Haxey Hood 2024: Traditional medieval game to return to village near Yorkshire in January - with all four pubs taking part

A traditional game dating from medieval times that pits two villages on the border of Yorkshire against each other will return in the new year.

The Haxey Hood is contested on January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas – which in 2024 falls on a Saturday.

It takes place in fields in the Isle of Axholme, between Doncaster and Scunthorpe, and teams from four pubs in the villages of Haxey and Westwoodside compete.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The event, which attracts large crowds of both participants and spectators, is recovering following two years of Covid-induced cancellations before it returned in 2023.

James Chatwin the Haxey Hood ceremonial Fool speaks to the crowd in 2023James Chatwin the Haxey Hood ceremonial Fool speaks to the crowd in 2023
James Chatwin the Haxey Hood ceremonial Fool speaks to the crowd in 2023

The 14th-century game sees teams try to return the ‘hood’ – actually a leather tube – to their home pub by carrying it between them in a large scrum known as a ‘sway’.

Organisers have confirmed that this year, all four pubs on the route are involved in the Hood – with The Duke William in Haxey only re-opened under new management in November. In 2018, a previous owner submitted plans to demolish it and build housing on the site.

The revival of the four licensed premises is a boon for the Hood, as in 2019 only one, The Carpenter’s Arms in Westwoodside, was trading due to closures and planning issues. The Loco and King’s Arms have since re-opened.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The folklore surrounding the Hood is based on the story of Lady de Mowbray, a local landowner's wife, who was riding between Westwoodside and Haxey in around 1359 when her silk riding hood was blown off in a gale. Thirteen farmhands rushed to retrieve it from a nearby field, but the man who caught it was too shy to present it to her, and gave it to one of the others instead.

Last year's Haxey HoodLast year's Haxey Hood
Last year's Haxey Hood

Lady de Mowbray told the man who handed it back that he had acted like a lord, while the man who had found it was a fool for his reticence.

She then donated 13 acres of land on condition that the chase would be re-enacted every year by the men of the village.

The overseer is called the Lord of the Hood, and there are other 'referees' called boggins as well as the Fool, who leads the procession between the pubs and has the right to kiss any woman he encounters along the way. He then makes a welcome speech and a fire is lit behind him - a custom known as 'smoking the Fool'.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In centuries past, the poor Fool used to be suspended over the fire before he nearly choked, and was then dropped down and told to try and escape.

His traditional chant translates as 'house against house, town against town, if a man meets a man, knock him down but don’t hurt him.'

The game is won when the hood arrives at the front step of the victorious pub and is given to the landlord, who retains possession of it for the year.

The patch of land used to contest the Hood is so prominent that the churned-up ground can even be seen from space in Google Earth satellite images.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In 2002, a car was shunted 10ft down a road into another vehicle by the sway. Parking along the route is no longer allowed.

Despite rows in recent years over the Hood’s future if its participating pubs closed or were subject to restrictions, the game itself actually pre-dates all of them.

More Sto