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Whitsun Ale


(Or Church-Ale, Parish Ale)

Strong ale formerly brewed by the wardens as a Church fund-raiser at Whitsuntide, the seventh Sunday after Easter. Once widely practiced, especially in the South-Western counties, as one of the Parish 'Ale Days' which might, varying from place-to-place, include celebrations of leet-ale (held on "leet", the manorial court day); the lamb-ale (held at lamb-shearing); the Whitsun-ale (held at Whitsun), the clerk-ale, the church-ale etc.

Oxford Journal - Saturday 16 March 1776

Thomas Park's 1819 'Collection of English Songs' has;
The Churches much owe, as well we do knowe
For when they be drooping and ready to fall,
By a Whitsun or Church Ale up again they shall go.
And owe their repairing to a pot of good ale.

General invitation to a Whitsun Ale festival
Oxford Journal - Saturday 20 May 1809

In 1604 the Church of England canon law stipulated that "no Plays, Feasts, Banquets, Suppers, Church-Ales, Drinkings, Temporal Courts, or Leets, Lay-Juries, Musters, or any other profane Usage to be kept in the Church." Though along with other attempted prohibitions (like mince pies), nobody seems to have ever taken much notice.

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