Yorkshire Maypoles No.6 GAWTHORPE Back to the Main Historical Society page
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Yorkshire Maypoles

from The Barwicker No. 32
December 1993

"Where is this village called Gawthorpe?", you ask. Perhaps one day, Reader, you may wish to find us. If that urge overtakes you, come on Easter Monday when the Maypole Committee organise the Annual World Coal Carrying Championship. Or preferably, come on the first Saturday in May, 1994, when the May Queen and her attendants ride an horseback, accompanied by decorated floats, over a 4~ mile course around the village. Then for the 119th successive time, she is crowned on the village green and the children dance round their small maypole. We were once part of the borough of Ossett. Ye are now described as somewhere near Wakefield, that metropolitan authority being our administrative centre.

What makes this village famous? Why, it is our maypole. We cannot tell you when a permanent maypole was first erected but we know that there was one there on the village green in 1840 because that was the year that the nearby villagers of Chickenley with their friends, the Streetsiders, came and cut it down, carried it away and put it behind 'The Waggon and Horses' public house.

So carried away were they with their success that they let it be known that they were coming to dig up the stump. This time the men and youths of Gawthorpe were waiting. Such a fight took place that many were badly injured. It was only through the intervention of the womenfolk that order was restored. The result of this ferocious battle was that Gawthorpe was without a maypole far 35 years.

In 1875, a committee was formed to restore the maypole and village pride. In April of that year a fir tree 70 ft. long was purchased and transported from Hull. It was then painted in bands of red, white and blue surmounted by a weathercock and the four cardinal points of the compass. Prior to its erection, the argument arose as to where did the maypole actually stand on the village green. It was settled by bringing onto the green the oldest lady in the village. She prodded around the green with her walking stick and after a while said, "Dig there!". Sure enough the stump was revealed. There the new maypole was erected and a maypole has stood on or as near as possible to this spot ever since. The last time it was replaced was 1986.

If you do decide to visit us on the first Saturday in May, you will see what can be achieved when a community works together.


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