תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

the Cathedral simultaneously, walked to the middle of the nave and met, solemnly bowed to each other, and then proceeded to the vestries to take their places in the procession. When the Bishop or Dean preaches, the largest or Dean's bell is rung, and this is only tolled for the death of a member of the Royal Family, Bishop, Dean, Mayor, or anyone connected with the Cathedral, or residing in the precincts.

Bridge Fair is now held the first Wednesday and Thursday in October; and on the Tuesday before, at 11.45, the Mayor and Corporation start in procession from the Guildhall, and first in the market-place, then on the bridge at the junction of the two counties, and finally in the Fair meadow, the Town Crier reads this proclamation :

OYES. OYES. OYES. This is to give Notice that the Fair Called Bridge Fair will be held and kept to-day, to-morrow and the next day, as well in the County of Huntingdonshire as Northamptonshire, by the order of Her Majesty's Secretary of State, dated May 13th, 1878, and made in pursuance of the Fairs Act, 1878.

Therefore all Persons are required to behave themselves Soberly and Civilly and to pay their respective dues and demands according to the law of the Realm and the rights of the Corporation of the City and Borough of Peterborough the owners of the aforesaid Fair.

God Save the Queen.

Afterwards they adjourn to the “Crown Hotel,” and the Mayor entertains those who have taken part in the procession with champagne and sausages. Prior to the incorporation of Peterborough in 1874, the High Bailiff

' (as representing the Dean and Chapter), accompanied by the Magistrates, Feoffees, Improvement Commissioners, Cathedral lay clerks (who sang Amen after the Proclamation was read), halberd-bearers, Town Crier and others, performed this ceremony, and then had their sausage feast at a booth belonging to the “Cross Keys” Inn, the oldest licensed house in the city; and it was generally noticed that many of those taking part in the ceremony did not afterwards behave soberly. In the old days before the early closing of public-houses, each village inn had its booth, a license was obtained for 2s. 6d. a day, and dancing was carried on day and night for about a week. The villagers used to frequent their own booths. It is a great pork feast. Pork was the staple meat, and served up as hams, in pies, and principally sausages, which were being fried at a fire in the middle of the booth, the smoke being carried away through a large wooden chimney. Small pigs of about 60 lbs. weight were specially fed for this occasion, and called Bridge Fairers. The tradesmen kept open house, and a table was spread to entertain their country customers and friends, who took it as a matter of course, and did not hesitate to bring their friends in numbers to partake of the free lunch, tea, or suppers. Some old people still keep up this custom. This fair continues to attract thousands of visitors; and although the glory of the past is not kept up, it is a most interesting sight for visitors to see a real old-fashioned country fair. Even now, people from the villages come and lay in a stock of various things for the winter. The farmers used to send their labourers and families to the fair in waggons, decorated with evergreens and branches of trees.

November 5th, simply bonfires as at other places ; guys were not popular.

November 22nd is St. Cecilia's day; and as near as possible to the day, the Cathedral musical staff, organist and lay clerks, are entertained by the Dean and Chapter at dinner at one of the principal hotels ; each is allowed to invite a friend. The chief dish is a boiled leg of mutton. After dinner the lay clerks sing songs, duets, glees, etc., and a very pleasant evening is passed.

November 23rd, St. Clement's day, used to be kept by the blacksmiths, brewers, and carpenters having suppers.

November 25th, St. Catherine's day, called Queen Katern's day ; and this was kept by women and girls, dressed in white with distaffs in their hands, one woman dressed more elaborately than the others, and wearing a gilt paper crown on her head and a distaff in her hand. A man also accompanied the party, who was supposed to represent the King. Verses were sung, but I could only get part of one, which begins :

“Here comes Queen Katern, as fine as any Queen,

In a coach and six horses a-coming to be seen.” There were several verses, and the chorus repeated at the end of each verse was :

Some say she's alive, and some say she's dead,
But now she does appear with a crown upon her head.

And a-spinning we will go. The money-box, of course, was carried for contributions. The children of the old workhouse days were allowed, as a great treat, to take part in this festival.

On December 14th the Vicar and Church wardens of St. John's Church distribute Bishop White's charity. He died in 1698, and left £10 to be distributed annually amongst twenty old men and women over sixty years of age, who can correctly repeat the Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments, and the Apostles' Creed without a single mistake. The old people in the almshouses, as well as others, are trying to earn their ten shillings by learning their exercises for weeks before, and the district visitors and others assist in coaching those in whom they take an interest.

December 21st, St. Thomas's day, is still kept up; and on this day you will see parties of women going round from house to house and the various tradesmen, “aGooding.” Some tradesmen have a bowl of coppers and some have threepenny-pieces, and they give to the “Gooders” until the coins provided are all exhausted. The people taking part have a tea-party, provided out of the receipts.

Before Christmas, the Waits come round, and also the Morrice Dancers. These last are in the adjacent villages, and the old play is gone through. There is Belzebub, who comes in first, and says :

Here I come, Great Belzebub,
Under my arm I carry my club;
In my hand a dripping-pan,

think I'm a jolly old man? There is the fight between King, or St. George, and Belzebub, in which King, or St. George, is apparently killed, and the Doctor comes in and says :

Don't

you

Doctor : “ I'm the Doctor!”
Belzebub : “What can you do ?”
Doctor : “I can cure pains within and pains without,

Love-sick palsy and the Gout;

And if the Devil's in I cast him out." Several other characters take part; St. George becomes alive again, and they finish up by a general dance.

Another group goes round the farmhouses as King Cole and his party. He enters, and says:

Old King Cole was a jolly old soul,

A jolly old soul was he;

He calls for his glass,
(A servant here comes in with jug of ale and glasses.)

He calls for his pipe,
(A lad brings in some clay pipes and tobacco.)

And he calls for his fiddlers three. Then come in the musicians with the party and begin to play merry jigs, and the party dance in a grotesque manner. They are also called the mummers.

On Christmas eve and Christmas day groups of boys assemble at the houses of the principal inhabitants and sing a popular Christmas hymn, which they wind up with the following :

God bless the Master of this house,
God bless the Mistress too,
God bless the little children
Who sit beside of you.

We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy new year,
A pocket full of money
And a cellar full of beer,
With a good fat pig,

To last you all the year.
If you hav'nt got a penny, a ha’penny will do;

If you hav’nt got a ha’penny, God bless you ! At Wisbech the children carry a small box, in which is laid a wax doll on wadding, decorated with holly and silver leaves, and sing the same words. Sometimes “Good King Wenceslaus ” is sung

instead of a hymn.

These are the regular annual customs, and there are several others which occur all the year round.

There are the village feasts, held at every village round in the spring and early summer, beginning on a Sunday ; and the families are all gathered together on these occasions, and Peterborough young people walk over to them. They last for a few days, and it is a very lively time.

For the whooping-cough, field mice are given to children. They are called little birds, so that the child may not be prejudiced against them.

Until early in this reign, everyone entering the bar of a public-house was expected to salute the King or Queen by saying “All Health to the King !” If omitted, he was fined glasses round for those present.

A sedan chair was in use up to about thirty-five years since, and I have seen old ladies being carried in it to church, concert, or party. The chairmen belonged to a family who bad been chairmen for generations ; they had a peculiarly slippery jogtrot sort of way, and the chair and occupant looked very comfortable.

Until sixty years since, during the first weeks of the new year, three or four old men, each with a small wooden keg or bottle, or even a leather bottle, each holding from two or three pints, and strapped round their waists—one had a funnel as well- used to visit the public houses in the city. Their greeting to the attendant at the bar was : "Tell the master (or mistress) that the beer-tasters have come.” They were then given a pint of beer in a mug, and after each man had taken a sip the rest was poured through the funnel into one of the receptacles they carried, and off they went to the next house, where the same thing was repeated. No one can remember by what authority this was done, but if the men were dissatisfied with the beer they threatened to report the landlord ; but as nothing was afterwards heard of any report, the landlords were not so particular as to what kind of beer was given ; and at last they refused to give any more beer, and the tasters disappeared.

Until the late fifties, men sold their wives in the market-place : the bellman went round announcing the sale, and the husband led his wife into the market-place with a new halter. The general price was a shilling and a gallon of beer; and the parties to the sale, accompanied

« הקודםהמשך »