Hocktide

Hocktide

Hocktide was a mediaeval festival that may have celebrated the massacre of the Danes in England or the death of Harthacanute in the 11th century. Traditionally the festivities consisted of a practice called binding: the men of the parish tying up the women and demanding a kiss for their release. The next day the women would tie up the men and demand a payment before setting them free. The monies collected would then be donated to the parish funds. The origins of the name Hocktide are unknown.

Until the 16th century, Hocktide was widely celebrated in England on the second Tuesday after Easter, although the massacre of the Danes in 1002, by order of King Ethelred the Unready, took place around the feast of St Brice, on 13 November and Hardicanute's death in 1042 occurred on the 8 June. The festivities were banned under Henry VIII as they were thought to encourage public disorder, but Elizabeth I was petitioned to reinstate the tradition in 1575, an event recorded in Sir Walter Scott's Kenilworth. How popular the revival was is not recorded, but a number of towns are known to have re-established the tradition. However by the end of the 17th century the festival was largely forgotten.

Hocktide today

In England today, the tradition survives only in Hungerford in Berkshire, although the festival was somewhat modified to celebrate the patronage of the Duchy of Lancaster. John of Gaunt, the 1st Duke of Lancaster, granted grazing rights and permission to fish in the River Kennet to the commoners of Hungerford. Despite a legal battle during the reign of Elizabeth I when the Duchy attempted to regain the lucrative fishing rights, the case was eventually settled in the townspeople's favour after the Queen herself interceded. Hocktide in Hungerford now combines the ceremonial collecting of the rents with something of the previous tradition of demanding kisses or money.

Although the Hocktide celebrations take place over several days, the main festivities occur on the Tuesday, which is known as Tutti Day. The Hocktide Council, which is elected on the previous Friday, appoints two Tutti Men whose job it is to visit the properties attracting Commoner's Rights. Formerly they collected rents, and it was their job to accompany the Bellman (or Town crier) to summon commoners to attend the Hocktide Court in the Town Hall, and to fine those who were unable to attend one penny, in lieu of the the loss of their rights. The Tutti Men carry Tutti Poles: wooden staffs topped with bunches of flowers and a cloved orange. These are thought to have derived from nosegays which would have mitigated the smell of some of the less salubrious parts of the town in times past. The Tutti Men are accompanied by the Orange Man (or Orange Scrambler), who wears a hat decorated with feathers and carries a white sack filled with oranges, and Tutti Wenches who give out oranges and sweets to the crowds in return for pennies or kisses.

The proceedings start at 8 am with the sounding of the horn from the Town Hall steps which summons all the commoners to the attend the Court at 9 am, after which the Tutti Men visit each of the 102 houses in turn. They no longer collect rents, but demand a penny or a kiss from the lady of the house when they visit. In return the Orange Man gives the owner an orange. After the parade of the Tutti Men through the streets the Hocktide Lunch is held for the Hocktide Council, commoners and guests, at which the traditional "Plantagenet Punch" is served. After the meal, an initiation ceremony, known as Shoeing the Colts is held, in which all first time attendees are shod by the blacksmith. Their legs are held and a nail is driven into their shoe. They are not released until they shout "Punch". Oranges and heated coins are then thrown from the Town Hall steps to the children gathered outside.

References

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