The Castleton Garland Festival


 

We spent a lovely time in Castleton during the last week in May. We stayed at the Loosehill YHA which was fabulous for meeting my needs (see blog on disabled friendly accommodation.)
On our last night we were treated to the Garland Festival. It is years since. I have seen. Maypole dancing. The atmosphere was great, with the local band leading the procession.
I wanted to find out more about this ancient tradition.

Oak Apple Day is a special day in the Castleton calendar.

It used to be a national holiday celebrated in England every year on 29th May.

It was a commemoration of the restoration of the monarchy in Great Britain and Ireland, which occurred in May 1660. Charles II entered London, on his birthday, and was returned to the throne. It was also a custom to wear oak leaves which made reference to the occasion of the battle of Worchester in September 1651, when the future Charles ll of England escaped the Roundhead army by hiding in an oak tree.

The origins of the Castleton Festival are a little sketchy. The first reference of it was made to it in the Churchwardens’ Accounts for 1749.

it may have been for the celebration of Charles ll or a festival celebrating the Druid Winter Solstice, or a celebration of the ‘Green Man’- a figure which represents crops and all living things.

The Oak Apple Day holiday was formally abolished in 1859, however, the Garland Festival continued to be a tradition in Castleton on the 29th May each year.

Until 1897 the Garland Festival was organised by the bell ringers who toured the village with garlands and performed a Morris dance.

In 1897 the bell ringers abolished their dancing and it was taken over by the girls of the village.

It was only in 1955 that the role of the ‘lady’ was taken over by a woman!

On this day each year a huge garland of wildflowers is created by the woman, though the men make the top of the garland. It takes most of the day to make the garland and then the procession takes place early evening.

‘Garland King and his Lady’ parade around the village on horseback wearing 17th century dress. They lead a procession through the village of Castleton, stopping at each pub, where the King and his Lady and attendants are offered a drink of ale, whilst the Girls entertain the crowds with their dancing.

The King wears the Garland throughout the festival. The Garland is approximately 3 ft high and is made from a wooden frame, wound with string to which petite bunches of wild flowers and leaves are attached. A further tiny wreath, called the ‘Queen’, is made from choice garden flowers and is put on the top. The complete Garland weighs roughly 56 pounds and is ceremoniously hurled onto the shoulders of the individual playing the King for the day at the beginning of the ceremony, covering him from the waist up.

Girls dance and everyone officially welcomes in the summer, as Oak Apple Day also celebrates the pagan rite for the symbolic ending of winter.

After the Garland has been paraded though the streets the procession finishes in the village market place, where the King and His Lady ride into the church yard. The garland is hoisted up to the top of Saint Edmund’s Church tower and is placed on one of the pinnacles for several days.

Maypole dancing then takes place in the market square.

The last time I was involved in Maypole dancing was at school, and I had to sit in the middle to hold down the base of the pole because I was the heaviest kid in the class!

The King  is ready to have the garland placed over the top of him

The King is ready to have the garland placed over the top of him

The garland is in place,and the King puts his glasses on!

The garland is in place,and the King puts his glasses on!

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One response to this post.

  1. Have you heard of the Beamsley Project near Bolton Abbey? Provides self catering holiday accommodation for people with disabilities.

    Reply

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