The Offham Quintain, KentIf not a folk custom, at least a folk survival, the Offham Quintain is unique, the last survivor of a pastime or military training exercise, depending on the state of regional or international relations at any particular time when it was in use. Introduced in Roman days, the quintain remained a sporting challenge even as late as the 17th century, when jousting was already a distant memory.
The quintain is well known to anyone who has ever seen a King Arthur film. It is a post with a horizontal bar mounted on it, pivoting around the post. The Offham quintain, six feet tall and painted white, standing on the village green, no longer has the board or ‘eye’ at one end of the bar which provided the target for a rider’s lance, the opposite end holding a sack of sand which would swing round to unseat any jouster not riding ‘at full tilt’ to get away before the arm had revolved, or simply too slow to duck.
The survival of this relic is due to the legal stipulation in the deeds of a nearby house that the owners maintain it, though nowadays of course as a unique attraction it is dear to the hearts of those living in the village.
Sadly the quintain is probably too precious to be used for its original purpose these days, though occasionally villagers have been known to organise some mock jousting using a replica version on May Day celebrations.
More British Folk Customs?