England has and had 100s of special ceremonies, traditions and customs. Some are group events some private, some ancient and unfathomable, some recent and understandable. For the last 30 years I have been travelling across the country and experiencing these unique curiosities which sprinkle British eccentricities into an otherwise mundane life. Each month we’ll be looking at customs survived those 100 years or older, revived those newer customs many reestablished and those demised, lost but not always forgotten. Join me in these travels.

2013 I’ve added customs contrived, that is new customs that have no traditional aspect yet. Why? Two reasons one because they deserve attention and secondly it allows me to keep the three posts a month up especially in August and January when there are few surviving customs.

2014, I’ve added customs transcribed, that is old customs from overseas. Why? Because many such as Chinese New Year and Divali have become just as widespread and important as native customs, others such as the Australia Breakfast deserve wider knowledge.

2015 I’ve added customs occasional for customs which are based around one off events or a number of dates or days in the year.

I’ve also added a link to Calendarcustoms.com website as well so you can find out when the events are on next. It’s good to see that this site is expanding as a result of my exploits here!

Links to customs covered

January Custom   survived: Haxey Hood GameCustom   revived: Nottinghamshire plough Monday plays

Custom   demised: Cream of the well

February Custom   survived:  Winster Pancake raceCustom   revived: Blidworth Baby Rocking


Custom   demised:  29th February

March Custom   survived:  Tichborne DoleCustom   revived:  Hercules Clay sermon


Custom   demised: Washing Molly Grime

April Custom   survived:  Hungerford HocktideCustom   revived:   Easter heaving


Custom   demised:   Watching the sun

May Custom   survived: Minehead hobbyCustom   revived: Lambley Cowslip Sunday


Custom   demised: Pinch bottom

June Custom   survived: Youlgreave well dressingCustom   revived: Gate to Southwell


Custom   demised:  White black and ram nights

July Custom   survived:  Dunmow Flitch TrialCustom   revived:  Shell grottoes


Custom   demised:  Ilford Flitch

August Custom   survived:  Burning BartleCustom   revived:    Saddleworth   Rush bearing


Custom   demised: Harvest Home

September Custom   survived:   Preston GuildCustom   revived:  Wirksworth clypping


Custom   demised:  Newcastle Mock mayor

October Custom   survived: Goose fairCustom   revived: Trick or Treat


Custom   demised:  St Crispin day and cobblers

November Custom   survived:  Firing the Fenny PoppersCustom   revived:  Warburton Soulcakers


Custom   demised: Stamford Bull run

December Custom   survived:  Beeston CarolsCustom   revived:   Ripley Guisers


Custom   demised: Kissing Bush


January Custom survived:  Mappleton JumpCustom revived:  Straw bear

Custom demised:  Pilgrimage to the Holy Thorn

February Custom survived:   Blessing ThroatsCustom revived: Valentine cards

Custom demised:   Wooton Penny Day

March Custom survived:   Mary Mallatrat’s doleCustom revived:  Old Bolingbroke Candle auction

Custom demised:  Burning Judas

April Custom survived: Hallaton Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle kickingCustom revived:  Egg rolling Fountain’s Abbey

Custom demised:  Primrose Day

May Custom survived: Merrie May Queen FestivalCustom revived:  Calder Valley Spa Sunday

Custom demised: Empire Day

June Custom survived:  Rothwell Proclaimation DayCustom revived:  Knolly’s rose

Custom demised: Scouring the White Horse

July Custom survived:  Selston tower sermonCustom Contrived:  John Clare cushions

Custom demised:   Little Edith’s Treat

August Custom survived:   Bourton Water FootballCustom revived:  Woodstock Mock Mayor

Custom demised:  Tutbury Bull run

September Custom survived:  Matlock IlluminationsCustom revived:  Gloucester day

Custom demised:  Kissing the old man

October Custom survived: Redcliffe Pipe walkCustom contrived: Fright Night

Custom demised:    The Rhyne Toll of Chetwode Manor

November Custom survived:  Lewes Bonfire NightCustom contrived: Oasby Baboon Night

Custom demised: Squirrel hunt

December Custom survived:  Handsworth Sword DanceCustom revived:   Poor Old Horse

Custom demised:  Thomasing on St. Thomas’s Day





8 responses »

  1. Boxing Day 26th December: Rattlejag Morris Boxing Day Tour. Rattlejag Morris have never failed to appear at a couple of north Nottinghamshire pubs on Boxing Day, whatever the weather, for the last 11 years of their existence. They continue a tradition started by the now defunct Broadstone Morris, a men’s Cotswold Morris side, both centred on Retford, Notts. In 2013 they will yet again be at the Blue Bell in Gringley-on-the-Hill at 12 noon and at the Blacksmith’s Arms in Everton at 1.00pm. Both historic hostelries serve good ale and food, the Blacksmith’s serving a Hog Roast on the day especially, and their will be traditional music sessions in both pubs after the dancing. Come along and bring all the family!

    And don’t forget they have also continued the Broadstone tradition of dancing out at dawn on 1st May on the ancient castle mound in a field next to Laxton, Notts – the last area working the Anglo-Saxon strip farming methods. Barbecued bacon butties and beer served after the dancing and you can also go on a Dawn Chorus nature ramble across the Laxton fields afterwards.
    Many morris sides across the country carry out these two traditions, both recorded in history – didn’t Cecil Sharp become interested in collecting morris dances on early 20thC Boxing Day? – but modern sides are creating new local customs around these dates in the spirit of the old also.
    Rattlejag often accompany Muskham Pinkies plough players when they perform in Newark and pubs in Nth Muskham and Bathley, usually on the Saturday before the Epiphany, 6th January.

    Rattlejag Morris are a mixed side and the only one performing dances from Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire – see their website at http://www.rattlejagmorris.org.uk for more information.
    Moira Ruff

    • Hi no need to apologise 🙂 Your book has been a constant and at one point only source of information…so much most of the pages have fallen out!! Now its been over 20 years perhaps you can reveal the made up one – I’ve always thought it was larding the otter was I right!

  2. Hi, I was very interested in your coverage of the Clavie fire festival at Burghead in Moray. I went there a few years back, but couldn’t get near to the start because of the crush, so missed seeing and photographing the building process. I am giving a talk about the Clavie next week in a series on the heritage of the Picts ~ could I please have your permission to use a couple of your photos? The two which I would particularly like to include in my presentation are (1) sawing the barrel in half, and (2) the close up of the hammer stone. Proper credit will of course be given. Thank you.
    Cheers, Graeme Cruickshank

    • Hi Graeme. Its a great festival isn’t it. More than happy for you to use the pictures….shame you didn’t get near…I was treated right royally when I intended including being invited to see it being made which was an unexpected treat. Mind I was black from head to toe being so near the inferno! Let me know when the event is and I can publicise it for you too on some appropriate Facebook groups. I presume you have photos of the well as well.

  3. Re Coventry Fair

    From The Life of Mrs Sherwood (London: Darton & Co., 1854), p. 45, writing of a visit she made to Coventry in 1782.

    ‘Coventry Fair occurred whilst we were there. The singular pageant by which the memory of Lady Godiva has been, I believe, groundlessly scandalized for ages past in Coventry, was omitted that year. This pageant is a triennial one. And though I did not witness it, I however enjoyed what I thought a vast privilege — I drank tean in the house where the figure of Peeping Tom was kept, and had the pleasure of being introduced into the very closet from which the figure obtrudes itself. At this same fair at Coventry I had the pleasure, for the first and last time, of taking a turn in a whirligig, being placed in a small chair, whilst my brother was mounted on a wooden horse. My sister’s nurse allowed us this indulgence. My mother’s sense of decorum was much hurt when she was told of it.’

    So it seems that the procession was already only triennial in 1782.

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