Since at least the 12th century, every few years, a number of married couples are tried by jury to prove that they are happily married.

The reason for the trials are simple, for those who can prove their marriage is sound are awarded with a flitch of bacon — which is basically half a pig, cut lengthways. Quite a good reward for a year and a day of fidelity.

The winning couples are also paraded through the town to show them off to the rest of the populace, before swearing an oath and being rewarded with their bacon.

The trials used to take place in a number of towns around England, but now take place in just one town just outside London.

And the trials are open the public to attend.

A common claim of the origin of the Dunmow Flitch Trial dates back to 1104. Lord of the Manor Reginald Fitzwalter and his wife dressed themselves as humble folk and begged blessing of the Prior a year and a day after marriage.

The Prior, impressed by their devotion bestowed upon them a Flitch of Bacon. Upon revealing his true identity, Fitzwalter gave his land to the Priory on the condition a Flitch should be awarded to any couple who could claim they were similarly devoted.

(The problem that a lord could never have impersonated a serf in the 12th century due to the massive differences in language and accent shall be overlooked)

And every few years since then, the couples have been tested, and where merited a flitch awarded.

A reference to The Dunmow Flitch can even be found in The Wife of Bath’s Tale within Chaucer’s 14th century Canterbury Tales.

dunmow-flitch-chairs

The modern trials now take place every four years, and take the form of a court presided over by a Judge, with Counsel representing the claimants and Opposing Counsel representing the donors of the Flitch of Bacon, together with a Jury of 6 maidens and 6 bachelors to pass judgement.

Those who cannot prove their fidelity, get a gammon. in 2012, the last time the trials took place, four couples won the bacon, and one walked away with the gammon.

Those who wish to attend this most curious of English tradition and be witness to the couples defending their honour versus the bacon donors wanting to keep their meat — then tickets have to be bought in advance.

To order tickets, download this order form, and send them a cheque in the post.

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3 comments
  1. Christine Hockham says:

    Can you confirm the date of the trials please – can’t seem to see it in the information.
    Thanks
    Christine Hockham

  2. MP in Colorado says:

    What a delightful event. Thank you for listing this, and for teaching me about a flitch of bacon, a gammon (not a bad second place prize) , and a poem about happy marriage. Terrific stuff.
    MP

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