Centuries old Whitebread Meadow auction in Bourne features dragon slaying and morris dancing
A centuries old tradition raised a record £380 for charities in Bourne.
The 277th annual Whitebread Meadow auction took place on Monday. watched by more than 100 people, who also enjoyed some morris dancing and a play.
The custom arises from the terms of Matthew William Clay’s will of 1742, with the grazing rights of a 1.25 acre field being let every year to the highest bidder of an auction.
While the bidding takes place two children race over a 200-yard course along Eastgate and the last bid made before the winning child returns is the successful one.
This year’s runners were brothers Sam, 10, and Oliver, 7, Petz,.
The auction proceeds used to buy white bread to give to needy people in the Eastgate area but today, the money goes to local charities.
Before the auction started, the Bourne Borderers performed four morris dancers and a Mummer’s Play based on St George’s battle with the dragon.
Because Easter was late this year, St George’s Day was moved by the Church to Monday as Saint’s Days cannot fall within the eight days of Easter.
Stephen Knipe, who carried out the auction, is a second generation auctioneer who took over from his late father George Knipe.
Stephen said: “The auction went very well and we raised a record £380.”
The higher bidder was Michael Bennett from Bourne.
Conditions of the letting include not cutting or damaging a hawthorn in the centre of the field, keeping fences in good order, applying two loads of rotten manure, to it and paying its drainage board rates of £7 a year.
Stephen said his dad was auctioneer for around 40 years when in the early 1990s , the change was made to give money to charities.
“People would tell my dad they did not need the bread. They had been to Morrison’s and had filled up the freezer.”
Last year £290 was raised, which went to Bourne Borderers and the Bourne Civic Society. This year’s charities have yet to be decided.
But will the tradition survive another 277 years?
Stephen added: “I sincerely hope so but don’t hold my word to it as I won’t be here.”