Filed under: traditions

Mayor of Ock Street 2017

The date is June 19th 1700. A line has been drawn in the dust of the Vineyard alongside the brewery. Another line has been drawn at the top of Ock Street near the Square. The people of Abingdon have just enjoyed ox roasted on the Market Place. A famous battle then ensued between the men of the Vineyard and the men of Ock Street for the ox. The combat was fierce as each side fought to bring the ox over their own line. Legend has it that the Vineyard men had nearly succeeded when a man named Hemmings crashed an apple wood cudgel on the head of a Vineyard opponent, cut the ox head from the carcass with a sword, and made it back to the Ock Street Line.
Mayor of Ock Street
Those same horns were on display again 317 years later on a glorious Saturday in 2017 – the nearest Saturday to the original June 19th, when there is a day of morris dancing.
Mayor of Ock Street
The president of the Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancers is still a Hemmings, namely Mr Ewart Hemmings. His Uncle was the famous Mayor of Ock Street, Tom Hemmings, and his Grandfather was Henry Hemmings – also Mayor of Ock Street.
Mayor of Ock Street
The Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancers, with a visiting team from Oxford, danced at many venues along Ock Street and in the town centre, including a new stop outside the Broad Face.
Mayor of Ock Street
After dancing round a tree planted in honour of former bagman, Tony Russell, at the almshouses,
Mayor of Ock Street
they went to another new stop where free beer was provided by Pam, and danced there too.
Mayor of Ock Street
Meanwhile the poll to elect the 2017 Mayor of Ock Street was taking part all day. All people living or working down Ock Street have a vote.
Mayor of Ock Street
The count took place at the Brewery Tap, officiated over by the Town Clerk, the Mayor of Abingdon, and Mr Ewart Hemmings.
Mayor of Ock Street
Roger Cox graciously conceded to Harry Knight who had got double the amount of votes – 61 to 122 . Roger will continue in the role of the fool for the next year, having been Mayor every year from 2007 and 2013.
Mayor of Ock Street
The Mayor of Abingdon, Cllr Jan Morter, presented the Mayor of Ock Street with the sash of office, sword, top hat, and the applewood bowl, whose wood dealt the legendary blow in 1700.
Mayor of Ock Street
Mr Harry Knight was then carried in honour down Ock Street by his men. He has been elected in 2014, 2016, and 2017.

3 Comments June 17, 2017

Nov 6th – just outside Abingdon

November 6th
At Dalton Barracks airfield this evening there was a funfair and bonfire.
November 6th
The warmth from the fire did help keep people from getting too cold in the wait for the fireworks.
November 6th
We remembered again in 2016 Guy Fawkes’ failed gunpowder plot against James I in 1605. In celebration of his survival, James ordered that we should have a great bonfire on the night of November 5th.
November 6th
Thank you to the army for providing this evening’s entertainment with the funfair, blazing bonfire and fabulous fireworks.

18 Comments November 7, 2016

Bun Throwing in Abingdon and Cake Throwing Elsewhere

Bun Throwing
There is an old Abingdon custom of throwing buns from the County Hall. Its origin is obscure, but it has been in its present form since the coronation of George III in 1761. The bun throwing is performed by the Mayor and town council who, in their robes of office, climb to the roof of the County Hall and throw buns to people assembled in the Market Place beneath. The buns are rather like hot cross buns where the cross is replaced by letters or numbers designating the cause for celebration. The example above shows PR for the visit of the Princess Royal in 2006.

Throwing small cakes for ceremonial reasons was not uncommon in late Medieval England. On a Tudor History web page, one entry says “On Palm Sunday the boys of Chippenham in Wiltshire, like those of other parishes, climbed onto the church roof to throw small cakes to the crowd below. In 1507, Palm Sunday fell on 28 March. At Chippenham Francis Gore and Nicholas Hulkebere were not among the boys sitting on the roof of the south aisle, but on the ground with those taking part in the church procession and scrambling to collect the cakes. Disastrously it was not only the cakes that came down from the roof. Two large stones fell on top of them and crushed them.

A modern day DJ, Steve Aoki, has also made it part of his act to throw cakes at his audience as part of his show. He showers those below with ‘cake love’ as he calls it. The instream video shows a guy in a wheelchair catching some of the ‘cake love’ …

In June 2016 Abingdon will hold a ceremonial bun throwing to celebrate the 90th birthday of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Nearby Wantage will also hold a public cake throwing against two councillors who have been derelict in their duty. Wantage is the birthplace of King Alfred who, being preoccupied with the problems of running an ancient kingdom, accidentally let some cakes burn, and was scolded by a woman who had entrusted the task to him. Accordingly the Mayor and town councillors of the town of Wantage have an ancient tradition of throwing burnt cakes at any of their members who have failed to keep their eyes on the task in hand.

9 Comments April 1, 2016

Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day

Snick, snack, the pan’s hot,
We’re come a shroving
Strike while the iron’s hot -
Something’s better than nothing.
Flour’s cheap and lard’s dear
And that’s why we come a shroving here …

(Rhyme from Drayton near Abingdon quoted in May Day to Mummers – Folklore and customs in Oxfordshire.)
Shrove Tuesday
Children no longer beg their neighbours for ingredients for pancakes. To help us prepare for Pancake Day, the supermarkets in Abingdon each had a little display of a ready made pancake mix – massively reduced , together with JIF Lemons and maple syrup, and even eggs and flour in some places.
Shrove Tuesday
I probably did not follow the instructions properly with the pancake mix, as I ended up with some pale sloppy pancakes that stuck to the pan. After the third attempt I gave up.
Shrove Tuesday
But we do still have the basics: an egg, 3 oz (75g) flour, 5 fl oz (150ml) of milk and a pinch of salt.
Shrove Tuesday
That worked so much better, and came in under half the price of the pancake mix.

5 Comments February 17, 2015

New Mayor of Ock Street Elected

Mayor of Ock Street
Mr Harry Knight was elected the Mayor of Ock Street this afternoon. The election result was announced by Mr Ewart Hemmings, President of the Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancers. The Mayor of Abingdon, Angela Lawrence, was there to present Harry with the sword and chalice of office. Angela joined in with the dancing when everybody had a go on the Market Place, and showed that she was a good dancer herself.
Mayor of Ock Street
Mr Harry Knight said it was a great honour to follow Stuart Jackson, and Roger Cox, his predecessors, both who were there. Roger Cox, who has been Mayor of Ock Street from 2007-2014, was the first to congratulate the victor Harry. The Mayor of Ock Street also becomes the Squire of the Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancers.
Mayor of Ock Street
There followed the traditional chairing of the new Mayor up and down Ock Street.
Mayor of Ock Street
The ballot took place at The Brewery Tap where Ock Street Ale was on tap – from Loose Cannon.

The day itself saw Morris dancing around the town. The youtube video above shows ‘Princess Royal’ one of the Abingdon Dances, performed by the Abingdon Morris Dancers for centuries, and again today.
Mayor of Ock Street
There were five visited teams including the Armaleggan, a Border Morris side, who rehearse in Cumnor Village Hall, on the old Berkshire Borders.
Mayor of Ock Street
Also visiting town today were the Foxy Rangers from Didcot, in South Oxfordshire. They were raising money for Chanel, a child who needs special equipment to get a decent quality of life. One of those Foxy Rangers was chosen to be danced round in ‘Maid of The Mill’
Mayor of Ock Street
After which every passing Morris Dancer kissed her on the cheek – some more than once. The Armaleggan kissing got very smutty.

More Pictures on the Abingdon Blog Facebook Page.

4 Comments June 21, 2014

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