From The Memory of the People: Custom and Popular Senses of the Past in Early Modern England by Andy Wood (2013), Cambridge University Press, by kind permission of the author. In depositions recorded in 1594 and 1596, old men who had been brought up in New Buckenham (Norfolk) well remembered the days when they had gone on Rogationtide processions in that village. Richard Sturdinance recalled how ‘in auncyent tyme’ the parishioners used to process with their neighbours from Old Buckenham to the gardens of Buckenham castle, ‘and there drinkinge went to dambridge togither and there p[ar]ted’. He well remembered how, when he had been a ‘scoller’ 60 years before, he had taken part in these processions. Others remembered their own youthful role in the ecclesiastical aspects of the ritual: Bartholomew Dabbes had carried the parish banner; Thomas Neave had been a ‘singing boye and was used to helpe to singe the p[ro]cession’. The 68 year old Thomas Rutland recalled how he had combined alcoholic good fellowship with pious bell-ringing, explaining that ‘he better remembreth’ the route of the procession ‘for that he hath druncke beare out of an hande bell’ while on the procession. Peter Underwood remembered that ‘the drinkinge in that p[er]ambulacon were made att a field end called the hawehead neare to sheepmeare uppon the comon there’. For John Roberts, downing beer formed an especially memorable part of the ritual: he recalled how ‘there was usuallye sett a firkin of bere for the p[ro]cession of Newe Buckenham to drinke’. Underwood added that his knowledge of the bounds was validated by what he had heard years ago from ‘ould and auncyent men’. The New Buckenham depositions highlight some fundamental aspects of Rogationtide. Most obviously, the beating of the bounds was a ritual of belonging. Celebrating good cheer – drinking beer and eating cakes – while singing psalms and marching behind the minister, choirboys and parish banner linked Christian amity with communal fellowship, eroding and yet, in its own way, reinforcing social bonds. Such neighbourliness did not necessarily exclude the nearby settlements; New  Buckenham had a long-standing feud with Carlton, with whom they were at odds over the boundaries of their commons; but they rubbed along sufficiently well with Old Buckenham that they could join some of their Rogationtide celebrations.  Rogationtide idealized social relations: in the memories of the old men, Buckenham Castle, the seat of the Knyvett family, was the location for one of the moments of ritual drinking. The Knyvetts were thereby associated with the values of good lordship: conviviality, generosity and hospitality. The truism that memory is selective is apparent here: Sir Edmund Knyvett had been besieged in Buckenham Castle by his poorer neighbours during Kett’s rebellion. Lastly, as the old men looked back on their earlier times, it was apparent that Rogationtide afforded a special place to the young. As Sir John Hawkins was to put it, the function of perambulations was to ‘perpetuate the memory of [parish]...boundaries, and to impress the remembrance thereof in the minds of young persons, especially boys’. Only very rarely were girls mentioned as having taken part in the perambulations (not the same thing, of course, as meaning that they were not there). Perhaps, from their of point of view, this was no bad thing, as they watched their brothers being whipped, thumped, pinched or turned upside down by the older men in order to imprint in their consciousness the turning points in the parochial bounds. This social function could, from the boys’ point of view, be rather painful. The lads of New Buckenham were lucky to have been treated to beer at the bounds – many other boys were beaten at key points of the procession, in order to remind them of the spot. Quoting Norfolk RO, PD254/171 and TNA, E133/8/1234. For more on the dispute that generated this case, see TNA, E112/30/118; TNA, E134/37&38Eliz/Mich/62; TNA, E134/38Eliz/Hil/24; TNA, TNA, E134/34 Eliz/Hil/11; TNA, E134/42Eliz/Hil/15; TNA, E178/1612. Witnesses from other Norfolk villages at this time had similar memories: see TNA, DL4/18/37; TNA,E178/1587.
Rogationtide and neighbourliness, 1590s
New Buckenham Archive
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