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Littleton, lord of that borough), of the 15th year of Queen Elizabeth : “Custom of bride-ale.—Item, a payne is made that no person or persons that shall brewe any weddyn-ale to sell, shall not brewe above twelve strike of mault at the most, and that the said persons so married shall not keep nor have above eight messe of persons at his dinner within the burrowe: and before his brydall daye he shall keep no unlawfull games in hys house, nor out of hys house, on pain of 20 shillings."
In Harrison's Description of Britain, it is remarked: “In feasting, also, the husbandmen do exceed after their manner, especially at bridales, &c., where it is incredible to tell what meat is consumed and spent; ech one brings such a dish, or so manie, with him, as his wife and he doo consult upon, but alwaies with this consideration, that the leefer friend shall have the better provision."
Thus it appears that, among persons of inferior rank, a contribution was expressly made for the purpose of assisting the bridegroom and bride in their new situation. This custom must have doubtless been often abused; it breathed, however, a great deal of philanthropy, and would naturally help to increase population by encouraging matrimony. This custom of making presents at weddings seems also to have prevailed amongst those of the higher order. From the account before cited of the nuptials of the Lady Susan with Sir Philip Herbert, in the reign of James I., it appears that the presents of plate and other things given by the noblemen were valued at 25001., and that the king gave 5001. for the bride's jointure, His Majesty gave her away, and, as his manner was, archly observed on the occasion, that “if he were unmarried, he would not give her, but keep her for himself.” From a passage in Ben Jonson's Silent Woman, Andrews, in his Continuation of Henry's History of Great Britain, 4to. p. 529, infers that it seems to have been a general custom to make presents to the married pair, in proportion to the gay appearance of their wedding.
Morant, in his History of Essex, ii. 303, speaking of Great Yeldham, in Hinckford hundred, says:
“ A house near the church was anciently used and appropriated for dressing a dinner for poor folks when married, and had all utensils and furniture convenient for that purpose. It hath since been converted into a school.” Ibid. p. 499, speaking of matching in Harlow Half-hundred, he says: “A house close to the churchyard, said to be built by one .... Chimney, was designed for the entertainment of poor people on their weddingday. It seems to be very ancient, but ruinous."
Gough, in his Camden, edit. 1789, i. 341, Hertfordshire, says : “At Therfield, as at Braughing, was till lately a set of kitchen furniture lent to the poor at weddings." Hutchinson, in his History of Cumberland, i. 553, speaking of the parish of Whitbeck, says : Newly-married peasants beg corn to sow their first crop with, and are called Cornlaiters."
Owen, in his Welsh Dictionary, in v. Cawsa, says: “ It is customary in some part of Wales for poor women newly married to go to farmers' houses, to ask for cheese, which is called Cawsa. Also, ibid., in v. Cymhorth : "The poor people in Wales have a marriage of contribution, to which every guest brings a present of some sort of provision or money, to enable the new couple to begin the world."
Bride-ales are mentioned by Puttenham, in his Arte of Poesie, 1589, p. 69 : “During the course of Queen Elizabeth's entertainments at Kenilworth Castle, in 1575, a bryde-ale was celebrated with a great variety of shews and sports.” See also Laneham's Letter, dated the same year.
Newton, in his Herbal for the Bible, p. 94, speaking of rushes, says: “Herewith be made manie pretie imagined devises for bride-ales, and other solemnities, as little baskets, hampers, panniers, pitchers, dishes, combes, brushes, stooles, chaires, purses with strings, girdles, and manie such other pretie, curious, and artificiall conceits, which at such times many do take the paines to make and hang up in the houses as tokens of good-will to the new-married bride; and, after the solemnity ended, to bestow abroad for bride-gifts or presents.” Ibid. p. 225, when speaking of the rose, Newton says : “At bride-ales the houses and chambers were woont to be strawed with these odoriferous and sweet herbes, to signifie that in wedlocke all pensive sullennes and lowring cheer, all wrangling strife, jarring, variance, and discorde ought to be utterly excluded and abandoned ; and that in place thereof, al mirth, pleasantnes, cheerfulnes, mildnes, quietnes, and love should be maintained, and that in matters passing betweene the husband and the wife all secresie should be used.”
According to Johnson, the secondary sense of "bush," is
a bough of a tree fixed up at a door to show that liquors are sold there. Hence the well-known proverb-"Good wine needs no bush.” There is a wedding-sermon by Whateley, of Banbury, entitled a Bride-Bush, as is another, preached to a new-married couple at (Esen, in Norfolk. Thus Ben Jonson :
“ With the phant’sies of Hey-troll
Round about the bride's stake.” A bush at the end of a stake or pole was the ancient badge of a country alehouse. Around this bride-stake the guests were wont to dance as about a maypole.
The bride-ale appears to have been called in some places a bidding, from the circumstance of the bride and bridegroom's bidding or inviting the guests. A writer in the Gent. Mag. for May, 1784, p. 343, mentions this custom in some parts of South Wales, peculiar, he thinks, to that country, and still practised at the marriages of servants, tradesfolks, and little farmers : “Before the wedding an entertainment is provided, to which all the friends of each party are bid or invited, and to which none fail to bring or send some contribution, from a cow or calf down to half-a-crown or a shilling. An account of each is kept, and if the young couple do well, it is expected that they should give as much at any future bidding of their generous guests. I have frequently known of 501. being thus collected, and have heard of a bidding which produced even a hundred.” In the Cambrian Register, 1796, p. 430, we read: “Welch weddings are frequently preceded, on the evening before the marriage, by presents of provisions and articles of household furniture to the bride and bridegroom. On the wedding-day as many as can be collected together accompany them to the church, and from thence home, where a collection is made in money from each of the guests, according to their inclination or ability, which sometimes supplies a considerable aid in establishing the newly-married couple, and in enabling them to ‘begin the world,' as they call it, with more comfort but it is, at the same time, considered as a debt to be repaid hereafter, if called upon, at any future wedding of the contributors, or of their friends or their children, in similar circumstances. Some time previous to these weddings, where they mean to receive contributions, a herald, with a crook or
WILLIAM JONES, } Sept. 4, 1787.
wand adorned with ribbons, makes the circuit of the neighbourhood, and makes his bidding,' or invitation, in a prescribed form. The knight-errant cavalcade on horseback, the carrying off the bride, the rescue, the wordy war in rythm between the parties, &c., which formerly formed a singular spectacle of mock contest at the celebration of nuptials, I believe to be now almost, if not altogether, laid aside everywhere through the principality.”
The following is from the Gent. Mag. for 1789, lix. 99 : “ Bidding.-As we intend entering the nuptial state, we propose having a bidding on the occasion on Thursday the 20th day of September instant, at our own house on the Parade, where the favour of your good company will be highly esteemed; and whatever benevolence you please to confer on us shall be gratefully acknowledged, and retaliated on a similar occasion, by your most obedient humble servants,
ANN DAVIES, “N.B. The young man's father (Stephen Jones), and the young woman's aunt (Ann Williams), will be thankfull for all favours conferred on them that day.
Another writer in the Gent. Mag. for 1784, liv. 484, mentions a similar custom in Scotland, called penny weddings. “ When there was a marriage of two poor people who were esteemed by any of the neighbouring gentry, they agreed among themselves to meet, and have a dance upon the occasion, the result of which was a handsome donation, in order to assist the new-married couple in their outset in life.” In the Statistical Account of Scotland, iv. 86, parish of Drainy, co. of Elgin, we are told: “A penny wedding is when the expense of the marriage entertainment is not defrayed by the young couple or their relations, but by a club among the guests. Two hundred people, of both sexes, will sometimes be convened on an occasion of this kind.” In the same work, xxi. 146, parish of Monquhitter, speaking of the time of “our fathers,” the minister observes : “Shrove Tuesday, Valentine Eve, the Rood day, &c. &c., were accompanied by pastimes and practices congenial to the youthful and ignorant mind. The market-place was to the peasant what the drawing-room is to the peer, the theatre of show and of consequence.
The scene, however, which involved every amusement and every joy of an idle and illiterate age was a penny bridal. When a pair were contracted, they, for a stipulated consideration, bespoke their wedding at a certain tavern, and then ranged the country in every direction to solicit guests. One, two, and even three hundred would have convened on these occasions to make merry at their own expense for two or more days. This scene of 'feasting, drinking, dancing, wooing, fighting, &c., was always enjoyed with the highest relish, and, until obliterated by a similar scene, furnished ample materials for rural mirth and rural scandal. But now the penny bridal is reprobated as an index of want of money and of want of taste. The market-place is generally occupied by people in business. Athletic amusements are confined to schoolboys. Dancing, taught by itinerant masters, cards, and conversation, are the amusements now in vogue; and the pleasures of the table enlivened by a moderate glass are frequently enjoyed in a suitable degree by people of every
In the same work, xv. 636, parish of Avoch, co. Ross, it is said: “Marriages in this place are generally conducted in the style of penny weddings. Little other fare is provided except bread, ale, and whisky. The relatives, who assemble in the morning, are entertained with a dram and a drink gratis. But, after the ceremony is performed, every man pays for his drink. The neighbours then convene in great numbers. A fiddler or two, with perhaps a boy to scrape on an old violoncello, are engaged. A barn is allotted for the dancing, and a house for drinking; and thus they make merry for two or three days, till Saturday night. On Sabbath, after returning from church, the married couple give a sort of dinner or entertainment to the present friends on both sides : so that these weddings, on the whole, bring little gain or loss to the parties.” Jamieson, in his Etymological Dictionary, quotes an Act of the General Assembly, 13th February, 1645, for the restraint of pennie brydals.
In Cumberland it had the appellation of a bride-wain, a
! We learn from Loccenius that penny bridals were common in Sweden. The custom has probably existed from an early period. " In nonnullis locis sumtus nuptialis ab invitatis hospitibus in cranio vel collectis solent adjuvari ac sublevari : quum plures unam facilius, quam unus et solus seipsum impensis majori instruere possit.” Antiq. Suio-Goth.,