A Leicestershire Tradition: Bottle Kicking

Examples of 19th Century Bottles used in Bottle Kicking from Leicestershire's 100 Museum Objects

On Easter bank holiday Monday I happened upon the village of Hallaton in Leicestershire. We wanted to drive through the village on our way to Rutland Water, but the way was blocked by some sort of parade.Stewards told us we couldn’t get through for another 15-20mins while the Bottle Kicking procession went by.

Bottle Kicking? He said it like it was the most normal thing to happen on a rainy bank holiday, but I was intrigued. I grew up in West London, on the route of the Notting Hill Carnival so I know a street party when I see one; and even though they were lacking the floats and the sound systems, there was definitely a party atmosphere. Drink was following and everyone, though clearly quite wet, were relaxed and enjoying themselves, taking little notice of the confused and lost out of towners.

Due to the crowds I didn’t see much of the festival, I saw what looked like bread being thrown to the crowd, bagpipes being played and something like staffs being held in the air. I was fascinated and a bit disappointed we had to leave.

So here I am using my blog to investigate what this was all about.

Bagpipers at the start of the Bottle Kicking Festival outside the Fox Inn, Hallaton.From This is Leicestershire

The ‘bottle’ turns out to be a small barrel and the activity focuses on a competition between two village, Hallaton and Medbourne, to kick the ‘bottle’ into the opposition’s village across a stream boundary, which are positioned about a mile a part. The competition starts at about 3pm and the winner is the best of three.

The ‘bread’ I saw being thrown was actually Hare Pie another part of the festival. A Hare pie is blessed by the vicar and thrown out to the crowd. This part of the festival provides clues that the festival may date back to pagan times when it is thought hares were sacrificed to the goddess Eostre. However documentation of the bottle kicking dates back two hundred years and has been an annual event ever since, only stopped once in 2001 due to foot and mouth concerns.

In any case it’s a village tradition that won’t be disappearing any time soon, and though there are always a number of paramedics around it looks like injuries and trouble are kept to a minimum.

In addition to this I did notice a sign for the Hallaton Museum. It turns out this small village museum has recently reopened after a move to a new location, another good reason to visit this Leicestershire village again.

References:

The bottles are featured in Leicestershire’s 100 Museum objects: http://www.leics.gov.uk/index/leisure_tourism/museums/museumcollections/revealed/revealed_objects/revealed_objects_bottlekicking.htm

Wikipedia entry on Bottle Kicking: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bottle-kicking

This is Leicestershire’s report of the 2012 Bottle Kicking festival: http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/Hallaton-bottle-kicking-wet-wild-video/story-15763040-detail/story.html

Hallaton Museum: http://www.leicestershirevillages.com/hallaton/hallatonmuseum.html

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4 Responses to A Leicestershire Tradition: Bottle Kicking

  1. Are the grave headstones still at St.Martin’s in Leicester?, a picture of one of personal interest being for the parents (Richard died 1822, Kitty died 1838) of the musician John Ella (born Leicester 1802, died London 1888 ) and can be viewed with an article on John and family by going to:
    http://www.hberlioz.com/others/RElla.htm

    Also:
    http://www.leicestershirevillages.com/leicester/gallery.html?user=11653&scope=leicestershire

    Kind regards,
    Ray & Marie.

  2. Tom says:

    A couple of things
    You may have seen bread being thown, penny loaves are given to the crowd as well as the hare pie (at different times). Also you dont get bottle to the opposing teams village, you have to get it back to your own village.

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