Liverpool History Society Questions

A selection of Liverpool history questions submitted to the Liverpool History Society

The Burning of Judas


please can you help with any information regarding the event named ‘the burning of judas’? I think it took place in the Dingle area of Liverpool in what is locally known as the holy land (because of the biblical street names).
I would appreciate anything you have on the subject.

Sandra Hart.


01/11/2009 - Posted by | The Burning of Judas


  1. Hello Sandra,

    the The Burning of Judas took place on Good Friday night in the area of Dingle. It was similar to Bonfire Night of the 5th November but without the fireworks as they where not usually available to purchase this time of the year.

    From my recollection it did not involve the ritual burning of a Guy” as such and was only a Bonfire attended by the local children,


    Rob Ainsworth

    Programme Secretary/ Web Administrator
    Liverpool History Society
    Web Site:

    Comment by Liverpool History | 01/11/2009 | Reply

  2. Hello Sandra,

    Following further enquiries with my old pals in the Dingle and some reffering to some books, I have managed to glean some more information. The Liverpool Good Friday tradition of burning an effigy of Judas around the streets of Dingle and Toxteth was unique in the U.K. Every Good Friday in the first half of the twentieth century the streets of Dingle and Toxteth would ring to the noise of crackling sound of burning. The custom of burning an effigy of Judas at Easter was common in Greece, Spain and Mexico. There’s little record of the tradition taking place in the U.K. apart from in Liverpool, even then it was confined to a small area of streets in one area. The tradition of Judas burning was very parochial and many people from neighbouring districts were unaware of it. The practice generally involved children aged between 8-12 years old who would collect and store wood in the weeks preceding Easter and build an effigy of a human figure, along the same lines as that of Guy Fawkes. The ‘Judas’ would have to be hidden away from rival gangs who would attempt to steal the effigy. The ritual would begin early in the day. In her 1992 book ‘Confessions of a Judas Burner’, Carole Sexton describes that “Mrs Lympany who lived in Lothian Street recalls her two elder sisters going out at 4am around 1914 carrying a burning torch and running through the streets shouting ‘Burn Judas’.” Children would parade the Judas as they ran through the streets asking for contributions with the cry of ‘A penny for Judas’s breakfast.’ The Judas would then be burnt on a local waste ground.

    Sometimes a pig’s bladder would also form part of the ritual. The bladder would be purchased from a local butcher, inflated and then tied with string before being attached to a stick. The bladder would be used to beat the Judas. The police and fire brigade would often attempt to thwart the burnings

    One explanation for the development of Judas Burning was that sailors from Greece, Spain and Portugal would carry out the ritual on their ships. This was witnessed by the local children who then took up the custom themselves. In Liverpool it seems to have been in existence from the late 19th Century although it was most prevalent in the years between the two world wars. There are reports of Judas Burning taking place as late as the 1950’s. It was introduced by Portuguese and Spanish sailors in the 1800s who berthed in the south ends docks. It was only applicable to the south end of the city and only around Toxteth and predominantly the dock area. Few people living outside had ever heard of it. The bonfires were set alight at dawn when it was dark on Good Friday and by noon it was all over. The last of it centred around Toxteth St and the very last was conducted by,Alan Rietdyk on waste ground between Prophet St and Northumberland St in around 1970-71.


    Rob Ainsworth

    Programme Secretary/ Web Administrator
    Liverpool History Society

    Comment by Liverpool History | 27/11/2009 | Reply

  3. Hello Sandra,

    Burning of Judas

    From Wikipedia,

    The burning of Judas is an Easter-time ritual in many Orthodox and Catholic Christian communities, where an effigy of Judas Iscariot is burned. Other related mistreatment of Judas effigies include hanging, flogging, and exploding with fireworks. Anthropologists generalise these type of activities as “scapegoat rituals”. A similar ritual would be the hanging or burning of Haman during Purim.

    Though not an official part of the Easter liturgical cycle, the custom is typically a part of the re-enactment of the story of the Passion that is practiced by the faithful during Easter. Customs vary, but the effigy of Judas is typically hanged (re-enacting Matthew 27:5) on Good Friday, then burned on the night of Easter Sunday.

    The burning of Judas was once widely practiced across Europe, and is still practiced in parts of Greece, Mexico, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela, Cyprus where it is called 'lambratzia', and elsewhere.

    Judas burnings also took place in the district of Dingle, in Liverpool, in the early 20th Century, until it was banned by the authorities. The burning of Judas is not traditional to England, although a very similar custom of burning Catholic rebel Guy Fawkes in effigy exists.


    Rob Ainsworth
    Programme Secretary/ Web Administrator
    Liverpool History Society

    Comment by Liverpool History | 27/11/2009 | Reply

  4. We were brought up in the tenements in the Dingle, and every year on Maundy Thursday the boys from the blocks would go round and collect wood for the ‘bommy’, they would then stay up all night protecting their hoard, and on Good Friday the fire would be lit with an effigy of Judas thrown onto the fire. We used to sit on our steps watching the fire, eating hot cross buns. Happy Memories

    Comment by Brenda Robson | 07/02/2011 | Reply

  5. THE BURNING OF JUDAS did not take place in just the holy lands it was in most of the local dingle streets ,I took part in the burning ,we collected wood for weeks before, aslo fighting in gangs protecting our pile of wood usually in somones back yard, the most dangerous part was the fact that houses are only twenty feet away on either side of the fire, most of the little bit of paint on doors ect was badly blisterd by the heat from the fire,our greates bit of fun was getting the coppers to try and catch us they had no chance,ten year old lads running through the jiggers (back passages to houses) are like grey hounds,yes we had pigs stinking bladders (I can still smell it) fires burnt out by dinner time , leaving a lot of rubbish for the corpy to clean up.’

    Poor but happy days’,a bare arsed kid.


    Comment by Joe | 15/03/2011 | Reply

  6. We burned judas every good friday morning, it would start before 4am rain was no problem, all the wood collected from where it has been stored and stacked at the bottom of homer street off Cockburn Street the wood had been collected for weeks, some from derelict shops that were war relics and given and some half hitched, up the back entries where if your backyard door outside toilet door or indeed the toilet seat wasnt fastned down, it went. my father made sure all of ours were well bolted down and unremovable. we taunt the police (scuffers as they were referred to) and chant at the firemen “OWLD WASTE DER WATER)

    If it looked their hose were coming in our direction you wouldnt find a kid anywhere . if the police chased us they had no chance, we`d be up back entries , over walls and in backyards all over the place. we vanished. by lunch time it was all over, ashes everywhere, nails and screws in the road, the scourge of many a cyclist. a workmate of mine in the eightees told me he was a fireman at Essex St in those days and they dreaded the good friday morning shift

    Stan Cotter ex Homer Street

    Comment by Stan Cotter | 16/02/2012 | Reply

  7. My mum is 91 and still lives in the shorefields – she remembers burning of Judas well. Almost every street in Dingle had a dawn bonfire on Good Friday and burned ‘Judas’ before families had a hot cross bun for breakfast . The Dingle was a very religious place then.

    Comment by Dorothy Williams | 16/02/2012 | Reply

  8. I am 74. I lived in Stopford street in Dingle(it was not Known as Toxteth) On Judas day we burnt wood we collected days or weeks before. Just after the War there were lots of bombed houses we played in and in the debies (bombed sites).Also wood was rationed and had to be applied for and stated why it was wanted.So sometimes we pinched some from peoples back yard going down back entries.
    The streets had cobbles fixed together with tar which we collected and put on end of stick to which we put matches and throw so that they went bang. we also put burning ember into tin cans hung by wire we wurled them round and threw at other gangs. On judas day we got up early and went around the street showing “e are john” and other names of gang members to get them up. The cops tried to stop us and chased us on thier bikes.They could not catch us and we taunter them to get them to chase us.After the fire the street floor was well burnt The practice ended when the corp sent police and fire angines.I think It finally ended when Hutchinson methodist hall hire buses and took the kids out for the day . I remember going to chuch ground in Penyffod north wales where we were given cakes and lemonade.I thick it was 1951 the practice ended

    Comment by dave moore | 12/04/2012 | Reply

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