Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Feasts and Festivals: Dunmow Flitch Trials

The Dunmow Flitch Trials are this Saturday! Aren't you excited? What? You've never heard of the Dunmow Flitch Trials?! No worries. I hadn't heard of them either until I watched the 1952 film Made in Heaven on Netflix (more on that later this week).

Every four years in Great Dunmow, Essex, married couples who can prove that they have "not wisht themselves unmarried again" to a jury of six single men and six single women receive a "flitch of bacon" (half of a pig) as a reward. In order to claim the flitch, the successful couples must kneel "on pointed stones on a dray,1 usually located in market place" and say this oath:

You do swear by custom of confession
That you ne'er made nuptual transgression
Nor since you were married man and wife
By household brawls or contentious strife
Or otherwise in bed or at board
Offended each other in deed or in word
Or in a twelve months time and a day
Repented not in thought in any way
Or since the church clerk said amen
Wish't yourselves unmarried again
But continue true and desire
As when you joined hands in holy quire.

The Dunmow Flitch Trials are believed to have begun in 1104 when Lord of the Manor Reginald Fitzwalter and his wife (whatever her name was) arrived at the priory at Little Dunmow a year and a day after their marriage dressed as peasants (no, I don't know why) to ask the blessing of the Prior. For whatever reason, all of this impressed the Prior, who decided to give this peasant couple a flitch of bacon. However, Reginald revealed his true identity and said he would give his lands to the priory if the Prior promised to award any other couple a flitch of bacon, should they be able to prove themselves similarly devoted.2 "See? We're dressed as peasants! We're totally a devoted married couple!"

Stay tuned for:

  1. Drays are wagons that are generally agricultural in use, have four wheels and are pulled by horses, oxen or mules. (According to Wikipedia.) I don't know about the pointed stones thing--doesn't sound particularly nice, but hey, it's an entire half of a pig we're talking about!
  2. http://www.dunmowflitchtrials.co.uk/history/
Image sources:


  1. Lauren, I am always learning from your blog! Amazing, the customs from the past. Looking forward to the chicken dish tomorrow!

  2. Ha! Now that is interesting! Can't say that I've ever heard of that, but I'd never turn down some free bacon :D
    Hope you're not melted up there is Kansas! That 'cool front' and alleged 'rain' never arrived here :(

  3. Yeah, I'd say a heck of a lot for a flitch of bacon- love it, you know!! I'm glad to say I wouldn't have to stretch the truth too much in the happily married department. Never heard of the Dunmow Flitch trials (which seem to have a much happier outcome than witch trials), but sounds like a great way to get half a pig!

  4. You can't go wrong with bacon. Will look forward to your recipe!

  5. How interesting and amusing at the same time.

  6. There isn't a lot I wouldn't do for bacon, but since I'm a single guy, I'm going to have to figure out another way. Sounds like a fun time though.

  7. I've never heard of these trials either...interesting bit of trivia!

  8. Amazing - had never heard of this before! This has me pondering the question of pointed stones vs bacon... I do love bacon, so maybe...!

  9. I think I've heard of a "dray horse" before but now I know what they pull! Had never heard of this ceremony, but I'm speeding right along to the bacon and the movie post, so maybe I'll learn something! :)


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