Monday, March 24, 2014

Tichborne dole

Tichborne Dole-1671

As the New Yorker says, there will always be an England. This is one of the thousands of reasons why.

The Tichborne dole, dates from 1150, during the reign of England's King Henry II (1133-89). Held every Lady's Day since, March 25th, some two tons of high-grade self-raising flour is dispensed to the villagers of Tichborne Hamps.  Villagers bring carrier bags, pillow cases and any other suitable receptacle. Their booty - a family of six merits the maximum of 28 lbs - is particularly welcome to the elderly and needy. Only those families in Tichborne, Cheriton and Lane End are entitled to play.

Before the flour is apportioned it is blessed and the huge flour box is sprinkled with incense and holy water. Then a blessing is made on the soul of Lady Mabel Tichborne, who started it all.  Lady Mabel, a woman noted for her charity and piety, was married to Roger de Tichborne (the Tichborne's and their descendants have owned Tichborne Manor since 909). Roger did not share his wife's views on charity. Even her imminent death failed to arouse his compassion.

Mabel's last request that the value of a small portion of the Tichborne estates be given annually to the poor of the parish in the form of a dole was poorly received. Roger answered his dying wife's plea by saying that he would agree to donate each year, the crop value from as much land as she could encircle while holding a burning torch to light her way. March being windy, she being lame and near death, Roger felt he was playing a strong hand.

Mabel's curse
Legend has it that the wind abated, as Mabel crawled around 23 acres of land, while carrying the burning ember torch, after which she charged her husband and his heirs to forever give the produce of that land to the poor. To this day there is a a field at Tichborne known as "The Crawls."  Mabel added a rider to her demand. She said that should the dole ever be stopped then seven sons would be born to the house, followed immediately by a generation of seven daughters, after which the name would die out and the ancient house fall into ruin.

The custom of giving the dole, in the form of bread, continued unbroken until 1794, when having had forgotten the curse, Sir Henry Tichborne, father of seven sons, stopped the dole. In 1802, George, Henry's sixth son, died at the age of 13; during that same year the old house partly fell and was partly pulled down. Four years later, John, the fifth son died unmarried in the East Indies. Another four years saw Benjamin, the second son, die in China. He, too, had been a bachelor. A few years later, seventh son Roger died. He was married but without children. However, Henry Jr., the eldest son, managed to father seven children - all girls.

Edward, Henry's third son, changed his name to Doughty in 1826. He produced the male heir so badly needed, sadly, in 1835 his son, six-year-old Henry suddenly died. Edward Doughty immediately revived the dole.

James, Henry's fourth son, had married in 1827 and produced two sons, one born before and the other after the restoration of the Dole. The eldest, Roger Charles Tichborne, was lost at sea in 1845.

Alfred Joseph, the youngest of James's sons, born after the revival, was the only one to survive Mabel's deathbed curse. The family line continued until July,1968 when the last Baronet, Sir Anthony Doughty-Tichborne died without a male descendant. The family estate has since passed through the female line, and the crumbling manor house is now available for rent. Death duties and divorce are taking their toll, yet the dole will be held tomorrow.

True story.

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