Verjuice Press

I recently spotted this stone leaning against the wall at Tocketts Mill. It puzzled me for a while, I had seen a picture of a similar stone but couldn’t remember where. Eventually I remembered, the wonderful Hidden Teesside website

The stone is the base of a Verjuice or Beam Press. Elizabeth Ogilvie writes

..Verjuice or Beam Presses which were used to produce a kind of acid apple vinegar known as verjuice made mostly from crab apples and used in cooking and medicine. The method of crushing the apples was simple. Crab apples were placed on the base stone, a weight was positioned on top and pressed down by means of a wooden beam wedged at one end into a hollow of a tree stump or groove cut into a stone wall.

An Illustrated Guide to Stone Antiquities on the North Yorkshire Moors. E Ogilvie. 1996

The Crab Tree

Another Cleveland usage is, when a mare foals to hang up ‘the cleansings ’ (the placenta) in a tree, preferably in a thorn or failing that a crab tree; the motive assigned being to secure ‘luck with the foal.’ Should the birth take place in the fields, this suspension is most carefully attended to, while as for the requirements of such events at the homestead, in not a few instances there is a certain tree not far from the farm-buildings still specially marked out for the reception of these peculiar pendants. In one instance lately, I heard of a larch tree so devoted, but admittedly in default of the thorn; the old thorn-tree long employed for the purpose having died out.

Again, a lamb that is dropped dead, or that dies while still very young, is customarily hung up in a tree—properly in a thorn, though any fruit or berry-bearing tree will do. In the last case under my notice, the tree was a rowan-tree or mountain-ash. In all these cases the same principle is, I think, beyond question involved. Certainly in the case of the mare the offering would originally have been to Odin; probably in all cases of suspension on a berry-bearing tree the same may be true.

J. C. Atkinson, N. & Q., 4th S., vol ii., pp. 556, 557.

Mark’s-e’en Vigil

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Perhaps one of the oldest customs is that in connection with St. Mark’s Eve. The belief is still held that those who watch the church porch at the hour of midnight on that eve, will see pass in front of them and enter the church the spirits of all of those friends who will die during the coming year. With some it is held to be a sine qua non that the watcher must sit within the porch; whilst others hold four cross roads to be equally efficacious, alway provided that the body of one who had committed suicide, with the orthodox stake driven through the chest, had been buried there, that being the end of suicides in the good old days.

It should be borne in mind that there are two slight penalties attached to this porch or cross-road watching.

Firstly should the watcher fall asleep, there is every probability if its being the sleep of death. Should he however, manage to awaken from such a lethargic slumber it doesn’t amount to much, as he will assuredly die within the next twelve months. Secondly, whoever tries this game once must continue to do so ever afterwards. There is no escape; the spell upon them is said to be too strong to withstand.

Yorkshire Wit, Character, Folklore & Customs. R Blakeborough. 1911

 

Kissing bush

kissing-bush

An’t t’ house is deck’d wi’ Holly round,

An’t  t’ Kissin-bush* is there;

There’s lots o’ pullin underneath ‘t

For kissin’ is there fair.

G Tweddell, ‘T. Acad. Cleveland Customs,’ p.15

*An ornamental bush of holly and evergreens, with roses made of coloured paper, flowers, apples, oranges, etc, interspersed, hung from the centre of the ceiling, or in some other convenient place: the ‘common law’ in Cleveland being, that every man who can get a woman under the bush, is fairly entitled to a kiss of her then and there…Since the country has been covered by railways, so that the mistletoe (Viscum album) can be purchased at Stockton and Middlesbrough, sprigs of the plant of Venus are often added in the centre of the kissing-bush, for which, in the absence of the mysterious parasite, it has long been the substitute. G.M. Tweddell