This fascinating, detailed and highly entertaining book is the definitive account of the customs and festivities that took place in Oxfordshire before the days of mass entertainment.
Traditions dovetailed neatly into the farming year. Recreation and celebration, coupled with practices relating to fertility of both crops and people, often harked back to pre-Christian times: their evolution is evidence of changing religious beliefs and social patterns. Traditions could
also provide an opportunity for making money, perhaps for a good cause (such as the whit ales that raised money for the parish) or for private gain (as when morris dancers toured the countryside or children made May garlands to show).
Among hundreds of different customs described, often in the words of
contemporary sources from the last 400 years, particular mention should be
made of the very many customs associated with May Day, the strong morris
tradition that survives in certain towns and villages, the mock mayor-making
in Abingdon, Banbury, Oxford and Woodstock, the Burford dragon ceremony,
various traditions of beating the bounds, the mummers plays that are still
performed, bun throwing in Abingdon, and the ritual of hunting the mallard
that takes place once a century at All Souls College, Oxford.
The book includes the text of two mummers' plays (from Islip, dating from
about 1780, and Westcott Barton, recorded in 1870) and a Christmas miracle
play collected in Thame in 1853.
Includes many rare and unusual photographs, as well as photographs of modern
revivals of ancient customs.
Christine Bloxham is a former assistant keeper of antiquities at the
Oxfordshire Museum. Her previous books include The World of Flora Thompson
(1998). She has been collecting local folklore for thirty years.
£12.99 pbk 320pp 978-1-902279-11-4