Yorkshire Maypoles No.4 LONG PRESTON MAYPOLE Back to the Main Historical Society page
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Yorkshire Maypoles

Barwicker No 30
July 1993

Barwick motorists will perhaps recognise Long Preston as a village on the A65 between Skipton and Settle, a place to hurry through as they travel from West Yorkshire to the Lake District. A short pause there, however, reveals a most attractive settlement of stone houses and neat gardens, with a sequestered parish church dating back to the 12th. century. In the centre of the village is a large triangular green, flanked with mature lime and sycamore trees, with a war memorial and - a maypole.

The pole is modest by Barwick standards, standing about 25 feet high, painted white and set in wooden upright supports. It has a set of small hooks where ribbons can be attached and above these is an elaborate 'crown' of eight garland hooks.

There is no doubting the longevity at' the Long Preston maypole. Running along one side of the green is the Maypole Inn which, with its impressive array of hand-pulled ales, is well worth a visit. A list of past landlords is displayed, the earliest dating back to 1695. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the name was changed to the Eagle Hotel, then to the Maypole Hotel and now it has reverted to its original name of Maypole Inn.

A photograph, preserved in the village and dated 1885, shows a plain maypole in the same spot. In the inn is a photograph of the pole ill 1911, bedecked with bunting and a flag, perhaps to celebrate the coronation 01' George V. The area around it was referred to in the village as 'The Concrete' and was the site of weekly cattle and sheep sales and twice-yearly fairs in March and November. The present-day inhabitants cannot remember a maypole on the site nor any may time celebrations prior to 1970.

Then, 23 years ago, a small committee of Long Preston Villagers, supported by local businesses, raised sufficient money to have 'The Concrete' removed and the whole area grassed over to make the attractive scene of today. An inhabitant of the village persuaded a local brewery to supply the village with a maypole and the then tenant of the Maypole Hotel to stand the cost of the iron crown. This was made by a local firm to a traditional design and the maypole was erected on the site.

Each year a May Queen is chosen for a day of festivities on the Hrst Saturday after the Cup Final. As at Barwick, she is drawn around the village, with her attendants, in a decorated float and then crowned. Each metal-framed garland or 'bell' is decorated, using strips of coloured cloth, by the members of the women's organisations in the village, sometimes including their own insignia into the design. These are hung on the maypole, which can easily be lowered and raised as it pivots on wooden supports.

A trained team of girls from the local junior school plait the maypole and have become so expert that they were asked to dance before the Queen at the Great Yorkshire Show in Jubilee Year, 1977. Not to be outdone, the boys from the school have formed their own Morris dancing team , which performs at the maypole ceremony. The 1990 event celebrated 20 years at' the ceremony and was attended by most of the past may queens.

It is clear that the maypole ceremonies at Long Preston, as at Barwick, have made a considerable contribution to Village life and have drawn together many strands of local activity. 'We wish the Long Preaston maypole committee continued success in preserving this custom.

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