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 i 6.]                            eel fair.                                      293
and Brayley, Beauties of England and Wales, 1803, vol. v. p. 655; see Book of Bays, vol. i. 712.
May i 6.]                             Norfolk.
In the parish of Rockland, annually on the 16th of May, a sort of country fair is held, called by the villagers the * Guild," and which is evidently a relic of the Guild of St. John the Baptist, held here in St. Peter's Church before the Reformation. On this occasion a mayor of the Guild is elected, and he is chaired about the three parishes of Rock­land, and gathers largess, which is afterwards spent in a frolic. There is another antique custom connected with the guild which yet obtains: the inhabitants of certain houses in the " Street" have the privilege of hanging oaken-boughs outside their doors (and their houses are thence called " bougli houses"), and on the day of the guild they draw home­brewed ale for all customers, and are not interfered with for so doing, either by the village licensed publican or the excise authorities.—N. &. Q. 2nd S. vol. vii. p. 450.
About the middle of May there is an annual migration of young eels up the Thames at Kingston. They appear in shoals, giving to the margin of the river an appearance not altogether agreeable; but their origin and destination are alike matter of conjecture. It is reasonably supposed that these swarms migrate from the lakes in Richmond Park, where immense numbers are annually bred, and that they descend the rivers, stocking the creeks and streams for some miles above the town. There is generally a crowd of eager men, women, and children, provided with every possible vessel wherein to catch the slippery prey on the first in­timation of their approach; and the animated scene has caused the occasion to be called Eel Fair.—Biden, History of Kingston-ivpon-Thames, 1852, p. 128.
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