Hallaton Hare Pie Scramble & Bottle Kicking

At Hallaton, Leicestershire, every Easter Monday, a Hare Pie is baked is cut up into pieces and put into sacks which are carried around the village at the head of a procession (nowadays led by two officials in medieval costume: a man with a statue of a hare on top of a pole, and his buxom consort who carries a basket of buns). Behind the pie, three ‘bottles’ (small barrels once used to carry beer to workers in the fields) are carried, held aloft by three burly men in their right hands. The scraps of pie are thrown to (or at) the crowd – part (formerly?) at the churchyard gates, part at the top of Hare Pie Hill.

Then the first barrel is thrown up to start the Bottle Kicking, a wild, anarchic, freestyle football match between Hallaton and the neighbouring village of Medbourne (in other words any player not from Hallaton) for the possession of two of three small barrels. The goals are the far banks of the two streams that flow at the base of the hill, one in the direction of Hallaton, the other (rather further away) towards Medbourne.

Although it takes place on Easter Monday, the Hare Pie Scramble is clearly related to the once-widespread Shrovetide football matches, such as those still found at Ashbourne, Derbyshire (on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday), the Shrove Tuesday Sedgefield Ball Game, County Durham, and the various Ba’ games in Scotland (where they usually take place at Christmas or New Year). The remarkable (and unique) Haxey Hood Game that takes place on  January 6th (or 5th), in Haxey, north Lincolnshire, is also related, as is the Cornish game of Hurling the Silver Ball at St Columb Major (on Shrove Tuesday and the second Saturday following).

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