St Ives’ 350 year old custom

GOODIE bags were again up for grabs in St Ives as part of an ancient custom going back more than 350 years.

GOODIE bags were again up for grabs in St Ives as part of an ancient custom going back more than 350 years.

Around 160 widows and widowers turned up at the Corn Exchange to claim their free bag of bread, biscuits, sugar and tea.

The custom, known as Langley Bread, dates back to 1656 when benefactor Robert Langley was passing through the area and became lost in fog at Hemingford Meadows.

He found his way thanks to the sound of the St Ives parish bells and to show his gratitude decreed in his will that every ‘poor widow of fatherless children’ in the town should receive an annual payment of 40 shillings.

The custom has widened to include widowers and in the 1990s it was decided instead of money recipients would get a bag of treats.

Town clerk Alison Melnyczuk said: “They have to prove they are residents of St Ives and that they appear on the electoral role, but we take it on trust they are widows or widowers.”

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Bags were also distributed at sheltered housing schemes and residential homes in St Ives

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