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A Ceremony fit for a Lord Mayor

Published on: 8 February 2023

One of the oldest ceremonies in The City of London, is when The Worshipful Company of Butchers parade through The City streets to Mansion House to present The Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor of the City of London with a ‘boar’s head’. On Tuesday 7th February 2023, the Master and the Livery paid their dues in a ceremony that was a cut above the rest.

The Rt Hon The Lord Mayor accepts his rent and cuts the first slice of the Boar's Head

So what is The Boar's Head Ceremony?

The butchers in the parish of St. Nicholas at the Shambles had got ourselves into a spot of bother, in that we had managed to offend the sensibilities of the monks at the Greyfriars Monastery by discarding our "offal and ordure" on the public highway. This was a great inconvenience and annoyance of the pious friars who, as a result, were finding it difficult to pass along the streets unhindered.

The monks, deciding that enough was enough, made an official complaint to the City authorities and on the 12th March 1343, granted the butchers a parcel of land in Secollane adjoining the Flete (the Fleet River), for the purposes of cleansing the entrails of beasts in the said water and, having done so, we could dispose of the offal in the Flete Ditch, which was described as being "the vilest of all abominations which London then contained."

For this, the butchers had to repair and maintain a certain wharf, by them and their successors, for ever, rendering yearly to the Mayor of London, a boar's head. The cost had to be met from the funds of the Butchers' Guild. It was reported that at one time this amounted to £1.4.0d.

Despite the fact it has been many years since we have actually washed any beast entrails, or have for that matter, disposed of any offal in the abominable waters of the River Fleet, a contract is a contract - and so we adhere to the "for ever" clause in that 1343 agreement, and continue to pay up every year, despite the passage of almost 700 years.

Ready to process

Traditions upheld

On a bright Tuesday afternoon, on 7th February 2023, The Master together with Members of The Court, family and friends enjoyed a hearty meal of traditional sausages, kindly sponsored by Liverymen Andy Dalton and Ian Cundell of The British Premium Sausage Company. This set everybody up for the task ahead – a proud procession carrying the Boar’s Head through The City streets.

The Boar's Head Ceremony walks through the City streets

Led by the Epping Forest Pipe Band, the Beadle and the Pipe Major kept everyone in good stride as the procession made it's way from Butchers’ Hall to Mansion House, watched by hundreds of members of the public and office workers. Roads were closed and traffic stopped as we made our way towards St Paul's Cathedral, then marched up Cheapside, Queen Street and Queen VIctoria Street before arriving at Walbrook.

You can watch a short video of the procession on our Instagram page: @wcblivery

Liverymen Tony Nuttall, Ian Cundell and John Gill with Mr George Jones proudly undertook the task of carrying the large papier-mâché boar's head, closely guarded by the City of London Police and a Security team.

On arrival at Mansion House, The Master was welcomed at the door by The Lord and Lady Mayoress. Once inside, The Master presented the 694th Lord Mayor, Alderman Nicholas Lyons, with the payment of the Boar’s Head and a gift of a WCB silver skewer.

The real ‘boar’s head’ was displayed on a table. It had been expertly prepared and delivered by members of our affiliated military unit the Tri- Service Training Wing (Army) at Worthy Down. We were pleased that five instructors from the Tri- Service Training Wing representing the Army, Air Force and Navy were able to join us on the day.

The Lady Mayoress looked on as The Lord Mayor sliced the first piece of meat from the Boar before everyone had the opportunity to sample a piece of the delicacy.

This ceremonial day is filled with pomp and tradition. It is the day when we really show just how important and special it is to our Livery to keep our traditions alive.

Assistant Julien Pursglove – WCB Military Liaison