Eyes of the world on Blidworth and its baby-rocking centenary celebrations

The eyes of the Christian world were focused on the village of Blidworth at the weekend when the 100th anniversary of the revival of an ancient custom was celebrated.

The Bishop of Sherwood, the Rt Rev Andy Emerton, rocks the cradle carrying the 2022 Rocking baby, Francis Stephen Vasey, during Sunday's service at St Mary's Church, Blidworth. Watching are his parents George and Georgia and the vicar, the Rev Zoe Burton.
The Bishop of Sherwood, the Rt Rev Andy Emerton, rocks the cradle carrying the 2022 Rocking baby, Francis Stephen Vasey, during Sunday's service at St Mary's Church, Blidworth. Watching are his parents George and Georgia and the vicar, the Rev Zoe Burton.

The weekend, described by the organisers as “an incredible success”, marked the Rocking Ceremony, whereby the baby born closest to Christmas in the village is rocked in a cradle.

It dates back to the Middle Ages, and re-enacts the story in the Bible of baby Jesus being presented to the temple in Jerusalem.

The ceremony fell out of favour in the 1600s because it became an excuse for excess partying and drinking among villagers. There was even a murder at the 1598 Rocking.

Proud parents George and Georgia with Blidworth's 2022 Rocking baby, Francis Stephen Vasey.

But Blidworth revived it in 1922, and the village remains the only place in the world where it still takes place.

So the community rallied round to organise a weekend of centenary celebrations, highlighted by the Rocking service itself, which took place at the village’s 15th century St Mary’s Church on Sunday.

This year’s baby was Francis Stephen Vasey, born on December 22 to become the first child of proud parents, George and Georgia Vasey.

The rocking of the centuries-old cradle was conducted by the Bishop of Sherwood, the Rt Rev Andy Emerton, and guests included 16 former Rocking babies. Most notably, proud 90-year-old Brian Baxter, the Rocking baby of 1932, was there with his wife, son and daughter-in-law.

Former Rocking babies, including 90-year Brian Baxter (far left), line up at the church with the current baby and his mum, Georgia, plus the Bishop of Sherwood, the Rt Rev Andy Emerton, and the village vicar, the Rev Zoe Burton.

Also there was Nadine Jackson, the great-great grand-daughter of villager Eliza Pointon, who donated the old cradle back in 1922.

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After the service, a procession led to the Rocking cradle sculpture in the village, where another service, conducted by the bishop, was attended by hundreds.

The weekend also included an exhibition of Rocking memorabilia, photos, videos and artefacts, staged by the Blidworth and District Historical and Heritage Society at St Andrew’s Mission Hall.

The chief co-ordinator of the weekend, Maureen Garner, and fellow organiser, Sylvia Stubbs, with a display by children from Blidworth Oaks Primary School at a Rocking exhibition at St Andrew's Mission Hall in Blidworth.

And there was a concert at Blidworth Welfare, featuring the welfare band, which was organised by Dan Ball, head of music at Joseph Whitaker School in Rainworth, and which attracted a full house.

"It was an incredible weekend of celebration, life and blessing,” beamed the village vicar, the Rev Zoe Burton. “Not just for Francis, our Rocking baby, and his family, but for all of us as a community.

"It was fabulous to welcome back previous Rocking babies, and a massive thankyou to the Rocking working party team that worked so hard to make it all happen. Thankyou too to all who supported the weekend celebrations.”

One of the key members of that working party was Maureen Garner, a lay minister and community stalwart who was the chief co-ordinator for the weekend.

Guests at Sunday's service included 16 former Rocking babies, some of whom are pictured here with members of their families.

When a lady in her 78th year uses the trendy phrase “I’m still buzzing!”, then you know an event has been a success!

"It was absolutely brilliant,” declared Maureen. “Everything went without a hitch. It was an event the village can be proud of.

"It was a wonderful weekend, and the joyful thing about it was that it brought everyone in the village together. The whole community got behind it.

"For example, the children at Blidworth Oaks Primary School put on a display at the exhibition of what they had learned about the Rockings, and the school choir also sang at the service at the cradle sculpture.”

To cap the weekend, the village found out about a church in Austria believed to be the last in Europe to conduct a similar ceremony until it stopped in 2014.

St Mary’s is hoping to link up and possibly even invite its priest over to rock the Blidworth baby next year.

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