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Magna Britannia: Volume 5, Derbyshire. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1817.

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The custom of rush-bearing, which we have mentioned in our account of Cheshire (fn. n1), still prevails in the northern part of Derbyshire, bordering on Yorkshire and Cheshire. In Glossop church we observed, in 1810, one of the garlands carried before the rush-carts on these occasions, of very large dimensions, and richly ornamented with gilt paper and glass of various colours: and we were informed that the rush-bearing carts, were here usually very much decorated with garlands and plate. The ceremony of strewing the churches with rushes usually takes place on the day of the dedication of the church; but in the Peak-Forest is always held on Midsummer-Eve. (fn. n2)

The ancient custom of hanging up in the churches garlands of roses, with a pair of gloves cut out of white paper, which had been carried before the corpses of young unmarried women, at their funerals, still prevails in many of the parishes of the Peak.

The country wakes which formerly prevailed generally throughout the kingdom, on the Sunday following the day of dedication, or the day of the saint to whom the church was dedicated, are no where perhaps at present more generally observed than in some parts of this county, particularly the wapentake of Wirksworth; where they last several days, during which a play is exhibited every evening, on a temporary stage erected in some conspicuous part of the village. We saw such an one at Brassington on the 27th of September, 1810, on which the Cheats of Scapin was the play to be performed that evening; another was preparing at Hognaston a few days afterwards for the comic opera of Love in a Village. Bulls and badgers, and sometimes bears, are baited at these wakes; and we were informed that the persons, who keep the bears for that purpose, are still known here by the ancient appellation of Bearward. The desperate foot-ball contests which were formerly common at these wakes, Mr. Farey informs us, are now confined to the streets of All-Saints in Derby on Shrove-Tuesday. (fn. n3)

There is an annual custom at Tissington, of dressing the wells or springs, in different parts of the village: these, on Holy-Thursday are adorned with flowers, arranged in various devices, and accompanied with inscriptions, by the persons on whose premises they are situated. This is performed with boards cut to the size and form of the subject intended to be represented, and covered with moist clay, in which the flowers are inserted, and the petals of flowers forming a sort of mosaic-work. These boards, thus ornamented, are fixed at the back of the spring, which appears to issue from under them. There is service in the church on that day, and a sermon, after which each of the wells is visited, and the three Psalms for the day, with the Epistle and Gospel, are read, one at each well; of which there are five, of remarkably clear water. The whole concludes with a psalm, which is sung by the church singers, accompanied by a band of music. (fn. n4)


  • n1. P. 463.
  • n2. Farey's Survey, vol. iii. p. 625.
  • n3. Ibid, p. 630.
  • n4. From the information of the Rev, L. Brooks.