British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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March i.]                     simnel Sunday.                                 115
but without success.—Gent Mag. (New Series) 1866, vol. i. p. 535; Baines, History of Lancashire, 1836, vol. ii. p. 776. Herrick in his Hesjperides has the following:
"to dianeme.
'a ceke1i0nie in glocester.
" I'll to thee a Sinmell bring, 'Gainst thou go'st a mothering ; So that, when she blesseth thee, Half that blessing thou'lt give me." 1, p. 2787.
Again, the bread called " simnel bread" is mentioned by Jehoshaphat Aspin, in his Pictures of Manners, &c, of England, p. 126, who quotes from a statute of 51st of Henry III.:—A farthing symnel (a sort of small cake, twice haked, and also called a cracknel) should weigh two ounces less than the wastel (a kind of cake made with honey, or with meal and oil).
Curious are some of the tales which have arisen to explain the meaning of the name simnel. Some pretend that the father of Lambert Simnel, the well-known pretender in the reign of Henry VII., was a baker, and the first maker of gimnels, and that, in consequence of the celebrity he gained by the acts of his son, his cakes have retained his name. There is a story current in Shropshire, which is more pic­turesque. Long ago there lived an honest old couple, boasting the names of Simon and Nelly, but their surnames are not known. It was their custom at Easter to gather their children about them, and thus meet together once a year under the old homestead. The fasting season of Lent was just ending, but they had still left some of the unleavened dough which had been from time to time converted into bread during the forty days. Nelly was a careful woman, and it grieved her to waste anything, so she suggested that they should use the remains of the lenten dough, for the basis of a cake to regale the assembled family. Simon readily agreed to the proposal, and further reminded his partner that there were still some remains of their Christmas plum-pudding hoarded up in the cupboard, and that this might form the interior, and be an agreeable surprise to the young people when they had made their way through the less tasty crust.
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