114 SIMNEL SUNDAY. [MARCH I#
is probably derived from the Latin Simila, fine flour, and means a sort of cake, or bun, made of fine flour, spice, &c.
Frequent mention is made of the Simnel in the household allowances of Henry the First.
" Cancellarius v solidos in die et i Siminellum dominicum, et ii salum, et i sextarium de vino claro, et i sext. de vino expensabili, et unum grossum cereum, et xl frusta Candell." —Libr. Nigr. Scaccarii, p. 341.
The " Siminellum Dominicum," Hearne thinks, was a better kind of bread* and that "Siminellum Salum," from ral, cibus, victus, was the ordinary bread; if it be not the Latin Salis (Siminellum Salinum), in which case it denotes that more salt is contained in it than in the other. If the derivation from Simnel be not satisfactory, perhaps the Anglo-Saxon Fymbel, a feast or banquet, whence pimbel, t>se^ a festival day, may suffice.—Med. AEvi Kalend. vol. i. p. 177.
At Bury, in Lancashire, from time beyond memory, thousands of persons come from all parts, and eat " simnels" on Simnel Sunday. Formerly, nearly every shop was open, quite in defiance of the law respecting the closing during " service," but of late, through the improved state of public opinion, the disorderly scenes to which the custom gave rise have been partially amended. Efforts have been repeatedly made to put a stop to the practice altogether, but in vain. The clergy, headed by the rector, and the ministers of all denominations (save the Komanists) have drawn up protests and printed appeals against this desecration, but, as just stated, with scarcely any visible effect.
It is not a little singular that the practice of assembling in one town, upon one day—the middle Sunday in Lent, to eat simnel cake, is a practice confined to Bury. Much labour has been expended to trace the origin of this custom,
* Alderman Wilkinson of Burnley, a well known able Lancashire antiquary, some time since stated that it " originally meant the very finest bread. Pain demain is another term for it, on account of its having been used as Sunday bread."
In Wright's Vocabularies it appears thus:—'Hie artsecopus, a symnylle.' This form was in use during the fifteenth century.
In the Dictionarius of John de Garlande, compiled at Paris in the thirteenth century,it appears thus:—"Simeneus — placentae=simnels." buch cakes were signed with the figure of Christ, or of the Virgin.