Wassailing at Woolsthorpe Manor

Singers raise a flass to the trees.
Singers raise a flass to the trees.
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An ancient pagan custom took place at the home of one of Britain’s leading scientists.

An ancient pagan custom took place at the home of one of Britain’s leading scientists.

Singing accompanied by guitar.

Singing accompanied by guitar.

Woolsthorpe Manor staged its annual Wassail, which involves singing to the trees at the manor, including Sir Isaac Newton’s apple tree.

Started at the manor in 2008, Wassailing comes from the word Wass-ail or Ves-heil, meaning ‘be you healthy’ in Anglo-Saxon, though the ceremony is probably pre-Christian.

At the manor’s eleventh event at noon last Saturday, a record 50 or so people took part, with the Woolsthorpe Wassail advertised nationally in the National Trust magazine, helping it attract supporters from outside the district.

Margaret Winn, conservation manager for Woolsthorpe Manor said: “The event is becoming popular and we had a good crowd.

“It’s a very ancient custom. We wassail the fruit trees to ensure a good harvest in September-October. We wish the trees good health. Traditionally, you do it with ale and cake. You feed the crowd with ale and cake and you feed the trees with ale and cake. But we did not use ale as people were driving. Instead, we used a Belvoir cordial to keep it local.

“There’s a wassailing song and we have musicians. We also get children to go around the trees with pots and pans to frighten away any spirits hiding in the trees.”

Margaret added: “And it does work. We have had a good crop for the past ten years.”

Woolsthorpe Manor has other events more in tune with its famous former resident, Sir Isaac Newton, who lived there some 350 or so years ago, carrying out his research there, including asking why that apple fell from that tree.

Until February 19, the manor is running its House of Light Tours every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, but you need to book.

Margaret continued: “We have tried to bring science back into the house, with lots of information and exhibits concerning Newton’s work on light. exhibits include Newton’s Prism, which was brought from Cambridge.”

This device showed how white light was made of different colours. disproving previous theories white light was colourless.

The manor also has events from March 14 to 16 to mark British Science Week.