|GILES TILBURY'S 1670 PAINTING OF THE TICHBORNE DOLE
History of the Dole; Tichborne near Alresford, Hampshire, UK
"The family of Tichborne date their possession of the manor of Tichborne, near Winchester, so far back as 200 years before the Conquest. The origination of the ancient custom known as the Tichborne Dole is thus related:
When the Lady Mabella, worn out with age and infirmity, was lying on her deathbed, she besought her husband, as her last request, that he would grant her the means of leaving behind her a charitable bequest, in a dole of bread to be distributed to all who should apply for it annually on the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Sir Roger acceded to the request by promising the produce of as much land as she could go over in the vicinity of the park while a certain brand or billet was burning, supposing that, from her long infirmity (for she had been bedridden some years), she would be able to go round a small portion only of his property. The venerable dame, however, ordered her attendants to convey her to the corner of the park, where, being deposited on the ground, she seemed to receive a renovation of strength, and, to the surprise of her anxious and admiring lord, who began to wonder where this pilgrimage might end, she crawled around several rich and goodly acres.
The field which was the scene of Lady Mabella's extraordinary feat retains the name of Crawls to this day. It is situated near the entrance of the park, and contains an area of 23 acres.
Her task being completed, she was reconveyed to her chamber, and, summoning her family to her bedside, predicted its prosperity while the annual Dole existed, and left her malediction on any of her descendants who should be so mean or covetous as to discontinue or divert it; prophesying that when such should happen the old house would fall, and the family would become extinct from the failure of heirs male, and that this would be foretold by a generation of seven sons, being followed immediately after by a generation of seven daughters, and no son.
The custom thus founded in the reign of Henry II. continued to be observed for centuries, the 25th of March became the annual festive day of the family, and the friends and different branches of the house of Tichborne came from far and near to witness and assist at the performance of the good lady's legacy.
In 1670 Sir. H. Tichborne employed Giles Tilbury, an eminent Flemish painter, to represent the ceremony of the distribution of the bread. The picture is highly valuable, as giving a faithful representation of old Tichborne-house in the time of CharlesII., which Camden nearly a century previous had declared to be a very ancient house. It was pulled down in 1803, and the present edifice erected. The picture passed by marriage into the hands of Mr. Michael Blount, and was sold by him to the late Sir E. Doughty Tichborne, at the nominal price of 400l.
It was usual to take 1,400 loaves for the purpose of the dole of 1 lb. 10 oz. avoirdupois weight each, and if after the distribution there remained any persons to whom bread had not been distributed they received 2d. each in lieu thereof.
It was not until the end of the last century that the custom was discontinued, when, under the pretence of attending Tichborne Dole, vagabonds, gipsies, and idlers of every description assembled from all quarters, pilfering throughout the neighbourhood, and at last, the gentry and magistrates complaining, it was discontinued in 1796.
This gave great offence to many who had been accustomed to receive it, and a partial falling of the old house in 1803 was looked upon as an ominous sign of Lady Mabella's displeasure. Singularly enough, the baronet of that day had seven sons, and when he was succeeded by the eldest there appeared a generation of seven daughters, and the apparent fulfilment of the prophecy was completed by the change of the name of the late baronet to Doughty, under the will of his kinswoman."
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