British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

Home Main Menu Order Support About Search

Share page  

Previous Contents Next

July 7.]            st. thomas a becket's day.                     339
usually numerous in Bodmin, it is directed by the mayor and the masters of the occupation," that at the Hydyng every mastei and journeyman shall give their attendance to the steward, and likewise bring him to church, upon pain of 12d. for every master, and 6c?. for every journeyman, for every such default, to the discretion of the master of the occupation."
At this festival there was held a curious kind of mock trial. A Lord of Misrule was appointed, before whom any unpopular person, so unlucky as to be captured, was dragged to answer a charge of felony; the imputed crime being such as his appearance might suggest, a negligence in his attire, or a breach of manners. With ludicrous gravity a mock trial was then commenced, and judgment was gravely pronounced, when the culprit was hurried off to receive his punishment. In this his apparel was generally a greater sufferer than his person, as it commonly terminated in his being thrown into the water or the mire.* " Take him before the mayor of Halgaver;" "Present him in Halgaver Court," are old Cornish proverbs.—Parochial History of Cornwall, 1868, vol i. p. 104. Murray, Handbook for Cornicall, 1865, p. 244.
Becket's Fair, says Hasted in his History of Canterbury (1801, vol. i. p. 104), was held on the feast of St. Thomas a Becket, and was so called from this day being the anniversary
* Carew, in his Survey of Cornwall (1811, p. 296), speaking of this custom, says: " The youthlier sort of Bodmin townsmen use sometimes to sport themselves by playing the box with strangers whom they summon to Halgaver. The name signifieth the goat's moor, and such a place it is, lying a little without the town, and very full of quag­mires. When these mates with any raw serving man, or other young master, who may serve and deserve to make pastime, they cause him to be solemnly arrested, for his appearance before the mayor of Halgaver, where he is charged with wearing one spur, in going nntrussed or wanting a girdle, or some such like felony; and after he hath been arraigned and tried, with all requisite circumstances, judgment is given in formal terms, and executed in some ungracious prank or other, more to the scorn than hurt of the party condemned. Now and then they extend their merriment with the largest, to the prejudice ot •over-credulous people, persuading them to fight with a dragon lurking in Halgaver, or to see some strange matter there; which concludeth at least with a training them into the mire."
z 2
Previous Contents Next