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Friday, 29 February 2008

Traditions of Leap Day and marriage proposals

Leap Day, February 29 will soon be upon us and it's that time again to remind everyone about the age-old rules of Leap Day proposing.

Planning a marriage proposal is an anxious, yet exciting time for anyone thinking about popping the big question, and most will agree that the rules of courtship, namely the very act of proposing should be done in the proper way.

As a keen folklorist, I have made an in-depth study of Dorset traditions and celebrations for my recently published book, Dark Dorset Calendar Customs, of which Leap Day proposing is one custom featured.

Traditionally, Leap Day is the only one true day when a lady can propose marriage; but according to custom only if she is wearing a red petticoat.

Everyone knows that when a gentleman proposes marriage it is customary for him to go down on one knee, however, in a lady's case the customary and proper procedure is for her to lift up her dress and show her red petticoats.

Red being the colour of lifeblood and has strong symbolism to love, warmth, passion and fertility.

In Roman times brides wore a red veil called a 'flammeum' as a symbolic statement of their sincere love and that they were fertile and therefore ripe for the marriage bed.

No doubt the custom of showing one's red petticoat to propose on Leap Day is a remnant from such ancient marriage customs.

Few young ladies wear petticoats these days and it's therefore hardly surprising that this aspect of Leap Day proposing has been lost.

However, one suspects that a flash of red knickers would do just as well today, and what man could refuse that!

It is worth pointing out that if on Leap Day a gentleman declines the offer of marriage, he has to pay the forfeit to buy the lady a pair of gloves for Easter.

Source: Dorset Echo Saturday 16th February 2008

Mystery of Fra Newbery painting

Mystery surrounds a painting hanging for nearly 80 years in the locked sacristy of a tiny church tucked away in west Dorset.

The 8ft by 6ft oil painting was painted by renowned Bridport artist Fra Newbery in 1931 and depicts five of the seven Chideock Martyrs who were killed for their Catholic faith between 1587 and 1642.

READ MORE - Source: Bridport and Lyme Regis News Thursday 28th February 2008

Fossil on show in the library

Residents in Bridport and Westbay have a unique chance to get up close and personal with a 190-million-year-old marine reptile discovered near Charmouth in 2005.

The ichthyosaur fossil has been on show in a display that has been travelling throughout the Jurassic Coast thanks to a partnership between the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Team, the Natural History Museum, Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Dorset County Council's library service.

READ MORE - Source: Bridport and Lyme Regis News Thursday 28th February 2008

Thursday, 28 February 2008

History lecture to a capacity crowd

TV historian David Starkey delivered a talk on the Tudors to a capacity crowd at a Dorchester school.

The lecture in Thomas Hardye School's theatre was preceded and followed by a performance of medieval music by Weymouth-based musician Stuart Cave.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo Thursday 28th February 2008

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

The New Scorpion Band presents 'Cold Blows The Wind'

'Cold Blows The Wind' is devoted to the supernatural, the strange, the spine-chilling and the inexplicable. A collection of magical ballads, spooky stories, enchanting instrumentals and rare rituals drawn from the folk traditions of the British Isles. The show will be characterised by mystery and imagination, featuring wild and unusual sounds from The New Scorpion Bands extraordinary collection of musical instruments. The New Scorpion Band specialise in the subtle use of a very wide range of folk instruments and wonderful harmonies to bring their exquisite material to life.

You can see Cold Blows The Wind at the following venues this season:

>13th March, 2008, Durweston Village Hall, Nr Blandford Forum, Dorset, performance starts 7.30pm. Box Office: 01258 453170.

>14th March, 2008, Halstock Village Hall, Nr Sherbourne, Dorset, Performance starts at 7.30pm. Box Office: 01935 83347.


>15th March, 2008, Ibberton Village Hall, Nr Okeford Fitzpaine, Dorset, Performance starts 7.30pm. Box Office: 01258 817269.

>16th March, 2008, West Lulworth Village Hall, West Lulworth, Dorset, performance starts 7.30pm. Box Office: 01929 400181.

An Artsreach promotion

Earthquake felt in Dorset

The earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale shook England early on Wednesday morning.

One man was injured when a chimney fell through his bedroom ceiling and many homes and businesses were damaged by the tremor.

The quake's epicentre was near Market Rasen, in Lincolnshire, but people across England said they felt buildings shaking shortly before 1am. Many said the tremors had been strong enough to wake them.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo

Residents shaken as quake hits Britain

Tremors have been felt across England and Wales, according to eyewitness reports this morning.

People from Dorset, Yorkshire, Manchester, Merseyside, Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire and London reported feeling their homes and offices shake at around 1am.

Many said the tremors had been strong enough to wake them but there have been no reports of injury or damage.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo 27 February 2008

READ MORE - Source: Daily Mail 27 February 2008

County praised in new guide

Dorset stands for England at its sparkling best according to a major travel guide out today.

Praise was heaped on the county in the new Lonely Planet publication on Devon, Cornwall and South West England.

Lonely Planet's tough-talking respected style warned that most villages in the country 'have had their hearts sucked out as the holiday lets and second homes have moved in'.

READ MORE - Source: Dorset Echo 27 February 2008

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Sounds of Battle - Civil War Phantom Armies heard in Weymouth?

When I was at the English Civil War Commemoration at Chapelhay Gardens (see previous blog entry) I got talking to Mark Vine, local historian and author of "The Crabchurch Conspiracy". He told me that about ten years ago, at the Chapelhay Tavern, he got talking to a Dutch woman who owned an old house in, he believes, Franchise Street. The conversation got around to the battle of Weymouth and the The Crabchurch Conspiracy and she enquired when exactly the first action had taken place. Mark replied that the first battle had commenced on February 9th at midnight. She seemed astonished and her husband and her just stared at each other. When Mark asked her what the matter was, she told him that every 9th February at around midnight, the distinct sounds of battle could be heard reverberating in and around her house.

"I Don’t know whether she was a bit of a romancer, but she seemed quite genuine and more than a little shocked. I believe her house was at the other end of the road from the pub, down towards Hope Square." Mark told me.

There are many tales in Dorset about phantom armies, for example ghostly Roman legions having been seen along the Ridgeway and perhaps the most famous story is the Phantom Army of Grange Hill, near Creech, recorded in 'History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset' by Rev. John Hutchins. However Mark's story reminds me of a recent encounter mentioned in a letter from Peter Brown, Slough, Berkshire in the Fortean Times Letter page (FT 152 Nov 2001).
"My wife and I had a holiday in Dorset in 1977, during which we found an ideal picnic site just outside Cerne Abbas. It was a lovely sunny day; the entrance to a fallow field was ungated and nearby was a copse of trees perhaps some 10 to 15 metres (33-49ft) deep. Perfect. We had spread our blanket when I became aware of a noise which at first I couldn't identify. It gradually increased in volume until I was quite certain what it was: a large number of horses and riders jostling together, the stamp of hooves, creak of saddles, the chink of bridles.

It could only have come from the copse and, a bit nervously, I went to look. There was nothing and the sounds stopped. In the meantime, my wife went into the copse to answer a call of nature and came out as I returned to the car. She insisted that we move on, and all she could say was: "There's someone in there, someone was watching me." As we packed up our belongings, the sounds started again and we couldn't get away fast enough.

Some years later, I discovered that this particular area was known to have been a English Civil War battlefield."
Should anyone else have a similar story, pertaining either to the area or the english civil war, please do not hesitate and contact the Dark Dorset blog. We would love to hear more.

Delight as tower move completed

A Purbeck landmark which inspired generations of writers has been saved from ruin on a crumbling cliff edge.

Clavell Tower, which provided crime writer PD James with the inspiration for The Black Tower and was one of the places Thomas Hardy courted his first love, Eliza Nicholl, was moved brick by brick from its precarious perch on a cliff at Kimmeridge Bay.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Monday 25th February 2008

Monday, 25 February 2008

Historic tower that inspired Hardy and James moved brick by brick to stop it crumbling into the sea

As a dramatic landmark it has towered above cliffs for 178 years and inspired some of the heights of English literature.

But as the land on which it stood was battered by erosion, the future of Clavell Tower looked bleak.

Just yards from crumbling into sea, desperate - and painstaking - action was needed to save the building from a 300ft drop.

Yesterday, after 18 months of work, engineers yesterday celebrated their success in dismantling Clavell Tower and putting it back together again brick by brick at a safer distance.

READ MORE - Source: Daily Mail 25th February 2008

English Civil War Commemoration at Chapelhay Gardens

Yesterday we went to the Chapelhay Gardens in Weymouth, Dorset, to attend the English Civil War Commemoration that was being held there. This was to remember what has been known as the "The Crabchurch Conspiracy", a plot hatched during February 1645, which aimed to bring the town back under the control of the King's army. This resulted in a bloody battle where around 500 people were killed.

The arrival of the men of Col. William Sydenham's Regiment of Foote, marched into the gardens accompanied by the beating of the drum, heralding the start of the event, a sight that hasn't been seen for at least 360 years. Aswell as period music, entertainment and refreshments, there was a demonstration of Pole Lathe turning by Martin Hedley, whilst members of the re-enactment society where on hand to answer any questions relating to the civil war period. Local historian and author of 'The Crabchurch Conspiracy', Mark Vine, was also there to talk to visitors and sign his books.

Apart from the celebations this was also a chance for the honourable David Harris, Mayor of the Borough of Weymouth and Portland, to congratulate the efforts of The Chapelhay Community Partnership, whose aim is to generate a sense of community in the Chapelhay area, intially through restoring and developing the Chapelhay Gardens for community use.
The group is always looking for volunteers, so if you are interested in helping please contact Sue or Martin on 01305770608 for further details.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

History wakes up

Beneath the muck and dust of ages, Tyneham's centuries-old farm is stirring. For nearly 65 years all that has moved through its stables and stalls are bats, creepy-crawlies and the odd range warden - but a new project is under way that will see these buildings restored and reopened.

Not that it will ever be a working farm of course - Purbeck's famed ghost village has long since surrendered all possibility of human habitation - but it will provide a unique vantage point from which we can peer into the past.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Saturday 23rd February 2008

Saturday, 23 February 2008

The Burning Cliff by Brian Tompkins

This account of the events which occurred between 1825 and 1827 at Holworth Cliff near Osmington, Dorset were first published in 1905 by Charles Harper in his book ‘The Dorset Coast’. Holworth Cliff was a very notable place any time ...

READ MORE - Source: Family Connections - http://myancestors.wordpress.com

Wild imagination? The Big Cats in Britain Group stages its conference next month

No one has ever solved the mystery of whether big cats really exist. The Big Cats in Britain Group stages its conference next month where experts from all over England will gather to discuss the issue.

There are many people convinced that the animals are descended from exotic pets set free in the wake of the Dangerous Wild animals Act of 1976.

Others believe that the creatures are an undiscovered species which has co-existed with humans since time immemorial.

READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Friday 22nd February 2008

Friday, 22 February 2008

Weird in the West

What a weird world we live in! And to prove it, intrepid author and journalist Matt Lake, armed with his laptop and a camera, has spent five years investigating the mysteries of England.

The result is Weird England, a magnificent celebration of our wacky and wonderful heritage in the US-based Weird series, which Matt edits. And, as you might expect, it has plenty of lore and legend from the West Country.

On the line from Pennsylvania where he lives, Birmingham-born Matt said: "People have been calling me weird my entire life and that was really the start of it!

"Weirdness is like art, it's very difficult to define, but you know it when you see it."

Subjects Matt covers include crop circles and alien big cats, especially the Black Cat of Gloucestershire, Glastonbury and King Arthur, the ancient mysteries of Stonehenge, Avebury and Silbury Hill, the Cerne Abbass Giant and the Dorset Ooser, the phantom drummer of Tidworth, Wiltshire, the ghost villages of Imber on Salisbury Plain and Tyneham, Dorset, and much more besides.

Weird England: Your Travel Guide to England's Local Legends and Best-Kept Secrets is published by Sterling at £14.99.

Source: Western Daily Press
22 February 2008

Event recalls a civil war battle

A bloody battle in Weymouth in which hundreds of men died in one night will be remembered this weekend.

The Friends of Chapelhay Gardens are inviting people to the event on Sunday to commemorate a night of intense fighting during the English Civil War in February 1645.

It was the result of a plot known as the Crabchurch Conspiracy which aimed to bring the town back under the control of the King's army. The Friends' group, which has worked hard to clear up the gardens and make it a welcoming environment for residents, teamed up with local historians to organise the event, which runs from 2pm-4pm.

Members of a re-enactment society will be attending dressed in full 17th century regalia.

Source: Dorset Echo Thursday 21st February 2008

Would you believe it? Do you have a suspicious mind or is our folklore just a bunch of old wives' tales?

It's emerged that kissing Ireland's world famous Blarney Stone may not bestow the gift of the gab upon you after all, as it might be the wrong stone entirely.

Meaning that the 300,000 visitors a year who patiently queue to snog the lucky stone may get nothing more for their trouble than a headrush and cold lips.

This got me thinking about other dubious superstitions or old wives' tales that, dare I say, are untrue or verging on the ridiculous........................

Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Thursday 21st February 2008

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Lunar Eclipses in Folklore

If any of you were foolhardy enough to crawl out of bed at around 3.00pm this morning, you may have witnessed the moon turn red as the earth eclipsed it. Though weather forcasters warned that for much of Britain the view of this spectacle would be obscured by cloud and fog.

So, with not the best digital camera in the world in hand, I was fortunate to see the lunar eclipse and take a few shots (see right), despite the conditions forcast. Although another complete eclipse will not be visible from Britain until 2015, in 2010 there will be one that is cut short by the moon setting.

Omen in the sky

As in solar eclipses, the lunar eclipse plays into myth and folklore. Ancient cultures did not understand what caused an eclipse, though they could often predict them. To these ancient cultures the most obvious explanation for this natural phenomena was that something was consuming the Moon, like a dragon, demon or some other supernatural deity.

It was generally concieved that the blood red color displayed in most lunar eclipses meant that the Moon was being eaten, with "blood" spreading across it's face. Even more common was the view that a lunar eclipse was a very bad omen. For the superstitious to witness one is to have misfortune for the next seven days. (Oh dear :( should of stayed in bed)

Weatherlore
'Eclipse weather' is a popular term in the south of England for weather following an eclipse of the sun or moon.

Francis Bacon wrote that the "Eclipse of the moon is generally attended by winds, eclipses of the sun by fair weather, but neither of them are often accompanied by rain."

Is the truth out there? - A retired couple may have had a close encounter of the third kind while out for an evening stroll near their Parkstone home.

A retired couple may have had a close encounter of the third kind while out for an evening stroll near their Parkstone home.

Jack and Shirley Kendal were taking shots of the sunset, earlier this month, to use up film on a disposable camera, when they inadvertently snapped a cigar-shaped object hovering over the Fleetsbridge area.

Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo 21 February 2008

Explorer Talk

Explorer Col John Blashford-Snell is giving a one-off talk about when Stanley met Livingstone on Friday 29 February at the Coppleridge Inn, Motcombe.The talk starts at 7.30pm and will use Magic Lantern slides, with which Henry Stanley illustrated his talks, a specially annotated film and a short recording of Stanley's voice.

The compass Stanley carried the day he found David Livingstone will be on display.

TICKETS for the event are available from Lucy Thompson, Expedition Base, Motcombe, near Shaftesbury, Dorset SP7 9PB and bookings can be made for a meal after the talk by calling the inn on 01747 851980.

READ MORE - Source: Western Gazzette
21 February 2008

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Wild boar under fire and on the menu

Boar hunting is to return to pockets of English woodland in an attempt to keep down their numbers.

A selective cull was sanctioned yesterday, 400 years after the last native wild boar reputedly met its end on the hunting lance of King James I.

The animals, however, are destined for the dinner plate, with butchers and restaurateurs reporting a growing demand for the wild game meat. They are breeding rapidly, particularly in Kent, East Sussex, West Dorset, the Forest of Dean, the fringes of Dartmoor and other parts of Devon.

Source: The Times February 20, 2008

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Hammer Horror Films - These are the Damned - Part 2

While The Damned may not have gone down in history as the greatest Hammer flick ever made, the film still has a place in the hearts of many residents of Weymouth and Portland. A deluge of responses followed Looking Back's appeal for information on the film and, readers quickly answered the question Where is Shirley Anne standing?' (see last blog entry click here)One of the first people to call was Tony Short who identified the house in the background of the shot of Shirley Anne as Cheyne House, an isolated house east of Southwell on Portland.

Source: Dorset Echo Tuesday 19th February 2008

How to handle a wild boar

The government is offering advice on how to deal with feral wild boars - 300 years after they disappeared from the countryside.

Escapes and illegal releases from farms have resulted in a rise in numbers at large during the past 20 years and it is believed there are now about 1,000 roaming woodland areas.

Source: Reuters Tuesday 19th February 2008

Monday, 18 February 2008

Dark Dorset Calendar Customs Book Review - More tales from Dorset's deep and dark Memories

High days and holidays that haw ceased to exist,customs and superstitions that have been lost withthe passage of time, these remnants of the past have been gathered together in an intriguing book.

London-born Robert Newland has lived in Dorset for almost 30 years and has long been fascinated by the folklore of 'Darkest Dorset' and, besides various newspaper articles, he has written books on the subject including Dark Dorset Tales of Mystery,Wonder and Terror in conjunction with Mark North. Dark Dorset Fairies and now. Dark Dorset Calendar Customs.

This relates to the events that marked the calendar each year, each of them looked forward to with anticipation, particularly in the countryside where, besides the feasting they brought with them, even as time passed there was always the observance of fertility rites in thanksgiving for the harvest that had passed or was still to come.

The book is well illustrated to define sections on Healing Waters and Honourable Trees, Beatings and Blessings, Midsummer Mania, Days of Harvest, Broomsticks, Bangers and Blood and Days of Winter Magic.

Contained within these sections are the meanings behind and the customs observed suchas on Oak Apple Day, Rogation Tide. Father's Day and Mothering Sunday, Holy Rood Day, Guy Fawkes Night and Boxing Day

The background to many dates still observed today albeit on a small scale, are explored and there is even a picture from the Dorset Echo Pancake Day Races 2007.

This is a comprehensive compendium of Dark Dorset which which also outlines the Wheel of the Year for the world, giving the origin of the names of the calendar's months and days.

Superstitions are explored and, as an unexpected bonus, 'a taste of folklore' is given in the 29 traditional recipes which were used all over the country to mark the seasons of the year.

Robert Newland does his utmost to go anywhere in Dorset where a traditional custom is still observed, and this brought him once again to the Dorset Echo Pancake Day Races where he filmed the event. (see previous blog entry Pancakes and Football)

The author said: "The video can now be watched on the Dark Dorset 'You Tube' site."

Calendar Customs, which costs £12.50. is published by CFZ Press and is available from bookshops or through the Amazon website.

Review by Hilda Swinney (hilda@scotia22.freeserve.co.uk),
Portland Diary, Dorset Echo, Monday, 18th February 2008

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Historic farm site set for restoration work

Work is under way to restore Tyneham Farm, which has been closed to the public since the evacuation of the village in 1943.

Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Saturday 16th February 2008

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Launch of the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty's South Dorset Heritage Project

Today saw the official unveileing of a new scheme to protect South Dorset's ancient Ridgeway.

The launch at Portesham Village Hall marks the beginning of a three year programme, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to put this historic area on the map.

The Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team will work with the Lottery Fund and English Heritage, putting on a series of exciting walks, talks, and other events as well as producing accurate geophysical maps and working to find out more about the archaeology.

Despite the Rideway's richness of history, it still remains relatively unknown to visitors and locals alike. The project will aim to change that.

At the launch, television star Phil Harding of Channel 4's popular archaeology programme Time Team, was demonstrating the techniques of the ancient art of flint knapping. This is the process of making stone tools such as arrowheads, hand axes, etc. the kind of tools that have been discovered exstensively at prehistoric sites along South Dorset Ridgeway.





So Dark Dorset went to this important event. The South Dorset Ridgeway stretches between the areas of Abbostbury to Poxwell and is one of the richest in the country for prehistoric monuments. Many of the important prehistoric sites have folklore connections like the Portesham Hellstone, The Came Down Singing Barrows, Maiden Castle as well as being a haunt for many ghosts and spectres.

Visit http://www.darkdorset.co.uk/ to learn more.

We will try to continue our involment with the Ridgeway Project and will keep our site updated accordingly.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Help tell the story behind town estate

It's the largest housing district in Weymouth and behind every door there's a story.

It has a rich history too, and everyone from the Australian soldiers who camped there to the landlord of the Rock Hotel who pulled pints and the stonemasons who chipped away at the blocks of St Paul's Church have contributed to the development.

It is 125 years since the name Westham was first mooted by town planners and the occasion is to be marked with a celebration on Saturday, April 26 at Conifers School.

Source: Dorset Echo Friday 15th February 2008

Star of Time Team at project launch

Some of Dorset's most ancient monuments have deteriorated badly over the last 40 years.

Details will be given tomorrow when a three-year South Dorset Ridgeway project, backed with £150,000 worth of Heritage Lottery Fund cash, is launched at Portesham Village Hall.

Source: Dorset Echo Friday 15th February 2008

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Dark Dorset Calendar Customs Book Review - Calendar Customs - Book Reveals why we celebrate dates

If you have no idea why we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, why children dance around a maypole on May Day,or why we carve pumpkins at Hallowe'en then a book just published could be your answer.

Robert Newland, 38, has just spent two and a half years researching Dorset's calendar customs and his book, Dark Dorset Calendar Customs, has just been published by CFZ Press, priced £12.50.

Mr Newland, has already published two other books, one on the mischievous fairies of Dorset and the other Dark Dorset: Tales of Mystery,Wonder and Terror, with his friend Mark North.

That book prompted the birth of their website darkdorset.co.uk. Book reveals why we celebrate dates

His books and the website are devoted to the folklore and legends of Dorset which he has been collecting for the last ten years.

He said: "Much of the intrinsic charm of Dorset folklore is-owed to the importance of folk customs. Today only a small amount of these curious and occasionally eccentric customs have survived, while those that still continue have, for many of us, lost their original significance. "Why do we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday? Why do children dance around the maypole on May Day? Why do we carve pumpkin lanterns at Hallowe'en? What is Wassailing? And who is Father Christmas?"

Mr Newland has made an in-depth study of the Dorset country calendar identifying the major feast-days, holidays and celebrations when traditionally such folk customs are practised. Some of these customs hark back to pre-Christian times, while others are comparatively recent innovations.

The list of customs is an extensive one and includes Morris Dancing, Clipping the Church Well Dressing, Love Divinations, Mumming Plays Corn Dollies, Broom Dancing and many more.

Included as a special bonus are 30 tasty seasonal recipes to try out, such as Cattern Cake, Plough Tide Dumplings and mince pies.

Review by Rene Gerryts, Bridport News, Thursday, 14th February 2008

ALL YOU HAVE EVER WANTED TO KNOW:
Dorset author Robert Newland, 38,
has just spent two and a half years
researching Dorset's calendar customs
and his book, Dark Dorset Calendar Customs
has just been published by
CFZ Press and is priced at £12.50

Cerne Abbas voted Britain's most desirable village

A Dorset village best known for its 180ft naked chalk giant has been named the most desirable in Britain.

Cerne Abbas, whose 700 or so residents are catered for by three pubs and a tea room, was chosen as Britain's best village by the estate agent Savills, which described it as "strikingly beautiful".

Source: The Guardian Thursday February 14 2008

Source: Dorset Echo Thursday 14th February 2008

Customs of Saint Valentine's Day


The 14th February is better known as 'St Valentine's Day' and it is without question the most popular day of the year for romance.

The custom of sending anonymous greeting cards to ones sweetheart or 'Valentine' is as popular as ever, yet the St Valentine's Day we know today actually evolved from the ancient Roman festival of 'Lupercalia', part of which was the choosing of sexual partners for the coming year by the drawing of lots. The names of all the eligible girls were placed in a vessel dedicated to the god 'Lupercus', and the boys each in turn pulled out a name to see whom fate had chosen for them.

'The Valentine Lottery' as it later became known experienced over the centuries ebbs and flows of popularity and unexpectedly became fashionable once again in the early Victorian era as a party game.
If a girl was courting but unlucky enough not to receive a Valentine greeting from her sweetheart today she would be deemed as 'Dusty' and therefore had to undergo the indignity of being swept down by either her Mother or companions with a broomstick or wisp of straw. The idea was to create as much embarrassment to the 'dusty victim' as possible as she then had to cast lots with the other girls in the usual manner.

The primary goal of St Valentine's Day is to find an ideal partner suitable for marriage. This year, 2008 is 'Leap Year' so what better time to remind everyone about the age-old rules of 'Leap Day proposing'. Planning a marriage proposal is an anxious, yet exciting time for anyone thinking about popping the big question, and most will agree that the rules of courtship, namely the very act of proposing should be done in the proper way.

Traditionally, 'Leap Day' 29th February is the only one true day when a lady can propose marriage; but according to custom only if she is wearing a red petticoat. Everyone knows that when a gentleman proposes marriage it is customary for him to go down on one knee, however, in a lady's case the customary and proper procedure is for her to lift up her dress and show her red petticoats. Red being the colour of lifeblood and has strong symbolism to love, warmth, passion and fertility. In Roman times brides wore a red veil called a 'flammeum' as a symbolic statement of their sincere love and that they were fertile (menstruating) and therefore ripe for the marriage bed. No doubt the custom of showing ones red petticoat to propose on Leap Day is a remnant from such ancient marriage customs.

Few young ladies wear petticoats these days and it's therefore hardly surprising that this aspect of Leap Day proposing has been lost. However, one suspects that a flash of red knickers would do just as well today, and what man could refuse that! It is worth pointing out that if on Leap Day a gentleman declines the offer of marriage, he has to pay the forfeit to buy the lady a pair of gloves for Easter.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

NEW VIDEOS POSTED - New Year Folk Dancing and Mummers Play

The first part of this fantastic New Year's Day 2008 celebration from Beaminster Town Square, featuring the ever wonderful Treacle Eater Clog dancers and the amazing Babylon Morris Dancers. Also featuring the very loud Town Crier, David Craner. God Save The Queen!




Enjoy the second part of this fantastic New Year's Day 2008 celebration from Beaminster Town Square, featuring the amazing Babylon Mummers. See St George as you've never seen him before slay his old enemies only to be brought back to life by the Doctor! Watch out for Little Devil Doubt!


Saturday, 9 February 2008

Trust records island’s history

Histories and memories of the lives of Portland people, the island landscape and its stone will feature in a new community project being run by Portland Sculpture and Quarry Trust.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Beaminster Beast spotted in pensioner garden?


Pensioner Gwen Wragg from Beaminster swears she was stone cold sober when she saw a black panther-like creature cavorting about her garden.



Saturday, 2 February 2008

NEW VIDEOS POSTED - Frome Valley Morris Mummers Play and Chickerell Carnival 2007

Dark Dorset has been filming Dorset's customs and traditions since 2004. A selection can viewed at our external Youtube Site .

Frome Valley Morris Mummers Play 2007

Every year since 1978 the Frome Valley Morris Mummers have performed an action packed mummers play which up until 1936 was originally performed at Broadwey near Weymouth. Their bright costumes with colourful streamers hanging down over the face for disguise are based on the actual costumes worn at the time.


The Mummers, as remembered by Thomas Hardy for the Mummers' play in the 'Return of the Native' performed in Dorchester in 1920. The Frome Valley Morris based theirs costumes, on the ones used by the Hardy players, originally designed from a sketch by Hardy.

The Frome Valley Morris Mummers specialise in turning up at a venue, entering and performing the play. The first the surprised audience knows is the unexpected entrance of the Announcer, followed by each character in turn introducing themselves Father Christmas, Saint George, A Turkish Knight, A Doctor, Beelzebub, Jack Vinney (A Village Idiot). This does not usually stop anyone watching joining in with the spirit of the play with interactive cheers and good humour.

Last year Dark Dorset followed the Frome Valley Morris Men as they performed there end of year Mummers Play at a variety of venues in Dorset. The video below was taken at the White Horse, Litton Cheney on 22nd of December 2007.

Friday, 1 February 2008

£150,000 boost for South Dorset Ridgeway Heritage Project

A major project to bring the ancient history of South Dorset Ridgeway to life has been given a £150,000 boost by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Sources:




Hardy inspires new west folklore book

Thomas Hardy wove West Country myth and legend seamlessly into his novels and poems, having taken part himself in many old customs and heard a treasury of folk tales, many from his own family traditions.

He drew on local histories and antiquarian works, the writings of William Barnes, the Dorset dialect poet, and accounts in both magazines and newspapers.

READ MORE - Source: Western Daily Press
01 February 2008
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