Custom revived: Gloucester Day and the Mock Mayor of Barton

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“Dulce est Desipere in Loco”

It is delightful to play the fool occasionally, so reads the motto of the revived Mock Mayor of Barton. How appropriate!

Gloucester over it!

Land use around train stations in the UK is always less than promising. Only a handful of cities and towns can boast a good vista from the station. Gloucester isn’t one of them! The buildings around both train and bus station are no great advert for much of the beauty and fine architecture that can be found in the city: hideous concrete slabs, boarded up windows and row after row of charity shops and cheap shops. There must have been some nice architecture there…perhaps the war removed it, but the post-War did much to ruin it. So it might seem strange that a city which appears to be going through a patriotic revival ignores this part. Ho hum..a few  streets in of course and we enter the Gloucester of the postcard, but it’s a shame our post war architects could not have been more imaginative, but I digress.

Siege mentality

Gloucester Day celebrates the lifting of the 1643 Siege of Gloucester, when the city survived after an onslaught of the Royalist forces in the first English Civil War. Strangely despite celebrating what could be conceived an anti-Monarchist event, the custom survived until around the nineteenth century. It was arrived in 2009 by the colourful figure of Alan Myatt, the Town Crier and forms part of the Gloucester History and Heritage Week.

The new Mock mayor

Double Gloucester

Not only is Gloucester Day is celebrated on the day but there is a Morris meet, called Hands Around Gloucester and more interestingly the revived Mock Mayor of Barton. This too is believed to date from the Civil War. It is said that that after the siege Barton was removed from the city and so as a response decided to mock them and elect their own mayor. However, in a contributor to Jennings’ Gloucester Handbook suggests an age  “more ancient than the Mayors of Gloucester”, possibly deriving from an old moot called Halimote of Barton.  Certainly, the mock mayor did have a ‘court’, which would be held in various pubs doubling for the town hall: the Old Vauxhall and lastly the Bell Inn, and as noted a coat of ‘arms’. He also had some armorial insignia which survived in a wine merchant of Bell Lane in the 1880s, but now cannot be traced. The mayor would have duties such as visiting the Cotswold Olympics and the Cheese Rolling. The mayor could also inflict penalties, comical though they may be. Generally, the offender would be forbidden to:

 “shoot ducks, fowls, donkeys, pigs, or any game whatever, or fish in any river, running stream, ditch, pool, or puddle, with many other pains also”. 

Any resident of Barton who had lived there for two years would be eligible and were selected through some mistake or blunder:

“through want of judgement or absence of mind, made some blunders of an amusing nature before he could be named to the ‘Court’”

Once appointed he could not shake off this ‘honour’ and Duart-Smith (1923) notes that:

 “one of the elected mayors had impounded his own pigs by mistake, believing them to be his neighbour’s” 

Another member was inducted because he sowed soot to grow chimneys and another setting up a expensive fenced in piggery forgot to include a doorway! Interestingly, it is reported in the Gloucester Standard of c.1889 – 90 that despite the mockery of the position, some notable individuals became mayors such as a solicitor, the editor of the Gloucester Journal, a Russian Consul, and a timber importer and indeed once the City Mayor at that of Barton were one and the same. What caused the custom to disappear is unclear, but it probably considering its association with hostelries became associated with drunks and antisocial behaviour.

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Another month another Mock Mayor

At 11.00 in the morning the members of the Mock Mayor’s mayor making entourage assembled behind the museum and what a motley bunch: Morris dancers, goats, a colourful burger, sword bearer, and a whole range of eccentrics who resembled the Monster Raving Loony Party. With the sword beater menacing in front they were off to a confused Gloucester shopping public, some of who appear unaware that if a procession comes along get out the way!! They passed the real Mayor, councillors and local MP near St. Michael’s Tower, upon which the sword bearer undertook a circular dance, probably if not intentionally intending to show contempt to them much in way they did at Woodstock. The newly elected Mock Mayor being carried on a bike powered trailer and sat comically upon a metal beer barrel. After circling around the parade came back to near the tower where a stage was erected, here the other civic party awaited. The electee, sword bearer and burger climbed on stage, and some slights and comical I jokes came flying out. After the Mayor making proclamation which ended with an up yours, the more comical politicians had a say…I mean the local MP and real Mayor to recognise the valuable work behind the trivial ness done by the mock mayor. All the platitudes over the group processed down to the nearby church and here the Morris were there again holding aloft their staffs, they formed an arch under which the groups flowed for their thanksgiving service. For a few hours normality resumed, but then…

Off we go again

DSC_0264If one parade was not enough wait a few hours and another, larger one comes along at 2.00. This was the Gloucester Day parade. Back with the Mock Mayor, minus the Morris who congregated at the cross road near St. Micheal’s Tower, ready to dance as the group went by. These parades appear to have a formula:civic dignitaries + religious groups/Scottish bands+~ knights or Romans to its credit Gloucester’s parade added a bit more to this formula including cross dressers from the gay community, masons, a giant pig, those goats again, the Waits a revived medieval group of musicians, as well all lead by the town crier. I didn’t notice the Gloucester flag much touted from a few years back, but it was a flurry of colour and a barrage of beats. Perhaps not as comical as the mock mayor procession…but well worth a few and where else do you get two processions a day!

This re-instated custom certainly is impressive and undertaken which such enthusiasm it difficult to believe it is only been revived since 2009!

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image and text copyright Pixyledpublications

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