March the 25th is Lady Day; no it’s not a time to done some frivolous fashion and hot-foot it down to the nearest equine Olympics it is a quarter day and a religious one at that.
Lady Day March 25th
Originally it was known as Our Lady’s Day but in time the name was condensed to Lady Day. As the original name suggests refers to a feast relating to The Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.
Lady Day is formally known as the Feast of the Annunciation and commemorates the occasion when The Virgin Mary learnt that she would conceive God’s son. As is often the case in such matters the origin of the festival or at least its date is pre-Christian. Surprisingly in earlier times it also acted as New Year’s Day.
As Lady Day occurred when there was no harvesting or ploughing to be done it was a traditional day on which contracts between landowners and tenant farmers would begin or be renewed.
In Sweden it is known as Våffeldagen and even today waffles are traditionally consumed at this time. In the Bulgarian town of Asenovgrad women who want to become pregnant gather at the church of ‘The Annunciation’ on Lady Day, they bring votive gifts and after spending the night in the church they are blessed by the clergy in the name of The Virgin in the hope that their fertility will be improved. England also has Lady Day folklore and there is a rhyme which warns us that;
When my lord falls in my lady’s lap England beware of some mishap.
In other words, if Easter falls on Lady Day bad luck is sure to follow. Perhaps this applies less to the villages of Tichborne as every year on Lady Day in Hampshire the Tichborne dole is handed out. The Tichborne family is of ancient linage reaching back to Saxon times but we need to move forward a little to 12th century. As the legend begins Lady Mabella Tichborne is dying, she as she lays on her bed she doesn’t fear her end but she is concerned for the welfare of the villagers who have taken her to their hearts since her arrival in Tichborne as the new wife of the hardhearted Roger Tichborne many years ago. As her death approaches she begs her husband to set-aside enough land to supply a ‘dole’ of bread for any who should need it. Roger replies he will hand over as much land as Mabella can walk around whilst the flame from a blazing stick remains alight.
Mabella sinks back into her pillows and prays. Mabella orders her servants to take her outside and begins to crawl, she manages to crawl round a circle of twenty three acres (perhaps her illness wasn’t quite as bad as had been feared). Mabella is returned to her bed and with her dying breath she tells her husband he must keep his word and use the land she has won to provide for the poor, if he does not his family will be cursed.
She adds that as a sign the curse is being fulfilled the family will produce seven male heirs followed by seven female heirs, when this has happened the family will lose their fortune and die out. Eager to remain robust the family kept faith with Mabella until 1796 when Sit Henry Tichborne signed the dole over to the church – legend has it that as Mabella warned seven sons were born, followed by seven daughters. When the Tichborne’s realized what was happening the dole was reinstated in its original form and disaster was avoided.
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