Caught by the River

A short film for Apple Day: Carhampton Wassail, 1968

21st October 2016

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From Britain on Film, available via BFI Player

From the BFI website:

Carhampton is famous for its wassailing celebration which is started in the 1930s by the Taunton Cider Company. A small event takes place in the community orchard next to the Butchers Arms Pub on 17 January. Villagers form a circle around the largest apple tree and hang pieces of toast soaked in cider in the branches for the robin who represents the good spirits of the tree. Shotguns are fired overhead to ward off evil spirits.

Wassail is traditionally hot mulled spiced cider and drunk during the wassailing ceremony. The word comes from Old Norse ves heil and literally means be you healthy or to your health. The first recorded wassail is in 1585 and linked to Twelfth Night marking the coming of Epiphany and the end of Christmas. The ceremony is to bless the tree thereby encouraging a good crop of apples in the coming season. Apple Tree Man is a folktale in Somerset and he is the spirit of the apple tree and the guardian of the fertility of the apple orchard.

The South West Film and Television Archive (SWFTA) is the regional film archive for the South West of England. Established in 1993, SWFTA’s core collection comprises the combined programme libraries of Westward Television and TSW (Television South West). The archive also cares for a significant number of donated film collections, both amateur and professional, dating back to the early 1900s.