Plough Monday revival

Tilney All Saints Church (picture: Explore West Norfolk)

The village school in Tilney All Saints near Wisbech in East Anglia, which has been awarded a grant to look at the village’s Plough Monday custom, is involved in reviving the tradition.

For many years until the 1550s the village’s plough was suspended with ropes from the beams of All Saints Church on Plough Monday.

Candles, or plow lyghts as the records read, were lit near the plough. This annual ritual happened from from early times until at least 1544 which was six years after votive candles had been banned by national edict.

The clamp down on traditions and fun was part of the creeping Reformation which eventually saw an end to the Plough Monday celebrations in the last years of Henry VIII’s reign and during the accession of his son Edward VI .

However, the Monday holiday continued to be observed in remote Tilney All Saints for some years after Plough Monday had been banned in 1547 .

This year around sixty children from Tilney All Saints School and its partner school Anthony Curton in Wisbech will perform the traditional molly dance in the village on Plough Monday 13 January.

The revival project is called ‘Sharing The Plough’ and at 10.30am on Monday 13 January, the first Monday after the Twelfth Night, pupils will follow a plough from the school to the church.

The dancing will be performed to music collected in the village by Vaughan Williams whose famous visit is being featured in the project research.

The plough service in the church at 11am will include the lighting of plough lights.

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