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Ufton Nervet Bread and Cloth Dole, Berkshire

Lady Elizabeth Marvyn, owner of the still lovely Tudor house Ufton Court by the Berkshire village of Ufton Nervet, once became hopelessly lost in what were then large tracts of woodland near her home. She was rescued by villagers who guided her to safety, and out of gratitude to them she established a tradition in her lifetime, continued thanks to arrangements in her 1581 will, of the charitable distribution of bread and cloth to people in the village.
The goods doled out to the needy villagers were bread, canvas for shirts and smocks, and blue cloth for coats and cassocks. The grateful lady passed the donations through a window at her house to the villagers – well, one can be charitable without having to mix with the peasantry.
Bread is still provided for villagers today, given on Maundy Thursday, but the cloth part of the bequest has been changed somewhat. Sheets or duvet covers have now taken the place of what used to be provided, as for some reason blue cassocks are not as favoured as once they were.
Ufton Court passed out of Lady Elizabeth’s family in 1769, but the tradition still endures, its survival perhaps helped by the local legend that says whoever halts the dole will be cursed.

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