Legend of the Penny Hedge

Lol Hodgson, the Baliff of the Manor of Fyling carries out the ancient Penny Hedge tradition in Whitby.

The beginnings of this ancient custom that dates back to around 1159 are unclear but some say it was penance for the accidental killing of a hermit who was a monk at the abbey. Others say it was to mark a safe landing place or to mark a ‘garth’ or enclosure or simply as a way to keep out animals.

Whatever the origins this now symbolic custom takes place each year on the eve of Ascension Day on the banks of the River Esk in Whitby. The hedge is constructed with nine upright hazel stakes driven into the mud with an ancient mallet and nine ‘tethers’ or pliant branches to intertwine the stakes.

On completion of the hedge three blasts are sounded on an ancient horn and the cry of “Out on Ye” is repeated by the bailiff.

 

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Lol Hodgson, the Baliff of the Manor of Fyling carries the hazel branches down to the waters edge as a crowd looks on…

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Construction of the Penny Hedge begins as the tide comes in fast…

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An ancient mallet is used to drive the branches into the mud…

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On completion of the hedge, Moira Clarke from Stokesley, stands in to blow the rams horn

after the man who was the planned ‘Horn Blower’ didn’t arrive for the ceremony.

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Pictures copyright Ian Forsyth

No usage without prior arrangement

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