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New Year’s Lady Day

Farley Hospital has just started a new year! Lady Day is the start of our year, but as I’ll explain, that’s not always been the case. Lady Day is the 25th of March and it is the first quarter day of the Christian calendar, when the Archangel Gabriel informed the Virgin Mary that she was going to give birth to the baby Jesus. In the non-secular world it may be surprising to hear that Lady Day was the true start of the year from 1155 until we adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752! Wikipedia explains further:

A vestige of this remains in the United Kingdom’s tax year, which ends on 5 April, or “Old Lady Day”, i.e., Lady Day adjusted for the 11 “lost days” of the calendar change in 1752. Until this change Lady Day had been used as the start of the legal year but also the end of the fiscal and tax year.

Clear as mud isn’t it! Well as you can see from this excerpt from our Great Book, there is more than one significant date for Farley Hospital too.

  • Farley Hospital was first inhabited on Midsummer’s Day (24th June) 1682
  • Farley church was completed around Lady Day (25th March) 1690
Excerpt from The Great Book of Farley Hospital

From the day it was opened, Farley Hospital accounts were entered into the great book on Midsummer’s day each year, but that only continued until 1690 when our financial year was switched from midsummer to Lady Day. This was when the Church was completed, so they must have decided to align their annual cycles

After 1690 there is a lot of dense text in the Great book, with no clearly defined dates until 22nd June 1711, therefore by this time, the financial report date has migrated back towards Midsummer’s Day.

In 1767, a new Warden arrived. From a clerical perspective, the Rev Neville Wells is our saviour as he entered beautiful accounts annually. He set a precedent for regularly filling in the Great Book that has continued until today. Thank you Rev Wells! The accounts were completed at Midsummer for 13 years. Then suddenly in 1782 Rev Wells changed his mind and switched to using Lady Day for the annual report. Frustratingly, there is no documented reason why he did this.

The title of two years of Great Book entries: switch from Midsummer to Lady Day

But, from that complicated start, Lady Day has stuck all the way to today. The date works well for our accounts today, and with Lady Day so close to the end of the Tax year. We can start our year on the 25th March, complete our tax return, then prepare to write in the Great Book at Midsummer. Keeping the cadence of the Almshouses alive.