Row over ‘re-writing’ of Ripon’s history

'Glaring omission' - Ripon Hornblower George Pickles. (2108077c.)
'Glaring omission' - Ripon Hornblower George Pickles. (2108077c.)

A row has erupted after the new Mayor of Ripon made proposals to change the Hornblower’s historical script, omitting details of King Alfred’s legendary visit.

The Mayor of Ripon, Coun Mick Stanley, said the informal script – which is read out each evening at 9pm when the Hornblower arrives at the obelisk – “can’t possibly be fact” and is “historically wrong”.

The script, which tells the story of King Alfred visiting Ripon and presenting the city with its first horn in place of a written charter, has been branded a “myth” and “Victorian spin” by Coun Stanley.

“The real history of Ripon is far more interesting than the myth,” Coun Stanley told the Gazette.

“It is Victorian spin, created in 1886, a thousand years after King Alfred had relieved London from the Vikings.

“People have come to me and said ‘this story can’t possibly be true’. It is not re-writing history, it’s telling people the real history. I am a scientist and I work from evidence, not from myth. Otherwise the city becomes a laughing stock because history becomes something different from what is true.

“It’s a story that is just not believable for most people. If foreign visitors go away with a story that’s not true, it devalues the city.”

The historical script – which has been told by the serving hornblower for as long as living memory – tells the story of King Alfred the Great, who was on the English throne at the time and had recaptured London from the Vikings, giving Ripon its original Royal Charter in 886.

But Hornblower George Pickles, who will be stepping down from the role next year after ten years of service to the city, said removing the story would be a “glaring omission” and would “re-write the history of the city and the tale I have inherited from my predecessors”.

Coun Pickles told the Gazette: “It is all part of the history and mystery and unqiueness of the city, and I think the citizens of Ripon think that’s true too. It is a great shame because if you take the story away, you take that magic away.”

Former deputy hornblower and Mayor of Ripon, John Richmond – who hung up his horn last year after 37 years of council duty – agreed with Mr Pickles, telling the Gazette: “It is a silly move. This is the story that has been told for hundreds of years and it is absolutely unbelievable to interfer with the city’s history. Ripon needs to be revived and this is just like cutting your nose off to spite your face.”

Mr Pickles said he decided to carry on in the role for another year, after announcing his resignation in January, because “the continuity of the ancient ceremony is important above all.” Discussing his Hornblower retirement plan, Mr Pickles said he would like a ceremonial role as an ambassador, travelling around the country in Hornblower attire.