Today, anyone looking for a free meal could easily be fed by a charity or shelter with no hassle. But it wasn’t always that simple, especially in the UK. There were (and still are) some really odd ways of feeding those who wanted food, and it was, in some ways, pretty similar to Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games, no pun intended. This article highlights some of the craziest ways you could get fed for free in the UK.
1. Bull Baiting
What was supposed to be a simple feeding program as per the will of a deceased butcher, turned into something completely unexpected, and not in a good way. When George Staverton passed away in 1661, he left behind some money so that the underprivileged people of Wokingham would receive beef and leather. Instead of just using the bulls as they normally would, the poor animals were pitted against dogs in a vicious fight that left both badly wounded. And it was only then that the locals would get their free meat. The tradition ended in 1821 but the free meat continued, with the bulls receiving a more humane ending.
2. Cheese Rolling
So, you’re standing near Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester when a horde of people start rolling down the hill like stowaway logs. No, they weren’t threatened or pushed, but willingly flung themselves over for the chance to win a regular cheese wheel that was just sent down the hill. And it’s not just the locals who partake. The event draws participants from all over the world including Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Nepal. As you can imagine, many people are left nursing bruises and broken bones, even to this day.
3. Scrambling Cakes
The citizens of Twickenham during the late 1360s had a very strange way of celebrating Easter Sunday. For some reason, the local church decided to replace their previous food distribution of peas or beans with throwing two “great cakes” at the poor. You can imagine the riots that ensued. Eventually, the Parliament of 1645 banned the tradition due to its disruptiveness and suggested that the church hand out loaves of bread instead of cake. The celebrations certainly became quieter after this!
4. Beating the Bounds in Leighton Buzzard
If you’re feeling for some hot, steamy buns, then take a trip to the All Saints Church in Leighton Buzzard during the Rogation Days. The tradition was started by a man named Edward Wilkes who built ten almshouses in honor of his father to provide food and shelter for the needy. On his deathbed, he requested that beer and bread be given out every Rogation Tide. It was a hit among the townsfolk and thousands of buns were consumed every year, making it hard for the bakers to keep up with. So, the church took over the bun distribution and has ever since.
5. St. Briavels
In the mood for small cubes of cheese and bread, but don’t want to spend your own money? Then don’t worry, the Anglican church in the small village of St. Briavels has you covered. Every year, following a sermon from an invited vicar, select locals take baskets of the aforementioned goods, climb to the top of a wall, and pelt it at the crowd below. Some even use upturned umbrellas so they won’t have to pick it off the ground. What’s even stranger is that some people don’t even eat it, but use it as a good luck charm that they place under their pillows.
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