Customs in the Penistone Area

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Penistone Feast Weekend
Penistone Feast. From 'Huddersfield Exposed' (edited): Penistone Feast was traditionally held on the weekend following 24 June, the Nativity Day of St. John the Baptist the saint of which Penistone Church is dedicated. It often included athletics and musical events. A local custom was that farmers would begin haymaking on the first day of the Feast, before attending in the evening.

Chris Heath's book 'Denby and District IV' (p124) gives some insight into feasts and fairs as popular entertainments in the 19th century. The early attractions would have been such as fortune tellers, Punch & Judy, waxworks, freak shows, jugglers, fire-eaters, illusionists and peep shows. Chris describes refreshments as typically being hot peas, gingerbread and nuts but we could assume more than a few beers too.

In those harder times, Feasts would have been very popular as a diversion from the hard work, and when people normally worked for six days of the week. Mechanised funfairs were uncommon in those days but perhaps a simple carousel, roll-a-penny, shooting gallery and perhaps some boxing were possible. You can imagine the strapping farm lads volunteering to take on the fair's boxer, or join in the tug-o'-war. We can might gain some insight into the 1934 Feast Weekend from the Huddersfield Exposed historical website, referring to a Sheffield Independent report on the event (published 2nd July 1934):

Penistone Feast: Open-Air Festival for Hospitals.
The Penistone Feast, a survival of ancient times, and always held during the week-end following 24th June each year, is in full swing. It started on Saturday, and summer-like weather prevailing, a huge crowd assembled in the Recreation Ground, where the pleasure fair, with its many attractions, was crowded until midnight. Yesterday afternoon, the 49th annual open-air musical festival was held in a field adjoining the Feast ground, the proceeds being for the hospitals and kindred institutions. The chorus of 90 members occupied a raised platform and an orchestra of 20 persons were in front. The singing of the special hymns and choruses from the "Messiah" and the "Creation" was creditably done under the conductorship of Mr. A.W. Jagger. The Denby Silver Band, under the conductorship of Mr. W. Kaye, and the Hepworth Iron Works Brass Band, conducted by Mr. Ernest Kaye, each played a selection, and massed for the playing of a march, conducted by Mr. Ernest Kaye. The total receipts are £43 6s. 9d.

Whatever 'Penistone Feast' might have been originally, it was eventually supplanted by the travelling funfair and its date became disconnected from the original Feast of St John, which also included Penistone Sing and Penistone Music Festival.

Certainly from the 1970s and probably before, it was Marshall's Funfair in our area. From the noughties, Tuby's Funfair replaced it and it now holds funfairs twice a year (nominally), in the Spring and Autumn. It is still sometimes called 'Feast Weekend' by local people.

St John's Festival and Penistone Sing
From 1885/6 until the late 1960s or early 1970s, Penistone Church organised Penistone Sing on the first Sunday after the Feast (or 'Nativity') of St John. Most Facebook entries on the subject favoured the location as the old Vicarage lawn in fine weather and Penistone Church if wet, with Arnold White as secretary and taking donations. Another entry suggested land near the Showground, as I had thought. The Penistone Music festival also occurred at about the same time and was often held in the open air behind the Town Hall. That went on to become the Penistone Competitive Music festival, which continues to this day on the last Saturday of September each year and is now held at Penistone Grammar School.

The Sing went into decline and disappeared. Various reasons were talked about, such as: lack of support, a run of bad weather, poor advertising effort, but it might simply have been the disconnection between St John's Feast Weekend and the schedule of the travelling funfair which had taken over the actual Penistone Feast (see above). On its own, the Sing was not a big enough event and was attended mostly by a subset of the dwindling and largely elderly congregation of the time.

Rumours of its return have resurfaced from time to time. A Penistone 'Annual Folk Festival' was to be a Sing replacement as an annual event, but for Barnsley Council's haphazard Market Barn booking system which allowed a clash of bookings between an Artisan Fayre and a proposed Folk Festival. In the end, the second annual Folk Festival was cancelled. It did make a spurious come-back for one of the Parade weekends. See the Folk Festival Page.

Saint John is unusual in the church calendar in that it is his birth ('Nativity') that is commemorated rather than his death. In some countries, the Festival of St John is celebrated on St. John's Eve, 23rd June. Penistone Church still holds a St John's Festival each year, to commemorate the Saint to which the church is dedicated. It has a range of stalls and the visitors can visit the tower to see the bells, clock and bell-ringers. See the 1880s timeline for more background to the Sing.

Whitsuntide Walk
Whit Sunday, White Sunday or Whitsuntide is the name used in the UK for the Christian festival of Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter, when the descent of the Holy Spirit is commemorated. In early times was one of the stated times for baptism when those that were baptised put on white garments as an emblem of purity.

In our area, it was a big walking parade. Preparations for the Whitsuntide Walk would go on for months ready for a big procession. It was an important event on our local calendar and a great occasion for the children to wear their Sunday best or new clothes. It would be attended by schools, churches and chapels and more besides. Schools would take the lead in rotation each year and it was considered a great honour. Thurlstone Brass Band would play, people would sing and every church and chapel had a banner. The procession went all the way from Penistone to Millhouse Green, when I was small. After the event, children might go back for organised teas and games.

Whitsuntide was popular with churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike, with the same or a greater level of support as today's Penistone Mayor's Parade. It continued until the government changed the public holiday a few decades ago. It was as though the Government had abolished Whitsuntide and the parades fizzled out.

Whitsun Parade in Thurlstone Whitsun

Here are a couple of 1933 pictures of the crowd in Thurlstone waiting for the Whitsuntide Parade to come by. There are more on the old pictures page.

Good Friday Flour Ceremony
This Good Friday tradition has continued for more than three centuries in Penistone. Easter is an official holiday time in the UK, with both Good Friday and Easter Monday as Bank Holidays. The name of Easter comes from the Saxon 'Oster,' meaning 'To rise' as an important date on the church calendar to commemorate the resurrection. In Penistone, Bags of flour are handed out by the Penistone Mayor of the day to the 'Poor of the Parish of Penistone' in Penistone Church's 'Sensory Gardens', following a family service in Penistone Parish Church.

In 1559 William Turton (landowner of Denby) bequeathed a legacy of 'One Quarter of Rie to the Poor of the Parish of Penistone' every Good Friday, from the church porch, presumably by the Reverend. This is written on a large panel which can still be viewed in Penistone Church. Until the Town Hall was built in 1914, flour was given out from the church porch, after which it was distributed on the Town Hall steps by the Council Clerk. After Local Government Reorganisation of 1974, it became a mayoral duty, as Penistone now had a Town rather than a Parish Council and could have a mayor. In more recent times, the lower graveyard was renovated to become a 'Sensory Garden' and this became the place for the ceremony.

The picture below shows Penistone's Mayor of 2011, Cllr Carol Bradbury handing out the flour with the Bishop of Wakefield, Rt Rev Stephen Platten, watching on. An open service took place half an hour later in the Market Barn on a bright, sunny day. This was possibly the first time that the then new Market Barn had been used for a public event which wasn't a market.

Flour bequestBarn serviceWR directory scan (1)

The West Riding Directory of 1837 had some details (click the third thumbnail above and read the penultimate paragraph): 'Three Yearly Doles belong to the poor of the parish, viz., one quarter of rye, left by Wm. Turton, in 1559, out of a farm in Hoxley Gate, in Denby; 26s. 8d. left by Edward Booth, out of lands at Dean Head, near Hunshelf; and 20s. left by Wm. Rich, in 1673, out of lands at Hornthwaite.'

It continues:
'The poor of Penistone township have the rents of three cottages, purchased with £25 left by Fras. Burdett, Wm. Sotwell, and Joanna Swift. They have also two yearly rent charges , viz., 20s. left by Sir Thurston Bycliff and Alderman Micklethwaite, out of a farm at Silkstone; and 3s. left by John Wordsworth, out of Water Hall estate'.

Mr Turton's rye was changed to flour in 1905 (Penistone Almanac 1907) and given out in the porchway of Penistone Church. After the Town Hall was built in 1914, the large bags of flour were given away on the Town Hall steps, by the Council Clerk. After 1973/4, Penistone Urban District Council became a Town Council under 'Local Government Reorganisation' and acquired a Mayor. Following improvements to the lower end of the graveyard around 2008, to make it a 'Sensory Garden' the Flour Ceremony moved there and became a mayoral duty, with the reverend providing spiritual support.

Maundy Thursday 'Ale and Cake Day'
But we can see that the poor of Penistone are now missing out on another freebie: 'Ale and Cake Day'. Again from the West Riding Directory of 1837:

'The trustees of Shrewsbury Hospital, in Sheffield, are proprietors of the Great Tithes of Penistone, subject to the following yearly payments, viz., 6s 8d. for the reparation of the church windows; 6s. 8d. for the poor; and 3s. 4d. for bread and ale for the poor, on the Thursday before Easter.' The Charity Report of 1927 agreed but said that the sum of 6s 8d was not asked for nor received in the later years. It goes on: 'Bread and Ale continue to be distributed on the Thursday before Easter (Maundy Thursday) in the chancel of the church of Penistone, by one of the tenants of the trustees of the hospital'.

Some time between the 1837 Directory and the early years of the next century, the bread had become cake. A photo which has popped up on Facebook showing a group of people outside the walls of Penistone churchyard, next to the south entrance, where a banking rises above the road. There is a mixed group of 29 children standing on the road (no pavement at that time). A line of men four stands behind them on the banking, carrying jugs of ale and a basket. A further line of seven children leans against the church wall above them. Everyone has a hat or bonnet on of some sort.

The caption read: 'Ale and Cake Day Maundy Thursday Discontinued 190(x)' The 'x' might be 5, 8 0r 9, as the last digit was cut off in the picture.

Penistone Arts
There are two notable arts groups in the area which started as the 'Penistone & District Visual Arts Group.' It split into two groups: Hens' Teeth, which puts on 'Art at the Altar' event each November in Penistone Church, and Pennine Artists, with a series of 'Artisan Fayres' in the Market Barn each year. Both events are well-supported and both have plenty to see. As both groups had a common beginning, you might expect some cross-over at both venues. Similar craft fairs with some of the same people take place at Yummy Yorkshire (Ingbirchworth) and in Silkstone Church each year.

One event which looked like becoming a solid, annual tradition was Penistone Literary Festival (aka 'Pen-Lit'), which put on a series of workshops and talks by authors but was put on hold for 2017, with a Facebook hint that it could re-appear in 2018. In fact it also missed out 2018 and might never return. It attracted some well-known poets, writers and personalities such as Gyles Brandreth, a highly-versatile and perma-tanned entertainer; the 'Bard of Barnsley' Ian McMillan; comedian and singer Mike Harding and an ex-PGS scientist, Dr. Kukula, who has even appeared in US 'The Big Bang Theory' TV comedy series. The notable local author, Jacqueline Creek, also appeared. Jackie used to have the Spring Vale fancy dress shop.

An attempt was made in 2008 to establish an annual Penistone Arts Festival, in association with the now-defunct 'Penistone and District Community Partnership' (PDCP) but it somehow failed to gain traction and did not continue. The intention was to put on a wide range of artistic mini-events, including some rather innovative interactive musical sculptures in the churchyard and other places but an apparent lack of co-ordination and perhaps 'More Chiefs than Indians' in its organisation obstructed its progress.

A new initiative started in late 2017 by the ill-defined 'Penistone Area Team' (funded by Barnsley MB Council), for a new 'Penistone Arts Festival' week in March 2018, but perhaps in ignorance of the previous effort. The idea was a week of artistic events including workshops in pottery, painting, night photography, with poetry walks and open microphone sessions. It would culminate in 'An Audience with Willy Russel' (otherwise titled 'Educating Rita Meets Educating Yorkshire') 24th March 2018, hosted by Channel 4's Johnny Mitchell, star of the award-winning documentary, 'Educating Yorkshire.'

The Paramount would show two popular Willy Russell films, 'Educating Rita' and 'Shirley Valentine' to support the new festival. Some events were also associated with the Barnsley-based 'Hear My Voice Festival' which is a three-year project of creativity, poetry and words, managed by Barnsley Museums. See Penistone Arts Week (Facebook).

'Spaw Sunday'
Penistone Mug from Hallmark Card ShopThis event dates back centuries on the first Sunday of May. Gunthwaite Spa lies about 2 Miles North of Penistone (OS: SE 2431 0614). Its waters are supposed to have miraculous healing powers, if taken in the morning. The history of this annual event is lost in the mists of time but it certainly dates back several centuries.

There are old reports of it being a meeting of 'gentry and peasantry' in the middle ages but you can be sure that the hard-working poor also joined in the festivities, which would have included music and beer. At one time it had become so boisterous and drunken that it was actually banned. In the early 17th century, bathing in the cold 'chalybeate' spring waters was thought to bring good health but this custom goes back much earlier than that.

Originally, the water came from a spring emerging by a little stream and rough undergrowth bordering the road. A later improvement at Gunthwaite was an iron pipe sticking out of the wall with a metal cup hanging on a chain. The visitor would stand in the pool of spa water to enjoy it and this arrangement also suggested the possibility of bathing. They would have shrugged off the cold water in those harder times.

A newspaper report in the 1980s said that a grandmother with arthritis and a spinal disease had made a great improvement after visiting the Spa over a two-week period. Within three years she was 'Fit as a fiddle'. One old report was that the waters could cure baldness.

The pipe eventually corroded and the cup became battered and worn. Around the 1990s, the spa was renovated again. This time, it was set apart from the road and tidied up with a neat stone surround. Barnsley MB Council's health inspectors declared it 'fit to drink'. Actually the water is very clear and pure and easily drinkable. Its taste is often described as having a hint of 'rotten eggs', with a mildly sulphurous smell.

From an unspecified old book:
'From time immemorial the first Sunday of May was called Spa Sunday, when people came from far and near to drink the water at Gunthwaite Spa. Stalls were set up to feed the people, and it must have been a gay and lively sight to see them singing and dancing by the water's edge. Little is known of its origin, but people in the district had wonderful faith in the spring water, and looked upon it as a "cure all." Other days the spring was just "water" but the first Sunday in May it assumed miraculous properties. Pilgrims brought bottles or cups, and "supped" the water, supposed to come from a nearby silver mine. An old work records that the Spa was good for "scurvy," inflammations, liver complaints and other disorders.'

SpaSpa Sunday
Spa SundaySpaThurlstone Brass Band

As a communal event it is often well attended. Usually, Thurlstone Brass Band comes along to make it more of an occasion and typically with someone making tea and selling buns. In 2011 perhaps fifty people turned up, tasted the waters and sat around listening to the band. It is the perfect excuse for a pleasant walk from Penistone.

Collop Monday
This old custom for Shrove Monday had been widespread but died out in the 19th century. According to the Penistone historian John Ness Dransfield, people ate eggs and collops on Shrove Monday in our area. Collops were slices of bacon. Of course, the old pancake tradition of Shrove Tuesday still continues as always (see below), but nobody remembers the collops and eggs tradition these days.

The Boundary Walk
The 'Beating the Bounds' was an old custom throughout the land, going back even to pre-conquest days. A parade of old and young villagers would walk the boundaries of the parish led by the parish priest and church officials. Most accounts give ‘Rogationtide’ as the traditional date for a boundary walk but the 1878 Penistone Almanack prefers Ascension Day, described thus: 'In early times set apart in honour of our Lord's Ascension into heaven. On this day the parish boundaries are frequently perambulated.'

Rogation Sunday is the fifth Sunday after Easter. Village boys (including choirboys) would have been beaten at each boundary stone or bumped into each stone, so that they would never forget the boundaries or where the boundary stones were. Prayers would be said for protection and blessings on the land.

The tradition is well explained on this Kent website but can easily be found elsewhere. From Wikipedia:
'The ceremony had an important practical purpose. Checking the boundaries was a way of preventing encroachment by neighbours; sometimes boundary markers would be moved, or lines obscured, and a folk memory of the true extent of the parish was necessary to maintain integrity of borders by embedding knowledge in oral traditions.'
  The boundaries would also define which people had a right to be buried at their local church.

In the olden days, boundaries were very important and disputes erupted between adjacent communities which could lead to fighting or even murder. A boundary dispute between Holmfirth and Thurlstone had such an end in the days when the land between Holmfirth and Thurlstone was mostly moorland. The justice system at that time had depended on the status of the complainants and nobody but charged with murder (see History Timeline 1524).

In modern times, it is no longer led by the parish priest and the children are less likely to be beaten. Local Boundary Walks are now usually held for charitable purposes but do they help to keep an old tradition alive in a different form. There are other boundary walks in the district which continue separately around Oxspring, Penistone and Thurgoland. Penistone's Charity Boundary Walk is organised by Penistone Round Table and it starts and finishes at Cubley Hall each year, for a fee towards the charity fund. A Penistone boundary map is on display outside Cubley Hall. See Visit Penistone for a map of the walk.

Remembrance Sunday
Poppy Appeal RBLThis is, of course, a national tradition and can be found in cities, towns and villages throughout the land. Most places will have a War Memorial. Penistone War Memorial was erected in 1924 but, perhaps surprisingly, new ones have appeared in the district in recent times. A new Old Boys War Memorial, to remember the fallen alumni of Penistone Grammar School, was set up in 2012 near the car park entrance of newly-built school (Friday ceremony before Remembrance Sunday). The original WW1 Memorial had been a carved oak tablet associated with a memorial bookcase in the library of the earlier school which was demolished.

A new Thurlstone War Memorial stone was commissioned following the formation of 'Thurlstone Community Group' in 2011. The stone had been donated by Roger Hunt of Hillside Quarry, designed by Jim Millner (stonemason and landscape gardener) and the lettering inscribed by Elizabeth Stokoe. It was inaugurated on Sunday 4th May 2014 and the focus for the Thurlstone Remembrance Ceremony of November 2014. A new Thurgoland War Memorial was also erected and inaugurated in 2015. There is a lot of detail about the Thurgoland fallen on the 'Weebly' page.

Penistone Remembrance Day continues to be well-supported and does not show any signs of diminishing. The procession starts from (Upper) Back Lane by the Bowling Club (not the other Back Lane by the Market Barn). Led by Thurlstone Brass Band, it proceeds along Park Avenue and Market Street to Shrewsbury Road and meets with the rest of the community near the War Memorial outside Penistone Church. It includes British Legion personnel, Penistone Mayor, Councillors, Cadets, Penistone Scouts & Cubs and members of the public. It also includes serving members of the armed forces when they are available.

The names of the fallen are commemorated and words of Remembrance uttered. As the clock chimes eleven o'clock, two minutes of contemplative silence follows, to be concluded by a bugled 'Last Post'. Wreaths are laid on the Memorial base. The procession and public then proceeds into Penistone Church for the indoor Remembrance Service. After the service, the procession re-convenes and heads down St Mary's Street towards the Royal British Legion, for restorative beers. In recent times, there is also a Remembrance Ceremony at Penistone Grammar School, on the Friday before Remembrance Sunday; attended by pupils, teachers, councillors and the Principal. PGS has a permanent memorial to its alumni fallen, near the car park entrance.

Penistone Community Bonfire
2011 fireThis commemorates the anniversary of the arrest of Guido 'Guy' Fawkes on 5th November 1605 for attempting to cause an explosion in a cellar beneath the House of Lords. This was called the 'Gunpowder Plot' and would have changed the course of our country's history, had it succeeded and killed the King and others.

"Remember, Remember the Fifth of November,
Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
I see no Reason why Gunpowder, Treason,
Should ever be Forgot..."

Of course, this is also a national event but Penistone always does a good job of Bonfire Night. It might also be called Guy Fawkes Night but never 'Fireworks Night' (RT please note), as that literally 'loses the Plot'. Please see the link to Bonfire page below, for much more about the history and our local efforts.

Penistone Show
Old Pen ShowNot so much a custom as a phenomenon. This has a long history (see Timeline 1854) and its location has moved around a bit. It was for a time held on what we now call Watermeadows Park (by the viaduct) and on fields near Church View Road. Its settled home is now 'The Showground', a recreational area donated to the people of Penistone many years ago. The Show has had a few near-misses of being nearly cancelled for a number of reasons. Some were the Foot & Mouth Disease, BSE in cattle and even a gun siege in the 1980s.

Parking is always a problem in Penistone and the Town Centre Car Park is time-limited. That is not enough either for Penistone town centre or Penistone Show but the show sensibly arranges for its own parking on the field. Employees of Tesco will turn away any Show visitors trying to use the sign-posted Penistone Town Centre car park (owned by Barnsley Council but run by Tesco). Penistone Show parking will be clearly sign-posted and marshalled an Penistone has easy access by railway. See Location.

Penistone Parade Weekend
This is a weekend of festivities and entertainment and is always a great magnet for visitors. The whole of Penistone will turn out to watch and play. There are effectively two separate events, a programme of music on Parade Saturday and the Penistone Mayor's Parade on Sunday, with a Gala for the afternoon on the Showground. The Parade is now fixed on the second Sunday of June and it goes back a long time in Penistone's history. It has variously passed through the council estate of Victoria St., Ward St, and Green Road or at one time down Shrewsbury Road. It used to go right through Spring Vale to return via Green Road.

Now in these mollycoddled times the route is far shorter and not may people are on foot. The route now is from Talbot Road (near the Police Station), up past the Royal British legion, along High Street and up Clarel Street. Around Bluebell and Park Avenue and back down the High St. It drops down to St Mary's Street roundabout and ends up near the Tesco for judging. In former times, Penistone Council was the organiser but these days it has been passed on to the Round Table, who do a wonderful job.

Penistone has always had parades of one sort or another, such as Whitsuntide (see above), VE day, the end of war, a passing visit by a King and Queen and various Royal milestones. There was even a Cycle Parade around 1913 but that is long forgotten now. Take a visit to Penistone Historic Archive on Market Day for some of our historic parades. It is in the Lower Hall of the Community Centre, Church Street, 10am to 1pm on Thursdays.

Parade Saturday is a relatively new happening, introduced in the 1990s, to make it more of a community weekend. It follows a similar format each year. It has a lively brass band and choral performance in the afternoon and a rock band in the evening. It all helps the sense of occasion for Parade Weekend and the music performances are in a Showground marquee with a bar and toilets. Cheapskates can listen for a while from a convenient bench seat on the Trans-Pennine Trail. Don't worry, it's a hard bench and they won't stay for long. See the Parade link below.

Yorkshire Day
This was never been a big event in Penistone and local shops do not always take any trouble to dress up their windows. However, 2006 was a different story when Penistone was chosen to host the event for the whole of Yorkshire. It certainly put us on the map, for a while.

The nobs came from all over Yorkshire in their publicly-financed finery and gold chains. Just about every mayor and council dignitary was in a procession and Penistone Church. Unfortunately the weather was not kind and, being on a working day, it was poorly supported on the streets. On the other hand, the church was completely packed out and some people had to watch from the vestibule, including yours truly. Then they all traipsed off to Penistone Grammar School (the old version) for a traditional roast beef and Yorkshire pudding meal, again financed by their own communities. In spite of the weather, it was a good day. See Penistone's 2006 Yorkshire Day.


Christmas
MagiChristmas used to start a week or two before Christmas Day (not October as the TV adverts would have you believe). The trimmings went up on the 6th December, followed by the Christmas tree. Sometimes the children might make some trimmings at school with gummed paper rings in a chain. A place would be found for some holly leaves and the red berries, presumably for good luck. That is an old tradition. A sprig of mistletoe might also be pinned to the ceiling for uncles and dads to try their luck. It was unusual, until recent times, for anyone to put decorations outside the home, except for an occasional Christmas wreath on the door but, these days, it is not unusual for a few fairy lights to appear outside the houses. In some cases, they are something like Blackpool illuminations, but it is all good fun and helps to put people in the right spirit.

In the days before LEDs, the Christmas fairy lights would have to be checked for blown bulbs. There would always be one or two. It was part of the fun for children to dress up the tree with baubles and not forgetting a traditional fairy on top. Some of the baubles might have been old family heirlooms. The presents would have been wrapped up and hidden away from prying eyes. And an old dressing gown would go in the wash (nuff said).

Carol Singing
Right up to the end of the 20th century, and probably a bit beyond, groups of carol singers would call door-to-door in the week or two before Christmas. They would usually sing only one verse, if you were lucky, of a popular carol. Perhaps a rushed and garbled "We Three Kings". They want to get in as many houses as possible, as time meant money. The smaller children would have an adult with them to make sure they sang properly. A popular carol for young songsters might be, 'Away in a Manger.' The chant which followed was:

"Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat,
Please put a penny in the old man's hat.
If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do,
If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God Bless You!"

Then it was - bang, bang, bang, bang on the door (to make it shake) and you would give them a few coins. The cheekier kids might think you did not notice them singing and would just bang on the door anyway. Then you would ask them to actually sing something and watch them colour up. You don't get many visits by carol singers these days, maybe just one or two, if you are lucky, and they might be community-organised. In recent years, Penistone Round Table has gone around the streets with their Santa on a sleigh (a special trailer behind the car), raising funds for charity. They raise a lot of money this way and put it to good causes.

Of course, there are plenty of organised carol services in our area in churches and other venues. Very rarely these days, you might find the Salvation Army Band on a random street corner. Thurlstone Brass Band also plays in the open around Thurlstone near Christmas-time.

Family Celebrating
Christmas TreeOf course Christmas has always been a time for family members to come together, culminating in the main event, Christmas Dinner, eaten in the afternoon of Christmas Day with beer or wine. These days, we might go out for a drink first. The dinner would typically be goose or turkey with stuffing, roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy. In 1588, Elizabeth I ordered her subjects to eat goose for Christmas dinner to celebrate England’s victory over the Spanish Armada and that tradition still works.

Before the age of 'Elf and Safety', the traditional Christmas Pudding might even have some coins baked in, wrapped in paper. Spring Vale School's Christmas Pudding always had sixpences in it when I was a lad - but they did warn us very strongly to watch out for them and not to swallow any. That could never happen now.

At home, the best cutlery would come out with napkins or doilies, which otherwise might never see the light of day. Then bottles of beer, spirits, babycham, Cherry-B, sherry, port or perhaps advocaat. You only ever saw this egg-based drink at Christmas (it was horrible). These days it might be Bailey's Irish Cream. There would be Christmas crackers to pull at the dinner and the limp jokes were usually so bad that they were almost good. More of a groan than a laugh. Sometimes children would make their own crackers, using cardboard tubes collected over time. They would have to shout "Bang" when they were pulled.

In Yorkshire, the living room was often called 'The House' and another room kept clean and tidy for special occasions would be 'The Room'. "Where's Jack?" - "He's in t' house". Christmas was a time for people to use The Room, partly because of the need for more space with all of the visitors.

The Christmas Stocking
Presumably, in the old days it would have been a real stocking (a long sock) but it later became something like a pillowcase hung on the end of the bed. In recent, affluent times it would not be big enough but in leaner times it would have been one nice present and perhaps one or two smaller items. But some things were mandatory. These were: an apple, an orange and a new penny, the symbolism of which seems to have been lost.

Dad would wait for the children to be asleep, then put on his red dressing gown like Santa Claus. Avoiding the inevitable creaking stair, he would creep into the bedrooms to put presents in the children's pillowcases. It was a nice surprise to wake up to the presents.

New Year
One old national tradition which was observed to some extent locally, was 'first footing' to let in the New Year. The first person to call at a house after NY midnight was supposed to be a person with dark hair and they would usually bring a piece of coal. No doubt they would have been given a drink for their trouble. I think this might have only happened with people who knew each other, like friends or close neighbours.

Pancake Day
This is still widely celebrated at homes in the UK on Shrove Tuesday but the old Yorkshire tradition of Collop Monday on the day before has long died out (see above). Pancakes were a signature of Shrove Tuesday as they used ingredients such as milk and eggs that were given up for Lent.

In Penistone, the local Co-operative food store is in the habit of providing all that is needed to make easy pancakes (such as instant pancake mix - just add water and shake the bottle) and wide range of toppings, which these days includes such as chocolate. My favourite is orange marmalade but a squirt of lemon juice with a sprinkle of sugar (or sweetener) is also a good choice. I say it is 'celebrated at homes' because that is the anecdotal evidence, however, it does not appear to be much supported in the local cafes.

Gervase Markham’s 1615 Pancake Recipe:
“To make the best Pancake, take two or three egges, and breake them into a dish, and beate them well: Then adde vnto them a pretty quantity of faire running water, and beate all well together: Then put in cloues, mace, cinamon, and a nutmegge, and season it with salt; which doue make it thicke as you thinke good with fine wheate flower: Then frie the cakes as thinne as may bee with sweete butter, or sweete seame, and make them brown, and so serue them vp with sugar strowed vpon them. There be some which mixe Pancakes with new milke or creame, but that makes them tough, cloying, and not so crispe, pleasant and sauoruy, as running water”

Here is an old rhyme, spotted in the 1879 Penistone Almanack, and seen elsewhere too:

'It is the day whereon the rich and poore,
Are chiefly feasted on the self-same dish,
When every paunch 'till it can hold no more,
Is fritter filled as well as heart can wish;
And every man and maid do take their turn,
And toss their pancakes up for feare they burne,
And all the kitchen doth with laughter sound,
To see the pancakes fall upon the ground.'

Bereavement
A solemn subject, I know, but people have customs when there is a death in the family. One custom is to close all of the curtains. I'll ad more as I find them.


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