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

Members of the Havering Quilters made dresses for girls in third world countries out of pillowcases. Photo: Susan Persaud

Members of a sewing club have turned pillowcases into pretty decorated dresses for young girls living in third world countries.

12:11
Darren Disley, CEO of Horizon Discovery.

After growing up on an estate and leaving school early, a CEO of a multi-million pound company now wants to reach out to young people in Havering.

12:00
Voters will take to the polls to choose the next London mayor and their GLA representatives on May 5

As the countdown begins to Thursday’s elections, we profile Havering and Redbridge’s five local GLA candidates vying to win. Here is what you need to know about your local candidates.

07:00
Boy racers have been holding huge meet-ups in Ferry Lane, Rainham.

People will be killed if street racers keep performing illegal late night stunts in front of hundreds of onlookers at an industrial estate, police have warned.

A person was hit by a train this morning at Romford station

Trains have been suspended between Romford and Ilford after a person was hit by a train at Romford station this morning.

10:11
Firefighters attended the fire in Crow Road

Firefighters tackled a blaze at a travellers site in the early hours of this morning.

Yesterday, 16:00
The Mayor of Havering, Cllr Brian Eagling with pupils at Nelmes Primary School, Wingletye Lane, Hornchurch

The pupils have embarked on a voyage of discovery after planting seeds that have been in space with astronaut Tim Peake.

Yesterday, 13:27
Josh Herdman made a successful debut in his fight on Saturday. Picture: Dan Donovan. For more visit http://www.dandonovanphoto.com/

A Harry Potter star has swapped the cloak and wand for fighting gloves as he stepped into the cage for his Mixed Martial Arts debut.

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

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!

Yummy traditional afternoon teas for two

MyOffers is giving you the chance to win 1 of 50 Traditional Afternoon Teas for two at a location of your choice! 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