Sherborne Lets Its Hair Down

Every town seemed to be plagued by outbreaks of rioting and misbehavior, anecdotes of which can be found in their records:

“In spite of its many and solemn responsibilities, Sherborne in the past appears to have had outbreaks of light-heartedness wich almost amounted to riotous living. A deed drawn up “in the XXI yere of the Reigne of our Sov’aigne Lord Kynge Henry the VIIIth” and still extant contains this dolorous passage : “The towne has suffered from vyces, Idelnes, and unlawfull games by reson of so grete and inordynat nomber of Alehouses, in tyme of plentifulness, by Journeymen, day labourers, and othe oor Artyfycers there and thynder Resortyng and usyng there ryotous expenses and unlawfull games to the grete trouble and inquyetyng of the inhabitants next thereto adjoynyng and to the grete Impouerysshyng and decay of the Towne.”…

Sherborne too was famous for its fairs, especially for the “Pack Monday Fair”; for its “Church Ales”, and for the processions  and plays on Corpus Christi Day. The character of these plays can be gathered from the Parish accounts of 1572, when it would appear that sixpence was paid for “a peck of weathen meal to make Lot’s wife” (apparently in the character of the Pillar of Salt). A carrier was also paid 10d. “to bring Master Poyntz, and he that did playe upon the trumpetye took 10d for his payns.” Furthermore, Henry Stephens was paid 14s. “for canvass, gurswebbe, [the webbing used for making girths], tinsall and nails towards the making of the giant.”

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