by Ross Parish
August is another month in the year bereft of many customs; this was because it was the time for the harvest to begin, but more of that next month. However, in more recent years because of the weather (or usually hope for it) and the school holidays events have developed. The precursor of this was the Sunday school outings which were very popular in the 19th century and involved games and a picnic.
The most traditional based, if not traditional sounding, of these is Nottingham’s Pagan Pride. A new event, of only five years, but firmly based around the older and pagan tradition of commemorating Lammas which was a harvest celebration focused around the 1st August. The colourful appearance of hundreds of neo-pagans celebrating their faith is a welcome addition to the calendar as they process from the market square to the Arboretum.
However, there is an older Nottinghamshire tradition associated with Lammas. An account reads:
“A novel, service was held at Selston, a mining village in England, recently. At one time Selston was fairly rich in charities, but about one hundred years ago they were allowed to lapse. Some of the charities consisted in the distribution of bread to the poor on Lammas, or Loafmass day……..This distribution took place from a tombstone in the parish churchyard. In order to revive this custom the rector held a similar service, when loaves presented by the parishioners were given away from the same tombstone, and in order to enhance their value and the interest attached, a silver coin was baked in the loaves.”
This is possibly a unique and certainly unusual custom, which sadly has since lapsed and there is no local knowledge of it. Interesting, its association with a grave suggests it may have originated as a form of sin eating a way of passing on the sins of the deceased a common pre-Reformation funeral custom mutated into the wake.
A more colourful affair is Nottingham’s Caribbean Carnival. This has run since 1974 and as such is, after the famous Notting Hill Carnival, the oldest in Europe. It originally was undertaken by the St. Kitts community of the Meadows in Nottingham. It continued, spasmodically through the 1980s and 1990s due to funding problems. The Carnival was cancelled in 1998, due to security and safety aspects but this prompted the City Council to get help from outside sources such as Tuntum Housing Association, who helped to create an infrastructure to help re-form the Carnival and it was revived the following year. The Carnival consists of a parade of mass bands and colourful costumes which snakes vibrantly through the city to the Forest recreation ground where there are stages and a fun fair.
A more traditional procession is to be seen at Egmanton on the weekend nearest to the 15th of August. This is the pilgrimage to Our Lady of Egmanton. This has been held since 1919 and consists of Mass and an outside afternoon procession of the effigy of Our Lady and benediction. It has been a popular pilgrimage for members of the Anglo Catholic movement and on its Golden Jubilee in 1979; the High Mass was undertaken by the Lord Bishop of Southwell, the Rt. Revd. John Denis Wakeling.
The fine weather meant that feasts and wakes were often undertaken in August especially with parishes with St. Mary as their patron. Radcliffe Feast was moved from August 20th to the day of Our Lady of Assumption as the old date fell in harvest time. Whilst, Papplewick Feast was on the first Sunday after their Sheep fair, which the last Tuesday in August. Today events such as Nottingham’s Riverside and Bleasby Festival continue this trend of August fairs….and the hope of a fine August Bank Holiday Monday!
Edited and extracted from the forthcoming book A Nottinghamshire Calendar Pixyledpublications
Interested in customs – http://traditionalcustomsandceremonies.wordpress.com