The unique ‘Rocking’ service at St Mary’s of the
Purification, our Parish Church, normally takes place on the Sunday closest to
2nd February; it is called Candlemas and is forty days after the birth of
Jesus. The baby boy born nearest to Christmas and being baptised is ‘rocked’ in
a flower decked cradle. The names of those babies ‘rocked’, are recorded in the
Will Richards writes, ‘During the Rocking service the story
of Jesus’s presentation is always read. It begins in St Luke, chapter 2, verse
22: And when the days of her (Mary’s) purification
according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord’.
The ‘Rocking’ service at St May’s Church has its roots many
years ago. In fact it was banned in 1692 during the Reformation but revived
after one hundred and fifty years. The Rev. Whitworth writing in 1902 thought
it might have started as an ‘offshoot of
miracle plays, represented at Southwell for instruction of the people’. By
this date the celebration had again died out but he mentions a Mr John Bailey
of Python Hill, who had witnessed one of the old services. The occasion must
have been a most important one for Blidworth village as in his ‘Historical
Memorials’ of our Parish Church of 1873 he writes of ‘the very singular festival known as Blidworth Rocking, celebrated on
the Purification at the village feast. Crowds from Derbyshire and Yorkshire
used to assemble……a cradle was carried in procession, in honour of the
presentation of the infant Saviour in the Temple….’ It appears to have been
a fun day out for all the family with ‘sports’ sometimes getting out of
control! In earlier times, so much so that in 1598, Thomas Leake was killed
nearby by a Captain Salmond of Salterford in a duel as the result of an
argument over a young woman!
The modern celebration was revived in 1922 by the Rev John
Lowndes and the baby rocked was Clifford Simpson. In 1924 three babies were
rocked! Twins born to Mrs Birch
were eligible to be rocked but another couple claimed their child should also
be rocked as he had been born at around the same time as the twins. The Rev.
Lowndes made the diplomatic decision to rock all three. There is a photograph of
the event in Will Richard’s book, ‘Bidworth in Old Picture Postcards’ In 2010 a
magnificent ‘Cradle Sculpture’ was erected at ‘Forest Folk Corner’ by the
Parish Council as part of the NCC Local Improvement Scheme. It had been designed,
manufactured by local resident, Morris Reddington who kindly donated his time at
no cost to the scheme. In 2012 the service was held on 5th February
with the Rev’d Hazel Robinson and the ‘Rocking’ was performed by Right Rev’d
Tony Porter, the Bishop of Sherwood.
The writer recommends Blidworth local history books by Will
Richards, W Wild and the Rev’d R H Whitworth for further study.