Dunmow's historic Flitch Trials will this year feature the first female bearer in 900 years.

The ancient custom sees married couples compete to win a flitch of bacon if they can prove to a judge and jury of six maidens and six bachelors that in 'twelvemonth and a day' they have not 'wisht themselves unmarried again'.

Bearers are the 'humble folk' of Dunmow who carry the flitch of bacon and the flitch chairs during the procession.

If a couple is fortunate enough to win a flitch, they are 'chaired' (carried) shoulder high through the town in the flitch chairs to Market Place, where they take the flitch oath 'kneeling a-while' on pointed stones.

The new bearer is landscape architect Laura Cohen, who is in her 30s and grew up in Dunmow, attending Rosemary Lane Infants, High Stile Juniors and Helena Romanes secondary school.

Laura was having a pint in the pub with chief bearer Ross Karklins, and expressed an interest in becoming a bearer herself, as she knew quite a few of the team already.

Ross checked the rules, and found that there are no rules in the trial constitution preventing women from taking on the role.

At the Flitch Trials on Saturday, July 13, therefore, Laura will become the first-ever female in 900 years to carry the flitch through Dunmow. 

Laura said: "I’m very excited to be involved. I used to be a builder so carrying on my shoulder is nothing new.


"My dad was also a butcher so I grew up around the meat industry. I am looking forward to contributing in a meaningful way toward the day's events and supporting a long tradition in a town I have always loved.

"I think it will be great fun to be a bearer and am looking forward to joining the team."

Tickets for the Flitch Trials are available from www.dunmowflitchtrials.co.uk or with cash at Flitch Travel in Dunmow High Street.

The trials, which date back to the 1100s, are held every four years and couples must have been married for at least a year and a day to compete.