Abbotsbury Garland Day

The Abbotsbury Garland taken in 1991 by Mr. D. Popham © DCM

The Abbotsbury Garland taken in 1991 by Mr. D. Popham © DCM

Dorset Folklorist, John Symonds Udal wrote in his book ‘Dorsetshire Folklore’ published in 1922 about the Abbotsbury Garland Day custom:

“Flower Custom (Garland Day). — They refer to a pleasing custom which still obtains on Old May Day (13th May). The children belonging to the crew of each boat build up a large garland of handsome flowers upon a frame, and carry it from house to house, usually getting a few pence apiece from those who can afford it. The people throng the beach, weather permitting, in the afternoon, when the garlands are taken out in boats and thrown into the sea. The late Lord Ilchester, the lord of the manor, had of late years provided an entertainment for the children, often close upon 200 in number, and was accustomed to attend them to the beach, where the vicar read a suitable portion of scripture, a psalm was sung, and prayer offered for the general welfare.

This custom is alluded to at somewhat greater length by Canon Mayo in a communication to Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries, vol. iii, p. 231 (1893), entitled “Garland Day”, in which he states that it is also observed in the neighbouring villages of Swyre and Puncknoll, but that in them only one garland is provided, not one for each boat.”

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Museum appeals for help to buy Iron Age mirror

The Chesil Mirror

The Chesil Mirror

Dorset County Museum is asking for help to buy a valuable artefact for its collection.

In 2010 a beautiful copper-alloy mirror was discovered between Abbotsbury and Chickerell and it is now up for sale.  The mirror is characteristic of the late Iron Age and is similar to the Portesham Mirror currently in the Museum’s possession. This type of mirror is extremely rare – fewer than 30 have ever been discovered in the UK.

The Chesil Mirror, as the new find has been named, is stunningly decorated and beautifully crafted and was found in a grave dating back to the Roman Conquest.  The body was buried in a characteristic crouched position and the grave also contained two brooches, an armlet, copper tweezers, coins and some glass beads.

In August 2011 the whole assemblage was declared Treasure and in April 2012 the Secretary of State set its price at £23,000.  The Museum now needs to raise this money urgently to save the collection for Dorset and prevent its possible sale to an overseas buyer. Jon Murden, director of Dorset County Museum said, “This mirror is very important to us because it is closely connected with the one we acquired in 1994 and is decorated in a similar way.  These rare and fascinating objects are significant because they tell us so much about power and wealth in Iron Age Dorset.  We hope this appeal will encourage local people to support us so that we can buy the mirror and give it pride of place in our Archaeology Gallery.” 

The Museum is planning a series of fundraising events and will be applying for various funds and grants to help with the purchase, but more support is needed.  Any money donated will go straight into a special fund which has been set up for the acquisition of this important archaeological discovery.

One event already planned is a lecture by Professor Andrew Fitzpatrick of Wessex Archaeology.  He will talk about the significance of the Chesil mirror and explain how it fits into our wider understanding of Iron Age Dorset. The lecture is at 7 for 7.30pm on Friday 30 November.  Tickets are available now from the Museum shop and cost £10.

If you would like to help with the Chesil Mirror appeal, please send cheques, made payable to DNHAS, to: Chesil Mirror Appeal, Dorset County Museum, High West Street, Dorchester, DT1 1XA.