The Wilkes Walk

Wilkes Walk 2015

This ancient tradition has been carried out since the 17th century.  It was once a part of the tradition of beating the bounds of the parish and is included in the charity estate of Mr. Edward Wilkes, founder of the ten Alms Houses in North Street, who died in 1646. His son, Matthew, left funds to be devoted to this annual commemoration to be held in Rogation Tide, when the reading part of the will of Mr. Wilkes takes place.

A procession of servers, choir, trustees and clergy leaves the parish church and wends its way to North Street, following the garland bearer who leads the way carrying an arrangement of flowers and greenery on a pole. Originally this may have been to help ward off the somewhat unpleasant smells which may have been encountered on the way.

At the Alms Houses the choir sings a short anthem, prayers are read in thanksgiving for the Wilkes family and part of the will is read aloud. While this is done a member of the choir must stand upon his or her head, the better to remember the occasion. Each member of the Alms Houses also receives a small remuneration to celebrate the day.

Following this ceremony the gathering makes its way to the Market Cross, or the church, where buns and drinks are dispensed to those who have taken part. Originally this took the form of buns and free ale, but some time ago the ale was changed to soft drinks when so many turned up for a free drink that the beer ran out, as did the good behaviour of the onlookers!