A little bit of Isle of Wight history came to Wiltshire this year when the ‘Gilten Market’ was held at the Salisbury Livestock Market on Tuesday 3rd December 2019. The Isle of Wight is the last place in the British Isles that still upholds this tradition. The market always takes place in the first week of December; the name ‘Gilten’ refers to the ceremony of gilding the horns of the winning steer - called the Gilten Beast - with gold (although we think it is just gold paint these days). The origins of the tradition have been lost in the mists of time; it is said to be linked to an ancient pagan custom, but no one really knows.
For Isle of Wight beef producers, it has been worthwhile upholding the tradition for very good commercial reasons and their December cattle sale in its present form, with its strong spirit of festive competition, has been going since 1861. By holding a Gilten Market at the beginning of December, Isle of Wight farmers are encouraged to produce their top quality beef for the Island butchers to buy for Christmas. This saved the Isle of Wight butchers travelling to the mainland to purchase their Christmas beef. However, this year the unavailability of the usual premises on the Island has obliged them to do just that. Nonetheless, the strong local support for this tradition meant there was a very good turnout of participants (buyers, sellers and their respective supporters). MD of Southern Counties Auctioneers, Iain Soutar, expressed his delight with the quality of the sale: 'It was very encouraging that so many exhibitors took the trouble to bring their entries across to the mainland for judging and sale … and to see our regular ‘Gilten (Market)' buyers in attendance too. This coupled with a large contingent of our other friends from across the water gave the day a real "Isle of Wight" feel.’ How encouraging it is to see these traditions upheld and successful for all those who take the considerable trouble, time and expense, to participate. How good that they remain popular with the many spectators and family members who are involved. Even the animals seemed to relish their role, and the quality of the entries this year has stood this Isle of Wight annual event in good stead.