Wassaillers keep ancient tradition alive

MUSICIANS, Morris Men and Mummers came together in the snow at Bradford on Avon’s historic Tithe Barn.

As dusk fell on Saturday the groups were joined by over 150 visitors who took part in the ancient custom of wassailing, visiting Hen’s Orchard, reciting incantations and singing to the trees to promote a good harvest for the coming year.

The town’s Preservation Trust sponsored the event with trustee Kate Nicholls serving cider cake to the visitors

Wassailling in the town was revived three years ago by Nick Nicholls, who took the role of Master of Ceremonies, introducing the Holt Morris Men who gave two dances outside the Tithe Barn in a square cleared from the snow.

Members of the English Music Session assembled on the stone platform of the Tithe Barn to provide music.

Local singing group Eagle Alley then performed the Hen’s Orchard Wassail song, joined by the spectators.

Taking part for the first time were the Widcombe Mummers who along with the new Wassail Queen performed a short play.

Led by the Mummers and Musicians the party processed into the nearby orchard where the Wassail Queen Juno Short and youngsters who joined in poured cider on the tree roots to encourage their growth and cider toast was placed on the tree branches to encourage small birds, especially robins, the traditional guardians of the orchards.

Then musketeer John Martin fired his gun to mark the start of the Hullabaloo, when everyone made lots of noise to scare away evil spirits and nasty bugs.

Nick Nicholls said: “I was encouraged that we had such a good turnout despite the freezing conditions. I think it’s important we keep these ancient traditions alive and thank all those who braved the cold to join in. The word wassail comes from the Scandinavian Waes Hael, meaning Be of Good Health.”

This is Wiltshire

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