Monday, March 16, 2015

The Tichborne Dole

Charity Folk Legend

This folk legend dates back to the thirteenth century. It takes place in the village of Tichborne, England.

This traditional festival of charity - held on March 25th (the Feast of the Annunciation) centers on the handing out of donations of flour blessed by the local parish priest.

The donations were started by Lady Mabella Tichborne who, on her death bed, instructed that farm produce be given to the poor each year.  

Here is the folk legend: 

800 years ago it was customary that if a woman like Lady Maybela had money, it belonged to her husband from the day of their marriage. So, although she had been very rich, she had to ask her husband, Sir Roger de Tichborne for anything she wanted.

He however was rumored to be unkind. She had to beg for everything and most of what she had she gave to the poor.

During her final days she asked her husband to be kind to the poor. She wanted them to have bread once a year. Sir Roger didn’t want to honor her request.  So he challenged her. With a burning log from the fire said that whatever wheat land she could get to before the flames from the log died, he would set aside for the growing of wheat for the poor.

Lady Maybela called to her maids and they lifted her from her bed into the grounds outside that windy day. Miraculously the wind died down. Lady Maybela, too weak to stand up, crawled on her hands and knees into the distance. She was able to cover quite a bit of ground and when she returned, the flame suddenly went out. But not before she crawled over twenty-three acres that came to be known as the ‘Crawls’.  

Before Lady Maybela died to make sure her husband did as he promised, she put a curse on the Tichborne family and house. Anyone in the family not giving flour to the poor on 25th March would find that their house would collapse, their money would be lost and seven sons would be born followed by seven daughters and the name Tichborne would die out.

In 1796 Sir Henry Tichborne gave money to the church instead of flour to the poor. He had seven sons, his eldest son had seven daughters and half the family fell down, so a very worried son of Sir Henry, a Sir Edward Doughty-Tichborne, started up the custom again.

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