St Mary’s Church, Painswick.

We’ve got some quaint and quirky old traditions and customs here in the Golden Valleys, but surely the most fascinating of all is the “Clypping” feast day in St Mary’s churchyard, Painswick, held on the nearest Sunday to September 19 each year (in 2018 that will be Sunday, September 16).

From a small church event in the Victorian era the Clypping has evolved into the full-on Painswick Feast, incorporating the annual fete and Apple Day into one  event which draws visitors from far and wide to our little corner of the Cotswolds – and a great deal of fun and merriment is had by all!

What’s made this joyous ceremony, which happens just down the road from our Edgemoor Inn, so famous (or rather that should be “infamous”) is the fact that the main delicacy associated with the occasion is the serving up of “Puppy Dog Pie”.

Now, before we have the animal welfare activists battering our door down, or the rest of the country thinking we here in pretty Painswick are all barking mad, let me hasten to explain …..

Tombs & Trees

First thing to note is that St Mary’s Church in the village – the venue for the Painswick Feast – is not only ancient but quite a tourist attraction, mainly because of its fascinating churchyard, with its remarkable collection of chest tombs and legendary yew trees. The story goes that there will never be more than 99 yew trees in the church yard, because every time an attempt is made to grow the 100th it is destroyed by the devil.

An age-old tradition associated with the church is the annual “Clypping” ceremony, when local youngsters gather with flowers in their hair to literally embrace the church (“clypping” being a word derived from the Anglo-Saxon word, clyp-san, meaning to hug or clasp). This entails holding hands and, facing away from the church, performing a “hokey-cokey” style dance to the tune of a Clypping hymn. After the dancing and singing a sermon is delivered in the church (usually by the Bishop of Gloucester), and the children are given a currant bun and a symbolic coin.

You can bring your apple crop along for pressing, too, take part in parachuting teddy bears from the church tower, and browse stalls packed full of local food, arts and crafts.

That all sounds rather innocent and sweet, right? So you may be wondering where the rather ominous puppy dog pies (known locally as Bow-Wow Pies) come in?

The Puppy Dog Tail

As we all know, no great British occasion can be passed off without the eating of pies, so of course from early on meat pies were served as part of the catering for the feast on Clypping day. Somehow, at some point in the dim, distant past, the myth arose that Painswick locals were serving up dog meat pies to their many guests at this church celebration.

There are several stories explaining how or why this came about. Take your pick from this selection:

  • A local landlord ran out of meat on feast day so caught some stray dogs to bake in his pies.
  • A Painswick woman served up dog meat pies to her boyfriend and women from Stroud when she found he’d been unfaithful.
  • It was an old tradition to bake a china dog inside a pie – an idea connected somehow with ancient Roman offerings to wolf gods.
  • The people of Painswick were embarrassed at being too poor to afford meat so cooked up stray dogs to put in pies for visitors from Stroud on feast day.

Whatever the true origins of the story, it’s certainly an unsettling one, but it doesn’t stop people from flocking to buy  Painswick Puppy Dog Pies on Clypping Day – they’re usually sold out before lunch time! Of course they’re made with beef and vegetables, and are truly delicious.

Here at the Edgemoor Inn we don’t serve traditional Puppy Dog Pies, but we do have a great menu designed around local produce and a cosy bar stocked with awesome ales, all served up with a spectacular view across the Painswick Valley. So if you’re coming to visit for our happy St Mary’s feast day, stop by our inn, and we’ll regale you with plenty of shaggy dog stories and tantalising ‘tails’ from this fascinating area.