The Gilten Market returns to the Isle of Wight

A historic farming tradition came back to the Island this week, after moving to the mainland for two years due to the Covid pandemic.

The Gilten Market was held for the first time at Tapnell Farm on Monday and attracted a large number of the Island’s farming community with plenty of livestock entries.

The Isle of Wight is the only place in Britain to hold a Gilten Market, with the highlight of the event being the High Sheriff gilding the head of the winning beast with gold leaf. The origins of the tradition are lost in the mists of time, but it is thought that the practice may have been based on an ancient pagan tradition.

The market has always been held at the beginning of December to encourage Island farmers to produce top quality beef for butchers to buy for Christmas, saving them travelling to the mainland. If the meat they were selling was from a winning steer, they would display the rosettes and prize cards in their windows.

All the animals have to be weighed on scales from the old Newport market and steers must be under 30 months old and led on a rope. This year the winning beast was a pure bred Angus, owned by Mr and Mrs Jackson of Calbourne.
James Attrill, the current High Sheriff, said: “It’s gone very well. It’s fantastic to have this event back on the Island. It’s such an important part of the farming calendar and an incredible tradition that is so well worth maintaining.

“There’s been a very good competition here today and the High Sheriff, gilding the horns of the winning beast, is something that’s been done for hundreds and hundreds of years. I’m looking forward to doing that and I’m going to be helped by last year’s High Sheriff, Caroline Peel.”

Mrs Peel said she was very pleased to be asked to take part in the historic ritual, as she had missed the opportunity last year when the market was held in Salisbury.

Sam Biles, of the Gilten Market Committee, said: “We were very pleased with the number of entries. It was fantastic to be able to bring our Christmas Fatstock Show back to the Island this year and to have been allowed to hold the market at Tapnell Farm by the Turney family. An enormous amount of work is put in by the exhibitors in the run up to the market, especially those finishing the handled cattle – those which are shown in halters.

“This year’s Gilten Beast was home bred and produced and is a great credit to the Island’s farming community. Many Island farming families have been involved for decades – my own family have been, exhibiting, buying and selling at this market for 5 generations, over a period of at least 120 years.”