Wellow May Day

Robin Hood is inextricably linked with the May and Summer Games performed throughout England and Scotland during the 16th century. The surviving church wardens accounts reveal that Robin along with the ‘Maid’ Marian often took on the role of ‘King and Queen’ of the revels accompanied by Friar Tuck and the rest of the gang of merry men.

Sadly these traditional celebrations have been on the decline for many years, so I was thrilled to receive these pictures from Albie of the ‘May Day’ festival in his village of Wellow in Nottinghamshire. I feel it is very important that these ancient traditions survive.

Albie said:

“Basically, today was the 60th anniversary of the dancing returning after WW2. The old May queens were from 1950 through to last year’s representing each decade. The youngsters are all from the village I believe.

This tradition of the May Queen and dancing would have been well known to Robin Hood. There was a similar scene from the Robin of Sherwood TV series I believe. It is a tradition we must keep. So much has been lost, this cannot be left to fade into history, although I live 3 miles from Wellow this is the first time I have been to May Day since 1978 (I think). There were a massive number of people there today, more than is normal/ don’t know whether this is due to the Crowe film but good to see so many there.”

I travelled through Wellow quite recently, but alas didn’t have time to look around. The name Wellow is derived from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Wehag’ which means ‘enclosure by a well or spring’ and this idyllic village has many connections with Robin Hood.

According to the book 'Robin Hood and the Lords of Wellow'  by Tony Molyneux-Smith, its unusually shaped village green holds more secrets than would appear at first glance. Although the green has changed over the centuries, as houses were built and the road to Eakring constructed, his book says that it is still possible to see that its original shape would have formed a perfect triangle - the shape of an arrow head - which points directly at the castle of the Sheriff of Nottingham!

Wellow was given permission to hold a market in 1268 and has one of only three permanent maypoles in England. Surviving records show that a maypole stood on the green in 1856 but the village tradition goes back much earlier and the local 12th century church celebrated this fact, when it recently commissioned a beautiful stained glass window of the Wellow maypole.


Clement of the Glen said...

Wellow May Day
The Whistling Arrows

Ladytink_534 said...

I've always wanted to go to a May Day festival :)

Avalon said...

I agree, it is important for traditions to live on and be pasted from one generation to another.

I actually read up on the May games of the Medieval Era and WOW... those celebrations got quite rowdy!

Clement of the Glen said...

Hi Ladytink, I love watching the various morris dancers and mummers. I actually joined in with some once and they certainly enjoy their ale!

Hi Avalon,
I am fascinated by these 'Robin Hood Games.'

They certainly were rowdy and if you look at the accounts of the churchwardens you can see why! The ammount of beer that was consumed was incredible! So it is no wonder they led to all sorts of riots. In 1578 the Scottish General Assembly attempted to ban them and here in England the Puritans advised the supression, describing them as 'lewde sportes, tending to no other end than to stir up of frail natures to wantonness.'

Avalon said...

Sounds like some Pow-Wows I have attended!

Azul María said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Azul María said...

the pics reminded me these old mexican wedding dances



Albie said...

The Wellow Maypole dances are held every year on the last Monday in May for anyone who wants to go see it. They used to be held on the 1st Monday in May but they meoved them to the last a that is Whitsun weekend and the school kids have that week off as school holidays.

Another interesting legend is that robin made his bows from staves of Yew that grew in Wellow churchyard.

I actually made a video of the ce;ebration but it is too big to post on YouTube.

Azul said...

Albie, you can upload it in two parts

Clement of the Glen said...

Thanks Maria and Albie!

Maria, the Mexican dance is very similar and shows how these traditional dances have a common thread. Thank you for the link.

Albie, if you do get the video on Youtube please let me know and I will post it on the blog.

Anonymous said...

OK Clement, will do. Should be able to sort something over the next week as I am now back from my travels abroad.