The Village Green
The township can still boast of a Village Green, where formerly a large pit was situated on the site of the garden occupied by Miss Wilton, who sub-lets portions of it, but the land will ultimately go to the Lord of the Manor, Earl Egerton. The pit was filled up by Samuel Wilton, Miss Wilton's father, who placed the land under cultivation and planted the edge surrounding it. In 1845 a number of tall Italian poplars grew on the north and west sides. The portion between the garden and the church was formerly covered with grass, and here the children of the village played. This garden came into the possession of the Lord of the Manor, and is now made into an open space.
The Pinfold called "The Lord's Pound," was situated at the south-westerly corner of the garden. It was built exclusively of oak, where stray cattle were penned, and only liberated on payment of a tax of 1 shilling per head to the parish constable, and for the damage which the animals had done. If not owned in three days they were sold to defray expenses. The Pound at present is situated at the end of the farm buildings leading to the Bowling Green Hotel, but is seldom used, except by the children of the village, who, if they find an animal straying, drive it into this ancient place of refuge.
The custom pace-egging Acting and Pace of Pasche-Egging of great antiquity. Formerly the younger inhabitants of the village would form themselves into companies, fancifully decorated with cardboard, tinsel, ribbon, calico, &c., of various colours, and presenting a very gaudy appearance, would set off the dawn of Good Friday for a tour of the village and the surrounding district, calling at the farmsteads, various residences, and public-houses, the occupants of which, expecting the call, were quite prepared to receive them. The company comprised "Open the Door," "Saint George," "Bold Slasher," "Black Morocco King," "Doctor," "Doubt," and "The Devil," and each carried a sword, with the exception of the doctor, who carried a large stick and bottle. One of the number was dressed as a lady, whose duty it was to carry the basket for the receipt of eggs and other gifts.
The middle-aged men of the village also formed themselves into companies, generally about half-a-dozen, placing a white shirt over their ordinary dress, tied at the bottom, and stuffing it with hay or straw, with masks over their faces to disguise themselves. They promenaded the village with the skull of a horse's head fixed on the top of a short pole, carried by a person concealed under a horsecloth, who worked the jaws of the horse's mouth with a small lever. One of the party was dressed as a lady, as in the other case, to carry the gifts received.
The ridiculous custom of "lifting" or "heaving" was also carried on to a great extent in former times at Easter. On Easter Monday the men lifted the women, and on Easter Tuesday the women lifted the men. The process was performed by two lusty men or women joining hands across each other's wrists, then, making the person to be "heaved" sit down on their arms, they lifted the individual aloft two or three times, often carrying the victim several yards along the road.
The custom of singing May songs was in vogue years ago, commencing about the middle of April, and invariable ceasing at the end of the month. The two songs called "Old May Song" and "New May Song" were sung at the gentlemen's residences and farmhouses in the neighborhood by some half-dozen men, accompanied with violin, flute or clarinet.
Sparrows' heads & Eggs
A curious custom was in existence until about 50 years ago. At that time it was the opinion the fanners in the neighbourhood that sparrows did a great amount of destruction, and the parish constable gave a half penny for each sparrow's head, and each young sparrow brought to him; a farthing being given, for each sparrow's egg in occasional years when the birds became too numerous; the money was paid out of the taxes collected for upholding the ancient office.
BARLOW Moor is celebrated in the isthmian annals of Manchester as the scene, in the seventeenth century, of annual races and other games prior to the establishment of the Manchester Races on Kersal Moor. All that remains to recall the racecourse is the field bounded by Barlow Moor Lane and the left of the lane leading to Hough End Hall was known as the "Scaffold Field," where there was formerly a "low," or mound, which served as a vantage point from which to view the contests.
THE Wakes, once very popular all over England, originated in commemoration of the day of the saint to whom the Parish Church was dedicated, or from the anniversary of the day of Dedication. The festival is kept up in Chorlton on the third Sunday in July, commonly known as Wakes Sunday. It would appear that in ancient times the parishioners brought rushes at the feast of the dedication wherewith to strew the church, and from that circumstance the festivity has obtained the name of "rush-bearing," by which it is still known at Didsbury and other neighbouring villages. The principal sports indulged in at this carnival were those already enumerated bull, bear, and badger baiting. The inhabitants decked themselves in their gaudiest garments, kept open doors, and gave entertainments to relations and friends who visited them from round about.
The morning was, for the most part, spent at the church, though not, perhaps, in seriously commemorating the saint or martyr, or in gratefully remembering the builder and endower. The remainder of the day was spent in eating, drinking, dancing, and merriment, which were continued for the rest of the week, with all sorts of rural pastimes, which were attended by a large number of people. This festival was very familiar to the rural population, especially in the North of England, but it is now faded into the obscurity of the past, in this and other villages.
The custom of singing May songs was in vogue years ago, commencing about the middle of April, and invariable ceasing at the end of the month. The two songs called "Old May Song" and "New May Song" were sung at the gentlemen's residences and farmhouses in the neighbourhood by some half-dozen men, accompanied with violin, flute or clarionet.
The custom formerly was on the 5th of November for the parish constable to provide a load of coals for the purpose of making a bonfire to commemorate the discovery and prevention of the gunpowder treason. In case the parish constable did not comply with the custom of the inhabitants of the village pulled down the gates, railings, &c., around his house, and burned them. When Thomas Cookson was parish constable he would not provide the coals, and a portion of the inhabitants were so enraged that they obtained every available piece of wood from and around his house, and also from the farm-houses and other houses in the village, and they had a large fire in the centre of the village green.
The Bull Ring was situated in the centre of the Village Green, near where the lamp now stands. A large massive stone was sunk into the ground, at the top of which a ring was fixed with a chain attached, where in years gone by Bull Baiting took place.
The bulls were hired by the landlords of the Bowling Green and Horse and Jockey public houses, and it was no uncommon sight, after these gatherings to witness lying in the ditches and hedge-rows, dead dogs which had been killed by the bulls on their way to and fro. A noted bull named “Young Fury”, son of “Old Fury” was regularly brought and baited, a prize being awarded to the owner of the dog that best “Pinned the Bull” Another was often brought by Edward Simmer, commonly known as “Ned” who afterwards was converted to a religious life, and finally became a Methodist local preacher. The sport almost died out at one time, but was revived again by James Moores, a butcher from Deansgate, Manchester, who brought bulls with him and in their train came hundreds of men of the very lowest character to witness the proceedings.
In the brutal sport the bull was fastened to a chain, about twenty yards long, so as to allow him sufficient liberty for the fight. In this situation a bull-dog was slipped at him, and endeavoured to seize him by the nose, but if the bull was well practised at the business, he would receive the dog on his horns, throw him high into the air, and by the fall would break his neck or back, but to avoid this, the dogs friends were ready to catch him, so as to break the force of his fall. On the contrary, if the bull was not very dexterous, the dog would not only seize him by the nose, but would hold on till the bull stood still, which was termed “Pinning the Bull”. One dog only was allowed in the ring at a time.
It was indulged in principally at the village wakes, and also at Easter and Whitweek, the last bull bait in Chorlton taking place at the wakes in the year 1835.
Cock-fighting was another of the pastime the village up to the close of the last century, the sport taking place under a large oak tree at the corner of Barlow Range, a spot known to this day as the "cock-clod." Cock-fighting was in every probability introduced amongst the British by their Roman masters, who received it from Greece.
Badger and Bear Baiting
BADGER and bear baitings chiefly took place in the wakes-week, at a public-house which formerly existed in Sandy Lane, in the occupation of Thomas Chorlton, where a very rough and low company assembled to witness the proceedings. The animals were kept in the stable connected with the house in High Lane, then occupied by John Williamson, and now in the occupation of Mr. William Lunt. The badger was kept in a hollow box, representing his burrow, and furnished with an opening above and at one end. The dog was then sent into the box, and in most cases was immediately seized by the badger, soon a lively scrimmage took place, and after a minute or two the dog would be drawn out by his tail. Then this scene would be repeated until the dog, in most cases, won the, day. Dog-baiting and dog-fighting seem also to have been common pastimes amongst the inhabitants until about 1875 the village was a great place for prize¬fighting, foot racing, and "up-and-down wrestling." &c. Hundreds of people used to walk from the adjoining city to witness the proceedings, which generally took place in the meadows; and on the combatants being disturbed by the police, they ran to Jackson's Boat, and crossed the bridge. It was always previously arranged that this bridge should be kept open, and the fight would be concluded on the Cheshire side of the river, where the Lancashire police had no control. It hardly seems credible that such brutal sports should have been regularly carried on within four miles of Manchester, for they always resulted in rioting and drunkenness ; and in nothing, perhaps, is the improved tone of society more strongly marked than by their suppression.
Riding the Stang
The custom of "Riding The Stang" was carried on in the village until about half-a-century ago. Punishments for minor offences were formerly designed to produce shame on the delinquents by exposing them to public ridicule. This custom, known in the North as "Riding the Stang," and in the South by "Rough Music," took place in the following cases:-
If a man was known to beat his wife, or if he allowed himself to be henpecked; if he was unfaithful to her, or she to him, the offending party, if living in the village, was serenaded with a concert of music, consisting of cow's horns, frying-pans, warming-pans, tea-kettles, &c., in fact, any implement with which a loud, harsh, and discordant sound could be produced.
This hubbub was generally repeated several times, and seldom failed to make a due impression on the culprit, for Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.
Old Cabel Joddrell was one the of the last ringleaders who took part in this custom which created a large amount of ill-feeling in the village.
Another curious custom formerly in existence was, if a woman left her husband, some individual would during the following night fix a besom or yard brush on to the chimney, which denoted that half a bed was to let.
Owing to the advance of education these old customs of our village which were so generally entertained, have all been abandoned.
Copyright © 2008 Anthony F Walker
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