The Tuesday after the 6th of April sees a very special auction in Tatworth, Somerset. It’s a candle auction, no, they’re not selling tea-lights, in fact they’re not selling lights of any sort.
Rights to Stowell Mead
What are being auctioned are the annual rights to a piece of land called Stowell Mead. The lot includes a watercress bed and a share of a supper of bread, cheese and (you guessed it) watercress.
The twenty-five people involved in the auction who are collectively known as Stowell Court, organise the event. A tallow candle is lit and bids are taken until the candle burns out. The final bid placed before the candle dies is the winner. This unusual auction is not unique (although they were more common in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) one is held in Aldermaston in Berkshire for Church Acre every three years. Perhaps the longest lease is for another piece of land called Church Acre, this time in Chedzoy. The ceremony is said to be an early one dating back to the fifteenth century and the lease lasts for twenty-one years. If you fancy putting in a bid you may have a bit of a wait as the last auction was held in 2010.