British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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DEC. 25.]                         CHRISTMAS DAY.                                   475
to be holden in ye Greate Halle of ye Priorye, aforesaide, on ye ninthe cdaye of Ianuarie, anno Domini, one thousande eighte hundrede and seventie-three, to adjudycate on y* qualitie of hys viandes : that is to saye, roaste beefe and plumbe puddynge, and with a cordialle greetinge in y6 was-saile boule and ye lovynge cuppe, perpetuate to alle tyme and to tyme oute of mynde a ryghte goodlye and lastynge fellow-shipe. Ye Boare's heade will be broughte into ye halle, and ye chante will be sange, at sixe of the clocke, at which tyme ye Feast will begine."
At Yarmouth before the Reformation it was a custom for the prior and monks, and afterwards for the dean and chapter, or the farmer of their parsonage, to provide a breakfast for the inhabitants of the town every year on Christmas Day, which custom continued till the 21st of Elizabeth, when, on account of a grievous plague which carried off two thousand of the inhabitants in one year, and on consideration of the ruinous condition of the parsonage-house, it was agreed that Thomas Osborne, who was then farmer of the parsonage, should pay 5Z. a year to the churchwardens for the use of the town in lieu of the said breakfast. After the plague had ceased, the breakfast was resumed and continued as usual, till the reign of James I., when William Gostlynge, then farmer, absolutely refused to provide it or to pay an equiva­lent composition, upon which the town preferred a complaint to the dean and chapter, who promised not to countenance him in such a non-conformity to the terms of the lease by which he held of them. Finally, Mr. Gostlynge was obliged to sign an agreement, whereby he engaged to pay yearly to the town in lieu of the breakfast, 10Z., which was distributed to poor fishermen, &c, and 51. for his default, in before refusing to provide the breakfast. This continued till the making of a new agreement, between the corporation and Mr. Gostlynge, of a grant of nomination and appointment of preachers and ministers in the town, since which it seems that both breakfast and composition shared the fate of all human institutions and sank into oblivion.—Parkin, History of Great Yarmouth, 1776, p. 330.
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