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Gloucestershire Wassail

[ Roud 209 ; Ballad Index RcGlWasS ; VWML CJS2/9/1214 , CJS2/9/2011 , RVW2/1/162 ; trad.]

Billy Buckingham and others sang The Wassailing Bowl in The Royal Arms, Stonehouse, Gloucestershire, in February 1979. This recording made by Gwilym Davies was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology of songs and dance tunes of seasonal events, You Lazy Lot of Bone-Shakers (The Voice on the People Volume 16).

Nowell Sing We Clear sang The Gloucestershire Wassail in 1981 on their album The Second Nowell.

Ian Woods and Charley Yarwood sang the Gloucestershire Wassail in 1984 on their Traditional Sound album Hooks & Nets. This track was also included in 2002 on the Fellside anthology of the calendar in traditional song, Seasons, Ceremonies & Rituals. Ian Woods noted:

I first learnt this when I was at primary school and have since used it when teaching. It is a very basic version of the ‘wassail’ family, other examples of which can be found in the Oxford Book of Carols.

Maddy Prior and The Carnival Band recorded Wassail! several times: on their CDs Carols and Capers (1991) and Carols at Christmas (1998), and on the DVD An Evening of Carols and Capers (2005).

Andy Turner learned Gloucestershire Wassail from the Oxford Book of Carols. He recorded it with Magpie Lane—with a different singer leading each verse—on their 1995 country Christmas album Wassail!, and he sang it as the 28 December 2017 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week. The CD noted commented:

A very widespread country carol which exists in 19th-century printed versions. A wassail was a toast reserved for festive occasions, and sung especially at Christmas when wassailers would go from house to house singing for beer, punch or cider.

The Albion Christmas Band sang Gloucester Wassail in 2003 on their CD An Albion Christmas and again in 2009 on Traditional.

Coope Boyes & Simpson, Fi Fraser, Jo Freya and Georgina Boyes sang Gloucestershire Wassail in 2003 on their CD Fire and Sleet and Candlelight. They commented in their liner notes:

Several different midwinter customs are known as “Wassailing”. Across the North, Wassailing involved showing a doll in a leaf-decorated box and singing carols in exchange for gifts. In the South and into the Midlands, fruit trees are still visited and Wassailed with songs, food and drink to encourage them to grow. This Wassail Song however, was part of the West of England custom in which groups of young people would carry a large decorated bowl from place to place, offering a drink from it in exchange for other drinks and food. Their song toasts all the members of the household and their animals—including the cows Broad Mary and Fillpail. Ralph Vaughan Williams records that the Gloucestershire Wassail tune was sung to him “by an old person in the county” [VWML CJS2/9/1214] , but also makes reference to a variant he collected from William Bayliss at Buckland [VWML CJS2/9/2011, RoudFS/S164625] and acknowledges verses from a version Cecil Sharp collected from Isaac Bennett at Little Sodbury [VWML CJS2/9/1214] .

Billy Buckingham and others sang The Wassailing Bowl

[The sisters] Fi [Fraser] and Jo [Freya] probably learnt the song when they used to go out singing around the Cotswolds on Boxing Day with the Gloucestershire Old Spot Morris Dancers and The Songwainers.

Finest Kind sang Jolly Wassail on their 2018 Christmas album I Am Christmas. They noted:

Jolly Wassail is a folk-processed version of The Gloucestershire Wassail.

Lyrics

Gloucestershire Wassail in The New Oxford Book of Carols

Wassail, wassail all over the town!
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing-bowl we'll drink to thee!

So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek!
Pray God send our master a good piece of beef,
And a good piece of beef that we all may see;
With the wassailing-bowl we'll drink to thee!

And here is to Dobbin and to his right eye!
Pray God send our master a good Christmas pie,
And a good Christmas pie that we may all see;
With our wassailing-bowl we’ll drink to thee!

So here is to Broad May and to her broad horn!
May God send our master a good crop of corn,
And a good crop of com that we may all see;
With the wassailing-bowl we’ll drink to thee!

And here is to Fillpail and to her left ear!
Pray God send our master a happy new year,
And a happy new year as e’er he did see;
With our wassailing-bowl we’ll drink to thee!

And here is to Colly and to her long tail!
Pray God send our master he never may fail.
A bowl of strong beer; I pray you draw near,
And our jolly wassail it’s then you shall hear.

Come, butler, come fill us a bowl of the best,
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest;
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small,
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all!

Then here’s to the maid in the lily-white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock;
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin,
For to let these jolly wassailers in.

Maddy Prior sings Wassail!

A wassail, a wassail all over the town
Our cup is white and our ale is brown
Our cup is made of the white maple tree
With a wassailing bowl we'll drink to thee.
Drink to thee, drink to thee,
With a wassailing bowl we'll drink to thee.

O master and mistress, oh are you within?
Pray open the door-knob and let us come in.
O master and mistress sitting down by the fire,
O won't you see us wassailers a-travelling in the mire.
Travelling in the mire, travelling in the mire,
O won't you see us wassailers a-travelling in the mire.

There was an old man and he had an old cow,
And how for to keep her he didn't know how,
He built up a barn for to keep his cow warm,
And a drop of strong beer will do us no harm.
Do us no harm, do us no harm,
And a drop of strong beer will do us no harm.

So here's to the maid in the lily-white smock,
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the lock.
Who tripped to the door and pulled back on the pin,
For to let these jolly wassailers in.
Wassailers in, wassailers in,
For to let these jolly wassailers in.

(repeat first verse)

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Mark Ellison