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Age old custom is observed in Bourne

Whitebread Meadow auction, Bourne
Whitebread Meadow auction, Bourne

An age old custom was observed in Bourne on Monday night during the annual Whitebread Meadow auction.

The 276th annual letting of the meadow took place in Eastgate and was led by auctioneer Stephen Knipe. This year the meadow, off Meadow Drove, was let for £290 to Victoria Cocking.

The custom dates back to 1742 when two pieces of land were given to be auctioned.

When the auctioneer thinks the last bid has been placed for the meadow, he sends two children on a race along Eastgate. Once they reach the finish line, the hammer falls. If another bid is received in the meantime, the children must start again.

The rent used to be distributed in the form of white bread but now goes to good causes in the town.

Before the auction, the Bourne Borderers performed several morris dances and ended with a performance of St George and the dragon, much to the delight of onlookers.

Mr Knipe: “When I looked at the weather forecast on Sunday I thought the auction would have to be postponed as heavy rain and high winds were forecast. But although it was cold it was fine and we had a reasonable turnout.”

Last year the meadow was let for £170 - the record being £340. This year there were four bidders, who pushed the final price to £290, and sent the children running twice.

Before the auction Mr Knipe read out the conditions of letting the field, which includes not damaging the hawthorn bush which middle in the centre of the field.

Afterwards the organisers retired to the Anchor pub in Eastgate for their annual meeting. The charities to benefit from this year’s rent money have yet to be decided.


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