I say, that in the memorie of some yet living, this Hoc-tide feast [to celebrate the death of king Hardicanute and the freeing of the English from Danish rule] was yearly solemnized by the best inhabitants, both men and women, in Hexton, in the fields and streetes, with strange kind of pastime and jollities. Some of their sports, and, namely, that of pulling at the pole, I will relate.Francis Taverner, who lived in the first part of the 17th century, quoted in W B Gerish's 'The Hock-tide observance at Hexton in Hertfordshire' (1910). Hocktide (debatably) falls on the second Monday and Tuesday after Easter. You can read some more about here, on 'Wilson's Almanac':
They did yearly, against everie Hock Day, elect two officers called the Hockers, a man and a woman, whose office it was to provide the hock ale, and to governa dn order the feast for that year; these hockers had each of them a large birchenn broome; and on Hock Monday morning which falls out, as I take it, between Easter and Whitsontyde, many, and amongst them the most substantial of them (for boyes and girles were not admitted) did go together to the toppe of Weyting Hill; on the very toppe of which hill, being the highest in this parish, was one of those borowes or grave hills (which now the mattock and the plow have worne down). And ther was yearlie a long and a very strong ashen pole fastened into the ground, which the women with great courage did assale and pull downe, striving with all their force to bring it downe the hill, which the men did defend pulling it up the hyll; but by reason of the great stepenes of the mountayne, the women, by that advantage, hayled it to the fote of the hill; and, though the men were so waggishe as that when they perceived the women to pull most stronglye, then, they would all wholy lett goe, wherby the women fell over and over; yet for that the women would not give over, and, when they had brought ye pole to levell ground, then some good fellowes would help the women, the hockers laying lustilye about them with their bromes, and allwayes the matter was so handled that the women overcame, thrusting the men into the ditches and into the brooks (the men hockers allwayes taking the womens parte); and if they got any of the weaker men into their hands whom they could master, them they would baffle and besmear, and thus they laboured incessantlye two or three houres, not giving over till they had brought the pole and sett it up at the Crosse by the Towne House doore, where a great number of people were attending their coming.
And then, the women having provided good cheere, they brought it into the Towne House, and did there all eate and drink together, and that without any affront or dislike taken at any hand. And, after they had eaten, then the hockers did gather money of everie one what they pleased to give, part of it then given to the poore, the remaining money the hockers delivered to the churchwardens, who lay'd out the same in the reparation of the Church and bells, and the like.
Posted by Rhiannon
6th January 2010ce
Edited 6th January 2010ce