Cranham Feast, GloucestershireThe little village of Cranham in Gloucestershire holds an annual feast on the common that celebrates in its own way defiance of authority to the point almost of rebellion. An ox or deer is roasted for villagers to enjoy during a three day festival, symbolising the village’s retention of ancient commoners’ rights in the equally ancient woodlands that ring the settlement.
Henry VIII is said to have had an association with the place, famed for its hunting, riding there with Anne Boleyn. The roasting of a poached deer is supposed to have been the villagers’ way of cocking a snook at their superiors, though anyone doing so to Henry would rapidly have had no snook and probably no...head either. The roasting of a full carcase is far from uncommon these days, but the public roasting of a stolen beast would have been a rare and dangerous act.
The first year cited for the feast is 1680, but it is thought to predate that. In case the defiance stood them in bad stead with higher authorities a church service on the common became a part of the festivities, and the village church, St James’s , is garlanded during the three-day early August celebration which is held on the feast day of Saint James the Great, and the Saturday before it and Monday after.
More British Folk Customs?