History of the Village of Stoney Middleton

By Thomas E. Cowen (1910)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2003

History of the Village of Stoney MiddletonCUSTOMS AND SUPERSTITIONS


  1. WEDDINGS. A rope was often put across the roadway to impede the progress of those who had recently “been wed”. Old shoes, sods, and horse beans were hurled at them. According to some people these had a significance.

    Sods denoted luck in the produce of the earth, Shoes denoted plenty of clothes. Rice denoted plenty of children.

    A DONKEY WEDDING. On Christmas Day, 1853, a curious wedding took place at Stoney Middleton. Donkeys were gathered from the mines for miles around and dressed up with straw saddles. The bridal party were then escorted to the church amid a crowd of onlookers, After the ceremony the bride and bridegroom were conducted to their new home, and the donkeys set at liberty.

  2. BARM FEAST was held on New Year's Day. At one time people brewed their own beer. Publicans gave this feast to those who bought barm.

  3. PLOUGH MONDAY (Collop Monday). Ploughs were drawn by 20 men, one of which carried a whip with a bladder at the end. If no drink was forthcoming, they would proceed to plough up the door.

  4. COLLOP MONDAY (the day preceding Shrove Tuesday). Farmers were asked to give collops of bacon, eggs, or milk to the peasants for making pancakes.

  5. MISCHIEF NIGHT (Collop Monday). Gates were taken off their hinges, neighbours' carts were dragged down-hill to the water's edge, and neighbours' doors were tied by rope.

  6. PANCAKE BELL is still rung at 11 11 o'clock on Shrove Tuesday at Stoney Middleton. It is a remnant of the Confession Bell of pre-Reformation time. Apprentices, according to the terms of their indentures, could leave their

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    work at the ringing of this bell, All that now remains of the once popular “Barring out day” is the doggerel rhyme:

    ‘Pancake Day,
    If you won't give us holiday
    We'll all run away’.

    SHROVE TUESDAY: “Barring out Day”. A former schoolmaster was once reminded of the custom of Barring out', when the master quickly replied: “If your grandfathers ate porridge with a fork, you needn't do it”.

  7. 'SHAKEN BOTTLE DAY' (Easter Monday). Children poured water from 'Betty Brewer's well' into a bottle containing broken sweetmeats. It was shaken to cleanse or purify the water.

  8. 'THARF CAKE JOIN' was a custom on the 5th November. A number of persons joined together and raised a certain sum of money with which to provide Tharf Cake (or Parkin) and Toffey. Practical jokes were often indulged in by those who were not invited, and on one occasion. the toffey was spoiled by a hen being let down the chimney.

  9. MAYPOLE DAY is still upheld in the village. The 'May Queen' is chosen by popular vote, and the children parade the village. Mr. Wood, the historian, states that 'part of the ceremony of the great festival of the Druids consisted in carrying long poles of mountain ash festooned with flowers'.

  10. 'CLAY-DAUBIN'. Friends of a newly-wedded couple assembled and erected them a cottage usually in one day. The evening was spent in merrymaking.

    SUPERSTITION dies hard in the Peak. The chattering of crows or owls is counted ominous. If a magpie crosses the path it denotes bad luck; if two magpies, good luck will follow; if three, it implies approaching marriage; and four magpies is a sign of a funeral. Other mortality signs are: the croaking of a raven; crowing cock at roosting time; howling dogs; ticking of a spider; and the sudden appearance of a white cricket.

    Formerly if a young woman wished to divine who was to be her future husband, she was told to go into the Churchyard at midnight, and as the clock struck twelve she was to

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    commence running round the Church repeating without intermission:

    'I sow hemp seed, hemp seed I sow,
    He that loves me best,
    Come after me and mow'.

    Having performed the circuit twelve times without stopping, the figure of her lover was supposed to appear and follow her.


OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in February 2003.

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