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Town crier

The town crier was an officer of the Borough court, who made announcements as required by his employers.

The origins

The earliest town criers appeared in the Middle Ages. Many inhabitants of medieval towns and cities were unable to read, so the town crier was established as a means of spreading news, reciting local byelaws, announcing market days and delivering royal proclamations.

Town criers carried hand bells to attract attention, and were also called 'bellmen'. They would shout 'Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!' before making their announcements, 'Oyez' being an ancient medieval word meaning 'listen' or literally 'hear ye'.

As town criers often brought unwelcome news, they needed protection under the law; in fact anyone who harmed a crier was guilty of treason.

Later history

By 1900 the majority of people were educated and therefore able to read and write. Newspapers were readily available, and the need for town criers as local newsmen disappeared.

However, the office was gradually brought back towards the end of the 20th century, though with more limited functions. Today there are around 150 registered town criers. Many are honorary or part time appointments by local councils.

The modern town crier tends to be employed at civic functions or charity events, at which his role is more ceremonial than practical. Many are members of the Loyal Company of Town Criers, and continue the art of the crier at competitions throughout the country.

Local town criers

Town crier costume, worn by member of staff In the nineteenth century, town criers in Uxbridge had a bell and a staff.

The staff is in the Mayor's parlour. The bell is inscribed 12 WH on the metal and HA on the wooden handle.

The names of five local town criers are known:

  • Samuel Powell nineteenth century
  • George King  1850
  • William Grimshaw 1865
  • Frederick Gregory 1892-1934
  • Charles Tamplin 1953-1987

The first four of these were town criers of Uxbridge.

The last, Charles Tamplin, was appointed as town crier by Yiewsley and West Drayton Urban District Council in 1953. His role was to publicise events held to celebrate the coronation of Elizabeth II.

Charles was asked to stay in office when Yiewsley and West  Drayton Urban District Council became part of the new London Borough of Hillingdon. He was town crier for over 25 years, winning 18 national awards. Charles was asked to lead the Lord Mayor's show through London six times.

He was presented with a glass bell by his union, the General and Municipal Workers' Union, for fifty years' service in 1984.

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Article utilities:  Bookmark and Share Print Print this page Last updated: 02 Jun 2017 at 11:52