Agecroft Hall: Discover 17th Century England in Richmond
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Michaelmas: an English Quarter Day

 

 

            During the 16th and 17th century, Michaelmas was an important day, not only in the liturgical calendar, but it was also an English quarter day—one of four days in the year when tenants paid their rents, accounts were settled, taxes were collected, and magistrates visited outlying towns to settle legal disputes.

 

            Michaelmas falls on September 29th which is the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. St. Michael, an archangel, is known for having banished Lucifer from heaven. September 29th also, conveniently, falls after the autumnal equinox, a date important for harvesting. All quarter days, March 25th, June 24th and December 25th, fell before or after important dates on the agricultural calendar. If one digs a little deeper into these quarter dates, it becomes obvious that they all fall near known celestial occurrences, quite helpful when calendars and tracking time were not of great concern to most people. Holding important feast days and liturgical celebrations near known heavenly events also helped Christianity gain a foothold as converts were more likely to accept the new religion if it seemed to closely reflect the festivals and celebrations to which they were already accustomed.

 

         Michaelmas has some interesting stories associated with it. Supposedly, on Michaelmas, Queen Elizabeth I was eating roast goose when she heard of the defeat of the Spanish Armada by her English fleet. As a result of this story, which may not even be true, eating roast goose on Michaelmas was thought to ensure good financial fortune for the next year. Tenants also brought a goose to the landlord while paying their rents, hoping to win favor for the next lease term. Eating small oatcakes, called St. Michael’s bannock, as well as apples and blackberries on Michaelmas was also believed to bring good fortune, although, eating blackberries after Michaelmas was thought to bring bad luck because Satan, when he was banished from heaven, fell into a blackberry bush and he cursed the blackberry brambles as he fell. It was believed that any blackberries picked and consumed after Michaelmas were cursed.

 

           Michaelmas at a 17th century English manor home is now on display at Agecroft Hall. Come take a tour to learn more about this important quarter day!

 

 

Prepared by Libby Howlett, Manager of Collections, lhowlet@agecrofthall.com