25 Mar: Flour Power: The Tichborne Dole and the Biddenden Maids

Each Lady Day, the Hampshire village of Tichborne hands out bags of flour to the  locals – a tradition that began on 25th March, 1150 after Lady Marbella Tichborne, on her death-bed, suggested distributing a ‘Tichborne Dole’ to the needy. 

It’s far from the only quaint charity event still going strong in England. In the Kentish village of Biddenden each Easter Monday, locals indulge in ‘Biddenden cakes’, bearing the effigy of the Biddenden Maids – conjoined twins who also left behind an annual dole for the deserving poor. And in Hallaton, Leicestershire, villagers still participate in a chaotic rugby-like game, but with more ale and definitely more hare pies.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider what such kooky festivities tell us about mediaeval attitudes to women and the poor; recall what happened when ‘vagabonds’ dared to take advantage of these handouts; and stumble upon a new book proposal for Danny Wallace… 

Further Reading:

• ‘The Tichborne Dole’ (Historic UK, 2015): https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-Tichborne-Dole/

• ‘The Strange Story of the Biddenden Maids’ (A London Inheritance, 2021): https://alondoninheritance.com/cycling-around-britain/the-strange-story-of-the-biddenden-maids/

• ‘Custom of charity of Tichbourne dole – bags of flour given to local people’ (British Pathé, 1928):

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