LETTER: Do you still practice ancient Chesterfield traditions?

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I am currently researching Derbyshire customs and folklore and would be very interested to hear from your readers, either via your letters page or by email at r.j.bradley@shu.ac.uk whether anyone in the county has carried on practicing these ancient traditions into the 21st century.

Thor/Tharf Cakes were once traditionally baked in our part of the world to commemorate Bonfire Night. They are sold at Tindall’s Deli in Tideswell, but does anyone still make them at home?

The Kissing Bunch is a Christmas decoration produced in both Derbyshire and Cornwall, made from two hoops covered with greenery and hung from the ceiling. In a similar manner to the more widespread tradition involving mistletoe, visitors to the house are kissed underneath it. Did any of your readers make one this year?

Christmas Posset is a festive drink made from boiled milk, ale, treacle, ginger, nutmeg and spices, which was either made at home or sold in the pubs . Was any drunk in Derbyshire over the recent Christmas period?

Lastly, I would be very interested to hear the memories of anyone who was involved in a ‘Derby Tup’ performance, particularly if there are any related photos lurking in the family album. This short play with song was performed around Christmas and new year in the pubs and houses around Chesterfield and Bolsover, and was surveyed by Ian Russell for a 1979 article in Folk Music Journal when it was then thriving. But in a generation it seems to have all but died out. Traditionally it was performed by teams in their early teenage years and perhaps it is no longer deemed culturally acceptable for groups of this age to enter pubs unaccompanied, although it is still performed by two adult groups based over the border in South Yorkshire, the Handsworth Sword Dancers and the Harthill Morris. Readers in Dronfield, Coal Aston, Ridgeway and Eckington may have caught a performance by them just before Christmas.

Richard Bradley

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