LAMMAS (O. Eng. hlammaesse, hlafmaesse, from hlaf, loaf, and maesse, mass, " loaf -mass "), originally in England the festival of the wheat harvest celebrated on the 1st of August, O.S. It was one of the old quarter-days, being equivalent to midsummer, the others being Martinmas, equivalent to Michaelmas, Candlemas (Christmas) and Whitsuntide (Easter). Some rents are still payable in England at Lammastide, and in Scotland it is generally observed, but on the 12th of August, since the alteration of the calendar in George II. 's reign. Its name was in allusion to the custom that each worshipper should present in the church a loaf made of the new wheat as an offering of the first-fruits.
A relic of the old " open-field " system of agriculture survives in the so-called " Lammas Lands." These were lands enclosed and held in severally during the growing of corn and grass and thrown open to pasturage during the rest of the year for those who had common rights. These commoners might be the several owners, the inhabitants of a parish, freemen of a borough, tenants of a manor, etc. The opening of the fields by throwing down the fences took place on Lammas Day (12th of August) for corn-lands and on Old Midsummer Day (6th of July) for grass. They remained open until the following Lady Day. Thus, in law, " lammas lands " belong to the several owners in fee-simple subject for half the year to the rights of pasturage of other people (Baylis v. Tyssen-Amherst, 1877, 6 Ch. D., 50).
See further F. Seebohm, The English Village Community ; C. I. Elton, Commons and Waste Lands; P. Vinogradoff, Villainage in England.