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  The unique ‘Rocking’ service at St Mary’s of the Purification, our Parish Church, normally takes place on the Sunday closest to 2nd February; it is called Candlemas and is forty days after the birth of Jesus. The baby boy born nearest to Christmas and being baptised is ‘rocked’ in a flower decked cradle. The names of those babies ‘rocked’, are recorded in the Church.

Will Richards writes, ‘During the Rocking service the story of Jesus’s presentation is always read. It begins in St Luke, chapter 2, verse 22: And when the days of her (Mary’s) purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord’.

The ‘Rocking’ service at St May’s Church has its roots many years ago. In fact it was banned in 1692 during the Reformation but revived after one hundred and fifty years. The Rev. Whitworth writing in 1902 thought it might have started as an ‘offshoot of miracle plays, represented at Southwell for instruction of the people’. By this date the celebration had again died out but he mentions a Mr John Bailey of Python Hill, who had witnessed one of the old services. The occasion must have been a most important one for Blidworth village as in his ‘Historical Memorials’ of our Parish Church of 1873 he writes of ‘the very singular festival known as Blidworth Rocking, celebrated on the Purification at the village feast. Crowds from Derbyshire and Yorkshire used to assemble……a cradle was carried in procession, in honour of the presentation of the infant Saviour in the Temple….’ It appears to have been a fun day out for all the family with ‘sports’ sometimes getting out of control! In earlier times, so much so that in 1598, Thomas Leake was killed nearby by a Captain Salmond of Salterford in a duel as the result of an argument over a young woman!

The modern celebration was revived in 1922 by the Rev John Lowndes and the baby rocked was Clifford Simpson. In 1924 three babies were rocked!  Twins born to Mrs Birch were eligible to be rocked but another couple claimed their child should also be rocked as he had been born at around the same time as the twins. The Rev. Lowndes made the diplomatic decision to rock all three. There is a photograph of the event in Will Richard’s book, ‘Bidworth in Old Picture Postcards’ In 2010 a magnificent ‘Cradle Sculpture’ was erected at ‘Forest Folk Corner’ by the Parish Council as part of the NCC Local Improvement Scheme. It had been designed, manufactured by local resident, Morris Reddington who kindly donated his time at no cost to the scheme. In 2012 the service was held on 5th February with the Rev’d Hazel Robinson and the ‘Rocking’ was performed by Right Rev’d Tony Porter, the Bishop of Sherwood.  

The writer recommends Blidworth local history books by Will Richards, W Wild and the Rev’d R H Whitworth for further study.