Hot Pennies Day, Honiton, Devon

If you find yourselves in Honiton on the first Tuesday after July the 19th you’ll wonder what an earth is going on – crowds gathering outside some of the older pubs and houses in the street, something being thrown from the upper windows. What can it be?

Well, it’s the ancient custom of Hot Pennies Day, that’s what it is. Hot Pennies Day is a custom that dates back to the 13th century when Honiton was granted its Royal Charter; events kick off at noon when the Town Crier hoist high a garlanded pole with a gloved hand atop. “No man may be arrested so long as this glove is up” he proclaims – back in the day this meant that people could come to the Fair that followed the ceremony with no fear of being hassled for their debts.

The Crier, the Mayor, other local dignitaries and a gathering crowd then head off to the Assembly Rooms where the first warmed pennies are thrown to the hoards, and on to public houses for more of the same. It’s quite a spectacle and there’s something very nice about being part of a time honoured custom that you don’t see much these days.

You might be wondering why the pennies were hot. Well, rather cruelly, the more affluent people who threw them took pleasure in seeing the peasants burn their fingers as they gathered them up. They’d never get away with that now.

All information correct at the time of writing

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