4th Old Midsummer Eve
5th Old Midsummer’s Day
Beware of being misled by Robin Goodfellow.
The last battle on English soil took place today in 1685 in Sedgemore, Somerset, between King James II and the rebel troops of the Duke of Monmouth. Although Royalist forces were victorious, King James’ victory was short lived, as he was overthrown in the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688.
7th St. Thomas A Becket’s Day
He was put to death in Canterbury Cathedral on the orders of King Henry II.
On the first Friday in July there took place Fairlop Fair, around a huge oak tree in Epping Forest. It was reputed to be 36 feet in circumference and was centuries old. The tree was damaged by fire in 1805 and finally blew down in 1820.
The wood was used to make the pulpit and reading desk of St Pancras Curch on Euston Road, London. The last fair was held in 1900.
In its heyday it attracted huge numbers of pleasure seekers, and Fairlop Tarts were made and eaten.
The last tram ran in London on this day in 1952.
9th St Everild’s Day
Born in Wessex in the 7th century, she founded a nunnery near Rippon, Yorkshire.
By 9th July the Dog Days have begun. They last until early August. They mark the period when Sirius the Dog-Star rises with the sun. Heat from the bright Sirius coupled with the sun makes for the hottest weeks of the year.
“Dog days bright and clear
Indicate a happy year;
But when accompanied by rain
For better times our hopes are vain.”
“Visited the old Merediths at the Bridge Gate. Mrs Meredith said she was very ill. ‘Tis the dog star,’ she said. ‘I shall not be better till Saturday, when the dog days end. Tis an evil star.'”
Excerpt from Francis Kilvert’s Diary.
It was regarded as an evil time, when malign influences were abroad, dogs ran mad, and people became ill.
‘If it rains on 10th July, it will rain for seven weeks.’
On this day in 1553 Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England. She was beheaded nine days later.
11th – St Benedict’s Day
In the sixth century St Benedictine founded the Benedictine Order of monks.
‘To the 12th July from the 12th May, all is day.’
Henry VIII married his sixth and last wife, Catherine Parr, on this day in 1543.
13th – St Mildred’s Day
Daughter of Thanet Princess St Ermenburga. Died in 700. Buried at Minster on the Isle of Thanet, Kent.
15th – St Swithin’s Day
Died AD 862. An English monk who became Bishop of Winchester in 852. When he died 10 years later, at his request he was buried in the churchyard. When his remains were removed inside the cathedral on this day in 971 it was disrupted by heavy rain and it continued for 40 days thereafter.
“St Swithin’s Day, if ye do rain,
For forty days it will remain;
St Swithin’s Day, an ye be fair,
For forty days ’twill rain nae mair.”
‘Till Swithin’s Day by past,
The apples be not fit to taste.
According to old folklore, you won’t have the jam made ’till the apples are christened . . . We never eat or cut apples until St Swithin has christened them.
Donald Campbell broke the land speed record on this day in 1964 at Lake Eyre, Australia, with a speed of 403.1 mph.
19th – Armada Day
Defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
<strong>Church Clipping</strong> takes place in various counties, including Gloucestershire, at Painswick, on the Sunday nearest to 19th July. It is the custom of encircling the church by holding hands.
This custom probably dates from Celtic times, when it was common practice to worship stone monoliths. In Painswick, for example, the townspeople clip their church and afterwards celebrate with a piece of bow-wow pie, a fruit pie with a china dog in the middle. Some people claim that the pie was once made with a real dog.
20th – St Margaret’s Day
St Margaret’s Day is good for fruit and flowers. Rain falling today is known as <strong>St Margaret’s flood</strong>.
‘If St Margaret brings the first pear
Pears will abound for the rest of the year.’
Over 200 churches are dedicated to her. She was a very popular saint in the middle ages. She was remembered longest in Gloucestershire, and it was customary on this day to serve a plum pudding called ‘Heg Peg Dump’, ‘peg’ being a pet form of the name Margaret.
22nd – St Mary Magdalene’s Day
‘If it rains today Mary is washing her handkerchief prior to visiting St James Fair on the 25th.’
Patron Saint of pharmacists, hairdressers, repentant sinners and prostitutes.
24th St Neot’s Day
Remembered in the place name of Cornwall and Cambridgeshire, he was invoked by fishermen anxious for good catches.
The speaking clock was introduced in 1936.
25th – St James the Greater Day
St James the Great was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of St John the Evangelilst. He was also, according to Christians, a cousin of Jesus, and a fisherman, and the first of the Apostles to be martyred.
He was buried in Jerusalem, where his shrine became a famous place of pilgrimage in the middle ages. Patron Saint of pilgrims.
St James’ badge is a scallop. To own one means favourable treatment on Judgement Day (apparently). On this day people visited shell-grottos, many of which were constructed, hence the alternative name Grotto Day. By last century it had become mainly a children’s activity, an excuse for demanding pennies from passers-by.
“Please remember the grotto,
Me father has run off to sea.
Me mother’s gone to fetch ‘im back,
So please remember me.”
Over 400 ancient churches bear his name. He is the Patron Saint of Spain.
Ebernoe Horn Fair is held on St James’ Day. It is a centuries old traditional country fair. A good thunderstorm today means a good harvest. It was also the day on which gardeners were reminded to sow their spring cabbages.
The sun shining today is a token of cold weather, but if it rains foretells warm and moist weather.
This day is also St Christopher’s Day – a legendary giant, who once (apparently) bore the weight of Christ and all the weight of the mortal world across the River of Death.
Christopher, whose name means ‘Christ bearer’. Patron saint of motorists and travellers, his emblem is the staff that Christ allegedly transformed into a palm tree bearing dates.
26th – St Anne’s Day
She was the apocryphal mother of the Virgin Mary. This made her a natural replacement for the powerful Earth mother goddesses of pagan religions, especially life giving Anu. Many wells were re-named after her, including the curative wells at Buxton and Malvern.
Many miracles were attributed to her in the middle ages. In images, she is often depicted in a red robe covered by a green cloak, red standing for love and green symbolizing rebirth.
She is the patron saint of housewives.
28th – Old St Kenelm’s Day
Bizarre custom of ‘Crabbing the Parson’ used to occur on this day. As the parson approached the church people gathered and pelted him with crab apples.
St Kenelm was a Mercian prince murdered by his aunt. He was only seven years old. His shrine was at Winchcombe Abbey, Gloucestershire. His effigy appears on the west front of Wells Cathedral.
29th – St Olaf’s Day
King Offa of Mercia died AD 796. He is best remembered for Offa’s Dyke, a 70 mile earthwork marking the English-Welsh border.
It was on this day in 1949 that weather forecasts were first broadcast by BBC Television.
In July 1718 a young couple, John Hewett and Margaret Drew, were making hay at Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire, when lightning struck and they were both killed instantly.
Their epitaph reads:
Tho’ very chaste people, to die of a clap.