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Thame festivals


Festivals
Locality Thame
Vicinity c. 11 km SW of Aylesbury
Coordinates 51.746944444444, -0.97416666666667
Adm. div. Oxfordshire
Began 1474/75
Ended 1501/02
Events Robin Hood's ales at Whitsun
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Thame.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2018-06-03. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2018-06-17.

Records

[1474/75:]
Ite. we recevyd of Robyn hodg Ale at Wytsontyde  xxvis ixd[1]


[1496/97:]
It' rec' of money gadered by Robyn Hood at the same tyme clerely  xiiij [s.][2]


[1501/1502:]
Itm. rec'. of the may ale and of the gaderyng of Robyn Hodde in new Thame att whitsontyed clere  xx [s.]
Itm. rec. the same tyme of the may ale in old Thame  xiij [s.][3]

Source notes

The "same tyme" referred to in the 1596/97 entry is Whitsuntide.[4]

IRHB comments

It is perhaps just worth noting that the 1474/75 entry is ambiguous. A reader who was unaware that parish fundraising in late medieval and early modern times was not infrequently carried out in the name of Robin Hood would almost certainly read "hodg" as "Hodge" rather than "Hood", and if the entry had occurred on the expense side, it might conceivably have been taken to refer to a scot-ale organized by or for someone named Robin Hodge, and the use of the pet form 'Robin' would then be taken as indicating familiarity. Scot-ales, perhaps originally a means for manorial reeves and indirectly their lordly employers to wring money out of unwilling tenants, over time came to be used for raising money for various collective or private purposes, including as a means of augmenting, or in lieu of, the salary of officials. Since I argued several decades ago, in an unpublished paper, that the church ale developed from the scot ale,[5] I note with interest that, in addition to several entries relating to church ales, the churchwardens' accounts of Thame include two references to expenses "at John Huletes ale" (1465) and "at Hulets ale a general chapt'r day" (1466).[6] In 1481/82 we find an expense entry for "John Hewlett Aparitor his fees".[7] Evidently it was the apparitor who at least sometimes relied on scot-ales for all or some of his income. Significantly, Mr Hewlett's ales figure as occasions of expense, whereas those of Robin 'hodg'/Hood bring an income to the parish.

There are several references to church ales and various types of dramatic activity in these relatively early churchwardens' accounts. In 1445, "we reseyved off ye chyrch all at Whyttson tyde" 10s. 10d., while 3s. 4d. was gathered at a play on some unstated occasion that year.[8] In 1449 there was "a nale y made at Wytsuntyde"[9] In 1452, "an alle at phyllyppys day & jakob" – St Phillip and St James the Less, 3 May[10] – brought in 10s. 7½d., while the income from "howyr hale at Wytsontyd" was 17s.[11] The accounts for 1454 include two entries for receipt of "May Sylver", from John Baker and Thomas Dagnale respectively.[12] In 1462, there was again a play at some unstated occasion.[13] In 1465, there was a play for which the church organ was used.[14] In 1474/75, a play at an unstated occasion, expenses over "brewyng of the Ale at Witsontyde", and "we recevyd of ye chryche Ale at Wytsu'tyde" £20. 7s. 4d.[15] This was the same year as the "Robin hodg" ale at Whitsun, so perhaps the two entries refer to one and the same event? In 1478/80, Isabella Chapman handed in money collected "at Wytsontyde", while "the May Ale [...] deducting expenses clear" brought in 13s. 8d.[16] In 1481/82 receipts included 15s. 8d. "gathered at Wytsontyde from ye p'she"[17]. The Whitsun festival that year also involved expenses. John Payntor was paid 4d. for "lyvarages at Wytsontide". These were painted badges, often called "liveries" or "small liveries", which people who took part in the festival or "ale" wore to show they had paid the sum – or some sum – required from participants. The sum of 16d. was spent on "the book of Jacob and his 12 sons at Wytsontide".[18] The profit that year was therefore 14s. 8d. In 1488 receipts "against Wytsontide of ye May Ale all clere deductyng expènsys" amounted to 20s. There is mention of a play, but yet again it is not clear on which occasion this took place.[19] In 1516 and perhaps again in 1523 there was a "Resurrection Play"; the latter year also "the iij kings of Colen & Herod on Corps X'ti day".[20] In 1532 there was a "may ale of newe Thame" and a "maye ale of the old Thame".[21]

In 1557, under Queen Mary, there was a May ale,[22] for which were required 13 yards of green cloth for men's coats; 2½ yards of yellow cotton, say and coloured thread; making the coats; nine dozen "daunchyng Bells", "for makynge of the lord byways and for pap'", for playing cards, "to ye lord of the Maye ale" "to the Mynstrells for their wages".[23] The bells of course tells us a morris dance was part of the entertainments, and it is tempting to take the green and yellow cloth as an indication that it was a Robin Hood cum morris, but of course this is quite uncertain.

There were also during the 15th century the receipts of "hocking money" or "hock money" as in 1456, 1457, 1458, 1471/72, 1478/80 and 1488. On Hock Monday, the second Monday after Easter, women would use ropes to catch men, who were only set free after paying a forfeit.[24] Except for the man-hunting women, the events seem to cluster in the month of May and/or at Pentecost, and one cannot conclude that a difference in name necessarily always corresponds to a difference in occasion and/or "content" of the event. We cannot say if a Robin Hood ale that took place at Whitsun was different from a "non-Robin Hood" ale at Whitsun. We do not know if the Robin Hoods were simply those responsible for the church ales or if they put on some kind of performance. Perhaps there were no Robin Hoods. The Thame accounts never refer to anyone as having served as Robin Hood, so the latter may simply have been the name of the event.

Lists and gazetteers

Sources

Background

Notes

  1. Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 19, pt. 1 (1913), pp. 20-24, see p. 22.
  2. Lee, Frederick George. The History, Description, and Antiquities of the Prebendal Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Thame, in the County and Diocese of Oxford (London, 1883), col. 49. IRHB omits strings of points separating entry texts and amounts. Denominations in brackets added by IRHB. They are printed as column headers by Lee.
  3. Lee, Frederick George. The History, Description, and Antiquities of the Prebendal Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Thame, in the County and Diocese of Oxford (London, 1883), col. 26. IRHB omits strings of points separating entry texts and amounts. Denominations in brackets added by IRHB. They are printed as column headers by Lee.
  4. Singman, Jeffrey L. Robin Hood: The Shaping of the Legend (Contributions to the Study of World Literature, No. 92) (Westport, Connecticut; London, 1998), p. 181.
  5. Nielsen, Henrik Thiil. "It is Robin Hood's Day": the Greenwood Hero in the English Spring Festival (unpublished paper, 1988), pp. 8-9; Middle English Dictionary: scot-āle (n.)
  6. Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 14, pt. 1 (1908), pp. 25-28, see p. 28; Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 16, pt. 3 (1910), pp. 87-89, see p. 89.
  7. Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 20, pt. 4 (1915), pp. 115-19, see p. 118.
  8. Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 9, pt. 4 (1904), pp. 117-20, see pp. 118, 119.
  9. Lee, Frederick George. The History, Description, and Antiquities of the Prebendal Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Thame, in the County and Diocese of Oxford (London, 1883), col. 41.
  10. Catholic Culture: Easter: May 3rd: Feast of Sts. Philip and James, apostles.
  11. Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 9, pt. 3 (1903), pp. 75-78, see pp. 75, 76.
  12. Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 10, pt. 4 (1905), pp. 105-107, see p. 105.
  13. Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 10, pt. 2 (1904), pp. 35-38, see p. 57.
  14. Lee, Frederick George. The History, Description, and Antiquities of the Prebendal Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Thame, in the County and Diocese of Oxford (London, 1883), col. 47.
  15. Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 19, pt. 1 (1913), pp. 20-24, see pp. 22, 24; Lee, Frederick George. The History, Description, and Antiquities of the Prebendal Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Thame, in the County and Diocese of Oxford (London, 1883), col. 48.
  16. Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 19, pt. 3 (1913), pp. 84-86, see pp. 84, 85.
  17. Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 20, pt. 4 (1915), pp. 115-19, see p. 117.
  18. Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 20, pt. 4 (1915), pp. 115-19, see p. 118
  19. Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 9, pt. 2 (1903), pp. 51-57, see p. 53.
  20. Lee, Frederick George. The History, Description, and Antiquities of the Prebendal Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Thame, in the County and Diocese of Oxford (London, 1883), cols. 50, 52-53.
  21. Lee, Frederick George. The History, Description, and Antiquities of the Prebendal Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Thame, in the County and Diocese of Oxford (London, 1883), col. 56.
  22. Lee, Frederick George. The History, Description, and Antiquities of the Prebendal Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Thame, in the County and Diocese of Oxford (London, 1883), col. 52 n. *.
  23. Lee, Frederick George. The History, Description, and Antiquities of the Prebendal Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Thame, in the County and Diocese of Oxford (London, 1883), col. 73.
  24. Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 9, pt. 2 (1903), pp. 51-57, see p. 53; Lee, Frederick George. The History, Description, and Antiquities of the Prebendal Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Thame, in the County and Diocese of Oxford (London, 1883), col. 44; Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 10, pt. 1 (1904), pp. 19-24, see pp. 19 (bis), 21; Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 19, pt. 3 (1913), pp. 84-86, p.84; Ellis, W. Patterson, transcr. 'The Churchwardens' Accounts of the Parish of St. Mary, Thame, Commencing in the Year 1442', The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archæological Journal, New Series, vol. 20, pt. 4 (1915), pp. 115-19, see p. 117.