The Penny Hedge

The Penny Hedge or Horngarth is a unique custom which takes place in Whitby. A short hedge is woven from hazel and willow in the estuary of the Upper Harbour. The hedge must be completed by 9am on Ascension Eve and must be strong enough to withstand three tides.

Legend has it that it is planted in penance, in memory of an event which took place in 1159 in which a local hermit was beaten to death by huntsmen after he protected the wild boar they were chasing. The huntsmen received a pardon for their crime on the condition that they and their descendants would build a hedge every year on this day. The instructions stipulated that a knife “of a penny price” was to be used to cut the stems. It is assumed that this is where the term “Penny Hedge” originates.

It is a simple ceremony with two men building the hedge, then when it’s completed a horn is blown and the words “Out on Ye” is shouted.

The construction of the hedge takes place on the east bank of the River Esk just over the railings on Church Street and construction begins at around 8.40am. In 2021 it should take place on Wednesday 12th May.