Getting The Horn
What’s going on here then?
This is Cuckold’s Point, Rotherhithe, at a sharp bend on the Thames near the church of St Mary and the Angel pub. The name came from a post with a paid of horns on it that marked the starting point of the riotous Horn Fair, a carnival that end from here to Greenwich. Carnivalesque events are still held pin the nearby green.
But there’s confusion about the name – traditionally a cuckold is a cheated-upon husband, but it also referred to the god of winter being cuckolded by the incoming season. The story gets more complex when we consider that the Green Man, or Horned God (about whom I’ve written in ‘Bryant & May on the Loose’) is strongly associated with the area.
According to tradition, the fair was started after King John seduced the wife of a local miller, cuckolding him. King John gave the miller all the land from Rotherhithe to Charlton as recompense. Cuckolding is also connected to the rutting of stags, so it may be that this was simply a good place to catch deer. There is still a cave at the edge of Blackheath Common (‘The Point’) on the carnival route which supposedly has a carving of the Horned God at its entrance. It was sealed up in 1905, and remains unopened.
Horns are still a symbol of sexual power, and the English expression ‘getting the horn’ is still very much in use!