Corn Dollies were intricately woven for the Harvest Festival church services. These services replaced earlier celebrations of the safe in-gathering of the corn at the end of harvest.
Whilst not often human in form, the Corn Dollies kept alive the memory of the straw puppet which once accompanied the last – or Horkey – load on completion of harvest.
The Corn Dolly was traditionally made from the last corn to be cut in the harvest field and was traditionally preserved for twelve months in some Cambridgeshire farmhouses with the somewhat vague feeling that it was ‘lucky’ to do so to ensure a good harvest the following year.
Corn Dollies were made in a wide range of designs: umbrellas (perhaps in token of the drenching with water of the horkey load – see ‘harvest’); bells (recalling, perhaps, the bell-ringing and other musical accompaniments to the passage of the horkey cart); carters’ whips, horse-shoes and many other shapes.