Staffordshire Clogg Almanacs

Notes on a Staffordshire Clogg Almanac:

“Almanacs of a rude kind, known as clogg almanacs, consisting of square blocks of hard wood, about 8in. in length, with notches along the four angles corresponding to the [special] days of the year [in a perpetual calendar], were in use in some parts of England as late as the 17th century.” — Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1902.

They do not seem to appear in Cheshire or Shropshire or further south than the Trent. Raven’s book The Folklore of Staffordshire claims of these that…

“The Staffordshire Clogg Almanacs were in use at the time of the Saxon Conquest, and it is clear from the available evidence that the customs associated with the [special] day[s marked on it] are very old.”

Below is an engraving of a Staffordshire clogg almanac, formerly in the Lichfield Museum, taken from the Anastatic Drawing Society’s volume for 1860…

A full deciphering can be seen here.

This example was later described at length by the Rev. J. M. Gresley, in the Transactions of the Leicestershire Architectural and Archeological Society, Volume One, page 410…

There is also this useful later snippet from the 1899 Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society

“Mr. W.T. Browne, the governor of Chetham Hospital, exhibited two clog almanacs belonging to the institution, on which Mr. Yates made the following remarks: The two interesting clog almanacs, which are on the table, are two good specimens, and exceedingly rare. One of them was presented to the Chetham Library by Mr. Henry Finch in 1696, and the other by Mr. John Moss in 1711. They have been fully described by Mr. John Harland in [“On Clog Almanacs, or Rune Stocks” in] the Reliquary vol. V., 1865. Dr. Robert Plot, in his Natural History of Staffordshire (folio, 1686), gives an account of the clog almanac, which he found in popular use in that and other northern counties, but unknown further south, and which, from its being also used in Denmark, he conceived to have come into England with our Danish invaders and settlers many centuries before. The clog bore the same relation to a printed almanac which the Exchequer tallies bore to a set of account books. Properly it was a perpetual almanac, designed mainly to show the Sundays and other fixed holidays of the year, each person being content, for use of the instrument, to observe on what day the year actually began, as compared with that represented on the clog; so that if they were various, a brief mental calculation of addition or subtraction was sufficient to enable him to attain what he desired to know. The entire series of days constituting the year was represented by notches running along the angles of the square block, each side and angle thus presenting three months. The first day of a month was marked by a notch having a patulous stroke turned up from it, and each Sunday was distinguished by a notch somewhat broader than usual. There were indications — but they are not easily described — for the golden number and the cycle of the moon. The feasts were denoted by symbols resembling hieroglyphics.

Dr. J. Barnard Davis, in an elaborate article on “[Some Account of] Runic Calendars and Staffordshire Clogg Almanacs” in Archaologia, vol. xli., part ii. (1867 [pp. 453-478]), enumerates sixteen specimens known to him, including one in his own possession purchased at the sale of Mr. Charles Bradbury’s collection in 1864, the “Finch Clog” and the “Moss Clog” in the Chetham Library, one in the possession of the Historic Society at Liverpool, and another belonging to the Rev. J. S. Doxey, Rochdale. A fine specimen, recently in the possession of Messrs. Sherratt and Hughes, booksellers, Manchester, is now in the collection of Mrs. Robinow, Fair Oak, West Didsbury.”

Here is a simpler Staffordshire clogg almanac, in the British Museum (AN885002001)…

A more recent paper on Staffordshire clog almanacs was the presidential address delivered at the eighty-third annual meeting of the North Staffordshire Field Club, March 26th, 1949. Reprinted in Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club, 1948-49. Sadly this is not online. A bundle of papers, cuttings, and letters relating to the lecture is held at the Salt Library in Stafford.

It seems highly unlikely that the Vikings brought the notion of such almanacs to Britain, as seems to have been the common notion idea among scholars in the middle of the 19th century. Why would pagans bring calendars that ran according to the Julian and Christian years? We sent Christianity to them, not visa versa. There was counter-evidence to the unproven “Vikings” theory. For instance, Eirikr Magnusson (1877) suggested that the Danish cloggs actually originated in England, pointing to a runic calendar found in Lapland in 1866 that bore English runes. (Cambridge Antiq. Soc. Communications, Vol. X., No. I, 1877).

Staffordshire Clogg Almanacs. The full deciphering can be seen here.

It would be tempting to think that the ancient name of “Stafas”, meaning the smooth sticks on which such almanacs were cut, might have given rise to the name Staffordshire?


3 comments on “Staffordshire Clogg Almanacs

  1. […] more on Clogg almanacs, see my longer article on them. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was […]

  2. Kerry D. Anderholm says:

    I have something similar to a Clogg Almanac in my possession. It was passed down to my father from my Danish grandmother. It’s covered with symbols that I can’t decipher.

    Thanks much,

    Kerry D. Anderholm.

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