British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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362                              ST. BARTHOLOMEW^ DAY.                 [AUG. 2-f„
with gold chains, himself and they on horseback. Upon their arrival at a place appointed for that purpose, where a tent is pitched, the mob begin to wrestle before them, two at a time; the conquerors receiving rewards from the magistrates. After this is over, a parcel of live rabbits are turned loose among the crowd, which are pursued by a number of boys, who endeavour to catch them, with all the noise they can make." In a proclamation, made in 1608, we find the following command laid down in reference to the wrestling : " So many aldermen as dine with my Lord Mayor and the sheriffs, be apparelled in their scarlet gowns lined, and after dinner their horses be brought to them where they dine, and those aldermen which dine with the sheriffs, ride with them to my lord's house, to accompany him to the wrestling. Then when the wrestling is done, they take their horses, and ride back again through the fair, and so in at Aldersgate, and so home again to the said Lord Mayor's house." Mr. Samuel Pepys (1663) alludes to this wrestling in his diary.
The scholars from the different London schools met at the Priory for disputations on grammar and logic, and wrangled together in verse. John Stow says: " I myself, in my youth, have yearly seen on the eve of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, the scholars of divers grammar schools repair unto the churchyard of St. Bartholomew, the Priory in Smithfield, where upon a bank boarded about under a tree, some one scholar hath stepped up, and there hath opposed and answered till he were by some better scholar overcome and put down ; and then the overcomer taking his place did like as the first. And in the end, the best opposers and answerers had rewards, which I observed not but it made both good schoolmasters and also good scholars, diligently against such times to prepare themselves for the obtaining of this garland. I remember there repaired to these exercises, amongst others, the masters and scholars of the free schools of St. Paul's in London, of St. Peter's at Westminster, of St. Thomas Aeon's Hospital, and of St. Anthonie's Hospital; whereof the last named commonly presented the best scholars, and had the prize in those days. This Priory of St. Bartho­lomew being surrendered to Henry VIII., those disputations of scholars in that place surceased; and was again, only for a
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