The ancient English festival of Hocktide survives in Hungerford
Hocktide dates back to medieval times. It was an important time of the year, after Easter, when rents were collected, judgements made and the rights of a town asserted. At one time, it was held in almost every town in the country. Today it survives in only one – Hungerford, because the tradition has been maintained by the Town and Manor of Hungerford charity which owns a lot of property and land in the town (including the Town Hall and Hungerford Common).
The Constable of Hungerford Town & Manor, Julie Lloyd, says, “The Hocktide celebrations are unique to Hungerford and are an event that the Trustees of the Town and Manor and commoners of the town work hard to preserve for future generations. As Constable, I am looking forward to sending this year’s tithingmen off to do their duty, from the Town Hall steps at the start of another Tutti Day and to us all being part of upholding Hungerford’s ancient tradition.” See the schedule for 2023 below.
The traditional Tutti Day lunch on the second Tuesday after Easter (this year Tuesday 18 April 2023) is worth experiencing at least once in a lifetime. Tickets cost £55 per person can be purchased by the public from 21 March from Crown Needlework (opposite the Town Hall) on 01488 684011. You can look forward to punch, a splendid four course lunch, Tutti speakers and ceremonies.
These video give a flavour of the tradition of Hocktide in Hungerford:
The Selection of Hocktide Jury – Tuesday 11 April
This takes place at 6pm on the Tuesday following Easter Monday in the Magistrates’ Room. All commoners’ names are put into the Bellman’s hat – and the names are drawn singly by the attending Commoners. Those chosen are required to attend the Court of Tutti-Day. For Commoners only. A commoner is someone who has the ancient right to take resources from a piece of common land as defined by the laws of the Hocktide Court. Commoners’ rights are assigned to the owner/occupier of specific properties in Hungerford.
The Macaroni Supper – Friday 14 April
This traditional meal of Macaroni cheese and watercress, with ale, is held upstairs in the Town Hall on the Friday after Easter. It is attended by the Constable and other serving officers of the Hocktide Court. The Macaroni Supper is now used to discuss possible appointments to office at the new court. For Officers only (not the general public).
The Ale Tasting – Monday 17 April
The “Assize of Bread and Ale” had 13th century origins, when it was important to monitor the quality of bread and ale in every town and village. It lapsed circa 1900, but was reinstated as “Ale Tasting” in the mid 1960s. It takes place 7.30 – 9.30pm on the Monday evening before Tutti-Day in the Corn Exchange, and the evening makes a splendid prelude to the important day to come. This event is organised solely by the Ale Tasters. By invitation only.
Tutti Day – Tuesday 18 April
Tutti Day is a glorious and slightly eccentric continuation of the medieval rent collection ritual by the Tithing Men (also known locally as Tutti Men). It’s traditional for Commoners to decorate their properties in Hocktide colours of blue and silver. There is a traditional day-long schedule including a formal lunch hosted by The Constable which the public can buy tickets to attend. Click here to watch our video of Tutti Day 2017.
8am: summoning of all Commoners to Hocktide Court
The Bellman will sound the Constable’s horn from the Town Hall. All Commoners will be summoned by the bell and proclamation to attend the Hocktide Court.
All Commoners and the general public are invited to attend this ancient court.
9am: Tithing Men Setting Off
The Constable presents the Tutti Poles to the Tithing Men on the Town Hall Steps. The Tithing Men then set off, accompanied by Orangeman Aaron Scarlett and the Tutti girls, to collect the dues from the Common Right Properties. Traditionally the Tithing Men collected rent but now they collect kisses in exchange for an orange, in recognition of the town’s support of William of Orange in the 17th century.
9.05am: Hocktide Court
The selected Hocktide Jury will attend the Court in the Town Hall and all Commoners are called. Spectators are welcome to watch and listen to this very old tradition.
1pm Hocktide Luncheon
Attendance by invitation from The Constable or the purchase of tickets from Crown Needlework. Tickets cost £55pp for the formal lunch with traditional toasts and a Plantagenet punch (from a closely guarded secret recipe). The Bar which is being provided by The Naked Grape is open from 12pm noon to enable diners to buy wine by the bottle and soft drinks for lunch. A complimentary glass of wine before the lunch is provided for diners and their guests in the Magistrates Room from 12pm noon also.
Shoeing the Colts
After lunch, the Blacksmith proceeds with the shoeing of newcomers to the Tutti-lunch, who are called ‘colts.’ The blacksmith pretends to drive a nail into their shoe and the hammering only stops when the colt shouts ‘punch.’ This tradition is carried out light heartedly and no one should be hurt. A little struggle makes it all the more fun, but colts can be shod gracefully if they so wish. A donation of £5 is appreciated to cover the cost of shoeing.
3 to 5pm: Tutti Day Crafts for Children
All local children welcome to meet the Tutti Men and enjoy craft activities and scrambling for sweets at the United Reform Church.
5pm: Anchovies on Toast
All are welcome for the traditional anchovies on toast, courtesy of the Three Swans opposite The Town Hall
7.30pm: Hungerford Town Band
Every year the town band performs for the pleasure of the people of Hungerford in the Corn Exchange. Free entry and quite informal – people are welcome to pop in and out.
9pm: Return of the Tithing Men
The Constable welcomes the Tithing Men back at The Three Swans the end of their long and arduous day.
Court Leet – Friday 21 April
All office holders, including the new Constable and committee members are sworn in for their office for the ensuing year.
Constable’s Sunday – Sunday 23 April
Please gather at 10:45am outside the Corn Exchange. The parade starts at 11am and will be led by the Town Band. The service at St. Lawrence’s Church starts at 11:15am to welcome the new Constable.