The Mayor’s feast in the Leicester Guildhall in 1680 with bear baiting

A 17th century engraving on bear-baiting

A 17th century engraving on bear-baiting

First Corse – The first table in the hall

The first mess: A coller of brawn, a dish of fish, choyne and turkey, ham and pullets, mince pyes, grand sallet, venison pasty, tongues and elders.

The second mess: Boares Head, a dish of fish, choyne and turkeys, boyld venison, mince pyes, grand sallett, rost geese, venison pasty.

The third mess: A collar of brawn, a dish of fish, choyne and turkeys, boyld fowl, grand sallett, mince pyes, rost geese, venison pasty.

The second corse for ye long table 

English: Panoramic image of Leicester Guildhal...

Panoramic image of Leicester Guildhall: a Grade I listed building

The first mess: A dish of wild fowl, a dish of lobbstars, a dish of pulletts,sturgeon, collerd pigg, ducks, ham and tongues, tarts, rabbetts, custards.

The second mess: Wild fowl, sturgeon, collerd beef, cold pye, pulletts,warden and puffs, ham and tongues, rabbetts.

The third mess: Pulletts, wardens and puffs, collerd pigg, rabbetts, ducks, Custerds.

Leicestershire was reputedly the first county to indulge in bear baiting. This “amusement of African origin” was popular with all classes during Elizabethan times and records show that an annual rent of 20d (9p) was paid for a Bear Garden in Leicester, near to the guildhall.  A bear was chained to a post and four or five mastiff dogs were set on it. If the bear was injured another was brought in. As many as 13 bears were baited on one occasion, although usually the same bear was used again and again. Bear baiting was also arranged at some of the Mayor’s feasts at the guildhall. The Great Hall may well have been cleared for the contest but it is more likely that guests were entertained at the Bear Garden during an interlude between the feast and the desert. Perhaps it was thought to aid digestion! In 1580, the Chamberlain´s accounts show a payment of 4s (20p) given to “two bearwards (keepers) at the Mayor’s dinner”.

Collated by Pete Bryan, BSc, an d researched by Sue Cooper, BA. The Leicester Guildhall: A short history and guide, Leicester. Leicester City Council pamphlet. Print.