Wednesday, 14 August 2013



In the early 16th century. Nicholas Brome was the owner of Baddersley Clinton House near Solihull in Warwickshire.     One day he returned home and found the local priest in the parlour with Brome’s wife and they were in ‘close contact’ with each other.  Brome was so incensed that he killed the priest by stabbing him with his knife.  Brome was pardoned by the King and also by the Pope, but was required to do penance for his crime which entailed good work in his community. 


Indeed he re-built the tower of Baddersley Clinton church and this is recorded by an inscription on the inside wall of the tower.  

His final penance when he died was to be buried, just inside the south entrance to the church, standing up, which meant that people walked on his head.




In the 12th century the penalty for murder was death, plus the forfeiture of any land and property, but at the intercession of a dying hermit, three offending noblemen of the Whitby area of North Yorkshire were sentenced instead to a strange penance by the Abbot of Whitby Abbey.   The three penitents and their heirs, forever and a day, were ordered to perform an annual act of contrition on the eve of Ascension Day.

The story unfolds in the year 1159, when Lord of Ugglebarnby, William de Bruce, and Lord of Sneaton, Ralph de Percy, together with another nobleman, were enjoying a days boar hunting in the forests around Eskdaleside, land belonging to Whitby Abbey.  
                                                                           WHITBY ABBEY
They pursued  a wounded boar into a cave occupied by a monk from the abbey who is aid to have barred their way.  In the excitement and frustration the huntsmen struck the hermit a fatal blow and he died some days later.    On his death bed the monk demanded that his murderer’s be spared on condition that they and their heirs performed a penance of erecting a hedge in Whitby harbour every year.  They were to cut a specified number of hazel boughs in Eskdale Woods – 10 yedders; 10 stakes; and 10 stout stowers – which they were to bear on their backs to the harbour.  The hedge to be erected on the shore at the receding tide, strong enough to withstand three successive tides.   Should this ceremony not be performed as demanded, then all their lands and property would be forfeited to the abbey.

This strange ceremony is still re-enacted, when, at the appointed hour on the eve of Ascension Day, three blasts on the ceremonial horn and the expiatory shout of  ‘out on ye, out on ye,’  ring out across the harbour, whereupon the three penitents complete the hedge in accordance with the ancient decree, in the mud of the harbour.


The Penny Hedge Ceremony


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