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.
In 1565 a ‘Cockowe King’ was first recorded at Mere and was connected with the Church ales at Easter (ales were a celebration or festival). The king had been the ‘Prynce’ the year before and, according to tradition, was crowned King the following year. In 1566 provision was made for a substitute king if the incumbent, who had been unwell, could not ‘serve at the tyme of the Church Ale’. In the year 1838 a Mr Thomas Neale relayed that in Drayton Foliat on Easter Tuesday of every year the clerk of Chiseldon parish had an ale. He provided a dinner at his house with plenty of strong beer. All the ‘principal’ parishioners partook and called it the Clerk’s Ale. Each guest gave the clerk a present. The gentry who attended gave sovereigns and half sovereigns in ‘return for his good cheer’.
Local Studies Assistant