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assign a day to him, upon promyse by his feythe to retourne; and wyth him to bryng tweyne of his neighbours. And in the meyne time, the said Bailliffe sha}] take with him tweyne of the freeholders of the Lordship of Whichenoore; and they three shall go to the manoir of Rudlowe belongynge to Robert Knyhtleye, and there shall somon the forseid Knyghtleye or his baillyffe, commanding him to be ready at Whichenoore the day appoynted, at pryme of the day, withe his caryage; that is to say, a horse and a sadylle, a sakke and a pryke* for to convey and carye the said baconne and corne a journey owtt of the countee of Stafford at his costages.† And then the sayd baillyffe‡ shall with the sayd freeholders somone all the tenaunts of the said manoir to be ready at the day appoynted at Whichenoore for to doo and perform the services which they owe to the baconne. And at the day assign'd, all such as owe services to the baconne, shall be ready at the gatte of the manoir of whichenoure, frome the sonne-rysinge to none, attend
* A pryke signifies a spur, from its having at one time consisted of a single point. (See BLOUNT'S FRAGMENTA ANTIQUITATIS, by Beckwith, p. 132). Hence the scriptural phrase of "it is hard to kick against the pricks," which indeed had been said by Terence at least a hundred and eighty years before the time of the apostles:
"Nam quæ inscitia est
Adversum stimulum calces."
Terentii Phormio, Act 1, Sc. 2, L. 27. And hence too the use of the word in our old writers for riding hastily; as in Spenser's FAIRY QUEEN:
"A gentle knight was pricking on the plain."
This word is explained by Minshew to mean cost, and is of very frequent occurrence in Dugdale, as well as in other of our older writers.
The reader, who is unused to our old authors, must not be surprized at the looseness of the orthography, the same word being spelt in half a dozen different ways; it is more or less the case with all of hem.
yng and awatyng for the comyng of hym that fetcheth the baconne. And when he is comyn, there shall be delivered to him and hys felowys chapeletts, and to all those whiche shall be there to do their services deue to the baconne; and they shall leid the seid demandant wythe trompes and tabours and other maner of mynstralseye to the halle dore, where he shall fynde the Lord of Wychenoore or his steward, ready to deliver the baconne in this manere. He shall enquere of hym, whiche demandeth the baconne, yf he have brought tweyn of hys neybors with hym. Whiche must answere, 'they be here redy.' And then the steward shall cause thies two neighbours to swere yf the seid demandaunt be a weddyt man; or have be a man weddyt; and yf sythe his marriage one yere and a day be passed; and yf he be a freeman or a villeyn.
And yf his seid neighbours make othe that he hath for hym all thies three poynts rehersed; then shall the baconne be take downe, and broghte to the halle-dore; and shall there be layd upon one half a quarter of wheatte, and upon other of rye. And he that demandeth the baconne shall kneel upon his knee; and shall holde his right hande upon a booke, which booke shall be layde above the baconne and the corne; and shall make othe in this manere.
'Here ye, Sir Philippe de Somervile, Lord of Whichenoore, mayntener and gyver of this baconne,-that I, A sithe I wedded B my wife, and sythe I hadde hyr in my keping and at my wylle by a yere and a day, after our mariage, I wold not have chaunged for none other, farer ne fowler, rycher ne pourer, ne for none other descended of gretter lynage, slepyng ne wakyng, at noo time. And yf the seid B were sole, and I sole, I wolde take her to be my wyfe before alle the wymen of the worlde, of what condiciones soever they be, good or evylle;
as helpe me God and his seyntis, and this fleshe and all fleshes.'
And hys neighbors shall make othe that they trust veraly he hath said truly. And yff it be founde by his neighbours, before named, that he be a freeman, there shall be delyvered to him half a quarter of wheate and a cheese. And yf he be a villeyn, he shall have half a quarter of rye wythoutte cheese. And then shall Knyghtley, the Lord of Rudlowe, be called for, to carrye all thies thynges to fore rehersed. And the said corne shall be layd upon one horse, and the baconne above ytt; and he to whom the baconne apperteigneth, shall ascend upon his horse, and shall take the cheese before hym, yf he have a horse; and yf he have none, the Lord of Whichenover shall cause him to have one horse and sadyll, to* such time as he be passed hys Lordshippe; and so shalle they departe the manoir of Whichenovre with the corne and the baconne tofore hym that hath wonne itt, with trompets, tabouretts, and other manere of mynstralce. And all the free tenants of Winchenovre shall conduct hym to* (he) be passed the lordship of Whichenovre. And then shall all they retorne, except hym to whom apperteigneth to make the carryage and journey wythowtt the countye of Stafforde at the costys of his Lord of Whichenovre.
And yff the said Robert Knighteley do not cause the baconne and corne to be conveyed as is rehersed, the Lord of Whychenovre shall do it be carryed, and shall dystreigne the said Robert Knyghteley for his defaulte, for one hundred shyllings, and shall kepe the distres, so taken, irreplevisable."
It is not a little singular that a custom of the same kind in substance, though differing in the details, should have existed also at the priory of Dunmow, in Essex, whence * i.e. till.
arises the old saying "that he which repents him not of his marriage, either sleeping or waking in a year and a day, may lawfully go to Dunmow and fetch a gammon of bacon away." It is unknown when or with whom the custom originated, but that it did exist there can be no doubt whatever. In Blount we read, "I have enquired of the manner of it, and can learne no more but that it continued untill the dissolution of that house,* as also the abbies. And that the party, or pilgrim for bacon was to take his oath before prior, and convent, and the whole town, humbly kneeling in the churchyard upon two hard-pointed stones, which stones some say are there yet to be seen in the prior's church-yard; his oath was ministred with such long process, and such solemne singing over him, that doubtless must make his pilgrimage (as I may terme it) painfull; after, he was taken up upon men's shoulders, and carried, first about the priory churchyard, and after through the town with all the fryers and brethren, and all the townsfolke, young and old, following him with shouts and acclamations, with his bacon borne before him, and in such manner (as I have heard) was sent home with his bacon; of which I find that some had a gammon, and others a flecke, or a flitch; for proof whereof I have, from the records of the house found the names of three several persons that at several times had it." t
*It continued long after, as both Blount and his editor, Beckwith, must have known, since, in the very document they are quoting from, the fact is distinctly recorded. At all events we find the custom existing so late as the June of 1750, a tolerably long date from "the dissolution of that house," or of any other priory.
+ Blount's Fragmenta Antiquitatis.—By Beckwith, p. 520, 4to. London. 1815. He would seem by the spelling of his verses to have quoted from an earlier copy than the historian, Morant, but it is far from being so correct.
The hard-pointed stones, on which the claimant was forced to kneel, while attesting his conjugal felicity, were bad enough in all reason, and plainly shewed the Lord of the Manor was willing to save his bacon if possible; but the oath was of a nature, one would have thought, to preclude any husband of three weeks standing from the trial, providing only he had the least conscience; it was ten times harder of digestion than that which we have already seen propounded to the candidates for the flitch at Whichenovre. It is thus given by Morant in his History
"You shall swear by custom of confession,
For this is our custom at Dunmow well known,
The last time this premium on conjugal love and fidelity was ever received was on the 20th of June, 1750, by John Shakeshanks, wool-comber and Anne his wife, of Wethersfield.
* P. 429, Vol. ii, folio, Lond. 1768.