Bradwell: Ancient and Modern

A History of the Parish and of Incidents in the Hope Valley.

By Seth Evans (1912)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013

Chapter XIV.

SOME ANCIENT CUSTOMS AND SUPERSTITIONS.

Some Ancient Customs and Superstitions.

Funeral Customs.

In common with other Peakland villages, Bradwell had its own funeral customs. People in very poor circumstances had what was known as “pay buryings”, which meant that those who attended the funeral would be expected to pay something generally a shilling or sixpence - towards defraying the expenses of the funeral. When the person went round to “bid to th' burying” he was generally asked whether it was to be a “pay burying”. Many of the old inhabitants can well remember the custom, which has become obsolete within the last forty years.

“Burying-cakes” - a large round spice cake of excellent quality - used to be given, one to each person at the funeral, so large that it was tied in a handkerchief and carried home. That custom has given way to the biscuit and wine.

A century ago, when flour bread was the luxury of the well-to-do, the children of the poor tasted it only at funerals. In those

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days old Jacob Eyre, the baker in Nether Side, whose descendants in Bradwell are numerous, used to stand at the door of the deceased's home with a basketful of small pieces of white bread about two inches square. There would be quite a crowd of village children round the door to get a piece of the bread.

Formerly all the singers and music people in the place were invited to the funeral of an old resident, and the oldest of them used to chant a solemn dirge all the way to the cemetery, the rest of the company joining in the responses. For many years old Daniel Bocking, a well-known resident, was the leader on these solemn occasions. The last time this was done it was so impressive that those who were present will never forget it. It was at the funeral, in 1900, of Mr. Job Middleton, aged 85, a notable native, a leading Wesleyan, who sixty years before was a well-known performer at Sunday-school anniversaries in many of the surrounding villages, with a curious instrument called “The Serpent”.

One ancient funeral custom still survives. In the Bradwell Oddfellows' Lodge there is what is known as “The Twelve”. A dozen members are chosen every year to attend the funerals of members during the year. Attired in black sashes and white gloves, they walk in front of the coffin, and drop sprigs of thyme upon the coffin of their dead brother before they leave the graveside.

“Cucking” at Easter.

An Easter custom in which scores now living have taken part was that of “cucking”. On Easter Monday morning girls who refused to kiss young men had to be cucked, or tossed up, and on Easter Tuesday the girls returned the compliment. But the practice was not only vulgar, but sometimes positively indecent, and very properly died a natural death.

Another Easter Monday, but confined to the children, was “Shaking”, or “ Shakking”. Even this has almost “gone out”. “Shakking” is a mixture of peppermints, Spanish juice, and other sweets placed in a bottle, which is filled with water from a well and then shaked up, and sipped by the children, the youngest of whom had the bottle fastened round their necks by a piece of string. There was a superstitious belief that unless the children put pins into a well on Palm Sunday they would break their bottles at Easter, and that the lady of the well would not let them have any clean water. There were many of these wells where children used to deposit their pins - behind Micklow, in a field called “Daniel's Garden”, on the slope of Bradwell Edge; in Charlotte Lane; in New Road, leading up to the Bradwell Edge Road to Abney; and in any others where children might be seen merrily trooping to deposit their pins. The writer remembers, when a child, with other children, depositing his pin in a well in New Road, and finding whole handfuls of pins in the sand at the bottom of the well, the deposits of the village children for many generations. Nearly all these wells are now disused, filled up, and no longer exist.

Christmas Eve Mischief.

Many are the stories that could be related anent [sic] the old custom of doing mischief on Christmas Eve. It was formerly quite a common thing for gates to be lifted off their hinges, and with carts, barrows, etc., found in the brook next morning. On one occasion a wheel was taken off a cart at Hill Head, started off down Town Gate, and gaining in velocity all the way down the hill, it crashed into a grocer's shop at the bottom.

One Christmas Eve a number of young men were bringing a cart down Smalldale, and taking it to the brook, when they were met by a farmer named Wright, who was eager to join in the mischief. He did so, and assisted them with the cart until, when about to pitch it into the brook, he found out that it was his own cart. “How'd on, chaps, it's mine!” he shouted, but the cart went into the water all the same.

But the custom was attended with loss of cattle and sheep through gates being removed, and damage to property, that after the advent of the police it gradually fell off, and is now observed only to a very small extent as compared with former days.

A much pleasanter Christmas Eve custom was the giving of a candle, called a “Yule candle”, by the shopkeepers to their customers, and a “Yule log” by the carpenters to the children who fetched it. And with the candle burning on the table, and the log on the fire on the cold Christmas Eve, the family would sit round the table joining in the big mug of “posset”, made of hot ale and milk, spiced with sugar and nutmeg. But the Yule log and the candle are no more, though some of the older inhabitants cling to the posset.

An Old Wedding Custom.

Down to within a few years ago it was the custom to exact toll from wedding parties before they would allow them to get married. The method was to stretch a rope across the road to prevent them passing to church or chapel, and not to allow the bride and bridegroom to pass until the latter had paid toll. Often the church or chapel gates were fastened while the ceremony was going on, and only unfastened when the toll was paid. The money was generally spent at the nearest public-house.

The “Lumb Boggart”.

“Woman and fish, so strangely blent in one.
So fables tell, and so old legends run.
Now on the wave greeting the newborn day;
Now on the velvet bank in sportive play;
And when prevailed the part of woman fair.
Into long flowing locks it curled its hair.

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Breathes the swift zephyrs as they gently rise.
And its fair bosom heaves with human sighs;
But when the fish prevails beneath the tides,
Like lightning it a scaly monster glides;
And in its wat'ry cavern must remain
Till Easter Sunday morning comes again”.
Redfern, Hayfield.

Like all other mountain villages. Bradwell has its superstitions, and they would not be complete without the ghost story. Many a time have we crouched and run past “The Lumb”, on a dark night, and oftener still has the hair on many heads stood straight when passing “Lumbly Pool”, between Brough and Bamford.

It used to be said that about a century and a half ago the body of a young girl, who was supposed to have been murdered was found buried under the staircase of a house at Hill Head. The ghost of the girl appeared every night until everybody in the neighbourhood were terrified and thrown into a cold sweat. Unable to bear it any longer the people got a well known individual who belonged to the Baptists, then called “the new-fangled body”, to undertake the task of “laying” the ghost. As this individual professed to be able to rule the planets, of course no one doubted his power of getting rid of the ghost.

The time came, and the haunted house was filled with affrighted spectators when the exorcist appeared among them with his paraphernalia, and when he prayed until streams of sweat poured from his face as he knelt within a ring he had chalked on the chamber floor, the lookers-on kneeling around, and later afterwards declared that they “felt the floor move for yards up and down in quick succession”. Then the magician arose and exclaimed, “Arise! arise! I charge and command thee”, when the spirit appeared, and the man ordered it to depart and assume the body of a fish, and to locate itself in the Lumb Mouth. He also ordered that every Christmas eve the ghost should assume the form of of a white ousel, and fly to Lumbly Pool.

Such is the story of the “Lumb Boggart”, an absurd tale which everybody believed even down to half a century ago.

The Lady on Horseback.

It would never do for the romantic Bradwell Dale, the dell of the fairies, with such an ancient hall as that of the Vernons at Hazlebadge, to be without its ghost story, hence we are told that, “On any wild night, when the winds howl furiously and the rain falls in torrents, there can be seen in the gorge between Bradwell and Hazlebadge the spirit of a lady on horseback, the steed rushing madly in the direction of the old Hall. They say it is the ghost of Margaret Vernon, the last of that line of the Vernons who were living at Hazlebadge for three centuries. She had given her heart, with its fulness of affection, into the keeping of one who had plighted his troth with another, and when she discovered his treachery she had braced up her nerves to witness his union in Hope Church. But at the finish of the ceremony she had ridden to her home as if pursued by fiends, with eyeballs starting from their sockets, and her brain seized with a fever from which she would never have recovered only from the tender nursing of those around her. Her spirit, they say, on a spectre steed, still rushes madly between Hope and Hazlebadge at midnight”.

Well Dressing and Garland Day.

Bradwell had formerly its Garland Day and Well Dressing, as also had Hope. The garland was similar to that at Castleton, a man riding round the village with a huge garland of flowers on his head, the band heading a procession, and dancing taking place in the Town Gate. On the same day was the well dressing, several wells, notably the one with a pump affixed, in Water Lane, opposite the Shoulder of Mutton, being beautifully decorated with flowers. But the custom has been discontinued nearly half a century.

Bull Baiting.

“The wisdom of our ancestors
(A well known fact I'm stating).
Thought Bulls and Bears, as well as Hooks,
Were suitable for baiting.
But now this most degenerate age
Destroys half our resources -
We've nothing but our hooks to bait.
Unless we bait our horses”.
Ward.

Bull and bear baiting were very popular in Derbyshire at one time, and Bradwell Wakes never passed without one or the other of them, often both. The villagers, or those who delighted in such a brutal sport, gathered in some open space, either the Town Gate or the Town Bottom, where the bull was tied to a post securely fixed in a stone let into the ground. At a given signal dogs were let loose on the bull, and betting was made on the dogs, the one that could pin the bull by the nose being declared the winner. The dogs were trained to avoid the bull's rushes, but now and then he would toss the animal into the air.

There have been some strange scenes at Town Bottom during these baitings. Sometimes the bull would break loose, when the spectators would take to their heels helter skelter for their life to elude him. But one of the most exciting scenes was witnessed at one of these bull baitings, about the year 1820. There was the bull, the dogs, and the crown, but no post. Among the spectators was old Frank Bagshaw, of Hazlebadge, who stepped into the breach, and run[n]ing into the ring cried “Tey him to mey; tey him to mey”. They tied the bull by the tail to poor Bagshaw, and when the dogs were set at the brute it darted off,

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dragging Bagshaw at its tail up Bradwell Brook - a deplorable spectacle. Fortunately this cruel amusement has long been a thing of the past.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in February 2013.

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