mayor and corporation, with the wardens of the different
companies at the head of their respective incorporated bodies, each in
their official dresses, and with their usual insignia, fell into the
ranks in due order, and the whole was preceded by an excellent band of
music belonging to the 17th Regiment of Light Dragoons, in full dress,
and their officers newly clothed. Besides the wool-combers’, spinners’,
weavers’, cordwainers’, carpenters’, vintners’, tailors’, smiths’,
plumbers’, painters’, glaziers’, watchmakers’, mercers’ and drapers’
companies, the whole was closed by the butchers, skinners, tanners, and
glovers, habited in characteristic dresses, each company being attended
by a band of music and a very elegant ensign. In this order they
proceeded to church, and after service returned and paraded through the
different streets in the same order. The mayor afterwards entertained
the gentlemen at his house, and on the next day the mayoress repeated
the treat to the ladies of the town and its vicinity, who formed a
procession on this day, in a similar manner, preceded by the girls of
the cotton manufactory.



An annual festival used to be held at Eccles, of great antiquity, as old
probably as the first erection of the church, called Eccles Wake,
celebrated on the first Sunday in September, and was continued during
the three succeeding days, and consisted of feasting upon a kind of
local confectionery, called “Eccles Cakes,” and ale, with various

The following was the programme on such an occasion:

“_Eccles Wake._--On Monday morning, at eleven o’clock the sports will
commence (the sports of Sunday being passed over in silence) with that
most ancient, loyal, rational, constitutional and lawful diversion--

“_Bull Baiting_--In all its primitive excellence, for which this place
has been long noted. At one o’clock there will be a foot race; at two
o’clock, a bull baiting for a horse collar; at four o’clock, donkey
races for a pair of panniers; at five o’clock, a race for a stuff hat;
the day’s sport to conclude with baiting the bull, Fury, for a superior
dog-chain. On Tuesday, the sports will be repeated; also on Wednesday,
with the additional attraction of a smock race by ladies. A main of
cocks to be fought on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for twenty guineas,
and five guineas the byes, between the gentlemen of Manchester and
Eccles; the wake to conclude with a fiddling match by all the fiddlers
that attend for a piece of silver.”--Baines, _History of County of
Lancaster_, 1836, vol. iii. p. 123.



At Diss, it is customary for the juvenile populace, on the Thursday
before the third Friday in September (on which latter day a fair and
session for hiring servants are held), to mark and disfigure each
other’s dresses with white chalk, pleading a prescriptive right to be
mischievous on “Chalk-Back Day.”--_N. & Q. 1st. S._ vol iv. p. 501.


The following extract is taken from the _Leeds Mercury_, September 8th,
1863:--The triennial ceremony of “throwing the dart” in Cork Harbour was
performed on Thursday afternoon by the mayor of that city. This is one
of those quaint ceremonials by which, in olden time, municipal
boundaries were preserved and corporate rights asserted. A similar civic
pageant called “riding the fringes” (franchises) was formerly held by
the lord mayor and corporation of Dublin, in which, after riding round
the inland boundaries of the borough, the cavalcade halted at a point on
the shore near Bullock, whence the lord mayor hurled a dart into the
sea, the spot where it fell marking the limit of the maritime
jurisdiction. At 2 o’clock, P.M., the members of the Cork town council
embarked on board a steam-vessel, attended by all the civic officers,
and the band of the Cork civil artillery. A number of ladies also
attended. The steamer proceeded out to sea until she reached an
imaginary line between Poor Head and Cork Head, which is supposed to be
the maritime boundary of the borough. Here the mayor donned his official
robes and proceeded, attended by the mace and sword bearer, the city
treasurer, and the town clerk, all wearing their official costumes, to
the prow of the vessel, whence he launched his javelin into the water,
thereby asserting his authority as lord high admiral of the port. The
event was celebrated by a banquet in the evening.



An offering of a stag was at one time annually made on St. Cuthbert’s
Day, in September, by the Nevilles of Raby. On one occasion, however,
Lord Neville claimed that himself, and as many as he might bring with
him, should be feasted by the Prior upon the occasion. To this the Prior
demurred, as a thing that had never been before claimed as of right, and
as being a most expensive and onerous burden, for the trains of the
great nobility of that day were numerous in the extreme. The result was
that the Prior declined to accept the stag when laid before the shrine,
by which they of the Nevilles were so grievously offended that from
words they got to blows, and began to cuff the monks who were
ministering at the altar. The latter, upon this occasion, were not
contented to offer a mere passive resistance, for they made such good
use of the large wax candles which they carried in belabouring their
opponents as to compel them to retreat. The retainers of the Nevilles
did not, however, condescend to take back again the stag which, as they
deemed, had been so uncourteously refused. The stag was an oblation by
the Nevilles of great antiquity, and appears to have been brought into
the church, and presented with winding of horns.--Ornsby, _Sketches of
Durham_, 1846, p. 77; Mackenzie, _View of County of Durham_, 1834, vol.
ii. p. 201.



An old tradition existing within the town of Grimsby asserts that every
burgess at his admission to the freedom of the borough anciently
presented to the mayor a boar’s head, or an equivalent in money when the
animal could not be procured. The lord, too, of the adjacent manor of
Bradley, it seems, was obliged by his tenure to keep a supply of these
animals in his wood for the entertainment of the mayor and burgesses,
and an annual hunting match was officially proclaimed on some particular
day after the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. In the midst of these
extensive woods the sport was carried on, and seldom did the assembled
train fail to bring down a leash of noble boars, which were designed for
a public entertainment on the following day. At this feast the
newly-elected mayor took his seat at the head of the table, which
contained the whole body corporate and the principal gentlemen of the
town and neighbourhood--_Med. Ævi Kalend._, vol. i. p. 96.


A fair used to be celebrated at Winchester on the 12th of September, and
was by far the greatest fair in the kingdom. The mayor resigned the keys
of the four gates to a magistrate appointed by the bishop, and
collectors were stationed on all the roads. Merchants resorted to it
from distant parts of Europe, and it formed a temporary city; each
street being appropriated to different commodities.--_Historical and
Descriptive Guide to Winchester_, 1829, p. 86.


This festival, called also Holy-Cross Day, was instituted by the Romish
Church on account of the recovery of a large piece of the cross by the
Emperor Heraclius, after it had been taken away on the plundering of
Jerusalem by Chosroes, King of Persia.

It appears to have been customary to go a-nutting upon this day, from
the following passage in the old play of _Grim the Collier of Croydon_:

    “This day, they say, is called Holy-Rood Day,
    And all the youth are now a-nutting gone.”

In the _Gent. Mag._ is the following:--“Tuesday, September 14th, 1731,
being Holy-Rood Day, the king’s huntsmen hunted their free buck in
Richmond New Park, with bloodhounds, according to custom.”


It appears from the MS. _Status Scholæ Etonensis_, 1560, already quoted,
that, in the month of September, “on a certain day,” most probably the
14th, the boys of Eton School were to have a play-day, in order to go
out and gather nuts, a portion of which, when they returned, they were
to make presents of to the different masters. Before leave, however, was
granted for their excursion, they were required to write verses on the
fruitfulness of autumn, the deadly cold, &c., of the coming winter.


At Chertsey a fair is held on Holy-Rood Day (Old Style), and goes by the
name of “Onion Fair,” from the quantity of this esculent brought for
sale.--Brayley, _History of Surrey_, 1841, vol. ii. p. 191.


In Brayley’s _Londiniana_ (1829, vol. ii. p. 30) is the following
extract from the MS. copy of the journal of Richard Hoare, Esq., during
the year of his shrievalty, 1740-41:--Monday, September 21st (1741),
being St. Matthew’s Day, waited on my lord mayor to the great hall in
Christ’s Hospital, where we were met by several of the presidents and
governors of the other hospitals within the city, and being seated at
the upper end the children passed two and two, whom we followed to the
church, and after having a sermon came back to the grammar-school, where
the boys made speeches in commemoration of their benefactors, one in
English, the other in Latin, to each of whom it is customary for the
lord mayor to give one guinea, and the two sheriffs half-a-guinea
a-piece as we did; afterwards, the clerk of the hospital delivered to
the lord mayor a list of the several governors to the several hospitals
nominated the preceding year. Then the several beadles of all the
hospitals came in, and laying down their staves on the middle of the
floor, retired to the bottom of the hall. Thereupon the lord mayor
addressed himself to the city marshal, inquiring after their conduct,
and if any complaint was to be made against any one in particular, and
no objection being made, the lord mayor ordered them to take up their
staves again; all which is done in token of their submission to the
chief magistrate, and that they hold their places at his will, though
elected by their respective governors. We were afterwards treated in the
customary manner with sweet cakes and burnt wine.


On this day, at Biddenham, shortly before noon, a little procession of
villagers convey a white rabbit decorated with scarlet ribbons through
the village, singing a hymn in honour of St. Agatha. This ceremony is
said to date from the year of the first Crusade. All the unmarried young
women who meet the procession extend the first two fingers of the left
hand, pointing towards the rabbit, and say--

    “Gustin, Gustin, lacks a bier!
    Maidens, maidens, bury him here.”

  _The Penny Post_, November 1870.


In Laud’s diary occurs the following: “[1635] Sept. 24th, Scalding

This was probably a homely term for the day of preparation for that
high-day Michaelmas, when the victim goose was scalded, plucked, and
hung--a week’s hanging is the rule for a goose.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._, vol.
iv. p. 441.



A curious custom once existed at Kingston, viz., that of the
congregation cracking nuts during the performance of divine service on
the Sunday next before the eve of St. Michael’s Day: hence the phrase,
“Crack-Nut Sunday.” This custom is considered by some to have had
originally some connection with the choosing of the bailiff and other
members of the corporate body on St. Michael’s Day, and of the usual
civic feast attending that proceeding. It would seem, however, from the
following passage in Goldsmith’s _Vicar of Wakefield_ (chap. iv.), that
the custom was not confined to Kingston; for the good vicar, speaking of
his parishioners, says:--“They kept up the Christmas carol, sent
true-love-knots on Valentine morning, ate pancakes on Shrovetide, showed
their wit on the first of April, and religiously cracked nuts on
Michaelmas eve.”--Brayley, _Topographical History of Surrey_, 1841, vol.
iii. p 41.


The last Sunday of summer has been, heretofore, a day of great
importance with the Irish, as upon it they first tried the new potato,
and formed an opinion as to the prospects of the future harvest. The
day was always called, in the west in particular, “Garlic Sunday,”
perhaps a corruption of Garland Sunday.--_N. & Q. 1st. S._ vol. ix. p.


At this season village maidens, in the west of England, go up and down
the hedges gathering crab apples, which they carry home, putting them
into a loft, and forming with them the initials of their supposed
suitors’ names. The initials which are found, on examination, to be most
perfect on _Old_ Michaelmas Day are considered to represent the
strongest attachments and the best for choice of husbands.--Brand, _Pop.
Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 356.

_Michaelmas Goose._--It was long a prevalent notion that the practice of
eating goose on Michaelmas Day arose from the circumstance that Queen
Elizabeth received the news of the defeat of the Spanish Armada whilst
partaking of a goose on that anniversary. This, however, is disproved by
the fact that, so far back as the tenth year of Edward IV. (1470), one
John de la Hay was bound, amongst other services, to render to William
Barnaby, lord of Lastres, in Herefordshire, for a parcel of the demesne
lands, “xx^{d} and one goose fit for his lord’s dinner on the Feast of
St. Michael the Archangel.”--_Sports, Pastimes, and Customs of London_,
1847, p. 37.

In the poems of George Gascoigne, 1575, occur too the following lines:--

    “And when the tenantes come to paie their quarter’s rent,
    They bring some fowle at Midsummer, a dish of fish in Lent;
    At Christmasse a capon, at Michaelmasse a goose,
    And somewhat else at New-yere’s tide, for feare their lease flie

Blount, in his _Tenures_, says that probably no other reason can be
given for this custom but that Michaelmas day was a great festival, and
geese at that time were most plentiful.--See Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._,
1849, vol. i. pp. 367-371.


It appears from a tablet in the church at Great Coxwell, that the Rev.
David Collier charged certain lands in the hamlet of Little Coxwell with
the payment of eight bushels of barley yearly, on the 29th of September,
for teaching the poor children of this parish to read, write, and cast
accounts, for three years, when they were to be succeeded by two others
to be taught for the same term, and so on successively for ever, and he
empowered the vicar and churchwardens, or the major part of them (the
vicar being always one) to nominate the children. The payment has been
regularly made, sometimes in kind, but latterly in money estimated at
the price of barley, at the Farringdon market, the nearest to the day
when the annual payment becomes due. The payment is made, under the
direction of the churchwardens, to a schoolmistress for teaching three
children to read, and, if girls, to mark also. The number of children
was formerly two only, who were further taught to write and cast
accounts; but this part of their education was discontinued many years
ago in consequence at the inadequacy of the fund, and, instead thereof
an additional child was sent to be instructed with the others.--Edwards,
_Old English Customs and Charities_, p. 40.

The inhabitants of Abingdon once had a custom of adorning their houses
with flowers, &c., on the election of a mayor. A writer in the _Gent.
Mag._ (1782, vol. lii. p. 558), says:--Riding through Abingdon early on
one of the first Sundays in October, he found the people in the streets
at the entrance of the town, very busy in adorning the outside of their
houses with garlands of flowers and boughs of trees, and the paths were
strewed with flowers. One house was distinguished by a greater number of
garlands than the rest, and some were making to be fixed at the end of
poles. On inquiring the reason, he was told that it was usual to have
this ceremony performed in the street in which the new mayor lived on
the first Sunday that he went to church after his election.


The manor of Roscarrock, the _Roscaret_ of Domesday, situated near
Endellion, was held in the time of Edward the Confessor by Alvin, and at
the time of the Domesday survey by Nigel under the Earl of Moriton. A
substantial house has been constructed on the site of the old mansion.
Roscarrock pays a modus of £9 in lieu of tithes; this modus was
anciently paid, according to established custom, in the church porch
before sunrise on the morning of Michaelmas Day.--_Parochial History of
County of Cornwall_, 1867, vol. i. p. 333.


The Lawless Court is kept, says Morant (_History of Essex_ 1768, vol. i.
p. 272), at King’s-hill, about half a mile north-east of Rochford
Church, in the yard of a house once belonging to .... Crips, Gent., and
afterwards to Robert Hackshaw, of London, merchant, and to Mr. John
Buckle. Here the tenants kneel, and do their homage. The time is the
Wednesday morning next after Michaelmas Day, upon the first
cock-crowing, without any kind of light but such as the heavens will
afford. The steward of the Court calleth all such as are bound to appear
with as low a voice as possible, giving no notice, when he that gives
not an answer is deeply amerced. They are all to whisper to each other;
nor have they any pen and ink, but supply that office with a coal; and
he that owes suit and service thereto, and appears not, forfeits to the
lord double his rent every hour he is absent. A tenant of this manor
forfeited not long ago his land for non-attendance, but was restored to
it, the lord only taking a fine. The Court is called Lawless because
held at an unlawful or lawless hour, or _quia dicta sine lege_: the
title of it runs in the Court rolls to this day according to the form


    Curia de Domino Rege
    Dicta sine Lege,
    Tenta est ibidem
    Per ejusdem consuetudinem.
    Ante ortum Solis,
    Luceat nisi Polus,
    Nil scribit nisi colis.
    Toties voluerit,
    Gallus ut cantaverit,
    Per cujus solum sonitum,
    Curia est summonita.
    Clamat clam pro Rege
    In Curia sine Lege,
    Et nisi cito venerint,
    Citius pœnituerint;
    Et nisi clam accedant
    Curia non attendat;
    Qui venerit cum lumine,
    Errat in regimine
    Et dum sunt sine lumine
    Capti sunt in crimine,
    Curia sine cura
    Jurati de injuria;

  Tenta ibidem die Mercurii (ante diem) proximo, post Festum Sancti
  Michaelis Archangeli, anno Regni Regis, &c.

There is a tradition that this servile attendance was imposed at first
upon certain tenants of divers manors hereabouts for conspiring in this
place at such an unreasonable time to raise a commotion.[77]

  [77] At Kidderminster, says a correspondent of _Gent. Mag._ (1790,
  vol. lx. p. 1191), is a singular custom. On the election of a bailiff
  the inhabitants assemble in the principal streets and throw
  cabbage-stalks at each other. The town-house bell gives signal for the
  affray. This is called “lawless hour.” This done (for it lasts an
  hour), the bailiff elect and corporation, in their robes, preceded by
  drums and fifes (for they have no waits), visit the old and new
  bailiff, constables, &c., attended by a mob. In the meantime the most
  respectable families in the neighbourhood are invited to meet and
  fling apples at them on their entrance.


The custom of hanging out bushes of ivy, boughs of trees, or bunches of
flowers at _private_ houses as a sign that good cheer may be had within,
prevails in the city of Gloucester at the fair held at Michaelmas,
called Barton Fair from the locality.--_N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. ix. p.


In Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._ (1849, vol. i. p. 372) is the following account
of a curious septennial custom observed at Bishop Stortford and in the
adjacent neighbourhood on old Michaelmas Day, taken from a London
newspaper of the 18th of October, 1787:--

On the morning of this day, called Ganging Day, a great number of young
men assemble in the fields where a very active fellow is nominated the
leader. This person they are bound to follow, who, for the sake of
diversion, generally chooses the route through ponds, ditches, and
places of difficult passage. Every person they meet is bumped, male or
female, which is performed by two other persons taking them up by their
arms, and swinging them against each other. The women in general keep at
home at this period, except those of less scrupulous character, who, for
the sake of partaking of a gallon of ale and a plumcake, which every
landlord or publican is obliged to furnish the revellers with, generally
spend the best part of the night in the fields if the weather is fair,
it being strictly according to ancient usage not to partake of the cheer
anywhere else.


A correspondent of _Book of Days_ (vol ii. p. 393) gives the following
account of the ceremonies formerly connected with the election of the
mayor at Nottingham. On the day the new mayor assumed office (September
29), he, the old mayor, the aldermen, and councillors, all marched in
procession to St. Mary’s Church, where divine service was said. After
service the whole body went into the vestry, where the old mayor seated
himself in an elbow chair, at a table covered with _black_ cloth, in the
middle of which lay the mace covered with rosemary and sprigs of bay.
This was termed “the burying of the mace,” doubtless a symbolical act,
denoting the official decease of its late holder. A form of electing the
new mayor was then gone through, after which the one retiring from
office took up the mace, kissed it, and delivered it into the hand of
his successor. The new mayor then proposed two persons for sheriffs, and
two for the office of chamberlains; and after these had also gone
through the votes, the whole assemblage marched into the chancel, where
the senior coroner administered the oath to the new mayor in the
presence of the old one: and the town-clerk gave to the sheriffs and
chamberlains their oath of office. These ceremonies being over, they
marched in order to the New Hall, attended by such gentlemen and
tradesmen as had been invited by the mayor and sheriffs, where the
feasting took place. On their way, at the Week-day Cross, over against
the ancient Guild Hall, the town-clerk proclaimed the mayor and
sheriffs; and at the next ensuing market-day they were again proclaimed
in the face of the whole market at the Malt Cross. On these occasions
the mayor and sheriffs welcomed their guests with bread and cheese,
fruit in season, and pipes and tobacco.


At Chichester, Sloe Fair was always proclaimed under the Canon Gate by
the bishop’s steward eight days before the eve of St. Faith the Virgin,
during which time the jurisdiction of the mayor ceased, and the bishop
had power to collect, and did by his agent collect, the tolls of the
market and fair. An instance is recorded (1702) in the annals of the
corporation of the bishop claiming the keys of the city during the
Piepowder Court. The bishop’s claim arose from a grant made as early as
Henry I.--Dally, _Chichester Guide_, 1831, p. 24.

The bailiff of Seaford is annually elected on St. Michael’s Day. The
freemen of the town having previously assembled at the Court
Hall--leaving the jurats on the bench--retire to a certain spot at the
gate-post of a field near the west end of the town, where the
serjeant-at-mace of the body corporate nominates the chief magistrate
for the ensuing year, who is then and there elected. This peculiar
custom is supposed to have originated to prevent any influence on the
part of the corporation magistrates (jurats), and to enable the freemen
to make a free choice of their mayor.


Martin, in his _Account of the Western Isles of Scotland_, (1703, p.
79), speaking of the island Lingay, says that the inhabitants are much
addicted to riding, the plainness of the country disposing both men and
horses to it. They observe an anniversary cavalcade on Michaelmas Day,
and then all ranks of both sexes appear on horseback. The place for this
rendezvous is a large piece of firm sandy ground on the sea-shore, and
there they have horse racing for small prizes for which they contend
eagerly. There is an ancient custom by which it is lawful for any of the
inhabitants to steal his neighbour’s horse the night before the race and
ride him all next day, provided he delivers him safe and sound to the
owner after the race. The manner of running is by a few young men who
use neither saddles nor bridles, except small ropes made of bent instead
of a bridle, nor any sort of spurs but their bare heels; and when they
begin the race, they throw these ropes on their horses’ necks, and drive
them on vigorously, with a piece of long sea-ware in each hand instead
of a whip, and this is dried in the sun several months before for that
purpose. This is a happy opportunity for the vulgar, who have few
occasions for meeting except on Sundays; the men have their sweethearts
behind them on horseback and give and receive mutual presents: the men
present the women with knives and purses, the women present the men with
a pair of fine garters of divers colours; they give them likewise a
quantity of wild carrots.

Macaulay says it was the custom, till of late, at St. Kilda, on
Michaelmas Day, to prepare in every family a loaf or cake of bread,
enormously large, and compounded of different ingredients. This cake
belonged to the Archangel, and had its name from him. Every one in each
family, whether strangers or domestics, had his portion of this kind of
shew-bread, and had of course some title to the friendship and
protection of St. Michael.--_History of St. Kilda_, 1764, p. 22.

Martin, speaking of the Protestant inhabitants of Skye, says: They
observe the festivals of Christmas, Easter, Good Friday, and St.
Michael. Upon the latter day, they have a cavalcade in each parish, and
several families bake the bread called St. Michael’s bannock. Alluding
to St. Kilbar village, he observes that they likewise have a general
cavalcade on St. Michael’s Day, and take a turn round their church.
Every family, as soon as the solemnity is over, is accustomed to bake
St. Michael’s cake; and all strangers, together with those of the
family, must eat the bread that night.--Martin’s _Description of the
Western Isles of Scotland_, p. 213.


In Ireland, this season is celebrated by the making of the Michaelmas
cake. A lady’s ring is mixed in the dough, and, when the cake is baked
it is cut into sections and distributed to the unmarried people at
table, and the person who gets the slice with the ring “is sure to be
married before next Michaelmas.”--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. ix. p. 520.



The origin of this fair arose from the large quantities of geese which
were driven up from the fens of Lincolnshire for sale at this fair,
which is on the 2nd of October, when geese are just in season. Persons
now living can remember seeing fifteen or twenty thousand geese in the
market-place, each flock attended by a gooseherd with a crook, which he
dexterously threw round the neck of any goose, and brought it out for
inspection by the customer. A street on the Lincolnshire side of the
town is still called Goosegate, and the flavour of the goose is fully
appreciated by the good people of Nottingham, as, on the fair day, one
is sure to be found on the table of twenty-nine out of a hundred of the
better class of the inhabitants.--_N. & Q. 1st S._, vol. vi. p. 563.

A writer in _Jour. of the Arch. Assoc._ (1853, vol. viii. p. 236),
alluding to the customs allowed at Nottingham, says that the mayor of
Nottingham formerly appears to have given a feast of hot roast geese on
the last day of his mayoralty previous to the election of his successor.


At Great Crosby, a suburban village about seven miles from Liverpool,
early in October, every year there is held a local festival, which is
called the “Goose Fair.” The feast takes place when the harvest is
gathered in about that part of the country, and so it forms a sort of
“harvest-home” gathering for the agriculturists of the neighbourhood. It
is said also that, at this particular period, geese are finer and fatter
after feeding on the stubble-fields than at any other time. Curious to
say, however, the bird in question is seldom, if ever, eaten at these
feasts.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. iii. p. 158, and vol. iv. p. 82.


On this day a very curious custom is observed in the North of England. A
cake of flour, spring-water, salt, and sugar must be made by three
maidens or three widows, and each must have an equal share in the
composition. It is then baked before the fire in a Dutch-oven, and, all
the while it is doing, silence must be strictly observed, and the cake
must be turned nine times, or three times to each person. When it is
thoroughly done it is divided into three parts. Each one taking her
share, and cutting it into nine slips, must pass each slip three times
through a wedding-ring previously borrowed from a woman who has been
married at least seven years. Then each one must eat her nine slips as
she is undressing, and repeat the following rhyme:--

    “O good St. Faith, be kind to-night,
    And bring to me my heart’s delight;
    Let me my future husband view,
    And be my visions chaste and true.”

Then all three must get into bed with the ring suspended by a string to
the head of the couch, and they will be sure to dream of their future
husbands.--Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 373.


Pack Monday Fair is held at Sherborne on the first Monday after the 10th
of October, and is ushered in, says Hutchins (_Hist. of Dorset_, 1774),
by the ringing of the great bell at a very early hour in the morning,
and by the boys and young men perambulating the streets with cows’
horns. Tradition asserts that this fair originated at the termination of
the building of the church, when the people who had been employed about
it packed up their tools, and held a fair or wake in the churchyard,
blowing cows’ horns in their rejoicing.--See _Every Day Book_, vol. ii.
p. 1037.


A fair was formerly held yearly on the 10th of October, in the precincts
of the ville of Christ Church, and was usually called Jack and Joan
Fair, from its being esteemed a statute fair for the hiring of servants
of both sexes, for which purpose it continued till the second Saturday
or market-day had passed.--Hasted’s _History of Kent_, 1799, vol. iv. p.


About the year 1760, it was customary with the burgesses of Liverpool on
the annual election of a mayor to have a bear baited. This event took
place on the 10th of October, and the demonstrations of rejoicing
continued for several days. The animal was first baited at the White
Cross, at the top of Chapel Street, and was then led in triumph to the
exchange, where the conflict was renewed. A repetition of the same
brutal cruelties was likewise exhibited in Derby Street, and the
diversion was concluded by the animal undergoing reiterated assaults at
the Stock Market opposite the top of Pool Lane. The bear was assailed
separately by large mastiffs, and if any dog compelled him to yell, or
was able to sustain the contest with superior address, he was rewarded
with a brass collar. It was remarkable, however, that few of the bear’s
assailants could be induced to renew the fight after having once
received the fraternal embrace.--Corry, _History of Liverpool_, 1810, p.


Formerly, there existed in Hull a custom of whipping all the dogs that
were found running about the streets on the 10th of October,[78] and at
one time so common was the practice, that every little urchin considered
it his duty to prepare a whip for any unlucky dog that might be seen in
the street on that day.

  [78] See St. Luke’s Day.

Tradition assigns the following origin to the custom:--Previous to the
suppression of monasteries in Hull, it was the custom for the monks to
provide liberally for the poor and the wayfarer who came to the fair
held annually on the 11th of October; and while busy in this necessary
preparation the day before the fair, a dog strolled into the larder,
snatched up a joint of meat and decamped with it. The cooks gave the
alarm, and when the dog got into the streets he was pursued by the
expectants of the charity of the monks, who were waiting outside the
gate, and made to give up the stolen joint. Whenever, after this, a dog
showed his face while this annual preparation was going on, he was
instantly beaten off. Eventually, this was taken up by the boys and,
until the introduction of the new police, was rigidly put in practice by
them every 10th of October.--_N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. viii. p. 409.



At Charlton, a fair was held on this day, and was characterized by
several curious peculiarities. Every booth in the fair had its horns
conspicuous in the front. Rams’ horns were an article abundantly
represented for sale, even the gingerbread was marked by a gilt pair of
horns. It seemed an inexplicable mystery how horns and Charlton Fair had
become associated in this manner, till an antiquary at length threw a
light upon it by pointing out that a horned ox is the recognised
mediæval symbol of St. Luke, the patron of the fair, fragmentary
examples of it being still to be seen in the painted windows of Charlton
Church. This fair was one where an unusual licence was practised. It was
customary for men to come to it in women’s clothes--a favourite mode of
masquerading two or three hundred years ago--against which the puritan
clergy launched many a fulmination. The men also amused themselves, on
their way across Blackheath, in lashing the women with furze, it being
proverbial that “all was fair at Horn Fair.”--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p.

A sermon was formerly preached at Charlton Church on the day of the
fair. A practice which originated by a bequest of twenty shillings a
year to the minister of the parish for preaching it.--See _Every Day
Book_, 1826, vol. i. pp. 1386-1389.


Drake, in his _Eboracum_ (1736, p. 218), says that a fair was always
kept in Micklegate, on St. Luke’s Day, for all sorts of small wares. It
was commonly called _Dish Fair_ from the great quantity of wooden
dishes, ladles, &c., brought to it. An old custom was observed at this
fair, of bearing a wooden ladle in a sling on two stangs about it,
carried by four sturdy labourers, and each labourer was supported by
another. This, without doubt, was a ridicule on the meanness of the
wares brought to the fair, small benefit accruing to the labourers at

Drake tells us that in his time St. Luke’s Day was known in York by the
name of Whip-Dog Day, from a strange custom that schoolboys had of
whipping all dogs that were seen in the streets on that day. Whence this
uncommon persecution, he says, took its rise is uncertain, and has even
been considered by some to be of Roman origin. He regards, however, the
following tradition as most probable:--That in some time of popery a
priest celebrating mass at this festival, in some church in York,
unfortunately dropped the host after consecration, which was suddenly
snatched up and swallowed by a dog that lay under the altar table. The
profanation of this high mystery occasioned the death of the dog, and a
persecution began which was continued on the anniversary of this day.
The same custom also existed at Manchester on the first day of Acres
Fair, which was held about the same time.--_Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p.


Richard Aldridge gave the interest of 200_l._, Three per Cent. Consols,
that the dividend should, for ever, be disposed of as follows:--1_l._
1_s._ to the vicar of the parish of St. Nicholas for performing morning
service annually in the parish church on the 21st of October, and
preaching a sermon in commemoration of the glorious victory obtained by
Lord Nelson over the combined fleets of France and Spain off Cape
Trafalgar, on the 21st of October 1805; 10_s._ 6_d._ equally between the
clerk and sexton for their attendance at such service and sermon. The
residue of the dividend to be applied to keeping a monument of his
friend in good condition, and the surplus after such repair to be given
to the poor on the 6th of December each year in coals and
garments.--Edwards, _Old English Customs and Charities_, 1842, p. 170.


In many places St. Crispin’s Day is a great holiday among the
shoemakers, and the origin of it is thus explained:--Two brothers,
Crispin and Crispinian, natives of Rome, having become converts to
Christianity, travelled to Soissons in France about the year 303, in
order to propagate the Christian faith. Being desirous, however, of
rendering themselves independent they gained a subsistence by making
shoes, with which it is said they furnished the poor at an extremely
small price, an angel, according to the legend, supplying them with
leather. They suffered martyrdom in the persecution under Maximian.

In _Time’s Telescope_ for 1816 it is observed that the shoemakers of the
present day are not far behind their predecessors in the manner of
keeping St. Crispin. From the highest to the lowest it is a day of
feasting and jollity. It is also observed as a festival with the
corporate body of cordwainers or shoemakers of London, but without any
sort of procession on the occasion.


In the town of Hexham, the following custom is, or was, at one time
observed:--The shoemakers of the town meet and dine by previous
arrangements at some tavern; a King Crispin, queen, prince, and
princess, elected from members of their fraternity of families, being
present. They afterwards form in grand procession (the ladies and their
attendants excepted), and parade the streets with banners, music, &c.,
the royal party and suite gaily dressed in character. In the evening
they reassemble for dancing and other festivities. To his majesty and
consort, and their royal highnesses the prince and princess (the latter
usually a pretty girl), due regal homage is paid during that day.--_N. &
Q. 1st S._ vol. vi. p. 243.

At one time the cordwainers of Newcastle celebrated the festival of St.
Crispin by holding a coronation of their patron saint in the court of
the Freemen’s Hospital at the Westgate, and afterwards walking in
procession through the principal streets of the town. This caricature
show produced much laughter and mirth.--Mackenzie, _History of
Newcastle_, 1827, vol. i. p. 88.


In the parishes of Cuckfield and Hurst-a-point, St. Crispin’s Day is
kept with much rejoicing. The boys go round asking for money in the name
of St. Crispin, bonfires are lighted, and it passes off very much in the
same way as the 5th of November. It appears from an inscription on a
monument to one of the ancient family of Bunell, in the parish church of
Cuckfield, that a Sir John Bunell attended Henry V. to France in the
year 1415, with one ship, twenty men-at-arms, and forty archers, and it
is probable that the observance of this day in that neighbourhood is
connected with that fact.--_N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. v. p. 30.


At Tenby an effigy was made and hung on some elevated and prominent
place (the steeple for instance) on the previous night. On the morning
of the Saint’s day it was cut down and carried about the town, a will
being read in doggrel verse, purporting to be the last testament of the
Saint, in pursuance of which the several articles of dress were
distributed to the different shoemakers. At length nothing remained of
the image but the padding, which was kicked about by the crowd. As a
sort of revenge for the treatment given to St. Crispin, his followers
hung up the effigy of a carpenter on St. Clement’s Day.--Mason’s _Tales
and Traditions of Tenby_, 1858, p. 26.



This day used to be observed at Burton-on-Trent. On it was held a sale
of cheese, and a variety of sports and pastimes took place.--Pitt,
_Topographical History of Staffordshire_, 1817, p. 45.


The manor of Chetwode--a small village about five miles from
Buckingham--has been the property of the Chetwode family from Saxon
times. Though of small extent, it is the paramount manor of a liberty
or district, embracing several other manors and villages, which are
required to do suit and service at the Court-Leet held at Chetwode every
three years. The lord of Chetwode manor has also the right to levy a
yearly tax, called the “Rhyne Toll,” on all cattle found within this
liberty, between the 30th of October and the 7th of November, both days
inclusive. The commencement of the toll, which is proclaimed with much
ceremony, is thus described in an old document of Queen Elizabeth’s

“In the beginning of the said drift of the common, or rhyne, first at
their going forth, they shall blow a welke-shell, or horne, immediately
after the sun rising at the Mansion-House of the manor of Chetwode, and
then, in their going about, they shall blow their horne the second time
in the field between Newton Purcell and Barton Hartshorne, in the said
county of Bucks, and also shall blow their horne a third time at a place
near the town of Finmere, in the county of Oxford, and they shall blow
their horne the fourth time at a certain stone in the market of the town
of Buckingham, and there to give the poor sixpence; and so, going
forward in this manner about the said drift, shall blow the horne at
several bridges called Thornborough Bridge, King’s Bridge, and Bridge
Mill. And they also shall blow their horne at the Pound Gate, called the
Lord’s Pound, in the parish of Chetwode..... And also (the Lord of
Chetwode) has always been used by his officers and servants to drive
away all foreign cattle that shall be found within the said parishes,
fields, &c., to impound the same in any pound of the said towns, and to
take for every one of the said foreign beasts twopence for the mouth,
and one penny for a foot for every one of the said beasts.” All cattle
thus impounded at other places were to be removed to the pound at
Chetwode, and if not claimed and the toll paid within three days, “then
the next day following after the rising of the sun, the bailiff or
officers of the lord for the time being shall blow their horne three
times at the gate of the said pound, and make proclamation that, if any
persons lack any cattle that shall be in the same pound, let them come
and shew the marks of the same cattle so claimed by them, and they shall
have them, paying unto the lord his money in the manner and form before
mentioned, otherwise the said cattle that shall so remain, shall be the
lord’s as strays.” This toll was formerly so rigidly enforced, that if
the owner of cattle so impounded made his claim immediately after the
proclamation was over, he was refused them, except by paying their full
market price.

Though the custom is still regularly observed, it has undergone some
changes since the date of the above document. The toll now begins at
nine in the morning instead of at sunrise, and the horn is first sounded
on the church-hill at Buckingham, and gingerbread and beer distributed
among the assembled boys, the girls being excluded. The officer then
proceeds to another part of the liberty on the border of Oxfordshire,
and there, after blowing his horn as before, again distributes
gingerbread and beer among the assembled boys. The toll is then
proclaimed as begun, and collectors are stationed at different parts to
enforce it, at the rate of two shillings a score upon all cattle and
swine passing on any road within the liberty, until twelve o’clock at
night on the 7th of November, when the “Rhyne” closes.

The occupiers of land within the liberty have long been accustomed to
compound for the toll by an annual payment of one shilling. The toll has
sometimes been refused, but has always been recovered with the attendant
expenses. It realised about 20_l._ a year before the opening of the
Buckinghamshire Railway; but now, owing to Welsh and Irish cattle being
sent by trains, it does not amount to above 4_l._, and is let by the
present lord of the manor for only 1_l._ 5_s._ a year.

The existence of this toll may be traced to remote antiquity, but
nothing is known of its origin except from local tradition, which,
however, in this case has been so remarkably confirmed, that it may
safely be credited. The parish of Chetwode, as its name implies, was
formerly thickly wooded; indeed it formed a part of an ancient forest
called Rookwoode, which is supposed to have been conterminous with the
present liberty of Chetwode. At a very early period, says our tradition,
this forest was infested with an enormous wild boar which became the
terror of the surrounding country. The inhabitants were never safe from
his attacks, and strangers who heard of his ferocity were afraid to
visit or pass through the district, so that traffic and friendly
intercourse were seriously impeded, as well us much injury done to
property by this savage monster. The lord of Chetwode, like a valiant
knight, determined to rid his neighbourhood from this pest, or to die in
the attempt. Bent on this generous purpose, he sallied forth into the
forest, and, as the old song has it,--

    “Then he blowed a blast full north, south, east, and west--
      Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
    And the wild boar then heard him full in his den,
      As he was a jovial hunter.

    Then he made the best of his speed unto him--
      Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
    Swift flew the boar, with his tusks smeared with gore,
      To Sir Ryalas, the jovial hunter.

    Then the wild boar, being so stout and so strong--
      Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
    Thrashed down the trees as he ramped him along
      To Sir Ryalas, the jovial hunter.

    Then they fought four hours in a long summer day--
      Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
    Till the wild boar fain would have got him away
      From Sir Ryalas, the jovial hunter.

    Then Sir Ryalas he drawed his broad-sword with might--
      Wind well thy horn, good hunter;
    And he fairly cut the boar’s head off quite,
      For he was a jovial hunter.”

Matters being thus settled, the neighbourhood rung with the praises of
the gallant deed of the lord of Chetwode, and the news thereof soon
reached the ears of the king, who “liked him so well of the
achievement,” that he forthwith made the knight tenant _in capite_, and
constituted his manor paramount of all the manors within the limits and
extent of the royal forest of Rookwoode. Moreover, he granted to him,
and to his heirs for ever, among other immunities and privileges, the
full right and power to levy every year the “Rhyne Toll,” which has
already been described.

Such a custom as the “Rhyne Toll” is not without its use. It is a
perpetual memorial, perhaps more convincing than written history, of the
dangers which surrounded our ancestors, and from which our country has
happily been so long delivered that we can now scarcely believe they
ever existed.--_The Book of Days_, vol. ii. pp. 517-519.


This eve is so called from being the vigil of All Saints’ Day, and is
the season for a variety of superstitious and other customs. In the
north of England many of these still linger. One of the most common is
that of diving for apples, or of catching at them with the mouth only,
the hands being tied behind, and the apples suspended on one end of a
long transverse beam, at the other extremity of which is fixed a lighted
candle. The fruit and nuts form the most prominent parts of the evening
feast, and from this circumstance the night has been termed _Nutcrack
Night_.[79]--Soane’s _Book of the Months_, 1849, vol. ii. p. 215; see
_Book of Days_, vol. ii. pp. 519-520.

  [79] See Michaelmas Eve, p. 375.

Sir William Dugdale (_Life, Diary, and Correspondence of Sir W.
Dugdale_, _edited by_ W. Hamper, 1827, p. 104) tells us that formerly,
on Halloween, the master of the family used to carry a bunch of straw,
fired, about his corn, saying:

    “Fire and red low
    Light on my teen now.”

This fire-straw, says a correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_3rd S._ vol. i. p.
316), was meant to ward off witchcraft, and so preserve the corn from
being spoiled. In Scotland, on Halloween, the red end of a fiery stick
is waved about in mystic figures in the air to accomplish for the person
the same spell. Red appears to be a colour peculiarly obnoxious to
witches. One Halloween rhyme enjoins the employment of:

    “Rowan tree and red thread,
    To gar the witches dance their dead;”

i.e., dance till they fall down and expire. The berries of the
rowan-tree (mountain-ash) are of a brilliant red. The point of the fiery
stick waved rapidly takes the appearance of a “red thread.”


The ancient custom of providing children with a large apple on
Allhallows Eve is still observed to a great extent at St. Ives. “Allan
Day,” as it is termed, is the day of days to hundreds of children who
would deem it a great misfortune were they to go to bed on Allan night
without the time honoured allan apple to hide beneath their pillows. A
large quantity of apples are thus disposed of, the sale of which is
dignified by the term Allan Market.--Hunt’s _Romances of the West of
England_, 1871, p. 388.


In Lancashire, says Hampson (_Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 365), it was
formerly believed that witches assembled on this night to do “their
deeds without a name,” at their general rendezvous in the forest of
Pendle, a ruined and desolate farmhouse, denominated the _Malkin Tower_,
from the awful purposes to which it was devoted. This superstition led
to a ceremony called _lating_, or perhaps _leeting the witches_. It was
believed that, if a lighted candle were carried about the fells or hills
from eleven till twelve o’clock at night, and burned all that time
steadily, it had so far triumphed over the evil power of the witches,
who, as they passed to the Malkin Tower, would employ their utmost
efforts to extinguish the light, and the person whom it represented
might safely defy their malice during the season; but if by accident the
light went out, it was an omen of evil to the luckless wight for whom
the experiment was made. It was also deemed inauspicious to cross the
threshold of that person until after the return from _leeting_, and not
then unless the candle had preserved its light.--See _Year Book_, 1838,
p. 1276.


This festival, called by the islanders _Sauin_, was formerly observed in
the Isle of Man by kindling of fires with all the accompanying
ceremonies, to prevent the baneful influence of fairies and witches. The
island was perambulated at night by young men who stuck up at the door
of every dwelling-house, a rhyme in Manks, beginning:

    “Noght oie howney hop-dy-naw,
    This is Hollantide Eve,” &c.

On Hollantide Eve, boys go round the town shouting out a doggrel, of
which the following is an extract:

                  “This is old Hollantide night,
                  The moon shines fair and bright;
                  I went to the well
                  And drank my fill;
                  On the way coming back
                  I met a pole-cat;
                  The cat began to grin
                  And I began to run;
                  Where did you run to?
                  I ran to Scotland;
                  What were they doing there?
                  Baking bannocks and roasting collops.

           *       *       *       *       *

    If you are going to give us anything, give us it soon,
    Or we’ll be away by the light of the moon!”

For some peculiar reason, potatoes, parsnips, and fish, pounded together
and mixed with butter, form always the evening meal.--Train, _History of
the Isle of Man_, 1845, vol. ii. p. 123.


In the reign of Charles I., the young gentlemen of the Middle Temple
were accustomed at All Hallow Tide, which they considered the beginning
of Christmas, to associate themselves for the festive objects connected
with the season. In 1629 they chose Bulstrode Whitelocke as Master of
the Revels, and used to meet every evening at St. Dunstan’s Tavern, in a
large new room, called “The Oracle of Apollo,” each man bringing friends
with him at his own pleasure. It was a kind of mock parliament, where
various questions were discussed as in our modern debating societies,
but these temperate proceedings were seasoned with mirthful doings, to
which the name of revels was given and of which dancing appears to have
been the chief. On All Hallows Day, “the Master (Whitelocke, then
four-and-twenty), as soon as the evening was come, entered the hall
followed by sixteen revellers. They were proper, handsome young
gentlemen, habited in rich suits, shoes and stockings, hats and great
feathers. The master led them in his bar gown, with a white staff in his
hand, the music playing before them. They began with the old masques;
after which they danced the _Brawls_,[80] and then the master took his
seat, while the revellers flaunted through galliards, corantos, French
and country dances, till it grew very late. As might be expected, the
reputation of this dancing soon brought a store of other gentlemen and
ladies, some of whom were of great quality, and when the ball was over
the festive party adjourned to Sir Sydney Montague’s chamber, lent for
the purpose to our young president. At length the court ladies and
grandees were allured, to the contentment of his vanity it may have
been, but entailing on him serious expense, and then there was great
striving for places to see them on the part of the London citizens. To
crown the ambition and vanity of all, a great German lord had a desire
to witness the revels, then making such a sensation at court, and the
Templars entertained him at great cost to themselves, receiving in
exchange that which cost the great noble very little--his avowal that
‘Dere was no such nople gollege in Christendom as deirs.’”--Whitelocke’s
_Memoirs of Bulstrode Whitelocke_, 1860, p. 56; quoted in _Book of
Days_, vol. ii. p. 538.

  [80] Erroneously written _Brantes_ in the authority quoted.


If a girl had two lovers, and wished to know which would be the most
constant, she procured two brown apple pippins, and sticking one on each
cheek (after having named them from her lovers) while she repeated this

    “Pippen, pippen, I stick thee there,
    That that is true thou may’st declare,”

patiently awaited until one fell off, when the unfortunate swain whose
name it bore was instantly discarded as being unfaithful. It is to this
custom that Gay has thus alluded:

    “See from the core two kernels now I take,
    This on my cheek for Lubberkin is worn,
    And Booby Clod on t’other side is borne;
    But Booby Clod soon falls upon the ground,
    A certain token that his love’s unsound;
    While Lubberkin sticks firmly to the last;
    Oh! were his lips to mine but joined so fast.”

  _Jour. of Arch. Assoc._ 1853, vol. iii. p. 286.


At Ripon, the women make a cake for every one in the family, whence this
eve is by them called _cake-night_.--_Gent. Mag._ 1790, vol. lx. p. 719.


In North Wales there is a custom upon All Saints’ Eve of making a great
fire called _Coel Coeth_, when every family for about an hour in the
night, makes a great bonfire in the most conspicuous place near the
house, and when the fire is almost extinguished every one throws a white
stone into the ashes, having first marked it; then having said their
prayers turning round the fire, they go to bed. In the morning, as soon
as they are up, they come and search out the stones, and if any one of
them is found wanting they have a notion that the person who threw it in
will die before he sees another All Saints’ Eve.--Pennant MS., quoted by
Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 389.

In Owen’s _Account of the Bards_, preserved in Sir R. Hoare’s _Itinerary
of Archbishop Baldwin through Wales_ (vol. ii. p. 315), the following
particulars are given in connection with the above custom:--The autumnal
fire kindled in North Wales on the eve of the 1st of November is
attended by many ceremonies, such as running through the fire and smoke,
each casting a stone into the fire, and all running off at the
conclusion, to escape from the black short-tailed sow; then supping upon
parsnips, nuts, and apples; catching at an apple suspended by a string,
with the mouth alone, and the same by an apple in a tub of water; each
throwing a nut into the fire, and those that burn bright betoken
prosperity to the owners through the following year, but those that burn
black and crackle, denote misfortune. On the following morning the
stones are searched for in the fire, and if any be missing, they betide
ill to those who threw them in.


Burns, in his notes upon Halloween, gives the following interesting
account of the superstitious customs practised by the Scottish

1. The first ceremony of Halloween is pulling each a stock or plant of
kail. They must go out hand in hand, with eyes shut, and pull the first
they meet with; its being big or little, straight or crooked, is
prophetic of the size and shape of the grand object of all their
spells--the husband or wife. If any _yird_, or earth stick to the root,
that is _tocher_ or fortune; and the taste of the _custoc_, that is the
heart of the stem, is indicative of the natural temper and disposition.
Lastly, the stems, or--to give them their ordinary appellation--the
runts, are placed somewhere above the head of the door; and the
Christian names of the people, whom chance brings into the house are,
according to the priority of placing the runts, the names in question.

2. They go to the barn-yard, and pull each, at three several times, a
stalk of oats. If the third stalk wants the _top-pickle_, the party in
question will come to the marriage-bed anything but a maid.

3. Burning the nuts is a famous charm, they name the lad and lass to
each particular nut as they lay them in the fire. Accordingly, as they
burn quietly together or start from beside one another, the course and
issue of the courtship will be.

4. Steal out all alone to the _kiln_, and darkling throw into the pot a
clue of blue yarn, wind it in a new clue off the old one; and towards
the latter end, something will hold the thread; demand, “Who hauds?”
i.e., who holds. An answer will be returned from the kiln-pot, by naming
the Christian and surname of your future spouse.

5. Take a candle and go alone to a looking-glass, eat an apple before
it, and, some traditions say you should comb your hair all the time, the
face of your conjugal companion to be will be seen in the glass as if
peeping over your shoulder.

6. Steal out unperceived and sow a handful of hempseed, harrowing it
with anything you can conveniently draw after you. Repeat now and then,
“Hempseed I sow thee; hempseed, I sow thee; and him (or her) that is to
be my true love come after me and pou thee.” Look over your left
shoulder, and you will see the appearance of the person invoked in the
attitude of pulling hemp. Some traditions say, “Come after me, and show
thee,” that is show thyself, in which case it simply appears. Others
omit the harrowing, and say, “Come after me and harrow thee.”

7. _To win three wechts o’ naething._--This charm must likewise be
performed unperceived and alone, you go to the barn, and open both
doors, taking them off the hinges if possible; for there is danger that
they, being about to appear, may shut the doors and do you some
mischief. Then take that instrument used in winnowing the corn, which in
our dialect is called a _wecht_; and go through all the attitudes of
letting down corn against the wind. Repeat it three times; and the third
time an apparition will pass through the barn, in it at the windy door
and out at the other, having both the figure in question, and the
appearance or retinue marking the employment or station in life.

8. Take an opportunity of going unnoticed to a bean stack, and fathom it
three times round. The last fathom of the last time, you will catch in
your arms the appearance of your future conjugal yoke-fellow.

9. You go out, one or more, for this is a social spell, to a south
running spring or rivulet, where three lairds’ lands meet, and dip your
left shirt sleeve. Go to bed in sight of a fire, and hang your wet
sleeve before it to dry. Lie awake, and sometime near midnight an
apparition, having an exact figure of the grand object in question, will
come and turn the sleeve as if to dry the other side of it.

10. Take three dishes, put clean water in one, foul water in another,
leave the third empty; blindfold a person, and lead him to the hearth
where the dishes are ranged; he (or she) dips the left hand; if by
chance in the clean water, the future husband or wife will come to the
bar of matrimony a maid; if in the foul, a widow; if in the empty dish,
it foretells with equal certainty no marriage at all. It is repeated
three times, and every time the arrangement of the dishes is altered.


The following extract is taken from the _Guardian_ (November 11th,
1874):--Halloween was duly celebrated at Balmoral Castle. Preparations
had been made days beforehand, and farmers and others for miles around
were present. When darkness set in the celebration began, and her
Majesty and the Princess Beatrice, each bearing a large torch, drove out
in an open phaeton. A procession formed of the tenants and servants on
the estates followed, all carrying huge torches lighted. They walked
through the grounds and round the Castle, and the scene as the
procession moved onwards was very weird and striking. When it had
arrived in front of the Castle an immense bonfire, composed of old
boxes, packing-cases, and other materials, stored up during the year for
the occasion, was set fire to. When the flames were at their brightest a
figure dressed as a hobgoblin appeared on the scene, drawing a car
surrounded by a number of fairies carrying long spears, the car
containing the effigy of a witch. A circle having been formed by the
torch-bearers, the presiding elf tossed the figure of the witch into the
fire, where it was speedily consumed. This cremation over, reels were
begun, and were danced with great vigour to the stirring strains of
Willie Ross, her Majesty’s piper.


In former times at Halloween, Christmas, and other holidays, the younger
part of the community of Cullen resorted to the sands and links of the
bay for the purpose of playing foot-ball, running foot-races, &c. They
left the town in procession, preceded by a piper and other music, and
were attended by numbers from the adjacent districts. The games were
keenly contested, and the victor was crowned by a bonnet adorned with
feathers and ribbons, previously prepared by the ladies. When the games
were over, the whole party had a dance on the green, with that merriment
and glee to which the etiquette and formation of the ballroom at the
present day are total strangers. Afterwards, the procession was again
formed, and returned to the town, the victor preceded by the music,
leading the way. A ball took place in the evening, at which he presided,
and, moreover, had the privilege of wearing his bonnet and
feathers.--_Stat. Acc. of Scotland_, 1845, vol. xiii. p. 381.


Shaw, in his _History of the Province of Moray_ (p. 241), considers the
festivity of this night as a kind of harvest-home rejoicing. He says, a
solemnity was kept on the eve of the 1st of November, as a thanksgiving
for the safe ingathering of the produce of the fields.


On All Saints’ Even, the inhabitants of Callander, set up bonfires in
every village. When the bonfire is consumed, the ashes are carefully
collected into the form of a circle. There is a stone put in near the
circumference, for every person of the several families interested in
the bonfire; and whatever stone is removed out of its place or injured
before the next morning, the person represented by that stone is
devoted, or _fey_, and is supposed not to live twelve months from that
day.--Sinclair, _Stat. Acc. of Scotland_, 1793, vol. xi. p. 621.

On the evening of the 31st of October (Old Style), the inhabitants of
Logierait practise the following custom:--Heath, broom and dressings of
flax are tied upon a pole; this faggot is then kindled; one takes it
upon his shoulders, and, running, bears it round the village; a crowd
attending him. When the first faggot is burnt out, a second is bound to
the pole and kindled in the same manner as before. Numbers of these
blazing faggots are often carried about together, and when the night
happens to be dark they form a splendid illumination.--Sinclair, _Stat.
Acc. of Scotland_, 1793, vol. v. p. 84.


At this season the peasants assemble with sticks and clubs, and go from
house to house collecting money, bread-cake, butter, &c., for the feast,
repeating verses in honour of the solemnity, and demanding the
inhabitants to lay aside the fatted calf and to bring forth the black
sheep.[81] The women are employed in making the griddle cake and
candles; these last are sent from house to house in the vicinity, and
are lighted up on the next day before which they pray, or are supposed
to pray, for the departed soul of the donor. Hempseed is sown by the
maidens, and they believe that, if they look back, they will see the
apparition of the man intended for their future husbands; they hang a
smock before the fire on the close of the feast, and sit up all night
concealed in a corner of the room, convinced that his apparition will
come down the chimney and turn the smock. They also throw a ball of yarn
out of the window, and wind it up on a reel within, thinking that, if
they repeat the Paternoster backwards and look at the ball of yarn
without, they will see his apparition. They, moreover, dip for apples in
a tub of water, and endeavour to bring one up in the mouth; they suspend
a cord with a cross stick, with apples at one point and candles lighted
at the other, and endeavour to catch the apple, while it is in circular
motion, in the mouth. These and many other superstitious customs are
observed.--Valiancy, _Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis_, 1786, vol. iii.
p. 459.

  [81] This was preparatory to the sacrifice of the black sheep on the
  following day to Saman--See Soane’s _New Curiosities of Literature_,
  1847, p. 219.

On Halloween, women take the yolk from eggs boiled hard, fill the eggs
with salt, and eat egg, shell and salt. They are careful not to quench
their thirst till morning.--_N. & Q. 4th. S._ vol. iv. p. 505.


At Duffield, a curious remnant of the right of hunting wild animals is
still observed--this is called the “squirrel hunt.” The young men of the
village assemble together on the Wakes Monday, each provided with a
horn, a pan, or something capable of making a noise, and proceed to
Keddleston Park, where, with shouting and the discordant noise of the
instruments, they frighten the poor little squirrels, until they drop
from the trees. Several having been thus captured the hunters return to
Duffield, and having released the squirrels amongst some trees,
recommence the hunt.--_Jour. of the Arch. Assoc._ 1852, vol. vii. p.

At Duffield, the right of collecting wood in the forest is also
singularly observed. The young men in considerable numbers collect
together, and having taken possession of any cart they can find, yoke
themselves to it, and preceded by horns, remove any trees or other wood
from the various lanes and hedge-rows; this is done almost nightly,
between September and the Wakes, in the first week in November, when a
bonfire is made of the wood collected on the Wakes Monday.--_Ibid._ p.


This festival takes its origin from the conversion, in the seventh
century, of the Pantheon at Rome into a Christian place of worship, and
its dedication by Pope Boniface IV. to the Virgin and all the Martyrs.
The anniversary of this event was at first celebrated on the 1st of May,
but the day was subsequently altered to the 1st of November, which was
thenceforth, under the designation of the feast of All Saints, set apart
as a general commemoration in their honour. The festival has been
retained by the Anglican Church--_Book of Days_, vol. ii. p. 529; See
Soane’s _Book of the Months_, 1849, vol. ii. p. 235.

A writer in the _Gent. Mag._ 1783 (vol. liii. p. 578), thinks the
custom prevailing among the Roman Catholics of lighting fires upon the
hills on All Saints’ night, the Eve of All Souls, scarcely needs
explaining, fire being, even among the Pagans, an emblem of immortality,
and well calculated to typify the ascent of the soul to heaven.

A correspondent of the same periodical (1788, vol. lviii. p. 602)
alludes to a custom observed in some parts of the kingdom among the
Papists, of illuminating some of their grounds upon the eve of All
Souls, by bearing round them straw, or other fit materials, kindled into
a blaze. This ceremony is called a _Tinley_, said to represent an
emblematical lighting of souls out of purgatory.


On All Souls’ Eve, both children and grown-up people go from door to
door, a-souling, i.e., begging for soul cakes, or anything else they can
get. In some districts they perform a kind of play as well, but in all
instances the following, or a similar song, is sung:--

    “You gentlemen of England, pray you now draw near
    To these few lines, and you soon shall hear
    Sweet melody of music all on this evening clear,
    For we are come a-souling for apples and strong beer.

    Step down into your cellar, and see what you can find,
    If your barrels are not empty, we hope you will prove kind;
    We hope you will prove kind with your apples and strong beer,
    We’ll come no more a-souling until another year.

    Cold winter it is coming on, dark, dirty, wet and cold,
    To try your good nature, this night we do make bold;
    This night we do make bold with your apples and strong beer,
    And we’ll come no more a-souling until another year.

    All the houses that we’ve been at, we’ve had both meat and drink,
    So now we’re dry with travelling, we hope you’ll on us think;
    We hope you’ll on us think with your apples and strong beer,
    For we’ll come no more a-souling until another year.

    God bless the master of this house, and the mistress also.
    And all the little children that round the table go;
    Likewise your men and maidens, your cattle and your store,
    And all that lies within your gates we wish you ten times more;
    We wish you ten times more with your apples and strong beer,
    And we’ll come no more a-souling until another year.”

  _Jour. of the Arch. Assoc._ 1850, vol. v. p. 252.

In the parish of Lymm it is customary, for a week or ten days before the
5th of November, for the skeleton of a horse’s head, dressed up with
ribbons, &c., having glass eyes inserted in the sockets, and mounted on
a short pole by way of handle, to be carried by a man underneath covered
with a horse-cloth. There is generally a chain attached to the nose,
which is held by a second man, and they are attended by several others.
In houses to which they can gain access, they go though some kind of
performance, the man with the chain telling the horse to rear, open its
mouth, &c. The object of course is to obtain money. The horse will
sometimes seize persons, and hold them fast till they pay for being set
free; but he is generally very peaceable, for, in case of resistance
being offered, his companions generally take to flight and leave the
poor horse to fight it out.--_N. & Q. 1st. S._ vol. i. p. 258.


At Great Marton, there was formerly a sort of procession of young people
from house to house, at each of which they recited psalms, and, in
return, received presents of cakes, whence the custom was called
_Psalm-caking_.--_Med. Ævi Kalend._ 1841, vol. i. p. 375.


At a pension held at Gray’s Inn in Michaelmas Term, 21 Henry VIII.,
there was an order made that all the fellows of this house who should be
present upon any Saturday at supper, betwixt the feasts of All Saints
and the Purification of our Lady, or upon any other day at dinner or
supper, when there are _revels_, should not depart out of the hall until
the said _revels_ were ended, upon the penalty of 12_d._

In 4 Edward VI. (17 Nov.), it was also ordered, that thenceforth there
should be no comedies, called _interludes_, in the house out of term
time, but when the feast of the Nativity of our Lord is solemnly
observed, and that when there shall be any such comedies, then all the
society at that time in common to bear the charge of the apparel.

In 4 Charles I. (17 Nov.), it was also ordered that all playing of
dice, cards, or otherwise, in the hall, buttery, or butler’s chamber,
should be thenceforth forbidden at all times of the year, the twenty
days of Christmas only excepted.--Herbert, _Antiquities of the Inns of
Court_, 1804, p. 336.


In this county, says Hone, _Year Book_ (p. 1288), a custom prevails
among the lower classes of begging bread for the souls of the departed
on All Saints’ Day; the bread thus distributed is called _dole_ bread.


It is customary, says a correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_1st S._ vol. iv. p.
381) for the village children to go round to all their neighbours
_Souling_, collecting contributions, and singing the following

    “Soul! soul! for a soul-cake;
    Pray, good mistress, for a soul-cake.
    One for Peter, and two for Paul,
    Three for them who made us all.

    Soul! soul! for an apple or two;
    If you’ve got no apples, pears will do.
    Up with your kettle, and down with your pan,
    Give me a good big one, and I’ll be gone.
                Soul! soul! for a soul-cake, &c.

    An apple or pear, a plum or a cherry,
    Is a very good thing to make us merry.
                Soul! soul! &c.”

The soul-cake referred to is a sort of bun, which at one time it was an
almost general custom for persons to make, to give to one another on
this day.


Tollett, in his _Variorum_ Shakspeare (_The Two Gentlemen of Verona_,
ii. 2, note) says, On All Saints’ Day the poor people in Staffordshire,
and perhaps in other country places, go from parish to parish
_a-souling_, as they call it, i.e. begging and puling (or singing small,
as Bailey’s _Dictionary_ explains puling) for soul-cakes, or any good
thing to make them merry.” Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ (1849, vol. i. p. 393),
gives the following lines as sung on the occasion:

    “Soul, soul, for a soul-cake,
    Pray you, good mistress, a soul-cake.”


In St. Kilda, the inhabitants used to make a large cake in the form of a
triangle furrowed round, all of which was eaten the same
night.--Martin’s _Western Isles of Scotland_, 1716, p. 287.

From the same authority we learn that the inhabitants of Lewis had an
ancient custom of sacrificing to the sea-god called Shony. The
inhabitants round the island came to the church of St. Mulvay, each man
having his provisions with him. Every family furnished a peck of malt,
which was brewed into ale. One of their number was picked out to wade
into the sea up to the middle, and carrying a cup of ale in his hand, he
cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Shony, I give you this cup of ale,
hoping that you’ll be so kind as to send us plenty of sea-ware, for
enriching our ground the ensuing year;” and so threw the cup of ale into
the sea--this was performed in the night time. At his return to land,
they all went to church, where there was a candle burning upon the
altar; and then standing silent for a little time one of them gave a
signal, at which the candle was put out, and immediately all of them
went to the fields, where the rest of the night was spent in merriment.


A correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_3rd S._ vol. i. p. 446) mentions a custom
at Wexford,[82] of lighting candles (more or less) in every window in
the house, on the night of the vigil of All Souls, and when travelling
along a country road where farmhouses and cottages are numerous, the
effect is quite picturesque on a dark November eve.

  [82] This custom extends over the whole of Ireland, and is common in
  some parts of the Continent.


All Souls’ Day is set apart by the Roman Catholic Church for a solemn
service for the repose of the dead. In this country the day was formerly
observed by ringing of the passing bell, making soul-cakes, blessing
beans, and other customs. Various tenures were held by services to be
performed on this day. The nut and apple omens of Hallow Even were
continued on this day. Soul-mass cakes were given to the poor; and at
Hallowasse frankincense was newly provided.--Timbs, _Something for
Everybody_, 1861, p. 115.


From All Souls’ Day to Christmas Day, Old Hob is carried about; this
consists of a horse’s head enveloped in a sheet, taken from door to
door, accompanied by the singing of doggerel-begging rhymes.--_Jour. of
Arch. Assoc._ 1850, vol. v. p. 253.


Formerly, at the village of Findern, the boys and girls used to go every
year in the evening of All Souls’ Day to the adjoining common, and light
up a number of small fires among the furze growing there, which they
called _Tindles_.--_Gent. Mag._ 1784, vol. iv. p. 836.


In this county and also in Lancashire it was in days gone by usual for
the wealthy to dispense oaten cakes, called _soul-mass cakes_, to the
poor, who upon receiving them repeated the following couplet in

    “God have your soul
    Beens and all.”

  See Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 392.


In this county the inhabitants set on a board a high heap of small
cakes, called soul-cakes, of which they offer one to every person who
comes to the house on this day, and there is an old rhyme, which seems
to have been sung by the family and guests:

    “A soul-cake, a soul-cake;
    Have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul-cake.”

  Kennett’s _Collections_, MS. _Bibl. Lansdown_, No. 1039, vol. 105, p.

The same custom is mentioned, and with very little variation, by Aubrey
in the _Remains of Gentilisme_; see _N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. x. pp. 409,


The people of North Wales have a custom of distributing soul-cakes on
All Souls’ Day, at the receiving of which the poor people pray to God to
bless the next crop of wheat.--_Pennant._


In the county of Aberdeen on All Souls’ Day, baked cakes of a particular
sort are given away to those who may chance to visit the house where
they are made. The cakes are called “dirge-loaf.”--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol.
ii. p. 483.


The 5th of November is not observed by the populace with nearly so much
festive diversion as in former times. Originally, the burning of Guy
Fawkes in effigy was a ceremony much in vogue, especially among the
lower classes, but it is now confined chiefly to school-boys, and even
with them it is not so popular as in days gone by. Formerly, the
burning of “a good guy” was a scene of uproar perhaps unknown to the
present day. The bonfire, for example, in Lincoln’s Inn Fields was
conducted on a very grand scale. It was made at the Great Queen Street
corner, immediately opposite Newcastle House. Fuel came all day long in
carts properly guarded against surprise. Old people have recollected
when upwards of two hundred cart-loads were brought to make and feed
this bonfire, and more than thirty “guys” were burnt upon gibbets
between eight and twelve o’clock at night.[83]

  [83] The following extract is from the _Evening Standard_ (February
  5th, 1875):--“This morning at ten o’clock the Yeomen of the Guard
  (Beefeaters) made their usual search before the meeting of Parliament
  for any barrels of gunpowder that might be stowed away in the vaults
  under the Houses of Parliament.”

The butchers of Clare Market, also, were accustomed to celebrate this
anniversary in a somewhat peculiar style; one of their body, personating
Guy Fawkes, being seated in a cart, with a prayer-book in his hand, and
a priest, executioner, &c., attending, was drawn through the streets, as
if going to the place of execution; while a select party, with
marrow-bones and cleavers, led the way, and others solicited money from
the inhabitants and spectators. The sums thus obtained were spent at
night in jollity and carousing.--_Sports, Pastimes, and Customs of
London_, 1847, p. 39.

The following time-honoured rhyme is still sung, and varies in different
parts of the country:

    “Pray remember
    The Fifth of November,
    Gunpowder treason and plot;
    For I know no reason
    Why Gunpowder treason
    Should ever be forgot.
    Hollo boys! Hollo boys! Hurrah.”

In Poor Robin’s _Almanack_ for the year 1677 is the following:

    “Now boys with
    Squibs and crackers play,
    And bonfire’s blaze
    Turns night to-day.”

In some parts of the north of England the following song is sung:

    “Happy was the man,
    And happy was the day,
    That caught Guy
    Going to his play,
    With a dark lanthorn
    And a brimstone match
    Ready for the prime to touch.

    As I was going through the dark entry
    I spied the devil.
    Stand back! Stand back!
    Queen Mary’s daughter.
    Put your hand in your pocket,
    And give us some money
    To kindle our bonfire. Hurrah.”

  Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 398.


The rhyme formerly sung in many parts of this county is as below:

    “Remember, remember,
    Th’ fifth o’ November,
    Th’ gunpowder plot,
    Shall ne’er be forgot!
    Pray gi’s a bit o’ coal,
    Ter stick in th’ bun-fire hole!
    A stick an’ a stake,
    For King George’s sake--
    A stowp an’ a reel,
    Or else wey’ll steal.”

  _Long Ago_, 1873, vol. i. p. 338.


In this county the following quaint rhyme was sung on the anniversary of
the Gunpowder Plot:

        “Remember, remember
        The fifth o’ November!
    Guy and his companions’ plot:
    We’re going to blow the Parliament up!
    By God’s mercy we wase catcht,
    With a dark lantern an’ lighted matcht!”

  _Long Ago_, 1873, vol. i. p. 338.


It is stated in the register at Harlington, under the date of 1683, that
half an acre of land was given by some person, whose name has been
forgotten, for the benefit of the bell-ringers of the parish, to provide
them with a leg of pork for ringing on the 5th of November. It is called
the Pork Acre. The ground is let by the parish officers at 50_s._ a
year, which is paid by them to the bell-ringer.--Edwards, _Old English
Customs and Charities_, 1842, p. 27.


The following is the rhyme formerly sung in this county:

                  “Gunpowder treason!
                  Gunpowder treason!
                    Gunpowder treason plot!
                  I know no reason
                  Why gunpowder treason
                    Should ever be forgot.

                  Guy Fox and his companions
                    Did the scheme contrive,
                  To blow the King and Parliament
                    All up alive.

    But, by God’s providence, him they catch,
    With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
    Hollo, boys! hollo, boys! make the bells ring!
    Hollo, boys! hollo, boys! God save the king! Hurrah.”

  _Long Ago_, 1873, vol. i. p. 338.


At Clifton the following rhyme is sung:

    “Please to remember
    The fifth of November.
    Old Guy Faux
    And gunpowder plot
    Shall never be forgot,
    While Nottingham castle
    Stands upon a rock!”

  _Long Ago_, 1873, vol. i. p. 338.


    “The fifth of November,
    Since I can remember,
    Gunpowder treason and plot;
    This was the day the plot was contriv’d,
    To blow up the King and Parliament alive;
    But God’s mercy did prevent
    To save our King and his Parliament.

            A stick and a stake
              For King James’s sake!
            If you won’t give me one,
              I’ll take two,
            The better for me,
              And the worse for you.”

This is the Oxfordshire song chanted by the boys when collecting sticks
for the bonfire, and it is considered quite lawful to appropriate any
old wood they can lay their hands on after the recitation of these
lines. If it happen that a crusty chuff prevents them, the threatening
_finale_ is too often fulfilled. The operation is called _going
a-progging_. In some places they shout, previously to the burning of the
effigy of Guy Fawkes,

    “A penn’orth of bread to feed the Pope,
      A penn’orth of cheese to choke him;
    A pint of beer to wash it down,
      And a good old faggot to burn him.”

  Halliwell’s _Pop. Rhymes_, 1849, pp. 253, 554.

Formerly, it was the custom for the undergraduates of Pembroke College,
Oxford, to make verses on the 5th of November, and to have two copies of
them, one to present to the master, the other to stick up in the Hall,
and there to remain till a speech on this occasion was spoken before
supper.--Pointer, _Oxoniensis Academia_, 1749, p. 109.


At Lewes on the 5th of November in each year, a great torchlight
procession, composed of men dressed up in fantastic garbs, and with
blackened faces, and dragging blazing tar barrels after them, parade the
high street, while an enormous bonfire is lighted, into which, when at
its highest, various effigies are cast. The day’s festivities not
unfrequently terminate in a general uproar and scene of confusion. See
_Lewes Times_, November 13th, 1856.


The following doggerel is sung in this county:

      “I pray you remember the fifth of November,
        Gunpowder treason and plot;
      The king and his train had like to be slain--
        I hope this day’ll ne’er be forgot.

    All the boys, all the boys, let the bells ring!
    All the boys, all the boys, God save the king!
    A stick and a stake for King Jamie’s sake,--
    I hope you’ll remember the bonfire!”

  _N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. vii. p. 32.


At Marlborough the rustics have the following peculiar custom at their
bonfires. They form themselves into a ring of some dozen or more round
the bonfire, and follow each other round it, holding thick club-sticks
over their shoulders; while a few others, standing at distances outside
this moving ring with the same sort of sticks, beat those which the men
hold over their shoulders, as they pass round in succession, all
shouting and screaming loudly. This might last half an hour at a time,
and be continued at intervals till the fire died out.--_N. & Q. 1st. S._
vol. v. p. 355.

At Purton the boys, for several weeks before the 5th of November, used
to go from house to house begging faggots for the bonfire, in the middle
of which was burnt the effigy of Guy Fawkes. The following rhyme was
sung on the occasion:

    “My brave lads remember
    The fifth of November,
    Gunpowder treason and plot;
    We will drink, smoke, and sing, boys,
    And our bells they shall ring, boys,
    And here’s health to our King, boys,
    For he shall not be forgot.”

  See _Every Day Book_, 1827, vol. ii. p. 1379.


A very old custom prevails in the West Riding of Yorkshire, of
preparing, against the anniversary of Gunpowder Plot, a kind of oatmeal
gingerbread, if it may be so called, and of religiously partaking of the
same on this day and subsequently. The local name of the delicacy is
_Parkin_ and it is usually seen in the form of massive loaves,
substantial cakes, or bannocks.--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. iv. p. 368.

Blount, in his _Fragmenta Antiquitatis_ (Beckwith, 1815, p. 565), gives
the following account of a custom observed at Doncaster. He says at this
place on the 5th November, yearly, whether it happens on a Sunday, or
any other day in the week, the town waits play for some time on the top
of the church steeple, at the time when the congregation are coming out
of the church from morning service, the tune of “God Save the King.”
This has been done for four-score years at least, and very possibly ever
since the 5th of November has been a festival, except that formerly the
tune played was “Britons, strike home.” The waits always receive from
the churchwardens sixpence a-piece for this service.



Every tenant of the Manor of Writtell, upon St. Leonard’s Day, pays to
the lord for everything under a year old a halfpenny, for every yearling
pig a penny, and for every hog above a year old twopence, for the
privilege of pawnage in the lord’s woods: and this payment is called
Avage or Avisage.--Blount’s _Law Dictionary_, 1717.


A list of holy days published at Worcester, in 1240, ordains St.
Leonard’s festival to be kept a half holy day, enjoins the hearing of
mass, and prohibits all labour except that of the plough.--_Every Day
Book_, vol. ii. p. 1382.


The office of Chief Magistrate of London was held for life till about
1214, nor was it until more than a hundred years afterwards that the
title of _Lord_ was given to the Mayor. This arose in the time of
Richard II., on occasion of Walworth, the Mayor of the day, basely
murdering Wat Tyler in Smithfield.

That which in later days has been called the _Lord Mayor’s Show_ was but
a degenerate copy of the old _Pageant_ or _Triumph_, which assumed a
variety of forms at different times, blending Paganism, Christianity,
and chivalry in marvellous confusion. This, however, was not always the
case, for at one time it became the fashion for the city to employ
dramatists of note upon these matters; and there are yet extant certain
pageants by Decker, Middleton, Webster, and others, though perhaps
inferior writers.--Soane’s _Curiosities of Literature_.

With the processions, &c., of late years, most readers are sufficiently
well acquainted from the newspapers of the day. Fully to describe those
of former ages would require, however, a volume of no mean size; but
some idea of their general character may be formed from the following
brief sketch:--The first account of this annual exhibition known to have
been published, was written by George Peele for the inauguration of Sir
Wolstone Dixie, Knight, on the 29th of October (Old Style), 1585. On
that occasion, as was customary to the times, there were dramatic
representations in the procession of an allegorical character. Children
were dressed to personify the city, magnanimity, loyalty, science, the
country, and the river Thames. They also represented sailors, soldiers,
and nymphs, with appropriate speeches. The show opened with a Moor
mounted on a lynx. On Sir Thomas Middleton’s mayoralty, in 1613, the
solemnity is described as unparalleled for the cost, art, and
magnificence of the shows, pageants, chariots, morning, noon, and night
triumphs. In 1655 the city pageants, after a discontinuance of about
fourteen years, were revived. Edmund Gayton, the author of the
description for that year, says that “our metropolis, for these
planetary pageants, was as famous and renowned in foreign nations as for
their faith, wealth, and valour.” In the show of 1659, an European, an
Egyptian, and a Persian were personated. On Lord Mayor’s Day, 1671, the
King, Queen, and Duke of York, and most of the nobility being present,
there were “sundry shows, shapes, scenes, speeches, and songs in part;”
and the like in 1672 and 1673, when the King again graced the triumphs.
The King, Queen, Duke and Duchess of York, Prince Rupert, the Duke of
Monmouth, foreign ambassadors, the chief nobility, and Secretary of
State, were at the celebration of Lord Mayor’s Day in 1674, when there
“were emblematical figures, artful pieces of architecture, and rural
dancing, with pieces spoken on each pageant.”--See Hone’s _Every Day
Book_, vol. i. p. 1445.


The festival of St. Martin, happening at that season when the new wines
of the year are drawn from the lees and tasted, when cattle are killed
for winter food, and fat geese are in their prime, is held as a feast
day over most parts of Christendom. On the ancient clog almanacs, the
day is marked by the figure of a goose, our bird of Michaelmas being, on
the continent, sacrificed at Martinmas. In Scotland and the north of
England, a fat ox is called a _mart_[84] clearly from Martinmas, the
usual time when beeves are killed for winter use.--_Book of Days_, vol
ii. p. 568.

  [84] _Mart_, according to Skinner, is a fair, who considers it a
  contraction of market. Brand (_Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 400) says
  that, had not _mart_ been the general name for a fair, one might have
  been tempted to suppose it a contraction of Martin, the name of the
  saint whose day is commemorated.

_Salt Silver._--In the glossary to Kennett’s _Parochial Antiquities_ (p.
496) is the following:--“Salt Silver.--_One penny paid at the Feast of
St. Martin_, by the servile tenants to their lord, as a commutation for
the service of carrying their lord’s salt from market to his larder.”


There is a house in Fenny Stratford, called St. Martin’s house, in the
wall of which is a stone bearing the following inscription:--

“This house was settled on the parish officers of this town, for the
annual observance of St. Martin’s Day.”--“Anno Domini 1752.”

The house is let at 5_l._ 4_s._ per annum, and the rent, after defraying
the expense of repairs, is laid out in giving an entertainment to the
inhabitants of the town.--Edwards, _Old English Customs and Charities_,
1842, p. 59.


Within the manor of Whitlesea there is a custom for the inhabitants to
choose, on the Sunday next after the feast of St. Martin, two persons
called storers, to oversee the public business, and likewise to provide
a common bull, in consideration whereof they enjoy a certain pasture
called Bull Grass; and the major part of the freeholders and copyholders
at a meeting grant the grass every year to any person who will take it,
to have the same from Lady-day till the corn is carried out of
Coatsfield.--Blount’s _Fragmenta Antiquitatis_, 1815, p. 576.


Thomas Williamson, by will, dated 14th December, 1674, gave the sum of
20_l._ to be laid out in land to be bestowed upon poor people born
within St. John’s Chapelry or Castlerigg, in mutton or veal, at
Martinmas yearly, when flesh might be thought cheapest, to be by them
pickled or hung up and dried, that they might have something to keep
them within doors upon stormy days.--Edwards, _Old English Customs and
Charities_, 1842, p. 63.


Dugdale, in his _Antiquities of Warwickshire_ (1730, vol. i. p. 4),
says:--There is a certain rent due unto the lord of the Hundred of
Knightlow, called _Wroth_ money or _Warth_ money or _Swarff_ penny,
probably the same with _Ward_ penny. This rent must be paid every
Martinmas Day, in the morning, at Knightlow Cross, before the sun
riseth: the party paying it must go thrice about the cross, and say “The
_Wrath_ money,” and then lay it in the hole of the said cross before
good witness, for if it be not duly performed the forfeiture is thirty
shillings and a white bull.


In the North Riding of Yorkshire it is customary for a party of singers,
mostly consisting of women, to begin at the feast of St. Martin a kind
of peregrination round the neighbouring villages, carrying with them a
small waxen image of our Saviour adorned with box and other evergreens,
and singing at the same time a hymn which, though rustic and uncouth, is
nevertheless replete with the sacred story of the Nativity. The custom
is yearly continued till Christmas Eve, when the feasting, or as they
usually call it, “good living,” commences; every rustic dame produces a
cheese preserved for the sacred festival, upon which, before any part of
it is tasted, according to an old custom, she with a sharp knife makes
rude incisions to represent the Cross. With this, and furmity made of
barley and meal, the cottage affords uninterrupted hospitality.--_Gent.
Mag._ 1811, vol. lxxxi. pt. i. p. 423.


At St. Peter’s, Athlone, every family of a village, says Mason, in his
_Stat. Acc. of Ireland_ (1819, vol. iii. p. 75), kills an animal of some
kind or other: those who are rich kill a cow or a sheep, others a goose
or a turkey; while those who are poor and cannot procure an animal of
greater value, kill a hen or a cock, and sprinkle the threshold with the
blood, and do the same in the four corners of the house, and this
ceremonious performance is done to exclude every kind of evil spirit
from the dwelling where this sacrifice is made, till the return of the
same day in the following year.


_The Stamford Bull Running._--From time immemorial down to a late period
this day was annually celebrated at the town of Stamford, in
Lincolnshire, by a rough sport called bull-running. Butcher, in his
_Survey of Stamford_ (1717, pp. 76, 77), alluding to this custom,
says:--“The butchers of the town at their own charge provide the bull,
and place him over-night in a stable or barn belonging to the alderman.
The next morning proclamation is made by the common bell-man of the town
that each one shut up his shop-door and gate, and that none, upon pain
of imprisonment, do any violence to strangers, for the preventing
whereof (the town being a thoroughfare and then being in Term time) a
guard is appointed for the passing of travellers through the same
without hurt. That none have any iron upon their bull-clubs or other
staff which they pursue the bull with. Which proclamation made, and all
the gates shut up, the bull is turned out of the alderman’s house, and
the men, women, and children, with all the dogs in the town, run after
him, &c.”

According to tradition the origin of the custom dates from the time of
King John, when, one day, William, Earl of Warren, standing on the
battlements of the castle, saw two bulls fighting in the meadow beneath.
Some butchers, coming to part the combatants, one of the bulls ran into
the town, causing a great uproar. The earl, mounting his horse, rode
after the animal, and enjoyed the sport so much that he gave the meadow
in which the fight began to the butchers of Stamford, on condition that
they should provide a bull, to be run in the town annually, on the 13th
of November, for ever after.

There is no documentary evidence on the subject, but the town of
Stamford undoubtedly holds certain common rights in the meadow
specified, which is still termed the bull-meadow.--See _Book of Days_,
vol. ii. p. 574.


Strype, in his _Ecclesiastical Memorials_ (1822, vol. iii. pt. i. p.
322), says:--“It was commanded, that every priest in the diocese of
London should go to St. Paul’s in procession in copes on St. Erconwald’s
Day.” [November 14th, 1554].


Queen Elizabeth’s accession was long observed as a Protestant festival,
and with the society of the Temple, the Exchequer, Christ’s Hospital,
Westminster, and Merchant Taylors’ Schools, is, says Timbs, kept as a
holiday. The Pope in effigy, in a chair of state, with the devil, a real
person, behind him, caressing him, &c., was formerly paraded in
procession on this day in the streets of London, and afterwards thrown
into a bonfire. In Queen Anne’s time the Pretender was added to the Pope
and the devil. There were also great illuminations in the evening. This
anniversary was first publicly celebrated about 1570, twelve years after
Elizabeth’s accession. (Timbs, _Something for Everybody_, p. 122.)
Brayley in his _Londiniana_, vol. iv. p. 74, _et seq._, has given a very
interesting account of these processions.

A correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_1st S._ vol. iv. p. 345) says that when
he was at Christ’s Hospital the following curious custom prevailed on
the 17th of November.

Two or more boys would take one against whom they had any spite or
grudge, and having lifted him by the arms and legs, would bump him on
the hard stones of the cloisters.

In reading _Sir Roger de Coverley_, with notes by Willis published in
the _Traveller’s Library_, the same correspondent says that he found (at
p. 134) what he considered a fair explanation. A full account is there
given, he says, of the manner in which the citizens of London intended
celebrating, in 1711, the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s accession on
the 17th of November, some parts of which would almost seem to have
been copied during the excitement against the papal bull in November
1850. Probably therefore, originally, the unfortunate boy who had to
endure the rude bumping by his schoolfellows was intended to represent
the Pope or one of his emissaries, and that those who inflicted the
punishment were looked upon as good Protestants.


The festival day of St. Clement was formerly considered as the first day
of winter, in which were comprised ninety-one days. From a State
proclamation in 1540 it appears that processions of children were
frequent on St. Clement’s Day; and, in consequence of a still more
ancient custom of perambulating the streets on the night of this
festival to beg drink for carousing, a pot was formerly marked against
the 23rd of November upon the old runic or clog almanacs; but not upon
all.--_Med. Ævi Kalend._ 1841, vol. i. p. 60.; Plot, _History of
Staffordshire_, 1686, p. 430; see Gough’s _Camden Brit._ vol. ii. pt.
xvi. p. 499.


The bakers of Cambridge hold an annual supper on St. Clement’s Day,
which supper is called the “Baker’s Clem.”--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. iv. p.


In _Every Day Book_ (1826, vol. i. p. 1501) is the following account of
an annual ceremony formerly celebrated on the evening of St. Clement’s
Day, by the blacksmiths’ apprentices of the dockyard at Woolwich:--

One of the senior apprentices being chosen to serve as _Old Clem_ (so
called by them), is attired in a great coat, having his head covered
with an oakum wig, face masked, and a long white beard; thus attired, he
seats himself in a large wooden chair, chiefly covered with a sort of
stuff called bunting, with a crown and anchor, made of wood, on the top
and around it, four transparencies representing the “Blacksmiths’ Arms,”
“Anchor Smiths at Work,” “Britannia with her Anchor,” and “Mount Etna.”
He has before him a wooden anvil, and in his hands a pair of tongs and
wooden hammer. A mate, also masked, attends him with a wooden
sledge-hammer; he is also surrounded by a number of other attendants,
some of whom carry torches, banners, flags, &c.; others, battle-axes,
tomahawks, and other accoutrements of war. This procession, headed by a
drum and fife, and six men with Old Clem mounted on their shoulders,
proceed round the town, not forgetting to call on the blacksmiths and
officers of the dockyard: here the money-box is pretty freely handed,
after Old Clem and his mate have recited their speeches, which commence
by the mate calling for order with,

    “Gentlemen all, attention give,
    And wish St. Clem long, long to live.”

Old Clem then recites the following speech:--

“I am the real St. Clement, the first founder of brass, iron, and steel,
from the ore. I have been to Mount Etna, where the god Vulcan first
built his forge, and forged the armour and thunderbolts for the god
Jupiter. I have been through the deserts of Arabia; through Asia,
Africa, and America; through the city of Pongrove, through the town of
Tipmingo, and all the northern parts of Scotland. I arrived in London on
the 23rd of November, and came down to his Majesty’s dockyard at
Woolwich to see how all the gentlemen Vulcans came on there. I found
them all hard at work, and wish to leave them well on the

The mate then subjoins:

    “Come all you Vulcans stout and strong,
    Unto St. Clem we do belong;
    I know this house is well prepared
    With plenty of money and good strong beer;
    And we must drink before we part,
    All for to cheer each merry heart.
    Come all you Vulcans, strong and stout,
    Unto St. Clem I pray turn out;
    For now St. Clem’s going round the town,
    His coach-and-six goes merrily round.

After having gone round the town and collected a pretty decent sum, they
retire to some public-house, where they enjoy as good a supper as the
money collected will allow.


On the feast of St. Clement, a custom exists in Staffordshire for the
children to go round to the various houses in the village to which they
belong singing the following doggerel:

    “Clemany! Clemany! Clemany mine!
    A good red apple and a pint of wine,
    Some of your mutton and some of your veal,
    If it is good, pray give me a deal;
    If it is not, pray give me some salt.
    Butler, butler, fill your bowl;
    If thou fillst it of the best,
    The Lord’ll send your soul to rest;
    If thou fillst it of the small,
    Down goes butler, bowl and all.
    Pray, good mistress, send to me
    One for Peter, one for Paul,
    One for Him who made us all:
    Apple, pear, plum, or cherry,
    Any good thing to make us merry;
    A bouncing buck and a velvet chair,
    Clement comes but once a year;
    Off with the pot and on with the pan,
    A good red apple and I’ll be gone.”

  _N. & Q. 1st. S._ vol. viii. p. 618.

The following rhyme is also sung:

    “Clemeny, Clemeny, God be wi’ you,
    Christmas comes but once a ye-ar;
    When it comes, it will soon be gone,
    Give me an apple, and I’ll be gone.”

  _Ibid. 3rd. S_. vol. iv. p. 492; See Oliver’s _History of Collegiate
  Church of Wolverhampton_, 1836, p. 16.


At Tenby, on St. Clement’s Day, it was customary for the owners of
fishing-boats to give a supper of roast goose and rice pudding to their
crews.--Mason’s _Tales and Traditions of Tenby_, 1858, p. 27.


In Strype’s _Ecclesiastical Memorials_ (1822, vol. iii. pt. ii. p. 507)
is the following notice of this festival:

“The 24th (1556) being St. Katharine’s Day (or rather Eve), at six of
the clock at night St. Katharine went about the battlements of St.
Paul’s Church accompanied with fine singing and great lights; this was
St. Katharine’s procession.”



On Cattern Day the lace makers hold merry-makings, and eat a sort of
cakes called “wigs”[85] and drink ale. Tradition says it is in
remembrance of Queen Catherine, who, when the trade was dull, burnt all
her lace, and ordered new to be made. The ladies of the court could not
but follow her example, and the consequence was a great briskness in the
manufacture.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. i. p. 387.

  [85] Cakes called “wigs” were very commonly sold in the Midland
  counties some years ago, and they are even mentioned as allowable at
  the collation in Lent by a Catholic writer nearly two centuries ago.
  They were light and spongy, and something like very light gingerbread.
  As to the derivation of the name “wig” as applied to them, a
  correspondent of _Notes and Queries_ says he never dreamed of seeing
  it any where but in the shape of these cakes, which greatly resembled
  a wig; being round, and having a thick rim round them, which turned up
  like the curls of a wig of the olden times.--See _N. & Q. 3rd. S._
  vol. i. p. 436.


A paragraph in the _Cambridge Chronicle_ (December 8th, 1860) alludes to
the custom of the carpenters of Chatteris, in the Isle of Ely, observing
the feast of their patron Saint, St. Catherine, by dining together, &c.


The following extract is taken from _N. & Q._ (_2nd S._ vol. v. p.
47):--On Wednesday (the 25th) night last the towns of Chatham,
Rochester, and Brompton exhibited considerable excitement in consequence
of a torchlight procession appearing in the streets, headed by a band of
fifes and drums. Notwithstanding the late hour (eleven o’clock) a large
number of persons of both sexes, accompanied the party. The
demonstration was got up by the rope-makers of the dockyard, to
celebrate the anniversary of the founder of the ropery (Queen
Catherine). The female representing her Majesty (who was borne in a
chair of state by six rope-makers) was dressed in white muslin, wore a
gilt crown, and carried in her hand a Roman banner.


At one time it was customary, at Peterborough, till the introduction of
the new poor laws, for the female children belonging to the workhouse,
attended by the master, to go in procession round the city on St.
Catherine’s Day. They were all attired in white, and decorated with
various coloured ribbons, principally scarlet; the tallest girl was
selected to represent the Queen, and was adorned with a crown and
sceptre. The procession stopped at the houses of the principal
inhabitants, and they sang the following rude ballad, begging for money
at every house as they passed along:

    “Here comes Queen Catherine, as fine as any queen,
    With a coach and six horses a coming to be seen.
            And a spinning we will go, will go, will go,
            And a spinning we will go.

    Some say she is alive, and some say she is dead,
    And now she does appear with a crown upon her head.
            And a spinning we will go, &c.

    Old Madam Marshall she takes up her pen,
    And then she sits and calls for all her royal men.
            And a spinning we will go, &c.

    All you that want employment, though spinning is but small,
    Come list, and don’t stand still, but go and work for all.
            And a spinning we will go, &c.

    If we set a spinning, we will either work or play,
    But if we set a spinning we can earn a crown a day.
            And a spinning we will go, &c.

    And if there be some young men, as I suppose there’s some,
    We’ll hardly let them stand alone upon the cold stone.
            And a spinning we will go, &c.”

St. Catherine being the patron of the spinners, as well as of spinsters,
and spinning being formerly the employment of the females at the
workhouse, it naturally followed that they should be selected to
commemorate the anniversary of this Saint; and that this commemoration
is of great antiquity appears from the early entries in the Dean and
Chapter’s accounts of payments on St. Catherine’s Day for wheels and
reels for the children of the workhouse.--Baker, _Glossary of
Northamptonshire Words and Phrases_, 1854, vol. ii. p. 436.

A correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_4th S._ vol. ii. p. 332), alluding to the
above custom, says that it was not confined to Peterborough, but was
observed throughout the whole of the Northamptonshire lace-making
districts, as well as in those of Bedfordshire. According to popular
tradition the custom is derived from one of the Queens Catherine in the
time of Henry VIII.--probably from Catherine Parr, who was a
Northamptonshire woman. By some this day is called “Candle Day,” from
its forming the commencement of the season for working at lace-making by


On St. Catherine’s Day in the Isle of Thanet, the carters place a small
figure on a wheel on the front of their cart sheds.--_N. & Q. 2nd S._
vol. v. p. 235.


In this county the children go round to the farmhouses collecting apples
and beer for a festival, and sing the following lines:

    “Catherine and Clement, be here, be here,
    Some of your apples, and some of your beer;
    Some for Peter, and some for Paul,
    And some for Him that made us all.

    Clement was a good man,
    For his sake give us some,
    Not of the worse, but some of the best,
    And God will send your soul to rest.”

The Chapter of Worcester have a practice of preparing a rich bowl of
wine and spices, called the “Cathern bowl,” for the inhabitants of the
college upon this day.--Halliwell’s _Popular Rhymes_, 1849, p. 238; see
_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. iv. pp. 495, 496.


The commencement of the ecclesiastical year is regulated by the feast of
St. Andrew, the nearest Sunday to which, whether before or after,
constitutes the first Sunday in Advent, or the period of four weeks
which heralds the approach of Christmas. St. Andrew’s Day is thus
sometimes the first and sometimes the last festival in the Christian
Year.--_Book of Days_, vol ii. p. 636.


Hasted, in his _History of Kent_ (vol. ii. p. 757), speaking of the
parish of Eastling, says that, on St. Andrew’s Day, there is a yearly
diversion called squirrel-hunting in this and the neighbouring parishes,
when the labourers and lower kind of people, assembling together, form a
lawless rabble, and being accoutred with guns, poles, clubs and other
such weapons, spend the greater part of the day in parading through the
woods and grounds, with loud shoutings, and under pretence of
demolishing the squirrels, some few of which they kill, they destroy
numbers of hares, pheasants, partridges, and, in short, whatever comes
in their way, breaking down the hedges, and doing much other mischief,
and, in the evening betaking themselves to the ale-houses, finish their
career there as is usual with such sort of gentry.


Strype, in his _Ecclesiastical Memorials_ (1822, vol. iii. pt. ii. p.
21), says:--“The 30th November [1557] being St. Andrew’s Day, was a
procession at Paul’s, and a priest of every parish attending, each in
his cope, and a goodly sermon preached, and after that, the procession,
with _salve festa dies_.”


Tander and Tandrew are the names given to the festival of St. Andrew, of
which they are corruptions.

The anniversary of this saint is, or rather was, kept by the lacemakers
as a day of festivity and merry-making; but since the use of pillow-lace
has in a great measure given place to that of the loom, this holiday has
been less and less observed. The day in former times was one of
unbridled licence: village “scholards” barred out their master; the lace
schools were deserted; and drinking and feasting prevailed to a riotous
extent. Towards evening the villagers used to become suddenly smitten
with a violent taste for masquerading. Women might be seen walking about
in male attire, while men and boys clothed in female dress visited each
other’s cottages, drinking hot “eldern wine,” the staple beverage of the
season. Then commenced the mumming.--Sternberg, _Dialect and Folk Lore
of Northamptonshire_, 1851, p. 183; A. E. Baker, _Glossary of
Northamptonshire Words and Phrases_, 1854, vol. ii. p. 326.


A correspondent of the _Athenæum_ (No. 993) says that the custom of
squirrel-hunting was at one time kept up in this county, but, in
consequence of the inclosure of the coppices and the more strict
observance of the game, it has wholly dropped.


In Scotland this day is called Andrys Day, Androiss Mess, and Andermess.

Singed sheep’s heads are borne in the procession before the Scots in
London on St. Andrew’s Day.--Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p.


The 25th Sunday after Trinity is called by the schoolboys “Stir Up
Sunday,” from the collect used on that day; and they repeat the
following lines without considering their irreverent application:

    “Stir up, we beseech thee,
      The pudding in the pot,
    And when we get home,
      We’ll eat it all hot.”

  Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._ 1859, vol. i. p. 414; See _Times_, November
  25th, 1863.


_Advent Bells._--Advent bells are rung in many parishes throughout
various parts of England during the month of December. A correspondent
of _N. & Q._ (_1st S._ vol. i. p. 21) says that, in his
neighbourhood--on the western borders of Berks--he has heard their merry
peals break gladsomely upon the dark stillness of the cold evening from
many a steeple round.


Train, in his _History of the Isle of Man_ (1845, vol. ii. p. 127),
says, that the fiddlers go round from house to house, in the latter part
of the night for two or three weeks before Christmas, playing a tune
called the _Andisop_. On their way they stop before particular houses,
wish the inmates individually “good morning,” call the hour, then report
the state of the weather, and after playing an air, move on to the next



The Second Thursday before Christmas Day is a festival observed by the
tinners of the district of Blackmore, and known as “Picrous Day.” It is
said to be the feast of the discovery of tin by a man named Picrous. It
is not at present marked by any distinctive ceremonies, but it is the
occasion of a merry-making, and the owner of the tin stream contributes
a shilling a man towards it. Mr. T. Q. Couch says his first impression
was that the day took its name from the circumstance of a _pie_ forming
the _pièce de resistance_ of the supper; but this explanation is not
allowed by tinners, nor sanctioned by the usages of the feast.--Hunt’s
_Romances of the West of England_, 1871, p. 468.


Strype, in his _Ecclesiastical Memorials_ (1822, vol. iii. part. i. p.
326), says:--“On the 5th December [1554], the which was St. Nicholas’
Eve, at evensong time, came a commandment that St. Nicholas should not
go abroad nor about. But, notwithstanding, it seems, so much were the
citizens taken with the mock St. Nicholas, that is, a boy-bishop, that
there went about three St. Nicholases in divers parishes, as in St.
Andrew’s Holborn and St. Nicolas Olave’s in Bread Street. The reason the
procession of St. Nicholas was forbid was because the Cardinal had this
St. Nicholas’ Day sent for all the convocation, bishops, and inferior
clergy, to come to him to Lambeth, there to be absolved from all their
prejudices, schisms, and heresies.”



St. Nicholas was deemed the patron of children in general, but much more
particularly of all schoolboys, amongst whom the 6th of December (the
saint’s festival) used to be a very great holiday for more than one
reason. In those bygone times all little boys either sang or served
about the altar at church; and the first thing they did upon the eve of
their patron’s festival was to elect from among themselves, in every
parish church, cathedral, and nobleman’s chapel, a bishop and his
officials, or, as they were then called, “a Nicholas and his clerks.”
This boy-bishop and his ministers afterwards sang the first vespers of
their saint, and, in the evening, arrayed in their appropriate
vestments, walked all about the parish; all were glad to see them, and
those who could afford it asked them into their houses to bestow a gift
of money, sweetmeats, or food upon them. In the year 1299 we find Edward
I., on his way to Scotland, permitting one of these boy-bishops to say
vespers before him in his chapel at Heton, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and
making a considerable present to the said bishop and certain other boys
that came and sang with him on the occasion, on the 7th of December, the
day after St. Nicholas’ Day. What was the custom in the houses of our
nobles we may learn from the _Northumberland Household Book_, which
tells us that “My lord useth and accustomyth to gyfe yerly, upon Saynt
Nicolas-Even, if he kepe chapell for Saynt Nicolas, to the master of his
childeren of his chapell, for one of the childeren of his chapell,
yerely, vi^{s.} viii^{d.}; and if Saynt Nicolas com owt of the towne
wher my lord lyeth, and my lord kepe no chapell, than to have yerely
iii^{s.} iiij^{d.}” At Eton College, it was on St. Nicholas’ Day, and
not on Childermas, that the boy-bishop officiated, which he did not only
at evensong, but at mass, which he began and went on with up to the more
solemn part at the offertory: “In festo Sancti Nicholai, in quo, et
nullatenus in festo Sanctorum Innocentium, divina officia præter missæ
secreta exequi et dici permittimus per episcopum puerorum scholiarium ad
hoc de eisdem annis singulis eligendum.”

It was upon this festival that some wealthy man or other of the parish
would make an entertainment on the occasion for his own household, and
invite his neighbours’ children to come and partake of it; and, of
course, Nicholas and his clerks sat in the highest place. The _Golden
Legend_ tells how “a man, for the love of his sone that wente to scole
for to lerne, halowed every year the feest of Saynt Nycholas moche
solemply. On a time it happed that the fader had doo make redy the
dyner, and called many clerkes to this dyner.” Individuals sometimes
bequeathed money to find a yearly dinner on St. Nicholas’ day for as
many as a hundred Childermas’ tide scholars, who were, after meat, to
pray for the soul of the founder of the feast. In our large schools and
universities the festival was kept with public sports and games. But it
was at Holy Innocents, or Childermas’ tide, that Nicholas and his clerks
came forth in all their glory. The boy-bishop had a set of pontificals
provided for him. St. Paul’s, London, had its “una mitra alba cum
flosculis breudatis--ad opus episcopi parvulorum--baculus ad usum
episcopi parvulorum;” York Minster, too, its “una capa de tissue pro
episcopo puerorum;” Lincoln Cathedral, “a cope of red velvet, ordained
for the barn-bishop;” All Souls’ College, Oxford, “j. chem. (ches.?) j.
cap et mitra pro episcopo Nicholao;” St. Mary’s Church, Sandwich, “a
lytyll chesebyll for Seynt Nicholas bysschop.” For the boy-bishop’s
attendants copes were also made, and York had no fewer than “novem capæ
pro pueris.”

Towards the end of evensong on St. John’s Day the little Nicholas and
his clerks, arrayed in their copes, and having burning tapers in their
hands, and singing those words of the Apocalypse (_c._ xiv.) “Centum
quadraginta” walked processionally from the choir to the altar of the
Blessed Trinity, which the boy-bishop incensed; afterwards they all sang
the anthem, and he recited the prayer commemorative of the Holy
Innocents. Going back into the choir these boys took possession of upper
canons’ stalls, and those dignitaries themselves had to serve in the
boys’ place, and carry the candles, the thurible, and the book, like
acolytes, thurifers, and lower clerks. Standing on high, wearing his
mitre, and holding his pastoral staff in his left hand, the boy-bishop
gave a solemn benediction to all present, and, while making the sign of
the Cross over the kneeling crowd, said:

    “Crucis signo vos consigno; vestra sit tuitio,
    Quos nos emit et redemit suæ carnis pretio.”

The next day, the feast itself of Holy Innocents, the boy-bishop
preached a sermon, which of course had been written for him; and one
from the pen of Erasmus, “Concio de puero Iesu,” spoken by a boy of St.
Paul’s School, London, is still extant, and Dean-Colet, the founder of
that seminary, in his statutes for it, ordained that “all these children
shall, every Childermas Daye, come to Paulis Churche, and hear the
childe bishop sermon; and after be at the high masse, and each of them
offer a 1^{d.} to the childe bysshop, and with them the maisters and
surveyors of the scole.” At evensong bishop Nicholas and his clerks
officiated as on the day before, and until Archbishop Peckham’s times,
used to take some conspicuous part in the services of the church during
the whole octave of Childermas tide. About 1279 A.D. that primate
decreed, however, thus:--“Puerilia autem solennia, quæ in festo solent
fieri Innocentum post vesperas S. Johannis tantum inchoari permittimus,
et in crastino in ipsa die Innocentum totaliter terminentur.” This
festival, like St. Nicholas’ Day, had its good things; and then, as now,
was marked by a better dinner in nunneries, wherein the little boys who
had served at the altars of the nuns’ churches were not forgotten, as we
see by the expenses of St Mary de Prees: “Paid for makyng of the dyner
to the susters upon Childermas Day, iii^{s.} iiij^{d.} It. Paid for
brede and ale for Saint Nicholas, iii^{s.}

If schoolboys had the patron St. Nicholas, little girls had their
patroness too, St. Catherine, who by her learning overthrew the
cavilings of many heathen philosophers and won some of them to
Christianity. On this holy martyr’s festival, therefore, did the girls
walk about the towns in their procession. All this was looked upon with
a scowl by those who pulled down the Church of God in this land: hence
Cranmer, towards the end of Henry VIII.’s reign, forbade these and other
like processions:--“Whereas heretofore dyverse and many superstitious
(?) and childysshe observations have been used, and yet to this day are
observed and kept in many and sondry parties of this realm, as upon
Sainte Nicolas, Sainte Catheryne, Sainte Clement, the Holy Innocentes,
and such like; children be strangelye decked and apparelid to
counterfaite priestes, byshoppes, and women; and so ledde with songes
and daunces from house to house, bleassing the people, and gatherynge of
monye, and boyes doo singe masse and preache in the pulpitt ... the
Kyng’s majestie willith and commaundeth that from henceforth all suche
superstitions be loste and clyerlye exstinguished,” &c. Queen Mary
restored these rites, and the people were glad to see this, along with
other of their old religious usages, given back to them; and an
eye-witness tells us that, in A.D. 1556, “the V. day of December was
Sant Necolas evyn, and Sant Necolas whentt abrod in most partt in
London, syngyng after the old fassyon, and was reseyvyd with mony good
pepulle into their howses, and had mych good chere as ever they had, in
mony plasses.”

Some have thought that it was owing to his early abstinence that St.
Nicholas was chosen patron of schoolboys; a better reason perhaps is
given to us by a writer in the _Gent. Mag._ (1777, vol. xlvii. p. 158),
who mentions having in his possession an Italian life of St. Nicholas,
from which he translates the following story, which explains the
occasion of boys addressing themselves to St. Nicholas’ patronage:--

“The fame of St. Nicholas’ virtues was so great that an Asiatic
gentleman, on sending his two sons to Athens for education, ordered them
to call on the bishop for his benediction; but they, getting to Myra
late in the day, thought proper to defer their visit till the morrow,
and took up their lodgings at an inn, where the landlord, to secure
their baggage and effects to himself, murdered them in their sleep and
then cut them into pieces, salting them, and putting them into a
pickling tub with some pork, which was there already, meaning to sell
the whole as such. The bishop, however, having a vision of this impious
transaction, immediately resorted to the inn, and calling the host to
him, reproached him for his horrid villany. The man, perceiving that he
was discovered, confessed his crime, and entreated the bishop to
intercede on his behalf to the Almighty for his pardon, who being moved
with compassion at his contrite behaviour, confession, and thorough
repentance, besought Almighty God not only to pardon the murderer, but
also, for the glory of His name, to restore life to the poor innocents
who had been so inhumanly put to death. The saint had hardly finished
his prayer when the mangled and detached portions of the youths were, by
Divine Power, reunited, and perceiving themselves alive, threw
themselves at the feet of the holy man to kiss and embrace them. But the
bishop not suffering their humiliation, raised them up, exhorting them
to return thanks to Almighty God for this mark of His mercy, and gave
them good advice for the future conduct of their lives; and then, giving
them the blessing, he sent them with great joy to prosecute their
studies at Athens.”--D. Rock, _The Church of our Fathers_, 1853, vol.
iii. part. ii. p. 215.


Strype, in his _Ecclesiastical Memorials_ (1822, vol. iii. part 1. p.
327), says:--“The 8th December (1554), being the day of the Conception
of our Blessed Lady, was a goodly procession at the Savoy by the
Spaniards, the priest carrying the Sacrament between his hands, and one
deacon carrying a censer censing, and another the holy-water stock, and
a number of friars and priests singing; and every man and woman, knights
also and gentlemen, bearing green tapers burning, and eight trumpets
blowing; and when they ceased, then began the sackbuts to play, and when
they had done, there was one who carried two drums on his back, and one
came after beating them. And so done, they went about the Savoy, now
singing, and a while after playing again, and by-and-by came singing
into the church, and after that they went to mass.”



His day is still celebrated at Kilbarchan by a fair, held on the 1st of
December, Old Style, (13th December, New Style.) This rustic festival is
alluded to in the Laird of Beltrees’ poem on the life and death of the
famous piper of Kilbarchan, Habbie Simpson:

    “Sae kindly to his neighbour’s niest,
    At Beltane and St. Barchan’s feast.
    He blew and then held up his breist,
          As he were wead;
    But now we needna him arreist,
          For now he’s deid!”

  Chambers’s _Pop. Rhymes of Scotland_, 1870, p. 391.


This day was formerly celebrated in Rutlandshire by fowlers and
falconers, who regarded the saint as their peculiar patroness. Camden
mentions the town of Rihall as particularly addicted to this
superstitious observance,[86] and the passage, which is strongly
expressed, was ordered to be expunged from his _Britannia_ by the _Index
Expurgationis_, printed at Madrid in 1612 by Louis Sanchez.--_Med. Ævi
Kalend._ vol. i. p. 82.

  [86] Rihall, ubi cum majores nostros ita fascinasset superstitio, ut
  deorum multitudine Deum verum propemodum sustulisset, Tibba minorum
  gentium diva, quasi Diana ab aucupibus utique rei accipitrariæ præses
  colebatur.--Britan. 8vo. Lond. edit. 1590, p. 419.

DEC. 17.] SOW DAY.


At Sandwick, in the Orkneys, it is usual for every family to kill a sow,
whence this day is called Sow Day. This custom probably has some
reference to the heathen worship of the sun, to which, among the
northern nations, the male of this animal was sacred.--Sinclair, _Stat.
Acc. of Scotland_, 1793, vol. xvi. p. 460; _Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p.


In some parts of the country St. Thomas’ Day is observed by a custom
called _Going a Gooding_.[87] The poor people go round the parish and
call at the houses of the principal inhabitants, begging money or
provisions wherewith to celebrate the approaching festivity of
Christmas. In return for the alms bestowed during these “gooding”
peregrinations, it was customary for the recipients, in former times, to
present to their benefactors a sprig of holly or mistletoe.--_Book of
Days_, vol. ii. p. 724; see _Gent. Mag._ 1794, vol. lxiv. p. 292.

  [87] Northamptonshire, Kent, Sussex, Herefordshire, Worcestershire,

Girls, says Halliwell, used to have a method of divination with a “St.
Thomas’s Onion,” for the purpose of ascertaining their future partners.
They peeled the onion, wrapped it up in a clean handkerchief, and then,
placing it under their heads, said the following lines:

    “Good St. Thomas, do me right,
    And see my true love come to-night,
    That I may see him in the face,
    And him in my kind arms embrace.”

One of the old cries of London was, “Buy my rope of onions--white St.
Thomas’s Onions.”--_Popular Rhymes_, 1849, p. 224.


An ancient annual payment of 5_l._ out of an estate at Biddenham,
formerly belonging to the family of Boteler, and now the property of
Lord Viscount Hampden, is regularly paid on St. Thomas’s Day to the
overseers of the poor for the purchase of a bull, which is killed, and
the flesh thereof given amongst the poor persons of the parish. For many
years past the annual fund, being insufficient to purchase a bull, the
deficiency has been made good out of other charities belonging to the
parish. It was proposed some years ago by the vicar that the 5_l._ a
year should be laid out in buying meat, but the poor insisted on the
customary purchase of a bull being continued, and the usage is
accordingly kept up.--Edwards, _Old English Customs and Charities_,
1842, p. 64.


The cruel practice of bull-baiting was continued annually on St.
Thomas’s Day, in the market place of the town of Wokingham so lately as
1821. In 1822, upon the passing of the Act against cruelty to animals,
the corporation resolved on abolishing the custom. The alderman (as the
chief magistrate is called there) went with his officers in procession,
and solemnly pulled up the bull-ring, which had from time immemorial
been fixed in the market-place. The bull-baiting at Wokingham was
regarded with no ordinary attachment by the inhabitants; for, besides
the love of sport, it was here connected with something more solid,
viz., the Christmas dinner. In 1661, George Staverton gave by will, out
of his Staines house, after the death of his wife, 4_l._ to buy a bull
for the use of the poor of Wokingham parish, to be increased to 6_l._
after the death of his wife and her daughter, the bull to be baited, and
then cut up, “one poor’s piece not exceeding another’s in bigness.”
Great was the wrath of the populace in 1822 at the loss, not of the
beef--for the corporation duly distributed the meat--but of the baiting.
They vented their rage for successive years in occasional breaches of
the peace. They found out, often informed by the sympathising farmer or
butcher, where the devoted animal was domiciled; proceeded at night to
liberate him from stall or meadow, and to chase him across the country
with all the noisy accompaniments imaginable. So long was this feeling
kept alive that, thirteen years afterwards, viz., in 1835, the mob broke
into the place where one of the two animals to be divided was abiding
and baited him, in defiance of the authorities, in the market-place; one
enthusiastic individual, tradition relates, actually lying on the ground
and seizing the miserable brute by the nostril with his own teeth. This
was not to be endured, and a sentence of imprisonment in Reading Gaol
cooled the ardour of the ringleaders, and gave the _coup de grâce_ to
the sport. The bequest of Staverton now yields an income of 20_l._, and
has for several years been appropriated to the purchase of two bulls.
The flesh is divided and distributed annually on St. Thomas’s Day by the
alderman, churchwardens, and overseers, to nearly every poor family
(between 200 and 300), without regard to their receiving parochial
relief. The produce of the offal and hide is laid out in the purchase of
shoes and stockings for the poor women and children. The bulls’ tongues
are recognised by courtesy as the perquisites of the alderman and town
clerk.--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. v. p. 35.


The poor people go from farm to farm “a-thomasin,” and generally carry
with them a bag and a can, into which meal, flour, and corn, are put.
Begging on this day is universal in this and the neighbouring
counties.--_Jour. of the Arch. Assoc._ 1850, vol. v. p. 253.


At the village of Thornton, near Sherborne, a custom prevails amongst
the tenants of the manor, of depositing five shillings in a hole in a
certain tombstone in the churchyard, which precludes the lord of the
manor from taking the tithe of hay during the year. This must be done
before twelve o’clock on St. Thomas’s Day, or the privilege is
void.--_Med. Ævi Kalend._ 1842, vol. i. p. 83.

There was a custom very generally practised in some parts of this
county, and which may even now be practised. A few days before Christmas
the women, children, and old men in a parish would visit by turns the
houses of their wealthier neighbours, and in return for, and in
recognition of Christmas greetings, and their general demand of “Please
give me something to keep up a Christmas,” would receive substantial
pieces or “hunks” of bread and cheese, bread and meat, or small sums of
money. The old and infirm of either sex were generally represented by
their children or grandchildren, those only being refused the dole who
did not belong to the parish.--_N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. x. p. 494.


St. Thomas’s Day is called by the poor inhabitants of this county
“Mumping Day;” and the custom of going from house to house asking for
contributions, is termed _going a-mumping_.


Small pyramids, says Fosbroke (_Encyclopædia of Antiquities_, 1840, p.
661), formed of gilt evergreens, apples, and nuts, are carried about at
this time in Hertfordshire for presents.


Formerly, it was customary for the people to go to the mountains to
catch deer and sheep for Christmas, and in the evening always to kindle
a large fire on the top of every fingan or cliff. Hence, at the time of
casting peats, every one laid aside a large one, saying: “Faaid mooar
moayney son oie’l fingan,” that is, “A large turf for Fingan’s
Eve.”--Train, _History of Isle of Man_, 1845, vol. ii. p. 124; Cregeen’s
_Manks Dictionary_, p. 67.


Samuel Higgs, by his will, bearing date 11th May, 1820 (as appears from
the church tablet), gave 50_l._ to the vicar and churchwardens of the
parish of Farnsfield, and directed that the interest should be given
every year on the 21st of December, in equal proportions, to the poor
men and women who could repeat the Lord’s prayer, the creed, and the ten
commandments, before the vicar or other such person as he should appoint
to hear them. The interest is applied according to the donor’s orders,
and the poor persons appointed to partake of the charity continue to
receive it during their lives.--Edwards, _Old English Customs and
Charities_, 1842, p. 209.


At Tainton, a quarter of barley is provided annually, at the expense of
Lord Dynevor, the lord of the manor, and made into loaves called
“cobbs.” These were formerly given away in Tainton church to such of the
poor children of Burford as attended. A sermon was preached on St.
Thomas’s Day, 6_s._ 8_d._ being paid out of Lord Dynevor’s estate to
the preacher. The children, however, made so much riot and disturbance
in the church, that, about the year 1809, it was thought better to
distribute the cobbs in a stable belonging to one of the churchwardens,
which course has been pursued ever since.--Edwards, _Old English Customs
and Charities_, 1842, p. 25.


In many parts of this county not only the old women and widows, but
representatives from every poor family in the parish, go round for alms.
The clergyman is expected to give one shilling to each person, and
consequently the celebration of the day is attended with no small
expense. Some of the parishioners give alms in money, others in kind.
Thus, for example, some of the farmers give corn, which the millers
grind gratis. In some places the money collected is given to the
clergyman and churchwardens, who, on the Sunday nearest to St. Thomas’s
Day, distribute it at the vestry. The fund is called St. Thomas’s Dole,
and the day itself Doleing Day.--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. iv. pp. 103, 487.


A sum of 15_l._ was placed in the Arundel Savings-Bank in the year 1824,
the interest of which is distributed on St. Thomas’s Day. It is said
that this money was found, many years since, on the person of a beggar,
who died by the road-side; and the interest of it has always been
appropriated by the parish officers for the use of the poor.--Edwards,
_Old English Customs and Charities_, 1842, p. 129.


In this county it is customary for the poor people to visit the
farm-houses to beg contributions of corn. This is called _going


At Harvington the following rhyme is sung:

    “Wissal, wassail through the town,
    If you’ve got any apples throw them down;
    Up with the stocking and down with the shoe
    If you’ve got no apples money will do.
    The jug is white and the ale is brown,
    This is the best house in the town.”

  _N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. viii. p. 617.


Drake, in his _Eboracum_ (1736, p. 217), gives the following account of
a custom that once existed at York on St. Thomas’s Day, which he says he
obtained from a manuscript that fell into his hands. “William the
Conqueror, in the third year of his reign (on St. Thomas’s Day), laid
siege to the city of York, but finding himself unable, either by policy
or strength, to gain it, raised the siege, which he had no sooner done,
but by accident he met with two fryers at a place called Skelton, not
far from York, and had been to seek reliefe from their fellows and
themselves against Christmas: the one having a wallet full of victualls
and a shoulder of mutton in his hand, with two great cakes hanging about
his neck; the other having bottles of ale, with provisions, likewise of
beife and mutton in his wallett. The king, knowing their poverty and
condition, thought they might be serviceable to him towards the
attaining York, wherefore (being accompanied with Sir George Fothergill,
general of the field, a Norman born), he gave them money, and withall a
promise, that if they would lett him and his soldiers into their priory
at a time appointed, he would not only rebuild their priory, but indowe
it likewise with large revenues and ample privileges. The fryers easily
consented and the conqueror as soon sent back his army, which, that
night, according to agreement, were let into the priory by the two
fryers, by which they immediately made themselves masters of all York;
after which Sir Robert Clifford, who was governor thereof, was so far
from being blamed by the conqueror for his stout defence made the
preceding days, that he was highly esteemed and rewarded for his valour,
being created Lord Clifford and there knighted, with the four
magistrates then in office, viz., Horongate, Talbot (who after came to
be Lord Talbott), Lassells, and Erringham.

“The arms of the city of York at that time was, argent, a cross, gules,
viz., St. George’s _cross_. The conqueror charged the cross with five
lyons, passant gardant, _or_, in memory of the five worthy captains,
magistrates, who governed the city so well, that he afterwards made Sir
Robert Clifford governour thereof and the other four to aid him in
counsell; and the better to keep the city in obedience he built two
castles, and double moated them about; and to shew the confidence and
trust that he put in these old, but new made, officers by him he offered
them freely to ask whatsoever they would of him before he went, and he
would grant their request, wherefore they (abominating the treachery of
the two fryers to their eternal infamy), desired that, on St. Thomas’s
Day for ever, they might have a fryer of the priory of St. Peter’s to
ride through the city on horseback, with his face to the horse’s tayle,
and that in his hand, instead of a bridle, he should have a rope, and in
the other a shoulder of mutton, with one cake hanging on his back and
another on his breast, with his face painted like a _Jew_; and the youth
of the city to ride with him, and to cry and shout “Youl, Youl,” with
the officers of the city rideing before and making proclamation, that on
this day the city was betrayed; and their request was granted them,
which custom continued till the dissolution of the said fryery; and
afterwards in imitation of the same, the young men and artizans of the
city on the aforesaid St. _Thomas’s Day_, used to dress up one of their
own companions like a fryer, and called him youl, which custom continued
till within this three-score years, there being many now living which
can testify the same, but upon what occasion since discontinued I cannot
learn: this being done in memory of betraying the city by the said
fryers to William the Conqueror.”


William Rogers, by will, June 1806, gave to the minister and
churchwardens of Nevern, Pembrokeshire, and their successors, 800_l._,
Three per Cent. Consols, to be transferred by his executors within six
months after his decease; and it was his will that the dividends should
be laid out annually, one moiety thereof in good beef, the other moiety
thereof in good barley, the same to be distributed on every St.
Thomas’s Day in each year, by the minister and churchwardens, to and
among the poor of the said parish of Nevern.--Edwards, _Old English
Customs and Charities_, p. 24.



In Chester, and its neighbourhood, numerous singers parade the streets
and are hospitably entertained with meat and drink at the various houses
where they call.--See _Book of Days_, vol. ii. p. 736.


On Christmas Eve, in former days, says Hunt (_Romances of the West of
England_, 1871, p. 349), the small people, or the spiggans, would meet
at the bottom of the deepest mines, and have a midnight mass. In this
county the yule log is called “the mock.”


In some parts the village choir meet in the church on Christmas Eve, and
there wait until midnight, when they proceed from house to house,
invariably accompanied by a small keg of ale, singing “Christians
awake;” and during the Christmas season they again visit the principal
houses in the place, and having played and sung for the evening, and
partaken of the Christmas cheer, are presented with a sum of
money.--_Jour. of the Arch. Assoc._ 1852, vol. vii. p. 208.


The ashton faggot is burned in Devonshire on Christmas Eve. The faggot
is composed entirely of ash timber, and the separate sticks or branches
are securely bound together with ash bands. The faggot is made as large
as can conveniently be burned in the fire-place, or rather upon the
floor, grates not being in use. A numerous company is generally
assembled to spend the evening in games and amusements, the diversions
being heightened when the faggot blazes on the hearth, as a quart of
cyder is considered due and is called for and served upon the bursting
of every hoop or band round the faggot. The timber being green and
elastic, each band generally bursts open with a smart report when the
individual stick or hoop has been partially burned through.--_N. &. Q.
1st S._ vol. iv. p. 309.

In one or two localities, it is still customary for the farmer with his
family and friends, after partaking together of hot cakes and cider (the
cake being dipped in the liquor previous to being eaten), to proceed to
the orchard, one of the party bearing hot cake and cider as an offering
to the principal apple-tree. The cake is formally deposited on the fork
of the tree, and the cider thrown over the latter.[88]--See _Book of
Days_, vol. ii. p. 736.

  [88] In some places this custom is observed on New Year’s Eve.

A superstitious notion prevails in the western parts of Devonshire that,
at twelve o’clock at night on Christmas Eve, the oxen in their stalls
are always found on their knees, as in an attitude of devotion, and that
since the alteration of the style they continue to do this only on the
eve of Old Christmas Day.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 473.

It appears, from a statement of charities in an old book, that John
Martyn, by will, 28th of November, 1729, gave to the churchwardens and
overseers of the poor of the parish of St. Mary Major, Exeter, twenty
pounds, to be put out at interest, and the profits thereof to be laid
out every Christmas Eve in twenty pieces of beef, to be distributed to
twenty poor people of the parish, such as had no relief on that day, for
ever.--_Old English Customs and Charities_, 1842, p. 4.


It appears by the benefaction table in the church of Ruardean, that the
Rev. Mr. Anthony Sterry, vicar of Lidney, gave by deed, in the fortieth
year of Queen Elizabeth, five shillings per annum, payable out of an
estate called the Glasp, in this parish, for ringing a peal on Christmas
Eve, about midnight, for two hours, in commemoration of the
Nativity.--_Old English Customs and Charities_, 1842, p. 6.


In the neighbourhood of the New Forest the following lines are sung on
the wassailing of the trees:

    “Apples and pears with right good corn,
    Come in plenty to every one;
    Eat and drink good cake and hot ale,
    Give earth to drink and she’ll not fail.”

  _Christmas in the Olden Time_, London, 1839.


In the _Gent. Mag._ (vol. xc. pt. i. p. 33) is the following account of
a custom that formerly existed at Tretyre on Christmas Eve. The writer
says:--They make a cake, poke a stick through it, fasten it upon the
horn of an ox, and say certain words, begging a good crop of corn for
the master. The men and boys attending the oxen, range themselves
around. If the ox throws the cake behind, it belongs to the men, if
before, to the boys. They take with them a wooden bottle of cyder and
drink it, repeating the charm before mentioned.


Hasted (_History of Kent_, vol. iii. p. 380) says there was a singular
custom used of long time by the fishermen of Folkestone. They chose
eight of their largest and best whitings out of every boat when they
came home from the fishery and sold them apart from the rest, and out of
the money arising from them they made a feast every Christmas Eve which
they called a “Rumbald.” The master of each boat provided this feast for
his own company. These whitings, which are of a very large size, and are
sold all round the country as far as Canterbury, are called Rumbald
whitings. This custom (which is now left off, though many of the
inhabitants still meet jovially on Christmas Eve, and call it Rumbald
Night) might have been anciently instituted in honour of St. Rumbald,
and at first designed as an offering to him for his protection during
the fishery.[89]

  [89] Cole, in his _History and Antiquities of Filey_ (1828, p. 143),
  gives the following account of a custom that existed in his time in
  connection with the herring fishery at that place. He says, during the
  time the boats are on the herring fishery the junior part of the
  inhabitants seize all the unemployed waggons and carts they can find
  and drag them down the streets to the cliff tops; then leaving them to
  be owned and taken away by their respective proprietors on the
  following morning; this is carried into effect about the third
  Saturday night after the boats have sailed from Filey, under a
  superstitious notion that it drives the herrings into the nets.
  Previously to the fishermen setting out upon their expedition they
  send a piece of sea-beef on shore from each boat to such of their
  friends at the public houses as they wish “weel beea;” this occasions
  “a bit of a supper,” at which those who are going away and those who
  stay enjoy good cheer, heightened by mutual good-will. The Sunday
  preceding their departure is called _Boat Sunday_, when all their
  friends from the neighbouring villages attend to bid them farewell.


Waldron, in his _Description of the Isle of Man_ (1859, p. 125) says
that on Christmas Eve every one leaves off work, and rambles about till
the bells begin to ring at midnight. Lord Teignmouth (_Sketches of the
Coast of Scotland and the Isle of Man_, vol. ii. p. 264) states that
they then all flock to the churches, bearing the largest candle they can
procure. The churches are decorated with holly, and the service, in
commemoration of the birth of our Saviour is called _Oiel Verry_.--See
Train’s _History of the Isle of Man_, 1845, vol. ii. p. 127.


In some parts of Norfolk libations of spiced ale used to be sprinkled on
orchards and meadows.--_Book of Days_, vol. ii. p. 736.


On Christmas Eve, 1815, says Cole (_History of Ecton_, 1825), the
musicians of Ecton, accompanied by the vocalists of the church, revived
the custom of going round the village at midnight and singing a carol at
the principal houses.


At Nottingham, on Christmas Eve, as well as in many other of the
villages, it is customary to toast apples on a string until they drop
into a bowl of hot spiced ale, which is placed to receive them; this,
from the softness of the beverage is called “lamb’s-wool.”


Pointer, in his _Oxoniensis Academia_ (1749, p. 20), says that, at
Merton College, Oxford, the fellows meet together in the Hall on
Christmas Eve and other solemn times to sing a psalm and drink a
grace-cup to one another (called _Poculum Charitatis_), wishing one
another help and happiness. These grace-cups they drink to one another
every day after dinner and supper, wishing one another peace and good


At Chailey, the following doggerel is sung at the wassailing of the
apple trees:

    “Stand fast root, bear well top,
    Pray the God send us a good howling crop.
    Every twig, apples big,
    Every bough, apples enow.
    Hats full, caps full,
    Full quarters, sacks full.”[90]

  _N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. v. p. 293.

  [90] See Eve of Epiphany, p. 21.


A correspondent of the _Gent. Mag._ (1795, vol. lxv. p. 110) thus
describes an amusement practised on Christmas Eve at Aston Hall, down to
the end of last century. As soon as supper is over a table is set in the
hall. On it is placed a brown loaf, with twenty silver threepences stuck
on the top of it, a tankard of ale, with pipes and tobacco, and the two
oldest servants have chairs behind it to sit as judges if they please.
The steward brings the servants, both men and women, by one at a time,
covered with a winnow sheet, and lays their right hand on the loaf,
exposing no other part of the body. The older of the two judges guesses
at the person, by naming a name, then the younger judge, and lastly, the
older again. If they hit upon the right name, the steward leads the
person back again; but if they do not, he takes off the winnow sheet,
and the person receives a threepence, makes a low obeisance to the
judges, but speaks not a word. When the second servant was brought, the
younger judge guessed first and third; and this they did alternately
till all the money was given away. Whatever servant had not slept in the
house the preceding night forfeited his right to the money. No account
is given of the origin of this strange custom, but it has been practised
ever since the family lived here. When the money is gone the servants
have full liberty to drink, dance, sing, and go to bed when they please.
Brand (_Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 472), speaking of this custom,
says, can it be what Aubrey, in his introduction to his _Survey of
Wiltshire_, calls “Cob-loaf-stealing?”


There is in Yorkshire a custom, which has been by the country people
more or less revived, ever since the alteration in the style and
calendar, namely, of watching, on the midnight of the new and old
Christmas Eve, by beehives, to determine upon the right Christmas from
the humming noise which they suppose the bees will make when the birth
of our Saviour took place.--_Gent. Mag._ 1811, vol. lxxxi. part. i. p.

Christmas Eve in Yorkshire, says a writer in _Time’s Telescope_ (1822,
p. 298), is celebrated in a peculiar manner at eight o’clock in the
evening the bells greet “Old Father Christmas” with a merry peal, the
children parade the streets with drums, trumpets, bells, or perhaps, in
their absence, with the poker and shovel, taken from their humble
cottage fire; the yule candle is lighted, and--

          “High on the cheerful fire
    Is blazing seen th’ enormous Christmas brand.”

Supper is served, of which one dish, from the lordly mansion to the
humblest shed, is invariably furmety; yule cake, one of which is always
made for each individual in the family, and other more substantial
viands are also added.

At St. Cuthbert’s Church, Ackworth, a sheaf of corn was at one time
suspended on Christmas Eve outside the porch, for the especial benefit
of the birds.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. ii. p. 505; see _N. & Q. 3rd S._
vol. iii. p. 117.

At Dewsbury, one of the church bells is tolled as at a funeral; this is
called the Devil’s Knell, the moral of which is that “the Devil died
when Christ was born.” This custom was discontinued for many years, but
revived by the vicar in 1828.--Timbs’ _Something for Everybody_, 1861,
p. 150.

At Ripon, on Christmas Eve, the grocers send each of their customers a
pound or half of currants and raisins to make a Christmas pudding. The
chandlers also send large mould candles, and the coopers logs of wood,
generally called _yule clogs_, which are always used on Christmas Eve;
but should it be so large as not to be all burnt that night, which is
frequently the case, the remains are kept till old Christmas
Eve.--_Gent. Mag._ 1790, vol. lx. p. 719.

Cole in his _Historical Sketches of Scalby, Burniston, and Cloughton_
(1829, p. 45) says the village choristers belonging to Scalby assemble
on Christmas Eve, and remain out the whole night singing at the
principal houses.


A correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_3rd S._ vol. viii. p. 495) says that, in
the south-east of Ireland on Christmas Eve, people hardly go to bed at
all, and the first who announces the crowing of the cock, if a male, is
rewarded with a cup of tea, in which is mixed a glass of spirits; if a
female, with the tea only, but as a substitute for the whisky she is
saluted with half-a-dozen of kisses.


St. Chrysostom informs us that, in the primitive times, Christmas and
Epiphany were celebrated at one and the same feast (_Homil. in Diem
Nativ. D. N. J. Christi_, Opera, edit. Monfaucon, tom. iii.), probably
from a belief that the rising of the star in the East and the birth of
Christ were simultaneous. The separation took place at the Council of
Nice, A.D. 325. The Armenians, however, continued to make but one feast
of the two as late as the thirteenth century. The learned have long been
divided upon the precise day of the Nativity. Some have fixed it at the
Passover; others, amongst whom was Archbishop Usher, at the feast of
Tabernacles; and it has been observed that, if others were watching
their flocks when it occurred in the field by night, it would hardly
have happened in the depth of winter. Be this as it may, the 25th of
December has been the day most generally fixed upon from the earliest
ages of the Church. Sir Isaac Newton, in his _Commentary on the
Prophecies of Daniel_ (Part I. chap. ii. p. 144), has a chapter, “Of the
Times of the Birth and Passion of our Saviour,” in which he accounts for
the choice of the 25th of December, the winter solstice, by showing that
not only the feast of the Nativity, but most others, were originally
fixed at cardinal points of the year; and that the first Christian
calendar having been so arranged by mathematicians at pleasure, without
any ground in tradition, the Christians afterwards took up with what
they found in the calendars: so long as a fixed time of commemoration
was solemnly appointed they were content.--See Baronii _Apparatus ad
Annales Ecclesiasticos_, fol. Lucæ, 1740, p. 475 et seq.; Bingham’s
_Antiquities of the Christian Church_, lib. xx. cap. 4; a curious tract
entitled, _The Feast of Feasts_, or ‘The Celebration of the Sacred
Nativity of our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, grounded upon the
Scriptures and confirmed by the Practice of the Christian Church in all
Ages;’ see also Knight’s _English Cyclopædia_, 1859, vol. ii. p. 882.

The name given, says a correspondent of _Book of Days_, (vol. ii. p.
745) by the ancient Goths and Saxons to the festival of the winter
solstice was _Jul_ or _Yule_, the latter term forming to the present day
the designation in the Scottish dialect of Christmas, and preserved also
in the phrase of the “yule log.” Perhaps the etymology of no term has
excited greater discussions among antiquaries. Some maintain it to be
derived from the Greek ουλος or ιουλος, the name of a hymn in honour of
Ceres, others say it comes from the Latin _jubilum_, signifying a time
of rejoicing, or from its being a festival in honour of Julius Cæsar;
whilst some also explain its meaning as synonymous with _ol_ or _oel_,
which in the ancient Gothic language denotes a feast, and also the
favourite liquor used on such occasions whence our word _ale_. A much
more probable derivation, however, of the term in question is from the
Gothic _giul_ or _hiul_, the origin of the modern word _wheel_, and
bearing the same significance. According to this very probable
explanation, the yule festival received its name from its being the
turning-point of the year, or the period at which the fiery orb of day
made a revolution in his annual circuit and entered on his northern
journey. A confirmation of this view is afforded by the circumstance
that, in the old clog almanacs, a wheel is the device employed for
marking the season of yule-tide.

The season of the Nativity is now no longer marked by that hospitality
which characterized its observance among our forefathers. At present
Christmas meetings are chiefly confined to family parties. The
wassail-bowl, the yule-clog, and the lord of misrule, with a long train
of sports and customs which formerly prevailed at this season are
forgotten, even Christmas carols are nearly gone by; and the decking of
churches, and occasionally of houses, with holly and other evergreens,
forms now almost the only indication that this great festival is at
hand.--Knight’s _English Cyclopædia_, 1859, vol. ii. p. 882.

Christmas, says Père Cyprian (quoted by Agnes Strickland, _Lives of the
Queens of England_, 1865, vol. iv. pp. 320, 321), was always observed in
this country, especially at the King’s palaces, with greater ceremony
than in any other realm in Europe. Among other ancient ceremonies, he
tells us how a branch of the Glastonbury thorn used to be brought up in
procession, and presented in great pomp to the King and Queen of England
on Christmas morning.

_Under the Commonwealth._--In the _Diary of John Evelyn_ (1859, vol. i.
p. 297), under the date of the 25th of December, occurs the following:--

“Christmas Day. No sermon anywhere, no church being permitted to be
open, so observed it at home.”

Again, under the same date in 1654 (p. 341), the statement is renewed:

“Christmas Day. No churches or public assembly. I was fain to pass the
devotions of that Blessed Day with my family at home.”

Alluding to the observance of Christmas Day in 1657, the same writer

“I went to London with my wife to celebrate Christmas Day, Mr. Gunning
preaching in Exeter Chapel, on Micah, vii. 2. Sermon ended; as he was
giving us the Holy Sacrament the chapel was surrounded with soldiers,
and all the communicants and assembly surprised and kept prisoners by
them, some in the house, others carried away. It fell to my share to be
confined to a room in the house, where yet I was permitted to dine with
the master of it, the Countess of Dorset, Lady Hatton, and some others
of quality who invited me. In the afternoon came Colonel Whalley, Goffe,
and others from Whitehall to examine us one by one; some they committed
to the Marshal, some to prison. When I came before them they took my
name and abode, examined me why, contrary to the ordinance made that
none should any longer observe the superstitious time of the Nativity
(as esteemed by them), I durst offend, and particularly be at Common
Prayers, which they told me was but the mass in English, and
particularly pray for Charles Stuart, for which we had no Scripture. I
told them we did not pray for Charles Stuart, but for all Christian
kings, princes, and governors. They replied, in so doing we prayed for
the king of Spain too, who was their enemy and a Papist; with other
frivolous and ensnaring questions and much threatening, and, finding no
colour to detain me, they dismissed me with much pity of my ignorance.
These were men of high flight and above ordinances, and spake spiteful
things of our Lord’s Nativity. As we went up to receive the sacrament
the miscreants held their muskets against us, as if they would have shot
us at the altar, but yet suffering us to finish the office of communion,
as perhaps not having instructions what to do in case they found us in
that action; so I got home late the next day, blessed be God!”

In a tract entitled _Round about our Coal-Fire_, is the following
account of the manner in which Christmas was observed in days gone
by:--An English gentleman at the opening of the great day, i.e., on
Christmas Day in the morning, had all his tenants and neighbours enter
his hall by daybreak. The strong beer was broached, and the black-jacks
went plentifully about with toast, sugar, nutmeg, and good Cheshire
cheese. The hackin (the great sausage) must be boiled by daybreak, or
else two young men must take the maiden (i.e., the cook) by the arms,
and run her round the market-place till she is ashamed of her laziness.
In Christmas holidays, the tables were all spread from the first to the
last; the sirloins of beef, the minced pies, the plum-porridge, the
capons, turkeys, geese, and plum-puddings, were all brought upon the
board. Every one eat heartily, and was welcome, which gave rise to the
proverb, “Merry in the hall when beards wag all.”--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._
1849, vol. i. p. 531.

_Boar’s Head._--Aubrey, in a MS. dated 1678, says: “Before the last
civil wars, in gentlemen’s houses at Christmas, the first diet that was
brought to table was a boar’s head with a lemon in his mouth.”

_Christmas Book._--A book in which people were accustomed to keep an
account of the Christmas presents they received.--Nares’ _Glossary_
(Halliwell and Wright), 1857, vol. i. p. 11.

_Bustard._--The bustard, says Timbs (_Something for Everybody_, 1861, p.
148), has almost disappeared; but within memory it might be seen in the
Christmas larders of large inns.

_Christmas Candles._--Those were candles of an uncommon size, and the
name has descended to the small candles which children light up at this
season. Hampson (_Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 109), alluding to the
custom, says, in some places candles are made of a particular kind,
because the candle that is lighted on Christmas Day must be so large as
to burn from the time of its ignition to the close of the day, otherwise
it will portend evil to the family for the ensuing year. The poor were
wont to present the rich with wax tapers, and yule candles are still in
the north of Scotland given by merchants to their customers. At one time
children at the village schools in Lancashire were required to bring
each a mould candle before the _parting_ or separation for the Christmas

_Christmas Carols._--The Christmas carol (said to be derived from
_cantare_ to sing, and _rola_, an interjection of joy) is of very
ancient date. Bishop Taylor observes that the ‘Gloria in Excelsis,’ the
well-known hymn sung by the angels to the shepherds at our Lord’s
Nativity, was the earliest Christmas carol. In the early ages of the
Church bishops were accustomed to sing these sacred canticles among
their clergy. The oldest printed collections in England are those of
Wynkyn de Worde, 1521, and of Kele soon after. Warton, in his _History
of English Poetry_, notices a licence granted in 1562 to John Tysdale
for printing “Certayne goodly carowles to be songe to the glory of God;”
and again, “Crestenmas carowles auctorisshed by my lord of London.” See
_N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. x. p. 485. In the sixteenth century the popularity
of carol-singing occasioned the publication of a duodecimo volume,
published in 1642, entitled, “Psalmes or Songs of Sion, turned into the
language, and set to the tunes of a strange land. By W(illiam)
S(layter), intended for Christmas carols, and fitted to divers of the
most noted and common but solemne tunes, everywhere in this land
familiarly used and knowne.”--See _Athenæum_, December 20th, 1856;
Sandy’s _Christmas Carols_, 1833.

_Decorations._--Tradition, says Phillips in his _Sylva Florifera_ (1823,
vol. i. p. 281), asserts that the first Christian church in Britain was
built of boughs, and that this plan was adopted as more likely to
attract the notice of the people because the heathens built their
temples in that manner, probably to imitate the temples of Saturn which
were always under the oak. The great feast of Saturn was held in
December, and as the oaks of this country were then without leaves, the
priests obliged the people to bring in boughs and sprigs of evergreens;
and Christians, on the 20th of the same month, did likewise, from whence
originated the present custom of placing holly and other evergreens in
our churches and houses to show the arrival of the feast of Christmas.
The name of holly is a corruption of the word _holy_, as Dr. Turner, our
earliest writer on plants, calls it _Holy_ and _Holy tree_. It has a
great variety of names in Germany, amongst which is _Christdorn_; in
Danish it is also called _Christorn_; and in Swedish _Christtorn_,
amongst other appellations.

A correspondent of _Book of Days_, speaking of this custom (vol. ii., p.
753), says the decking of churches, houses, and shops with evergreens at
Christmas springs from a period far anterior to the revelation of
Christianity, and seems proximately to be derived from the custom
prevalent during the Saturnalia of the inhabitants of Rome, ornamenting
their temples and dwellings with green boughs.

The favourite plants for church decoration at Christmas are holly, bay,
rosemary, and laurel. Ivy is rather objectionable, from its
associations, having anciently been sacred to Bacchus. Cypress seems
inappropriate from its funereal relations. One plant, in special, is
excluded--the mistletoe. Ibid. p. 753.

_Game Pies._--These were formerly made at the season of Christmas. In
the books of the Salters’ Company, London, is the following--

“Receipt. Fit to make a moost choyce paaste of gamys to be eten at ye
Feste of Chrystmasse” (17th Richard II A.D. 1394). A pie so made by the
company’s cook in 1836 was found excellent. It consisted of a pheasant,
hare, and a capon; two partridges, two pigeons, and two rabbits; all
boned and put into paste in the shape of a bird, with the livers and
hearts, two mutton kidneys, forced meats, and egg-balls, seasoning,
spice, catsup and pickled mushrooms, filled up with gravy made from the
various bones.--See Timbs’ _Something for Everybody_, 1861, p. 148.

_Mince Pies._--These were popular under the name of “mutton pies” so
early as 1596: _Book of Days_, vol. ii. p. 755. They were also known as
Shred and Christmas pies. Thus, in Sheppard’s _Epigrams_ (1651, p. 121),
we find the following:--

“No matter for plomb-porridge or _Shrid_ pies;” and Herrick, alluding to
the custom of setting a watch upon the pies the night before Christmas,

    “Come guard this night the Christmas pie,
    That the thief, though ne’er so sly,
    With his flesh-hooks don’t come nigh,
                        To catch it.”

Brand (_Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 527), quoting from an old tract,
printed about the time of Elizabeth, or James I., says they were also
called _Minched_ pies.

Selden, in his _Table Talk_, tells us that mince pies were baked in a
coffin-shaped crust, intended to represent the cratch or manger wherein
the infant Jesus was laid. This statement may be regarded, however, as
improbable, as in old English cookery books the crust of a pie is
generally called “the coffin.”

Minced pies, says Timbs (_Something for Everybody_, 1861, p. 149), were
derived from the paste images and sweetmeats given to the Fathers of the
Vatican at Rome on Christmas Eve. Eating minced pies at Christmas was
formerly a test of orthodoxy against recusants.

_Mistletoe._--At what period mistletoe came to be recognised as a
Christmas evergreen, is not by any means certain. We have Christmas
carols in praise of holly and ivy of even earlier date than the
fifteenth century, but allusion to mistletoe can scarcely be found for
two centuries later, or before the time of Herrick. Coles, too, in his
_Knowledge of Plants_, 1656, says of mistletoe, “it is carried many
miles to set up in houses about Christmas-time, when it is adorned with
a white glistening berry.” In the tract, _Round about our Coal-Fire_,
published early in the last century, we are told the rooms were
embowered with holly, ivy, cypress, bays, laurel, and mistletoe. Brand
(_Pop. Antiq._, 1849, vol. i. p. 523) thinks that mistletoe was never
put in churches among evergreens but by mistake or ignorance; for, says
he, it was the heathenish, or profane plant, as having been of such
distinction in the pagan rites of druidism, and it had its place
therefore assigned it in kitchens, where it was hung in great
state.--See Timbs’ _Things Not Generally Known_, 1856, pp. 159-160.

_Lord of Misrule._--His office was to preside over the festivities of
Christmas, and his duties consisted in directing the various revels of
the season. In some great families, and occasionally at Court, he was
also called the _Abbot of Misrule_, corresponding with the French _Abbé
de Liesse_, a word which implies merriment. Stow, in his _Survey of
London_, alluding to this whimsical custom says:--“In the feast of
Christmas there was in the king’s house, wheresoever he lodged, a Lord
of Misrule, or master of merry disports, and the like, had ye in the
house of every nobleman of honour, or good worship, were he spiritual or
temporal. The Mayor of London, and either of the sheriffs, had their
several lords of misrule, ever contending, without quarrel or offence,
who should make the rarest pastime to delight the beholders, these lords
beginning their rule at Allhallowed Eve, continued the same till the
morrow after the Feast of the Purification, commonly called Candlemas
Day, in which space there were fine and subtle disguisings, masks, and
mummeries, with playing at cards for counters, nayles, and points, in
every house, more for pastimes than for game.”

Leland (_Collectanea de Rebus Anglicis_, 1770, vol. iii., Append. p.
256), speaking of the year 4 Henry VII., 1489, says:--“This Christmas I
saw no disguisings, and but right few playes; but there was an Abbot of
Misrule that made much sport, and did right well his office.” It appears
that large sums of money were expended by this king upon these
masquerades and sports, as the following extracts from his “Privy Purse
Expenses” will show:--

“Dec. 24 (1491). To Ringley, Lorde of Mysrewle, upon a preste, 5_l._

“Oct. 24 (1492). To Ringley, Abbot of Mysreule, 5_l._

“Jan. 2 (1494). For playing of the Mourice daunce, 2_l._

“Jan. 15 (1494). To Walter Alwyn, in full payment for the disguising
made at Christenmas, 14_l._ 3_s._ 4_d._

“March 3 (1490). To Jacques Haulte, in full payment for the disguising
at Christenmas, 32_l._ 18_s._ 6½_d._

“Jan. 2 (1503). To the Abbot of Misrule, in rewarde, 6_1._ 13_s._ 4_d._

“Feb. 12 (1503). To Lewis Adams, that made disguysings, 10_l._”

The Lord or Abbot of Misrule at Court, says Hampson, (_Med. Ævi Kalend._
vol. i. p. 117) was usually a writer of interludes and plays, and the
office was not unfrequently held by a poet of some reputation. Such, for
example, was George Ferrers, “in whose pastimes Edward the Sixth,” we
are told by Warton, “had great delight.” There can be no doubt, however,
that scandalous abuses often resulted from the exuberant licence assumed
by the lord of misrule and his satellites, and consequently we find
their proceedings denounced in no measured terms by Prynne, and other
zealous puritans.--See _Book of Days_, vol. ii. p. 742.

Stubbes, a morose puritan in the days of Elizabeth, denominates the lord
of misrule “a grand captaine of mischiefe,” and has preserved a minute
description of all his wild doings in the country, of which the
following is a summary. He says that the lord of misrule on being
selected, takes twenty to sixty others, “lyke hymself,” to act as his
guard, who are decorated with ribbands and scarfs and bells on their
legs. Thus, all things set in order, they have their hobby-horses, their
dragons, and other antiques, together with the gaudie pipers and
thunderyng drummers, and strike up the devill’s dance withal. So they
march to the church, invading it, even though service be performing,
with such a confused noyse that no man can hear his own voice. Then they
adjourn to the churchyard, where booths are set up, and the rest of the
day spent in dancing and drinking. The followers of “My Lord” go about
to collect money for this, giving in return “badges and cognizances” to
wear in the hat: and do not scruple to insult, or even duck, such as
will not contribute. But, adds Stubbes, another sort of fantasticall
fooles are well pleased to bring all sorts of food and drink to furnish
out the feast.--See Disraeli, _Curiosities of Literature_, 1858, vol.
ii. p. 262; and Strutt’s _Sports and Pastimes of the People of England_,
p. 254.

_Mummers._--These were amusements derived from the Saturnalia, and so
called from the Danish _Mumme_, or Dutch _Momme_, disguise in a mask.
Christmas was the grand scene of mumming, and some mummers were
disguised like bears, others like unicorns, bringing presents. Those who
could not procure masks rubbed their faces with soot, or painted them.
In the Christmas mummeries the chief aim was to surprise by the oddity
of the masques and singularity and splendour of the dresses. Everything
was out of nature and propriety. They were often attended with an
exhibition of gorgeous machinery.--Fosbroke’s _Encylopædia of
Antiquities_, 1840, p. 669; see Strutt’s _Sports and Pastimes_, 1801,
pp. 124, 189, 190; also _N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. x. pp. 464, 465, vol. xi.
p. 271, vol. xii. p. 407; _3rd S._ vol. i. p. 66, vol. iv. p. 486.

_Pantomime._--The Christmas pantomime or harlequinade is, in its present
shape, essentially a British entertainment, and was first introduced
into this country by a dancing master of Shrewsbury named Weaver in
1702. One of his pantomimes, entitled _The Loves of Mars and Venus_,
met with great success. The arrival, in the year 1717, in London of a
troupe of French pantomimists with performing dogs, gave an impetus to
this kind of drama, which was further developed in 1758 by the arrival
of the Grimaldi family, the head of which was a posture-master and
dentist. Under the auspices of this family the art of producing
pantomimes was greatly cultivated, and the entertainment much relished.
Joseph Grimaldi, the son of the dentist, was clever at inventing tricks
and devising machinery, and _Mother Goose_, and others of his
harlequinades, had an extended run. At that time the wit of the clown
was the great feature, but, by-and-by, as good clowns became scarce,
other adjuncts were supplied, such as panoramas or dioramic views; and
now the chief reliance of the manager is on scenic effects, large sums
of money being lavished on the _mise en scène_. This is particularly the
case as regards the transformation scene--i.e., the scene where the
characters are changed into clown, harlequin, &c., as much as 1000_l._
being frequently spent on this one effort. In London alone a sum of
40,000_l._ is annually expended at Christmas time on pantomimes. The
_King of the Peacocks_, a pantomime produced at the London Lyceum
Theatre during the management of Madame Vestris, cost upwards of £3000.
Even provincial theatres, such as those of Manchester or Edinburgh,
consider it right to go to considerable expense in the production of
their Christmas pantomime.--Chambers’ _Encyclopædia_, 1874, vol. vii. p.
237; see Disraeli’s _Curiosities of Literature_, 1858, pp. 116-130; _N.
& Q. 4th S._ vol. v. pp. 193-95.

_Plum-Porridge._--This, says Misson, was a “sort of soup with plumbs,
which is not at all inferior to the pye.” Dr. Rimbault says, was not
this the same as _plum-pudding_? Pudding was formerly used in the sense
of stuffing or force-meat, as we now say black-puddings. Porridge, on
the other hand, was used in the sense of our pudding. Thus Shakspeare
talks of “porridge after meat,” meaning _pudding_ after meat.--_N. & Q.
2nd S._ vol. xii. p. 489.

_Snapdragon._--A very favourite pastime at this season. Although so
prevalent in England, it is almost unknown in Scotland.--See _Book of
Days_, vol. ii. p. 738.

A writer in the _Pantalogia_ (1813, vol. x.) thus describes this
sport:--It is a kind of play, in which brandy is set on fire, and
raisins thrown into it, which those who are unused to the sport are
afraid to take out, but which may be safely snatched by a quick motion
and put blazing into the mouth, which being closed, the fire is at once
extinguished. A correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_2nd S._ vol. vii. p. 277)
suggests as a derivation the German _schnapps_, spirit, and _drache_,
dragon, and that it is equivalent to spirit-fire. The game has also been
called _flap-_ and _slap-dragon_ at different times. Shakspeare, for
example, in the second part of _Henry IV._ act ii. sc. 4, makes Falstaff

    “And drinks off candles’ ends for _flap-dragons_.”

And in _Love’s Labours Lost_, act v. sc. 1:

    “Thou art easier swallowed than a _flap-dragon_.”

See also the _Tatler_, No. 85.

_Christmas Sports._--Among the various games and sports of an olden
Christmas, says Dr. Rimbault, were card-playing, chess, and draughts,
jack-pudding in the hall; fiddlers and musicians, who were regaled with
a black-jack of beer and a Christmas pie; also singing the wassail,
scrambling for nuts, cakes, and apples; dancing round standards
decorated with evergreens in the streets; the famous old hobby-horse,
hunting owls and squirrels, the fool plough, hot cockles, and the game
of hoodman-blind.--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. xii. p. 489.

_Christmas Tree._--Various suggestions have been made as to the origin
of the Christmas tree. Mr. Timbs, in his _Something for Everybody_
(1861, p. 127), suggests its being traceable to the ancient Egyptians
and their palm-tree, which produces a branch every month, and therefore
held to be emblematical of the year. The Germans may be said to claim it
as peculiar to themselves, as being indicative of their attachment to
Christianity; they identify it with the apostolic labours of St.
Maternus, one of the earliest, if not the very first, of the preachers
of the Gospel among them. They have a legend of his sleeping under a
fir-tree, and of a miracle that occurred on that occasion. Mr. MacCabe
(_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. viii. p. 489), however, thinks the Christmas tree
is traceable to the Roman Saturnalia, and was not improbably first
imported into Germany with the conquering legions of Drusus. The
Christmas tree, such as we now see it, with its pendent toys and
mannikins, is distinctly portrayed in a single line of Virgil (Georg.
ii. 389):

    “Oscilla ex alta suspendunt mollia pinu.”

Consult Smith’s _Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities_ (1849, 2nd
ed. p. 846, in verb. “oscillum”), where there is given an engraving
“from an ancient gem (Maffei, Gem. Ant. iii. 64) representing a tree
with four oscilla hung upon its branches.” Any one looking into that
valuable work will see at once that it is an exact picture of a
Christmas tree.

A correspondent of _Book of Days_ (vol. ii. p. 787) says, within the
last twenty years, and apparently since the marriage of Queen Victoria
with Prince Albert, previous to which time it was almost unknown in this
country, the Christmas tree has been introduced into England with the
greatest success.

_The Vessel-Cup._--There is a very pretty custom, now nearly obsolete,
of bearing the “vessel,” or, more properly the wassail-cup, at
Christmas. This consists of a box containing two dolls, dressed up to
represent the Virgin and the Infant Christ, decorated with ribbons and
surrounded by flowers and apples; the box has usually a glass lid, is
covered over by a white napkin, and carried from door to door on the
arms of a woman; on the top, or in the box, a china bason is placed, and
the bearer on reaching a house, uncovered the box and sung the carol
known as the “Seven Joys of the Virgin.”

The carrying of the “vessel-cup” is a fortuitous speculation, as it is
considered so unlucky to send any one away unrequited, that few can be
found whose temerity is so great as to deter them from giving some
halfpence to the singer.

In Yorkshire, formerly, only one image used to be carried about--that of
the Saviour, which was placed in a box surrounded by evergreens, and
such flowers as could be procured at the season. The party to whose
house the figure was carried were at liberty to take from the
decorations of the image a leaf or a flower, which was carefully
preserved and regarded as a sovereign remedy for the toothache.--_Jour.
of Arch. Assoc._ 1853, vol. viii. p. 38; _Book of Days_, 1864, vol. ii.
p. 725; Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ vol. i. p. 454.

_Turkey._--The turkey has graced the Christmas table from the date of
its introduction into England, about the year 1524. Tusser mentions the
bird as forming part of the Christmas fare in 1587:

    “Beefe, mutton, and porke, shred pies of the best;
    Pig, veale, goose, and capon, and turkie well drest.”

_Waits._--Musicians who play by night for two or three weeks before
Christmas, terminating their performances generally on Christmas Eve. It
is uncertain, says a correspondent of _Book of Days_ (vol ii. p. 742),
whether the term _Waits_ denoted originally musical instruments, a
particular kind of music, or the persons who played under certain
special circumstances. There is evidence in support of all these views.
At one time the name of waits was given to minstrels attached to the
king’s court, whose duty it was to guard the streets at night and
proclaim the hour, something in the same manner as the watchmen were
wont to do in London before the establishment of the metropolitan
police. Down to the year 1820, perhaps later, says the same writer (p.
743), the waits had a certain degree of official recognition in the
cities of London and Westminster. In London, the post was purchased; in
Westminster, it was an appointment under the control of the high
constable and the court of burgesses. A police inquiry about Christmas
time in that year brought the matter in a singular way under public
notice. Mr. Clay had been the official leader of the waits for
Westminster, and, on his death, Mr. Monro obtained the post. Having
employed a number of persons in different parts of the city and
liberties of Westminster to serenade the inhabitants, trusting to their
liberality at Christmas as a remuneration, he was surprised to find that
other persons were, unauthorized, assuming the right of playing at
night, and making applications to the inhabitants for Christmas boxes.
Sir R. Baker, the police magistrate, promised to aid Mr. Munro in the
assertion of his claims, and the result, in several cases, showed that
there really was this “vested right” to charm the ears of the citizens
with nocturnal music. At present, however, there is nothing to prevent
any number of such itinerant minstrels from plying their midnight
calling. See two interesting articles on the subject by Mr. Chappell in
_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. vi. pp. 489, 509.

_Yule-clog or Yule-log._--This was generally lighted on Christmas Eve,
and was, says Soane, as large as the hearth would admit of, or the means
of the rejoicers could supply; and, in some of the northern counties of
England, so long as the log lasted, the servants were entitled to ale at
their meals. At one time custom prescribed that it should be lighted
with a brand of the last year’s block, which had been carefully put by
and preserved for that purpose, as we find it recorded by Herrick:

    “Come bring with a noise,
      My merrie, merrie boys,
    The Christmas log to the firing;
      While my good dame, she
    Bids ye all be free,
      And drink to your heart’s desiring.

    With the last year’s brand
      Light the new block, and
    For good success in his spending,
      On your psalteries play
    That sweet luck may
      Come while the log is a tiending.”[91]

  [91] To _Teend_ is to kindle, or to _burn_, from the Anglo-Saxon
  _Tendan_ to set on fire.

It is also requisite that the maidens who blow a fire, should come to
the task with clean hands:

    “Wash your hands, or else the fire
    Will not tiend to your desire;
    Unwash’d hands, ye maidens, know,
    Dead the fire though ye blow.”


At Cumnor the parishioners, who paid vicarial tithes, claimed a custom
of being entertained at the vicarage, on the afternoon of Christmas Day,
with four bushels of malt brewed into ale and beer, two bushels of wheat
made into bread, and half a hundred weight of cheese. The remainder was
given to the poor the next morning after divine service.--Lysons’ _Magna
Britannia_, 1813, vol. i. pt. ii. p. 271.


By the will of John Popple, dated the 12th of March, 1830, 4_l._ yearly
is to be paid unto the vicar, churchwardens, and overseers of the poor
of the parish of Burnham, to provide for the poor people who should be
residing in the poorhouse, a dinner, with a proper quantity of good ale
and likewise with tobacco and snuff.--_Old English Customs and
Charities_, 1842, p. 4.

Up to about 1813, a bull and boar, a sack of wheat, and a sack of malt
were given away to the poor by the lord of the manor of Prince’s
Risborough about six o’clock every Christmas morning. This practice was
then discontinued, and for about five or six years after the
discontinuance, beef and mutton were distributed to the poor about
Christmas in lieu of the above articles.--_Ibid._ p. 66.

The following extract is taken from the _Gent. Mag._ (1753, vol. xxiii.
p. 49):--At Quainton, above two thousand people went, with lanterns and
candles, to view a blackthorn in that neighbourhood, and which was
remembered to be a slip from the famous Glastonbury thorn, and that it
always budded on the 24th, was full blown the next day, and went all off
at night. The people finding no appearance of a bud, it was agreed by
all that December 25th (New Style) could not be the right Christmas Day,
and accordingly refused going to church, and treating their friends on
that day as usual. At length the affair became so serious, that the
ministers of the neighbouring villages, in order to appease them,
thought it prudent to give notice that the _Old_ Christmas Day should be
kept holy as before.

This famous hawthorn was supposed to be sprung from the staff of Joseph
of Arimathea, who having fixed it in the ground with his own hand on
Christmas Day, it took root immediately, put forth leaves, and the next
day was covered with milk-white blossoms.[92]--See Hearne’s _History and
Antiquities of Glastonbury_, 1722.

  [92] Collinson, in his _History of Somersetshire_ (1791), alludes to
  the miraculous walnut-tree, which grew in the Abbey churchyard of
  Glastonbury, and never budded forth before the feast of St. Barnabas,
  viz., 11th June, and on that very day shot forth leaves, and


At Clare Hall, in Cambridge, a collar of brawn is always provided for
the Fellows’ table on Christmas Day, which comes up every day during the
twelve days and then makes another and last appearance on Candlemas Day.
A sprig of ivy with berries is stuck in the centre of the top; the
berries are first dipped in flour, probably to represent the hoar
frost.--_Time’s Telescope_, 1863, p. 338.


Hitchins, in his _History of Cornwall_ (1824, vol. i. p. 718), gives the
following account of the Christmas plays, which at one time were
performed in this county at Christmas. He says, the lads who engage in
these theatrical representations appear fantastically dressed, decorated
with ribbons and painted paper, with wooden swords, and all the equipage
necessary to support the several characters they assume. To entertain
their auditors, they learn to repeat a barbarous jargon, in the form of
a drama, which has been handed down from distant generations. War and
love are the general topics, and St. George and the Dragon are always
the most prominent characters. Interludes, expostulations, debate,
battle, and death, are sure to find a place among the mimicry; but a
physician who is always at hand immediately restores the dead to life.
It is generally understood that these Christmas plays derived their
origin from the ancient crusades, and hence the feats of chivalry and
the romantic extravagance of knight-errantry that are still preserved in
all the varied pretensions and exploits.--See _Every Day Book_, 1827,
vol. ii. p. 122.

It was customary at one time in Cornwall on the last Thursday that was
one clear week before Christmas Day, which was anciently called
_jeu-nhydn_, or White Thursday, for the tinners to claim a holiday,
because, according to tradition, on this day black tin or ore was first
melted or turned into white tin or metal in these parts.--Hitchins,
_History of Cornwall_, 1824, vol. i. p. 725.


In this county, and in all the great towns in the North of England,
about a week before Christmas, what are called _Honey-Fairs_ are held,
in which dancing forms the leading amusement.--_Time’s Telescope_, 1824,
p. 297.


Christmas festivities are well observed in Derbyshire; mummers or
guisers go from house to house, and perform a play of St. George. They
are dressed up in character and decorated with ribbands, tinsel, and
other finery, and on being admitted into the house commence their
performance by St. George announcing himself by beginning his oration:

    “I am St. George, the noble champion bold,
    And with my glittering sword
    I’ve won three crowns of gold;
    It’s I who fought the fiery dragon,
    And brought it to the slaughter;
    And so I won fair Sabra,
    The king of Egypt’s daughter.
    --Seven have I won, but married none,
    And bear my glory all alone,
    --With _my_ Sword in my hand,
    Who dare against me stand?
    I swear I’ll cut him down
    With my victorious brand.”

A champion is soon found in the person of Slasher, who accepts the
challenge. St. George then replies in a neat speech, when they sing,
shake hands, and fight with their wooden swords, and Slasher is slain.
The King then enters, saying:--“I am the King of England, the greatest
man alive,” and after walking round the dead body, calls for, “Sir Guy,
one of the chiefest men in the world’s wonder,” who shows his wonderful
courage and prowess in calling for a doctor. The doctor, on making his
appearance, gives a long and quaint account of his birth, parentage,
education, and travels, whilst perambulating around the fallen Slasher,
and ends his oration by saying:

    “Here take a little out of my bottle,
    And put it down thy throttle.”

The dead man is thus cured, and having received the advice of, “Rise,
Jack, and fight again, the play is ended.”--_Jour. of the Arch. Assoc._
1852, vol. vii. p. 206.


It appears that in some parts of this county the mummers still go round
at Christmas-tide, performing a species of play.--See _N. & Q. 5th S._
vol. ii. p. 505.


On Christmas day at Hornchurch the lessee of the tithes, which belong to
New College, Oxford, supplies, says Hone, (_Every Day Book_, 1827, vol.
ii. p. 1649), a boar’s head dressed and garnished with bayleaves, &c. In
the afternoon it is carried in procession into the mill-field adjoining
the churchyard, where it is wrestled for and afterwards feasted upon at
one of the public-houses by the rustic conqueror and his friends with
all the merriment peculiar to the season.

The following appeared in the _Daily News_ of January 5th, 1852:--By
ancient charter or usage in Hornchurch a boar’s head is wrestled for in
a field adjoining the church, a boar, the property of the parish, having
been slaughtered for the purpose. The boar’s head, elevated on a pole
and decorated with ribbons, was brought into the ring where the
competitors entered, and the prize was awarded.--See Morant, _History of
Essex_, 1768, vol. i. p. 74.


It was formerly the custom of the city of Gloucester to present to the
Sovereign at Christmas a lamprey-pie with a raised crust. The custom is
of great antiquity, and as Henry I., of lamprey-loving celebrity,
frequently held his Court during Christmas at Gloucester, it may have
originated in his time. In 1530 the Prior of Lanthony at Gloucester sent
“cheese, carp, and baked lampreys” to Henry VIII. at Windsor, for which
the bearer received twenty shillings.--Tighe and Davis, _Annals of
Windsor_, p. 562.

During the Commonwealth it appears from the following entry in the
corporation minutes that the pie was sent to the members for the city:--

“_Item._--Paid to Thomas Suffield, cook, for lamprey-pies sent to our
Parliament men, £08 00_s._ 00_d._”

In 1752 it appears to have been the custom to present a lamprey-pie to
the Prince of Wales, as appears by Mr. Jesse’s book, _George Selwyn and
his Contemporaries_ (vol. i. p. 153), where is printed the following
letter from Mr. Alderman Harris to George Selwyn, then M.P. for

  “_Gloucester, 15th January, 1752._

  “SIR,--At the request of Mr. Mayor, whose extraordinary hurry of
  business will not afford him leisure to direct himself, I am desired
  to acquaint you that by the Gloucester waggon this week is sent the
  usual present of a lamprey-pie from this Corporation to His Royal
  Highness the Prince of Wales. It is directed to you; and I am further
  to request the favour of you to have the same presented with the
  compliments of this body, as your late worthy father used to do.

  “Sir, your most obedient humble servant,


  “P.S.--The waggoner’s inn is the King’s Head, in the Old
  Change.”[93]--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. ix. p. 184.

  [93] Another correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_2nd S._ vol. ix. p. 185)
  says that it was formerly the custom to send to the King the first
  lamprey caught in the river at the commencement of the season; it was
  stewed, that being the best way of cooking this fish.


In this county, and also in Worcestershire, it is considered very
unlucky for new shoes or tanned leather to be received into the house
during the Christmas week or on New Year’s Day.--See _N. & Q. 5th S._
vol. iii. p. 7.


At one time the festivities of Christmas were commenced at Ramsgate by a
curious musical procession. The following account is taken from Busby’s
_Concert Room and Orchestra Anecdotes_ (1825, vol. i. p. 73):--

A party of young people procure the head of a dead horse, which is
affixed to a pole about four feet in length, a string is tied to the
lower jaw, a horsecloth is then attached to the whole, under which one
of the party gets, and by frequently pulling the string keeps up a loud
snapping noise, and is accompanied by the rest of the party grotesquely
habited and ringing hand-bells. They thus proceed from house to house,
sounding their bells and singing carols and songs. They are commonly
gratified with beer and cake, or perhaps with money. This is
provincially called a _hodening_; and the figure above described a
“hoden,” or wooden horse.

This curious ceremony is also observed in the Isle of Thanet on
Christmas Eve, and is supposed to be an ancient relic of a festival
ordained to commemorate our Saxon ancestors’ landing in that island.


The following description of primitive manners in the houses of the
gentry at Christmas is extracted by Baines (_Hist. of Lancashire_, vol.
iii. p. 294) from a family manuscript of the Cunliffes, of Wycoller, in
Lancashire, and refers to an age antecedent to the wars of the
Parliament:--“At Wycoller-Hall the family usually kept open house the
twelve days at Christmas. Their entertainment was a large hall of
curious ashler wood, a long table, plenty of _furmerty_, like new milk,
in a morning, made of husked wheat boiled, roasted beef with fat goose
and a pudding, with plenty of good beer for dinner. A roundabout
fire-place, surrounded with stone benches, where the young folks sat and
cracked nuts, and diverted themselves; and in this manner the sons and
daughters got matching without going much from home.”--See _Med. Ævi
Kalend._ vol. i. p. 91.


Train, in his _History of the Isle of Man_ (1845, vol. ii. p. 127),
says:--The Christmas festival is introduced by young persons
perambulating the various towns and villages in the evenings,
fantastically dressed, and armed with swords, calling as they proceed,
“Who wants to see the White Boys act?” When their services are engaged
they, like the Scotch _guisards_ or _Quhite boys of Yule_, perform a
rude drama, in which St. George, Prince Valentine, King of Egypt, Sambo,
and the Doctor are the _dramatis personæ_.

It was customary in the Isle of Man for every family that could afford
it to have a brewing called _Jough-ny-nollick_, i.e., Christmas drink,
prepared for the festivities of the season. On such occasions one
brewing-kettle generally served a whole neighbourhood, which gave rise
to the monk’s proverb, “To go about like a brewing-pan.”--_Ibid._ p.


Malcolm, in his _Anecdotes of the Manners and Customs of London_ (1811,
p. 259), speaking of Christmas Day, says:--“It was a day of grand
difference in the judgment of some, and in the City of London some
opened their shops, but to stop mutinying they were shut up again; yet
do very few understand what the difference is that is now embraced in
the judgments of those who desire the reformation from Popish
innovation, but to give such further satisfaction herein, it is the
opinion of these that it is a day wherein it is very fit for the people
of God to congregate in the church to hear the Word of God preached, but
not a holiday or such a day as is of absolute necessity to be kept holy;
it is a day wherein it is no sin for a man to follow his calling, and he
must not by a Popish innovation adore the day.”

_Inns of Court._--There were anciently great doings in the halls of the
Inns of Court at Christmas. At the Inner Temple early in the morning the
gentlemen of the Inn went to church, and after the service they repaired
into the hall to breakfast with brawn, mustard, and malmsey. At the
first course at dinner was “served in, a fair and large _Bore’s head_
upon a silver platter, with minstralsye.”--Dugdale’s _Orig. Jurid._

A correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_5th S._ vol. ii. p. 507), alluding to the
time-honoured custom of the Boar’s Head Feast at St. John’s Gate,
Clerkenwell, says the boar’s head is still served up at Queen’s College,
Oxford (see p. 477), but I do not think it can be more enjoyable than
the Christmas custom used to be at Clerkenwell, with the hall strewn
with rushes, the gigantic yule-log drawn in by the sons of the host (the
late proprietor), with the accompanying announcement, by bugles, and the
bringing in of the boar’s head, the “cook dressed all in white,” singing
the good old carol (printed by Wynkyn, de Worde, 1521), copies of which
being in the hands of the guests, who joined in the chorus, rendering
the whole scene so pleasant as never to be forgotten. The loving cup was
never omitted, and of course wassail was duly brought in, “y^{e} Lorde
of Mysrewle doing his duty ‘passing well.’” The following is an exact
copy of the carol:


      _Caput apri differo
      Reddens laudem Domino._

    The bore’s heed in hande bringe I,
    With garlens gay and rosemarie,
    I pray you all synge merrilie,
          _Qui estis in convivio_.

    The bore’s heed I understande,
    Is the chefe servyce in this lande,
    Loke wherever it be fonde,
          _Servite cum cantico_.

    Be gladde lordes, both more and lesse,
    For this hath ordeyned our stewarde
    To chere you all this Christmasse,
    The bore’s heed with mustarde.”

Subjoined is a copy of the invitation the late host and his predecessor
used to issue, which is a curious production:

    “We’ll passe aboute y^{e} lovynge cuppe,
      And sende ye wassaile rounde;
    With myrthe and songes of chyvalrie,
      These goodlye Halles shall sounde.

[Here is an illustration of the north side of the Gate.]

“Samuel Wickens, ye Grande Mayester of ye Priorye of Sainte John,
Greetinge welle hys ryght trustye and welle beloved friends, dothe
herebye summon them to hys councill to be holden in y^{e} Greate Halle
of y^{e} Priorye, aforesaide, on y^{e} ninthe daye of Ianuarie, anno
Domini, one thousande eighte hundrede and seventie-three, to adjudycate
on y^{e} qualitie of hys viandes: that is to saye, roaste beefe and
plumbe puddynge, and with a cordialle greetinge in y^{e} wassaile boule
and y^{e} lovynge cuppe, perpetuate to alle tyme and to tyme oute of
mynde a ryghte goodlye and lastynge fellowshipe. Ye Boare’s heade will
be broughte into ye halle, and y^{e} chante will be sange, at sixe of
the clocke, at which tyme y^{e} Feast will begine.”


At Yarmouth before the Reformation it was a custom for the prior and
monks, and afterwards for the dean and chapter, or the farmer of their
parsonage, to provide a breakfast for the inhabitants of the town every
year on Christmas Day, which custom continued till the 21st of
Elizabeth, when, on account of a grievous plague which carried off two
thousand of the inhabitants in one year, and on consideration of the
ruinous condition of the parsonage-house, it was agreed that Thomas
Osborne, who was then farmer of the parsonage, should pay 5_l._ a year
to the churchwardens for the use of the town in lieu of the said
breakfast. After the plague had ceased, the breakfast was resumed and
continued as usual, till the reign of James I., when William Gostlynge,
then farmer, absolutely refused to provide it or to pay an equivalent
composition, upon which the town preferred a complaint to the dean and
chapter, who promised not to countenance him in such a non-conformity to
the terms of the lease by which he held of them. Finally, Mr. Gostlynge
was obliged to sign an agreement, whereby he engaged to pay yearly to
the town in lieu of the breakfast, 10_l._, which was distributed to poor
fishermen, &c., and 5_l._ for his default, in before refusing to provide
the breakfast. This continued till the making of a new agreement,
between the corporation and Mr. Gostlynge, of a grant of nomination and
appointment of preachers and ministers in the town, since which it seems
that both breakfast and composition shared the fate of all human
institutions and sank into oblivion.--Parkin, _History of Great
Yarmouth_, 1776, p. 330.


Cole, in his _History of Weston Favell_ (1827, p. 60), says Christmas
Day is ushered in by the ringing of the bells of the church, precisely
at twelve o’clock, called the midnight peal, till which time many of the
inhabitants sit round the jovial fire, whence at twelve o’clock they
emerge into the midnight air to listen to the peals of the bells of the
neighbouring churches.


In Alnwick a custom existed of giving sweetmeats to children at
Christmas time, called Yule Babies, in commemoration of our Saviour’s
nativity.--_History of Alnwick_, 1822, p. 262.


The inhabitants of North Clifton were formerly ferry free. In
consequence, the ferryman and his dog were indulged with a dinner each
at the vicar’s at Christmas. The ferryman also on that day received of
the inhabitants a prime loaf of bread.--_N. & Q. 5th S._ vol. ii. p.

Near Raleigh there is a valley said to have been caused by an earthquake
several hundred years ago, which swallowed up a whole village, together
with the church. Formerly, it was the custom of the people to assemble
in this valley every Christmas Day morning to listen to the ringing of
the bells of the church beneath them. This, it was positively stated,
might be heard by placing the ear to the ground and hearkening
attentively. As late as 1827 it was usual on this morning for old men
and women to tell their children and young friends to go to the valley,
stoop down, and hear the bells ring merrily. The villagers heard the
ringing of the bells of a neighbouring church, the sound of which was
communicated by the surface of the ground. A similar belief exists, or
did a short time ago, at Preston, in Lancashire.--_Ibid._ p. 509.


In the buttery of St. John’s College, Oxford, an ancient candle socket
of stone still remains, ornamented with the figure of the Holy Lamb. It
was formerly used to burn the Christmas candle in, on the high table at
supper during the twelve nights of this festival.--Brand, _Pop. Antiq._
1849, vol. i. p. 467.

It was formerly a custom for the butcher of Merton College, about
Christmas time, to invite the scholars to a treat at his house, when he
used to provide a _bull_ for the steward to knock down with his own
hands, whence this treat was called _The Kill-Bull_.--Pointer,
_Oxoniensis Academia_, 1749, p. 23.

The following account of the ancient custom of bringing in a boar’s head
at Queen’s College, Oxford, is taken from a MS., in the Bodleian
Library, quoted in the _Antiquary_ (1873, vol. iii. p. 47):--

There is a custom at Queen’s College to serve up every year a boar’s
head, provided by the manciple against Christmas Day. This boar’s head
being boyl’d or roasted, is laid in a great charger, covered with a
garland of bays or laurell as broad at bottom as the brims of the
chargers. When the first course is served up in the refectory on
Christmas Day, in the said college, the manciple brings the said boar’s
head from the kitchen up to the high table, accompanied with one of the
tabarders (i.e., the scholars), who lays his hand on the charger. The
tabarder sings a song, and when he comes to the chorus all the scholars
that are in the refectory joyn together and sing it:


    “The boar’s head in hand bear I,
    Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary,
    And I pray you master merry be,
          _Quotquot estis in convivio_.

                        CHORUS. _Caput apri defero_
                                _Reddens laudes Domino_.


    The boar’s head, as I understand,
    Is the bravest dish in the land,
    Being thus bedeck’d with a gay garland,
          Let us _servire convivio_.

                        CHORUS. _Caput apri, &c._


    Our steward has provided this
    In honour of the King of bliss,
    Which on this day to be served is,
          In _Reginensi atrio_.

                    CHORUS. _Caput apri,” &c._

According to Mr. Wade (_Walks in Oxford_, 1817, vol. i. p. 128) the
usage is in commemoration of an act of valour performed by a student of
the college, who, while walking in the neighbouring forest of Shotover,
and reading Aristotle, was suddenly attacked by a wild boar. The furious
beast came open-mouthed upon the youth, who, however, very courageously,
and with a happy presence of mind, rammed in the volume, and crying
_Græcum est_, fairly choked the savage.

In an audit-book of Trinity College for the year 1559, Warton found a
disbursement “_pro prandio Principis natalicii_.” A Christmas prince, or
Lord of Misrule, he adds, corresponding to the Imperator at Cambridge,
was a common temporary magistrate in the colleges of Oxford.--See
Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 498; _The Antiquary_, 1873, vol.
iii. p. 53; Wood, in his _Athenæ Oxonienses_, alludes to the Christmas
prince at St. John’s and Merton Colleges.

Mummings at Christmas are common in Oxfordshire. At Islip some of the
mummers wear masks, others, who cannot get masks, black their faces and
dress themselves up with haybands tied round their arms and bodies. The
smaller boys black their faces, and go about singing--

    “A merry Christmas and a happy new year,
    Your pockets full of money, and your cellars full of beer.”

  Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 466.

Dr. Lee, in _N. & Q._ (_5th S._ vol. ii. pp. 503-505), has given a
curious old miracle play, the text of which he says was taken down by
himself from the lips of one of the performers in 1853.

Aubrey informs us that in several parts of Oxfordshire it was the custom
for the maidservant to ask the man for ivy to decorate the house, and if
he refused or neglected to fetch in a supply the maids stole a pair of
his breeches, and nailed them up to the gate in the yard or highway. A
similar usage prevailed in other places, when the refusal to comply with
such a request incurred the penalty of being debarred from the
well-known privilege of the mistletoe.--See _Book of Days_, vol. ii. p.


Troutbeck, in his _State of the Scilly Isles_ (1796, p. 172), gives the
following account of how Christmas was celebrated in his time. The young
people, he says, exercise a sort of gallantry among themselves, which
they call goose-dancing, when the maidens are dressed up for young men
and the young men for maidens. In the day time they dance about the
streets in masquerade, vieing with each other who can appear the most
uncouth. In the evenings they visit their neighbours in companies, where
they dance and make their jokes upon what has happened in the islands.
By this sort of sport according to yearly custom and toleration, there
is a spirit of wit and drollery kept up among the people. The maidens,
who are sometimes dressed up for sea captains and other officers,
display their alluring graces to the ladies, who are young men equipped
for that purpose; and the ladies exert their talents to them in courtly
addresses, their hangers are sometimes drawn, &c., after which, and
other pieces of drollery, the scene shifts to music and dancing, which
being over they are treated with liquor and then go to the next house of

They have a custom also of singing carols at church on Christmas Day, to
which the congregation make contributions by dropping money into a hat
carried about the church when the performance is over.--Heath’s _Account
of the Scilly Isles_, p. 125.


At West Hatch the reeve or bailiff to the manor provided at the lord’s
expense a feast on Christmas Day, and distributed to each householder a
loaf of bread, a pound and a half of beef, and the like quantity of
pork, undressed, and the same evening treated them with a
supper.--Collinson, _History of County of Somerset_, 1791, vol. ii. p.

The following lines are sung at the Christmas mummings in this county:

    “Here comes I, liddle man Jan,
    With my zword in my han!
    If you don’t all do,
      As you be told by I,
    I’ll zend you all to York,
      Vor to make apple-pie.”

  Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 466.


In Shaw’s _History of Staffordshire_ (1798-1801) is mentioned a custom
formerly prevalent in the parish of Great Barr, for the rector on every
Christmas Day to give to each person, great and small, of his parish
that came to his house, so much bread, beef, mustard, and vinegar as
they could eat. Latterly, however, money was given instead.

Plot, in his _Natural History of Staffordshire_ (1686, p. 434), gives
the following account of a jocular custom celebrated in olden times at
Bromley Abbots. He says:--Within memory, at Abbots or Pagets Bromley,
they had a sort of sport which they celebrated at Christmas (on New Year
and Twelfth Day) called the _Hobby-horse Dance_ from a person who
carried the image of a horse between his legs, made of thin boards, and
in his hands a bow and arrow which, passing through a hole in the bow
and stopping upon a shoulder it had in it, he made a snapping noise as
he drew it to and fro, keeping time with the musick; with this man
danced six others, carrying on their shoulders as many reindeer heads,
three of them painted white, with three red, with the arms of the chief
families (viz., of Paget, Bagot, and Wells), to whom the revenues of the
town chiefly belonged, depicted on the _palms_ of them, with which they
danced the hays and other country dances. To this hobby-horse dance
there also belonged a pot, which was kept by turns by four or five of
the chief of the town, whom they called reeves, who provided cake and
ale to put into this pot; all people who had any kindness for the good
intent of the institution of the sport, giving pence a piece for
themselves and their families, and so foreigners too that came to see
it, with which money (the charge of the cakes and ale being defrayed)
they not only repaired their church, but kept the poor too, which
charges are not now perhaps so cheerfully borne.

There is an ancient payment made by the chamberlain of the corporation
of Stafford, of an annual sum of money, generally six shillings, at
Christmas, for the purchasing of plums, to be distributed among the
inhabitants of certain old houses in the liberty of Forebridge.

The origin of this payment is ascribed by general reputation to the
bounty of some individual who heard from some poor children a complaint
on Christmas Day that they had no plums for a pudding; and it is
reported that he counted the houses then in the place, and made
provision for the supply of a pound of plums for each house. The money
received is laid out in plums, which are divided into equal quantities,
and made up into parcels, one for each of the houses, fifteen or sixteen
in number, entitled by the established usage to receive a portion,
without reference to the circumstances of the inhabitants.--_Old English
Customs and Charities_, p. 5.


Brand (_Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 489) alludes to a custom practised
in the neighbourhood of Bury St. Edmunds among the young men, of hunting
owls and squirrels on Christmas Day.

In 1358, at Hawstead, the customary tenants paid their lord at Christmas
a small rent, called _offering silver_. Eleven of them paid in all
xviij^{d.} In 1386 the Christmas offerings made by the master for his
domestics amounted to xiiij^{d.} for seven servants.--Cullum, _History
of Hawstead_, 1813, pp. 13-14.


At Kendal, if a man be found at work in Christmas week his
fellow-tradesmen lay violent hands on him, and carry him on a pole to
the ale-house, where he is to treat them.--Southey’s _Common Place
Book_, 1851, 4th series, p. 354.


At Bewdley it was the custom for the bellman to go round on Christmas
morning, ringing his bell in several parts of the town, and singing the
following doggerel, first saying, “Good morning, masters and mistresses
all, I wish you all a merry Christmas”:

    “Arise mistress, arise,
    And make your tarts and pies,
      And let your maids lie still;
    For if they should rise and spoil your pies
      You’d take it very ill.
    Whilst you are sleeping in your bed,
      I the cold wintry nights must tread,
      Past twelve o’clock. Ehe!”

  _Kidderminster Shuttle_, Dec. 2nd, 1871.

At Yardley such of the poor as are excluded from partaking of certain
doles on account of receiving regular weekly relief, are allowed one
shilling each out of a general charity fund at Christmas, under the name
of plum-pudding money, to the extent of about 4_l._--Edwards, _Old
English Customs and Charities_, p. 23.


Blount tells us that, in Yorkshire and other northern parts, after
sermon or service on Christmas Day, the people will, even in the
churches, cry “_Ule! Ule!_” as a token of rejoicing; and the common sort
run about the streets singing:

    “_Ule! Ule! Ule! Ule!_
    Three puddings in a pule,
    Crack nuts and cry _Ule_!”

  See Brand, _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. pp. 476-477.

One never-failing remnant of the olden time observed in this county,
says Soane (_Curiosities of Literature_), was the _cheese_, which had
been especially made and preserved for the season. It was produced with
much ceremony by every rustic dame, who, before she allowed it to be
tasted, took a sharp knife and scored upon it rude resemblances to the
cross. To this were added the mighty wassail bowl brimming with
_lamb’s-wool_, and furmity made of barley-meal, which last was also an
essential of the breakfast-table.

Between Christmas Day and the New Year it is customary in the North
Riding of Yorkshire to give every visitor a slice of “pepper cake” (a
spiced gingerbread cake) and cheese and a glass of gin.

In the North Riding of Yorkshire it is also the custom for the
parishioners, after receiving the Sacrament on Christmas Day, to go from
church directly to the ale-house, and there drink together as a
testimony of charity and friendship.--Aubrey, MS. quoted in _Time’s
Telescope_, 1826, p. 293.

At Filey, on Christmas morning before break of day, there existed
formerly the greatest uproar, by numbers of boys going round from house
to house, rapping at every door, and roaring out, “I wish you a merry
Christmas and a happy new year,” which words were vociferated again and
again till the family awoke and admitted the clamorous visitor; who, if
he were the _first_,[94] was treated with money or cheese and
gingerbread, which were also distributed, but less liberally, to
subsequent visitors. No persons (boys excepted) ever presumed to go out
of doors till the threshold had been consecrated by the entrance of a
male. Females had no part in this matter, and if a damsel, lovely as an
angel, entered _first_, her fair form was viewed with horror as an image
of death.--Cole, _Antiquities of Filey_, 1828, p. 137.

  [94] The custom of _first footing_ seems to have been confined in
  other places to New Year’s Morning.

At Huddersfield the children carry about a “wessel-bob,” or large bunch
of evergreens hung with oranges and apples, and coloured ribbons,
singing the following carol:

    “Here we come a wassailing
      Among the leaves so green,
    Here we come a wandering
      So fair to be seen.

          For it is in Christmas time
            Strangers travel far and near,
          So God bless you and send you a happy
            New year.

    We are not daily beggars,
      That beg from door to door,
    But we are neighbours’ children,
      Whom you have seen before.

    Call up the butler of this house,
      Put on his golden ring,
    Let him bring us a glass of beer,
      And the better we shall sing.

    We have got a little purse
      Made of stretching leather skin,
    We want a little of your money
      To line it well within.

    Bring us out a table
      And spread it with a cloth;
    Bring out a mouldy cheese,
      Also your Christmas loaf.

    God bless the master of this house,
      Likewise the mistress too,
    And all the little children
      That round the table go.

    Good master and mistress,
      While you’re sitting by the fire,
    Pray think of us poor children
      Who are wandering in the mire.”

  _N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. xi. p. 144.

Some years ago it was the custom in Leeds, and the neighbourhood, for
children to go from house to house singing and carrying what they called
a “wesley-bob.” This they kept veiled in a cloth till they came to a
house door, when they uncovered it.

The wesley-bob was made of holly and evergreens, like a bower, inside
were placed a couple of dolls, adorned with ribbons, and the whole
affair was borne upon a stick. Whilst the wesley-bob was being
displayed, a song or ditty was sung.

At Aberford, near Leeds, two dolls are carried about in boxes in a
similar way, and such an affair here is called a wesley-box.--_N. & Q.
3rd S._ vol. vi. p. 494.

At Ripon, on Christmas Day, says a correspondent of the _Gent. Mag._
(1790, vol. lx. p. 719), the singing boys come into the church with
large baskets full of red apples, with a sprig of rosemary stuck in
each, which they present to all the congregation, and generally have a
return made them of 2_d._, 4_d._, or 6_d._, according to the quality of
the lady or gentleman.

The sword or morisco dance used to be practised at Richmond, during the
Christmas holidays, by young men dressed in shirts ornamented with
ribbons folded into roses, having swords, or wood cut in the form of
that weapon. They exhibited various feats of activity, attended by an
old fiddler, by Bessy in the grotesque habit of an old woman, and by the
fool almost covered with skins, a hairy cap on his head, and the tail of
a fox hanging from his head. These led the festive throng, and diverted
the crowd with their droll antic buffoonery. The office of one of these
characters was to go about rattling a box, and soliciting money from
door to door to defray the expenses of a feast and a dance in the
evening.--_History of Richmond_, 1814, p. 296.

In Sheffield, a male must be the first to enter a house on the morning
of both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day; but there is no distinction as
to complexion or colour of hair. In the houses of the more opulent
manufacturers, these first admissions are often accorded to choirs of
work-people, who, as “waits,” proceed at an early hour and sing before
the houses of their employers and friends Christmas carols and hymns,
always commencing with that beautiful composition:

    “Christians, awake, salute the happy morn,
    Whereon the Saviour of mankind was born.”

On expressing their good wishes to the inmates, they are generally
rewarded with something warm and occasionally with a pecuniary present.

Among the class called “respectable,” but not manufacturers, a previous
arrangement is often made; that a boy, the son of a friend, shall come
and be first admitted, receiving for his good wishes a Christmas-box of
sixpence or a shilling. The houses of the artisans and poor are
successively besieged by a host of _gamins_, who, soon after midnight,
spread themselves over the town, shouting at the doors, and through
keyholes, as follows:

    “Au wish ya a murry Chrismas,--
      A ’appy new year,--
    A’ pockit full of munny,
      An’ a celler full a’ beer.

    God bless the maester of this ’ouse--
      The mistriss all-so,
    An’ all the little childrun
      That round the table go.

    A apple, a pare, a plom, an’ a cherry;
    A sup a’ good ale mak’ a man murry,” &c.

The same house will not admit a second boy. One is sufficient to protect
it from any ill-luck that might otherwise happen. A penny is the usual
gratuity for this service.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. v. p. 395.


A custom prevails in Wales of carrying about at Christmas time a horse’s
skull dressed up with ribbons, and supported on a pole by a man who is
concealed under a large white cloth. There is a contrivance for opening
and shutting the jaws, and the figure pursues and bites everybody it can
lay hold of, and does not release them except on payment of a fine. It
is generally accompanied by some men dressed up in a grotesque manner,
who, on reaching a house, sing some extempore verses requesting
admittance, and are in turn answered by those within, until one party or
the other is at a loss for a reply. The Welsh are undoubtedly a
practical people, and these verses often display a good deal of
cleverness. This horse’s head is called _Mari Lwyd_, which I have heard
translated “Grey mare.” _Lwyd_ certainly is grey, but _Mari_ is not a
mare in Welsh.[95]--_N. & Q. 1st S._ vol. i. p. 173.

  [95] This custom was also practised in one or two places in Lancashire
  about the year 1840. The horse was played in a similar way, but the
  performer was called “Old Ball.” It is no doubt a vestige of the old
  “hobby-horse.”--_Ibid._ p. 245.

Upon Christmas Day, about three o’clock in the morning, the Welsh in
many parts used to assemble in church, and after prayers and a sermon,
continue there singing psalms and hymns with great devotion, till it was
daylight; and if, through age or infirmity, any were disabled from
attending, they never failed having prayers at home, and carols on our
Saviour’s nativity. This act of devotion was called _Pulgen_, or the
_crowning of the cock_. It was a general belief among the superstitious
that instantly--

                  “At his warning,
    Whether in sea, or fire, in earth, or air,
    Th’ extravagant, and erring spirit, hies
    To his confine--”

During Christmas time, the cock was supposed to exert his power
throughout the night, from which no doubt originated the Welsh word
“Pulgen” as applied to this custom.--Bingley’s _Tour Round North Wales_,
1800, vol. ii. p. 226.

At Tenby it was customary at 4 o’clock on Christmas morning for the
young men of the town to escort the rector with lighted torches from his
residence to church.--Mason’s _Tales and Traditions of Tenby_, 1858, p.

Sometimes also before or after Christmas Day the fishermen of Tenby
dressed up one of their number whom they called the “Lord Mayor of
Pennyless Cone,” with a covering of evergreens and a mask over his face;
they would then carry him about, seated on a chair, with flags flying,
and a couple of violins playing before him. Before every house the “Lord
Mayor” would address the occupants, wishing them a merry Christmas and a
happy new year. If his good wishes were responded to with money his
followers gave three cheers, the masquer would himself return thanks,
and the crowd again cheered.--_Ibid._ p. 5.


In some parts of Scotland, he who first opens the door on Yule Day
expects to prosper more than any other member of the family during the
future year because, as the vulgar express it, “He lets in yule.” On
opening the door, it is customary with some to place in the doorway a
table or chair covered with a clean cloth; and, according to their own
language, to “set on it bread and cheese to yule.” Early in the morning,
as soon as any one of the family gets out of bed, a new besom is set
behind the outer door, the design being to “let in yule.” These
superstitions, in which yule is not only personified, but treated as a
deity, are evidently of heathen origin. It is common also to have a
table covered in the house, from morning until evening, with bread and
drink upon it, that every one who calls may take a portion, and it is
considered particularly inauspicious if any one comes into a house and
leaves it without doing so. Whatever number of persons call on this day,
all must partake of the good cheer.--_Med. Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 48;
see Jamieson, _Etymol. Dict._, Art. _Yule_.

Any servant who is supposed to have a due regard to the interests of the
family, and is not at the same time emancipated from the yoke of
superstition, is careful to go early to the well on Christmas morning to
draw water, pull the corn out of the sack, and also to bring kale from
the kitchen garden. This is intended to insure prosperity to the family
(_Ibid._ p. 99). It is in fact the same as the _Usque Cashrichd_, which
was noticed among the superstitious customs of the first of
January.--See p. 17.

The doings of the guisards (that is, masquers), says Chambers (_Pop.
Rhymes_, 1870, p. 169), form a conspicuous feature in the New Year
proceedings throughout Scotland. The evenings on which these personages
are understood to be privileged to appear, are those of Christmas,
Hogmanay, New Year’s Day, and Handsel Monday. Dressed up in quaint and
fantastic attire, they sing a selection of songs which have been
practised by them some weeks before. There were important doings,
however, one of a theatrical character. There is one rude and grotesque
drama (called Galatian) which they are accustomed to perform on each of
the four above-mentioned nights, and which in various fragments or
versions exists in every part of Lowland Scotland. The performers, who
are never less than three, but sometimes as many as six, having dressed
themselves, proceed in a band from house to house, generally contenting
themselves with the kitchen for an arena, whither in mansions, presided
over by the spirit of good humour, the whole family will resort to
witness the scene of mirth.--See Chambers’ _Pop. Rhymes_, p. 170.


At Christmas and the New Year, the opulent burghers begin to feast with
their friends, and go a round of visits, which takes up the space of
many weeks. Upon such occasions the gravest is expected to be merry, and
to join in a cheerful song.--Sinclair, _Stat. Acc. of Scotland_, 1793,
vol. v. p. 48.


From the same authority we learn that, in the parish of Kirkden, on
Christmas Day, the servant is free from his master, and goes about
visiting his friends and acquaintances. The poorest man must have beef
or mutton on the table, and what they call a dinner with their friends.
They amuse themselves with various diversions, particularly with
shooting for prizes, called here _wad-shooting_, and many do but little
business all the Christmas week.--_Ibid._ vol. ii. p. 509.


Christmas morn is welcomed at St. Fergus by liberal libations of
_drinking-sowins_, or, as they are called by the old people,
_knotting-sowins_; and by the gathering of friends and neighbours around
the social hearth. That the humblest householder in the parish may have
his Christmas cakes, a distribution of meal, the gift of a benevolent
individual, is annually made by the kirk-session on Christmas Day, to
the poor on the roll.--_Stat. Acc. of Scotland_, 1845, vol. xii. p. 198.

In certain parts also of the county of Aberdeen, the custom of not
working during the three days of Christmas (Old Style) is still kept up.
Straw, termed “yule straw,” is gathered beforehand, and everything
needed for food and fuel prepared in a similar way, so that the festival
may be kept in peace.--_N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. ii. p. 483.


In the account of Keith, given in the _Stat. Acc. of Scotland_ (1793,
vol. v. p. 428), the inhabitants are said to have no pastimes or
holidays except dancing on Christmas and New Year’s Day.


Fuller, in his _History of Berwick upon Tweed_ (1799, p. 446), alluding
to the customs of that place, says, there are four men called town
waits, who belong to the borough. Their business is to walk before the
mayor, recorder, and justices, playing on violins, all the way to and
from church on Christmas Day, the day of the election of a mayor, and
November the 5th. They also are obliged to attend these gentlemen at
their four public dinners.


As soon as the brightening glow of the eastern sky warns the anxious
housemaid of the approach of Christmas Day, she rises, full of anxiety,
at the prospect of her morning labours. The meal, which was steeped in
the _sowans-bowie_ a fortnight ago to make the _Prechdacdan sour_ or
_sour scones_, is the first object of her attention. The gridiron is put
on the fire, and the sour scones are soon followed by hard cakes, soft
cakes, buttered cakes, bannocks, and pannich perm. The baking being once
over, the sowans pot succeeds the gridiron, full of new sowans, which
are to be given to the family, agreeably to custom, this day in their
beds. The sowans are boiled into the consistence of molasses, when the
_lagan-le-vrich_ or yeast-bread, to distinguish it from boiled sowans,
is ready. It is then poured into as many bickers as there are
individuals to partake of it, and presently served to the whole, both
old and young. As soon as each despatches his bicker, he jumps out of
bed--the elder branches to examine the ominous signs of the day, and the
younger to enter on its amusements. Flocking to the swing, a favourite
amusement on this occasion, the youngest of the family gets the first
“shouder,” and the next oldest to him in regular succession. In order to
add more to the spirit of the exercise, it is a common practice with the
person in the _swing_ and the person appointed to swing him to enter
into a very warm and humorous altercation. As the swinged person
approaches the swinger, he exclaims, “_Ei mi tu chal_,” “I’ll eat your
kail.” To this the swinger replies, with a violent shove, “_Cha ni u mu
chal_,” “You shan’t eat my kail.” These threats and repulses are
sometimes carried to such a height as to break down or capsize the
threatener, which generally puts an end to the quarrel.

As the day advances those minor amusements are terminated at the report
of the gun or the rattle of the ball clubs--the gun inviting the
marksman to the “_kiavamuchd_,” or prize shooting, and the latter to
“_Luchd-vouil_,” or the ball combatants--both the principal sports of
the day. Tired at length of the active amusements of the field, they
exchange them for the substantial entertainment of the table. Groaning
under the “_Sonsy-haggis_” and many other savoury dainties unseen for
twelve months before, the relish communicated to the company by the
appearance of the festive board is more easily conceived than described.
The dinner once despatched, the flowing bowl succeeds and the sparkling
glass flies to and fro like a weaver’s shuttle. The rest of the day is
spent in dancing and games.--Grant, _Popular Superstitions of the


A writer in the _Stat. Acc. of Scotland_ (1845, vol. xv. p. 127),
speaking of Westray, says:--One custom in this parish and common to
Orkney at large, is that of allowing the servants four or five days’
liberty at Christmas to enjoy themselves, only the most necessary part
of domestic work, with due attention to the bestial on the farm, is done
on these days. The master of the house has also to keep up a
well-furnished table for all his servants at this season.


At Culdaff, previous to Christmas, it is customary with the labouring
classes to raffle for mutton, when a sufficient number can subscribe to
defray the cost of a sheep. During the Christmas holidays they amuse
themselves with a game of kamman, which consists in impelling a wooden
ball with a crooked stick to a given point, while an adversary
endeavours to drive it in a contrary direction.--Mason, _Stat. Acc. of
Ireland_, 1814, vol. ii. p. 160.


For some unexplained reason St. Stephen’s Day was a great period with
our ancestors for bleeding their horses, which was practised by people
of all ranks, and recommended by the old agricultural poet Tusser, in
his _Five Hundred Points of Husbandry_ (chap. xxii. st. 16), who says:

    “Yer, Christmas be passed, _let horsse be let blood_,
    For manie a purpose it dooth him much good;
    The day of S. Steeven old fathers did use;
    If that do mislike thee, some other day chuse.”

Mr. Douce says that the practice was introduced into this country by the

Naogeorgus, according to his translator, Barnaby Googe, refers to it,
and assigns a reason:

    “Then followeth Saint Stephen’s Day, whereon doth every man,
    His horses jaunt and course abrode, as swiftly as he can,
    Until they doe extreemely sweate, and then they let them blood;
    For this being done upon this day, they say doth do them good,
    And keepes them from all maladies, and sicknesse through the yeare,
    As if that Steven any time took charge of horses heare.”

In explanation, it may be stated that the Saint was the patron of
horses, and that on this day, which the Germans call _Der grosse
Pferdstag_, the Pope’s stud was physicked and bled for the sake of the
blood which was supposed to be a remedy in many disorders.

Aubrey, in his _Remains of Gentilisme_ (MS. Lansd. 226), says: “On St.
Stephen’s day, the farrier came constantly and blouded all our
cart-horses.” In the “Receipts and Disbursements of the canons of St.
Mary in Huntingdon,” is the following entry: “Item, for letting our
horses blede in Chrystmasse weke, iiij^{d}.”--_Med. Ævi Kalend._ 1841,
vol. i. p. 118.

_Christmas Boxes_ is a term now applied to gifts of money at Christmas
given away on St. Stephen’s Day, commonly called Boxing Day, whereas,
anciently, it signified the boxes in which gifts were deposited. These
boxes closely resembled the Roman _Paganalia_, for the reception of
contributions at rural festivals; from which custom, with certain
changes, is said to have been derived our Christmas Boxes. At Pompeii
have been found earthen boxes, in which money was slipped through a
hole. Aubrey found one filled with Roman denarii.--Timbs’ _Something for
Everybody_, 1861, p. 152; see _N. & Q. 3rd S._ vol. xi. pp. 65, 107,
164, 245; see also Fosbroke’s _Enclyclopædia of Antiquities_, 1840, p.


In Bedfordshire there formerly existed a custom of the poor begging the
broken victuals the day after Christmas Day.--_Time’s Telescope_, 1822,
p. 298.


It is stated in the Parliamentary Returns in 1786, that some land, then
let at 12_l._ per annum, was given by Sir Hugh Kite for the poor of the
parish of Clifton Reynes. It appears from a book, in the custody of the
minister, dated 1821, compiled by an antiquary for a history of the
county, that the rector holds a close of pasture-ground called Kites,
which had been formerly given to support a lamp burning in the church of
Clifton Reynes, but which was subject to a charge of finding one small
loaf, a piece of cheese, and a pint of ale to every married person, and
half-a-pint for every unmarried person, resident in Clifton on the feast
of St. Stephen, when they walked in the parish boundaries in Rogation
week. The close was annexed to the rectory in the 12th of
Elizabeth.--_Old English Customs and Charities_, 1842, p. 120.

There was formerly a custom in the parish of Drayton Beauchamp called
_Stephening_. All the inhabitants used to go on St. Stephen’s Day to the
rectory, and eat as much bread and cheese and drink as much ale as they
chose at the expense of the rector.

The usage gave rise to so much rioting that it was discontinued, and an
annual sum was distributed instead in proportion to the number of the
claimants. In time, the number of inhabitants, however, increased so
considerably, that about the year 1827 the custom was dropped.--_Ibid._
p. 121.


St. Stephen’s Day was formerly observed at Cambridge. Slicer, a
character in the old play of the _Ordinary_ says,

                    “Let the Corporal
    Come sweating under a breast of mutton, stuffed
    With pudding.”

This, says the annotator, was called St. Stephen’s pudding; it used
formerly to be provided at St. John’s College, Cambridge, uniformly on
St. Stephen’s Day.--Dodsley’s _Old Plays_, 1721, vol. x. p. 229; _Med.
Ævi Kalend._ vol. i. p. 119.


Hunting the wren has been a pastime in the Isle of Man from time
immemorial. In Waldron’s time it was observed on the 24th of December,
though afterwards it was observed on St. Stephen’s Day. This singular
ceremony is founded on a tradition that, in former times, a fairy of
uncommon beauty exerted such undue influence over the male population,
that she, at various times, induced, by her sweet voice, numbers to
follow her footsteps, till by degrees she led them into the sea where
they perished. This barbarous exercise of power had continued for a
great length of time, till it was apprehended that the island would be
exhausted of its defenders, when a knight-errant sprang up, who
discovered some means of countervailing the charms used by this siren,
and even laid a plot for her destruction, which she only escaped at the
moment of extreme hazard by taking the form of a _wren_. But though she
evaded instant annihilation, a spell was cast upon her by which she was
condemned, on every succeeding New Year’s Day, to reanimate the same
form with the definite sentence that she must ultimately perish by
human hand. In consequence of this legend, on the specified anniversary,
every man and boy in the island (except those who have thrown off the
trammels of superstition) devote the hours between sunrise and sunset to
the hope of extirpating the fairy, and woe be to the individual birds of
that species who show themselves on this fatal day to the active enemies
of the race; they are pursued, pelted, fired at, and destroyed, without
mercy, and their feathers preserved with religious care, it being an
article of belief that every one of the relics gathered in this laudable
pursuit is an effective preservative from shipwreck for one year; and
that fisherman would be considered extremely foolhardy who should enter
upon his occupation without such a safeguard; when the chase ceases, one
of the little victims is affixed to the top of a long pole with its
wings extended, and carried in front of the hunters, who march in
procession to every house, chanting the following rhyme:

    “We hunted the wren for Robin the Bobbin,
    We hunted the wren for Jack of the Can,
    We hunted the wren for Robin the Bobbin,
    We hunted the wren for every one.”

After making the usual circuit and collecting all the money they could
obtain, they laid the wren on a bier and carried it in procession to the
parish churchyard, where, with a whimsical kind of solemnity, they made
a grave, buried it and sang dirges over it in the Manks language, which
they call her knell. After the obsequies were performed, the company,
outside the churchyard wall, formed a circle and danced to music which
they had provided for the occasion.

At present there is not a particular day for pursuing the wren: it is
captured by boys alone, who follow the old custom principally for
amusement. On St. Stephen’s Day a group of boys go from door to door
with a wren suspended by the legs, in the centre of two hoops crossing
each other at right angles, decorated with evergreens and ribbons,
singing lines called _Hunt the Wren_. If at the close of this rhyme they
are fortunate enough to obtain a small coin, they give in return a
feather of the wren; and before the close of the day the little bird may
sometimes be seen hanging about featherless. The ceremony of the
interment of this bird in the churchyard, at the close of St. Stephen’s
Day, has long since been abandoned; and the sea-shore or some waste
ground was substituted in its place.


It is an old custom in the town of East Dereham, to ring a muffled peal
from the church tower on the morning of St. Stephen’s Day.--_N. & Q. 3rd
S._ vol. iii. p. 69.


The three vicars of Bampton, give beef and beer on the morning of St.
Stephen’s Day to those who choose to partake of it. This is called St.
Stephen’s breakfast.--Southey’s _Common Place Book_, _4th S._ 1851, p.


A correspondent of the _Gent. Mag._ (1811, vol. lxxxi. pt. i. p. 423)
says, that in the North Riding of Yorkshire on the feast of St. Stephen
large goose pies are made, all of which they distribute among their
needy neighbours, except one, which is carefully laid up, and not tasted
till the Purification of the Virgin, called Candlemas.

On this day, also, six youths, clad in white and bedecked with ribbands,
with swords in their hands, travel from one village to another,
performing the “sword dance.” They are attended by a fiddler, a youth
whimsically dressed, named “Bessy,” and by one who personates a
physician. One of the six youths acts the part of a king in a sort of
farce, which consists chiefly of music and dancing, when the “Bessy”
interferes while they are making a hexagon with their swords, and is
killed.--_Time’s Telescope_, 1814, p. 315.


On St. Stephen’s Day, everybody is privileged to whip another person’s
legs with holly, and this is often reciprocally done till the blood
streams down.--Southey’s _Common Place Book_ (1851, _4th S._ p. 365). In
Mason’s _Tales and Traditions of Tenby_ (1858, p. 5) this custom is
alluded to as being celebrated at that place.


On the anniversary of St. Stephen it is customary for groups of young
villagers to bear about a holly-bush adorned with ribbons, and having
many wrens depending from it. This is carried from house to house with
some ceremony, the “wren-boys” chanting several verses, the burthen of
which may be collected from the following lines of their song:

    “The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
    St. Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze,
    Although he is little, his family’s great,
    I pray you, good landlady, give us a treat.

    My box would speak if it had but a tongue,
    And two or three shillings would do it no wrong;
    Sing holly, sing ivy--sing ivy, sing holly,
    A drop just to drink, it would drown melancholy.

    And if you draw it of the best,
    I hope in Heaven your soul may rest;
    But if you draw it of the small,
    It won’t agree with the wren-boys at all;” &c., &c.

A small piece of money is usually bestowed on them, and the evening
concludes in merry-making with the money thus collected.--Croker,
_Researches in the South of Ireland_, 1824, p. 233.


In consequence probably of the feelings of horror attached to such an
act of atrocity as Herod’s murder of the children, Innocents’ Day used
to be reckoned about the most unlucky throughout the year; and in former
times no one who could possibly avoid it began any work or entered on
any undertaking on this anniversary.[96] To many Childermas Day was
especially inauspicious. It is said of the equally superstitious and
unprincipled monarch, Louis XI., that he would never perform any
business, or enter into any discussion about his affairs, on this day,
and to make to him then any proposal of the kind was certain to
exasperate him to the utmost. We are informed too that, in England, on
the occasion of the coronation of King Edward IV., that solemnity which
had been originally intended to take place on Sunday, was postponed till
the Monday, owing to the former day being in that year the festival of
Childermas. This idea of the inauspicious nature of the day was long
prevalent, and is even yet not wholly extinct. To the present hour the
housewives in Cornwall, and probably also in other parts of the country,
refrain scrupulously from scouring or scrubbing on Innocents’
Day.--_Book of Days_, vol. ii. p. 776.

  [96] In the play of _Sir John Oldcastle_, the prevalence of this
  belief is instanced by an objection urged to an expedition proposed on
  a Friday:--“Friday, quoth’a, a dismal day; Candlemas-day this year was

It was, moreover, not considered lucky upon this day to put on new
clothes or pare the nails.

In 1517, however, King Henry VIII., by an order, enjoined, “that the
_King of Cockneys_, on _Childermas Day_, should sit and have due
service; and that he and all his officers should use honest manner and
good order, without any waste or destruction making in wine, brawn,
chely, or other vitails; and also that he and his marshal, butler, and
constable marshal, should have their lawful and honest commandments by
delivery of the officers of Christmas, and that the said King of
Cockneys, he, none of his officers, medyl neither in the buttery nor in
the stuard of Christmass, his officer, upon pain of 40_s._ for every
such meddling; and lastly, that Jack Straw and all his adherents should
be thenceforth utterly banisht, and no more to be used in this house,
upon pain to forfeit, for every time, five pounds, to be levied on every
fellow happening to offend against this rule.”--_Every Day Book_, 1862,
vol. i. p. 1648; Dugdale’s _Orig. Jurid._

It was at one time customary on this day to whip the juvenile members of
a family. Gregory remarks that “it hath been a custom, and yet is
elsewhere, to whip up the children upon Innocents’ Day morning, that the
memorie of this murther might stick the closer; and, in a moderate
proportion, to act over the crueltie again in kind.” Gregory also states
another custom, on the authority of an old ritual belonging to the
Abbey of Oseney, communicated to him by his friend, Dr. Gerard Langbain,
the Provost of Queen’s College, Oxford, from which it appears that, at
the church of Oseney, “they were wont to bring out, upon this day, the
foot of a child prepared after their fashion, and put upon with red
and black colours, as to signify the dismal part of the day. They
put this up in a chest in the vestry, ready to be produced at the time,
and to be solemnly carried about the church to be adored by the
people.”--Gregorie’s Works, _Episcopus Puerorum in Die Innocentium_,
1684, p. 113.


At Woodchester a muffled peal is rung on this day.--_Kalendar of the
English Church_, 1866, p. 194.


In Northamptonshire this festival was called “Dyzemas Day.” Miss Baker,
in her _Glossary of Northamptonshire Words_ (1854, vol. i. p. 207), says
she was told by a sexagenarian on the southern side of the county that,
within his remembrance, this day was kept as sacred as the Sabbath, and
it was considered particularly unlucky to commence any undertaking, or
even to wash, on the same day of the week throughout the year on which
the anniversary of this day last fell, and it was commonly said, “What
is begun on Dyzemas Day will never be finished.”

The source of the ill-omened _Dyzemas_ has not been settled: its origin
has been suggested from Greek _dus_, and _mass_, as being expressive of
misfortune, evil, peril, in allusion to the massacre of the Innocents. A
correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_2nd S._ vol. iii. pp. 289 and 495) asks if
it has not reference to the name _Desmas_, given to one of the thieves
crucified with our Lord; universal tradition seeming to attach Desmas to
the penitent, and Gestas (or Yesmas) to the impenitent thief? And if the
local tradition has any reference to these names, it would seem as if
Desmas was the name of ill-omen. It has also been suggested that Dyzemas
Day is tithe day: in Portuguese, _dizimas_, _dizimos_, tenths, tithes;
in law Latin, _decimae_, the same. Timbs thinks it referable to the old
north-country word _disen_, i.e., to dress out in holiday finery,
especially at this festive season.--_Something for Everybody_, (1861, p


From time immemorial a muffled peal has been rung on this festival at
Leigh-upon-Mendip. At Wells, also, on this day, the bells of the
cathedral ring out a muffled peal in commemoration of the martyrdom of
the Innocents.--_Kalendar of the Church of England_, 1866, p. 194.


At Norton, near Evesham, it is customary, says a correspondent of _N. &
Q._ (_1st S._ vol. viii. p. 617), to ring first a muffled peal for the
slaughter of the Holy Innocents, and then an unmuffled peal of joy for
the deliverance of the Infant Christ.


Holy Innocents’ Day is with the Irish “the cross day of the year,” which
they call in their own tongue “La crosta na bliana,” or sometimes “Diar
daoin darg,” the latter phrase signifying “blood Thursday.” On this day
the Irish housewife will not warp thread, or permit it to be warped; and
the Irish say that anything begun on this day must have an unlucky
ending. The following legend regarding the day is current in the county
of Clare:--

Between the parishes of Quin and Tulla in this county is a lake called
Turlough. In the lake is a little island, and among a heap of loose
stones in the middle of the island rises a white thorn-bush, which is
called “Scagh an Earla” (the earl’s bush). A suit of clothes made for a
child on the “Cross day,” or “Diar daoin darg,” was put on the
child--the child died. The clothes were put on a second and on a third
child--they also died. The parent of the children at length put out the
clothes on the “Scagh an Earla,” and when the waters fell which for a
time covered the bush, the clothes were found to be full of dead eels.
Such is the story; and other stories like it are freely told of the
consequences of commencing work on “the cross day of the year” in
Ireland.--_N. & Q. 4th S._ vol. xii. p. 185.


The last night of the old year has been called _Singing-E’en_, from the
custom of singing carols on the evening of this day.

This eve is called by the Wesleyan Methodists _Watch Night_, because at
their principal chapels the ministers and congregations hold a service
to watch out the old year, i.e., they pray until about five minutes to
twelve o’clock, and then observe a profound silence until the clock
strikes, when they exultingly burst forth with a hymn of praise and joy.
Latterly, this service has been very generally observed by evangelical
churchmen.--See Timbs’ _Something for Everybody_, 1861, p. 156.

_Wassail-bowl._--Formerly, at this season, the head of the house
assembled his family around a bowl of spiced ale, from which he drank
their healths, then passed it to the rest, that they might drink too.
The word that passed amongst them was the ancient Saxon phrase, _wass
hael_; that is, _to your health_. Hence this came to be recognised as
the Wassail or Wassel-bowl. The poorer class of people carried a bowl
adorned with ribbons round the neighbourhood, begging for something
wherewith to obtain the means of filling it.--_Book of Days_, vol. i. p.
27; See Nare’s _Glossary_ (Halliwell and Wright), 1859, vol. ii. p. 943;
_Antiquarian Repertory_, vol. i. p. 218; Ritson’s _Ancient Songs_, 1790,
p. 304.


New Year’s Day and Eve are holidays with the miners. It has been said
they refuse to work on these days from superstitious reasons.--Hunt’s
_Romances of the West of England_, 1871, p. 350.


At Muncaster, on the eve of the new year, the children used to go from
house to house singing a ditty which craves the bounty “they were wont
to have in old King Edward’s days.” No tradition exists as to the origin
of this custom. The donation was twopence or a pie at every
house.--Hutchinson, _History of Cumberland_, 1794, vol. i. p. 570,


On New Year’s Eve a cold possett, as it is called, made of milk, ale,
eggs, currants, and spice, is prepared, and in it is placed the
wedding-ring of the hostess; each of the party takes out a ladle full,
and in doing so takes every precaution to fish up the ring, as it is
believed that whoever is fortunate enough to “catch” the ring will be
married before the year is out. On the same night it is customary in
some districts to throw open all the doors of the house just before
midnight, and to wait for the coming year, as for an honoured guest, by
meeting him as he approaches, and crying, “Welcome!”--_Jour. of the
Arch. Assoc._ 1852, vol. vii. p. 201.


On New Year’s Eve the wassailers go about carrying with them a large
bowl, dressed up with garlands and ribbons, and repeat the following

    “Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
    Our toast it is white, our ale it is brown,
    Our bowl it is made of a maplin tree;
    We be good fellows all, I drink to thee.

    Here’s to our horse, and to his right ear,
    God send our maister a happy New Year;
    A happy New Year as e’er he did see--
    With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

    Here’s to our mare and to her right eye,
    God send our mistress a good Christmas pye:
    A good Christmas pye as e’er I did see--
    With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

    Here’s to Fil’pail [cow] and to her long tail,
    God send our measter us never may fail
    Of a cup of good beer, I pray you draw near,
    And our jolly wassail it’s then you shall hear.

    Be here any maids? I suppose there be some,
    Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone;
    Sing hey, O maids, come trole back the pin,
    And the fairest maid in the house let us all in.

    Come, butler, come bring us a bowl of the best:
    I hope your soul in heaven will rest;
    But if you do bring us a bowl of the small,
    Then down fall butler, bowl and all.”

  See _Dixon’s Ancient Poems_, 1846, p. 199.


In many of the upland cottages it is customary for the housewife, after
raking the fire for the night, and just before stepping into bed, to
spread the ashes smooth over the floor with the tongs in the hope of
finding in it, next morning, the tract of a foot; should the toes of
this ominous print point towards the door, then it is believed a member
of the family will die in the course of that year; but should the heel
of the fairy foot point in that direction, then it is firmly believed
that the family will be augmented within the same period.--Train,
_History of Isle of Man_, 1845, vol. ii. p. 115.


Of the New Year’s customs observed in this county the wassail was until
recently observed to a considerable extent. This friendly custom was
observed by the young women of the village, who accustomed themselves to
go about from door to door on New Year’s Eve, neatly dressed for the
occasion, and bearing a bowl richly decorated with evergreens and
ribbands, and filled with a compound of ale, roasted apples, and toast,
and seasoned with nutmeg and sugar. The bowl was offered to the inmates
with the singing of the following amongst other verses:

    “Good master, at your door,
      Our wassail we begin;
    We all are maidens poor,
      So we pray you let us in,
    And drink our wassail.
      All hail, wassail!
      Wassail, wassail!
    And drink our wassail!”

  _Jour. of the Arch. Assoc._ 1853, vol. viii. p. 230.

On this night also, in many parts of this county, as well as in
Derbyshire, a muffled peal is rung on the church bells till twelve
o’clock, when the bandages are removed from the bells whilst the clock
is striking, and a merry peal is instantly struck up; this is called
“ringing the old year out and the new year in.”--_Jour. of the Arch.
Assoc._, 1853, vol. viii. p. 230.


It is a custom at Merton College, says Pointer, in his _Oxoniensis
Academia_ (1749, p. 24), on the last night in the year (called Scrutiny
Night), for the college servants, all in a body, to make their
appearance in the hall before the warden and fellows (after supper), and
there to deliver up the keys, so that if they have committed any great
crime in the year their keys are taken away, and consequently their
places, otherwise they are of course delivered to them again.

At the opening of the scrutiny the senior Bursar makes this short

    In hoc scrutinio hæc tria sunt proponenda,
    Mores servientium--numerus Portionistarum,
    Electio Hortulanorum.


At Yarmouth the following doggerel is sung at the season of the new

    “Wassal, wassal to our town!
    The cup is white and the ale is brown;
    The cup is made of the ashen tree,
    And so is the ale of the good barley;
    Little maid, little maid, turn the pin,
    Open the door and let us come in;
    God be here, God be there,
    I wish you all a Happy New Year.”

  Halliwell’s _Popular Rhymes_, 1849, p. 236.


At Bradford it is the practice of men and women, dressed in strange
costumes, with blackened faces, and besoms in hand, to enter houses on
New Year’s Eve so as to “sweep out the old year.”--_N. & Q. 5th S._ vol.
i. p. 383.


Hogmanay is the universal popular name in Scotland for the last day of
the year. It is a day of high festival among young and old--but
particularly the young, who do not regard any of the rest of the Daft
Days with half so much interest. It is still customary, in retired and
primitive towns, for the children of the poorer class of people to get
themselves on that morning swaddled in a great sheet, doubled up in
front, so as to form a vast pocket, and then to go along the streets in
little bands, calling at the doors of the wealthier classes for an
expected dole of oaten bread. Each child gets one quadrant section of
oat-cake (sometimes, in the case of particular cases, improved by an
addition of cheese), and this is called their _hogmanay_. In expectation
of the large demands thus made upon them, the housewives busy themselves
for several days beforehand in preparing a suitable quantity of cakes.
The children, on coming to the door, cry “Hogmanay!” which is in itself
a sufficient announcement of their demands; but there are other
exclamations, which either are or might be used for the same purpose.
One of these is:

    Give us of your white bread, and none of your grey!”

What is precisely meant by the word _hogmanay_, or by the still more
inexplicable _trollolay_, has been a subject fertile in dispute to
Scottish antiquaries, as the reader will find by an inspection of the
_Archæologia Scotica_. A suggestion of the late Professor Robison of
Edinburgh seems the best, that the word hogmanay was derived from _Au
qui menez_, (“To the misletoe go”), which mummers formerly cried in
France at Christmas. Another suggested explanation is, _Au queux
menez_--that is, bring to the beggars. At the same time, it was
customary for these persons to rush unceremoniously into houses, playing
antic tricks, and bullying the inmates, for the money and choice
victuals, crying: _Tire-lire_ (referring to a small money-box they
carried), _maint du blanc, et point du bas_.” These various cries, it
must be owned, are as like as possible to “Hogmanay, trollolay, give us
of your white bread, and none of your grey.”--Chambers’ _Pop. Rhymes of
Scotland_, 1870, pp. 164-165; see Hales’s _Analysis of Chronoloqy_,
1830, vol. i. pp. 50, 51, also _N. & Q. 5th S._ vol. ii. pp. 329, 517.

In Scotland also, upon the last of the old year, the children go about
from door to door, asking for bread and cheese, which they call
“Nog-money,” in these words:

    “Get up, gude wife, and binno sweir (i.e., be not lazy),
    And deal your cakes and cheese while you are here;
    For the time will come when ye’ll be dead,
    And neither need your cheese nor bread.”

  Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 14.


At the town of Biggar (in the upper ward of Lanarkshire) it has been
customary from time immemorial among the inhabitants to celebrate what
is called “burning out the old year.” For this purpose, during the day
of the 31st of December, a large quantity of fuel is collected,
consisting of branches of trees, brushwood, and coals, and placed in a
heap at the “cross;” and about nine o’clock at night the lighting of the
fire is commenced, surrounded by a crowd of lookers-on, who each think
it a duty to cast into the flaming mass some additional portion of
material, the whole being sufficient to maintain the fire till next or
New Year’s Day morning is far advanced. Fires are also kindled on the
adjacent hills to add to the importance of the occasion.

It is considered unlucky to give out a light to any one on the morning
of the new year, and therefore if the house-fire has been allowed to
become extinguished, recourse must be had to the embers of the pile.
This then accounts for the maintenance of the fire up to a certain time
on New Year’s Day.

Some consider these fires to be the relics of Pagan or of Druidical
rites of the dark ages; perhaps of a period as remote as that of the
_Beltaine fires_, the change of circumstances having now altered these
fires, both as to the particular season of year of their celebration,
and of their various religious forms.--_N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. ix. p. 322.


In the village of Burghead, situated on the southern shore of the Moray
Frith, about nine miles from Elgin, the county town of Morayshire, the
following curious custom is observed:

On the evening of the last day of December (Old Style), the youths of
the village assemble about dusk, and make the necessary preparations for
the celebration of the “Clavie.” Proceeding to some shop they demand a
strong empty barrel, which is usually given at once, but if refused
taken by force. Another for breaking up, and a quantity of tar are
likewise procured at the same time. Thus furnished they repair to a
particular spot close to the sea-shore, and commence operations. A hole
about four inches in diameter is first made in the bottom of the
stronger barrel, into which the end of a stone pole, five feet in
length, is firmly fixed: to strengthen their hold a number of supports
are nailed round the outside of the former, and also closely round the
latter. The tar is then put into the barrel, and set on fire, and the
remaining one being broken up, stave after stave is thrown in until it
is quite full. The “Clavie,” already burning fiercely, is now shouldered
by some strong man, and borne away at a rapid pace. As soon as the
bearer gives signs of exhaustion, another willingly takes his place; and
should any of those who are honoured to carry the blazing load meet with
an accident, as sometimes happens, the misfortune incites no pity even
among his near relatives. In making the circuit of the village they are
said to confine themselves to its old boundaries. Formerly, the
procession visited all the fishing-boats, but this has been discontinued
for some time. Having gone over the appointed ground, the “Clavie” is
finally carried to a small artificial eminence near the point of the
promontory, and interesting as being a portion of the ancient
fortifications, spared probably on account of its being used for this
purpose, where a circular heap of stones used to be hastily piled up, in
the hollow centre of which the “Clavie” was placed still burning. On
this eminence, which is termed the “durie,” the present proprietor has
lately erected a small round column, with a cavity in the centre for
admitting the fire end of the pole, and into this it is now placed.
After being allowed to burn on the “durie” for a few minutes, the
“Clavie” is most unceremoniously hurled from its place, and the smoking
embers scattered among the assembled crowd, by whom, in less enlightened
times, they were eagerly caught at and fragments of them carried home
and carefully preserved as charms against witchcraft. At one time
superstition invested the whole proceedings with all the solemnity of a
religious rite, the whole population joining in it as an act necessary
to the welfare and prosperity of the little community during the year
about to commence.

The “Clavie” has now, however, degenerated into a mere frolic, kept up
by the youngsters more for their own amusement than for any benefit
which the due performance of the ceremony is believed to secure.--_N. &
Q. 2nd S._ vol. ix. p. 38; see also _N. & Q. 2nd S._ vol. ix. pp. 106,
169, 269; and _Book of Days_, vol. ii. pp. 789-791.


It was formerly the custom in Orkney for large bands of the common class
of people to assemble on New Year’s Eve, and pay a round of visits,
singing a song which commenced as follows:

    “This night it is guid New’r E’en’s night,
      We’re a’ here Queen Mary’s men;
    And we’re come here to crave our right,
      And that’s before our Lady.”

  Brand’s _Pop. Antiq._ 1849, vol. i. p. 9; see Chambers’ _Pop. Rhymes
  of Scotland_, 1870, pp. 167, 168, 324.


On the last night of the year a cake is thrown against the outside door
of each house by the head of the family, which ceremony is said to keep
out hunger during the ensuing one.--Croker, _Researches in the South of
Ireland_, 1824, p. 233.

A correspondent of _N. & Q._ (_5th S._ vol. iii. p. 7) says, on New
Year’s Day about the suburbs at the County Down side of Belfast, the
boys run about carrying little twisted wisps of straw, which they offer
to persons whom they meet, or throw into their houses, as New Year’s
offerings, and expect to get in return any small present, such as a
little money or a piece of bread.

About Glenarm, on the coast of County Antrim, the “wisp” is not used,
but on this day the boys go about from house to house, and are regaled
with bannocks of oaten bread, buttered; these bannocks are baked
specially for the occasion, and are commonly small, thick, and round,
and with a hole through the centre. Any person who enters a house on New
Year’s Day must either eat or drink before leaving it.


  Abbé de Liesse, 459

  Abbot of Misrule, 459

  Acres Fair, 388

  Advent Bells, 431

  Agatha (St.), 374

  Agnes’ (St.) Day, 47

  Agnes’ (St.) Eve, 46

  Agnes’ (St.) Fast, 46

  Alaf-mass, 347

  Ale, the Whitsun, 278

  Allan Day, 395

  Alleluia, Funeral of the, 45

  All Fools’ Day, 184

  All Hallows’ Day, 397

  All Hallow Mass, 55

  All Saints’ Day, 404

  All Souls’ Day, 409

  All Souls’ Eve, 405

  Andermess, 430

  Andisop, 431

  Andrew’s (St.), Day, 429

  Andrew’s (St.), Under Shaft, 247

  Androis Mess, 430

  Andrys Day, 430

  Anne’s (St.) Day, 346, 357

  Annunciation, Festival of, 180

  Apparition of St. Michael, 275

  Apples, given away on New Year’s Day, 5

  Apples, ducking for, on Halloween, 394

  Apple-trees, wassailing of, 450

  April Gouks, 187

  Apprentices’ Feast, 355

  Array, Court of, 287

  Ascension Day, 210

  Ash Wednesday, 84

  Ashton faggot, 446

  Ass-ridlin, 199

  Assumption of the Virgin Mary, 357

  Aughrim, battle of, 340

  August, Gule of, 347

  Auld Handsel Monday, 19

  Avage or Avisage, 416

  Bacchus, Verses written in honour of, 58

  Bacon, gammon of, eaten at Easter, 162

  Bairn bishop, 291

  Baker’s Clem, 423

  Balmoral Castle, Halloween at, 401

  Bannich Bruader, 90

  Bannich Junit, 89

  Barchan’s (St.) Day, 437

  Barnabas’ (St.) Day, 310

  Barring out, 72

  Bartholomew’s (St.) Day, 361

  Barton Fair, 379

  Bay, used as a decoration at Christmas, 458

  Beans, kings created by, 20

  Bear-baiting, 385

  Beating the Bounds, 210

  Beating the Cross, 213

  Becket, Thomas-à-, 338

  Becket’s Fair, 339

  Bedfordshire, 151, 205, 290, 374, 439, 493

  Bees, Superstition regarding, 451

  Bells, 5, 62, 82, 87, 476, 496, 499, 500, 504

  Beltein, 223, 269

  Berkshire, 119, 152, 191, 194, 233, 346, 377, 439, 466

  Bezant, festival at Shaftesbury, 207

  Bible, opening of, on New Year’s Day, 5

  Biddenham Cakes, 165

  Binding Tuesday, 188

  Birch, used as a decoration at Whitsuntide, 281

  Black Cherry Fair, 357

  Blaize’s (St.) Day, 60

  Blasius (St.), 60

  Blayse (St.) Night, 62

  Blessing of the Brine, 210

  Blood Thursday, 500

  Bloody Thursday, 148

  Bluecoats, worn on St. George’s Day, 193

  Boar’s Head, at Christmas, 455, 470, 473, 477

  Boat Sunday, 443

  Boggons, 32

  Bonfires, 22, 61, 313, 395

  Bounds, beating of the, 210

  Bounds Thursday, 210

  Boxing Day, 493

  Boy’s Bailiff, 287

  Boy Bishop, 291, 432

  Boyne, battle of, 337

  Braggot, 117

  Braggot Sunday, 117

  Bread, baked on Good Friday, 149

  Bread Mass, 347

  Brices’ (St.) Day, 421

  Bride-Ale, 278

  Bridget’s (St.) Eve, 344

  Brine, blessing of the, 210

  Buckinghamshire, 6, 58, 69, 135, 169, 210, 234, 290, 291, 314, 323,
  331, 354, 373, 390, 419, 426, 467, 493

  Bull-baiting, 369, 439

  Bull-running, 421

  Buns, made on Good Friday, 150, 157

  Burning out the Old Year, 506

  ‘Buryin’ Peter,’ 333

  Burying the Mace, 380

  Bustard, eaten at Christmas, 456

  Cake Night, 398

  Cambridgeshire, 39, 105, 123, 234, 323, 334, 343, 419, 423, 426, 468,

  Candles offered to St. Blayse, 62

  Candle Bearing, 54

  Candle Day, 428

  Candlemas Ba’, 57

  Candlemas bleeze or blaze, 56

  Candlemas Candle, 55

  Candlemas Day, 54

  Candlemas Eve, 52

  Card-playing at Christmas, 463

  Careing Fair, 118

  Careing Sunday, 119

  Care Sunday, 121

  Carl Sunday, 122

  Carlings, 122

  Carling Groat, 123

  Carling Sunday, 122

  Carol Singing, 456

  ‘Catching,’ 109

  Catherine’s (St.) Day, 426

  Cathern bowl, 429

  Cattern Day, 426

  Chalk-back-Day, 370

  Chare Thursday, 139

  Charles I., King of England, execution of, 50

  Charles II., King of England, celebration of Twelfth Night by, 29;
    his Restoration, 301

  Charlton Fair, 387

  Cheese, given away at Christmas, 482

  Cheshire, 69, 169, 195, 210, 234, 283, 314, 324, 405, 409, 441, 446

  Childermas Day, 498

  Children’s Day, 177

  Chimney Sweepers’ Dance, 231

  Chopping at the Tree, 167

  Christ’s Bed, making of, 158

  Christ’s Hospital, London, 179, 311, 374, 422

  Christ’s Presentation, 54

  Christmas under the Commonwealth, 454

  Christmas Book, 456

  Christmas Box, 19, 493

  Christmas Candles, 456

  Christmas Carols, 457

  Christmas Clog, 52, 452

  Christmas Day, 452

  Christmas Decorations, 457

  Christmas Drink, 473

  Christmas Eve, 446

  Christmas Presents, 19

  Christmas Sports, 403

  Christmas Tree, 463

  Clome, the, used in wassailing, 21

  Cloth Fair, 363

  Church-porch, watching in the, 200

  Churches decorated, 157, 162, 280, 281, 457

  Claudius Mamertus, Bishop of Vienne, 204

  ‘Clavie,’ the burning of, 507

  Clement’s (St.) Day,