Monthly Archives: March 2016

Custom survived: Samuel Jobson bread bequest and sermon

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Charity bequests were once common place in England. Each Parish church would have its own charity and many proudly announce these on Benefactor Boards on the walls. However, many of these died out. Some were lost due to the hyper inflations of the First World War, others survived either in an amalgamated form, usually with the gift bequests commuted to money. Samuel Jobson’s bread charity is thus a rare survival. It is similarly unusual because it is affixed to a special sermon, like the Hercules Clay sermon of Newark, which is delivered on the first Tuesday after Easter. Why it was after the first Tuesday is perhaps first unclear.

Bread and butter

Samuel Jobson was a local man, both being baptised in 1623 in All Saints Church, South Cave and buried in that church in 1687. His church survives him, as it has a fire and various rebuilds. Rebuilds appear to be the order of the day in this village. The castle, a grandiose mock castle sitting upon a real one and even the nearby holy well has been rebuilt into a wishing well! South Cave, an ancient Saxon settlement, now resembles a typical Georgian village, set mainly along its main Market Street but subsequently as the population has grown spread along side streets. Jobson being steward to the castle was no doubt a familiar man in the mid-1600s.

I arrived at the church just on time as the service was about to begin and was warmly welcomed by its small congregation huddled to hear this most unique of survivals, an endowed service. Indeed, a number of churches still give out their bread charities but few if any do it as fully instructed by their benefactors. The closest being the Hercules Clay service but that has now absorbed into the normal pattern of Sunday services.

As the curate Lynda Kelly noted in her service, Jobson stipulated that the service must include, the Collect, The Lord’s Prayer and the Sermon, all regular features of the fairly new Church of England and still pivotal today. Why was he so prescriptive? Perhaps he was wary to ensure that the clergy did their job properly, perhaps he had been disappointed by the services he had attended? The clergy were dependent on such endowed sermons and he may have thought as he was providing the money he wanted the full works!

A lot of dough?

Jobson is very prominent in the church. A brass plaque near the old font records his interment and in the church tower is a splendid benefactor board as noted with the usual figures of a women with two children and the words charity below.

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Rather than only leave a sum of money in his Will, he also left a cottage and 10 acres of land at Brantingham to the churchwardens unusually. The gift is recorded on a board in the Church as follows:

” The Gift of Mr. Samuel Jobson to the Churchwardens of South Cave and their successors for ever, commencing at Easter, 1697. Mr. Jobson, by his last will, gave to his beloved wife: “All that his Cottage in Brantinghan adjoining on the Church Garth during her natural life, and after her decease he gave the same premises to the Churchwardens of South Cave and their successors for ever upon condition that they and their successors for ever pay yearly, after his said wife’s decease, the sum of twenty shillings for an anniversary sermon to be preached every Easter Tuesday, and likewise, upon condition that on the same day yearly, immediately after the sermon, they distribute to the charity of twenty-five shillings in white Bread to the Poor. Daniel Garnons, Vicar, 1809, Samuel Ayre and Thomas Clegg, Churchwardens.”

A pound for flour?

So each year one pound would be paid each year for an anniversary sermon to be preached on the Tuesday after Easter and after this sermon white bread would be distributed to the poor. So every year the vicar would sermonise on the man and state how generous man.

Interestingly the Will also records how generous he indeed was. It is noted that 20s per annum would be given to the master of the workhouse towards providing a dinner for the poor people therein at Christmas and Cave fair and the remainder for providing white bread for widows and other necessitous poor on the last Sunday in every month by the churchwardens. Of course the workhouse is no more, but apparently gifts are still made at Christmas. Indeed the need for charity in the area was thought so necessary that in 1883 the Charity Commissioners who had took over its running decided to extend the charity to Flaxfleet and Broomfleet and give the running to 14 trustees who would meet quarterly.

In George Hall’s 1892 A History of South Cave it is noted that the cottage and land was sold to:

“Mr. Christopher Sykes, M.P., and the purchase money was invested in consols. In the scheme it is stated that the endowment consists of the sum of £29 17 12s. 8d., £1 a year to the Vicar of South Cave; the remainder of the income to be divided into three equal parts, two of such third parts to be applied for the benefit of deserving and necessitous persons resident in the original parish of South Cave, in any of the various ways therein described, as should be considered most advantageous to the recipients; and the remaining third part of the income to be applied towards the repair of the Parish church.”

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So the service, which begun with a hymn, then continued to the Collect, Lord’s Prayer and then the Sermon. Jobson’s aim with his endowment was to continue the preservation of name and his charitable acts associated with it, I think he would have been happy with the sermon. It did discuss his benefaction explaining why it was established on Easter Tuesday. This he had done because he would be aware that people would have been off work and would be available to listen. Perhaps not being prominent enough to have it associated with the main days of Easter this was the best thing. The Reverend Mike Proctor, the church’s vicar suggested that perhaps he secretly disliked vicars as having a service on this day after the busiest four days in the church was a good way of killing one off! The sermon continued to reflect upon being a Christian and parts of the Easter story referencing the fact that the women found Jesus first. This lead to a discussion of the increasing role of women in the church, a thought not lost upon its mainly female congregation and its female curate. Indeed, Jobson himself was considerate of his wife more than other benefactors, who only left portions of their money at death. An unusual stipulation which clearly was devised to ensure she lived in good comfort and explains the later date of the bequest starting which does not start until 1697, the year his wife died!

Our daily bread

After the sermon the basket of small white loaves, which had been centre of the raised dais, was revealed. The curate and churchwarden stood either side of it as the congregation lined up to collect their bread. With flattened hands as in offering, the bread was placed in the curate’s and ceremonially passed over. The churchwarden offered a plastic bag for practical purposes. Soon the bread was all gone and the spares packaged up for those of the congregation unable to attend that day. The final bread was kindly given to me, which provided a nice lunch! Today with wholegrains, spelt, organic and sourdough, we might turn our noses up at white bread. Yet of course in Jobson’s day, white bread was indeed a luxury compared to the dirt and rat dropping infested usual bread.

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Then the congregation returned to their pews and we finished off with a rousing Thine is the glory and the service was concluded – a short half an hour or so. A simple service, but one still of great importance, 300 odd years on remembering generosity and charity in a day it very easy to forget such things.

The Jobson Charity a little known charity – it is absent from all surveys – except Tony Foxworthy’s Customs of Yorkshire – but one despite its simplicity should be better known.

 

 

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Custom contrived: Tower Hill Druid Ceremony of Spring Equinox

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One of the most wonderful things about our great capital is its juxtapositions and on the spring equinox, either the 20th or 21st of March, a curious and ancient assemblage can be seen undertaking a timeless ritual on London’s Tower Hill.

London’s Tower hill has changed over the years, where the area was once one big open space, it is now carved up into areas for ticket booths, cafes and souvenir shops it has much changed since the times when this hill was sacred to the Celts and their Druid order and even since 1956!

Spring into action

Despite train delays and no Circle or Hammersmith and City Line I managed to arrive at 11.30. The sun was beginning to shine suggesting that yes spring was finally arriving. A small crowd had assembled on the Tower Hill platform. I was informed that they were waiting in the café. I thought I would investigate…I was rather intrepid in my investigation. Let me explain. I had always been fascinated by ‘modern’ Druids. Who were they? Why were they Druids? What did they do? In the days before the Internet, information was hard to come by and although I had read about the Druid’s equinox ceremony, finding any information back in the 1980s when I had first become aware of it, was difficult. Did they not want tourists to know? I was also slightly intrepid, as I thought I’d find the Druids sitting around having a latte and a piece of carrot cake. It would spoil the mystical illusion. Fortunately they were not hob-nobbing with an Earl Grey but were standing silent in their pristine white cloaks, in a small space beside the church. A symbol perhaps of their older association with the established church as many revival druids were also vicars!

Druid awakenings

Revival!? Of course these Druids are a revived group. That is not to say its members feel affinity and maybe even DNA with those ancient Celtic priests, the custom, a contrived one, in the nicest possible way. The revival of this ancient order came in the time of great enlightenment combined with a great love of the Classical and Celtic worlds and a desire to learn about the great stone circles such as Stonehenge fostered by the works of antiquarians such as William Stukeley, John Aubrey and John Toland, author of History of the Druids. It was their fascination with Avebury and Stonehenge which must have fostered a desire to restore the Druid to Britain. Stukeley is perhaps the most well-known of these ‘druids’ who despite being a vicar, sermonised Druid ideals in his church and even built a Druid Grove in his vicarage garden. He appeared to be the Arch Druid but perhaps the three men’s interests never spread further than that!

However, it another group of men, who met in taverns in London to form the Ancient Order of Druids in 1781. In the 19th century, an Edward Williams became publishing books on Druidism, said he claimed to have been based on ancient Welsh manuscripts he had discovered. Taking the name Iolo Morganwg he composed the Iolo Manuscripts in 1848 and Barddas in 1862. He held gatherings, which he called the Gorsedd of Bards of the Isles of Britain. Long after his death it was discovered his so called ancient manuscripts were fakes but nevertheless his teachings remained of importance to the growing movement. Since then the Druids appear to have quietly thrived, although divisions and tension, like any faith have and do exist. For example a break away Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids were established in 1963 leaving the Druid Order celebrate at Tower Hill.

Why the Tower of London? For the Druids it was believed that the ancient the head of the Celtic God king Bran was buried beneath the hill (his birds being the ravens which still guard over the Tower). It was also thought that the site was aligned with the midsummer sunrise. It was identified as one of the city’s sacred sites being called Bryn Gwyn. Thus in 1956, the Ceremony of the Spring Equinox was established at there and has continued ever since and say its 60th anniversary in 2016.

Towering above

The Druids process in silence behind their sword bearer out the side of the church, along Byard Street, passing iconic red telephone boxes and the dreaded Tower green across the road and even KFC and onto their ceremonial arena. Here the order form a large circle and the ritual begins. Despite the roar of the cars on the road nearby and the strange smells from KFC down below us it was still possible to be drawn into the spell of the Druids and feel as if we were experiencing this ancient ritual divorced from the hubbub of the metropolis.

The Druids like any group have specific roles. The sword bearer, the triad, the Chief, Pendragon and scribe representing the rays of Awen, the herald, who organises and announces, the Lady, brightly coloured with flowers in her crown represents the Earth Mother, Ceridwen.

 

The circle is in silence awaiting the church chiming 12 one of the congregation raises a trumpet and a blast signals the start the ritual. This ritual is done with a smooth almost mesmeric pattern, each activity set to pronounce and energise.

Indeed the ceremony’s purpose was clearly to reconnect with our natural world on this day when the day slightly becomes longer than the night. To retune and realign. The Earth Mother must be thanked, so seeds were ceremonially spread across the ground by the Presider and water libated upon the earth to simulate the rise in fertility. Indeed it was this idea of spring fed fertility that was the focus of the Chief’s ‘sermon’ who spoke of the role of the adrenal gland in our awareness of nature’s demands.

Spring into action

Despite train delays and no Circle or Hammersmith and City Line I managed to arrive at 11.30. The sun was beginning to shine suggesting that yes spring was finally arriving. A small crowd had assembled on the Tower Hill platform. I was informed that they were waiting in the café. I thought I would investigate…I was rather intrepid in my investigation. Let me explain. I had always been fascinated by ‘modern’ Druids. Who were they? Why were they Druids? What did they do? In the days before the Internet, information was hard to come by and although I had read about the Druid’s equinox ceremony, finding any information back in the 1980s when I had first become aware of it, was difficult. Did they not want tourists to know? I was also slightly intrepid, as I thought I’d find the Druids sitting around having a latte and a piece of carrot cake. It would spoil the mystical illusion. Fortunately they were not hob-nobbing with an Earl Grey but were standing silent in their pristine white cloaks, in a small space beside the church. A symbol perhaps of their older association with the established church as many revival druids were also vicars!

 

Indeed the ceremony’s purpose was clearly to reconnect with our natural world on this day when the day slightly becomes longer than the night. To retune and realign. The Earth Mother must be thanked, so seeds were ceremonially spread across the ground by the Presider and water libated upon the earth to simulate the rise in fertility. Indeed it was this idea of spring fed fertility that was the focus of the Chief’s ‘sermon’ who spoke of the role of the adrenal gland in our awareness of nature’s demands.

A pause came when the congregation held hands and for a moment, just for a small moment, their silence appeared to permeate across the hustle and bustle of Tower Hill’s tourist traps. A well needed silence in our busiest time. Then at the end, four Element –bearers representing the four elements stand in the centre facing North, South, West and East to pass on the energy to re-align and re-tune.

Whatever you feel about Druids and what they represent, who they are and why they do it, it is clear that they consider two things I feel we miss in our urban life – a time to reflect and a time for nature and I for one cannot disagree to with this. The ceremony was a very uplifting and poignant one.

 

Custom demised: Hunting the Hare at Dane Hills Leicester

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If you were to go to Leciester on Easter Monday you may have been witness to the annual congregation of horse-riding dignitaries, amongst them the Lord Mayor, ready to ride off to hunt the hare. The event is first recorded in the Town records in 1668, but as it was probably by then an ancient custom. The association with hare hunting and Easter was not unique to Leicester, there is a 1574 account that 12d was given to to ‘the hare-finders at Whetston Court’ and of course hares are ‘on the menu’ although now beef I believe in Leicestershire’s Hallaton Hare Pie and Bottle kicking! Just over the border in Coleshill, Warwickshire, the parson would give a groat, a calf’s head and a hundred eggs, if a hare was presented to him by the young men of the Parish before 10 o’clock on Easter Monday!

Another account is in the Calendar of State Papers which records:

“1620, April 2. Thos. Fulnety solicits the permission of Lord Zouch, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, to kill a hare on Good Friday, as huntsmen say that those who have not a hare against Easter must eat a red herring.”

Returning to Dane Hills, it is in Throsby’s History of Leicester gives the longest and most detailed account:

“It had long been customary on Easter Monday for the Mayor and his brethren, in their scarlet gowns, attended by their proper officers, in form, to go to a certain close, called Black-Annis’ Bower Close, parcel of, or bordering upon, Leicester Forest, to see the diversion of hunting, or rather the trailing of a cat before a pack of hounds; a custom perhaps originating out of a claim to the royalty of the forest. Hither, on a fair day, resorted the young and old, and those of all denominations. In the greatest harmony the Spring was welcomed.”

However, although hares were the quarry they were perhaps at the time of Throsby’s account getting a bit scarce, therefore after the morning was spent in ‘various amusements and athletic exercises’:

“a dead cat, about noon, was prepared by aniseed water for commencing the mock-hunting of the hare. In about half-an-hour, after the cat had been trailed at the tail of a horse over the grounds in zig-zag directions, the hounds were directed to the spot where the cat had been trailed from. Here the hounds gave tongue in glorious concert. The people from the various eminences who had placed themselves to behold the sight, with shouts of rapture, gave applause; the horsemen dashing after the hounds through foul passages and over fences, were emulous for taking the lead of their fellows. . . . As the cat had been trailed to the Mayor’s door, through some of the principal streets, consequently the dogs and horsemen followed. After the hunt was over, the Mayor gave a handsome treat to his friends; in this manner the day ended.”

Why did they do the custom? As the land was held time immemorial as part of the demesne of the ancient Earls of Leicester passing to the crown in the reign of Henry IV, and thus Kelly’s Notices of Leicester believes that:

“this formal ceremony of hunting in their state robes was adopted by the Corporation as an assertion of their right of free warren over the lands in question”.

However, the hunting of the hare is as noted an ancient tradition long older than the medieval perhaps. The site, Dane hill is believed to be derived from a possible pagan deity who is remembered as Black Annis (derived from the Celt Anu?). It was bogeyman or witch who would ‘suck on their blood’, as noted in Leicester Chronicle of 1894, of children. Is it a coincidence that the hunters dragged a cat soaked in anni-seed? This is especially suspicious considering that the legend of the bogeyman was called in the 1890s as ‘Cat Anna’ or did this remember the cat soaked in anniseed?

The custom survived until 1767, but as often happens the associated ‘amusements’ which arose around it continued for longer. An account from April 2nd 1842 notes:

“The Dane Hill Fair was crowded with visitors, principally young people of the working classes, and the fields beyond the spot where the field is held were also thronged with merry-makers.”

This fair was the last vestige of the unusual custom and died out in 1842. And hares or dead cats be sighing relief!