Yorkshire Maypoles


from The Barwicker No. 35

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The village of Nun Monkton lies at the end of a side road off the main York to Harrogate road and is close to the confluence of the rivers Nidd and Ouse. In earlier times, a ferry carried travellers across to Beningborough. The village has a huge green which, with an area of 18 acres, must be one of the largest in England. A variety of attractive red-roofed houses flank the green, at the end of which a shady avenue of mature trees leads to an unusual church, Early English in origin with thirteenth century additions. The interior has neither aisles nor chancel arch but is decorated with an extraordinary stone-arcaded gallery.

On the green, standing on a slight mound, is a 60 ft. maypole, constructed from a single trunk, almost as massive at its base as that at Barwick. Unusually, the pole is painted with broad green and white spirals, running anti-clockwise up the pole when viewed from below. Surmounting the pole is a weathervane in the shape of a broad arrow decorated with a crown. To reduce rotting, the base of the pole is set in a gravel-lined metal drum set in concrete.

The village green Nun Monckton with its maypole

The well-researched and finely illustrated book, 'The Story of Nun Monkton' by D P Aykroyd says little about the history of the maypole, commenting that "it has always been there and has been constantly replaced whenever the marshy ground has rotted it or some other accident befell". Other sources suggest that the pole dates from 1878 but this could have been the year when the old pole was blown down and replaced. A few years ago the pole was taken down with the help of the army and a few feet cut off the base because of rotting, a practice often carried out in Barwick in former times. The Nun Monkton pole is repaired from time to time using scaffolding and minor repairs have been effected in the past by a climber.

The Union Flag is flown from the pole on royal and state occasions but apart from this, it is purely ornamental. The children from the Nun Monkton School, which stands on the green, dance around their own small maypole at the village feast on St.Peter's Day, usually the first Saturday in June.

The village has lost many of its institutions in recent years. The bus service has been discontinued, the shop/post office has closed and the school is now threatened, perhaps too the church. Let us hope that the maypole continues to stand for many years in its lovely setting as a symbol of village pride. .

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