Bainbridge Horn Ceremony, North YorkshireAt nine in the evening from Holy Rood on September 27 to Shrove Tuesday, the lovely Wensleydale village of Bainbridge is either comforted or jolted, according to your viewpoint, by the blowing of an old hunting horn. This horn, stored in the Rose and Crown pub facing the village green, somewhat incongruously is a buffalo horn, dating from 1864. The ceremony though predates this instrument. It is recorded as having taken place half a century earlier, but four competing explanations of the ceremony put it much earlier, in one case almost two millennia earlier!
The most commonly accepted version of the ceremony has it that when Wensleydale was forested the horn was blown to signal to those working in the woods, and those4 travelling there, to come towards the sound and thus the safety of Bainbridge. The second theory has it that the area around Bainbridge was used as a hunting ground by the owners of nearby Middleham castle , and the horn either guided the hunters home from the hill, or maybe celebrated their presence. The most practical suggestion links the ceremony at Bainbridge with that of Ripon in the same county, the sounding of the horn signalling a sort of curfew. The last and surely least believable version has it that the ceremony goes all the way back to Roman times, when Bainbridge was known as Virosedum.
An aspect of the tradition that adds to its attraction is that for a great many years the blowing of the horn has been in the hands on one family, the Metcalfes. In modern times the ceremony still has its uses, and it is not for nothing that the horn is kept at the local pub, these days reminding those living and staying in the village that it is time to wander down to the local for a swift one.
More British Folk Customs?