The summer festivities of the county came to an end on the last Sunday in August with the Titterstone Wake, held on the most southerly of our beautiful hills [..] From 'Shropshire Folk-Lore' v2 by C. S. Burne (1885).
Mr. Thomas Powell, to whom this book is indebted for many notes on South Shropshire customs, tells me that when he ascended the hill on the Wake-Sunday of 1861, he and his boy-companions, in obedience to custom, seated themselves one by one in the Giant's Chair, and there sang 'some rustic lines,' which unfortunately he cannot now remember. This ceremony is not mentioned in the account given by an old carpenter, Richard Jones of Ashford, now over seventy, who attended the wake many times up to 1846, at which date he says it was fast declining. He, however, adds some interesting particulars, which show us how full of peculiar traditional observances these old hill-feast must have been 'once upon a time.'
The young men, he says, assembled on the hill by the Forked Pole, still standing as a guide-post for travellers, and there the young women met them. 'Fine stand-up handsome wenches they were, and well-dressed too, nothing like'em now; but ye wouldna know 'em the next day with a bag of coal strapped on their backs.' (For in those days the coal from the Clee Hill pits was carried down the hill on women's shoulders!) Well, the two companies met, and walked together in procession to a long 'alley' called 'Tea-kettle Alley,' walled on each side with blocks of mortarless 'Dhu stone,' the dark basaltic rock quarried on the Titterstone Clee. In this alley, - built, I presume, to give shelter to the picnickers, - they found the old women and married women making tea, for which a beautiful spring close by supplied the water, and also watercresses to add to the provisions they had brought, and to which they all 'did duty' at once.
Then the games began - kiss in the ring, racing and jumping for hats or shoes or neckties, wrestling, boxing, and so forth: to the inevitable accompaniment of beer sold on the hill. Often no work was done that week, but the whole time till Saturday night was spent in 'keeping up' the wake.
Posted by Rhiannon
12th May 2011ce