There was a tradition that once took place on Shrove Tuesday called ‘Lent Crocking’, this was particularly popular in the area around Okehampton. Basically what would happen is that bands of children would call at houses and chant songs in return for which they would expect gifts of flour, eggs or milk. When sufficient provisions had been earned the children would then return home and make their Shrove Tuesday pancakes from them. One of the verses that the children recited goes as follows:
“Lent Crock, give me a pancake,
Or a fritter for my labour,
Or a dish of flour, or a piece of bread,
Or what you please to render,
I see by the latch,
There is something to catch,
I see by the string,
There’s a good dame within,
Trap, trapping, throw,
Give me my mumps and I’ll be go!”.
The, “mumps” referred to in the last line comes from the old Devonshire name for a beggar – a ‘mumper‘ and the alms he managed to get became known as ‘mumps‘. But why was this tradition called ‘crocking’ well as with many of these door to door collections there was always a penalty to pay should a donation not be forthcoming. In this case the miserly household would receive a heartily thrown handful of broken crockery upon their doorstep and this gave rise to the term crocking. Around the Tavistock area Shrove Tuesday was known as ‘Lenshard Day‘ or ‘Lent Sherd Day’ and the sherd of pottery represented the same as the broken crockery which would end up on doorsteps. It appears that the children in and around Tavistock were a more financially astute as they would also ask for money as well as pancake provisions. One of their verses was identical to the one noted above except there were two additional menacing lines that went like this:
“At the door goes a stone,
Come, give and I am gone.”
Another shorter version from the Tavistock area echoes the same sentiments but with slightly different wording:
“Lancrock, a pancake,
A fritter for my labour,
I see by the string, The good dame’s in,
Tippy, tappy, toe, Nippy, nappy no:
If you give something, I’ll be ago“.
Should the householder be agile and quick enough to catch the ‘crocker’ then they would be dragged inside the house and presented with a shoe hanging from a piece of string in front of the hearth fire. Then as a penance for their mischief the unfortunate boy would be forced to twirl the shoe (known as ‘Roasting the Shoe’) until the heat from the fire and the dizziness from his spinning became too much to bear. At this point one of the girls of the house was meant to rescue the boy from his torment for which he had to give her a present on the next fair day. There is no mention what would happen if there was no girl in the family to save the crocker from his punishment, presumably he got barbecued.
It is supposed that the broken pots signify that Lent has begun and therefore there will be no need of such cooking utensils until the fasting period is over. The fact that the children never asked for any meat acted as a reminder that all animal flesh was to be abstained from throughout Lent.
It appears that this tradition died out around about the late 1800s, early 1900s but one thought does occur, many people (including me) moan about the annual ‘Trick or Treat’ but a hundred years ago there would be little sods knocking on the door virtually every feast day and holiday for some handout or other?