Statutory holidays in the time of King Alfred

As many of us enjoy a four-day weekend, there was a time when our forefathers took a whole fortnight off work at Easter. This was as a result of Alfred the Great’s law code (“the Doom Book”) of 877.

Paragraph 43 provided as follows:

To all freemen, but not servants, let these days be given:

  • twelve days at Yule
  • the day on which Christ overcame the devil
  • the commemoration day of St Gregory
  • seven days before Easter and seven days after
  • one day at St Peter’s tide and St Paul’s
  • the whole week before St Mary-mass
  • the day at the celebration of All Hallows
  • the four Wednesdays in the four ember weeks

To all servants shall be given whatever in God’s name it is desirable to give or whatever they may deserve.

This amounted to 42 days off in total. Note of course that it was only “freemen” who enjoyed the time off as of right. It was a discretionary benefit, at best, for the servant class.

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