THE STAFFORD HOBBY-HORSE AND BLINDPETER
Hobby Horses were a very popular custom in the 16th century and early 17th century. They appeared at Festivals such as Christmas, the New Year and May time. This winter hobby-horse was a common English and European spectacle in the Middle Ages and at one time was fiercely denounced by the Church as a survival of pagan days.
Stafford had a hobby-horse as far back as 1528. It used to dance at winter festivals and ales, and was a festive way of raising money from the town’s councillors andrich people – far more enjoyable than paying church rates. The money raised was used torepair St. Mary’s Church. Substantial sums were sometimes raised – £35-12s-10d at thebeginning of 1612 and £30-13s-4d in 1622-3.
By 1638 the custom was beginning to die out as serious minded church people disliked the idea of raising money for the church by dining, drinking and entertainment. The Puritans were especially averse to such proceedings and even if the hobby-horse did survive into the 1640s the capture of Stafford by Parliamentary forces in 1643 and the close supervision of the town by the county committee would have been sufficient to bring it to an end.
Peter Hales (1565-1643) known as “Blind Pete” lived in Tipping Street, Stafford and seems to have been the town musician. He played the pipe and tabor for the hobby-horse and on other civic occasions.
In the churchwardens accounts for 1612 it states that 2s was paid to Blind Peter for playing at the hobby-horse.
In the Mayors account for 1632-33 he was also paid 2s for playing on the election day.
Hemust also be the “Peter Hales, taberer” who was fined 20s for keeping anunlicensed tippling house in the town in 1614.
Shortly after the parliamentarians captured the town Peter Hales died. In his will he left two rent-charges on his property to St.Chads – 10s a year for the repair of the church and 10s for the poor of St.Chad’s parish. But he asked to be buried at St. Mary’s and his wish was granted.
The above was taken from a pamphlet written by D.A.Johnson of Stafford Historical and Civic Society dated 1974-76 titled The Stafford Hobby-Horse