Town & Manor – then & now

Tutti Day, when the Commoners, Officers and Constable of the newly elected Hocktide Court gather for Hocktide Luncheon in Hungerford Town Hall

The Town & Manor of Hungerford has a unique history going back nearly 800 years. Today it represents a considerable business asset managed by the Constable and Trustees, and is run according to a scheme regulated by the Charity Commissioners under The Town & Manor of Hungerford & the Liberty of Sanden Fee scheme of 1908 – No 238 379 A/4.

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The Estate

The modern estate managed by the Trustees comprises 125 hectares (360 acres) of pasture land, 5 miles of rivers and streams, Hungerford CommonFreeman’s Marsh and Hungerford Marsh Nature ReserveThe Croft, the Recreation Ground and War Memorial, the Town Hall & Corn Exchange, John O’Gaunt Inn and the Water Keeper’s House. In addition, there are accumulated investments in a Permanent Endowment Fund and a portfolio of Stocks and Shares.

Map of the Town & Manor property (May 2016)

The government has the estate registered as a farm, and as such it can benefit from EU and national support of agricultural grants.

The Town & Manor estate was valued, in 2012, at £6,000,000. It’s unlikely that any of the property would ever be sold, so the valuation really just indicates the  extent of the Trustees responsibilities.

The annual revenue generated from the estate, as reported in the audited accounts, was £260,000. After maintenance costs have been deducted, this leaves a surplus of about £25,000 per year before donations.

Within the scheme, the first priority is to maintain the Town Hall and Corn Exchange (1871) and as such is probably the only Town Hall that is privately owned and maintained, without resource to the public purse.

The Land

The majority of the land is Registered Common and is subject to the Countryside and Rights of Way Acts 2000/04/07 and is therefore open to the public year round.

The management policy is to combine its use by the inhabitants for their enjoyment and pleasure, and of preservation and protection of the environment within the estate, while respecting the Ancient Rights of the Commoners and maintaining commercial and financial success.

The Constable & Trustees

The Constable and 10 elected Trustees manage the business and employ full and part-time staff. There is a provision within the scheme to appoint 2 extra Trustees to fulfil specialist roles, should any be required.

The Town & Manor of Hungerford is and always has been independent of government – its financial success is dependant upon the Trustee’s ability to raise revenues from its own commercial operations.

The Management Structure

The managing committees and departments are made up of the elected Trustees, Officers of the Hocktide Court and the salaried personnel. The Constable of the day takes the Chair of each committee and is deputised by the immediate past Constable. There are six committees, each headed by an Hon. Secretary:

The Trustees
Finance Committee
Commons and Land Management Committee
Fishery Committee
Buildings Committee
The Croft Committee

Their role is to consider requirements of their area of responsibility and to make recommendations to the trustees, prepare annual budgets and to operate the day-to-day management. Specialist professional advisers and consultants are engaged as and when required, should any major maintenance expenditure, capital improvement or investment be needed.

Charitable Funding & Donations

The Trustees have funds available each year for ‘the benefit of the inhabitants of Hungerford’. In recent years the Trustees have funded the following:

St Lawrence’s Parish Church Roof Restoration                       £18,000 (2000-09)
Hungerford Youth Centre                                                           £15,000 (2010-14)
Renovation of the Church Lytch Gate                                       £5,000 (2007)
Hungerford Cricket Club                                                             £5,200 (2010-14)
Hungerford Canal Angling Association                                     £3,000 (2013)
Rebuild of South View Gate onto the Common                      £6,864 (2012-14)
Town Band support                                                                     £11,000 (2008-14)
Christmas Lights and Victorian Extravaganza                         £12,600 (2008-14)
Hungerford & District Community and Arts Festival             £7,086 (2008-14)
Hungerford & Camburn Education Trust                                £6,561 (2003-14)
CHAIN                                                                                            £2,500 (2012)
Hungerford Club                                                                          £1,000 (2014)
Hungerford Theatre Club                                                           £1,600 (2014)
Total major donations                                                                 £106,411 (2000-14)

The Trustees are always interested to receive funding enquiries from established Hungerford organisations, and all will be carefully considered within the charity’s code for gifts.

By Robert James, Trustee


A brief history of the Town & Manor

It probably all started in the 13th Century (we can’t be 100% sure), building on the Right to hold Markets and Fairs, and the Assize of Bread and Ale, granted to the good people of Hungerford during the reign of King Henry III (1207-1272).

These Rights were confirmed during the reigns of King Edward I (1272-1307) and Edward III (1312-1377), with the addition of Grazing Rights on the Royal Estate land around the town. Fishing Rights were added by John O’Gaunt, the fourth son of Edward III; a generous act that made him the adopted son of the town to this day.

There is an extensive collection of information on the history of Hungerford and the Town & Manor on the Hungerford Virtual Museum.

For more information on the Town & Manor, please see What is The Town & Manor of Hungerford and Liberty of Sanden Fee? in About Us

The Official Badge of Office of the Constable

The official badge of office of the Constable of the Town & Manor of Hungerford is a brass or copper horn of which we have three. The original horn is purported to have been presented to the Town by John O’Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster in the 14th Century to mark the granting of fishing rights to the commoners. When this horn grew fragile it was replaced in the 17th century by the Lucas Horn which in was replaced in the 20th century.

All three horns are still in the possession of the Town & Manor and we were recently approached by Dr Louise Bacon of the Archaeological Institute at UCL who is conducting a study of the few surviving examples of medieval Burghmote horns. The word ‘Burghmote’ is derived from Burgh meaning town or borough and mote meaning meeting, thus the horns were sounded to call townspeople to a meeting just as we have been doing at Hocktide for hundreds of years. Dr Bacon visited Hungerford in August and examined the horns at the Town Hall.

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All three horns are interesting in their own right but not surprisingly the original ‘John O’Gaunt’ horn is the most important to us. About twenty years ago Mr John Cherry of the British Museum examined the horns and although it was not subjected to any testing he was of the opinion that it was more likely to be 15th century and thus later than John O’Gaunt.

Last week Dr Bacon returned to Hungerford accompanied by Mike Dobby a metallurgist and former Chief Chemist at the Sheffield Assay Office who carried out an analysis of the metal composition of the horns. Will the results of this analysis finally establish the age of the John O’Gaunt horn? We don’t know yet. Watch this space.

Markets & Fairs

Hungerford has developed over the centuries as a market town, supplying the goods and services for the surrounding villages.

More than 800 years of market history

Hungerford probably gained a market in 1248, during the reign of Henry III. There is little written evidence of this until 1296, when Edward I confirmed to the inhabitants of the town certain Rights and Privileges, including the right to hold a Market. 

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Centuries later, in the reigns of Henry IV and Edward IV, further confirmation of these rights was made through surveys by the Duchy of Lancaster, when there was revision of the Charters. These documents can be found in the County Archives, and still look like new today.

A charter to hold a market

The charter was usually granted to the most important nobleman responsible for the town, to give the inhabitants a legal means of holding markets and fairs for their own benefit, within a specified area on particular day, or days, during the year.

A bonus of the introduction of the formal market, was that it became difficult for outsiders to set up competing markets. The townsfolk and traders also enjoyed privileges not extended to competing markets, such as being exempt from tolls and taxes on specified market days. Those attending the markets and fairs could also expect to benefit, from lower cost goods free from tolls.

A chartered town, but not a borough

Chartered towns also benefited by attracting people from neighbouring countryside. The defined area extended the powers of the town, which then gave it Borough status. In attaining ‘free borough’ status, the town could then hold its own Court, make local Law and Levy fines.

However, while Hungerford was never able to successfully plead its case for borough status, it has been called a town from time immemorial. And by holding both the Court Leet and Court Baron in the Town Hall, it has been able to maintain the status of being ‘town’, rather than that of a ‘village’.

Markets, Sheep Fairs, Fat Stock Fairs & Autumn Fairs

Wednesday is market day, when traders are permitted to erect stalls and sell produce. In addition, there is a Sheep Fair Day in August, a Fat Stock Fair in December, and two Autumn Fairs in October, which are included in the Charters, although the rights have not been exercised for many years.

Well-supported livestock auctions continued until the early 1950s, although the street market sadly failed during the depression that followed the First World War.

1984 sees the return of the Wednesday market

More recently, there was renewed interest in re-establishing the Wednesday market. In 1984 the Constable and Trustees, with considerable assistance of the Master of the Rolls, Lord Denning, successfully overcame objections from district planning and the town’s retailers. The historic chartered right to market was re-established, and Hungerford could once again enjoy a weekly market.

Market manager

The weekly market is organised by the Market Manager, Richard Stevenson, who can be contacted on 07970 501470. Richard can advise on the rules and regulations that govern the market, insurances required and stall holder rates.

By Robert James, Trustee



A time for celebrating, ale tasting and Tutti folk 

The ancient celebration of Hocktide is the most important day in the life of the Town and Manor, and takes place annually on the second Tuesday after Easter.

Celebrated over 2 weeks, the celebrations encompass the selection of the Hocktide Jury, the all-important Ale Tasting, Tutti Day, Hocktide Court and swearing in of the new Officers and Constable for the year at the Hocktide Lunch. See below for the annual events.

Second Tuesday after Easter – Selection of Hocktide Jury

6.00pm All Commoners are invited to select the new Hocktide jury at a Macaroni Supper. The new Jury is then issued with a summons to attend the Hocktide Court the following Tuesday. This is a private event, for the Commoners and Trustees.

Sunday – Common clear-up

10.00am Commoners and friends meet to clear and tidy the Common.

Monday – Ale Tasting

7.30pm Ale Tasters carry out the onerous task of testing and declaring on the quality of the local ale.

Tuesday – Tutti Day (Hocktide) – a long action-packed day…

8am – Town Hall Balcony – Summoning of all Commoners to Hocktide Court:
The Bellman will sound the Constable’s horn from the Town Hall balcony. All Commoners are summoned to attend the Hocktide Court by the bell and proclamation.

9am – Town Hall steps – Tutti Men set off
The Constable presents the decorated Tutti Poles to the Tutti (or Tything) Men who, accompanied by the Orangeman and Tutti Girls, set off to collect the dues from the Common Right properties.

9.05am – Town Hall – Hocktide Court
The selected Hocktide Jury attend and all Commoners are called.

12.30 – Corn Exchange – Hocktide Luncheon 
The traditional highlight of the town’s year, a four course meal with various toasts, which includes the Tutti Men and Orangeman.

Tickets for Hocktide Luncheon

Tickets to attend this traditional highlight of the town’s year are available to purchase from Crown Needlework, 115 High Street, Hungerford (01488 684011). The lunch is a four course meal with various toasts.

Commoners & Trustees Tickets are available from 18th March. You are entitled to buy your own ticket (limited to one ticket only) at £30, and your partner’s ticket (again limited to one ticket only) at £35 provided that they are both paid for by the 7th March.

All other tickets will be available at £36 from the 8th March on a first-come first-served basis.

Please note: If you wish to pay by credit card there will be an admin charge of £1 per ticket.

Before lunch – The Bar will be open at 12noon to enable you to buy your wine by the bottle and soft drinks for lunch. A complimentary glass of wine before the lunch will be provided for you and your guests in the Magistrates Room.

The lunch – commences promptly at 1pm, so please be seated by 12.50pm to receive the Constable and her guests.

Be ready to receive the Tutti Men and the Orangeman when they join us for lunch.

After lunch – Shoeing the Colts
The Blacksmith proceeds with shoeing the Colts, a tradition carried out light-heartedly, in which first-time visitors are caught and ‘shod’ (the shoe is real, the shoeing isn’t!)

5.00pm – The Three Swans Hotel – Anchovies on Toast
A traditional and tasty treat, courtesy of The Three Swans.

7.30pm – Corn Exchange
The Hungerford Town Band play for the pleasure of the people of Hungerford.

9.00pm – The Three Swans Hotel – Return of the Tutti Men
The last port of call for the Tutti Men. The Constable and collected people of Hungerford welcome them safely back at the end of their long and arduous day.

Friday – Town Hall – Court Leet

11.00am The Court holds its first session, where they swear in the Office Holders elected at the Hocktide Court.

Sunday – Outside the Town Hall – Constable’s Sunday Service

10.45am The Constable, Commoners, Trustees and various organisations from the town parade from the Town Hall to St Lawrence’s Church, led by the Hungerford Town Band.

11.15am Once at the church, those gathered celebrate the life of the Community of Hungerford.