The 7th Penkhull Wassail

Old Twelfth Night, Sunday 17th January 2021

Please join us on the night of Sunday 17th January. Just visit our Facebook group, Friends of Domesday Morris.

The Wassail this year is unlike any celebrated previously, and perhaps resonates more than ever.

In these troubled times the wellbeing of our neighbours, friends and loved ones certainly brings the call of ’Waes hael’ to a new level of relevance.

In these dark bleak winter days, remember better times must surely come when we can gather and make merry again; so good health and good bounty to all, to you and yours:


The Wassail is many things to many people. For some a chance to party, others a time for simple camaraderie. It is a time for reflection on the past difficult year and of hope for the future. Lastly, it is a time for many of us to pay our respect to traditions and the old ways that still perhaps linger on the very fringe of our consciousness.

I was asked for those wishing to celebrate the Wassail in their home this year what 5 things could they do as we can not gather?

1. No Wassail is without something to drink; indeed it’s thirsty work, so prepare yourself a drink befitting the night.

Domesday’s recipe for a Wassail drink:
1 gallon of home/hedge cider from our local trees (good organic cider)
1 jar of honey
2 sticks of cinnamon
15 cloves
2 cardamon pods
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Reduce all amounts pro rata
Heat until just near boiling, then simmer for 30 mins with lid on and leave to cool to room temperature overnight. Don’t let it boil if you want to preserve a little alcohol… WASSAIL !

2. Then perhaps some cake?

English Twelfth Cake
60ml white rum
80g golden raisins
80g currants
3 tablespoons diced candied lemon
2 tablespoons diced candied orange peel
250g unsalted butter
150g sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
400g flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg or mace
1/2 teaspoon allspice
45g flaked blanched almonds
grated rind of 1 lemon
1 dried pea
1 dried bean
Golden Almond Icing (see below)

Combine rum with raisins, currants and candied fruits. Leave to soak for one hour. Drain, keeping fruit and rum. Cream butter with sugar till light/fluffy. Add eggs one by one. Beat
well in-between. Add milk and 2 tablespoons of the saved rum and almond extract and beat in. Place fruits in a little of the flour until coated lightly. Sift the remaining flour with spices and mix, beating into the batter. Add the fruits, nuts and grated lemon rind, the pea and the bean. Mix well by folding.

Bake in a 9 inch round cake or loaf pan. Butter the pan and line it with buttered brown paper. Bake in preheated 140 deg C oven for 2 hours or till a tester inserted comes out clean. Cool cake until it comes away from pan sides. Put on rack, take off paper, cool completely and ice. Let stand till icing hardens or leave overnight.

Golden Almond Icing
75g ground blanched almonds
100g sugar
60g unsalted soft butter
60ml white rum
2 egg yolks
1-2 drops almond extract (to taste)

Combine ingredients and beat strongly using wooden spoon. Mixture should be creamy, light yellow and soft. Spread over a cool cake. Let harden overnight.

The dried bean should be put in the batter on one side of the cake layer, and a dried pea on the other. When serving the cake, cut it into equal slices, giving pieces from the bean side to the male guests, and from the pea side to the female guests.

The man who finds the bean will be King of the Feast - he will choose the games and songs. The woman with the pea will be the Queen. If a woman finds the bean, she can choose the King, while the man who finds the pea can choose the Queen.

3. Games

Tradition has it that the royal pair direct the rest of the company in merriment. Revellers are assigned ludicrous tasks or require them to behave in ways that were not in keeping with their usual roles?

‘Now, now the mirth comes,
With the cake full of plums,
Where bean's the king of the sport here;
Besides we must know,
The pea also
Must revel, as queen, in the court here.
Begin then to choose,
This night as ye use,
Who shall for the present delight here,
Be a king by the lot,
And who shall not
Be Twelfth-day queen for the night here.
Which known, let us make
Joy-sops with the cake;
and let not a man then be seen here,
Who, unurg'd, will not drink,
To the base from the brink,
A health to the king and queen here.
Next crown the bowl full
With the gentle lamb's-wool
Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.
Give then to the king
And queen wassailing;
And, though with ale ye be wet here,
Yet part ye from hence
As free from offense,
As when ye innocent met here.’

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

4. Music and Song

We will post music and songs for you to join in with on the night. Find us in our Facebook group, Friends of Domesday Morris.

5. Make an offering in hope of a bounteous harvest this autumn

Make some bread shapes and toast. If you have a fruit tree in your garden remember to go out and make your offering, sprinkle a little Wassail at its roots, place some toast in its branches and make some noise to scare away the evil spirits and order then “be gone, be gone, be gone”

If you have no fruit tree or a tree near you, then take a moment to reflect on your surroundings and the wonders of nature, leaving your offering out for the birds and animals.

WASSAIL! WASSAIL! - health and peace to you and your house!


The Penkhull Wassail is an annual event organised by Domesday Morris. A celebration with music, dance, free home-made cider wassail and soup followed by a ticket-only Ceilidh.

The event features a torch-lit procession through the village, much fun and merriment with Domesday Morris and their guests - including the brilliant Penkhull Brass, the wondrous Penkhull Mystery Singers and our fantastic residents of Penkhull... oh, and an apple tree or two!

So what is wassailing? The word Wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon toast [Wæs þu hæl] meaning "be thou hale" or "be in good health" and links back to ancient celebrations pre-dating the Conquest of 1066. The local lord would give food and drink to villagers in exchange for their blessing and goodwill and receiving entertainment in form of song and dance. Cider was important in times past and wassailing also refers to drinking and singing the health of fruit trees. By awakening the cider apple trees and scaring away evil spirits, our forebears hoped their orchards would thrive and produce a bumper harvest in the autumn.

For more details, contact or phone the Squire, Bruce Jarvest on 07828 936110.