Shrove Tuesday Skipping, Scarborough, Yorkshire. BRITAIN ENGLAND UK FOLK CUSTOMS FOLKLORE
Shrove Tuesday Skipping, Scarborough, Yorkshire. England 1974.
The merriment and feasting connected with Shrove Tuesday derive from it being the last day before the Lenten fast that begins on Ash Wednesday. Its date depends on Easter Sunday, which is the first Sunday after the full moon, and can fall any time between 2 February and 8 March. As its name commemorates, Shrovetide covers the three days, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday when one is
expected to confess one's sins, or be 'shriven'.
As a compensation for the earnest time ahead, games and food prohibited during Lent were indulged in with a particular fervour. Pancakes were favoured because they used forbidden ingredients such as eggs and fat. Also, the custom of bell-ringing at Shrovetide, no doubt originally a signal for parishioners to attend confession, became a vigorous activity in its own right.
In Scarborough the curfew bell, which hung at the entrance to the Hospital of St Thomas the Martre, used to be rung every morning and evening at six o'clock, and in particular at twelve noon on Shrove Tuesday as a signal to start frying the pancakes.
In 1861, when the Hospital was demolished, the bell was moved to
the town museum, and, since then, with the exception of the years 1939-45, the Pancake Bell, as it is now called, has been rung annually at midday by the museum staff.
According to a nineteenth-century account, Shrove Tuesday in Scarborough was known as 'Ball Day', and from time immemorial balls have been tossed about on Southsands. However, for some time skipping has been the most favoured custom. In 1974 local schools still have a half-holiday, and hundreds of children, parents and
adults gather after lunch on the promenade at Southsands to skip with huge ropes until dusk.
A new Pancake Bell was errected in the town in 1996 and the celebrations are now opened by the Town Cryer and the Mayor in full regelia now rings the Pancake Bell.