Every year, on the final Monday of May, crowds gather in the village of Wellow to celebrate Maypole Day. This annual carnival, celebrating the arrival of spring, is a unique custom of Wellow. Sadly, current restrictions are preventing this year’s festivities from taking place. However, we are still keen to celebrate the close of May by exploring the Maypole Day festivities and remembering Wellow’s special traditions.
About the village
Wellow is a village with many links to folklore. Located near Sherwood Forest, it is connected to
Robin Hood as well as the ‘lost village’ of Grimston. The legend of Grimston plays a large role in Helen Cresswell’s novel The Secret World of Polly Flint, in which the church bells of the lost settlement can be heard if you place your ear to the ground on Sundays. According to Polly, the ideal spot to hear the bells was by Wellow’s famous maypole, because “that was where the magic seemed to gather…”
Painted in red, white and blue spirals, the colossal steel maypole measures almost 17 metres tall, standing proudly on the village green all year round. A maypole has stood in Wellow for nearly 200 years, including one to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. The importance of the maypole to life in Wellow is beautifully celebrated in the stained glass millennium window of St. Swithin’s Church.
Maypole Day traditionally takes place on the Monday of the late May Bank Holiday. The event often coincides with hawthorn or ‘May’ blossom in the hedgerows, which is used with other foliage and flowers to decorate the stage where May Queen is crowned.
Every Maypole Day brings a captivating range of attractions which are fun for all the family. These can include live music and entertainment such as Morris, Country or Scottish dancing, canine displays, or falconry exhibitions. 2014 even featured a Spitfire flypast!
Celebrations usually begin with a performance from Ollerton Town Drum Corps, who parade around the green dressed in distinct scarlet uniforms. The highlight of the day is the coronation of the new May Queen, who is elected by a secret ballot of Wellow residents during the village Winter Fayre.
Her procession, including her maids of honour, posy bearers, and all the children taking part, walks from Wellow church to the village green. Here the handover of the crown takes place from the old Queen of May to the new. The retiring Queen is crowned with a ‘forget-me-not’ crown, asking her ‘not to forget the village that once crowned her Queen’.
Wellow’s newly crowned Queen then sits on her special throne and presides over ribbon dancing around the maypole. These intricate dances are performed by local children who spend the weeks prior to the event perfecting their routines.
Dances are interspersed with fun and mayhem instigated by Wellow Jack in his amazing many-layered green coat and his mischievous team of bogies. The crowd must be prepared to face their water pistols!
Once the dances conclude the new May Queen’s procession heads towards the Memorial Hall for her banquet.
Punch and Judy shows take place during the festivities, and children can enjoy traditional swing boats, bouncy castles and games areas.
An exciting array of stalls are dispersed around the green. Amongst these you can find plants and bespoke gifts, including candles and jewellery. Hot food, treats and ice cream are served all day long, with the iconic homemade cake stall in the Memorial Hall being a must.
Nowadays, Wellow is one of a small number of places in the UK where maypole dancing continues. The entire day is only possible due to the fantastic efforts of volunteers. Without these individuals dedicating their time to the festival, this special tradition would not have been maintained for so many years.
This year’s celebrations have been postponed, however Wellow Maypole Celebrations will return in 2022. Next year’s festival will take place on Saturday 4th June as part of the extended Bank Holiday weekend celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, so it is sure to be a day to remember!
To learn more about Maypole Day, and for updates on next year’s festival, check out the Wellow Maypole Celebrations Facebook page, or the Instagram page: ‘wellowmaypole’:
Written by Will Parkinson, Economic Growth and Tourism Apprentice.