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Ogborne's print, from whence the preceding engraving is taken, bears this inscription :
“An exact Perspective View of DUNMow, late the Priory in the county of Essex, with a Representation of the Ceremony & Procession in that Mannor, on Thursday the 20 of June 1751 when Thomas Shakeshaft of the Parish of Weathersfield in the county aforesaid, Weaver, & Ann his Wife came to demand and did actually receive a Gammon of Bacon, having first kneelt down upon two bare stones within the Church door, and taken the said Oath pursuant to the ancient custom in manner & form prescribed as aforesaid.” A short account of this custom precedes the above inscription.
Mr. Brand speaks of his possessing Ogborne's print, and of its having become “exceedingly rare;” he further cites it as being inscribed “Taken on the spot and engraved by David Ogborne.” Herein he mistakes; for, as regards Ogborne, both old and mo
the right hand corner of the plate; and in the modern one it is erased from that part and placed at the same corner above “the oath,” and immediately under the engraving; the space it occupied is supplied by the words “Republish'd Octr 28th. 1826 by R. Cribb, 288 Holborn"; its original note of publication remains, viz. “Publish'd according to Act of Parliament Janry. 1752.” The print is now common. Mr. Brand, or his printer, further mistakes the name of the claimant on the print, for, in the “Popular Antiquities” he quotes it “Shapeshaft” instead of “Shakeshaft;" and he omits to mention a larger print, of greater rarity in his time, “sold by John Bowles Map & Printseller in Cornhill,” entitled “The Manner of claiming the Gamon of Bacon &c by Tho". Shakeshaft, and Anne his wife" which it thus represents:
For M of The 0Ath.
You shall swear by Custom of Confession, If ever you made nuptial trangression : Be you either married man or wife, By household brawles or contentious strife, Or otherwise in bed, or at boord, Offend each other in deed, or word; Or since the parish Clerk said Amen, You wish't yourselves unmarried agen : Or in a twelve moneths time and a day Repented not in thought any way: But continued true and just in desire As when you joyned hands in the holy quare If to these conditions without all feare, Of your own accord you will freely sweare, A whole Gammon of Bacon you shall receive, And bear it henceforth with love and good leave. For this is our Custome at Dunmow well known, Though the pleasure be ours, the Bacon's your own.
On the taking of this oath, which is cited by an old county historian,” and somewhat varies from the verses beneath the before-mentioned prints, the swearers were entitled to the flitch, or gammon.
The “ Gentleman's Magazine,” of 1751, mentions that on this day “John Shakeshanks, woolcomber, and Anne his wife, of the parish of Weathersfield, in Essex, appeared at the customary court at Dunmow-parva, and claim'd the bacon according to the custom of that manor." This is all the notice of the last claim in that miscellany, but the old “London Magazine," of the same year, adds, that “the bacon was delivered to them with the usual formalities.” It is remarkable that in both these magazines the parties are named “Shakeshanks." On reference to the court-roll, the real name appears to be Shakeshaft.
Ogborne's print affirms that this custom was instituted in or about the year 1111, by Robert, son of Richard Fitz Gilbert, Earl of Clare: but as regards the date, which is in the time of Henry I., the statement is inaccurate; for if it originated with Robert Fitzwalter, as hereafter related, he did not live till the time of “King Henry, son of King
John," who commenced his reign in 1199, and was Henry III. Concerning the ceremony, the print goes on to describe, that after delivering the bacon, “the happy pair are taken upon men's shoulders, in a chair kept for that purpose, and carried round the scite of the priory, from the church to the house, with drums, minstrells, and other musick playing, and the gammon of bacon borne on a high pole before them, attended by the steward, gentlemen, and officers of the manor, with the several inferior tenants, carrying wands, &c., and a jury of bachelors and maidens (being six of each sex) walking two and two, with a great multitude of other people, young and old, from all the neighbouring towns and villages thereabouts, and several more that came from very great distances (to the amount of many thousands in the whole), with shouts and acclamations, following."
The chair in which the successful candidates for “the bacon " were seated, after obtaining the honourable testimony of their connubial happiness, is made of oak, and though large, seems hardly big enough for any pair, but such as had given proofs of their mutual good-nature and affection. It is still preserved in Dunmow Church, and makes part of the admiranda of tha. place. It is undoubtedly of great antiquity, probably the official chair of the prior, or that of the lord of the manor, in which he held the usual courts, and received the suit and service of his tenants. There is an engraving of the chair in the “Antiquarian Repertory," from whence this notice of it is extracted : it in no way differs from the chief chairs of ancient halls.
Of “the bacon,” it is stated, on Ogborne's print, that “before the dissolution of monasteries, it does not appear, by searching the most ancient records, to have been demanded above three times, and, including this (demand of Shakeshaft's) just as often since.” These demands are particularized by Dugdale, from a manuscript in the College of Arms,t to the following effect:—
“Robt. Fitzwalter, living long beloved of king Henry, son of king John, as also
• Plott, in his Staffordshire, from History of Robert Fitzwalter. Lond. 1616.
• Inscription on Ogborne's Print. L. 14, page 226.
of all the realme, betook himself in his latter dayes to prayer and deeds of charity, gave great and bountifull alms to the poor, kept great hospitality, and reedified the decayed prison (priory) of Dunmow, which one Juga (Baynard), a most devout and religious woman, being in her kinde his ancestor, had builded; in which prison (priory) arose a custome, begun and instituted, eyther by him, or some other of his successours, which is verified by a common proverb or saying, viz. –That he which repents him not of his marriage, either sleeping or waking, in a year and a day, may lawfully go to Dunmow and fetch a gammon of bacon. It is most assured that such a custome there was, and that this bacon was delivered with such solemnity and triumphs as they of the F. and the townsmen could make. have enquired of the manner of it, and can learne no more but that it continued untill the dissolution of that house, as also the abbies. And that the party or pilgrim for bacon was to take his oath before prior and convent, and the whole town, humbly kneeling in the churchyard upon two hard pointed stones, which stones, some say, are there yet to be seen in the prior's church-yard; his oath was ministered with such long process, and such solemne singing over him, that doubtless must make his pilgrimage (as I may term it) painfull: after, he was taken up upon men's shoulders, and carried, first about the priory church-yard, and after, through the town with all the fryers and brethren, and all the town'sfolke, young and old, following him with shouts and acclamations, with his bacon borne before him, and in such manner (as I have heard) was sent home with his bacon; of which I find that some had a gammon, and others a flecke, or a flitch; for proof whereof I have, from the records of the house, found the names of three several persons that at several times had it." Anno 23. Henry VI. 1445, one Richard Wright of Badbury, near the city of Norwich in the county of Norfolk, labourer so came to Dunmow and required the bacon, to wit, on the 27th of April, in the 23d year of the reign of king Henry VI. and according to the form of the charter was sworn before John Cannon, prior of the place and the convent, and very many other neighbours, and there was delivered to him,
the said Richard a side or flitch of bacon.
Anno 7 Edw. IV. 1467, one Stephen Samuel of Ayston-Parva, in the county of Essex, husbandman, on the day of the Blessed Virgin in Lent (25th March) in the 7th year of king Edward IV. came to the priory of Dunmow, and required a gammon of bacon; and he was sworn before Roger Bulcott, then prior of the place and the convent, and also before a multitude of other neighbours, and there was delivered to him a gammon of bacon.
Anno 2 Hen. VIII. 1510, Thomas le Fuller of Cogshall, in the county of Essex, came to the priory of Dunmow, and on the 8th day of September, being Sunday, in the 2d year of king Henry VIII. according to the form of the charter, was sworn before John Tils, then Prior of the house and the convent, and also before a multitude of neighbours, and there was delivered to him, the said Thomas, a gammon of bacon.
“Hereby it appeareth,” Dugdale says, “that it was according to a charter, or donation, given by some conceited benefactor to the house; and it is not to be doubted, but that at such a time, the bordering towns and villages resorted, and were partakers of their pastimes, and laughed to scorne the poore man's pains “.”
In a letter from F. D. to “Mr. Urban," Shakeshaft, alias Shakeshank, is called the ancient woolcomber of Weathersfield, and a copy of the register of the form and ceremony, observed fifty years before, is communicated as follows:–
Extract from the Court Roll.
"Dunmow, Nuper AT a court baron of Priorat' the right worshipful Sir Thomas May, knt. there holden upon Friday the 7th day of June, in the 18th year of the reign of our sovereign lord William III. by the grace of God, &c. and in the year of our lord 1701, before Thomas Wheeler, gent, steward of the said manor, it is thus enrolled:
. (Elizabeth Beaumont, Spinster |
* Dugdale's Monasticon.
“Be it remember'd, that at this court, in full and open court, it is found, and presented by the homage aforesaid, that William Parsley, of Much Euston in the county of Essex, butcher, and Jane his wife, have been married for the space of three years last past, and upward; and it is likewise found, presented, and adjudged, by the homage aforesaid, that the said William Parsley, and Jane his wife, by means of their quiet, peaceable, tender, and loving cohabitation, for the space of time aforesaid, (as appears by the said homage) are fit and qualify'd persons to be admitted by the court to receive the antient and accustom'd oath, whereby to entitle themselves to have the bacon of Dunmow delivered unto them, according to the custom of the manor.
“Whereupon, at this court, in full and open court, came the said William Parsley, and Jane his wife, in their proper persons, and humbly prayed, they might be admitted to take the oath aforesaid; whereupon the said steward, with the jury, suitors, and other officers of the court, proceeded, with the usual solem: nity, to the antient and accustomed place for the administration of the oath, and receiving the gammon aforesaid, (that is to say) the two great stones lying near the church door, within the said manor, where the said William Parsley, and Jane his wife, kneeling down on the said two stones, and the said steward did administer unto them the above-mentioned oath in these words, or to this effect following, viz. You do swear by custom of confession, That you ne'er made nuptial transgression,