This film is part of Free

In the High Court of Happiness

Marital bliss is put to the test in this ancient Essex 'calendar custom'.

Non-Fiction 1927 2 mins Silent


The 'high court' in this Topical Budget newsreel refers to a mock trial, presided over by a judge and 'jury' (six bachelors and six maidens, seen in the first shot). The married couples must prove their happiness before the court, in the hope of winning the coveted 'Dunmow Flitch' - a side of bacon. Well-known comedian Billy Merson puts in a theatrical performance informing the winners "the pleasure is ours, the bacon yours".

This version of the Dunmow Flitch ceremony, one of England's more obscure and delightfully bizarre traditions, took place in Ilford, not the village of Dunmow where it originated (supposedly in the Middle Ages). Ilford adopted the custom in 1920, though today it only occurs in its home territory on a leap year.