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Page last updated at 16:01 GMT, Wednesday, 23 December 2009
Ancient tradition restores link
Bodminís wassailers
Bodminís wassailers visit 15 to 20 houses throughout the town on 12th night dressed in top hats, dickie bows, waistcoats and tails

Dressed in top hats, dickie bows, waistcoats and tails Bodmin's wassailers visit homes, public houses and shops on the 12th day of Christmas.

The Bodmin Wassail dates back to at least 1640 when it was first recorded, however it appears to have been well established by this time.

The aim is to offer festive cheer with a drink of ale from the Wassail bowl whilst collecting for charity.

In the last 3 years the Wassail has been extended throughout the town.

The wassailers dress in "gentlemens hand me downs" similar to the the Montol photo gallery Guise Dancers of West Cornwall and sing the Bodmin Wassail, the Old Song, carols and Cornish songs and are rewarded with hospitality and with money collected for charity.

Other Wassails were common in Cornwall prior to the 20th Century and incidences are recorded in Camborne, Truro and Penzance.

The Bodmin Wassail is one of only two surviving traditional visiting wassails which are very different from apple tree wassails.

It is unique in that records confirm it has survived continuously since 1640 although it was certainly well established even then.

Director of Folk South West, Eddie Upton, said "the Bodmin Wassail is an ancient tradition taking place on 12th Night and is equally significant in its own way as Padsow's May Day or Helston's Flora Day."

The Bodmin Wassail is equally significant in its own way as Padsow's May Day or Helston's Flora Day.

The town and people of Bodmin are an essential part of the tradition - without their support and close involvement there would be no wassail."

The wassailers have continued since just before World War Two without a drinking vessel. At that time it disappeared having last being seen on display on top of a plant pot in a shop in Honey Street in Bodmin.

The original bowl was donated to the wassailers by town clerk, Nicholas Sprey in 1624 in his will..

Former Mayor of Bodmin, John Chapman, commissioned a new bowl from potter John Webb of Lostwithiel. This is now the centrepiece of a Wassaling Display beside the Tourist Information Centre in Shire Hall.

Vic Legg, who has been part of the wassailing tradition for 33 years said "John has been a keen supporter of the tradition, as was his father and grandfather, and we are extremely grateful to him for this generous gift.

"We've carried on without a bowl since before the war, visiting houses, pubs and residential homes, but now we can fill it up with beer or cider and offer people a drink, the original intention when Nicholas Sprey bought the first wassailing cup all those years ago. Having the new bowl makes a tremendous difference as we can use it as the focal point of the wassail."

In the last three years the wassailers have extended the custom by going out in the afternoon to residential and nursing homes, shops and the library.

Vic Legg said "This extends the tradition to many more people in the town. Wassail is a living tradition in Bodmin and is changing and developing all the time so who knows what the future may bring."

Bodmin's Town Clerk, Paul O'Callaghan said "The town council is delighted once again to contribute to the tradition of wassail. I shall be following in the footsteps of my predeccessor Nicholas Sprey when I fill the wassail bowl with fine wine as it begins its twelve hour journey across our town."


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