Dicing for the Maid's Money Day

Dicing for the Maid's Money Day

Last Thursday in January
In the 17th century, dicing (throwing dice) for money was a favorite English pastime in which large sums of money could be won or lost. However, the annual dicing competition that still takes place in Guildford, England, is for the relatively modest sum of 11 pounds, 19 shillings.
In 1674 a local resident named John How established a fund of 400 pounds, which in his will he said he wanted invested and the proceeds distributed each year to a local "maid" or house servant who had served faithfully in the same position for at least two years. The will also stipulated that two servants should throw dice for the gift, and that the one who threw the highest number should receive the entire amount. In 1702, however, another, larger fund was begun by John Parsons. Today, whoever throws the higher number receives the How prize, which is smaller than the Parson prize, which goes to the woman who throws the lower number.
In the presence of the mayor, trustees, and assembled townspeople, the two women chosen to participate in this event each year take turns shaking the dice in a special hide-covered, silver-banded dice box which has been used for this purpose over the past century. According to the official Maid's Money receipt book, the recipients of the prizes in recent years have been older women who have served faithfully in the same family for many years. But the gift was originally designed for young, unmarried women who might need the money for a dowry.
CONTACTS:
Tourist Information Centre
14, Tunsgate
Guildford, Surrey GU1 3QT United Kingdom
44-14-8344-4333; fax: 44-14-8330-2046
www.guildford.gov.uk
SOURCES:
AnnivHol-2000, p. 18