A KEY figure in an ancient game, which is threatened by the demise of village pubs, says it should be “protected for its history” which could date back to Pagan times.
The longest reigning Lord in the history of the Haxey Hood, Phil Coggon said they would do everything they could to stop plans to convert one of four pubs, involved in the game, for housing.
It comes after a planning application to knock down the Duke William Hotel on Church Street, Haxey, was withdrawn.
Organisers understand the plans will be resubmitted for a change of use instead.
Thousands turned out this year to see regulars from local pubs going head to head in a marathon rugby scrum-style battle to get a 2ft leather tube, known as a hood, into their favoured watering hole.
Usually four pubs take part, three in Haxey and one in Westwoodside; however, only three took part this year after 2017 winner the King’s Arms, in Haxey, was closed.
If the conversion of the Duke William goes ahead, only two would be left.
Mr Coggon has been involved with the Haxey Hood from being a small child. He became a Boggin - one of whose jobs is to ensure the safety of competitors - aged 16 and has been Lord of the Hood (or chief referee) for 30 years.
Speaking ahead of a public meeting in Haxey last night, Mr Coggon said the game was a major tourist attraction which had been televised in over 75 counties and its history probably goes back much further than the often cited 700 years.
He said: “Its timing matches the St Johns Eve Old Midwinter Festival, Blessing Of The Land, and probably dates back to Pagan times
“If you have never witnessed the atmosphere build in the public houses on Hood Eve and Hood Day you will not understand the depth of feeling that some people have for this tradition which brings people back to village each year to be part of the event.”
Mr Coggon believes the Duke William would have been taking part since when it was built around 1730.
And he said he believed the housing plan was for no other reason than short term profit, adding: “There are currently approximately 25 building plots and 55 houses for sale in the parish .
“We will also lose a valuable community asset and a number of local people will lose their jobs.”
He said a suggestion that a marquee could be used instead would not necessarily work out.
A licence was applied for this year for a marquee on land adjacent to the Kings Arms, but that had been refused by North Lincolnshire Council, he said.
His son Luke, who is running a Facebook site “We live here - Haxey” said they would fight the plans on all fronts - via social media, leaflets and meeting the local council and MP.
Luke said there had already been over 40 objections to the plans, adding: “We are just going to do everything in our power to raise the profile and try and get the council onside.
“The pub has been here 300 years and if it were demolished, it would basically destroy the village.”
MP for Brigg and Goole Andrew Percy said campaigners had not yet been in touch but he was “very concerned” and would be raising the issue with the planning authority.