Bibliography of Nottinghamshire Folk Plays & Related Customs

W.Howitt (1838)

Source:
William Howitt (Auth.)
THE RURAL LIFE OF ENGLAND: IN TWO VOLUMES - VOL. II [Christmas and Plough-Monday]
London, Longman, Orme, Brown, Green & Longmans, 1838, pp.217- 218

Page 217 mentions a Christmas play witnessed at Calden-Low, Staffs. This included the characters; St. George, King of Egypt, Saba and Doctor. Page 218 gives the following details of Plough Monday - cited several times by W.E.Doubleday.

"New Year's Day is yet a day of salutations; Valentine's-Day has yet some sportive observance amongst the young; and Plough-Monday, here and there, in the thoroughly agricultural districts, sends out its motley team. This consists of the farm-servants and labourers. They are dressed in harlequin guise, with wooden swords, plenty of ribbons, faces daubed with white-lead, red-ochre, and lamp-black. One is always dressed in woman's clothes and armed with a besom, a sort of burlesque mixture of Witch and Columbine. Another drives the team of men-horses with a long wand, at the end of which is tied a bladder instead of a lash; so that blows are given without pain, but with plenty of noise. The insolence of these Plough-bullocks, as they are called, which might accord with ancient license, but does not at all suit modern habits, has contributed more than anything else, to put them down. They visited every house of any account, and solicited a contribution in no very humble terms. If refused, their practice was to plough up the garden walk, or do some other mischief. One band ploughed up the palisades of a widow lady of our acquaintance, and having to appear before a magistrate for it, and to pay damages, never afterwards visited that neighbourhood. In some places I have known them to enter houses, whence they could only be ejected by the main power of the collected neighbours; for they extended their excursions often to the distance of ten miles or more, and where they were most unknown there practised the most insolence. Nobody regrets the discontinuance of this usage."

William Howitt (1792-1879) was born in Heanor, Derbys., of Quaker parents, but was educated away from home. He spent his early adult life in Nottingham, becoming an Alderman, before moving to Surrey.

Index Terms:
Locations: Heanor, Derbys. (SK4346); Nottingham, Notts. (SK5739); Calden-Low, Staffs. (SK0848)
Years: Publ. 1838
Subjects: Plough-Monday; Malicious Ploughing; Plough Trailing; Retribution; Court Case; Plough-Bullocks; Christmas; Play; St. George; King of Egypt; Saba; Doctor
Archives: Ref.: TD00263

Indexed by Peter Millington. Last updated Feb.1992

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