A break with tradition: The role of St Wilfrid will be played by a woman in Ripon's St Wilfrid's Procession this year

The Ripon City Swimming Club float at the St Wilfrid Procession in 2014. This year's procession takes place on Saturday, August 5.
The Ripon City Swimming Club float at the St Wilfrid Procession in 2014. This year's procession takes place on Saturday, August 5.

For the first time in the history of Ripon’s St Wilfrid’s Procession, the role of St Wilfrid will be played by a woman.

Breaking with tradition, 26-year-old Laura Hodgson, who has lived in Ripon for two years, will lead the procession on Saturday with her horse Dougie.

St Wilfrid’s Procession committte member Vicki Livingstone said they had “no choice” but to make the historic change, after no one else came forward to fill the position.

She said: “If we had a choice, I think it would be best for it to be a man, I just think it is tradition and it is what other people have come to expect. It’s quite a big change when it’s always been a man.”

This will be the first time that Laura has attended the procession - keen to go other years, she has always been unable to make it.

Excited about this being her first time experiencing the tradition, where she will be thrown in at the helm of it all, she told the Gazette: “It is a big role to fill, and big boots to fill. But I am hoping that I can do the procession proud.

“I think we should have equal rights, I know in previous years it’s always been a man, but it is 2017 and I think having a woman doing it this year will encourage other women to do it next year.

“I am looking forward to showing Dougie off and I think everyone will really enjoy the day.”

The origins of the tradition

In 1108 King Henry I granted permission to the city to hold a fair to mark the birth of St Wilfrid, and Ripon has held on to this tradition.