f The Wittenberg Door: Dog-Nawpers, Churchwardens, and Ale-Houses

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dog-Nawpers, Churchwardens, and Ale-Houses

From Forgotten English . . .

Dog-nawper: A church beadle . . . with his long wand of office [for] tapping (nawping, we lads called it) the heads of either sleepers or unruly youngsters.

Dog-Whipping Day

At one time, any dogs found on the streets of York on October 18 were subject to being whipped. This practice commemorated an eighteenth-century incident in which a dog had consumed consecrated wafers in York Minister Cathedral. Many English churches of that time employed wardens who not only supervised the canines that accompanied their owners to church but also were at times assigned to keep parishioners awake during services. But these minor officials’ duties were not confined to the church.

As Frederick Hackwood’s Inns, Ales, and Drinking Customs of Old England (1909) explained: “The practice in the later centuries was for the churchwardens and the beadle . . . to sally forth on Sunday morning at the commencement of the reading of the second lesson, and to visit all the public-houses in the neighborhood of the church. Anyone found tippling during the church service was instantly apprehended and placed in the stocks, which not infrequently stood near the churchyard gates.”

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