Cabinets of Curiosity 17: Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!
This is Edmund Warman, Town Crier of Folkestone in 1831.
In the days before mobile phones, the internet, television, radio and cheap newspapers, the job of the town crier was an important one. He stood in the street and read out the latest news to the people of the town.
Appointed by the town council, the Town Crier wore a special uniform, rang a bell to announce his presence, and had to be able to read in a loud, clear voice.
"Oyez!" means "Listen up!" in French.
Here’s an extract from The Folkestone Fiery Serpent that mentions the role of the Folkestone Town Crier. The poem was first published in 1839, but is much older.
We sends this by our old town crier,
A man of great renown;
Dressed in his own best curly wig
He purchased in your town
Then did the Crier’s bell full loud
Ring music and resound;
While he, in gold laced hat and coat,
Proclaimed the news around.
In this colourful tale, the people of Folkestone are terrified by what they believe to be a fire-breathing dragon… only to later discover it’s a peacock.
Below are some top news stories of 1831, that Town Crier Edmund Warman may have announced to the town…
- British Prime Minister Lord John Russell introduces the Reform Bill to the House of Commons increasing the number of men who can vote.
- Admiral James Ross reaches the magnetic North Pole
- William IV is crowned king
- John ‘Any Bird’ Bell, age 14, is executed at Maidstone Gaol for the cold-blooded murder of 13 year old Richard Taylor during a bungled robbery. John Bell was the last child sentenced to death in the UK.
The role of Folkestone Town Crier still exists today.