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CHAP. 7. composed the garlands, which were also formed upon a frame-work of Kit-dressing. willow twigs, interwoven together. The maidens of the village, attired in
their best, carried the kits on their heads, attended by the young men. In the evening a happy company assembled at the Wheat Sheaf inn, where dancing and merriment concluded the day's festivities.
The miners have also their festivities. On the 13th of May they dress their cowes or coves (the places in which they deposit the ore) with oak branches, garlands and other rural decorations, which for one day at least, give these dreary spots a bright and benignant aspect. This is called the miners' holiday: a solid dinner of beef, pudding and ale is provided on the occasion, and when the weather permits, the whole of these festivities is conducted in the open air. The Bar-masters preside; music and old songs conclude the carousals of the day.
Churches and houses are dressed at the time of Christmas with evergreens in this county as they are generally in every part of England. Mr. Rhodes mentions the traces of a custom, which once prevailed in various parts of the kingdom, but which is now nearly obliterated. When unmarried women died, they were usually attended to the grave by the companions of their early years, who, in performing the last sad offices of friendship, accompanied the bier of the deceased with garlands, tastefully composed of wreaths of flowers, and every emblem of youth, purity and loveliness, that imagination could suggest. When the body was interred, the garlands were borne into the church, and hung up in a conspicuous situation, in memory of the departed. There is (adds Mr. Rhodes) something extremely simple and affecting in this village custom. In Hathersage church there were, when Mr. Rhodes saw the place, several of these memorials of early dissolution, but only one of a recent date.—In several of the churches of this county similar memorials are to be seen; and at Glossop, some years ago, it is asserted that a garland consisting of ribbons, artificial flowers, &c. cost the young men of the place no less than thirty pounds.
Mr. Pilkington, in mentioning the peculiar customs of the inhabitants of Derbyshire says, that in the liberty of the Peak Forest, when a person dies, it is customary to invite every family residing within the district, to attend the funeral, and a cake or a paper of biscuits is given to every individual who comes to the house of the deceased. The custom is somewhat different in the Low Peak. At Wirksworth and its neighbourhood, it is usual among the lower class of people to invite their relations and acquaintance, each of whom, according to his ability, contributes towards the expense of the funeral. When invitations are sent, enquiry is generally made, whether it is to be a free or a pay burial.
The village wakes or feasts are very prevalent seasons of festivity and amusement throughout this county. They begin on a Sunday, and continue through most, or perhaps all, of the ensuing week. Mr. Farey says that these rural festivals were thought by many well-informed persons with whom he conversed, to be rather beneficial than otherwise. A thorough cleaning of the cottage, and mostly a white-washing of its rooms, annually precede the wakes: the children and parents are then, if possible, new clothed: previous economy is exercised by most for accumulating the means
of providing meat, ale, &c. and various exertions are made on these recurring occasions, which tend to keep alive feelings and principles, which Wakes. otherwise the poor-law system might utterly extinguish. Mr. Pilkington however observes, that at these times, it frequently happens that the lowest class of people by their festivity contract so large debts, that they are scarcely able to discharge them before the return of another wake. Thus, in consequence of their extravagance for a few days, they will become embarrassed and distressed throughout the remainder of the year.-Undoubtedly these festivities are frequently abused, but we incline to the opinion of Mr. Farey and his friends, that upon the whole, the good arising from occasional festivity and a little domestic pride among the poor, considerably counterbalances the evil.-In some villages, entertainments were formerly provided at the public houses; and the inhabitants, who are customers, might freely come and eat, without any charge, excepting for the liquor they drank; but this custom is now very little known.-The disgraceful sports of bull-baiting, badger and bear-baiting, cock-fighting and throwing, which were formerly very common at these wakes, are now falling into disuse.-Cocking and dog-fighting continue, we regret to say, to be too much practised, and specimens of the pugilistic art are occasionally exhibited at these festivities.
In Dodsworth's manuscripts, in the Bodleian library, there is the following record. "The inhabitants of Elvaston and Ockbrook were formerly required by mutual agreement to brew four ales, and every ale of one quar- Whitsun ter of malt, and at their own costs and charges, betwixt this and the feast Ales. of St. John the baptist next coming. And every inhabitant of Ockbrook shall be at the several ales, and every husband and his wife were to pay two-pence, every cottager one penny, and all the inhabitants of the said towns of Elvaston, Thurlaston and Ambaston, shall have and receive all the profits and advantages, coming of the said ales, to the use and behoof of the said church of Elvaston; and the inhabitants of the said towns of Elvaston, Thurlaston and Ambaston, shall brew eight ales betwixt this and the feast of St. John the Baptist, at which ales, and every one of them, the inhabitants shall come and pay as before rehearsed, who, if he be away at one ale to pay at the t'oder ale for both, or else to send his money. And the inhabitants of Ockbrook shall carry all manner of tymber, being in the Dale wood now felled, that the said priest chyrch of the said towns of Elvaston, Thurlaston and Ambaston shall occupy to the use of the said church." This appears to be the ancient method of paying money for the repair of country churches.*
The Whitsun Ales were derived from the Agapai, or love-feasts of the early christians, and were so denominated from the churchwardens buying, and laying in from presents also, a large quantity of malt, which they brewed into beer, and sold out in the church or elsewhere. The profits, as well as those from sundry games, there being no poor rates, were given to the poor, for whom this was one mode of provision, according to the christian rule, that all festivities should be rendered innocent by alms. Aubrey thus describes a Whitsun Ale. "In every parish was a church-house, to which belonged spits, crocks, and other utensils for dressing provisions. Here the housekeepers met. The young people were there too, and had dancing, bowling, shooting at butts, &c. the ancients sitting gravely by, and looking on." It seems too that a tree was erected by the church door, where a banner was placed, and maidens stood gathering contributions. An arbour, called Robin Hood's bower, was also put up in the church-yard. The modern Whitsun Ale consists of a lord and lady of the ale, a steward, sword-bearer, purse-bearer, mace-bearer, train-bearer or page, fool, and pipe and tabor man, with a company of young men and women, who dance in a barn.
Football continues to be played at in many parts of England on ShroveTuesday and Ash-Wednesday, but the mode of playing this game at Ashbourn and Derby, differs very much from the usual practice of this sport. In the town of Derby the contest lies between the parishes of St. Peter and All Saints, and the goals to which the ball is to be taken are, Nun's mill for the latter, and the Gallow's balk on the Normanton road for the former. None of the other parishes of the borough take any direct part in the contest, but the inhabitants of all join in the sport, together with persons from all parts of the adjacent country. The players are young men from eighteen to thirty or upwards, married as well as single, and many veterans who retain a relish for the sport are occasionally seen in the very heat of the conflict. The game commences in the market-place, where the partisans of each parish are drawn up on each side; and, about noon, a large ball is tossed up in the midst of them. This is seized upon by some of the strongest and most active men of each party. The rest of the players immediately close in upon them, and a solid mass is formed. It then becomes the object of each party to impel the course of the crowd towards their particular goal. The struggle to obtain the ball, which is carried in the arms of those who have possessed themselves of it, is then violent, and the motion of this human tide heaving to and fro, without the least regard to consequences, is tremendous. Broken shins, broken heads, torn coats and lost hats, are among the minor accidents of this fearful contest, and it frequently happens that persons fall in consequence of the intensity of the pressure, fainting and bleeding beneath the feet of the surrounding mob. But it would be difficult to give an adequate idea of this ruthless sport: a Frenchman passing through Derby remarked, that if Englishmen called this playing, it would be impossible to say what they would call fighting. Still the crowd is encouraged by respectable persons attached to each party, and who take a surprising interest in the result of the day's sport; urging on the players with shouts, and even handing to those who are exhausted, oranges and other refreshment. The object of the St. Peters' party is to get the ball into the water, down the Morledge brook into the Derwent as soon as they can, while the All Saints party endeavour to prevent this, and to urge the ball westward. The St. Peter players are considered to be equal to the best water-spaniels, and it is certainly curious to see two or three hundred men up to their chins in the Derwent continually ducking each other. The numbers engaged on both sides exceed a thousand, and the streets are crowded with lockers on. The shops are closed, and the town presents the aspect of a place suddenly taken by storm.-The origin of this violent game is lost in its antiquity, but there exists a tradition, that a cohort of Roman soldiers, marching through the town to Derventio, or Little Chester, were thrust out by the unarmed populace, and this mode of celebrating the occurrence has been continued to the present day. It is even added that this conflict occurred in the year 217, and that the Roman troops at Little Chester were slain by the Britons.-This game is played in a similar manner at Ashbourn, but the institution of it there is of a modern date. In Scotland, it appears that there is an ancient game at
"Sir Frederick Morton Eden, in the "Statistical account of Scotland," says that at the parish of Seone, county of Perth, every year on Shrove Tuesday the bachelors and married men drew
football which resembles the Derby football very closely.-A desperate CHAP. 7. game at football, in which the ball is struck by the feet of the players, is Football. also played at Ashover and at other wakes.
At Duffield wakes an ancient custom or right is kept up of hunting wild ́animals in the forest there. This is called the squirrel hunt. The young Squirrel men of the village assemble in troops on the wakes Monday, some with hunting. horns, some with pans, and others with various articles calculated to make a great noise. They then proceed in a body to Kedleston park, and with shouting and the noise of the instruments, frighten the poor little animals until they drop from the trees and are taken by the hunters. After taking several in this manner, the hunters go back to Duffield, release the squirrels, and re-commence hunting them again in a similar manner.
Hunting is a favourite diversion among the higher, middle, and even the lower classes of the present day, throughout the county.
On Easter Monday and Tuesday an ancient custom prevails at Buxton called lifting, as it consists in lifting a person in a chair three times from Lifting. the ground. On Monday the men lift the women, and on Tuesday the women retaliate on the men. The ceremony ceases, however, at twelve o'clock each day. This is performed mostly in the open streets, though sometimes it is insisted on and submitted to within the house. The lifters, as they are called, go in parties, and, with a permitted freedom, seize the person whom they intend to lift; and having persuaded or obliged him or her to sit on the chair, lift whoever it is three times, with cheering, and then require a small compliment. The women's lifting-day, partaking more of the burlesque, is the most amusing. A little resistance, real or affected, creates no small merriment. The usage is a vulgar commemoration of the resurrection, which the festival of Easter celebrates.
The throwing of quoits is a very prevalent amusement in many parts of Games. the county. Skittle playing is also much practised.
Cricket playing, bowling and billiards may be mentioned as forming part of the recreations of the middle and higher classes of society.
The afternoons and evenings of most of the fairs are devoted to amuse- Fairs. ment and jollity, among the younger people. When these form the principal concern of the day, and the stalls are chiefly furnished with ribbons, toys, cakes, &c. it is called a gig-fair. Shows, mountebanks, gipsies, and occasionally stage-plays are met with on these occasions.
Races are held at Derby, Chesterfield, Buxton, Wirksworth and at Alfreton. At Derby the race-ground is on a fine open piece of land on the banks of the Derwent; and the race-stand is a very elegant and commodious building. There are stands, of handsome structure, at Chesterfield and Buxton.
themselves up at the cross of Scone, on opposite sides; a ball was then thrown up, and they played from two o'clock until sun-set. The game was this: he who at any time got the ball into his hands, run with it until overtaken by one of the opposite party; and then, if he could shake himself loose from those on the opposite side who seized him, he run on; if not, he threw the ball from him, unless it was wrested from him by the other party, but no person was allowed to kick it. The object of the married men was to hang it, that is, to put it three times into a small hole in the moor, which was the dool or limit on the one hand: that of the bachelors was to drown it, or dip it three times in a deep place in the river, the limit on the other: the party who could effect either of these objects won the game; if neither won, the ball was cut into equal parts at sunset. In the course of the play there was usually some violence between the parties; but it is a proverb in this part of the country, that "All is fair at the ball of Scone."
There are four theatres for dramatic entertainments in the county; Theatricals. namely, at Derby, Chesterfield, Buxton and Ashbourn.-In most of the principal places there are assembly rooms, which will be more particularly mentioned in the accounts of the towns.
The amusement of archery has been introduced within the last ten years, by the nobility and gentry of the county. Meetings are annually held, during several weeks of the summer, at Chatsworth and Kedleston, and occasionally in the pleasure-grounds of the subscribers. Prizes are awarded to the successful archers, and the sport of the day usually concludes with a supper and ball.
The superstitions of this county resemble, for the most part, those entertained by the vulgar in other districts of England; but by the spread of information they are rapidly dying away. Formerly, in the Peak Hundreds, many of the miners believed that the motions of hazel-twigs, held in the hand, would indicate the situation of lead and other ore; and it was also thought that meteors appeared over such veins. This latter opinion may have had some rational foundation, but the uncertainty of such phenomena would suffice to render it very fallacious. It was also thought that the blooming of pease had some connexion with the fire-damp, but this and other similar superstitions are now completely exploded. We agree with Mr. Farey, that it would be generally beneficial if the Astrological nonsense which is still permitted, by the Stationers' Company, to occupy several pages of Moore's Almanac, were entirely expunged from a work which circulates extensively among the most ignorant and most credulous portion of the community.-It has been asserted that a strange belief in fairies still exists about Matlock, and in some of the romantic valleys; and it is possible that among such scenery superstition may continue to be very impressive, but we are certain that all such follies are on the decline. Some persons at Castleton are said to imagine that the sun dances up and down on Easter Sunday morning, when seen at its rising from Castleton hill ; and even such a circumstance may be accounted for, by the natural laws of refraction, as the beams have to pass through various mountain mists, which offer different media for the light.-From the same cause the rainbows are vivid and more varied in the north Peak than in almost any other part of England.
Sitting in the parish stocks is fallen entirely into disuse throughout Derbyshire; and yet, strange to say, the stocks are frequently repaired or reerected. We suspect that some parish-job is the cause of this ridiculous custom being upheld.
Money is given to the mole-catchers in many villages for destroying Mole-catch moles; and we have seen an account for mole-catching at Etwall, which ing, &c. amounts on an average, for the last ten years, of more than ten pounds annually. For 1828, it was £11. 13s. 10d.—Sparrows and other small birds are caught by the boys and taken to the parish officers, who reward them at the rate of a farthing per head.
The parish pounds for stray or trespassing cattle, are well built and regulated in most parts of the county. Many villages have their small local prisons or round-houses. There is a very good building of this sort at Ticknall, and we are happy in saying that these places of confinement