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Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 2, by William Bottrell, [1873], at

p. 237

Ancient Bridal Customs.

With the past and with the present,
   Quaint old manners still are link’d;
Olden customs, grave and pleasant,
   Ling’ring still, though nigh extinct.
                                     C. T. C.

SOME West Country folks still observe a few old-fashioned marriage usages; one of which the following sketch will explain. It was given us, as inserted, by a young man who was one of the wedding guests.

"In the winter of 1860 we were invited to a wedding at a place called the Grambler in Sancreed; with strict orders to be in time to accompany the "weddenars" to church at ten o'clock the following Saturday morning.

Not caring to take part in-the ceremony, we only left Penzance at one o'clock in the afternoon. On our arriving at New Bridge we found a messenger awaiting our arrival to guide us to the bride's parents’ house where the wedding was being held. He also brought a bottle of brandy which An’ Nancy, the bride's mother, sent for the "strangers from Penzance to drink on the way, to keep out the cold."

On nearing the house, we heard music and dancing, when our guide hastened on before to let the party know we were come. "My dear boys," said An’ Nancy, meeting us at the door, "come ’e in quick out of the cold, we've ben afeerd you woddan coman."

All the company received us with hearty kindness; being placed at the board, our host said, "We've had dennar, my dears, but there's plenty left for ’e," at the same time pitching on each of our plates a piece of roast beef of not less than four pounds, "Aet that fust" he continued, "then you shall have some more." My companion looking rather surprised at the liberal supply, An’ Nancy exclaimed, "What's the matter weth thee my boy, dossena like et? Well than thee shust have somethan else;" and without waiting a reply, took away the plate of beef and replaced it with one of roast goose and a dish of boiled pudding, saying, "Now there, my dear boy, aet that, I s’ppose the beef was too tough for ’e."

Meanwhile the wedding-party—most of whom were young people—awaited us in another room; we soon joined them and

p. 238

found good drink and cakes in abundance. Uncle Will, the bride's father, being called upon for a toast, he gave:—

"Here's to the bridegroom and the bride,
 May they stick to each other's side;
 I hope their life will be of joy,
 And that the fust will be a boy."

which was received with roars of laughter and stamping of feet. Aunt Nancy took from a buffet several bottles of cordials for the women and others who liked them; amongst others were poppy blackberry syrups, sweet-drink (mead),—that had been kept some years for this happy occasion—and peppermint water, of her own distilling. Presently the fiddle struck up with a jig. "Les have the double shuffle, Uncle Will," said the young people. Up he jumped as lively as a kid, though he was near eighty, and footed it out to the delight of all.

Young Jan of Santust (St Just) followed, making the fire fly from the heels of his boots, like flashes of lightning; and all the company were quickly whirling, in reels, without much order.

Now, whilst the gaiety was at its height, the newly-wedded couple had contrived to slip out quietly, and hasten to their new home. "They're off, they're off," cried several voices; "come on soas, or else we shall be too late; they will be in bed and lock the door." Away they all flew, like mad devils, scampering over hedges and ditches for nearly a mile. We followed—fortunately for us it was a clear moonlight night.

When we got to the house the foremost of the party were upstairs. Come ’e up, boys," shouted they; up we went and found the bride and bridegroom in bed, with their clothes on, having had no time to lock the door even, as the wedding guests were close on their heels.

We shall long remember the scene we then witnessed; the guests were beating them in bed, with stockings, straps, braces, or anything they could lay hands on. "Give them pepper," shouted young Jan, the groom's best man; "give et them, boys," and pepper them they did right merrily. Not wishing to be behind the rest, we took off our braces and followed suit. They continued this strange sport for a good while, until the leader said, "Les go back, soas, or else we shall be all ill-wisht, for et’s nearly twelve a’clock."

Away they again rushed back to the old folks’ house; and each one on arriving, before speaking, touched the cravel, (lintel or head-stone of the hearth) with his or her head, for good luck.

The old couple seemed well satisfied when we returned, as it was not quite midnight.

p. 239

Many elderly folks had arrived late in the evening to drink health and long life to the newly-married; they assured us that it was an old custom to tan young married people to bed, or else they would meet with bad luck all their days. The good old souls had arranged for us to stay over night; but as we deemed it best to return home they made us take more to eat and drink to keep out the cold and help us on the road, they said. Then amidst hearty leave-takings and promises to visit them again soon, they allowed us to depart.

Well, somehow, we arrived home about daybreak, but often wished that we had stopped at the Grambler till sunrise.

At more modish weddings the guests merely enter the bridal-chamber and throw stockings in which stones or something to make weight are laced—at the bride and bridegroom in bed. The first one hit, of the happy couple, betokens the sex of their first-born.

It was an old custom, religiously observed, until lately, in Zennor and adjacent parishes on the north coast, to waylay a married couple on their wedding-night and flog them to bed with cords, sheep-spans, or anything handy for the purpose; believing that this rough treatment would ensure them happiness and the "heritage and gift that cometh from the Lord," of a numerous family.

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