W.Howitt (1862)


William Howitt (Auth.)
London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green, 1862, pp.471-472

Among a fair volume of folklore material, there is a brief description of Plough Monday;

"We have now made a hasty sketch of those old festivals which still retain more or less of their ancient influence. We have endeavoured to shew what is the present state of custom and feeling in these particulars by contrasting it with the past. New Year's Day is yet a day of salutations; Valentine's-Day has yet some sportive observance amongst the young; and Plough-Monday, here and there, in the thoroughly agricultural districts, sends out its motley team. This consists of the farm-servants and labourers. They are dressed in harlequin guise, with wooden swords, plenty of ribbons, faces daubed with white-lead, red-ochre, and lamp-black. One is always dressed in woman's clothes and armed with a besom, a sort of burlesque mixture of Witch and Columbine. Another drives the team of men-horses with a long wand, at the end of which is tied a bladder instead of a lash; so that blows are given without pain, but plenty of noise. The insolence of these Plough-bullocks, as they are called, which might accord with ancient license, but does not at all suit modern habits, has contributed more than anything else to put them down. They visited every house of any account, and solicited a contribution in no very humble terms. If refused, it was their practice to plough up the garden walk, or do some other mischief. One band ploughed up the palisades of a widow lady of our acquaintance, and having to appear before a magistrate for it, and to pay damages, never afterwards visited that neighbourhood. In some places I have known them to enter houses, whence they could only be ejected by the main power of the collected neighbours; for they extended their excursions often to a distance of ten miles or more, and where they were most unknown they practised the greatest insolence. Nobody regrets the discontinuance of this usage."

William Howitt (1792-1879) was born in Heanor, Derbys., of Quaker parents, but educated away from home. He spent his early adult life in Nottingham, becoming an Alderman, before moving to Surrey.

Index Terms:

Locations: Heanor, Derbys. (SK4346); Nottingham, Notts. (SK5739)
Years: First Publ. 1838
Subjects: Plough-Monday; Malicious Ploughing; Plough Trailing; Retribution; Court Case; Plough-Bullocks
Archives: TDRG Archive, Ref. TD00518

Last Updated Jan 1992 by Peter Millington.