Malgraen – An Extinct Tradition

Back to my book of Old World places, there is a village of Glentham west of Market Rasen, dating back to the Domesday Book. Until the mid 19th century “they carried out the ancient practice of image washing known as ‘malgraen’. This was said to be done by 7 old maids who earned 1shilling each for the work on Good Friday of the recumbent effigy of a women who became known as Madam green then off course, Molly Grime. ”

Lincolnshire county council’s website tells a slightly different story. The parish church was originally called St Peter’s and Our Lady of  Pity, the latter due to the stone carving of the Pieta above the entrance to the porch, so is one of the few that survived the vandalism of the Reformation. This is probably due to the shortage of ladders at the time. No, I am not joking. But that may be another post.

But the statue that got an annual washing is under the organ loft, thought to be of Anne Tourney, having been removed due to its being so decayed. They call her Molly Grimes, thought to be a corruption of ‘malgraen’ a word for washing holy images. On Good Friday, 7 maids were pad a shilling to collect water from Newell’s Well to wash the image. The tradition ceased when the land whose rent provided this income, was sold in 1832.

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