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Caer Caradoc



Perhaps it was rather as the octave of Whit Sunday than as an independent festival, that Trinity Sunday was chosen for the celebration of 'Caradoc Wakes,' one of those ancient hill-feasts which form a marked characteristic of Shropshire folk-custom. The Caradoc - in the folk-speech the 'Querdoc' - is the grandest of the beautiful Stretton Hills, rising to a height of 1600 feet above the sea-level, and commanding a glorious distant view north, east, and south.

Standing one day at the upper end of the Stretton Valley, in full view of the peak of the Caradoc, I was told that it was the abode of an imprisoned fire-demon, and that when a solitary cloud rests on the summit of the hill, there may be seen the hand of the captive monster, struggling to get free. My informant had received this strange tradition from her grandfather, who, like herself, was a native of the spot.

The Trinity Sunday Wake, held upon it, was one of the great events of the year in that neighbourhood. William Homes, wheelwright [..] gave me a vivid description of it, September 8th, 1884. It was held, he said, on the level ring at the top of the hill, which is surrounded by the battery for the cannon [it is a British entrenched camp!]. There 'standings' were erected for the sale of refreshments, and 'a barrel o' drink,' or probably several, was tapped. Old women went in and out among the crowd hawking baskets of gingerbread, and the unfailing spring on the hill-top supplied water for the tea-kettles.

Games there were in plenty; foot-races for the young men; rolling cakes down the steep side of the hill, 'and who could get 'em, had 'em;' rough jokes and horse play at times. He remembered, when quite a boy, being penned into the dark cavern called King Caractus's [sic] Hole, by some elder lads, who kept him there for fun till they were tired out. Then there were fiddlers and plenty of dancing, but the special feature of the 'Querdoc Wakes,' which attracted the young men from far and near, was the wrestling for a pair of huge leathern gloves for hedging or harvest-work, which were the prize of the best man- a prize for which my old friend, now in his seventy-eighth year, had often contended, and the struggle for which gave rise to much excitement, and now and then to the exchange of a few blows, when a worsted combatant would not quietly submit to be laid on his back.

And all this on Trinity Sunday, while 'the good church bells are loudly ringing down [in the vale] below'! 'And when was it done away with?' I asked another ancient sage, James Coles of Leebotwood. 'Oh, it died out on itself,' he said: 'It had ought to a bin banished lung afore it was.' But down to the present time parties of young people may be met on the evening of Trinity Sunday returning from the Caradoc, where they have been spending the day on the hill in remembrance of the old custom.
P352 in volume 2 of C.S. Burne's 'Shropshire Folk-Lore' (1885)
In volume 1 (p94) she mentions that the cave is 'on the steepest face of the Caradoc' and was where 'the King hid from his enemies after his defeat'.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
12th May 2011ce
Edited 12th May 2011ce

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