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Braughing ( ) is a village and civil parish, between the rivers Quinmarker and Ribmarker, in the non-metropolitan district of East Hertfordshiremarker, part of the Englishmarker county of Hertfordshiremarker, England. Braughing was a rural district in Hertfordshire from 1935 to 1974.

St Mary, Braughing

History

Prehistory

There is some evidence of human activity in the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age, but settled habitation began in the Iron Age, around the 3rd century BC. It was probably a trading post, situated on the navigable extreme of the Rib, providing a route to the larger River Lee. In the late pre-Roman period it may have been the capital of the Trinovantes and the seat of such kings as Addedomarus and Tasciovanus.

Roman times

At Ford Bridge, near Braughing there was a significant town in Roman times, situated close to several major Roman roads, including Ermine Streetmarker (now the A10marker), Stane Street (now the A120) and the Icknield Waymarker, and covering at least 36 hectares. The town was a Roman industrial centre for the manufacture of pottery.When the River Rib is in full flood, bricks, tiles and other more interesting artefacts from the Roman settlement are washed from its banks.

The Latin name of the town is, as yet, unknown.

Saxon times

After the Roman period it was settled by the Anglo-Saxons: the earliest form of the name Braughing is Breahinga, Old English for the people of Breahha, who was probably a local leader. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) at Brachinges.

Gatesbury

Little remains of this hamlet, which lies to the east of the B1368 close to the Puckeridge junction. Originally part of Westmill parish, Gatesbury is now firmly within the parish of Braughing. Its name originates from the Gatesbury family, who held the manor from the late 1100s up to the 1400s, when it was passed to the FitzHerberts.

Customs

Old Man's Day

On 2 October 1571, as the funeral bell was being tolled, the coffin of a local farmer, Matthew Wall, was being carried down Fleece Lane towards the village Church of St Mary the Virgin.

Matthew's fiancée and other mourners were deeply distressed. He was only a young man. As they made their way to the funeral service, one of pallbearers slipped on the damp autumn leaves and they dropped the coffin - waking young Matthew, from what was simply a deep sleep. Confused and wondering wherever he was, he began frantically hitting the inside of the wooden case with his fist. The mourners removed the lid and were overjoyed to find him alive and well.

Matthew had been in a coma and had been suffering from what is believed to be a form of epilepsy. A year after this strange event he married his beautiful fiancée and lived many more years. When eventually he did die in 1595, his will made financial provision for Fleece Lane to be swept each year, after which the funeral bell, and then a wedding peal, were to be rung. The money, invested in Braughing Parish Charities also paid for his grave to be pegged with brambles to prevent grazing sheep from damaging it.

The 2nd October is, to this very day, known as Old Man's Day. The tradition still continues and schoolchildren now sweep the leaves from the lane, the bells are rung, and a short service is held at Matthew Wall's graveside.

Sources

  1. [1]A Vision of Britain through time. URL accessed March 8, 2008
  2. [2] Francis Frith Photographic website. URL accessed March 8, 2008.
  3. The dates of Matthew Wall's "funerals" are recorded on a tapestry on a wall in the parish church.
  4. Additional information on this item was given to me by a former Churchwarden of Braughing parish, Owen Spencer-Thomas, 1964-1970.


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