Yesterday (Monday 4th May 2015) we took a 5 minute drive to Ickwell, to see the famous Ickwell May Day celebrations on the village green, along side the celebrations of Beltane.
Records show that the Ickwell may day festival, has been a custom tradition since 1563, The festival starts with the traditional procession from Northill church, half a mile away, to Ickwell green where the crowning of the new May Queen takes place. Up until the 19th century, each year a May pole was erected from a cut down tree and placed onto the village green and decorated for the festival, but in 1872 the Squire John Harvey had a permanent May Pole placed onto the green, to celebrate the birth of his son. After the Squire Harvey died, he asked in his will that the sum of £2 10 shillings was to be paid yearly to pay for the upkeep of the festival- A lot of money back then but a small sum by todays standards. Every year, one day before the festival a beautiful bunch of Mayflower (Hawthorn) is tied to the May pole, as tradition. The village of Caldecote, which lies adjacent to Ickwell has had a half day’s holiday for the school staff and pupils, at least since 1864 (when the school log book was started) to go and watch the festivities at Ickwell. In 1911, they were first invited to send dancers to take part in the festivities. You can read more, in depth information on the Ickwell May day history here.
So in the year of 2015, We went along to see these festivities for ourselves. My husband and myself had been in previous years as young children, many moons ago. We were welcomed by lively traditional English music drifting across the field, morris dancers, the Lord and Lady strolling around (another tradition up-kept by ickwell) and many happy faces from the young and old alike. Oh, and an ice cream van. The Village green is surrounded by beautiful houses all circled around the green itself, such a beautiful back drop. There were also lots of stalls at the festival, many selling beautiful home made items to try and buy.
We treated the kids to some beautiful flower crowns and an ice cream each, Ivy just had her milk 🙂 Then we headed off to the arena for a little picnic and dancing. I wore my woven Willow crown that my dad made, that I actually wore for my wedding, but It is just too beautiful to be kept hidden away in the wardrobe!
The sounds of drums drifted down onto the green, which is the well recognised sound that the procession from Northill to Ickwell was well on its way and soon the procession of dancers, stunning music, children carrying beautifully decorated hoops and (of course) the May Queen all arrived for a lap around the arena. The next hour was full of children hoping for glory with the winning hoop, beautifully read verses, stunning traditional May songs and the crowing of the new Queen, presented by last year’s Queen. Traditionally the new May Queen receives a locket presented by a past May Queen. This year was a lady who was May Queen back in 1950. Such a wonderful sight to be seen. I often had to remind myself that I was in a modern world, and not in some incredible time machine taking me back to traditional, beautiful, old England!
Then of course, the festival was wrapped up in amazing style, with Maypole dancing. A wonderful free afternoon that the kids thoroughly enjoyed! We can’t recommend this event enough!
Photo Album of the day’s festivities:
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