Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Hocktide

I bumped into my new neighbour today who was returning from town. She asked me if I knew what was going on and by the end of my explanation was quite convinced I was making it up as I went along!

The town has gone blue and yellow in honour of Tutti Day as part of Hocktide, an ages old tradition that used to be celebrated in every town and city. Now it's just Hungerford that celebrates the festival, described on their leaflets as "fun but serious!"






The Hocktide Council is overseen by a Constable and job titles include Portrieve, Bailiffs, Overseers of the Cmoon, Ale Tasters, Tithing Men, Blacksmith, Bellman and three keepers of the keys of the common coffer. The council appoints two Tutti Men (this year, they're women), whose job it is to visit the properties attracting Commoner's Rights. Formerly they collected rents, and they accompanied the Bellman 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 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. This 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 takes place 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.

There's also a special afternoon event for children to meet the Tutti men and the whole day is topped off by drinks in the Three Swans Hotel.

No wonder she thought I was making it up!

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