Merrily walking along Tonbridge High Street, this afternoon, despite the pouring rain, was a Town Crier, reminiscent of England in the 17th Century, even more surprising, as Tonbridge doesn’t even have its own town crier. According to Tonbridge & Malling Council Borough today ‘there isn’t one on the payroll’.
I set off to investigate and find out, what was he was up to roaming Tonbridge streets in the 21st century.
Over a coffee at The Castle Pub, just by the river Medway, Tony Appleton, of Great Baddow, Lord of the Manor, set out to explain. He was quite glad to get out of the rain.
He was promoting ‘Showucare’ a show guide being held at the Rivercentre in Tonbridge today. The exhibition include services involved in social care such as
Kent Mobility, Royal College of Nursing, and MIND.
He said he had been a town crier all round the round for over seventeen years, ever since someone said ‘he looked like one’. In April, he took part with Simon Cowell in the opening ceremony of Britain’s Got Talent. He has met over 2000 celebrities in the course of his career.
Town Criers have been around since 1066 and at the proclamation of Agincourt. Before people could read, they would have a town crier and would bring messages from the King and of wars though they did not bring celebrity gossip.. The first Town Criers emed “Oyez Oyez Oyez” (which is “listen” in French) and conclude with “God save the Queen”
Costumes have changed over the years. Asked if the costumes will change in the future to fit the 21st Century, Tony Appleton said ‘I hope not.’
He walked around Tonbridge today for about three hours and keeps fit by swimming twenty lengths a day and using an exercise bike. ‘Town Criers have to have stamina’.
Several tourists badgered him with questions on the way and many Tonbridge locals thought he was ‘from the council’ (he is not employed by them) and had good old moan at him about the out-of-place tower block planning to be constructed by the town centre. ‘What will you do about it?’ they said. ‘Not a lot!’.
Tony Appleby’s other sidelines include being a Toastmaster and an Elvis Singer. He is also planning to launch a book about his experiences in the future ‘Shooting the Stars’.