“Town Criers – A History”

A talk by Brenda Willison 8th November 2023

“Town Criers – A History”

Brenda Willison, Town Crier of Newmarket, needed no introduction: she was dressed in a splendid Town Crier’s outfit.

She began her talk with some history about Town Criers: it is thought that the first ones appeared in Ancient Greece in 776 BC. In 1066, King Harold gave Certificates of Protection to Town Criers as they often had to deliver bad news and were not very popular. King John decreed that anyone who harmed a Town Crier would be beheaded. Their cry, three times “O Ye” comes from the Old French for “Listen”. Town Criers posted Notices and wore feathers in their cap for the purpose of writing these Notices.

Brenda has been a Town Crier for 37 years. She started her Town Crying career in Peterborough, was 21 years in Market Deeping and is now Town Crier for Bakewell. She showed us her bells: the first was a school bell, the third was made by the famous bell makers, Taylors of Loughborough, and her oldest bell was from 1462. Drums and horns are also used by Town Criers. There are about 200 Town Criers in the UK,10% of which are Lady Town Criers.

Brenda is a poet and has written many of her own Town Crys. She has achieved many accolades and awards in British and World Town Crier Competitions. She took part in the 1993 World Championship held at Niagara Falls in Canada – she won the Competition. She also won the “Loudest in Britain” Contest. Her voice measured 109 decibels – Concorde is a mere 105 decibels !

A very different talk – with no screen – Brenda was very entertaining and informative.

Photo from www.newmarket.gov.uk/2020/02/29/meet-newmarket-town-crier/ , by kind permission.

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