Bevan Craddock was officially appointed by Penkridge Parish Council in the county of Staffordshire, England, as their Town Crier in 1989.  But during his researches into the history of Town Crying in Staffordshire, Bevan discovered that he wasn't the first Penkridge Crier!

Until recently, research had shown that our Town had two previous Criers, both named Rostance, and incidentally, both related to the well known John Rostance who for many years was Penkridge's local builder and undertaker.

In "The Good Old Grit, A History of the People of Penkridge 1270-1939", author Robert Maddocks records:

William Rostance, 1851 shoemaker, town crier
and
Thomas Rostance,
1892 boot and shoemaker, town crier

As the Parish Council was not formed until 1894, it is likely that William and Thomas were appointed either by the Council's predecessor, the "Select Vestry", or the Lord of the Manor.  Further research should establish this and whether there were any other Town Criers appointed.

And there were - In early 1999, whilst researching through Penkridge's Parish Registers, Brewood Historian David Horovitz found this reference:

Buried 7th September 1650 Edward Davy, alias Jones - Bellman of Penkridge

and again, in July 2001, David found reference to another:

Buried 28 February 1608 Edmunde Wolley, the Bellman of Penkridge

So here was proof that Penkridge was appointing Town Criers (or Bellman as they were previously called) as far back as the early 1600's. (Edmunde Wolley was probably active as Penkridge Bellman in the late 1500's).  Stafford and Lichfield are, as far as we know, the only other towns in Staffordshire where Town Criers date back to the 17th century.   When Penkridge Parish Council appointed Bevan as Town Crier in 1989, they were unaware of any previous appointments.   So it would appear that Bevan is Penkridge's fifth Town Crier (unless someone finds others!) and that the tradition goes back over 400 years and is one of the very earliest Towns to have had a Town Crier.

Town Crier's Regalia

Although Bevan's regalia, or uniform, is traditional - a red and black cloak and cape with gold braid, waistcoat, jabot, red breeches, white stockings and buckled shoes - William and Thomas Rostance probably wore a more sober working uniform consisting of boots and gaiters, a dark coat and perhaps a brighter waistcoat and top hat. We haven't a clue as to what Edward Davy, Bellman of Penkridge, wore for his duties back in the 1640's or Edmund Wolley over 30 years earlier.  Bevan has the traditional tricorn hat but more recently has also acquired a black topper.

The Town Crier's Bell

One thing that all Town Criers carry, and use, is the traditional hand bell with which to summon the attention of citizens before giving a proclamation. So far, we have not discovered whether any of the bells used by Edmund, Edward, William or John still survives, but Bevan now has several new bells, one made for him by Mr Fred J Powell (of Cheslyn Hay) at the Black Country Museum. Another one was given to him by the late "Johnny" Burke, Weston Schoolmaster and long time member of the Stafford Morris Men.

The Scroll on which is written the "Proclamation"

An important part of a Town Crier's equipment is his Scroll, on which is written the proclamation of the day to be announced to his audience.  In the past, the Crier's job was to relay the current news to the townsfolk by crying around the town and then posting notices of the news. To-day, with the advent of modern communications, he doesn't have to announce the result of Nelson's battles or the imminent arrival of Queen Elizabeth I to the town, but leads processions, welcomes our twinning-town friends from Ablon-sur-Seine (France) when they visit and helps charities in the area.

Have Bell - and Travels

Bevan also helps other communities in Staffordshire who haven't a Town Crier and is well known throughout the county for his rural and promotional work.  On the 15 December 2000, he met the Princess Royal at Derrington and in a proclamation, invited Her Royal Highness to unveil a permanent sign naming Derrington Millennium Green for all time.  Bevan had helped the community with the development of this very large project and in fact opened it in the summer of 2000.

He has been successful in persuading several other towns to appoint, or re-appoint, Town Criers - Stafford being one in particular - where records show that their first Town Crier was appointed in 1642 (Penkridge was sporting its second by then!)

There are approximately 200 Town Criers in the UK and they often get together in friendly competition.  Penkridge's Town Crier has attended two World Championships, on the Isle of Wight and in Markham, Ontario, where he proclaimed Penkridge to the World.  He has also competed in British competitions in Blackpool, Doncaster, Shrewsbury and Stafford.  He has also helped organise competitions in Burton-on-Trent and Stafford.  He has broadcast on Radio, appeared on Television and given talks to many groups in the county.

Bevan is a member of the Loyal Company of Town Criers and is proud to continue this Penkridge tradition extending back at least 408 years.

A Penkridge Cry

One of Bevan's traditional cries (written by Tony Newman), extolling Penkridge, is given below:

 

OYEZ OYEZ OYEZ

Hear Ye All - With greetings do I come, from the village that the Romans named Pennocrucium.

This busy village, now a Town as even some do say, is bounded west by rail and east by motorway

It has but little industry or commerce to it's name, but through the ancient "Horse Fair" at one time had it's fame.

For this brought to it's hostelries the famous and the good.
Queen Bess (who slept) and those who bought,
and Wesley preached and stood.

I wear upon my cloak a badge, which shows the Church and Bridge,
a lively, busy market place - my Town, my home - Penkridge.

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN

 

The present Town Crier, Bevan Craddock, can be reached via the Parish Administrator at the Haling Dene Centre, Cannock Road, Penkridge, Stafford, ST19 5DT or direct by Email to: towncrier at penkridge dot org dot uk

The Bellman's Prayer

Updated 30 January 2016

Copyright © Bevan Craddock 2016 - All Rights Reserved.