July 2017 Speaker
We were very pleased to welcome Pat and Steve Schorah, who came to tell us about the origins and history of The Dunmow Flitch.
Pat explained that a Flitch is half a pig which has been smoked to preserve it. And the phrases ‘Save the Bacon’ and ‘Bringing home the Bacon’ originate from the Dunmow Flitch Trials.
The early Trials took place at Little Dunmow and the origins of The Dunmow Flitch date back to 1104, over 900 years ago. The trials moved to Great Dunmow in 1855 and the pageant and ‘living history’ of the trials is re-enacted every Leap Year.
Early in the year before the trials take place couples who have been married for at least a year and a day by the date of the trials and since the time of their marriage have lived in harmony and not wished themselves unmarried can apply.
The claimants can come from anywhere in the world and the chosen couples are entered on a prepared short list to be interviewed by the Judge, his Chaplain and the Mayor of Great Dunmow.
The trials are organised in the same way as a Crown Court, the jury of bachelors and spinsters from the parish of Great Dunmow are sworn in. On the day of the trials a parade starts from the Saracens Head in the centre of Great Dunmow and proceeds to the court. The Town Crier leads the parade followed by the Flitch held on a frame carried on four men’s shoulders. The men wear traditional Essex smocks and there is a garland of flowers around the flitch
Couples who are successful in the trial are then paraded through the town in the special Flitch Chair borne on eight men’s shoulders. When they get to the town square they have to kneel on pointed stones and take the Oath, whereupon they are presented with the Flitch. However if they are unsuccessful they have to walk behind the empty chair and are presented with a gammon when they reach the Market Place.
Pat and Steve kept us enthralled with their talk accompanied by many photos and souvenirs of events over past centuries. They are also very involved in The Great Dunmow Museum which opened in 2001. I am sure that many of us will now visit the town and also watch out for details of the next Flitch Trials in 2020.
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