British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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Fbb. 14.]                    ST. valentine's day.                           107
The following extract is taken from the Gentleman'* Magazine, 1779, vol. xlix. p. 137 : " Being on a visit in a little obscure village in Kent, I found an odd kind of sport going forward: the girls, from eighteen to five or six years old, were assembled in a crowd, and burning an uncouth effigy, which they called an holly-boy, and which it seems they had stolen from the boys, and in another part of the village the boys were assembled together, and burning what they called an ivy-girl, which they had stolen from the girls; all this ceremony was accompanied with loud huzzas, noiser and acclamation."
Independent of the homage paid to St. Valentine on this day at Lynn, it is in other respects a red-letter day amongst all classes of its inhabitants, being the commencement of its great annual mart. This mart was granted by a charter of Henry VIII. in the twenty-seventh year of his reign, "to. begin on the day next after the feast of the purification of the blessed Virgin Mary, and to continue six days next following." Since the alteration of the style, in 1752, it has been proclaimed on Valentine's Day. About noon, the Mayor and Corporation, preceded by a band of music, and attended by twelve decrepit old men, called from their dress " Eed Coats,'' walk in procession to proclaim the mart, con­cluding by opening the antiquated and almost obsolete court of "Piepowder." Like most establishments of this nature, it is no longer attended for the purpose it was first granted, business having yielded to pleasure and amusement. Formerly Lynn mart and Stourbridge (Stirbitch) fair, were the only places where small traders in this and the adjoining counties supplied themselves with their respective goods. No transactions of this nature now take place, and the only remains to be perceived are the a mart prices," still issued by the grocers. Here the thrifty housewives, for twenty miles round, laid in their annual store of soap, starch, &c.,
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