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Ripon hornblower


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A civic custom in which the official Hornblower for Ripon, North Yorkshire, blows blasts on his horn at 9 p.m. every night of the year in four different directions from the four corners of the obelisk in the main square of the town, and also three blasts outside the home of the Mayor. The present horn dates from 1865 and when not in use is displayed in a glass case, along with a 17th century predecessor, and an even more ancient horn which are only taken out on special days (called ‘horn days’). The Hornblower is the direct descendant of the Wakeman whose job it was, up to the 16th century, to keep nightly watch for burglars and thieves, and the blowing of the horn signified the start of the watch. The custom is said to dates from Anglo-Saxon times, which is feasible, but the earliest evidence dates only from the 15th century. Bainbridge (North Yorkshire) also has a hornblowing custom.

Kightly, 1986: 141;Smith, 1989: 142–5.


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