Giotto, The Ascension of Christ, c1300.

Giotto, The Ascension of Christ, c1300.

The Christian festival of The Feast of the Ascension is held the 40th day of Easter and commemorates the ascension of Jesus into heaven 39 days after resurrection on Easter Sunday.

English customs associated with Ascension Day included the beating of the parish bounds, well dressing, and the planting of the ‘Penny Hedge’ in the harbour at Whitby.

English folklore has it that if the weather is sunny on Ascension Day then the summer will be long and hot, but if it rains crops will do badly. But perhaps it was the Welsh superstition, that it is unlucky to do any work on Ascension Day, that Headmaster Charles Boughey had in mind when in 1928 he introduced the Ascension Day holiday at Sherborne School.  That first year the School’s Archaeology Society conducted an expedition to Bridport, Abbotsbury, and Weymouth, while the rest of the School invaded the neighbouring countryside ‘by motor, on bicycle or on foot’. Apparently ‘the rain scarcely ceased throughout’, so presumably the proceeding summer was neither long or hot!

At Sherborne, it became the tradition that on Ascension Day the boys should try to get as far away from the School as possible.  As Christopher Knott (School House 1952-1957) later recalled, ‘hitch-hiking was permitted and public transport might be used.  People sent telegrams from Wolverhampton and bought the local paper in Worksop in order to prove how successful and how far they had been.’  In 1969, Piers Crocker (School House 1965-1971), ‘despite unfavourable omens and adverse weather’, travelled 100 miles on his bicycle, breaking the previous Ascension Day record of 80 miles.

Rachel Hassall
School Archivist

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Posted 25 May 2017 by Sherborne School Archives.

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