tend to take place any time from end of October up to the period before Christmas. Watch out for local publicity.
Soul-caking...Soul-appling or Simply Souling ....
Lymm's oldest tradition of all, going back possibly 1,000 years in some places, is also probably also its least known. Unlike May Queen which is held in the open air with thousands in attendance, soul-caking is played out as a short playlet in pubs and clubs around the area on and around All Hallows Day at the beginning of November.
Only in Cheshire are the these traditional mummers' plays performed at this particular time of the year and only four groups remain active. They are at Warburton, Antrobus, Halton and Comberbach. The first two of these groups perform in Lymm.
The association with this time of the year is related to local groups or gangs, typically farmhands, going from house to house where they would part beg, part perform. They may receive soul-cake - a sort of spicy fruit-cake, maybe a bag of apples - or if they were lucky a few pennies to help tide them over the difficult dark days of winter ahead when employment would be much harder to come by.
So what is the play about ? I could say go along and all will be explained but you may well come away totally mystified by the bizarre collection of characters and surreal plot line. It's about death but also about a dubious sort of resurrection. The devil is in there somewhere. There's a man dressed as a woman... Isn't there always? There's a horse's head -which is traditionally buried after the last performance of the year and dug up again for the following year (naturally). There's a sword fight .. that may or may not represent George and the Dragon. There's a quack doctor who raises the dead. Consumption of generous amounts of beer seems to be another important feature of the whole package.
See for yourself ..it is unique, free and unforgettable and we take our hats off to these groups who keep this remarkable oral tradition alive. The plays risked dying out particularly after the First World War when so many who had the knowledge never returned from the battlefields of France.
But we do have Tommy Saville's testimony that the play was still regularly performed in Lymm in the 1920s and we are blessed to see it still going as yet another of those remarkable traditions that makes Lymm unique.
"As a child in the late 1920s, early 1930s (I’m 91 years old) I lived in Lymm, Cheshire, and I remember the Mummering and Soul-Cake customs taking place, with the horse’s head on a stick, etc. I was, of course, too young to be allowed into the pubs but the “processions” around Lymm Cross have stuck in my mind all these years !
“Here come I, Beelzebub !” "
Tommy Saville 2015