Analysing the English Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Calendar-related artefacts

Alison Petch,
Researcher 'The Other Within' project

Many artefacts in the English collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum are related to calendar events, or are time-specific. Human lives are generally bound around an annual cycle of events, even today when most people do not work the land, or produce their own clothing, or tools, we still recognize the different seasons and the effects that climate and weather have on our day-to-day activities. Most of these artefacts reflect, to a greater or lesser effect, the effects of the Christian calendar and traditional annual Christian activities.

Hutton argues that 'the rhythms of the British year are timeless, and impose certain perpetual patterns upon calendar customs: a yearning for light, greenery, warmth, and joy in midwinter, a propensity to celebrate the spring with symbols of rebirth, and impulse to make merry in the sunlight and open air during the summer, and a tendency for thoughts to turn towards death and the uncanny at the onset of winter'. [1996: 426] He also argues that there is no fixed pattern to the way this rhythm was realised, and that the customs changed greatly over time. His account of the ritual year in Britain is an important source of data for anyone interested in calendar customs as is Steve Roud's which lists each custom by date and geographical location.

The following pages detail some of the objects that are connected to particular time or seasons.

Easter and springtime

Harvest time

St Giles Fair


Further Reading

Ronald Hutton. 1996. The Stations of the Sun: A history of the Ritual Year in Britain Oxford: Oxford University Press

Steve Roud. 2006 The English Year: A month-by-month guide to the nation's customs and festivals, from May Day to Mischief Night London: Penguin Books