TOWN CRIER – A HISTORY
The role of Town Crier can be traced back to medieval times: two bellmen appear in the Bayeaux Tapestry, which depicts the invasion of England by William of Normandy and the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
The town crier would begin his cry with the words, “hear ye” which was later changed to Oyez (derived from the French ouïr which means ‘to listen’) accompanied by the ringing of a large hand bell to attract attention. At this time most folk were illiterate and could not read so this was an important role for keeping the townspeople informed of the latest news, proclamations, bylaws, and any other important information.
The cry would then end with the words, ‘God save the King’ or ‘God save the Queen’.
“Don’t shoot the messenger” was a very real command! Town criers were protected by law. Anything they did was done in the name of the monarch, therefore, to harm a town crier was an act of treason. This was a necessary safeguard as the town criers often had to announce unwelcome news such as tax increases!
Often the wife of a Town Crier would ring the large hand bell whilst the husband was doing the shouting. The Town crier would read a proclamation, usually at the door of the local inn, then nail it to the doorpost of the inn. The tradition has resulted in the expression “posting a notice” and the naming of newspapers as “The Post”.
The key requirements of the role were the ability to read, a loud voice and an air of authority. Bellmen would be paid for each proclamation they made; in the 18th century the rate was between 2d and 4d per cry.
THE PHASING OUT OF TOWN CRIERS AND THE REVIVAL
Town Criers and Bellmen were largely phased out in the early 20th Century – mainly because of the growth of local newspapers and literacy rates. However, the position has been revived by councils all over Britain since the 1970s. Whitehill and Bordon revived this position with Steve White who became the Town Crier in 1980.
Each town crier is officially appointed by the Mayor and you can see that the Town Crier’s robes are very similar to those of the mayor. Many Town Crier uniforms are designed in the 18th century style, incorporating the colours of the Crier’s town. Our current Town Crier, Stuart Morrison, wears the traditional red and gold costume.
Video of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Proclamation
Video of the Proclamation of King George III
The Town Crier’s main activities are to promote Town Council events and civic occasions. He is also available to help promote other groups’ activities and events.
The Town Crier can be booked using the link below:
- £20 per hour to attend a charity or local group event
- £50 per hour to attend a business event or party