Jenny Giles is the new Portreeve of Ashburton, the 1197th in the position which dates back to 820 AD.
The Portreeve is a Port Warden who supervises the quality of the beer and bread in the town and historically represented the King in legal transactions, often being the only person who could read and write.
The ale tasters visit the alehouses in Ashburton and give sprigs of evergreen to each landlord who serves satisfactory ale.
The Ashburton Beer and Bread Festival is an ancient tradition with a colourful procession through the town in mediaeval dress. Prior to the Magna Carta in 1215 there was no check on the quality or price of ale or bread.
The procession started at The Silent Whistle where the beer tasters tasted their first ale of the day before moving on the Ella’s Bakery lead by the Exeter Pipe and Drums where the bread tasters approved of the fine bread that Master Baker Ella White had made.
The ale tasters were banging on the front door of The Exeter Inn where Jim McColl supplied the tasters with the second ale of the day. The Exeter Inn is the oldest pub in Ashburton, built in 1130 to house workers building St Andrews Church opposite; it has remained an inn since then.
It is said that Sir Francis Drake was a regular patron of the inn. Sir Walter Raleigh was arrested at the Exeter Inn and imprisoned in the Tower of London in July 1603 for plotting against the King.
With another six establishments to visit the ale tasters had long day. Jenny Giles said: “I am thoroughly enjoying my year as Portreeve and would urge anyone who is lucky enough to asked to be Portreeve of Ashburton to grab the chance with both hands, it truly is an amazing opportunity and one that I will remember for the rest of my life.”
The office of Portreeve is the only one now held by an Act of Parliament although it exists in eight other towns in England.