On the first Sunday after St. John the Baptist’s day a wake was held in Shenstone. According to the Rev. Sanders in a legendary manuscript it records that,
“the people came to the church with candles burning, and would wake, and come with light towards night, to the church in their devotions; afterwards they fell to songs, and dancing and harping, piping, also to gluttony and sin, thus they turned the holiness into cursedness, on which the holy fathers ordained, that the people should leave that waking and fast the even (ing).”
In 1362 this custom became prohibited.
Processions and bannering played an important role in the religious cycle, particularly for the festivals of saints and during the Holy Week leading up to Easter. They were also held on special occasions such as at funerals, during prayers for rain, or pleas for a good harvest.
One feature of Rogation days was the ceremony of beating the bounds, in which a procession of parishioners, led by the minister, churchwarden, and choirboys, would proceed around the boundary of their parish and pray for its protection in the forthcoming year. This was also known as ‘Gang-day’, after the old English name for walking. We have no evidence that Gang- day was practised in Shenstone, but Sanders refers to it as a probability.
The Vicar would head the villagers walking in a formal, sober, procession behind him, often singing and carrying candles and banners.
At the head of the Shenstone community in medieval times was the Lord of the Manor Sir Robert or Sir Ralph de Grendon. Where they lived is unknown. Some believe it was close to or behind the Moat situated off Park Drive, others at land known as the Moss, at the end of Court Drive. Traditionally Lords of the Manor lived in their Manor House on high land, close to the church and at a suitable distance from the homes of their servants and tenants, who were thus able at a command, to fulfil their Lord’s wishes.
The farmers and peasants lived in cottages. They built their homes using items they collected such as wood, reeds, twigs, mud and straw. The roofs were thatched with bundles of reeds. The inside walls were mostly made of wattle and daub (twigs woven and coated with mud, sand, straw and animal dung, to make a hard, plaster-like surface) to keep out draughts.
Medieval Shenstone village probably consisted of several buildings. Among these were: a church, a tithe barn, a cow-shed, a pinfold, a granary, stables, a warehouse, a well, a mill and workshops for tradesmen and merchants, as well as the peasants’ cottages and the Manor House. Life was hard and villagers were dependent on the weather for their food, the Vicar for spiritual guidance and on the disposition of the Lord of the Manor, who was all powerful.
Bannering was probably a festival much looked forward to and the planning for it would have been a topic shared among them with great anticipation.
If you would like to learn more about the local history of Shenstone, why not join our local history group? For more information, please feel free to contact us