Since Ancient Greek and Roman times, it has been necessary to have a trusted person with a clear, loud voice to deliver  news and instructions to the population, many of whom could neither read nor write. However it was not until the early Middle Ages, from the reign of William the Conqueror in England after 1066, that a more formal system of Town Criers was recognised.

Town Criers were appointed by the civil authorities, often the Mayor, to keep the citizens informed of matters of national and local importance - anything from Royal events, wars, executions and taxation down to lost dogs, and minor misdemeanours. Prior to the introduction of a formal police force, the Town Crier, being a true, trusted Royalist, was also often empowered to uphold the law. In fact, it was once a treasonable offence to assault or interfere with a Town Crier in the execution of his duty. Often the role of Town Crier was passed down from father to son for many generations, and it was seen as a position of some standing in the community.

Apart from a loud voice, the tools of a Town Criers trade are the bell and scroll. The bell is an obvious means of gaining the attention of a crowd, although occasionally a drum or a horn may have been used. The scroll was a convenient way of ensuring that it was easy to read straight along the lines of a text, by rolling the scroll as it is read. After the proclamation had been read the scroll was often nailed to a post for the more literate members of the populace to read at their leisure - hence the expression 'to post a notice'. The Town Criers trademark call of "Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!" is derived from the old French expression for "Listen!" or  "Hear Ye!". Traditionally, Town Criers finish their proclamations with "God Save The Queen! (or King)".

With the advent of modern communications - newspapers, radio, TV and the internet, and the almost 100% literacy rate of the population, you may be mistaken for thinking that the Town Crier should have become a doomed species. But today there are about 200 Town Criers in Britain, and more in other countries, particularly Australia, Canada and the U.S.A. Town Criers are now in great demand for civic ceremonies, charity functions, tourism events and commercial ventures, where their colourful costumes, imposing presence and historical significance are greatly valued. There are also many friendly competitions to find the 'best' Town Crier! However, most Town Criers will agree that they do the job principally because they enjoy keeping an ancient tradition alive, and consider it an honour and a privilege to serve their town and community.

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