For generations, people have been witnessing the ancient tradition of Hallaton and Medbourne villages as they battle for a cask of ale. This amazing spectacle of a local event is always held on Easter Monday.
The famous annual event has two distinct parts. The first is a charity dole and the second is a mass ‘ball game’, played with small wooden casks called bottles.
The event starts with a parade – led by the Nene Valley Pipe Band – through the villages of Medbourne and Hallaton. Locals carry a large hare pie and three wooden ‘bottles’. Two are filled with beer and the third, called the dummy, is made of solid wood and painted red and white.
The pie is blessed by the Hallaton vicar before being cut and thrown to the crowd for the ‘scramble’. The rest is placed in a sack to be carried up the nearby Hare Pie Hill.
The bottles are then taken to the Buttercross on the village green to be dressed with ribbons. The penny loaves are also distributed to the crowd.
In the early afternoon, the hare pie is spread on the ground at the top of Hare Pie Bank. Each bottle is then tossed in the air three times, signalling the start of the competition. On a best of three basis, each team tries to move the bottles across two streams one mile apart, by any means possible.
The contest is a rough one, and is not for the faint-hearted.
After the game, participants and spectators return to the village and the players who put in an especially good effort are helped up onto the top of the 10ft tall Buttercross, and the opened bottle is passed up for them to drink from before being passed around the crowd.