Sunday, 1 November 2009

The Bells! It Must Be The Gate To Southwell.

The original event of the Gate to Southwell dates back to 1109, and was revived back in 1981, becoming an annual event for many local Morris dance teams.
In the year of Our Lord 1109, someone decided to build a “Mother Church” at Southwell, Nottinghamshire. Obviously money was required for such a grand plan, so people were invited from all over the Diocese to walk to Southwell and donate money. These monies became known as the Southwell Pence.

The amounts varied as to the wealth and generosity of the people from the various parishes, for example, Nottingham gave 13 Shillings and 4 Pence, and poor Stanton could only muster 5 pence in total!

Since Great Britain went decimal in 1971 there will be many people that cannot remember the old currency, so let me explain.

4 Farthings = 1 Penny (d)
12 Pennies = 1 Shilling (s)
20 Shillings = 1 Pound (£)
21 shillings = 1 guinea.

Therefore something bought for 50 guineas means that it costs £50 and 50 shillings, or £52 10s 0d.

So far, so good.

There were several different coins used in the old monetary system:

Farthing = ¼ of a penny
Half Penny = ½ of a penny
Penny = 1/12 of a shilling
Three Penny Piece ( pronounced “threp-ni” with “bit”) = ¼ of a Shilling
Sixpence (known as a tanner) = ½ of a shilling
Shilling (also known as “a Bob) = 1 shilling
Florin (known as “2 Bob”) = 2 shillings
Half a Crown = 2s 6d
Crown = 5 shillings

Incidentally the film Half A Sixpence, with Tommy Steele might not have been so popular if it was simply named Threepence!

This system was known as £sd and youngsters look at Ian with far out expressions when he explains this to them!

In today’s money the sum passed over equates to £15.94 approximately.

As part of the revived Gate to Southwell, each Morris group takes a purse of pre decimal coins representing the various parishes. At the conclusion of the procession the monies are handed over and speeches exchanged, along with a cheque for the equivalent in new currency.

The Gate starts in Nottingham’s Old Market Square with informal dancing from participating Morris groups. The Lord Mayor makes a speech and the Southwell Pence are handed over to begin their journey.

The troupe then proceed out of the city centre, through the Lace Market area and down into Sneinton. Here a warm welcome awaits and more speeches are made, after which members of the Sneinton Environmental Society escort the procession to the parish boundary.

From here there follows dances at various taverns along the route. These include stop offs at Burton Joyce, Lowdham, Thurgarten, where we meet up with the pilgrims.
In the first film we can see amongst others the Dolphin Morris, who are responsible for the organisation of the event and Yellow Belly from Lincolnshire.

The dancers then head off towards Bleasby for a well earned cup of tea and scone before they travel on down to the Bromley Arms at Fiskerton, by the River Trent. Here I captured Greenwood Clog and the Maids Of Clifton in action.

This was the final stopping off place for these particular troupes before reaching Southwell and proceeding up the main road to the Minster.

Here at the Minster the Southwell Pence are handed over to a grateful minister. Speeches are made, from the Morris Representative and the minister before we gather inside the Minster for more dancing and a small service.

After the formalities are over the dancers are given free beer vouchers to be redeemed in the Bramley Apple Public House. in this film we see the Sallyport Sword Dancers and at the end Mike, from the Dolphin Morris with his pick up sticks routine.

FREE BEER! Must find some bells and practise for next year.


Guzzisue said...

not fair to make to laugh when I've go a cold !! proof read half a sixpence/thrupence and ended up spluttering into the kitchen!

Affer said...

What an erudite piece I have returned too! Scholarly indeed! I well remember those pre-decimal days when each pay-day we celebrated the Festival of St Norks. Then, local maidens were expected to show their thre'pney bits, and in return demanded that the men should get out their Thirty Bobs. Ah....those were the days.....

bikerted said...

They do say that laughter is the best medicine Guzzisue :o)

Welcome back Affer. I trust your move and return to the rat race are going as planned.
Ian's generation could well be the last to remember the pre-decimal era. You very politely didn't mention that the girls used to do running repairs on stockings and suspender belts with tanners.
They say nostalga is making a's hoping.

picto said...

Wow, that's a fantastic bit of history there and it's good to see it being kept alive.
As for the coinage and currency system I think you could be right Ted. As fascinating as it is to recall how the currency values compare, younger generations have just had no experience of having to do it. To be honest it doesn't matter if decimalisation happened in 1971, 1921 or 1291, if you never had to do the conversion it all feels like ancient history and that is a bit of a shame!