BBC History Revealed
What are Quit Rents?
One of the City of London’s more arcane rituals, the Quit Rents Ceremony dates back to 1211. It sees a token – or ‘quit’ – rental paid by the City to the Crown for two parcels of land (‘quit’ rents originally meaning a payment in lieu of other feudal obligations). There’s just one problem: no one knows exactly where either of the two plots actually are. One is near Bridgenorth in Shropshire; the other was a forge in the Strand area. The Shropshire rent is two knives, one sharp and one blunt, their cutting capabilities tested against a hazel rod in full view of the court. The City plot’s annual ‘fee’ is six horseshoes and 61 nails.
Two knives are forged new each year by the Worshipful Company of Cutlers, but the horseshoes and nails are antiques, dating back to 1361 – gigantic iron crescents lent to the City by the Crown so they can use them in ‘payment’. Presiding over this scene at the Royal Courts of Justice every October sits the Queen’s Remembrancer, resplendent in black robes, lace cravat, shiny shoes and an 18th-century wig with a tricorn hat perched on top.