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Blessing the Brine

The following text is taken from Egerton Leigh's Ballads and Tales of Cheshire. London: Longmans and Co.1867. A version of the song was preformed by Cheshire folk band The Time Bandits at 'The Great Salt'.

On Ascension day, in days long past, the inhabitants of Nantwych (or Hellath Wen, as the town used to be called) used to assemble in gala dress round the ‘Old Biat’ salt pit, which was ornamented for the occasion with flowers and all procurable rustic finery, and pass the day in dancing, feasting, and merriment. [This was called Blessing the Brine].


Wreaths of varied hues we bring,
Flowers of the early spring
Hand in hand we join a ring
Round Old Biat pit to sing
God Bless the Brine


Gather ‘Paigles’, bring ‘Lent Lilies,’
Of ‘Sweet Nancy’ tie up posies
Add ‘Ladies smock’ all silver white
‘Marsh Marygolds,’ childhood’s delight

CHORUS:  Wreaths etc

Bawme the Old Pit with ribbands gay,
Torn from the groves green boughs display,
Whilst we in holiday attire
Lead the fleet dance both child and sire.
CHORUS:  Wreaths etc

Sound the lound trimbrel, beat the drum,
Nor let the clarion’s throat be dumb,
Here let us feast, and sing, and play;
Ascension’s feast’s our holiday.
CHORUS:  Wreaths etc

Long since, before the Roman host
In pomp of war old Cheshire crost,
This pit our fathers’ labouring saw,
The garnered hoards from earth to draw.

CHORUS:  Wreaths etc

We bless the author of all good,
For that which savours all our food;
Of gifts on man that showered are,
What gift to this can we compare?

CHORUS:  Wreaths etc

The finny treasures of the deep,
The flocks that climb the mountain steep,
All food spread over plain and lea,
Without our salt would tasteless be?
CHORUS:  Wreaths etc

Pledge of true friendship, for its sake
Wild Arabs scorn their faith to break;
Nor will their truth e’er prove at fault
Towards him with whom they’ve eaten salt.
CHORUS:  Wreaths etc
We envy not climes where we’re told
The rivers run o’er sands of gold,
Nor sigh we for Golcondas’s mine
Whilst we can boast our pits of brine.

CHORUS: Wreaths etc
We hear in foreign lands, salt sick,
The wild herds roam in search of lick.
Who by words may dare to measure
The price of this heavenly treasure.

CHORUS:  Wreaths etc

So when Ascension’s morn appears,
As years succeeding follow years,
Shall ‘Hellath Wen’ her children see
United here for mirth and glee.
CHORUS:  Wreaths etc
And as our Saviour on this day
Triumphant rose from earth away,
So shall our thanks to Heaven arise,
So let our praises reach the skies.
CHORUS - Wreaths of varied hue we bring,
Flowers of the early spring,
Hand in hand we form a ring,
Round Old Biat pit to sing,
God bless the Brine.

Paigle, is Cheshire for a primrose or Cowslip.
Lent Lilies, Daffodils. 
Sweet Nancy, Narcissus.
Lady’s Smock, the Cuckoo flower.
To bawme is to adorn, to dress up.

Salt was supposed never to be used at a witch festival. Homer speaks of (αλσ). Salt used in England to be considered as proof against all demoniac influence, and was and is given in some parts of England to a new-born babe, to preserve it from the devil until screened from him by baptism. The present (not uncommon in Cheshire and Lancashire), on its first visit, of an egg, a handful of salt, and a bunch of matches, is called “puddining.” In America the deer and buffalo will traverse great distances, directed by instinct, at certain times of the year, to the Salt Lick.