The longest ongoing, unbroken daily ceremony in the world. Big claims from something we had never heard of. The conversation started in the Unicorn Hotel where we had stopped to grab a bite to eat.
“Hey”, said a friend we had met up with, “Do you know of the Ripon Hornblower?”
Our puzzled faces led our friend into a story which went something along the lines of:
Way back in the year 886, before a Police Force, Alfred the Great visited Ripon and gave it a horn, named the Charter Horn. With this, the town appointed a Night Watchman who would watch over the town while everbody else slept. At 9pm each night, the Watchman would blow the horn at the market cross to let the town know it was safe.
To this date, the same ritual has been carried out over 400,000 times, once a day for over 1,100 years.
To add to this story, the locals believe that if the horn is not sounded at 9pm each night, come rain or shine, a ghostly figure will appear in the window of the Wakeman’s House, now a Café, and bad things will happen in the town.
OK, we had a bit of local history, we like that, and even better, a ghost story, ooooooooo, spooky!
We passed the time enjoying our meals, tucking into a bit of desert and a few drinks, catching up and having a great time, until around 8:50 when we walked out to go and see this ceremony.
We stood near to the Market Cross, just outside the hotel, and found a few other people milling around. Our friend pointed out that the benches we had perched ourselves on had decorative horns in their design, further supporting what we were about to see.
Not long afterwards, a car pulled up and parked in a designated space, reserved just for the driver, and the Horn Blower emerged dressed in robes.
At 9pm he made his way to the Cross and blew his horn at each of the four corners before telling us the story of, well, basically the above.
The current Hornblower is a friendly chap called George Pickles who does his job with pride and is happy to stay and talk to people who come to watch the ceremony, and if you are passing the area around 9pm any day of the year, I urge you to stop by and witness a piece of history.