Some three years ago a retired doctor, living a few miles beyond Thetford, wrote asking if the rod used for Bobbing at Feltwell Church was still in existence. He had been told that it was preserved in the belfry of St. Mary's and said that he would much like to see it. Evidently the doctor had heard tales about John Pearson who, like his father before him, was clerk of the Parish Church and kept the children in order by tapping them on the head when naughty with a long rod. In many parishes throughout the country the Clerk or some official would parade the Church with a rod in his hand during Divine Service and correct unruly children, stop people talking and arouse drowsy members of the congregation. Those were the days of long and tedious sermons and that people sometimes fell asleep was not very surprising. But to see a Church official, such as a sidesman, walk up to someone who was asleep and tap him smartly on the head, must have been rather more than surprising; especially as the result was apt to be most ludicrous. In some places it was the custom to appoint an official known as the Bobber who was supplied with a long rod, or wand, with a bob at the end, for tapping those who were talking or were found asleep. The following account, which appeared in "Notes and Queries," will explain the gentle art of Bobbing. "My mother, born at Warrington in the last century, can remember Betty Finch, a very masculine sort of woman, being the Bobber in 1810. She walked along the aisles during Divine Service armed with a long stick like a fishing rod, which had a bob at the end, and anyone caught sleeping or talking got a Nudge." Further particulars are given. in Vaux's Church Folk-lure which tells us that the official who walked about the Church had a long wand with a nob at one end for the men and boys, and a fox's brush at the other end with which he tickled the nostrils of the ladies who happened to be found dozing. Perhaps the most unique method of all for arousing sleepy members of the congregation, is reported in the Sporting Magazine for July, 1818. The parson of a Welsh Church had a pet goat which attended Sunday Service with him; and should any member of his congregation fall asleep, the goat started to butt him, or her, with such good effect that all thought of sleep during the remainder of the Service was entirely shattered.
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