Clipping the church

Last updated
Clipping the church at Church of St Lawrence, Rode. Painting by W. W. Wheatley in 1848 Clypping 1848 (1).jpg
Clipping the church at Church of St Lawrence, Rode. Painting by W. W. Wheatley in 1848

Clipping the church is an ancient custom that is traditionally held in England on Easter Monday or Shrove Tuesday or a date relevant to the Saint associated with the church. The word "clipping" is Anglo-Saxon in origin, and is derived from the word "clyppan", meaning "embrace" or "clasp". [1] Clipping the church involves either the church congregation or local children holding hands in an inward-facing ring around the church, and can then be reversed to an outward-facing ring if a prayer for the wider world beyond the parish is said. Once the circle is completed onlookers will often cheer and sometimes hymns are sung. Often there is dancing. Following the ceremony a sermon is delivered in the church and there are sometimes refreshments. [2] Christians adopted this tradition to show their love for their church and the surrounding people. Currently, there are only a few churches left in England that hold this ceremony, and all of these appear to honour it on a different day. [3]



Little is known about the history of clipping. It was rumored to have origins in some type of Pagan custom, but nothing has been substantiated. Even allowing for adaptation, what is known is clearly a Christian tradition. The earliest known written mention of it dates from 1825 in a description of the ceremony given by "L.S." in The Every-day Book, a recounted memory of his childhood. [4] Because of this reference, it is thought that the ceremony might have undergone a revival in the early 19th century. It was a custom in several parishes in the Midlands, having died out in various places later in the 19th century. But it was still performed widely across the country, from Yorkshire to Wiltshire and Derbyshire, as well as Birmingham, Somerset and Shropshire. [5] [6]

Revival and current practice

Clipping the church at St Thomas-on-The Bourne, Farnham, Surrey on Mothering Sunday 2019 Clypping the Church at St Thomas-on-The Bourne on Mothering Sunday.jpg
Clipping the church at St Thomas-on-The Bourne, Farnham, Surrey on Mothering Sunday 2019

It was revived at St. Peter's Church, Edgmond, Shropshire in 1867, and continues there to the present day. [7] St. Mary's Church in Painswick in Gloucestershire is one of a few other churches that perform this custom, on a Shrove Tuesday, and today it is performed by children. [3] Other churches that hold similar ceremonies include Burbage Parish Church, St Mary's Church, Wirksworth, and Guiseley Parish Church. [8] [9]

Tankersley, South Yorkshire

At St Peter's Church in Tankersley, Barnsley in the diocese of Sheffield it has continued annually since 1926. [10] [11] The service of Clyppings is held annually on the second Sunday following St Peter's Day (29 June). When the new ‘Calendar’ was changed, by omitting 11 days, the residents of Tankersley neglected (or refused) to change the day of their festival. Another important fact was that in the year of 1800, it was not considered a leap year and this interjected another day.

At Tankersley, there is a service held in the parish church followed by the congregation moving outside to form a ring around the church. They sing the hymn, "We Love thy Place O God", accompanied by a trumpet. A prayer is then said with the congregation facing the church and then the congregation all face outwards to the world and pray for the wider community and the world.

Wissett, Suffolk

St Andrew's Church, Wissett have revived the tradition of Clipping since about 1995. When the church is fully embraced, people from Wissett and the wider benefice sing Lord of the Dance . The church is clipped annually on Shrove Tuesday and this is followed by a serving of cordon bleu pancakes in the village hall. [12] It is an ecumenical occasion and involves musical accompaniment from a Salvation Army band.

Rode, Somerset

At the Church of St Lawrence at Rode, Somerset the circle face inwards dancing left and right before rushing towards the church with a cheer. [13]

Wilden, Worcestershire

The Church of All Saints at Wilden, Worcestershire adopted the practice in 2018. Clypping is undertaken with the circle facing inwards. The church bell rings three times and the circle dances to the left, then the bell rings three times more and the circle dances to the right. The bell rings a final three times and the circle cries 'God bless Wilden'.

The Bourne, Surrey

At St Thomas-on-The Bourne church in The Bourne parish of Farnham, Surrey, clypping of the "mother church" takes place on Mothering Sunday.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shrove Tuesday</span> Day in February or March preceding Ash Wednesday

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, observed in many Christian countries through participating in confession and absolution, the ritual burning of the previous year's Holy Week palms, finalizing one's Lenten sacrifice, as well as eating pancakes and other sweets.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Penistone</span> Town and civil parish in South Yorkshire, England

Penistone is a market town and civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England, which had a population of 22,909 at the 2011 census. Historically in the West Riding of Yorkshire, it is 8 miles (13 km) west of Barnsley, 17 miles (27 km) north-east of Glossop, 14.2 miles (23 km) north-west of Sheffield, 27 miles (43 km) south-west of Leeds and 29 miles (47 km) east of Manchester in the foothills of the Pennines. The town is frequently noted on lists of unusual place names.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wirksworth</span> Market town in Derbyshire, England

Wirksworth is a market town in the Derbyshire Dales district of Derbyshire, England. Its population of 5,038 in the 2011 census was estimated at 5,180 in 2019. Wirksworth contains the source of the River Ecclesbourne. The town was granted a market charter by Edward I in 1306 and still holds a market on Tuesdays in the Memorial Gardens. The parish church of St Mary's is thought to date from 653. The town developed as a centre for lead mining and stone quarrying. Many lead mines were owned by the Gell family of nearby Hopton Hall.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yeadon, West Yorkshire</span> Town in West Yorkshire, England

Yeadon is a town within the metropolitan borough of the City of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Church bell</span> Bell in a church

A church bell in Christian architecture is a bell which is rung in a church for a variety of religious purposes, and can be heard outside the building. Traditionally they are used to call worshippers to the church for a communal service, and to announce the fixed times of daily Christian prayer, called the canonical hours, which number seven and are contained in breviaries. They are also rung on special occasions such as a wedding, or a funeral service. In some religious traditions they are used within the liturgy of the church service to signify to people that a particular part of the service has been reached. The ringing of church bells, in the Christian tradition, is also believed to drive out demons.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Durweston</span> Human settlement in England

Durweston is a village and civil parish in the English county of Dorset. It lies two miles northwest of the town of Blandford Forum. It is sited by the River Stour at the point where it flows out of the Blackmore Vale through a steep, narrow gap between the Dorset Downs and Cranborne Chase. In the 2011 census the parish had a population of 398.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shrovetide</span> Period before Lent

Shrovetide, also known as the Pre-Lenten Season or Forelent, is the Christian period of preparation before the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shrove Monday</span> Christian observance falling on the Monday before Ash Wednesday every year

Shrove Monday, sometimes known as Collopy Monday, Rose Monday, Merry Monday or Hall Monday, is a Christian observance falling on the Monday before Ash Wednesday every year. A part of the English traditional Shrovetide celebrations of the week before Lent, the Monday precedes Shrove Tuesday. As the Monday before Ash Wednesday, it is part of diverse Carnival celebrations which take place in many parts of the Christian world, from Greece, to Germany, to the Mardi Gras and Carnival of the Americas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ebbesbourne Wake</span> Village in Wiltshire, England

Ebbesbourne Wake is a village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England, some 10 miles (16 km) south-west of Salisbury, near the head of the valley of the small River Ebble. The parish includes the hamlets of Fifield Bavant and West End.

Fastelavn is a Carnival tradition in the Northern European, and historically Lutheran, nations of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Fastelavn is also traditionally celebrated in Greenland. The related word Fastelovend is used for Carnival in Germany in Köln and Bonn with the same meaning. Fastelavn is related to the Roman Catholic tradition of Carnival in the days before Lent, although after Denmark became a Protestant nation the festival adopted certain distinctive characteristics. The holiday occurs the week before the Christian penitential season of Lent, culminating on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The Swedish counterpart is Fastlagen, the Icelandic is Sprengidagur, and in Finland they celebrate Laskiainen. In Estonia it is celebrated as Vastlapäev. In Iceland, Ísafjörður is the only town that celebrates Fastelavn on the same day as the other Nordic countries, on monday, locally known as Maskadagur (mask-day).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tankersley, South Yorkshire</span> Village and civil parish in South Yorkshire, England

Tankersley is a village and civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley in South Yorkshire, England. At the 2001 census it had a population of 1,414, increasing to 1,671 at the 2011 Census.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lent</span> Christian observance

Lent is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar commemorating the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert and enduring temptation by Satan, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, before beginning his public ministry. Lent is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Oriental Orthodox, Persian, United Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions. Some Anabaptist, Baptist, Reformed, and nondenominational Christian churches also observe Lent, although many churches in these traditions do not.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Church of St Lawrence, Rode</span> Church in Somerset, England

The Church of St Lawrence in Rode, Somerset, England, dates from the late 14th and early 15th century. It was restored in 1874 by Charles Edward Davis and is a Grade I listed building.

A death knell is the ringing of a church bell immediately after a death to announce it. Historically it was the second of three bells rung around death, the first being the passing bell to warn of impending death, and the last was the lych bell or corpse bell, which survives today as the funeral toll.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maria Branwell</span>

Maria Branwell is best known as being the mother of British writers Emily Brontë, Anne Brontë, Charlotte Brontë and of their brother Branwell Brontë, who was a poet and painter. Maria married Patrick Brontë on 29 December 1812.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rushbearing</span>

Rushbearing is an old English ecclesiastical festival in which rushes are collected and carried to be strewn on the floor of the parish church. The tradition dates back to the time when most buildings had earthen floors and rushes were used as a form of renewable floor covering for cleanliness and insulation. The festival was widespread in Britain from the Middle Ages and well established by the time of Shakespeare, but had fallen into decline by the beginning of the 19th century, as church floors were flagged with stone. The custom was revived later in the 19th century and is kept alive today as an annual event in a number of towns and villages in the north of England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Mary's Church, Wirksworth</span> Church in United Kingdom

St Mary the Virgin is a parish church in the Church of England in Wirksworth, Derbyshire. It is a Grade I listed building. The existing building dates mostly from the 13th–15th centuries, but notable survivals from the Anglo-Saxon period indicate a church has stood on this site since at least the 8th century AD. It was restored in 1820, then in 1870 by Sir Gilbert Scott.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clean Monday</span> Eastern Christian holiday during Great Lent

Clean Monday, also known as Pure Monday, Ash Monday, Monday of Lent or Green Monday, is the first day of Great Lent throughout Eastern Christianity and is a moveable feast, falling on the 6th Monday before Palm Sunday which begins the Holy Week preceding Pascha Sunday (Easter).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Holy Trinity Church, Bingley</span> Anglican church in Bingley, West Yorkshire, England

Holy Trinity Church is an Anglican parish church in the town of Bingley, West Yorkshire, England notable for its original church being demolished by explosive charge on 7 April 1974.

The phrase English festivals cover a number of festivals which are Christian and secular that are traditionally celebrated in England. Most festivals are observed throughout England but some, such as Oak Apple Day, Souling, Rushbearing, Bawming the Thorn, and Hocktide are local to certain regions.


  1. Goddard, E. H. (1859). The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine. Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. p. 244.
  2. Journal. Colorado Education Association. 1846. p. 149150.
  3. 1 2 Sullivan, Danny (2005). Ley Lines: The Greatest Landscape Mystery. Green Magic. p. 166. ISBN   0-9542963-4-6.
  4. Hone, William (1826–27). The Every-day Book. London: T. Tegg. p. 431.
  5. Tyack, George S. (2004). Lore and Legend of the English Church 1899. Kessinger Publishing. p. 71. ISBN   1-4179-7707-8.
  6. Allcroft, A. Hadrian (2003). Circle and the Cross. Kessinger Publishing. p. 340. ISBN   0-7661-7620-7.
  7. Raven, Michael (2005). A Guide to Shropshire. Michael Raven. p. 76. ISBN   0-906114-34-9.
  8. "Church Clipping, Wirksworth Church Clipping, Peak District Church Clipping, Wirksworth Customs, Peak District Customs". peakdistrictonline. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
  9. "Church Information". Guiseley Parish. Archived from the original on 2008-10-16. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
  10. Howard Peach (2010) Curious tales from West Yorkshire (History Press, Stroud)
  11. Mee, Arthur (1941) Yorkshire: the West Riding Hodder & Stoughton, London p 383
  12. "Team Times', published monthly by the Blyth Valley Team Ministry
  13. "Clypping the Church". Rode History. Archived from the original on 29 November 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2011.