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Shropshire Archives is open in a phased way from 21 April 2021.

Easter customs

April 9, 20205:34 pmLeave a Comment

The picture below shows an outing at Loton park, with some rather fabulous Easter bonnets on display.

An outing at Loton Park, 1899 PH/S/14/8/78

An older Easter custom was the Easter ‘love feast’. Churchwardens’ account books tell us that these were held at Berrington and Clungunford, probably as a version of the dedication festival for the churches.

At Berrington, the feast was stopped in the 17th century.  However in response to a petition on behalf of the parishioners, the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield re-instated the feast in 1639 (though on Easter Monday and no longer in the church itself).  The custom then continued until 1713. Clungunford also had an Easter love feast, which involved bread, cheese and beer being supplied to the old and poor in the parish on Easter Day.  Again this was stopped by the vicar, but this time the Archbishop of Canterbury stepped in to preserve the custom as long as it was done in ‘a neighbourly and decent way’!

More information on the Love feasts is in R Palmer, The Folklore of Shropshire (ref: C39), Shropshire Parish Documents (ref: C39), Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society 2nd series vol VII, 1895 pp 203-206

Other Easter customs in Shropshire included decking family graves with flowers on Palm Sunday, which was known as ‘Flowering Sunday’.  

Easter was also a time when parishioners made a payment to the parish priest, traditionally around 2 pence. ‘Easter books’ were created to assist with the collection of this payment. A good series survives for Ludlow, Stockton and Madeley from the 17th and 18th centuries. The books can be a good source for family history providing detail on occupations, household servants and residences of parishioners. An 18th century terrier for Wellington also recorded the payment of an egg from every communicant ref 665/178.

Madeley Easter book P180/A/9/1

More charitably, many parishes also distributed payments to widows and the poor as shown in many account books of the Overseers of the Poor.

Written by sarahd

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