The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Map of Mock Beggar Hall

For Christmas

The Map of Mock-begger Hall, with his scituation in the spacious Countrey, called, Anywhere.

Compare: Mock Beggers Hall (Rox 3.218-219)

Words: English Traditional

To the tune of It is not your Notherne Nanny: or Sweet is the Lasse that Loves mee.

Printed at London for Richard Harper, neere to the Hospitall gate in Smithfield, ca. 1633-1652.

Source: The Roxburghe Ballad Collection, the British Library
The English Broadside Ballad Archive,
EBBA ID: 30174, Roxburghe 1.252-253

1. I Reade in ancient times of yore,
That men of worthy calling
Build almes houses and Spittles store,
Which now are all downe falling:
And few men seeke them to repaire,
Nor is there one among twenty,
That for good deeds will take any care,
While mock begger hall stands empty.

2. Farme houses which their fathers built,
And Land well kept by tillage,
Their Prodigall sons have sold for gilt,
In every Towne and village.
To th City and Court they doe resort
With gold and silver plenty,
And there they spend their time in sport,
While mock beggers hall stands empty.

3. Young Landlords when to age they come,
Their rents they will be racking,
The tenant must give a golden sum,
Or else he is turnd packing,
Great fines and double rent beside,
Or else theyl not content be,
It is to maintaine their monstrous pride,
While mock begger hall stands empty.

4. Their fathers went in homely frees,
And good plaine broad-cloath breeches,
Their stockings with the same agrees,
Sowd on with good strong stitches.
They were not then calld Gentlemen,
Though they had wealth great plenty,
Now every guls growne worshipfull,
While mock begger hall stands empty.

5. No gold nor silver parchment lace
Was worne but by our Nobles,
Nor would the honest harmlesse face,
Weare Ruffes with so many doubles,
Our bands were to our shirts sowne then,
Yet cloath was full as plenty,
Now one band hath more cloath than ten,
While mock begger hall stands empty.

6. Now we are Apes in imitation,
The more indeeds the pitty,
The City followes the Strangers fashion,
The Countrey followes the City,
And ere one fashion is knowne throughout,
Another they will invent yee,
Tis all your gallants study about,
While mock beggers hall stands empty.


The second part, To the same tune.

7. ME thinks it is a great reproach
To those that are nobly descended,
When for their pleasures cannot have a Coach,
Wherewith they might be attended,
But every beggerly Jacke and Gill
That eate scant a good meale in twenty,
Must thorow the streets be jolted still,
While mock begger hall stands empty.

8. Theres some are ratled thorow the streets,
Probatum est, I tell it,
Whose names are wrapt in parchment sheets,
It grieves their hearts to spell it,
They are not able two men to keepe,
With a coachman they must content be,
Which at playhouse doores in his box lies asleep,
While mock begger hall stands empty.

9. Our Gentlewomen whose meanes is nothing
To that which they make shew of,
Must use all the fashions in their cloathing,
Which they can heare or know of,
They take such care themselves to decke,
That money is oft so scanty,
The belly is forcd to complaine of the backe,
While mock begger hall stands empty.

10. It may well be that some will muse,
Wherefore in this relation,
The name of Mocke begger I doe use,
Whithout any explanation,
To cleare which doubt before I end,
Because they shall all content be,
To shew the meaning I doe intend,
Of mock begger hall still empty.

11. Some Gentlemen and Citizens have
In divers eminent places,
Erected houses rich and brave,
Which stood for the owners graces,
Let any poore to such a doore
Come, they expecting plenty,
They there may ask till their throats are sore,
For mock begger hall stands empty.

12. Thus in these times we can perceive
Small charity comfort yielding,
For pride doth men of grace bereave,
Not onely in cloathes but in building,
Man makes the senselesse stones and bricke
Which by heavens goodnesse lent be,
Expresse his pride by those vaine tricks,
Thus mock begger hall stands empty.


Editor's Note.

Mock-beggar Hall or Manor. A grand, ostentatious house, where no hospitality is afforded, neither is any charity given.

No times observed, nor charitable lawes,
   The poor receive their answer from the dawes
Who, in their cawing language, call it plaine
   Mock-better Manour, for they come in vaine.
             -- Taylor, Works [early 17th Century]

    Ebenezer Cobham Brewer, ed., The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. New Edition. (London: Cassell and Company, Ltd., 1900), p. 849.

In this context, the phrase “mock-beggars hall” refers to a manor hall where a beggar could expect to call at the back door and receive a handout of food, but which is now closed during the Winter, and the Christmas-tide, because the Lord and Lady of the Manor have elected to spend the holiday in London or Westminster (or, in some cases, where the King and Queen were celebrating their holiday). This was a common practice in the late 1500s, and was the subject of considerable criticism.

There are two known Broadsides concerning the “Mock-beggar Hall,” both printed by Richard Harper of Smithfield, London, and both are found in the Roxburghe Collection according to Professor Patricia Fumerton, et al, Ballads and Broadsides in Britain, 1500-1800 (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2010). Both ballads have been reproduced at the exceptional web site, English Broadside Ballad Archive.

The earlier Broadside had the title “The Map of Mock-beggar Hall, with his scituation in the spacious Countrey, called, Anywhere” (Roxburghe i. 252-253).

The later ballad was found at Roxburghe 3.218-219, and was also reproduced in John Payne Collier, A Book of Roxburghe Ballads (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1847), pp. 49-54. Concerning the ballad, Mr. Collier wrote:

This ballad is a very amusing and clever satire on many changes for the worse, about the period it seems to have been written—the beginning of the seventeenth century. The full title is " Mock-Begger's Hall, with his situation in the spacious country called Anywhere;" and we have been obliged (from the existence of no other, excepting a still more modern reprint,) to use a copy published, during the civil wars [1642–1651]: it purports to have been " Printed for Richard Harper, at the Bible and Harp, in Smithfield." The wood-cut at the end is a representation of Tarlton, the comedian, who was so popular before 1588, when he died. If the entry in the register of St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, apply to him, as no doubt it does, his name has never been accurately spelt in the quotations of it: it there stands Richard Torrelton; and it is remarkable that he was buried on the very day his will bears date, September 3. We may conclude perhaps that he died of the plague. There was a wood-cut of Tarlton, playing upon his pipe and tabor, as early as 1590, no doubt similar to that we have inserted, and not unfrequently found at the head of old ballads.

Both of these ballads lament the decline in hospitality during the Christmas-tide, a theme common in the 17th century. The earlier ballad consisted of 12 verses, and can be seen at Roxburghe 1.252-253 at the English Broadside Ballad Archive. The later version runs to 15 verses, and is found in Roxburghe 3.218-219. A recording in MP3 format is also available for this version.

There are references to “Mock-Begger's Halls” in two of the carols on this website, So, Now Is Come Our Joyfulst Feast and All You That To Feasting and Mirth Are Inclin'd (which is also known as Old Christmas Returned). There is also a reference in a prose work, The Examination And Tryal of Old Father Christmas.

In the first carol, So, Now Is Come Our Joyfulst Feast (1622), author George Wither quotes a portion of the later broadside:

5. Ned Squash hath fetcht his bands from pawn,
    And all his best apparel;
Brisk Nell hath brought a ruff of lawn
    With dropping of the barrell;

The verse from the later “mock beggar's hall” ballad is:

3. Ned Swash hath fetched his cloaths from pawn,
With dropping of the barrell;
Joan Dust hath bought a smock of lawn,
And now begins to quarrell:

The other carol, All You That To Feasting and Mirth Are Inclin'd, celebrates the return of “Old Christmas” with the restoration of the monarchy, and “hospitality revived” with the passing of Cromwell and the Puritans. This carol observes that “The court, and the city, and country are glad” because “Old Christmas is come to cheer up the sad.” Even better is that:

9. Now Mock-beggar-hall it no more shall stand empty,
But all shall be furnisht with freedom and plenty;
The hoarding old misers, who us'd to preserve
The gold in their coffers, and see the poor starve,
     Must now spread their tables, and give them in brief,
     Plum-pudding, goose, capon, minc'd pies, and roast-beef.

Finally, here is a portion from the text of The Examination and Tryal of Old Father Christmas. that will give the reader a bit of the flavor of the time:

Counselor Verj. My Lord, here are two more substantial witnesses we desire may be heard against the Prisoner [Christmas], the learned Sir Musty Make-bate, and the worshipful Squire Flant of Mock-beggars Hall.

Cryer. Sir Musty Make-bake, and Squire Flant come into the Court, make room there, I think in my Conscience the Door is too little for the Squire's new Pantaloons.

Judge. Come Squire Flant, what have you to say?

Squire Flant. My Lord, I say this Christmas is a pitiful mechanick, gutling Fellow, Company for none but Plow-men, and Carters, and regarded only by a few Yeoman of Kent, or here and there an out-of-fashion'd Gentleman, that loves to walk in the dull ways of his Fore-fathers, and live at the same rate his great Grandsires did, in the days of Queen Dick; whereas the true bred Gallant and man of Quality, in this our refined Age, manages his Affairs at another strain. He has something else to do with his money, than to keep open house for pampering the Paunches of a parcel of lubberly Clowns, and have the Pavement of his Hall spoiled with the dancing of their Hobnails; and therefore when this troublesom Fellow comes abroad cannot endure the Country for him, but as soon as ever Michaelmas Rent is received, to avoid his Impertinences, flips up to London in a Stage-Coach, and there lodges privately till his Jury of Cormorants, call'd the Twelve Days, are past, to save charges.

Counselor Crab.
Rare Husbandry indeed: What heretofore
Was spent on Tenant, and the Neighbouring Poor,
Is now consum'd in private on a whore.

Note that Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael, occurs on Sept. 29, and was the the date that rents were calculated by the reeve (bailiff) of the manor, and the date upon which payment was due. It also marked the beginning of autumn, signaled the start of the university school year, and marked the first term of the court system.

This flight of the nobility from the country to the cosmopolitan cities was disapproved of by King Charles I, who on Sept. 9, 1630, issued a proclamation commanding that “diverse Noblemen, Knights and other Persons of Quality” shall not spend the Winter Season in London, Westminster, “or other Citties and Townes,” but shall instead “give over their Housekeeping and Hospitality” in the County where they dwell. Charles observed that this was the lawful custom during the time of Elizabeth I and of James I, his father (of blessed memory), as well as other times in English history. The reason for this requirement is that “the Winter tyme [was] a tyme when the Countrie hath most need of their Residence, and keeping amongst their Neighbours, and attending the publique Services and Occasions.” He further found that if they had lawful business at locations other than their normal residence that they should return to that Residence as soon as their business is completed so that they might “be a comfort and relief to such of their poor Neighbors as shall stand in need.”

Anyone so described by his Majesty was charged and commanded to observe this proclamation, upon pain of his Majesties “high displeasure,” and that they could expect such punishment to be inflicted upon them as demanded “by the Lawes or his Majesties Royal Perogative,” at their peril!

A complete copy of the Proclamation can be found in Robert Sanderson, ed., Foedera, Conventiones, Literae et Cujuscunque Generis Acta Publica Inter Reges Angliæ (London: Per J. Tonson, 1832), pp. 192-194.

This order directing the nobility and gentry who had mansion-houses in the country “to repair to them to keep hospitality meet to their degrees,” was still in effect in 1637-38, when Sir John Ashley, due to ill health, requested and obtained permission to reside in London or elsewhere, at Christmas or at any other time. Collier’s History of Dramatic Poetry, vol. ii (1831), p. 89, note.

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