Hocktide


Hocktide
   The second Monday and Tuesday after Easter were termed Hocktide. In the Middle Ages these were days marked with festivities and rejoicing, although the only place that remembers them now is Hungerford in Berkshire. The most widespread custom was for the women of the village to capture any men they met, bind them with ropes, and refuse to set them free until they had paid a small ransom. This happened on one of the Hock days, while on the other it was the men who captured the women. It appears that originally the participants kept the money collected themselves, but later it went to the church, and is therefore often recorded in the churchwardens' account books in the 15th and 16th centuries. It is noticeable that the women gathered far more money than the men: 1499 It. rec. of hok money gaderyd of women 20s It. rec. of hok money gaderyd of men 4s (St Leonard's church, Reading)
   Other account books show that the collectors expected a feast for their troubles. The earliest references are to attempts to tame or suppress the custom, in London in 1406 and 1409. In many places, the binding with ropes was replaced by a rope stretched across the road, but as late as 1540 a writer could still refer to the binding:
   Women for the noble acte that they did in the distraction of the Danes, whych so cruelly reigned in this realme have a daie of memorye therof called hoptide, wherin it is leaful for them to take men, bynde, wasshe them, if they will give them nothing to bankett ... (Quoted in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 20 (1957), 178)
   This account also contains the popular explanation for the custom, that it commemorates a time when a group of Saxon women outwitted and captured some invading Danes.
   It is clear that there is a connection between Hocktide capturing customs and the Easter custom of Lifting, or Heaving, which took place on the Monday and Tuesday following Easter, with the same sex division on the two days. The distribution map presented by Hutton shows that the two customs were found in different areas of the country, with hardly any overlap. Lifting was confined to western counties (but not the south-west) and north Wales, whereas the Hocktide capture was found in a strip up the central south of England and to the east (but not East Anglia). They would seem, therefore, to be regional variations of the same custom.
   The mock mayor ceremony at Randwick, Gloucestershire, also took place at Hocktide. Wright and Lones, 1936: i. 124-9; Hutton, 1996: 206-13; N&Q 10s:11 (1909), 488; 10s:12 (1909), 71-3, 139, 214, 253-4, 514-15.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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