Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/343

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313
Some Oxfordshire Seasonal Festivals.


Lamb Ale.

The village of Kirtlington is about nine miles north of Oxford on the east bank of the Cherwell. Here, on the Monday after Trinity Sunday,[1] was held, up to 1858, the "Lamb Ale." This feast is said to have been originally kept up by the proceeds of certain lands belonging to the parish, but where or of what size these lands were no one now knows.

It is said that the barley grown on these lands was used for brewing ale to be consumed at the feast, and that a small quantity of wheat was grown for making into "crown-cakes" (v. below, p. 314). Of later years, however, the Lord of the Manor had provided the ale at his own cost ; and for a few years after the feast was discontinued, he paid the sum of £2 12s. yearly to the poor of the village on the feast-day. This payment has long since been dropped.

The centre of the festivities was the "Bowery," a shed made of green boughs set up on the village-green, where the ale previously brewed was sold during the nine days of the feast without a license, the proceeds going towards the expenses incurred.

One of the villagers was chosen "Lord" of the feast, and he with his mates picked out a "Lady," who was paid for her services. At 11 o'clock on the Monday morning the "Lord" started from the "Bowery" to the "Lady's" house, whence a procession marched round the village.

First came a man carrying a live lamb on his shoulders, which was, if possible, the first-born of the season, and the finest of the flock. Its legs were tied together with blue and pink ribbons, and blue ribbons were hung round its neck.

  1. J. Dunkin (History of Bicester, 1816, pp. 268–9) says that the feast was held on Lammas Day– whence its name.