Gurning – what is it?

Admittedly, I had no idea what gurning was until recently, and boy was I surprised when I went to do a little research!



According to the English Dialect Dictionary, to ‘gurn’ means to pull a grotesque face, ‘to snarl as a dog; to look savage; to distort the countenance.’ Gurning contests have been a rural English tradition for centuries, and it’s probably no surprise that these have evolved into a World Gurning Competition. They are thought to have originated in about 1297 at the Egremont Crab Fair, which is rather aptly named after the sour crab apple. The winner is obviously the person who can pull the ugliest face.

There are competitions for men, ladies and juniors, and contestants traditionally frame their faces through a horse collar, known as gurnin’ through a braffin’. Apparently this makes it easier to manipulate your face.

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The best known gurner in England is Peter Jackman, who won the world championship four times.  He had his teeth removed in 2000 to make his features easier to manoeuvre.

Check out the Gurning Competition at the Friars Folly Tavern, Saturday and Sunday 12.30pm at the Abbey Medieval Festival 12th and 13th of July.