Town prepares for ancient ceremony

PUBLISHED: 12:03 15 April 2008 | UPDATED: 06:59 30 May 2010

A scene from the flitch trials

A scene from the flitch trials

2008 is the year of the flitch so The Broadcast is inviting readers to go on a journey over the next two months by revealing all things Flitch. We will explore everything associated with the ancient custom including memories from past winners, interviews

2008 is the year of the flitch so The Broadcast is inviting readers to go on a journey over the next two months by revealing all things Flitch.

We will explore everything associated with the ancient custom including memories from past winners, interviews with the judge and even explore how the side of bacon itself is prepared for Dunmow's premier event.

The history of the flitch dates back to 1104 and the Priory of Little Dunmow when Lord of the Manor, Reginald Fitzwalter, and his wife, dressed up as humble towns folk and begged blessing of the prior a year and a day after they were married.

After revealing his identity, Lord Fitzwalter gave his land to the priory on the condition that a flitch should be awarded to any couple who could claim they were similarly devoted.

In those days the trials were held in Little Dunmow every year, before being switched to Great Dunmow in 1832 after the steward of Little Dunmow branded it "an idle custom bringing people of indifferent character into the neighbourhood".

It was only after World War II

that it changed to every leap year to give organisers time to recover from the previous event and build up for the next.

The trial is exactly what it is says. A court holds sessions throughout the day as claimants try to convince a judge and jury, under heavy questioning from barristers, that they are fit to win the flitch.

Successful couples are then carried, shoulder high, in the ancient flitch chair from the court room at Talberds Leys to the Market Place where an oath is taken whilst kneeling on pointed stones.

Chairman of the organising committee Helen Wildman said: "With each trail comes amusement, entertainment, renewed community spirit and another piece of history to a beautiful and prosperous town. Long may it continue."

Tickets for the trials on July 12 are available by calling Banana Travel on 01371 875757 or by post to DFT, ticket sales, 35 Delcroft, Ware, Herts, SG12 0BH. Telephone 01920 462350 for any queries. Entry for claimants has now closed.

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