Pig Face Day, GloucestershireIn 1050 a handsome Saxon Lord, Brittic (or Brictric, spelling being optional in those days) of Avening was sent as envoy to Flanders by Edward the Confessor. There the future wife of William the Conqueror, Matilda, fell for him, but the married Brittic rebuffed her. After the Conquest, the scorned Matilda had her revenge: the Saxon had his lands seized and he was imprisoned in a dungeon in Worcester, dying shortly afterwards of natural causes – well, probably poisoning, but anyway poisoning is a perfectly natural death for someone who has annoyed a medieval Queen.
Later in life Matilda was overcome with remorse, and paid for The Church of the Holy Cross at Avening to be built as a penance for her sins. When it was completed the builders were regaled with a feast at which Matilda served them that standby of all medieval feasts, at least in Hollywood, boar’s head.
To this day the village remembers the foundation with a celebration in the village hall on the first Sunday after September 14 (Holy Cross Day). Celebrations of pig-face day are perhaps more muted now than in past times – at the end of the 17th century local cleric George Bull tried to suppress the event as it led to abuses and excesses in the village.
Traditionally ‘pig-face’ sandwiches are served at the gathering, and the same delicacy will also be found in the pubs in the district.
More British Folk Customs?