The purpose, the ‘raison d’être’ of a town crier, or bellman, (the terms are interchangeable) is, and always has been, public proclamation. The role has changed over the years, as we shall discover.
It is a popular misconception that town criers in our country originated as a result of William the Conqueror appointing proclaimers to announce his victory and proclaim his laws following the Norman Conquest. Not so!
A scene from the Bayeux Tapestry (PICTURE) shows the funeral cortege of Edward the Confessor in January 1066, some ten months prior to the Battle of Hastings. Below the coffin, can be seen representations of two bellmen. The tradition of bellmen accompanying funeral processions was well established by that time.
Indeed, far from being a purely British tradition, the position of proclaimer goes back far into the days of yore in classical Greece, Rome, and ancient Egypt.
A prominent Athenian orator and proclaimer, Demosthenes, of the 4th century BC. fulfilled the role.
Stentor, referred to by Homer in The Iliad, was said to have a voice equivalent to 50 men. From this reference, of course, we derive the adjective stentorian.
Read Geoff’s full article in next week’s (29 May) Pocklington Post.