British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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Feb. 3.]
SHROVE TUESDAY.
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"Mensis Placentarum," and rendered by Spelman, in an inedited MS., " Pancake month," because in the course of it cakes were offered by the Pagan Saxons to the Sun.
Our most usual name of this Tuesday, savs Hampson
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At one time Shrove Tuesday was the great holiday of the apprentices. Why it should have been so, says Hone {Every Day Book, 1826, vol. i. p. 258), is easy to imagine, on re­collecting the, sports that boys were allowed on that day at school. The indulgences of the ancient city apprentices were great, and their licentious disturbances stand recorded in the annals of many a fray. The old plays make us aware of a licence which they took on Shrove Tuesday to assail houses of dubious repute, and cart the unfortunate inmates through the city.—Book of Days, vol. i. p. 239 ; See Dekkers Seven Deadly Sinnes, 1606, p. 35.
Cock-Fighting.—Cock-fighting was a very general amuse­ment up to the end of the last century. It entered into the occupations of the old and young. Schools had their cock­fights. Travellers agreed with coachmen that they were to wait a night if there was a cock-fight in any town through which they passed. A battle between two cocks had five guineas staked upon it. Fifty guineas, about the year 1760, depended upon the main or odd battle. This made the decision of a "long-main" at cock-fighting an important matter. The church bells at times announced the winning of a " long-main." Matches were sometimes so arranged as to last the week. When country gentlemen had sat long at table, and the conversation had turned upon the relative merits of their several birds, a cock-fight often resulted, as the birds in question were brought for the purpose into the dining-room. — Roberts, Social History of S. Counties of England, 1856, p. 421.
Formerly cock-fighting was practised on Shrove Tuesday to a very great extent; and in the time of King Henry VII. this diversion seems to have been practised within the pre­cincts of the court. In a royal household account, occurs
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