Boy’s Bailiff

★ Boy’s Bailiff Story :

An old custom, formerly in vogue at Wenlock, in Shropshire, thus described by Mr. Collins: “I am old enough to remember an old custom, and the last time it took place was about sixty years ago; it was called the ‘boy’s bailiff,’ and was held in the Easter week, Holy Thursday, or in Whitsun week, and I have no doubt was for the purpose of going a bannering the extensive boundaries of this franchise, which consists of eighteen parishes. It consisted of a man, who wore a hair-cloth gown, and was called the bailiff, a recorder, justices, town-clerk, sheriff, treasurer, crier, and other municipal officers.

They were a large retinue of men and boys mounted on horseback, begirt with wooden swords, which they carried on their right sides, so that they must draw the swords out of the scabbards with their left hands. They, when I knew them, did not go the boundary, but used to call at all the gentlemen’s houses in the franchise, where they were regaled with meat, drink, and money; and before the conclusion they assembled at the pillory, at the guildhall, where the town-clerk read some sort of rigmarole which they called their charter, and I remember one part was–

We go from Bickbury and Badger to Stoke on the Clee, To Monkhopton, Round Acton, and so return we.

Bickbury, Badger, and Stoke on the Clee, were and are the two extreme points of the franchise, north and south; Monkhopton and Round Acton are two other parishes on the return from Stoke St. Millborough, otherwise Stoke on the Clee (or perhaps Milburga, the tutelar saint of the Abbey of Wenlock), to Much Wenlock. This custom I conceive to have originated in going a bannering, unless it should have been got up as a mockery to the magistracy of the franchise; but I rather think the former.”

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