Monday, 5 December 2011

Peculier, of Masham

The North Yorkshire town of Masham (pronounced (Massam) is famous for its beer, and in particular a brew from the original Theakston's Brewery, called 'Old Peculier'.  It is a strong dark and unusually sweet beer, perfect to comfort you in the winter (and indeed not unpleasant in the summer).

On the label there is a strange symbol, the Seal of the Official of the Peculier of Masham.

You might ask what this is all about while quoffing the contents of the bottle, or you might not, but I'll tell you anyway.

In the 12th century, the Archbishop of York established the Peculier Court of Masham an ecclesiastical court which enabled the parish to govern its own affairs, independent of the rest of the diocese.   The chairman of this court is known as 'The Official' and he has a special seal to mark his approval or decision.

Apparently the Court has (or had) a great deal of local power and the following are some of the offences dealt with in the past:
  • not coming to church enough
  • keeping a hat on at communion
  • bidding the church wardens to do their worst on being asked to go to church
  • not bringing their children to be baptised
  • husband and wife living apart
  • drunkenness
  • swearing
  • brawling and scolding
  • harbouring Roman Catholic priests
  • carrying a dead man's skull out of the churchyard and laying it under the head of a person to charm them to sleep.

Another brewing establishment can be found in Masham associated with the name Theakston.  The independent "Black Sheep Brewery" was established by Paul Theakston in 1992 after a legal battle relating to the takeover of the original brewery by one of the large national brewing companies.  It also produces strangely named, strong and delicious beers, one such being called Riggwelter.

Small note:  Any guesses about what a 'riggwelter' might be?


Hilary said...

I wonder why anyone thought that a dead man's skull would charm someone to sleep...I've a friend who's an insomniac...I wonder...

Plasma Engineer said...

I wish I could help but I am rather short of skulls these days!

Hilary said...

I'll try ebay then...:)

Dobbin said...

Interesting facts about one of my favourite beers - I will ponder them at length over my next glass of it.

John Chapman said...

Any true Yorkshire farmer would tell you that a riggwelter was a sheep which was laid on it's back and which couldn't get up. Presumably Riggwelter beer would do the same to you if you drink too much.
Incidentally the Northumbrian word for this would be 'kessen'.

Plasma Engineer said...

Well done John. The prize goes to you. I never managed to drink enough beer to be in that state - fortunately. Interesting to hear the Northumbrian word for it. I had never heard that one.

Plasma Engineer said...

It all reminds me of Jake Thakray's famous song, 'Old Molly Metcalf'.