Britain is often regarded as being one of the major influencers in the world over the last 500 years – not always for good reasons one must note. Still seen across the world as a country of tea drinkers and cricket enthusiasts who love to queue and talk about the weather, Britain has a long history with many strange and wonderful traditions that still take place. So we decided it was high time we looked at the less conventional everyday aspects of Britain…and looked instead at some of the weird and wonderful things that you can see which take place during the year. So without further ado…this is Bizarre Britain!
Bizarre Britain Number 1: The Pearly Kings and Queens
Ever seen a Pearly King or Queen? Have any idea what one is? Nope – well in the 19th century a street sweeper went around the streets collecting money for charity. What was unusual about this? Well – he was wearing a suit covered in pearl buttons. The tradition spread and more and more Pearly Kings and Queens started to help out and from there the Pearly Kings and Queens were born. Today, each year in September the Pearly kings and Queens of London raise money for charity and head to the Pearly Kings and Queens Harvest Festival donning their suits covered in bright pearl buttons.
Bizarre Britain Number 2: Black Rod and the State Opening of Parliament
The State Opening of Parliament sounds like a big deal and it is. It is effectively the beginning of the parliamentary session for the year ahead. During this time, the Government sets out their legislative agenda for the next year. After a formal procession involving the Queen being taken from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster where she delivers a speech from the House of Lords to both Houses of Parliament (monarchs are not permitted in the Commons when it is sitting since King Charles I attempted to arrest members of the house). There is lots of pomp and ceremony throughout but one of the strangest points comes when the Black Rod (a senior office of the palace) is called to summon the members of the House of Commons to the Lords. Black Rod proceeds with his/her rod to the Commons where the doors of the Commons are slammed in their face. They then proceed to bang upon the doors with the black rod to summon the members of the house to the Lords. All very dramatic.
Bizarre Britain Number 3: Coopers Hill Cheese Rolling
Cheese Rolling? Yes, that’s right it doesn’t need much explanation – a large round of cheese is rolled from the top of the hill to the bottom and a number of people chase after it. Whoever crosses the finish line first wins and keeps the cheese. It has been running since the 1800’s and is still running today. Technically, however, it was cancelled in 2010 due to the safety risks involved. Since then it is still taking place but without the same event management in place.
Bizarre Britain Number 4: Mother Shipton’s Cave
When you hear of a Petrifying Well you might think you’ve walked into something out of Harry Potter but indeed in North Yorkshire you can visit Mother Shipton’s Cave and it’s petrifying well. The water in the well contains various minerals that cause items over time to turn to stone. Sounds just like magic! Well close enough.
Bizarre Britain Number 5: World Hen Racing Championship
That’s right…we said Hen. Every year (for the last 30 years) Bonsall in Derbyshire is host to the World Hen Racing Championships. It takes place at a local village pub with many people visiting to watch or take part in the races. The hens race over a 15 metre track (though not all of them race…some just stand still…others sit down) with a winner being crowned each year. The hens are egged on (pun intended) by the crowd and encouraged to the finish line by various means including banging tins!
Well, that’s all from us on Bizarre Britain. There are many other bizarre events that take place over a year so head to Google for some more ideas.
For more in our series of blogs click here.