Custom survived: East Hendred Shroving

Standard

“Pit pat, pan’s hot,
Here we come a’ shroving
With a batcher up my back
A halfpenny is better than nothing.”

Ask anyone to name a custom associated with Shrove Tuesday – pancake making come top of the list, many say pancake racing, some may say football and a handful skipping…not many I would guess would suggest the oldest of shrove customs…the one more faithful to the reason for the day – Shroving.

Originally the purpose for Shrove Tuesday was to get shriven and be absolved of sins in preparation for Lent. One way in which you could absolve yourself of earthly desires was to give to charity and in many villages the less well off and often children would take advantage of this. As a result Shrove Tuesday became one of the begging days in the calendar and it became the duty of the local Lord of the manor to provide for the parishioners at this time.

Shrove off

Oxfordshire is fortunate to have a number of Shroving rhymes recorded by Percy Manning in his Stray Notes on Oxfordshire Folklore (Continued) for Folklore in 1904. He notes:

At Shrovetide, on the Tuesday, the children at Baldon go round the village begging pence, and singing the following song:

‘Pit-a-pat, the pan’s hot,

I become a Shroving.

Catch a fish afore the net,

That’s better than nothing.

Eggs, lard, and flour’s dear,

This makes me come a-Shroving here.

If the singers do not get any money given them, they go on as follows:

‘Pit-a-pat, the pan’s hot,

I be come a Shroving,

A bit of bread and a bit of cheese,

That’s better than nothing.

For eggs, lard, and flour’s dear,

So I be come a Shroving here. (1895.)

The following is from OAKLEY and ICKFORD, on the Buckinghamshire border of Oxfordshire :

‘Pit-a-pat ! the pan’s hot,

I be come a-Shroving;

A bit of bread, a bit of cheese

Or a cold apple dumpling.

Up with the kettle !

Down with the pan !

Give me a penny, and I’ll be on.’ (Circa 1897.)

At Islip in Oxfordshire, the children, on Shrove-Tuesday, go round to the various houses to collect pence, saying:

‘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 ?

O. HALLIWELL, Popular Rhymes (1849), pp. 245-6.”

Another is recorded by Brand’s Popular Antiquities:

“In Oxfordshire the following version has been met with:

‘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.’”

Ironically despite a more detailed recording of the custom than many other counties it misses what is now a significant one; the only surviving locally and perhaps the least known survivor of this tradition being found in a little known Oxfordshire village of East Hendred.  Here the squire of the manor at Hendred House for 100s of years has maintained a custom with the rhyme similar of course to above:

“Pit pat, pan’s hot,
Here we come a’ shroving
With a batcher up my back
A halfpenny is better than nothing.” 

Schools out!

The custom of course is not exactly like those described above, the children do not beg around the village but evidently at some time the Squire wanting to provide for the parish but prevent begging, established the custom of giving. This may have even been for adults but now is for children. Clearly the presence of two faith based primary schools, particularly the Roman Catholic, significantly established by a previous occupant of Hendred House, has helped.

Interestingly, unlike many other Shrove Tuesday customs which now do not occur when the date falls in half-term, this continues, although the numbers are usually less.  The children snake from their school for noon, shepherded by their teachers and parents down the drive to the house and in the courtyard. At arrival they chant their rhyme whilst waiting for their gift. I wonder how many of them understand the words?

Mr Hine, a local historian, informed me that he remembered when he was a child in the 1950s that the Headmaster from his C of E school went along and would attempt to stop them singing the line ‘a halfpenny better than nothing because he thought it might upset the Squire! Now no such sensitivities no longer exist! The Hine family have a tradition with the village and Mr. Hine told me his father also attended the custom and it had not changed in that time!

Inflation hits!

Sitting on the pebbled courtyard is a table stacked with trays of sticky hot cross buns. They looked delicious. The children gleefully accepted these although some were probably a bit bemused by the monetary gift; a penny. Mind you they should be grateful they would have originally got a half-penny! Not that that either has any real buying power..unless the class teamed together to buy a packet of crisps. Let’s hope it went to charity.

A small but curious custom but a rare one and hopefully with the support of both schools and the community it should survive..although I was surprised when researching it to find some local people had never heard of it..but then when you work and were never a child there that is likely I suppose.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s