Search

Times Past: The Christmas tradition of wrestling for a roasted boar’s head in Hornchurch

09:00 23 December 2012

Cllr Andrew Curtin

Cllr Andrew Curtin

Archant

»In 1827 the London-based writer and publisher William Hone described what he said was an ancient Hornchurch Christmas tradition, which had occurred in the village “from time immemorial”.

The tradition was the annual Christmas Day wrestling match for a roasted boar’s head. It happened on Mill Field by the Hornchurch Windmill near St Andrew’s Church and opposite Hornchurch Hall (which stood where the Robert Beard Youth Centre is today) on Christmas afternoon each year.

Hone described how the tenants of Hornchurch Hall supplied a roasted boar’s head “dressed, and garnished with bay leaves etc.” and “carried in procession into the Mill Field, adjoining the church-yard, where it is wrestled for; and it is afterwards feasted upon, at one of the public houses, by the rustic conqueror and his friends, with all the merriment peculiar to the season”.

Hone wrote of this tradition – described by the Essex Standard newspaper in 1880 as “the most noteworthy of the distinguishing local folk customs previously existing in various parts of this county” – in his Every Day Book and Table Book listing the nation’s traditions and customs.

Hone described his book as a miscellany of “old country sports and usages” that “associated the Peasantry of this land with its Nobles, in bonds which degraded neither”.

The tradition which Hone described in Hornchurch was recorded elsewhere in England in the Middle Ages and was associated with a rosy view of the past in the early 19th century.

A roasted boar’s head was the first dish brought to the table of the nobility on Christmas Day in Medieval England and, as a king among beasts, was symbolically associated with Christ who was a sovereign among men.

In the early 16th century a scholar noted a Christmas carol containing the words: “This boar’s head we bring with song, in worship of him thus sprung, of a virgin to redress all wrong.”

Poem

In a contemporary poem published by Hone, the tradition was linked to an idealised view of Christmas in Arthurian England. “The bill of fare (as you may well suppose) was suited to those plentiful old times... They served up salmon, venison and wild boars, by hundreds, and by dozens, and by scores.”

The Hornchurch tradition continued until 1868 and was written about in the Chelmsford Chronicle and Grantham Journal as well as by Hone and the Essex Standard.

0 comments

Latest Romford News Stories

Upminster Windmill renovations. Pictures by Richard Saville

Excited onlookers witnessed a moment of history when Upminster Windmill’s cap was removed as part of on-going restoration works on Friday.

11:14
We Are FSTVL, pictured 2015

Hundreds of tired festival-goers enjoyed a hot drink and a place to rest at a church after a night of dancing.

Chelmsford Crown Court

A man has been jailed for eight years for his part in a bloodthirsty 30-second attack on a Romford traveller who had his hand virtually chopped off.

Lindsay Lohan attends the Vanity Fair Post Oscars Party at the Mortons, Los Angeles.

It appears a number of famous faces enjoyed this weekend’s We Are FSTVL in Upminster, including American actress Lindsay Lohan.

Shelley Hart

The CEO of a volunteering charity says she is “delighted” to be celebrating their success after the shock of closure last year.

08:25
The Met Office has issued a weather warning

The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning as heavy rain hits the south east.

Yesterday, 15:07
Sam Bartlett with his nieces

A new exercise club is encouraging families to exercise together to improve the nations health.

Yesterday, 10:00
Stand up at the Comedy Club 4 Kids

What’s happening in Havering this half-term

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

News from your area

WW100

Click on the banner above for full coverage of the centenary commemorations of the outbreak of the First World War.

Competitions

Win a BMW 1 series

There are fewer cars currently on the market more stylish and exciting than the BMW. Known all over the world as one of the best car manufacturers, the BMW is renowned for sleek designs and fantastic high quality workmanship.

Kindle 7 inch tablet

Are you looking for a brand new gadget to help you stay connected on the go and make that long journey home a bit more entertaining? Look no further. MyOffers is giving you the chance to win 1 of 50 Kindle Fire 7” Display Tablets! That’s 50 times more chances to win, so hurry up and enter our competition today and you could be one of our lucky winners!

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe