British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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328                                      MIDSUMMER DAY.                         [JUNE 24.
the University, on the day of St. John the Baptist. For the preaching of this annual sermon, a permanent pulpit of stone is inserted into a corner of the first quadrangle; and so long as the stone pulpit was in use (of which I have been a witness), the quadrangle was furnished round the sides with a large fence of green boughs, that the preaching might more nearly resemble that of John the Baptist in the wilder≠ness ; and a pleasant sight it was: but for many years the custom has been discontinued, and the assembly have thought it safer to take shelter under the roof of the chapel."
At the mowing of Bevel-mede, a meadow between Bicester and Wendlebury, most of the different kinds of rural sports were usually practised; and in such repute was the holiday, that booths and stalls were erected as if it had been a fair. The origin of the custom is unknown; but as the amuse≠ments took place at the time when the meadow became subject to commonage, some have supposed it originated in the rejoicings of the villagers on that account. These sports entirely ceased on the enclosure of Chesterton field.óDunkin, History of Bicester, 1816, p. 269.
Collinson, in his History of the County of Somerset (1791, vol. iii. p. 586), gives an account of a custom that was celebrated on the Saturday before old Midsummer Day in the parishes of Congresbury and Puxton, at two large pieces of common land, called East and West Dolemoors. These, he says, were divided into single acres, each bearing a peculiar and different mark cut on the turf, such as a horn, four oxen and a mare, two oxen and a mare, pole-axe, cross, dung-fork, oven, duck's nest, hand reel, and hare's tail. On the Saturday before old Midsummer Day, several proprietors of estates in the parishes of Congresbury, Puxton, and Week St. Lawrence, or their tenants, assembled on the commons. A number of apples were previously prepared, marked in the same manner with the before-mentioned acres, which were distributed by a young lad to each of the commoners from a bag or hat. At the close of the distribution, each person repaired to his allotment as
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