Some Shropshire Shrovetide Stories
Owdo me owd butties, how many pancakes will you have?, tell the truth now. When I was a young’un I used to be envious of the other childers telling the teacher that they’d had 10 or 15 or 20 whilst I’d only had three, it was years afore I realised that they may have bin serving up a plateful of Tommy Rot (lies). I’m a big believer in “better belly bosted, than gud fud wasted” but I still conna manage more than four or five.
Although Shroppieoomon makes truly sebunctious pancakes – I’ve seen batter.
A bit o’history
We tend to call it Pancake Day and it used to be known as Goodies Day so why Shrove Tuesday? It comes frum the obsolete verb to shrive which meant to confess and receive absolution for one’s sins. A bell was rung as a call to confession and this later became the pancake bell.
Why do we eat pancakes, as it is the last day afore lent it is a chance to use up some of the ingredients that we are supposed to give up. Some say that the ingredients are representative:
Eggs – Creation
Flour – The staff of life
Salt – Wholesomeness (we dunna put salt in ours mind)
Milk – Purity
The Pancake Bell
Originally used as a call to come for “shrift” (confession) afore the great fast and later supposedly only as a warning to prepare the pancake mix, for as I dunna need to tell yer, you have to leave the batter to stand in order to make the best pancakes, we alus make ours the night afore on Collopy Monday.
In 1855 the gud folk of Oswestry were deprived of a Pancake Bell as no sexton or bell ringer could be found to pull the rope.
In the 1880’s Pancake bells were still being rung in Shrewsbury at St Chad’s, St Mary’s and the Abbey but it had long bin discontinued at St Julian’s and St Alkmund’s because the churchwardens refused payment.
In Newport and Edgmond the bell was rung at eleven o’clock, In Newport they rang the furst and seventh bells to make a pin-pan sound.
The bell was also a signal for ‘prentices day to begin, apprentices would finish work on the first strike of the bell even if they were in the middle of a job. In Norton-in-Hales the locals would “bradle” any mon found wurkin’ after straight up twelves (noon), this meant laying him on the Bradle Stone on the village green (it’s still there) and chastising him with slaps and thumps, later this was replaced with being bumped and rolled upon the stone.
the childers of Edgmond used to sing:
Pancake Day is a very happy day, If you dunna give us a holiday we'll all run away, Where shall we run, up Pipers Lane, And here comes the teacher with a great big cane!
I dunna know if it had owt to do with the school movin’ the half-day holiday to Ash Wednesday in 1876.
We simply toss the pancakes so they dunna burn, as Pasquils Palin wrote in 1619:
And every man and maide doe take their turne, And tosse their pancakes up for feare they burne.
Apparently the idea of pancake races date back to 1445 in Olney, Buckinghamshire when a lady was in the middle of making pancakes when the confession bell rang out. She raced off to church still carrying her frying pan and wearing her apron and a sport was born.
Pancakes were often called fraises in Shropshire but a fraise was a thicker kind of pancake, eaten with a sweet sauce and made with a stiffer batter especially around Stottesden and the Clee Hills.
Clippin’ the Church
Frum the word “clyppan” meaning to embrace or clasp. At many Shropshire churches such as Rushbury, Ellesmere and Wellington the Clippin’ o’the church was carried out. This involved childers forming a circle round the church and standing with their backs to the building all joining hands, this was done to show attachment to the church. Clippin’ in Ellesmere was discontinued in 1817 and in Welllington in 1854.
Threading the Needle
This is a game that the childers ‘ould play afore Clippin’ took place. Players stand in two rows across frum each other holding hands in an arch with the person opposite, players go under the arches and join the end of the line. Players usually sing a “Thread the Needle” song such as :
"Shrove Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday when Jack went to plough His mother made pancakes, she didna know how She tipped 'em, she tossed 'em, she made 'em so black With soot frum the chimbley, that poisoned poor Jack"
A less harsh version was sung in Potherbatch (Pulverbatch) where instead of soot, Jack’s mother “put so much pepper in”.
Trib-and-Knurr (or Dogstick)
This was a popular game with young men at Shrovetide. The Knurr was a hard wooden ball, the Trib was a receptacle where it was placed and the Dogstick was a sort of club used for striking the Knurr. The player who hit it the furthest distance in a given number of strokes was the winner.
Ludlow Rope Pulling Contest
This was a tug o’war competition. At noon the bells were rung for one hour, to warn folks to make their batter and to warn shopkeepers to board up their premises. At 4pm, frum the safety of the market hall (a part frum 1838 when he teased the crowd by delaying throwing the rope and was hit in the face by a snowball), the mayor ‘ould appear at the window and lower a 36ft long rope, with a coloured wooden ball at each end, to the leaders of the two teams, ensuring that each had the correct coloured end. The red team was the residents of Broad Street and Castle wards and the blue team was the wards of Corve Street and Old Street. The red team had to try and dip their ball into the Teme at Lower Broad Street and the blue team via Old Street (and later into the Bullring). It was the cause of much excitement with all classes frum the aristocracy down to the humble labourer taking part. It was the best of three pulls, each time a team lost they held a collection to “buy” the rope in order to try again. This money was somewhat predictably spent on ale. In the 1850s it had gone out of fashion and was discontinued due to drunken violence, although Hare wrote about it taking place in 1898.
This has been revived recently, with teams frum the Bull and the Feathers trying to pull each other into their old carriage entrances. This now takes place on Boxing day but Shrovetide battles are now going to continue with a pancake race.
Danker me! if I dunna stop chunnerin on it ull be Ash Wednesday afore we know it, thank’ee to anyone who is still reading this far down, dunna forget to make your batter in time to let it stand and play nicely – shroppiemon