Customs and superstitions

Witchcraft

An old woman named Audrey Dawe lived in a cottage in Upper Fitzhead and she was believed to be a witch. She was put in the Stocks in the Churchyard for her misdeeds, and one of the present villagers remembers his grandfather telling him that he and the other boys pelted her with rotten eggs and tomatoes.

There was a hare in Halse and the harriers could never kill it. There was something strange about this hare. One day a man working in a field started the hare, threw a stick at it and hit it on the leg. It escaped again – but it was said that old Widow ***** walked lame for weeks afterwards.

Christmas

It was the custom in the nineteenth century for the farmer to give each of his men at Christmas one peck of wheat, one jug of cider, a piece of bread and cheese, and an Ashen Faggot. The ashen faggot was burned on the Eve of Epiphany because, on that night, the ‘Holy Thorn’ of Glastonbury burst into flower. Singing to the apple tree was also a tradition at Christmas.

Guy Fawkes night

In the eighteenth century, Fitzhead celebrated 5 November with bonfires in the usual way, but later the tradition changed. The blacksmith’s anvil was brought out from the forge and turned upside down. The hold at the bottom was filled with gunpowder, which was pressed down firmly with a large bung. The fuse was lighted and the explosion sent the bung flying over the countryside. Everyone went off searching for the bung and whoever found it won the prize…

The stocks

The stocks stood in the Churchyard between the Lych Gate and the Tithe Barn. The last offenders to be put in them were Theophilus Sidman and Joseph Reed who wandered into the Churchyard “rather uproarious from drink” whilst a service was being held.