Custom demised: Winning the cock, Horsted Keynes, Sussex

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Horsted Keynes - Then and Now pictures

Sometimes a calendar custom is restricted to a single county or a village in that county in this case it appears to be one farm!

An article from a 1927 copy of the Sussex County Magazine stated that this custom was associated with the beginning of the ploughing season in January. This was called known as ‘winning the cock’. The account reads:

“This too place on the first Monday in the year, when spring ploughing began. The carter’s boy had to bring his whip into the kitchen on that day between sunrise and sunset and thrash the table well, counting from one to nine while doing so”

It would seem that this was probably arose as a sort of first footing game:

“If he could do this three times, and get in and out of the house without having water thrown of him he had ‘won the cock’ “

The author relating

“ Well do I remember the bowl of water that was kept ready, but only once was the lad successful. He was then solemnly presented with three shillings and sixpence, which he transferred to his pocket with great air of satisfaction.”

When the custom ceased is unclear, the correspondent states that he remembered it from his childhood but it is unclear how old they were. In a way it is similar to the Jack of Hilton so it suggests it may have more provenance that a private custom! Sadly we may never know. Especially as the author fails to mention the farm…so perhaps the custom continues at that farm..and we never know!

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