Notes by Janet Woodall
John Izzard Pryor, squire of Clay Hall wrote in his diary on the day after the 1848 riot in Walkern that ?It has been an old custom to go to the house of a notorious character with rough music, as they call it.?
Rough music, the clattering of pots and pans, was the accompaniment to Walkern?s Cuckold Riding, itself a version of Ran Tanning or the Skimmington Ride (an event captured in Thomas Hardy?s Mayor of Casterbridge as the Skimmity Ride). It?s a public demonstration of moral disapproval designed to humiliate someone considered to have violated the standards of the rest of the community. Common during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
It usually involved exposing the subject or their effigy to ridicule on a cart, or on the back of a horse or donkey, with the noisy parade passing through the neighbourhood serving as a punishment to the offender and a warning to others to abide by community values.
Descriptions of Walkern’s ‘Cuckold Riding’ event emerged during the subsequent trial. The ceremony involved the dragging by ropes of a cart through the village High Street on board of which there were two men, one dressed as a woman. As the cart progressed through the village the ‘man’ aboard the cart would pretend to ravage the ‘woman’, whilst the hundreds of spectators would line the street and cheer them through, whilst banging pots and pans.