Monday and Tuesday 12th and 13th April

In times past, long before local government began shoving its sticky fingers deep into our pockets, individual parishes were responsible for raising the money they needed for local services. Some had tolls on their roads, others introduced rates and Brentford organised fund-raising sports days and public entertainments.

In 1621 articles were drawn up to regulate these money-raising activities, one of which consisted of “convivial gatherings in the church house.”

The article states:

“The inhabitants had for many years been accustomed to have meetings in their church house and other places there, in friendly manner, to eat and drink together, and liberally to spend their monies, to the end that neighbourly society be maintained and also a common stock raised for the repair of the church, maintaining of orphans, placing poor children in service and defraying other charges.”

The articles arranged for proper accounts to be kept and it is in these records that we find entries such as “Cleared by victualling, £8.0.2d,” which suggest that these ‘convivial gatherings’ were making a profit for parish funds.

Brentford’s fund-raising sports days were held on the Butts. One highlight was a rather unusual ‘ox roast’. The poor unsuspecting ox was first shown to the hungry crowd. The crowd chased the ox, caught it, killed it, roasted it and then ate it. Yummy! The council sponsored the sports, providing “boules, lynn tokens, pigeon holes, maypole, drum, sticks and case.”

The income from the sports and entertainments was not inconsiderable. The 1624 records show these 3 lines of profit:-

Clear’d by pigeon holes £4.19.0d
Clear’d by riffeling £2.0.0d (This was an early type of raffle)
Clear’d by hocking £7.3.7d

Hocking, which traditionally took place the second Monday and Tuesday after Easter Sunday, dates back to the 11th century and was thought to mark the rising of the Saxons against the occupying Danes in 1002.

“Hock Monday was for the men and Hock Tuesday for the women. On both days the men and women, with great merriment, intercepted the public roads with ropes, and pulled passengers to them, from whom they exacted money, to be laid out in pious uses.”

BRAND Antiquities, vol. 1

At the Hocktide festival passing travellers and anyone who looked as if they had a penny or two in their pocket was stopped and asked to give money for charity….rather like those tabard-wearing students who do exactly the same outside Tesco’s in Richmond. Some of these “demands” were quite physical. In Staffordshire they employed “heaving” - lifting people into the air and only releasing them once payment had been made. The men ‘heaved’ the women on Monday. On Tuesday the women ‘heaved’ the men. One rule said that all ‘heaving’ had to cease at noon. It appears that they were still ‘heaving’ in Staffordshire in the early 1900’s… and who can blame them?

In Brentford the ‘hocking’ was equally robust. On Hock Monday the women would chase the men and then tie them up. (No they didn’t kill them, roast them and then eat them.) The men would then be obliged to pay out some money before they were untied. On Hock Tuesday it was the turn of the men to chase the women etcetera etcetera.

Hocking was a very profitable source of parish income. The records show this account from 1624:

Gained by Hocking at Whitsuntide £16.12.3d

Of course Whitsuntide was 5 Sundays after the traditional Hocktide which suggests that the festival’s historic connotation had been put to one side. Now it was just an opportunity to raise some money for local services and to have some serious fun at the same time. By 1640, under the increasing influence of the Puritans, Hocktide had largely disappeared, although the festival is still marked in Hungerford in Berkshire.

It would seem however that we are genetically programmed to show concern and kindness when it comes to charity. As local historian G.E Bate wrote in 1948…

“Many old customs, like this one, die out in one form only to be revived in another, and today we have bazaars, flag days and dances, used as a means of raising money for charity or religious purposes. The principle involved, that of coaxing money out of the pockets of people, is still the same.”

At least the tabard-wearing students who ‘chug’ us outside Tesco’s don’t chase us up the street and tie us up - not yet anyway.

Chugging is a portmanteau neologism referring to the practice of so-called ‘charity mugging’, in which members of the general public are approached on the street or on their doorstep by a paid charity fundraiser (chugger) who attempts to get them to sign up to make regular direct debit monthly donations.

– from Martyn Day