Tales from End to End
The Gad Whip’s Tale
by Ian Robinson
What was it that caused riots in the streets of the small market town of Caistor and led to questions being raised in Parliament about this ‘disgraceful public disorder’?
The answer lies in a glass case inside Caistor Parish Church. It is the famous Gad Whip, consisting of a stock, six feet in length and a lash of seven feet one inch. The whip has a leather purse attached to the stock which would have contained 30 silver coins, reminiscent of the thirty pieces of silver Judas received for his betrayal of Jesus.
One of these, a penny of the reign of Edward I, may be seen near the whip.
Attached to the stock are three pieces of wych elm – although there were supposed to be four of different lengths – perhaps representing the four gospels.
The purpose of the whip was connected to a strange Palm Sunday ritual, when rent was paid for land at Raventhorpe, near Broughton. Every year on this day, the tenant of this land, which belonged to the Lord of the Manor of Hundon, had to provide a whip and send it with a man to Caistor Church. During the reading of the first lesson at Matins, the man cracked the whip three times in the church porch. At the beginning of the reading of the second lesson, the whip was waved three times over the head of the clergyman and held there until the end of the reading when the lash was folded around the stock and the whip deposited in the pew belonging to the Lord of the Manor of Hundon. And all the while the streets were packed with rowdy onlookers – hardly conducive to divine worship!
Why this ceremony ever begun in the first place is a bit vague – but it is suggested that the tenant of the land accidentally killed a lad whom he caught trespassing on the land. In anger he lashed out with his riding crop, killing the youth and as an act of penance, instigated this strange ceremony.
The Whip went out of use in 1846 when the land at Broughton changed hands.
Rev Ian Robinson is Vicar of the Caistor Group of Parishes.