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person, and lead him to the hearth where the dishes are ranged; he (or she) dips the left hand; if by chance in the clean water, the future husband or wife will come to the bar of matrimony a maid; if in the foul, a widow if in the empty dish, it foretells with equal certainty no marriage at all. It is repeated three times, and every time the arrangement of the dishes is altered."
CUSTOM OF THE FLITCH OF
THIS custom has passed into a proverb and become the subject both of play and ballad, but its real nature does not seem to be well understood by those, who are most in the habit of alluding to it. In general it is supposed to attach itself exclusively to Dunmow. This however is no more than a popular error. We know from authentic records that it prevailed also at Tutbury in Staffordshire, and I can not help suspecting that a more extended and accurate research would prove that it existed in many other localities, and was itself but the shadow of some older custom. Sir William Dugdale* indeed fancies that he has found the source of it so far as Tutbury is concerned, and he thus quaintly describes it from an ancient parchment roll in English of the time of King Henry VIII, which however was not the original, having been translated from a roll in French, belonging to the age of King Edward III. The person, of whom he is speaking, is Sir Philip de Somerville, who held several manors of the Earl of Leicester, then Lord of the manor of Tutbury by two small fees; that is to say,
* Dugdale's Baronage of England, vol. ii, p. 106, folio, London,
when other tenants pay for reliefe,* one whole knight's fee, one hundred shillings, he, the said Sir Philip, shall pay but fifty shillings; and when escuaget is assessed throghe owtt the lande, or to ayde for to make th❜eldest
*This word is thus explained by Blount, "a feudatory or beneficiary estate in lands was at first granted only for life, and after the death of the vassall it returned to the chief lord, for which reason it was called feudum caducum, viz., fallen to the Lord by the death of the tenant; afterwards, these feudatory estates being turned into an inheritance by the connivance and assent of the chief Lord, when the possessor of such an estate died, it was called hæreditas caduca, i.e. it was fallen to the chief Lord, to whom the heir having paid a certain sum of money he did then relevare hæreditatem caducam out of his hands; and the money thus paid was called a relief. This must be understood after the Conquest, for in the time of the Saxons there were no reliefs, but heriots paid to the Lord at the death of his tenant, which in those days were horses, arms, &c., and such tributes could not be exacted of the English immediately after the Conquest, for they were deprived of both by the Normans; and instead thereof in many places the payment of certain sums of money was substituted, which they called a relief, and which continues to this day." LAW DICTIONARY, sub voce, fol. Lond. 1717.
+"ESCUAGE (Scutagium, from the Fr. Escu, i.e. a Buckler or Shield) signifies a kind of knight's service, called service of the shield; the tenant holding by it was bound to follow his Lord into the Scotish or Welsh wars at his own charge, which is taken away and discharged by act of parliament, 12 Car. II, cap. 24. He, who held a whole knight's fee, was bound to serve with horse and arms for forty days; and he, who held half a knight's fee, was to serve twenty days. Escuage also is sometimes taken for that duty or payment, which they, who held lands under this tenure, were bound to make to the Lord, when they neither went themselves to the wars, nor provided one in their place. Escuage is sometimes called a reasonable aid, which was demanded by the Lord of his tenants who held lands in Knights-service, viz., concesserunt Domino Regi ad maritandam filiam suam de omnibus qui tenent de Domino Rege in capite de singulis scutis 20 solidos solvendos' (Matt. Paris, anno 1242). It was an uncertain duty 'till it was known how much money the parliament would raise; but Escuage certain is called Socage." Blount's LAW DICTIONARY, sub
sonne of the Lord, knyght; or for to marrye the eldest daughter of the Lord, the said Sir Philip shall pay bott the motye* of it that other shall pay.
Neverthelesse, the said Sir Philip shall fynde, meyntienge,† and susteigne, one bacon flyke, ‡ hanging in his hall at Whichenoure,§ redy arrayede all times of the yere, bott in Lent; to be given to everyche mane, or womane married, after the day and the yere of their mariage be passed; and to be gyven to everyche mane of religion, archbishop, bishop, prior, or other religious; and to everyche preest, after the yere and day of their profession finished, or of their dignity reseyved in forme followyng; whensoever that ony suche byfore named wylle come for to enquire for the baconne, in their own persone, or by any other for them, they shall come to the baillyfe, or to the porter, of the Lordship of Whichnoure, and shall say to them in the manere as ensewethe;
'Bayliffe, or porter, I doo you to knowe; that I am come for myself (or, if he be come for any other, shewing for whome) to demaunde one Bacon flyke, hanging in the halle of the Lord of Whichenoure after forme thereunto belongyng.'
After which relacioun, the baillyffe or porter shall * i.e. Moiety.
§ Whichnour, Whichnor, Wichnor, or Wichnoure, as it is variously spelled, is a small village, of Staffordshire, situated in the north division of the hundred of Offlow and deanry of Tamworth, on the antient Rikenhild street, about half way between Burton and Lichfield. It is so called from its situation on a fine eminence on the north side of the river, Trent, wic in the Saxon signifying a village or dwelling place, and orra, or orre, a bank. See Shaw's Hist. of Staffordshire, vol. i, p. 118.
In the folio of 1675 it is printed, I presume by a blunder of the compositor" (if he be come for any other shewing for whom demaunde one Bacon," &c., vol. ii, p. 107.
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 shall 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 kiek 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 them.