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Strange customs in Derbyshire and beyond: Ran –tanning

Strange customs in Derbyshire and beyond: Ran –tanning

Written by Netta Christie on January 11, 2017

Our friends at Furness Vale Historical society have kindly provided us with some very interesting information about the practice of ran tanning.

Ran-tanning was a demonstration of humiliating public disapproval in response to misdemeanors such as adultery or wife beating.

This was a form of vigilantism where the protestors would gather outside the victim’s home carrying an effigy and causing a loud commotion by beating pots, pans, buckets etc with sticks often accompanied by musical instruments. The demonstration would often continue for three nights, or until the victim had left the community.

John Warren worked at Furness Vale Printworks in Derbyshire and during the mid 19th century kept a diary of local events, mostly in Furness Vale and Whaley Bridge.

Warren recorded that on “May 12th 1854 Richard Riley was discharged from Print Works and he was rantaned from Furness at night.”

A similar custom, called a skimmington originated in the West Country in the 17th century and also occurred in the Midlands, the last recorded instance being in 1936. A rhyme was sometimes recited:


With a ran, tan, tan,

On my old tin can.

Mrs _ _ _ _ and her good man,

She bang’d him, she bang’d him,

For spending a penny when he stood in need.

She up with a three footed stool;

She struck him so hard, and she cut so deep,

Till the blood run down like a new stuck sheep.



There is a man in our town

Who often beats his wife,

So if he does it any more,

We’ll put his nose right out before.

Holler boys, Holler boys,

Make the bells ring,

Holler boys, Holler boys,

God save the King


Ran-tanning was regarded by the authorities as almost riotous behaviour and as the practice was becoming more common, it was banned under the highways act of 1882. It was some time before it died out completely however, being practised during the First World War when husbands were away from home and their wives open to temptation.

Written by Netta Christie

Netta is the tram's conductor (and founder of Discover Buxton). She's passionate about Buxton; its fascinating past and the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of its independent businesses and local artists. She is the person who you will talk to if you want to book a tour or have any other requests.

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