eBay action unearths a 300-year-old account of the Dunmow Flitch Trials

Pat and Steve Schorah with the 300-year-old letter

Pat and Steve Schorah with the 300-year-old letter - Credit: Archant

A 300-year-old document recounting Dunmow’s oldest tradition has been unearthed and returned to the town – after being found on eBay.

Flitch Letter

Flitch Letter - Credit: Archant

Steve Schorah, curator at the town’s museum, discovered a letter about the 1701 Flitch Trial, penned by Thomas Wheeler and sent to Parnel Hamersley, on the internet auction site.

After failing to buy the piece off the seller directly, Steve used money from the museum’s coffers to top an offer of £265 four seconds before the lot ended to ensure the piece of history could be enjoyed in Great Dunmow.

Steve’s wife Pat, life vice president of the Dunmow Historical Society, said: “It is like touching history. We are a flitch town. We must be one of the only towns in the country that has a 900-year-old tradition we are still celebrating, so something like this is so important to our history.

“This letter should be in Dunmow ... it would have been terrible if it went somewhere else.”

The event, which takes place every four years, dates back to 1104. It exists to award a flitch of bacon to married couples from anywhere in the world, if they can satisfy the judge and jury of six maidens and six bachelors that in ‘twelvemonth and a day’, they have ‘not wisht themselves unmarried again’.

The 1701 trial is believed to be the sixth one recorded in the town. However, the letter has opened up the possibility that one may have gone unrecorded. In the top left-hand corner of the page, Thomas has written that the bacon had not been won 80 years prior to this trial, but the one recorded as before this was in 1510.

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Steve said: “It is fascinating. It just adds to the importance of this ­stunning document.

“Has a trial gone unrecorded? Did anyone claim the flitch of the bacon? We just do not know.”

Pat and Steve, who claimed the bacon back in 2012, have made copies of the letter for Great Dunmow Town Council, one for the judge of the trials, Michael Chapman, and a handling copy for the Dunmow Museum.