Lincolnshire

Centuries-old Haxey Hood game held

The Haxey Fool is charged with starting the game Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Before the Haxey Hood game starts, the fool, Dale Smith, addressed the crowd

A traditional mass rugby-style event dating back to the 14th Century has been held.

The Haxey Hood is contested by patrons of pubs in the neighbouring villages of Haxey and Westwoodside in North Lincolnshire, and can run for hours.

The Hood, a leather tube about one metre in length, is pushed in a scrum until it reaches one of four pubs.

The contest is held annually on the Twelfth Day of Christmas.

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Image caption During the fool's speech, a fire is lit with damp straw. This is known as "Smoking the Fool" and is a watered down version of an earlier custom, where the fool was strung up and swung over a fire while the crowd chanted

There is also a procession around participating public houses, The Carpenters Arms in Westwoodside, and the Kings Arms, The Loco and the Duke William, all in Haxey.

The King's Arms were crowned this year's winners.

The tradition is said to have started when Lady de Mowbray was out riding between Westwoodside and Haxey - between Gainsborough, Scunthorpe and Doncaster - when her silk riding hood was blown away by the wind.

She is said to have been so amused to see local farm workers chasing it she rewarded them land - on condition the chase be re-enacted every year.

The story says the worker who caught the hood was too shy to approach her and handed it to a fellow worker to return.

It is said Lady de Mowbray thanked the man who returned the hood and said he had acted like a lord. The worker who caught it was labelled a fool.

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Image caption Competitors are not allowed to throw the Hood, or run with it, and although the referees - known as Boggins - try to keep order, injuries can occur
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Image caption Villagers get caught in the sway (scrum) as they battle for the Haxey Hood

The main event starts when the hood is thrown into the middle of the scrum, or sway, as it is known locally.

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Image caption The game is played by patrons of four local pubs

The sway pushes through the villages, with each team trying to direct it towards their pub.

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Image caption There are very few rules to the game - but tradition states that "if a man meets a man, knock him down but don't hurt him"
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Image caption Youngsters take part in their own version of the game ahead of the main event

The contest ends when the Hood is touched by the landlord of the winning team's pub.

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Image caption This photograph from 1928 shows children from the parish with hessian sacks
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption This image of the Hood being thrown in the air was taken in 1928

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