FREAKY FRIDAY: Tichborne Dole, The Curse

The Tichborne Dole is a traditional English festival of charity which is held in the village of Tichborne, Hampshire, during the Feast of the Annunciation. The festival is centered around the handing out of donations of flour, which have been blessed by the local parish priest.

According to local tradition, Lady Tichborne’s husband, Sir Roger Tichborne, did not approve of her charity and agreed to her bequest on the condition that the Dole consisted only of produce from land that she was able to encircle under her own power while carrying a burning torch in her hand. Lady Tichborne, who was in poor health, is said to have successfully crawled around a 23-acre field before the torch went out. The land which she is said to have encircled is known locally as the Crawls.

The story of the Dole holds that Lady Tichborne placed a curse on it to ensure that her request would never be abandoned. According to the curse, if the Dole were to stop, the Tichborne family would bear seven sons, then seven daughters, leading to the family’s name being lost and the house falling into ruins.

The Dole continued from the time of Lady Tichborne’s death until 1796, when disturbances during the handing out of the Dole lead to local officials ordering it to cease. The Baronet at that time, Sir Henry Tichborne, 8th Bart. was the eldest of seven sons. He had seven daughters but no sons. However his brother Edward did have a son, Henry, born in 1829 but he died in 1836 aged six years old. At this point, fearing that the curse had come to fruition, the Dole was resumed. Edward became the 9th baronet but had no sons. Another of the seven brothers, James, became the 10th baronet. He had two sons, Roger, who was born in 1829 (before the Dole was resumed) and Alfred, born in 1839 (after the resumption of the Dole). Roger was shipwrecked and lost at sea (1854) and Alfred eventually became the 11th baronet on his father’s death in 1862. Sir Alfred died in 1866 leaving his wife pregnant with a son, Sir Henry Doughty-Tichborne, 12th Bart.

The dole and curse set the groundwork for the infamous Tichborne Claimant trial of the 19th century where several claims where made saying that they were the missing heir to the Tichborne baronetcy