Penny Hedge

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Whitby's Penny Hedge

The Penny Hedge is an ancient tradition in the English coastal town of Whitby in Yorkshire.

The legend dates back to 1159, when the Abbot of Whitby imposed a penance on three hunters, and on their descendants for all time, for murdering a hermit at Eskdale.

The hunters were following a wild boar near Whitby. When the boar took refuge in a hermitage at Eskdale, the nobles set upon the monk living there, who had closed the door on the hounds. Before he died, the monk consented to forgive them and spare their lives if they and their descendants would enact a penance.

Each year, on the eve of Ascension Day, on the shore of Whitby, they had to construct a short hedge from stakes woven together, able to withstand three tides. The instructions stipulated that a knife "of a penny price" was to be used.

The ceremony is still performed in Whitby every year on Ascension Eve, by the occupiers of the land formerly owned by the Abbot. A horn is sounded and followed by the cry "Out on ye! Out on ye! Out on ye!"

In literature[edit]

The Penny Hedge legend is a major plot point in the children's book The Whitby Child by Robin Jarvis.