Yorkshire Maypoles 'ON ALDBOROUGH GREEN' Back to the Main Historical Society page
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Yorkshire Maypoles

Barwicker No. 31
September 1993

Aldborough is an ancient settlement about a mile from Boroughbridge in lorth Yorkshire and has some impressive Roman remains. lear the centre of the village is a large green, roughly square and flanked by well-maintained brick houses with neat gardens. Behind the houses is the long stone 14th. century church of St.Andrew's with its squat square tower. In one quarter of the green stands an ancient sycamore surrounded at its base by a metal seat. A plaque on the wall of an old brick building on the green tells us that it is 'The Old Courthouse of the Ancient Borough of Aldborough and Boroughbridge at which members of parliament were elected until 1832'.

The maypole standing on the green is about 50 feet high with narrow red and blue spirals on a white base. Ribbons can be attached to the pole and it is plaited by people from the village each year on the Srd Sunday in May. Earlier in the century the pole stood on another part of the green close to the site of the annual bonfire so a move was needed for reasons of safety. A pre- war photograph in the bar of the Ship Inn shows the old pole in its former position, looking rather forlorn in its unpainted state.

The members of the Aldborough Womens Institute and other members of the community produced in 1975 the first of two Village Books as a contribution to the European Heritage Year. The following extract is taken from the books:

"May Day is celebrated in only a few places of which Aldborough is one. We must all be grateful to Mrs Atherley for revising this proud old custom in 1965. A number of overseas visitors were thrilled for they had never seen traditional Maypole dancing before. They danced to tunes by the English Folk Song and Dance Society.

The celebrations began with a gay procession of adults and children in fancy dress and with decorated ponies. The procession set out from the manor and was led by the lIay Queen. She was crowned by lIiss Margaret Green, headmistress of Great Smeaton Junior School who, with Mrs Atherley, had trained the children in the dancing.

The first Maypole was erected in September 1903 and another in 1937. The present Maypole was erected in 1964 by the Aldborough and Boroughbridge Preservation Society, the crown at the top being made from a 1914 war shell. Mr Dixon Stephinson of Aldborough was the inaugurator of the 1965 lIay Day Festival in support of Mrs Atherley's revival of the traditional dancing after a lapse of many years. Mrs Atherley retired in 1972 and the Aldborough Young Wives Group took over the arrangements.

The Maypole was taken down by crane for the repainting in 1975 and that September was reinstated by a team of 40 men in the traditional way with the assistance of a team from Barwick-in-Elmet who have their own maypole which is taken down every third year - by hand - for decoration. It is now hoped to do this in Aldborough. In spite of poor weather, the re-instatement attracted quite a crowd and the Maypole was carried across the green like a giant centipede. At the hole, seven men held the pole, some took positions on four ropes at compass points and a dozen held four ladders, steadied with pitch forks. At this stage, at a given word, the ropes were pulled and the ladders pushed until the pole stood at 75 degrees, when the ropes took over sole control. To the acclamation of 100 or so spectators, the ribbons were released and the village children performed maypole dances. This was a most spectacular sight and the occasion was celebrated by the provision of a barrel of beer and refreshments for the team. The exercise was organised by the Preservation Society.

A collection is taken on the Green each May Day, which is spendidly supported and the proceeds given to the Preservation Society, the Church and other good causes. In 1975, a lIay Day Church Fund was opened with l100 taken on May Day. From 1967 onwards, the lay Queen has always been crowned by the retiring May Queen."

The Village Book contains some photographs of the 1975 raising when the Barwick team directed the operation and Stan Robshaw and Tony Shinn are easily identifed. Tony remembers that they were very well looked after and they enj oyed their visit to the Village.

We thank Mrs Wilford of Aldborough for making the Village Books available to us. We wish all those associated with the Aldborough Maypole our best wishes for future success, with the hope that the tradition will long continue in the village.
Arthur Bantoft

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