Haxey Hood: Bumper crowds as ancient game returns after three year Covid break

Bumper crowds have enjoyed this year’s Haxey Hood as the ancient game returned after a three year break due to the Covid pandemic.
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Thousands of people turned out for the rough and tumble contest, being held for the first time since 2020 after the 2021 and 2022 runnings of the game were cancelled due to coronavirus.

And victory went to Haxey, with The Loco claiming victory in the battle which sees regulars from four pubs in the village and neighbouring Westwoodside attempt to get the prized leather tube – the Hood – into their favoured watering hole.

PHOTO GALLERY: Haxey Hood 2023

The Haxey Hood saw huge crowds as it retuned after three years.The Haxey Hood saw huge crowds as it retuned after three years.
The Haxey Hood saw huge crowds as it retuned after three years.
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It was the first time since 2015 the pub had captured the coveted prize and saw the Loco break the stranglehold the Kings Arms and the Carpenters Arms have had on the Hood over the last decade.

James Chatwin, in only his second outing as the game’s Fool character, jokingly referenced the struggles of the last few years, in his traditional ‘Smoking The Fool’ speech atop a stone in front of Haxey’s St Nicholas Parish Church.

"Remember, hands, face space,” he joked, to huge cheers from the gathered crowds before adding: “Hood lives matter!”

The traditional Twelfth Night contest sees the Hood, a leather tube about 3ft long, pushed in a scrum until it reaches one of four pubs – The Duke William, King’s Arms and Loco all in Haxey and the Carpenters Arms in Westwoodside.

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Prior to the cancellation of the last two Hood games being called off, the last known time the game was cancelled was in 1915 during World War One.

The game dates back to the 14th century and remains hugely popular, attracting large crowds.

The folklore surrounding the Hood is based on the story of Lady de Mowbray, a local landowner's wife, who was riding between Westwoodside and Haxey in around 1359 when her silk riding hood was blown off in a gale.

Thirteen farmhands rushed to retrieve it from a nearby field, but the man who caught it was too shy to present it to her, and gave it to one of the others instead.

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Lady de Mowbray told the man who handed it back that he had acted like a lord, while the man who had found it was a fool for his reticence.

She then donated 13 acres of land on condition that the chase would be re-enacted every year by the men of the village. It's always held on the Twelfth Day of Christmas according to the Christian calendar - January 6.

The hood itself is a piece of leather and the rugby-style scrum that takes place during the game is called a 'sway'. Players can't throw the hood or run with it - they must push and pull it within the sway towards the direction of their pub.

The game attracts visitors from across Doncaster and the Isle of Axholme as well as much further afield, with television crews from across Europe filming the contest over the years.