E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
An invitation of friends to assemble at the house of a poor man to drink ale, and thus to raise alms for his relief.
The ordinary amusements in country parishes (in 1632) were church-ales, clerk-ales, and bid-ales, consisting of drinking and sports, particularly dancing.T. V. Short, D.D.: History of the Church of England, p. 392.
Denham, in 1634, issued an order in the western circuit to put an end to the disorders attending church-ales, bid-ales, clerk-ales, and the like.Howitt: History of England (Charles I., chap. iii. p. 159).