On the 9 May 1920, the “Ancient Rogation Ceremony” of “Blessing the Waters” was “revived after the lapse of many years – probably of centuries” (Hampshire Advertiser 15 May 1920) in Southampton. In the calendar of the Church of England, Rogationtide runs from the fifth Sunday after Easter to the following Wednesday, the day before the feast of Ascension. Traditionally, this was a time to “beat the bounds” and pray for the fruits of the earth, and there had been a revival of such processions and ceremonies in rural parishes in the early years of the twentieth century.
The men behind the ceremony were Rev John Parmiter, the vicar of Holy Rood, and Rev A J Sinclair Burton, the recently appointed Port Chaplain for the Missions to Seamen, who had compiled the order of service “from ancient authors.” At 3pm, the procession left Holy Rood behind a cross bearer, boys from the Seamen’s Orphanage, and the Southampton Temperance band, after whom came another cross bearer, the surpliced choirs of the parishes bordering the water (St Denys, Northam, St Michael’s, St John’s, St Laurence and Holy Rood), and their vicars, Rev J T Costa of St Julien’s French Church, port chaplains, representatives of “the shipping world”, the mayor of Southampton in his role as Admiral of the Port, and finally more boys from the Orphanage. Boy Scouts formed a guard of honour at the quayside. After a sermon by Canon Lovett of St Mary’s, the Vicar of Holy Rood “advanced to the water’s edge and blessed ‘the sea and all that therein is’, and the assembled crowd sang ‘O God our help in ages past’ and ‘Eternal Father strong to save’, bringing an impressive and picturesque ceremony to an end.”
Rogation Sunday is a “moveable feast”: the ceremony took place on 30 April 1921, 21 May 1922, 6 May 1923, 25 May 1924 and 17 May 1925. Collections were made for “defraying the expenses” (1920) the Missions to Seamen (1921) Seamen’s Guild Sea Scouts, (1922, 1924), and the the National Lifeboat Institution (1923, 1925)
Rev A J Sinclair Burton left Southampton in 1925. Rogation Sunday 1926, 9 May, fell during the General Strike, and the only procession that took place on 22 May 1927 was at St James Docks. It would be more than twenty years before Southampton saw a “Blessing of the Waters” ceremony again.
On Sunday 14th May 1950, procession of clergy, civic dignitaries and representatives of the shipping companies made their way from St James' Church in Bernard Street to the docks. A service was conducted at the quayside near the Ocean Dock. The blessing ceremony was conducted by the vicar of St James' Church on a Harbour Board launch in Ocean Dock. The blessing was repeated by the vicar of St Michael's Church in another ceremony near Town Quay.


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