Some of the Customs and Traditions we discovered...
The first Sunday in Lent has no name but the other six are designated by the following couplet:
‘Tid, Mid, Miseray,
Carling, Palm and Paste Egg Day’
Tid, Mid, and Miseray have been named from the beginning of Psalms and Hymns, viz., Te Deum, Mi Deus and Misereri mei. The origin of eating fried peas or carlings on the fifth Sunday in Lent or, as it is known in Bishop Auckland, Carling Sunday, seems to be wrapped in complete obscurity but local tradition, however, gives a possible origin to this old and still prevailing custom. A famine was raging in Newcastle and a ship laden with food foundered on the north east coast, losing its cargo of peas. This was washed up and greatly appreciated by the communities, so the custom was perpetuated in commemoration of that event. The carlings are soaked overnight in water, boiled well then fried in butter and served with vinegar and bread and butter.
This old, Northern custom was very popular in Bishop Auckland at the beginning of the 19th century. These feasts were generally held at inns and hostelries, not on any particular day, but usually about harvest time, and the guests were there by invitation. This is an account of a pea scadding in Darlington:
When peas begin to change their colour,
And some are green and some are yellow,
You see a big – a waling pot,
well crammed with peas – all smoking hot,
Peas – swads and all-
Swift to the purport of my story,
To sing O DARLINGTON, thy Glory.
The peas at length being done enough,
That is, some tender, numbers tough,
Into a Dish of course they pour ‘em,
While all stand ready to devour ‘em;
And ‘bout the centre of the dish
Round which these amorous gluttons fish,
Two saucers commonly are plac’d,
And one of them with Butter’s grac’d,
The other doth some salt contain,
When all fall too with might and main.
First into those they dip their swads
Then draw them through their filthy gabs,
When Peas and Maucks all sink together,
One serves to qualify the other.
The custom of gentlemen taking off the ladies’ shoes on Easter Sunday and the morning of Easter Monday, and the ladies, in return, taking off the hats of the gentlemen on Easter Monday and the morning of the following day, was vigorously pursued in Bishop Auckland during the early part of the 19th century. A small ‘fine’ had to be paid by either sex before they were allowed to go on their way. The money raised was spent in a similar way to that acquired by the midsummer cushion. It is thought this custom, which seems to have been particular to Bishop Auckland, could have been an offshoot of the very old custom, which prevailed throughout the whole kingdom of ‘heaving days’. On Easter Monday it was customary for the men to ‘heave’ and kiss the women and on Easter Tuesday, the women could retaliate upon the men. Women would set up tables on the streets and wait for a victim, who was pursued, kissed and had to pay sixpence so he could depart.
The exact origin of this custom is unknown but it appears to be an ancient one and the original midsummer cushion may have been an altar to Flora, goddess of flowers. On Midsummer Day, June 21st, a high round three-legged stool, such as was used in the tap-rooms of inns, was spread with an even coat of clay over its upper surface to about one inch in thickness. Every kind of flower that could be procured was stuck onto the clay so as to form a design. One of these stools was placed at the corner of each street or in the busiest part of the leading thoroughfares of the town. A pewter plate was placed upon an adjoining table and a young maiden was there to collect contributions from passers by, assisted by an older woman or two to accost possible contributors. Each street had its separate stand and the maidens vied with each other in having the grandest cushion. Later on in the day the money was used to buy the necessary ingredients for making a Tansey Cake.
The Annual Floral and Horticultural Society Show
This was held annually from 1852 in the Park and was instigated by Bishop Maltby. The first show was held near the deer house but the event was a washout despite the brave efforts of the old Durham Brass Band. The Society lost some £60 on this event. A committee was set up and persevered; later shows were very successful – crowds reached the 20,000 mark and receipts topped £1,200. In 1858 the Society brought the band of the Royal Artillery and took £820 in entrance money. The Flower Show poster of 1874 describes the event as a gigantic and unrivalled floral fete and music festival. The bands of the 2nd Life Guards and the Queen’s Bays were brought and the event cost nearly £1,000.
In subsequent years the finest bands in the kingdom were brought from London by special train and the event came to be called ‘The Annual Gala of the North’. The demise of the Flower Show around 1881 was due to bad weather. Heavy rain fell on show day for about five consecutive years and the Society could not stand the financial losses. There was also an outcry against the sliding scales that the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company operated apparently against the interests of events in Bishop Auckland. The Auckland Agricultural Society held an annual show on the cricket ground near St Anne’s School, which included a horse show described as one of the best in Durham County.
Copies of the book 'Customs and Traditions of Bishop Auckland' are available from The Discovery Centre