Virgin crowns

Photo:Close of Matlock virgin's crown

Close of Matlock virgin's crown


Photo:A Virgin garland in Ashford-in-the-water

A Virgin garland in Ashford-in-the-water


A search for Nottinghamshire examples

By R B Parish

A visitor to churches of Ilam, Ashford-in-the-Water, Trusley and Matlock Old Church, will reveal the presence of sad and curious funeral relics- the Maiden’s garland, crants or crowns. These were constructed to be placed on the coffin of an unmarried girl during the procession and later placed in the church were many of them remain. In the midlands, it appears that Derbyshire was not alone in upholding this custom for an interesting account in 1789-90, by a John Johg, later fifth Viscount Torrington at Radford Priory, Worksop notes:

“Beneath the gallery are several maiden garlands, several of which were lately, most insolently cut down by some mad Thurgarton were many of those white silk Chaplets, there were borne before the corpse at the interments of bachelors, and maidens....But country custom, whether sacred, honourable, or of exertion, are now all laid aside”

What is interesting in this description is the reference to bachelors, as generally it as the name suggests, was associated with maidens. Only Abbotts Ann, Hampshire appears to remember men, so this is an interesting example. Incidentally, this is the only place, where apparently the custom continues is Abbott’s Ann, Hampshire (last in 1973).

The puritan reference is also interesting. The first reference to the custom is 1680 in Beverley, and although it may have dated originally from pre-Reformation, it is probably brought over merchants from Europe. It appears that their Catholic association was not missed by either the puritans or John Jong.

The form and appearance of these Worksop examples is not recorded but considering that the structure of those in Derbyshire and the sole example in Springthorpe, Lincolnshire are very similar suggests that those in Worksop resembled these, but of course we cannot be sure. Their construction consisting of two hoops of wood, often hazel, wrapped in fabric and adorned with rosettes.

It would be unusual that Worksop was the only place in the county where this quaint custom existed and it would be interesting to hear of more.

The author is preparing a book on Nottinghamshire folklore. Any correspondence on this matter is greatly received.

References :

Spriggs, G. M., (1982-3) Maiden’s garlands, Folklife-Journal of Ethnological Studies Vol 21 1982-3, pp12-32

This page was added by R B Parish on 28/02/2013.

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