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Cakes, Ales, Partying, Feasting and Fundraising in the Middle Ages

28th February 2017 | Clubs, Local History Society


by Wickhambrook History Society

In February we welcomed Kate Jewell to the meeting. She has not spoken to us before and we have discovered a gem (pun intended!) What a delightful, knowledgeable and fluent speaker! We coild have listened all night to her talk on ‘Cakes, Ales and Partying : Feasting and Fundraising in the Middle Ages’ brought vividly to life with an excellent Powerpoint presentation.

The Medieval year started with Advent, a very sober and serious time before the Christmas feast began. Greenery was brought into houses on Christmas Eve and food was prepared in great quantity. Dame Alice of Acton in Suffolk invited her friends and family and three hundred tenants and their families to a great feast in the days following Christmas. It was a time to show generosity to the less well off.

Each feast and saint’s day had its own customs.

– Shrove Tuesday with pancakes and ham collops

– Palm Sunday, when choirboys at Long Melford were pelted with ‘singing cakes’, a special bread

– Easter. Henry the Eighth is known to have given painted eggs as a mark of favour

– Midsummer when bonfires were held. These were originally ‘bonefires’ when actual bones were burned with a dreadful stench thought to chase away demons.

– Harvest rounded off the year.

In Brundish in Suffolk they held a very successful ‘Church Ale’ to raise money to rebuild part of their church. Special ale was brewed – a vast amount for a very small village – and the gentry donated food. It was so popular that another was held which included neighbouring villages and a large sum of money was raised. Entertainment and sport on the village green with food drink and fundraising. Perhaps not so different 500 years on in the villages we all know and love.!

Kate was warmly thanked by the chairman.

Next meeting is on Tuesday 21st March – A Magic Lantern Show with Robin Ford at 7.30pm in the WI Hall to which all are welcome.

On 18th April we have our AGM at 7pm followed by ‘Old Photographs of Villages Surrounding Newmarket ‘ by Peter Norman
Look out for posters or search the village website for more information.

Dorothy Anderson

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