Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hallaton, Leicestershire

Hallaton is one of those villages whose upland location and rich variety of ironstone buildings help make eastern Leicestershire a little known delight. The conical structure in front of this thatched cottage is the buttercross, which, like many such early marketing and landmark ‘crosses’ isn’t at all cross-shaped, but provides an eye-catching focal point to the village green. It’s also a reminder that this village isn’t always as quiet and tranquil as it seems.

The buttercross plays a role in an event that transforms Hallaton every Easter Monday, and has done so for hundreds of years – the hare pie scramble and bottle-kicking contest. The scramble for bits of hare pie is a throwback to a charitable hand-out, and the tradition of donating food to the poor is continued in a ceremony of giving penny loaves at the buttercross before the main even of the day, the bottle-kicking contest itself.

Bottle-kicking is a game played between the villages of Hallaton and neighbouring Medbourne. The aim is to get two out of three 'bottles' (actually small beer barrels) across your village stream and into your village’s territory. The method is a kind of rumpus resembling coarse rugby with very few rules and involving scrums, lots of ‘contact’, and not much actual kicking of the bottle. The competitors are many in number and regard rugby players as somewhat soft. The climax occurs when the winners climb the buttercross, lift the bottles in the air, and triumphantly drink the contents. Here’s to Hallaton, tranquil for 364 days of the year.


Thud said...

looks rather like the one on the Everton F.C. badge.

Stephen Barker said...

Just an update that might be of interest. The spot on Hare Pie Bank where the Bottle Kicking starts after the distribution of the hare pie to the crowd,has recently been excavated this has uncovered the site of a medieval chapel thought to have been dedicated to St Morel (or Morrel)and beneath this was evidence of a possible Roman chapel.

About 200 to 300 yards away along the same ridge the Hallaton Treasure was found a few years ago which consisted of hundreds of late iron age coins, some early Roman coins and a silver Roman cavelry helmet.

The location on a hill with commanding views was obviously of some importance in the past.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Stephen: Many thanks for this interesting update.