William Andrews.

Curiosities of the church; studies of curious customs, services and records online

. (page 4 of 11)
Online LibraryWilliam AndrewsCuriosities of the church; studies of curious customs, services and records → online text (page 4 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


measures were adopted to enforce fasting at
this season of the year. In 1548 was passed an
Act of Parliament "imposing a penalty of ten
shillings, and ten days' imprisonment, for the
first offence ; and twenty shillings and twenty
days' for its repetition." The informer received
one half of the fine. In the reign of Elizabeth
the penalties were increased to sixty shillings,
and three months' close imprisonment. The
Crown, the informer, and the poor of the parish
where the cases occurred, each received one-
third of the fines. The Queen's subjects were
very unwilling to comply with her sumptuary
regulations. Church books and municipal
records contain many references to this matter.
We learn from the archives of Weymouth that
the local authorities of the town in

1568-9 — Paid horse-hire to go to Dorchester to sett

the proclamation for eating flesh \'\d.

Not a few attempts were made in the Eliza-
bethan era to check fine dressing as well as
Lenten feasting. The Queen's attire was
fantastic and full of variety, but her humble
subjects were not permitted to make much
display. The use of hats for example was a
luxury reserved for the iieh. II a man occupy-
ing a humble position presumed to put on a hat


he was subjected to a fine. By an Act passed
in the thirteenth year of the reign of Elizabeth,
every person under a certain degree was
obliged on Sundays and holidays to wear a
woollen cap manufactured in England, under a
penalty of 3s. 4d. for every-day he broke the
law. This statute was repealed in the thirty-
ninth year of her reign. In the churchwardens'
accounts of Fulham is an item : —

1758 — Paid for discharge of the parish of Ful-
ham for wearing hats contrary to
statute 5s. 2d.

It is believed that this amount refers to hats
imported from Germany. An attempt was made
in this reign to prevent women having their
gowns, kirtles, and waistcoats mingled with silk.
The regulations in respect to the clothing of
apprentices were very strict. They were
obliged to wear caps, and their doublets were
made of leather, wool, or fustian. They were
not allowed to put on ruffles, cuffs, or loose
collars. In 1579, two members of the Iron-
mongers' Company, and the Grocers' Company,
were stationed in the busy thoroughfare of
Bishopsgate, London, from seven a.m. to six
p.m., to examine the dresses of the people to
see that these sumptuary laws were not broken.



The chief Lenten food in the olden time was

fish, and large quantities of it were consumed.

In the 31st year of the reign of Edward III. the

following sums were paid from the Exchequer

for fish supplied to the royal household : u Fifty

marks for five lasts (9,000) red herrings, twelve

pounds for two lasts of white herrings, six

pounds for two barrels of sturgeon, twentv-one

pounds five shillings for 1,300 stock-fish, thirteen

shillings and ninepence for eighty-nine congers,

and twenty marks for three hundred and twenty

mulwells." Herring pies were an appreciated

dish in bygone days. Formerly an annual

customary duty or service which the city of

Norwich rendered to the reigning monarch

consisted of delivering at Court, twenty-four

herring pies. Mr. John Glyde, who has brought

together much curious old world lore in his

11 Norfolk Garland," refers the origin of this

remarkable feudal tenure to the times before the

foundation of Yarmouth, when the valley of the

Yare was still an estuary. At that period

Norwich was an important fishing station. The

sea is now some eighteen miles away. " The

course of procedure," says Mr. Glyde, " was this :

Out of their official allowance, the sheriffs of

the city for the time being, annually made


provision, according to a prescribed formula, for
the manufacture of these pies, which were forth-
with transmitted to the lord of the manor of
Carleton, to be by him or his tenant carried to
the royal palace and placed on the sovereign's
table." Blomefield, the local historian, furnishes
some curious notes on this subject. He
reproduces a letter dated, " Hampton Court,
iiij Oct., 1629," from the officers of the royal
household, addressed to the mayor and sheriffs
of Norwich, in which it was asserted that the
pies " were not well baked in good and strong
pastye as they ought to have been." " Divers
of them," it is further stated, " also, were found
to contain no more than four herrings, whereas
the tenure required five to be put in every pye
at least." It was also said that they were not
made from the first new herrings which had
reached the city. Other exceptions were taken
to their goodness, and his Majesty demanded
better satisfaction. In 1754 the cost of the pies,
independent of carriage, is put down at two

The household books of Leconfield Castle,
Holderness, Yorkshire, give a good example of
the fish consumed daily in a nobleman's mansion
during Lent in the olden time. Here is a bill of


fare for about the year 1430, for food to be
placed before the Earl and Countess Percy : —
" First, for my Lord and Lady, a loaf of bread
in trenchers ; two manchets of finest meal,
weighing six ounces ; a quart of beer ; a quart of
wine ; two pieces of salt fish ; six baconed
(smoked) herrings ; four white herrings, or a
dish of sproits (sprats). On flesh days the bread
as before ; a quart of wine ; half a chine of
mutton, or a piece of boiled beef."

The times fixed for meals appear to us as
strange as the food provided. Seven was the
hour for breakfast, ten the hour for dinner, four
for supper, and between eight and nine o'clock
in the evening a meal known as " liveries" was
served in the bed-chambers. My Lord and
Lady Percy had bread as at breakfast, a gallon
of beer, and a quart of wine. The wine was
mixed with spices and brought to the table hot.
They then retired to rest.

It may not be out of place to here mention a
curious Lenten custom. Amongst the ancient
officers of the Royal Household, that of the
King's Cock-Crower was perhaps the most
singular. It was his duty to crow instead of cry
the hours of the night, as was the usual practice
of the watchman at other seasons of the year.


This strange service was discontinued by the
earliest of the Hanoverian monarchs. It is re-
corded by several writers that on the first Ash
Wednesday after their accession to the throne,
the Prince of Wales, subsequently George II.,
was seated at the supper table, and before the
chaplain had said grace, the cock-crower suddenly
entered the room and crowed half-past ten o'clock.
The Prince was greatly surprised at the perform-
ance. Presuming the tremulation of the crow
was for mockery, he concluded that it was
intended as an insult, and promptly prepared to
resent it. He had an imperfect knowledge of
the English language, and it was with much diffi-
culty that he was made to understand that a com-
pliment and not an insult was intended, and that
the usage was in strict accordance with court
etiquette. After this time the custom was dis-
continued. "The intention," says a writer in the
Gentleman's Magazine in 1785, " of crowing the
hour of the night was undoubtedly 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 watchman."

As we have previously stated, the clergy
granted licenses to infirm folks who required
meat during the time of Lent. Our old church
books contain many details bearing on this
matter. Payments were sometimes made for
permission to eat meat in Lent. In the
church books of St. Martin Outwich, London, it
is stated under the year 1525, "Received of the
Lady Atham for the use of the poore, for license
to eat flesh, £0 13s. 4d." By the way, at this
church was buried Mrs. Abigail Vaughan, who
left a legacy of four shillings per annum to
purchase faggots for burning heretics. In the
parish books of St Mary's, Leicester, is a record
of a license to Lady Barbara Hastings to eat
flesh in Lent on account of her great age. The
following is extracted from the parish register of
Wakefield :—

To all people to whom these presents shall come, James
Lister, Vicar of Wakefeld, and preacher of God's Word, sendeth
greeting; whereas .Alice Lister, wife of Richard Lister, Clerke,
who now sojourncth with her sonne William Faulden, of Wake-
feld, by reason of her olde age and many yeares, and stubborne
and long continued sicknesse, is become so weake and her
Stomache so colde, not able to digeste colde meates and fish,
who by counsel of physicians is advised to abstaine from and


to forbeare the eating of all manner of fruites, fish, and milk
meates, know ye therefore, for the causes aforesaide and for
the better strengthening and recovering of her health, I, the
saide James Lister, do herebye give and grante libertie and
license to her, the said Alice Lister, att her will and pleasure
att all tymes, as well as during the time of Lent, and all other
fasting daies and fish daies exhibiting by the lawes, to eate
flesh and to dress and eate such kind of flesh as shall be best
agreeing to her stomache and weake appetite. In witness
hereof, I, the said James Lister, have hereunto sett my hand
the eight daie of Februarie, in ye sixt yeare of the reigne of
oure Sovereigne Lord Charles, by the Grace of God, King of
England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, Defender of the
Faithe, etc., and in the year of our Lord God 1630. James
Lister, Vicar.

The plague raged in Hull in the year 1636,
and the town was not plentifully supplied with
fish. The Mayor and Aldermen petitioned the
Archbishop of York, for a general dispensation
to enable the inhabitants to eat meat in Lent, as
it was believed that fish diet increased the
sickness. The Archbishop, in reply, stated that
the law did not enable him to grant general
dispensation, but that, in cases of sickness, all
persons must obtain from their ministers licenses
to eat flesh under certificate from their

Before the days of Queen Elizabeth, accord-
ing to R. E. Chester Waters, in his volume on
" Parish Registers," the Sovereigns, as heads of
the church, granted dispensations to eat meat in


Lent. He says that, "in the 5 Edward VI., Sir
Philip Hoby obtained a license under the Privy
Seal for himself and all who dined with him at
his table during his natural life, ' to eat meat and
dishes made of milk either in Lent or on any
other fast days, freely and without punishment.' "
For money payments, licenses might be obtained
from the Crown for certain kinds of flesh, except-
ing beef, at all times of the year, and veal from
Michaelmas till May. The cost of the dispensa-
tion for a Lord of Parliament or his wife was
26s. 8d., and the money was placed in the poor
men's box of the parish, where those obtaining
the license were located. A knight or his wife
paid 13s. 4d., and for persons of inferior degree
the charge was 6s. Sd. each. A process costing
4d., might be obtained for six persons for eight
days. We make this statement on the authority
of John Timbs, F.S.A., drawing our information
from a " Garland of the Year."

During Lent the butcher's business was
suspended, and in the works of Taylor, " The
Water Poet," we read : —

The cut-throat butchers, wanting throats to cut,
At Lent's approach their bloody shambles shut,
For forty days their tyranny cloth cease ;
And men and beasts take truce and live in peace.

When the Puritans were in power they set at


defiance law and custom in respect to Lenten

fare. " I have often noted," writes Taylor, in

his " Jack a Lent," " that if any superfluous

feasting or gormandizing, paunch-cramming

assembly do meet, it is so ordered that it must

be either in Lent, upon a Friday, or a fasting :

for the meat doth not relish well, except it be

sauced with disobedience and contempt of

authority. And though they eat sprats on a

Sunday, they care not, so that they may be full

gorged with flesh on the Friday night.

Then all the zealous Puritans will feast,
In detestation of the Romish beast."

James II. caused to be inserted in the London
Gazette, in the year 1687, a proclamation enjoin-
ing abstinence from meat during Lent, but
saying that on certain conditions for giving alms
to the poor, licenses to eat meat in any part of
England might be obtained from an office in St.
Paul's Churchyard. A year later the Revolution
occurred, and the reign of James II. ended, and
with it closed all attempts to enforce statutes
respecting Lenten fare. The laws remained a
dead letter until 1863, when with other obsolete
laws they were repealed by the Statute Law
Revision Act.


EASTING at funerals may be
traced back to remote times in
the history of various nations.
Amongst the Jews at an early
period we find a commendable
custom prevailing. It was the practice when
one of their race died for the friends and neigh-
bours to prepare the feast for the burial, so that
those in the house of mourning might be spared
additional trouble in their days of sorrow.
Under the Greeks and Romans, the feasting in
course of time took the form of sumptuous
banquets. A redeeming feature of the usage
was the practice of giving a portion of the
provisions to the poor — a charitable custom,
which induced the early fathers of the Church
to continue funeral feasts. " Doles were used
at funerals," we gather from St. Chrysostom,
" to procure the rest of the soul of the deceased,
that he might find his judge propitious." The


Christians were not content merely to give food ;
other alms were also distributed. St. Chry-
sostom observes in one of his homilies : " Would
you honour the dead? Give alms." Under
the early Christians " this festival," according
to Mrs. Stone, in " God's Acre,'" "was of quite a
religious character, generally at the tomb of
the deceased. There was divine service ; the
holy sacrament was administered, and a collec-
tion of alms made for the poor. There was a
feast, shared both by the clergy and people, but
more especially bestowed on the widow and
orphan. The softening influence of grief was
ever directed by the Church into heart-opening
channels of charity and good-will. In time the
amount and quantity of such doles came to be
specially described and appointed in the will of
the dying person." In England, the distribution
of doles at funerals has come down to com-
paratively recent times. Even to the present
day, in not a few instances bread is given at the
graves of the persons who bequeathed it, and in
this manner a custom is maintained which was
instituted before the Christian era.

Torchbearers usually attended funerals in
the days of old ; they were poor men and
women, who carried lights before the dead,


emblematic of the glorified existence the departed
were to enjoy beyond the grave. These people
often received articles of dress in addition to
food and money. Some interesting details
have been recorded in which torchbearers played
an important part. We find it stated that
" Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester, in 1399
appointed that fifteen poor men should bear
torches at her funeral, each having a gown and
hood lined with white, breeches of blue cloth,
shoes, and a shirt, and twenty pounds amongst
them." In 141 1 we learn that "Joan, Lady
Hungerford, appointed poor women to bear
torches, and each to be clad in russet with
linen hoods, stockings and shoes." Twelve
was the number of people in 1428 to bear
torches at the funeral of Thomas, Lord Poyning,
and each was to receive a gown of black cloth
and twelvepence in money. Coming down to
1543, we find at the funeral of Andrew, Lord
Windsor, twenty-eight poor men attended, and
were rewarded with a frieze gown and sixpence.
At some places, doles were sent to the homes
of the inhabitants ; and bearing on this subject
there is an important note in the " History of
Leicestershire" by Nichols. In the account of
Strathern, in Framland Hundred, it is stated:


" In 1790 there were four hundred and thirty-
two inhabitants, the number taken by the last
person who carried about bread, which was
given for dole at a funeral ; a custom formerly
common throughout this part of England,
though now fallen much into disuse. The
practice was sometimes to bequeath it by will ;
but, whether so specified or not, the ceremony
was seldom omitted. On such occasions, a
small loaf was sent to every person without any
distinction of age or circumstances, and not to
receive it was a mark of particular disrespect."

Of the many dolesnowdistributed atthetombs
of the donors, a few may be named. On the 8th
of October, 1708, there died at Hull, William
Robinson — a gentleman who had formerly filled
the office of sheriff of that town — who left suffi-
cient money to purchase a dozen loaves of bread,
costing a shilling each, to be given to twelve
poor widows at his grave every Christmas Day.
Money was left at the commencement of the
seventeenth century by Leonard Dare for
purchasing bread for the poor of South Pool.
In his will, dated November 28th, 161 1, he
directed the churchwardens on Christmas Day,
Lady day, and Michaelmas day, "to buy, bring,
and lay on his tombstone threescore penny


loaves of good wholesome bread," and to dis-
tribute the same to the poor of the parish. If
the instructions were not observed on the fore-
going days, the will provided that a pound a
year be paid to the mayor and burgesses of
Totness. John Smith, of Acklam, Yorkshire,
died in 1681, and left two pounds per annum to
the poor of the parish, to be paid on his tomb-
stone. Over the remains of another Yorkshire-
man, in the churchyard of Kildale, is a tomb
bearing an inscription as follows : " Here lyeth
the body of Joseph Dunn, who dyed ye 10th
day of March 17 16, aged 82 years. He left
to ye poor of Kildale, xxs. ; of Commondale,
xxs. ; of Danby, xxs. ; of Westerdale, xxs. ; to
be paid up on his gravestone by equal portions
on ye 1st May and ye nth November for ever."
Two quaint customs are still enacted
annually in London on Good Friday. The
vicar of St. Bartholomew's the Great, Smithfield,
drops in a row twenty-one sixpences on a
certain lady's grave. The money is picked up
by the same number of widows kneeling,
having previously attended service at the church
where a sermon is preached. The details of
the other charity are singular. Peter Symonds,
a native of Winchester, who followed the trade


of mercer in London, by his will, dated 1586,
left a sum of money for a sermon to be preached
in the parish church of All-Hallows, Lombard
Street, London ; and at the close of the service,
sixty scholars of Christ's Hospital are to be
presented with a bunch of raisins and a bright
penny. He further left property for purchasing
sixty loaves of bread to be given on Whit-
sunday to poor persons on his grave in Liver-
pool Street. The railway now covers the site
of his tomb, and the bread is distributed in
front of the schoolroom in Bishopsgate church-
yard. Symonds did not forget the claims of his
native city, and left to its inhabitants several
charities, including the founding of an alms-
house for the perpetual maintenance of six poor
old unmarried men and four poor youngchildren.
He also provided for keeping a poor scholar at
Oxford and one at Cambridge. Respecting
another of his bequests, some strange directions
were contained in his will, as follow : " Leave
was to be obtained from the bishop or the dean
to place his picture in the body of the cathedral,
with a small table before it, on which were to
be placed twelve penny loaves of good wheaten
bread, which immediately after the service were
to be given to twelve poor persons at the will of


the mayor ; except on one Sunday in each
quarter, when the bishop or dean was to
nominate the recipients."

At a little later period, another remarkable
bequest was made to the city of Winchester.
Richard Budd, a native, and a resident there,
left a sum of money to the dean and chapter on
condition that they should toll the great bell of
the cathedral, and have read certain prayers
prior to the execution of condemned prisoners
in the city.

Robert Dowe, on the 8th of May, 1705,
gave to the vicar and churchwardens of St.
Sepulchre's Church, London, fifty pounds on
the understanding that through all futurity they
should cause to be tolled the big bell the night
before the execution of the condemned criminals
in the prison of Newgate. After tolling the
bell, the sexton came at midnight, and after
ringing a hand-bell, repeated the following
lines : —

All you that in the condemned hold do lie,
Prepare you, for to-morrow you shall die :
Watch all and pray ; the hour is drawing near
That you before the Almighty must appear :
Examine well yourselves; in time repent,
That you may not to eternal flames be sent :
And when St. Sepulchre's bell to-morrow tolls,
The Lord above have mercy on your souls !


Next morning - , when the sad procession
passed the church on its way to Tyburn, a brief
pause was made at the gate of St. Sepulchre's
Church, and the clergyman said prayers for the
unfortunate criminals, and at the same time the
passing-bell tolled its mournful notes.

Sir Roger de Tychborne was a valiant knight
who lived in the days of the second Henry,
and resided in his stately Hall in Hampshire.
His wife, Lady Mabella, was the means of the
celebrated " Tichborne Dole " being instituted.
" This dame," so runs the old legend, " being
bedridden and extremely ill, petitioned her
husband for the means of establishing a dole of
bread, to be given to all poor persons who
might ask for it on every succeeding feast of
the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
He promised her as much ground as she could
walk round in the neighbourhood of the house
while a certain brand or billet was burning,
supposing that, from her long infirmity, she
would only be able to go round a small portion
of his property. The venerable dame, however,
ordered her attendants to convey her to the
corner of the park, where, being deposited on
the ground, she seemed to acquire a renovation
of strength, and to the surprise of her anxious



and admiring lord, who began to wonder where
the pilgrimage might end, she crawled round
several rich and goodly acres. The field which
was the scene of her extraordinary feat retains
the name of the ' Crawls ' to this day. It is
situated at the entrance of the park, and con-
tains an area of twenty-three acres. Her task
been completed, she was reconveyed to her
chamber, when, summoning her family to her bed-
side, she predicted the prosperity of the family
while that annual dole existed ; and left her
malediction on any one of her descendants who
should be so mean or covetous as to discontinue
it, prophesying that when this happened, the
family would become extinct from failure of
heirs-male, and that this would be foretold by a
generation of seven sons being followed imme-
diately after by a generation of seven daughters
and no son."

In years gone by, about nineteen hundred
small loaves of bread were baked and given to
those who made application for them, and if any
persons remained unserved after the doles had
been distributed, they were presented with two-
pence each. Men and women came from all
parts of the country ; and even a week before
the doles were given away, a number of folks as-


sembled in the neighbourhood to await the event.
It gave rise to much rioting ; and about the com-
mencement of the present century, the doles were
discontinued, and in their place a sum of money
was given to the neighbouring poor. Supersti-
tious people used to preserve the bread as a cer-
tain remedy for several ailments, notably ague.

In Anthony Trollope's novel, " Barchester
Towers," there is a graphic picture of the Hos-
pital of St. Cross, near Winchester. It is called

1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryWilliam AndrewsCuriosities of the church; studies of curious customs, services and records → online text (page 4 of 11)