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December 2017: A West Country Christmas – Dorset in December

Thomas Hardy’s celebration of Christmas in Dorset in his early novel Under the Greenwood Tree is perhaps second only to A Christmas Carol (a version ...More
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Choosing Day, Brightlingsea, Essex

In one of those weird and wonderful survivals of medieval British life to be found here and there around the country, Brightlingsea in Essex is still for certain ceremonial purposes regarded as “A limb of Sandwich ,” the Kent port. This makes Brightlingsea part of one of the Cinque Ports with all the history that brings.
Every year, on the first Monday in December, there is a ceremony held at All Saints’ Church in the Essex town, a ceremony primarily to choose the person who will represent the Mayor of Sandwich as his Deputy in Brightlingsea – and with impeccable logic the day is called Choosing Day .
There are other aspects linked to the event: the choosing is done by Freemen of the town, a privilege granted free of charge to those born there or who have married into the place; but for outsiders there is a fee to pay (once residential qualification of a year and a day has been attained) of 11d, thus 5p in modern currency. The Deputy him or herself pays 4s, i.e. 20p to the town coffers, as do six assistants, and out of this revenue is paid the ship-money owed annually to Sandwich – 10s in old money, 50p as is now, this being in lieu of service by men of Brightlingsea to Sandwich.
The Cinque Ports are represented at the ceremony, which has little practical significance these days, but is a reminder of the trading power of the ports in past times, and their reach from Kent up to Essex across the Thames Estuary

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The light, that lies In woman's eyes, Has been my heart's undoing. - Thomas More
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Battle of Radcot Bridge - 1387, Ivanhoe Published - 1819, Piltdown Man Discovered - 1912, Death penalty abolished - 1969, Queen Becomes Oldest British Monarch - 2007
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