LEST Lady Mabella’s 900-year-old curse kick in again, residents of Tichborne and Cheriton gathered for the annual dole distribution last week.

Huge troughs of flour were blessed by the village priest before one gallon for each adult and half a gallon for each child was ladled into bags or every description, throwing a white haze into the air.

Medieval philanthropic aristocrat Lady Mabella wanted to ensure her miserly husband Sir Roger would give food to the poor after she died of the wasting disease which was crippling her.

Living up to his miserable reputation - but also erring on the melodramatic - her grotty spouse said he’d contribute the corn grown each year from all the land she could crawl round, clutching a blazing torch.

Lady Mabella managed 23-acres of a field on a hill to the north of the village, which is still known as “The Crawls” today.

Then, to prevent sour-hearted Sir Roger from going back on his word, she applied a curse whereby stopping the dole would result in the demise of the House of Tichborne.

Which it nearly did when the practice was stopped in the late 18th century.

The dole was hastily revived – and has persisted ever since.