History and Tax: Slayer of the Beast

Originally published on LinkedIn: November 4, 2019

In his 1898 “Curiosities of Popular Customs and of Rites, Ceremonies, Observances, and Miscellaneous Antiquities,”[1] William S. Walsh describes a tax that arose from the slaying of a wild boar.

Between October 30th and November 7th each year, the parish residents of Chetwode, England owe the lord of the manor a “Rhyne Toll” on all cattle found within the district. Two pence for the mouth, and one penny for the foot of each cow. This tax was bestowed upon the Lord of Chetwode (possibly Sir Ryalas Bolton if the ballad about him is true), when he beheaded a vicious boar that tormented travellers and villagers, and damaged property.

Welsh notes that “in ancient times” the inhabitants of the village of Chetwode, which was partly forested, were consistently attacked by a vicious wild boar that roamed the forest and Chetwode area. Strangers refused to visit the area for fear of the rumoured beast. The Lord of Chetwode was bent on ridding his village of the terrible beast and rode out on his horse into the forest. The ballad sung about the event states that Sir Ryalas rode into the forest, blowing a horn, to which the beast was roused, and came out of his den standing stout and strong with bloody tusks. The boar came charging at him and his horse, smashing down trees as he went. For four hours the beast and Sir Ryalas fought until Sir Ryalas raised his broadsword high and swung down to behead the boar.

The village was so overjoyed at the defeat of the wild boar that word reached the King (which one isn’t noted), and the King bestowed upon the lord of Chetwode new manor limits that now included the forest of Rookwoode, he was made a knight tenant in capite, and granted to him, and his heirs forever, the full right and power to levy every year the “Rhyne Toll” on all cattle found within the district between October 30 and November 7. Over the years, Walsh notes, the lord of Chetwode’s descendants, sounding the horn at 9am on October 30th, would distribute gingerbread and beer to boys that assemble at the border of Oxfordshire (excluding girls). At this later time, the toll was two shillings per cattle and swine passing on any road within the area.

According to British History Online, in 1577 a suit was instituted between the widow of one of the Chetwodes and her son concerning their respective rights in the manor and in the rhyne toll, and in the records of the suit there occurs a very full and interesting account of the toll. The actual date of the beast slaying is unknown. There formerly stood in Barton Hartshorn less than a mile from Chetwode manor, a large mound surrounded by a ditch locally known as Boar’s Pond. When the tenant of this property levelled the mound, they discovered the remains of a wild boar of enormous size; some of the bones were well preserved and were taken possession of by the Chetwodes. The proceeds of the tax, amounting earlier in the 19th century to £20, greatly diminished after the advent of the railway. It was rented at 25s. per annum in 1863.

If you want to hold a tax over your tenants’ head, get rid of something tormenting them and have the Queen bestow great powers upon you. No hard feat right?

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[1] William Shepard Walsh, “Curiosities of Popular Customs and of Rites, Ceremonies, Observances, and Miscellaneous Antiquities,” (J.B. Lippincott Co.: Philidelphia, 1898), pg. 836-837.

Published by AncestryByAlicia

After obtaining my Master of Arts degree in History, and working on my genealogy for over 13 years, I decided to write about interesting historical matters from not only my family, but other interesting tidbits as well. I also research and present free walking tours in my city, including "Haunted Oshawa" and "Murder and Mayhem in Oshawa." I am currently writing two books. One is a historical account of small-town murders in Ontario. The other is a historical novel about the Royal African Company's James Fort on the Gambia River, 1715-1740.

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