Woodbridge School Prep pupils have helped to revive a centuries-old custom at St Mary’s Church – the distribution of loaves on Candlemas Day (2 February) in accordance with the Will of George Carlow.
So who was he?
Within the precincts of the Bull Hotel in Woodbridge there is a quiet garden with an ancient tomb. Here, George Carlow, a former owner of the Bull, was laid to rest two hundred years ago. He belonged to a Christian sect called the Separate Congregation, who kept the Sabbath on Saturday. Rather than be buried in St Mary’s Churchyard, Carlow had a tomb built for himself in the hotel’s garden.
Carlow died on 2 March 1738, leaving a Will stipulating that the Rector and churchwardens of St Mary’s Parish Church ‘shall and do yearly and every year for ever after my decease give and distribute twenty shillings worth of good wheaten bread at, or upon, the said tomb on the second day of February, commonly called Candlemas, except when it is a Saturday …’ Similar instructions were also inscribed on his tomb, and were followed for many years. The custom was revived in 1867 and continued unbroken until recently, when the tomb became part of a private property.
And so it was with great joy that on Candlemas Day this year, the Rector of St Mary’s, the Revd Canon Kevan McCormack, and his two churchwardens were able to reinstate Carlow’s Dole, thanks to the hospitality of the Bull’s current proprietors, David and Sarah Clarke. They allowed the ceremony to take place in what is known as ‘Carlow’s Room’, and a group of children from Woodbridge School Prep were invited to take part . After telling the story of Carlow’s Dole, the Rector blessed the loaves, and with the churchwardens distributed them to the children. ‘So how much would twenty shillings be worth now?’ asked the Rector. The children quickly rose to the challenge – it helped that many of them were from the Maths group – and correctly calculated the present-day value to around £200.
The loaves, donated by Peter Wright of The Cake Shop, were made even more appetising when Mr and Mrs Clarke generously provided butter and jam (or marmite) and glasses of orange juice. One of the children gave a heartfelt vote of thanks, followed by uproarious general applause.
May George Carlow’s tradition long continue!