City of London Tradition

The City of London has many ancient traditions and ceremonies. Some of them may seem odd to us today. Perhaps even crazy. Some of the ceremonies and customs may be centuries out of date, but the City institutions love to keep up their traditions. Recently I was privileged to see a ceremony that has been carried out annually since 1343. It is a very unusual way to pay rent, for a property which no longer exists.

A City of London Tradition

For over 600 years, The Worshipful Company of Butchers, on of the City of London Livery Companies, have paid the Lord Mayor a hog’s head, in return for a piece of land where they used to be allowed to dispose of offal. The Buthcers used to wash their offal there, and throw the unwanted bits into the River Fleet. The Fleet has long since disappeared underground and the land is no longer held by the Butchers’ Company. Most of them don’t wash any offal any more anyway. Regardless of all that, the Butchers still pay their yearly rent. Each year they set off in a procession from Butchers’ Hall and march to Mansion House with a boar’s Head to present to the Lord Mayor. It’s a tradition almost as old as the position of Lord Mayor, as Alderman Nicholas Lyon is the City of London’s 694th Lord Mayor.

This year’s Hog’s Head ceremony happened on 7th February. It was a cold but sunny day. That was lucky as rain is another City of London tradition and it would have made the occasion less enjoyable for all concerned.I stood outside Mansion House to wait and I wasn’t sure how long it would take for the procession to journey there from Butcher’s Hall. Eventually I heard the distant sound of bagpipes coming from the far end of Cheapside. It’s an unusual sound in the City of London streets so I thought is was a good sign. Sure enough the sound of the pipes grew louder and soon the Epping Forest Pipe Band came into site. They were leading a group of robed Liverymen who carried a large Hogs Head between them.

The parade halted outside the Mansion House entrance on Walbrook, The pipes fell silent and the Liverymen were invited inside to present the Lord Mayor with the hogs head. Their publicity photos show the Lord Mayor cutting the first slice but I wonder, just how many people does a hog’s head serve?