Mud, sweat and tears at the annual Haxey Hood festival

The sway collapses during the 2007 Haxey Hood (D8887LR)
The sway collapses during the 2007 Haxey Hood (D8887LR)
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For centuries, people have travelled to the Isle of Axholme from all over the country to take part in the fun and games of the Haxey Hood.

The festival returned this week for what is believed to be its 654th year, so there is no better time to take a look back at the festival in years gone by.

This week’s Retro Bells features Isle residents enjoying all the mud, sweat and tears from the festival in 2001 and 2007.

One of Britain’s oldest traditions, the Hood is usually held on Epiphany on January 6 with drinkers from four local watering holes endeavouring to guide the trophy to their favoured pub.

The game’s traditions date from the 14th century when Lady de Mowbray, wife of an Isle landowner, John De Mowbray, was out riding towards Westwoodside on the hill that separates it from Haxey.

As she went over the hill her silk riding hood was blown away by the wind. Thirteen farm workers in the field rushed to help and chased the hood all over the field.

It was finally caught by one of the farm workers, but being too shy to hand it back to the lady, he gave it to one of the others to hand back to her.

She thanked the farm worker who had returned the hood and said that he had acted like a Lord, whereas the worker who had actually caught the hood was a Fool.

So amused was she by this act of chivalry and the resulting chase that she donated 13 acres of land on condition that the chase for the hood would be re-enacted each year.

This re-enactment over the centuries has become known as The Haxey Hood with scores of participants lining up each year to take part in the annual mud bath – which can often turn into a bruising encounter for the hundreds joining in the fun.

Traditionally, The Fool leads the procession and has the right to kiss any woman on the way.

Once at the green in front of the parish church, at around 2.30pm The Fool makes his traditional speech of welcome.

He stands on an old mounting block, in front of the church, known as the Mowbray Stone. During this speech a fire is lit with damp straw behind him.

The Epworth Bells is appealing for readers to send in your old photographs, from the 1950s through to the noughties, to feature on the Retro Bells page.

You can contact us by email to, via post to The Epworth Bells, Sunny Bar, Doncaster, DN1 1NB or call us on 01302 347266.