About the object
The Museum collection includes a model of this local legend – what is your favourite folk or fairy tale? How would it be told if it was set in Slough?
What is a ‘stab-monk’? The story dates back to at least the mid-19th Century. The most common version recounts the death of an organ-grinder’s trained monkey. The monkey bit the finger of a child who was teasing it and the child’s furious father stabbed the monkey to death.
The organ-grinder was very upset, so the villagers took pity on him and made a collection, raising enough money to buy a new monkey, have a funeral for the dead animal and hold a wake involving free beer for the whole village.
This proved so successful that the villagers decided to repeat the event the following year (obviously without going to the lengths of actually killing a monkey first). A plaster monkey was made, it was given a mock ‘funeral’, the villagers held a ‘wake’, during which a man fell, or was pushed, into the Chalvey Brook.
This became an annual event and on each occasion the man who fell into the brook was declared ‘Mayor of Chalvey’ for the following year.
In 1919, the ‘stab-monk’ ceremony formed part of the Victory Celebrations marking the end of World War I. Almost inevitably, given the alcoholic nature of events, the ‘stab-monk’ was cited in a court case. George Holdway, publican of The Cape of Good Hope, was summoned when revellers were found on his premises drinking alcohol out of hours.
The story of the ‘stab-monk’ ceremony was told as part of his defence, as he had called in the ‘funeral’ procession as they were passing his public house, inviting them in for a drink to celebrate the end of the war. Although he had to pay court costs, Mr Holdway won his case.
The ceremony became a less regular event during the last century, and more recently the ‘stab-monk’ has only appeared on rare occasions, usually for charitable causes.
However, the legend survives through the use of the term ‘stab-monk’ to describe any man born and bred in Chalvey, who at some time has either fallen, or been pushed, into the Chalvey Brook.