Posted: Friday 28th April 2017
May Day celebrations have always held a special place in the hearts of Hertfordshire people.However, changing communities and the industrial revolution meant that many May Day customs started dying out in the 19th century, whilst some customs had been under attack for even longer. For instance, Maypoles were not popular with the Puritan minded. In 1602, John Brand was arrested for assembling a group of people and pulling down the Maypole at Yardley. A maypole existed at Hoddesdon from the 17th century, but was blown down around 1820, never to be put up again.
However, this did not mean the end of May Day celebrations in Hoddesdon. Early 20th century references mention girls carrying garlands and appealing for money and a children’s May Day rhyme:
“It is the first of May,
Through the playground lead the way
All our lessons now are past
Left foot first and not too first
Oh its nice each sunny day
Thus to enjoy ourselves in play
We’ll be fairies on the green
Dancing round the Fairy Queen”
In Hitchin, May Day was celebrated in style with the singing of the “Mayers Song”.
‘May-Dolling’ was the name of the celebrations that took place in Royston. Townsfolk would parade through the town singing the Mayer’s Song dressed in special costumes and masks and fixing large branches of greenery to doors as they went. However, if the residents were not in favour with the Mayers, they would find stinging nettles instead!
May Day is still celebrated in Hertfordshire, albeit on a much smaller scale than in days gone by. Morris Men, Maypole dancing and the crowning of May Queens can still be seen in local villages and towns today. So if you’re out and about celebrating today, have fun!
The above information was supplied by North Herts Museum.
If you are interested in finding out more about local Hertfordshire history sign up to: Hertfordshire.gov.uk/updateme
Like this article? Why not look at our other news items.