Folk Traditions and Rituals #26, #27, #28, #29
Custom: The Weighing of the Mayor of High Wycombe
About: A tradition from the mid 17th century, each new Mayor is weighed at the start of their term and again at the end. If they’ve gained weight, they are booed by the crowd, as its assumed they have been enjoying themselves too much at the taxpayers’ expense. The Mayor is weighed first, followed by all the dignitaries and major officials. Even the Mayor’s wife was weighed when we went to watch it.
Custom: The Cheese Rolling
About: Since the 1800s, race participants have been throwing themselves after an eight-pound round of Double Gloucester cheese, as it is released at the top of the VERY steep Coopers Hill. The winner is the person who gets hold of the cheese, or the first person to the bottom of the hill. The loser(s) are the ones that break bones attempting it. It’s impossible to understand just how steep the hill is unless you visit – it’s hard enough to climb up to see the event take place, let alone take part.
Custom: Beating of the Bounds
About: An ancient custom observed by many church parishes, going all the way back to medieval times. The bounds of All Hallows by the Tower are beaten on Ascension Day, with members of St Dunstan’s college, clergymen and and liverymen all walking the route and beating the path with sticks.
Custom: Beating Retreat
About: A military ceremony dating back to the 16th century. Originally the drum beat signalled the end of fighting for the day, with troops being ordered to return to the safety of the camp. Later, the drum beat signalled the closing of the camp gates. Now it’s more a military practice concert, a few days ahead of Trooping the Colour, which marks the sovereign’s official birthday. With drums, fireworks and cannons.