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Shroven on the Isle of Wight

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Shroven1, the celebration of Shrove Tuesday, is a custom that has more or less died out in the UK over the last century. The name 'Shrove Tuesday' itself is very rarely used, the more common name for it now is Pancake Day, with many of the traditional customs having been adopted by the American festival of Hallowe'en.


Shroving is an English tradition that is several centuries old. It originated as the way the poor survived through the difficult time in the New Year before Spring. Little food could be found at this time of year, even the ingredients for a basic pancake was more than most could afford. There was only one way that the food needed to survive could be gathered; by begging. Not only pancakes were asked for, any donation of food and money was welcomed. Gradually, over years, this expression of the needs of the poorest developed into a more relaxed, and enjoyable, tradition, until eventually it was mainly children who took part in what had become a yearly ritual.

Going Shroven

On the early morning of Shrove Tuesday, the children would dress up, and go from house to house, singing the local version of the Shroving song, to sing for their Shrove Cakes and other treats. They would call only at the houses of the gentry and farmers, those most likely to be able to afford the ingredients necessary.

The Shroven Song

Principal to the tradition was the Shroven Song, of which there were many different versions. In 1886, WH Long quoted the most popular in his A Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect:

Shroven, Shroven,
I be come a Shroven,
A piece of bread, a piece of cheese,
A piece of your fat bacon,
Doughnuts2 and pancakes,
All o' your own maaken.
Vine vowls in a pie,
My mouth es very dry,
I wish I was zo well-a-wet,
I'd zing the better vor a nut.
Shroven, Shroven,
We be come a Shroven.

In Newchurch, until the Great War, a different, and shorter, version was sung:

Shroven, Shroven,
Here we come a-Shroven,
A piece of bread, a piece of cheese,
A piece of your fat bacon,
The roads are very dirty,
Our boots are very thin.
We have a little pocket
To puit a penny in.

The best singer of the Shroven Song was normally rewarded with an extra treat. Those who refused to donate food for the poor resulted in 'Lent Crocking'; the front door of the house was bombarded with broken pottery - believed to be because that over Lent, fewer cooking pots would be required, but more likely to be because it was fun! This, again, has been replaced by the American festival of 'Trick or Treat'.

Pancake Bells

Newport also celebrated the rare tradition of 'ringing the bell' on Pancake Day. There, at St Thomas Church, the sixth bell, the pan bell, would ring at 11am on Shrove Tuesday as a prelude to the start of Ash Wednesday's Lent fast. Bells were also rung by the wealthy to release servants, labourers and apprentices from their duties on Shrove Tuesday, allowing them to join in the day's festivities.

Shrove Tuesday Today

Today, sadly many of the Shrove Tuesday traditions have died out. 'Pancake day' is still celebrated, with annual pancake races common across the island, but all the other traditions have gone and are no longer observed.

Related h2g2 Links on Isle Of Wight History

1Known on the mainland as 'Shroving'.2Curiously, this mention of doughnuts in the Shroving song is one of the earliest records of doughnuts in the United Kingdom.

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