British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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May 12.]                     whitsun Tuesday.                             291
of people used to assemble to witness the procession, and the money collected frequently exceeded £1000. After de­ducting the necessary expenses, the remainder was given to the senior scholar, who was elected to Cambridge, for his support at that University.
The origin of this custom, notwithstanding much anti­quarian research, is unknown. Some, however, are of opinion that it was identical with the bairn or &o?/-bishop. It originally took place on the 6th of December, the festival of St. Nicholas (the patron of children; being the day on which it was customary at Salisbury, and in other places where the ceremony was observed, to elect the Soy-bishop, from among the children belonging to the cathedral), but afterwards it was held on Whitsun Tuesday.—Sheahan, History of Buckinghamshire, 1862, p. 862; Lysons' Magna Britannia, 1813, vol. i. pt. ii. p. 558; Gent. Mag., 1820, vol. xc. p. 55; See N. & Q. 1st S., vol. i. pp. 110, 322; 2nd S. vol. ii. p. 146.
The ten principal estates in the parish of Hesket were formerly called Bed Spears, from the titles of the owners, obtained from the curious tenure of riding through the town of Penrith on every Whitsun Tuesday, brandishing their spears. These Bed-Spear Knights seem to have been re­garded as sureties to the sheriff for the peaceable behaviour of the inhabitants.—Britton and Brayley, Beauties of England and Wales, 1802, vol. iii. p. 171.
On the evening of Whitsun Tuesday, a sermon is annually preached in the ancient church of St. James, Mitre Court, Aldgate, London, from a text having special reference to flowers. This is popularly called the " Flower sermon." —Kalendar of the English Church, 1865, p. 74.
On this day is delivered in St. Leonard's Church, Shore-ditch, a " Botanical sermon "—the Fairchild Lecture,—for which purpose funds were left by Thomas Fairchild, who
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