2019 Byzant Ceremony

 Town Hall, Shaftesbury, Dorset, SP7 8LY

2019 Byzant Ceremony

Are you a lover of history? Are you intrigued by the ancestral traditions in Shaftesbury? Be inspired to join us in recreating the Byzant Ceremony this year on May 12th.

There has been much written on the history of the Byzant Ceremony, some of which is a little contradictory. However, the basic understanding of this tradition is as follows:

A ceremony that dates back to 1364, coming about because Shaftesbury had no water source, therefore this needed to be supplied by The Enmore Green wells and nearby Motcombe. Various gifts were given to the owner of Enmore Green in exchange for the water, traditionally these included a Calf’s head, seven silver pennies, penny loaves, a gallon of beer, a pair of gloves.

A procession would take place every May from the Hilltop town of Shaftesbury, down to Enmore Green, the Mayor would carry a Byzant (thought to be a decorated ornate mace) and towns people would gather along with music, carrying the various gifts to present to the Lord of the Manor.

This year on Sunday May 12th, alongside the renowned Food Festival held in Shaftesbury, there will be a guided walk around Shaftesbury that takes in the Byzant route. This ancient tradition will be recreated but with a modern twist, not only will the value of clean water be celebrated, acknowledging the importance of conserving water helping to preserve our environment. It will also be used to symbolically cleanse and bless key locations throughout Shaftesbury, including the Westminster Hospital and the beautiful open space of Castle Hill.

There will be a stand outside HSBC, displaying the history of the Byzant and how we are bringing it up to modern day. You will be able to speak to our local historians regarding the ceremony and pick up some great fact sheets and a map of the route for the procession. There will be seven ‘silver pennies’ to find around the town with a little history about Shaftesbury on, it’s a great way to teach little ones and adults alike about our great town!

The procession itself will start off at 2.30pm from the Byzant Stand, (situated outside HSBC on Shaftesbury High street) and head down to Enmore Green, looping back up to Castle Green, along Park Walk, through Trinity Churchyard and back to the High street. This is a great opportunity to learn about the history of Shaftesbury, dress up in medieval costume to take part, have some fun and enjoy some traditional penny loaves and ‘Byzant’ brew!

Local resident Jan Klakus runs a Fancy Dress Hire business in nearby Semley called Glad Rags. Jan is offering her fantastic Medieval costumes for hire for just £10, to be organised before the day or on the day at the stall but is also more than happy for anyone interested to contact for advice on what the traditional dress would be like. (01747 850101 or visit her website www.gladragsdorset.co.uk)


 For further information contact Shaftesbury Town Council, Tel: 01747 852420 or email: enquiries@shaftesbury-tc.gov.uk


Photos courtesy of Steps in Time