British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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Jan. i.]                          new Year's day.                              11
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 7l 10s. 9d. discharged it. The first trace of it, how­ever, that is found in the documents of the corporation is in 1632, when its amount was 14Z. 9s.4d. The amount increased gradually till 1799, when it was 60Z., 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.
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