Hungerford Hocktide

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Hungerford, Berkshire, preserves a complex of civic/manorial customs at Hocktide, the second Tuesday after Easter, which were concerned with the administration of the town's common land and local fishing rights, but which previously had much more serious duties. Hock Tuesday in Hungerford starts with three blasts of a horn from the Town Hall window, which summons all ‘commoners’ (residents of particular properties in the town to which grazing and fishing rights are attached) to attend a meeting of the Court. The town bellman also walks the streets crying a summons, and he can still exact a penny fine from any non-attenders. At the Court are elected a Constable, Portreeve, Bailiff, Water Bailiff, Ale tasters, Commons overseers, Keeper of the Keys, and the four Tithingmen or Tutti Men. The latter previously had duties of keeping watch, and could therefore expect a penny payment from every household. By long tradition, however, they claim a penny from the men and a kiss from the women, and they carry a ladder to ensure that they can reach any window to exact appropriate payment. They also carry, as staffs of office, Tutti poles which are of wood and adorned with ribbons a-topped with a posy of flowers and an orange. They are accompanied by an Orange Man who carries a bag of oranges and gives one to each child in the house, and one to each female in return for the kiss. A civic luncheon is held, usually at the Three Swans Hotel. Outside, the Tutti Men and Orange Man throw oranges to the waiting children, to be scrambled for, while inside the ceremony of ‘shoeing the colt’ takes place. Any newcomer or visitor is liable to undergo this ordeal. The newcomer is lifted bodily from the floor and a man in a blacksmith's apron pretends to hammer nails into the sole of his/her shoe, until he/she cries ‘punch’ and thereby agrees to buy a round of drinks. The new officers, who are now merely ceremonial, are sworn in later in the week. According to local tradition, the Hungerford rights go back to the time of John of Gaunt (1340–99).

Sykes, 1977: 47–9;Kightly, 1986: 139–40;Shuel, 1985: 113–14;Hole, 1975: 52–4;Stone, 1906: 94–6.

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