Traditions and Folklore

What's Inn a Name?

on Wednesday, 16 July 2014. Posted in Traditions and Folklore, Wiltshire Places

Some of the most popular talks I give are those dealing with the meaning of inn and pub names. Currently we don’t have a great variety of pub names in Wiltshire but we do still have some interesting ones. The Green Dragon at Alderbury was used by Charles Dickens in Martin Chuzzlewitt, as he was staying nearby while writing this novel. Dickens used many hostelries in his books and in this case he renamed it the Blue Dragon; perhaps the sign was somewhat faded to a pale blue and he misinterpreted it as it would have been unlikely that the name was on the building.

The green dragon came from the earls of Pembroke and many of the early names used the badges of great families. The red lion of John of Gaunt, the black bear of the earls of Warwick and the white hart of Richard II are still common today. From the 18th century the full coat of arms was often used so that in Fovant we have the Pembroke Arms. The association with the badge or coat of arms often indicated that the family owned the property or were the chief landowners in the area.

Truffles – what a rare treat indeed!

on Tuesday, 07 January 2014. Posted in Traditions and Folklore, Wiltshire People

We all like to indulge in the odd luxury if we can, including a good truffle or two perhaps…

Did you know that these chocolate treats originally contained truffles of the fungal variety when they were first produced in Belgium? At the time it was this truffle that was at the height of fashion.

Truffles were once common in England, especially in the south. The hunting of them became a cottage industry in rural Wiltshire from the late 17th century to the early 20th. The earliest known description of the truffle is by Tancred Robinson in 1693. “Those observed in England are all included in a studded Bark or coat; the Tubercules resembling the Capsules or Seed–Vessels of some Mallows and Aloeas the inward substance is of the consistence of the fleshy part in a young chestnut, of a paste colour, of a rank or hircine odour, and unsavoury, streaked with many white Veins or threads, as in some Animals’ Testicles; the whole is of a globose figure, though unequal and chunky”. The size can range from 3mm to that of a grapefruit, can be found near trees or in forested areas, and are especially associated with beech trees which do not give too much shade. The first definitively English truffle was the ‘Trub’, documented and written up in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1693.

Truffles have held a certain mystique for many years in history as well as today, but just what is that that makes them so special?

A Christmas Custom

on Tuesday, 10 December 2013. Posted in Traditions and Folklore

Mummers’ plays were an important part of Christmas for many agricultural labourers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These seem to be first recorded in the mid 18th century and although there are medieval precedents the connections between the two are uncertain. The later ones provided an opportunity for poorly paid labourers to make some extra income by taking their play around the houses of local farmers and gentry where they would normally receive food, drink and some money.


Ganderflanking with Eminem

on Thursday, 05 December 2013. Posted in Traditions and Folklore

It all started with an interview on the Radio Wiltshire morning show on the last Friday in November. I was there to talk about the Lacock Unlocked project, Wiltshire dialect and the Wiltshire Folk Life audio archive held at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre. After spouting ‘The Farmers Rant’, a rap in Wiltshire dialect, we talked about old dialect words, long forgotten or fallen out of use. Presenter Sim was much taken with the word ‘ganderflanking’ meaning aimless messing around.

Within minutes of the interview concluding he had begun a campaign to get the word into the Oxford English Dictionary. Listeners were encouraged to use the word and the editor of the OED was interviewed and later confirmed that the word did exist (phew!)


Easter Folklore

on Saturday, 23 March 2013. Posted in Traditions and Folklore

Easter was the feast of the pagan goddess of spring, Eoste. It was a tradition to give a gift of coloured eggs which represented the new life of the countryside.

Hot cross buns were baked on Good Friday and were ‘carefully hung up in the inglenook, and kept for medicinal purposes’! A small piece of the dried bun was grated and mixed with water – it was drunk as a cure for diarrhoea, but to work it must be hand baked on a Good Friday! The provision of hot cross buns on Good Friday is thought to be one of the strongest surviving symbols of pre-reformation England.

It has been said that to wash clothes on Good Friday was considered an awful sin. A story is told ‘A young woman went a –washing on Good Friday. As she were about it, up comes a gentleman, and he asks the way somewhers, most pleasant like’. While he stands talking, the woman chances to look at his feet, and discovers he has a cloven foot; so she answers him very shortly, and refuses the money he offers her. ‘Whereupon the gentleman, who, of course, is the Devil, walks away, and the woman, in a fright, puts aside her washing’. You should always wear something new on Easter Sunday, ‘for good fortune’. A new pair of gloves was the luckiest item, and these were often given as an Easter present. Told by A. Clark in 1893.


Family entertainment enjoyed by all...

on Thursday, 04 March 2010. Posted in Traditions and Folklore

Victorian style!

Hundreds of visitors of all ages enjoyed a great day of family entertainment at our Victorian Day just over a week ago.

Dr Cuttlebung and his brother Decimus were on hand to deal with any medical emergencies – however as Victorian medicines contained cocaine, strychnine and lead its lucky no-one required first aid. The cure could well have killed them!

Family entertainment enjoyed by all...
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