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Events | Lore & Legend | Rather Interesting | Cultural Britain

Quit Rents Ceremony, London

In feudal times tenants would owe the lord of their manor rents and duties, which could be onerous. To be quit of these duties agreements could be made for further payment or presentation of goods or other services. Hence the term quit rent.
Between St Michael's day (October 11) and St Martin's (November 11) every year the Corporation of the City of London pays quit rent for two tenancies, now of only ceremonial significance. The first is for the theoretical use of land known as The Moors at Eardington, to the south of Bridgnorth in Shropshire . For this the Corporation presents an official known as the Queen's Remembrancer, a judge in the Court of Exchequer, with two knives, one blunt, one sharp. The knives are tested by means of a hazel stick, a cubit in length and as thick as the Remembrancer's forefinger. The blunt knife has the rod bent over it, leaving a mark, the sharp knife slices it in two. This is held to be linked to the old use of tally sticks, when marks were made in them, and half of each stick given to the two parties to a bargain. The ceremony and duty dates from 1211, and now that the Lord Chancellor has no judicial duties, the Remembrancer is the oldest judicial post in Britain. The original role of the Remembrancer, created by Henry II in 1164, was 'to put the King in remembrance of all things owing to the King'. As well as his or her judicial wig, the Remembrancer has to wear a black tricorn hat, mark of a judge of the now otherwise defunct Court of Exchequer.
The second quit rent paid in the same ceremony is for the use of a forge in the delightfully named Tweezer's or Twizzer's Alley, near The Strand. For this the Corporation has to present the Crown via the Remembrancer with six horseshoes and 61 horseshoe nails. This part of the day is far more recent, dating from only 1295, and the shoes and nails are younger still, having been made in 1361, when they formed part of the rent in addition to a more liquid element of 18 pence. The same shoes and nails are loaned back by the Crown to the City to pay the rent every year.
There is a further historic aspect to the ceremony: the Remembrancer sits at a table over which the chequered cloth that gave its name to the Court of Exchequer is placed. In times past the squares on the cloth were used in tallying rents due and rents paid, counters representing rents paid having to match those on the other side of the table showing what was due, helping in effect the Remembrancer remember.

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1 Response to Quit Rents Ceremony

From Christabel Winny (Miss) on 1st February 2013
Could you please let me know the date in October of this year's Quit Rents Ceremony. Many thanks.

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