British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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Aug. 24.]              st. Bartholomew's day.                         361
similar custom was observed some years ago by the visitors of St. Helen's well in Sefton, but more in accordance with an tncient practice than from any devotion to the saint.—Baines, History of County of Lancaster, 1836, vol. iii. p. 497; Med. AEvi Kalend. vol. i. pp. 336, 337.
Bartholomew Fair—The origin of Bartholomew Fair was a grant from Henry I., in 1133, to a monk named Rayer, or Eahere, who had been his jester, and had founded the Priory of St. Bartholomew, in later times transformed into a hospital. The fair was annually held at the festival of St. Bartholomew, and, like all other ancient fairs, was originally connected with the Church, under whose auspices miracle-plays, founded on the legends of saints, were represented, which gave place to mysteries, and these again to moralities; afterwards, profane stories were introduced, the origin of the modern English drama. It was discontinued after 1855, having flourished for seven centuries and a half. Established originally for useful trading purposes, it had long survived its claim to tolerance, but, as London increased, became a great public nuisance, with its scenes of riot and obstruction in the very heart of the city. After the opening of the fair, it was customary anciently for wrestlers to exercise their art, of which Paul Hentzner, a German tutor, travelling in the year 1598 through England has given an account. He says, " that every year upon St. Bartholomew's day, when the fair is held; it is usual for the mayor, attended by the twelve principal aldermen, to walk in a neighbouring field, dressed in his scarlet gown, and about his neck a golden chain to which is hung a golden fleece, and, besides, that particular ornament which distinguishes the most noble Order of the Garter. When the mayor goes out of the precincts of the city a sceptre and sword and a cap are borne before him, and he is followed by the principal aldermen in scarlet gowns
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