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It is affirmed, that at Queen's-college, Oxford, the first dish brought to the table on Easter-day, is a red herring, riding away on horseback, that is to say, a herring placed by the cook, something after the likeness of a man on horseback, set on a corn sallad.* This is the only vestige of the pageants which formerly were publicly exhibited by way of popular rejoicing for the departure of the forty days Lent fast, and the return to solid eating with the Easter festival.
The custom of eating a gammon of bacon at Easter, still maintained in some arts of England, is founded on the abso our forefathers thought proper to express, in that way, towards the Jews at the season of commemorating the resurrection.t
Listing at Easter, and pace or paste eggs, with other usages derived from catholic customs, are described and traced in vol. i. p. 421.
Since these “Caps well fit; by Titus in Sandgate and Titus every where,” a curious little duodecimo, printed at Newcastle in 1785, has come into the editor's hands, from whence is extracted the following—
Paste Egg Tale.
Once—yes once, upon a Paste-Egg-Day
* Antiquarian Repertory. f Drake's Shakespeare and his Times.
And now, our gentry on the greed,
A poor old woman, passing by,
Discover'd soon—some wags stept forth,
The grey-hair'd matron rubb'd her eyes,
Of eggs they brought her number nine,
Amaz'd, at silence so profound;
In throth-quo' she, I'm short and plain.
Your transient colours, fleet as theirs,
They heard—they frown'd—but fled the green, As if a thunderbolt had been.
A very singular custom formerly prevailed at Lostwithiel, in Cornwall, on Easter Sunday. The freeholders of the town and manor having assembled together, either in person or by their deputies, one among them, each in his turn, gaily attired and gallantly mounted, with a :* in his hand, a crown on his head, and a sword borne before him, and respectfully attended by all the rest on horseback, rode through the principal street in solemn state to the church. At the churchyard stilé, the curate, or other minister, approached to meet him in reverential pomp, and then conducted him to church to hear divine service. On leaving the church, he repaired, with the same pomp and retinue, to a house previously prepared for his reception. Here a feast, suited to the dignity he had assumed, awaited him and his suite; and, being placed at the head of the table, he was served, kneeling, with all the rites and ceremonies that a real prince might expect. This ceremony ended with the dinner; the prince being voluntarily disrobed, and descending from his momentary exaltation, to mix with common mortals. On the origin of this custom, but one opinion can be reasonably entertained, though it may be difficult to trace the precise period of its commencement; It seems to have originated in the actual appearance of the prince, who resided at Restormel castle in former ages; but on the removal of royalty, this mimic grandeur stepped forth as its shadowy representative, and continued for many generations as a memorial to posterity of the princely magnificence with which Lostwithiel had formerly been honoured.”
* Hitchins's Cornwall
The BIDDENDEN MAIDs.
To the Editor of the Every-Day Book. Tenterden, February, 1826. Sir, I beg to enclose you a specimen of a Biddenden cake, and a printed account, which you may perhaps think worth insertion in the Every-Day Book. The small town of Biddenden is about four miles from Tenterden, on the right of the road. It is at present populous, though the clothing manufacture, which first occasioned the increase of the population of this part of the county, in the reign of Edward III. when the Flemings first introduced it, has for many years failed here: several good houses, still remaining, discover the prosperity of the former inhabitants. The church is a handsome regular building, and its tower a structure of a considerable height and strength; a portion of the old part is still remaining. In this there is a free grammar school, endowed with a good house and garden, and a salary of 20l. per annum. Two maiden sisters left some land adjoining the glebe to the parish, of the rent of 20l. a year, which is held by the churchwardens, and distributed in bread to the poor on Easter-day. A representation of the donors is impressed on the leaves, and on the cakes, which were formerly thrown from the roof of the church. -In the high chancel against the north wall is a monument, with a bust in white marble, executed by Scheemaker, of sir John Norris, who died in 1749; admiral of the British fleets, and vice-admiral of England. I am, &c. J. J. A. F.
The “ Biddenden cake,” transmitted through this obliging correspondent, appears to have been made some years ago; and carefully preserved; the “printed account" accompanying it, is “adorned" by a wood cut figure of the founders of the endowment, improved by the engraver from the impressions on the cakes. But, altogether setting aside that wood cut, the annexed engraving is an exact representation of the baker's inpress on the cake sent to the editor, and is of the exact size of the cake. A verbatim copy of the “printed account" on a half sheet of demy, circulated at this time, is subjoined to the present engraving.
A NEW AND ENLARGED ACCOUNT OF THE
With a well authenticated Account of a similar Phenomenon of Two Brothers.
N Easter SUNDAY in every year after Divine Service in the afternoon at the PA Rish of BIDDEN DEN, in the County of Kent, there are by the Churchwardens, given to Strangers about 1000 Rolls, with an impression on them similar to the Plate. The origin of this Custom is thus related. In the year 1100 at Biddenden, in Kent, were born ElizaBETH and MARY CHUlkHURST, Joined together by the Hips and Shoulders, and who lived in that state, Thirty Four Years 11 at the expiration of which time, one of them was taken ill and after a short period died; the surviving one was advised to be separated from the corpse which she absolutely refused by saying these words, “as we came together, we will also go together,” and about six hours after her sister's decease, she was taken ill and died also. 4 Stone near the Rector's Pew marked with a diagonal line is shewn as
the place of their interment.
It is further stated, that by their will, they bequeathed to the Churchwardens of the Parish of Biddenden, and their successors, Churchwardens for ever, certain pieces or parcels of Land in the Parish, containing about 20 Acres, which is hired at 40 Guineas er annum, and that in commemoration of this wonderful Phenomenon of Nature, the olls and about 300 Quartern Loaves and Cheese in proportion, should be given to the Poor Inhabitants of the Parish. This account is entirely traditionary, the Learned Antiquarian HASTED, in his account of the Charities of the Parish, states the Land “was the gift of two Maidens, of the name of Preston: and that the print of the women on the cakes has only been used within these 80 years, and was made to represent two poor widows, as the general objects of a charitable benefaction.” It is probable that the investigation of the learned Antiquary, brought to light some record of the name of the Ladies, for in the ear 1656, the Rev. W. Horner, then Rector of the Parish, claimed the Land, as aving been given to augment his glebe, but was non-suited in the court of Exchequer. In the pleadings preserved in the Church, the names of the Ladies are not stated, not being known. There are also two other Places where such Phenomena are said to have occurred. If these statements weaken the credibility of the tradition, the following account of a Lusus Naturae, compiled from the London Medical Repository, for 1821, page 138, will unquestionably confirm the opinion of many as to the probability of the Phenomenon of the Biddenden Maids,--Mr. Livingstone, the Surgeon of the British Factory at Canton, relates that there was shewn at Macao, A-ke, a boy about sixteen years of age, to whom was attached another Male Child, united at the pit of the stomach by the neck, as if his head was plunged into Ake's breast. At the time of their birth they were nearly of an equal size, but the parasite has not much increased since that period. The skin of A-ke joins regularly and smoothly, the neck of the parasite, so that he can turn his brother on either of his sides upon himself, but the natural position is breast to breast; on the whole the parasite is well formed being about two feet in length—A-ke thinks that at one period their feelings were reciprocal, but for some time he has not so. it except in one particular act, when his brother never fails to do the same, he however feels the slightest touch applied to his brother. A-ke has generally a sickly appearance, but excepting the parasite, is well formed; about 4 feet 10 inches high ; is easily fatigued in walking or ascending a flight of steps being obliged to support his brother with his hands. When fatigued he breathes with difficulty, and is only relieved by laying down. CHAMBERS AND EXALL, Printers, (King's Arms Printing office) TENTERDEN.
The preceding “account” is an enlargement of a preceding one of the same size, on a larger type, with this imprint, “BIDDENDEN : Printed and Sold by R. Weston—1808. [Price ... R. Weston's paper does not contain the story of “A-ke,” which is well calculated to make the legend of the “Biddenden Maids,” pass current with the vulgar. Qur Tenterden correspondent adds, in a subsequentletter, that, on Easter Sunday,
Biddenden is completely thronged. The public houses are crowded with people attracted from the adjacent towns and villages by the usage, and the wonderful account of its origin, and the day is spent in rude festivity.
To elucidate this annual custom as fully as possible, all that Mr. Hasted says of the matter is here extracted :—
“Twenty acres of land, called the
Bread and Cheese Land, lying in five pieces, were given by persons unknown, the yearly rents to be distributed among the poor of this parish. This is yearly done on Easter Sunday in the afternoon, in six hundred cakes, each of which have the figures of two woman impressed on them, and are given to all such as attend the church; and two hundred and seventy loaves, weighing three pounds and a half a piece, to which latter is added one pound and an half of cheese, are given, to the parishoners only, at the same time. “There is a vulgar tradition in these parts, that the figures on the cakes represent the donors of this gift, being two women, twins, who were joined together in their bodies, and lived together so, till they were between twenty and thirty years of age. But this seems without foundation. The truth seems to be, that it was the gift of two maidens of the name of Preston, and that the print of the women on the cakes has taken place only within these fifty years, and was made to represent two poor widows as the general objects of a charitable benefaction. William Horner, rector of this parish in 1656 brought a suit in the exchequer for the recovery of these lands, as having been given for an augmentation of his glebe land, but he was nonsuited. The lands are bounded on the east by the glebe, on the south b the highway, and one piece on the o of the highway; they are altogether of the yearly value of about 311, 10s.”
* Hasted's Kent, 1790 * Fosbroke's British Monachism.
To the Editor of the Every-Day Book.
Durham, March 3, 1826. Sir, To contribute towards the informa
tion you desire to convey concerning popu
lar customs, &c. I will describe one, much F. in Durham, which I think you ave not noticed in the former volume of your interesting work. On Easter Sunday it is a common custom here, for a number of boys to assemble in the afternoon, and as soon as the clock strikes four, scour the streets in H. and accost every female they may appen to meet, with “pay for your shoes if you please,” at the same time, stooping to take them off; which, if they do, and do not immediately get a penny or twopence, they will actually carry off by main force. I have known the boys have, at least, a dozen odd shoes; but generally, something is given, which in the evening they either spend in public houses, or divide. On Easter Monday, the women claim the same privilege towards the male sex. They begin much earlier in the day, and attack every man and boy they can lay hold of to make them pay for their shoes ; if the men happen to wear boots, and will not pay any thing, the girls generally endeavour to seize their hats and run off. If a man catches the girl with the hat, it is usually thrown or handed about to the great amusement of the spectators, till the person is baffled out of a sixpence to redeem the right of wearing it again: but this, like all other old customs, has greatly fallen off lately, and is now chiefly practised by a few children. I am, &c.
A contributor to the “Gentleman's Magazine” in August, 1790, says that, at Rippon, in Yorkshire, “on Easter Sunday, as soon as the service of the church is over, the boys run about the streets, and lay hold of every woman or girl they can, and take their buckles from their shoes. This farce is continued till the next day at noon, when the females begin, and return the compliment upon the men, which does not end till Tuesday evening; nay, I was told that, some years ago, no traveller could pass through the town without being stopped and having his spurs taken away, unless redeemed by a little money, which is the only way to have your buckles returned.”