What does a town crier, a decorated pole, a glove, and some warmed up coins have in common? Give up? The answer is Honiton’s Hot Pennies Day.
This quirky tradition dates back to the 13th century when the market town was awarded a Royal Charter.
But what is the Hot Pennies Day all about? Honiton’s traditional ceremony begins at 12 noon, at the Old Pannier Market. The town crier, accompanied by the mayor and local dignitaries, hoists up a garlanded pole with a gloved hand at the top, proclaiming that “No man may be arrested so long as this glove is up.”
This curious proclamation was originally carried out to ensure that everyone would come to Honiton for the fair, without fear of being arrested for their debts (otherwise people may have stayed away). Traditionally, the fair would have taken place after this ceremony.
Today, following the proclamation, pennies are thrown from the balcony of the former Assembly Rooms, above the Old Pannier Market. A procession then follows the garlanded pole to a number of public houses, from which ‘hot pennies’ are thrown to the public. The pole is kept on show for the remainder of ‘fair week’ at the last public house to be visited by the procession.
I know what you’re thinking. Why are hot pennies thrown to the public? The reason for this is (rather cruelly), that Honiton’s more affluent residents once enjoyed throwing pennies and watching the peasants burn their fingers whilst collecting them. So, in keeping with tradition, pennies are still thrown today. However, these days the pennies are merely warm, rather than hot!
When: 23rd July 2019
Where: Honiton, Devon