Castleton Garland Day

Castleton Garland Day or Garland King Day is held annually on 29 May (unless that date falls on a Sunday, when the custom is transferred to the Saturday) in the town of Castleton in the Derbyshire Peak District. The Garland King, on horseback, and covered to the waist in a heavy, bell-shaped floral garland, leads a procession through the town.[1]

Garland Day
The Garland King and his consort (c.1976)
Date29 May
Next time29 May 2019
Related to


The date of the custom coincides with Oak Apple Day and it is said to commemorate the restoration of King Charles II in 1660. By the 1960s, it had become received wisdom that the celebration was a remnant of a more ancient form of nature worship, and in 1977 one folklorist—whom Georgina Boyes describes as "a Celticist with a vivid line in descriptive prose..."—declared it to be based on a much older rite of human sacrifice.[2][3] When this was reported in the national media, it attracted the attention of sceptical academics.[3]

Boyes' subsequent extensive research of local records demonstrated that the "ancient" custom was no older than the late 18th—early 19th century, and had grown out of the village's ecclesiastical rushbearing festival.[4] The bellringers of the festival had first been replaced in 1897 by morris men, and then—as the day increasingly became a tourist attraction—by "schoolgirls in white" and participants "in historical costumes" to "prettify" the event.[5] The Maypole was first used in the festival in 1916.[5] This "acceptable piece of 'folk' pageantry" became the new custom, and remained so throughout the 20th and 21st century, with the only change being the use of a female to play the Lady, instead of a male in "drag", from the late 1950s onwards.[6]

The custom

Starting from midday, most of the afternoon is taken up with the construction of the Garland, a roughly bell- or beehive-shaped wooden framework to which are tied bunches of garden flowers. Once it is finished, a small posy named "The Queen", made of particularly fine flowers tied around a short stick, is inserted as a topknot into the top of the garland.[2]

In the late afternoon the Garland King and his female consort (confusingly, sometimes mistakenly referred to as "The Queen", but formerly simply "The Lady"), dressed in Stuart costume, mount their horses. The Garland, which is said to weigh between 56 and 60 lb (25 and 27 kg)[1][2] is placed over the King's head and shoulders; only his legs are visible beneath it. The dance starts at one of the village's pubs (the starting point is chosen on rotation). The riders and Castleton Silver Band then lead an evening procession around the town, stopping at various points, including all the pubs. Young schoolgirls dressed in white, with flowers, carrying small "maypoles" (known as "Garland sticks") twined with ribbons, follow behind; they dance a form of morris dance at each stopping-place.[2]

When the circuit of the village is complete, the King rides up to the churchyard gates, where the Queen (posy) is removed from the top of the Garland. It is kept on one side to be placed on the village's war memorial. The King rides to the foot of the tower of St Edmund's church where all the pinnacles but one have been decorated with oak leaf branches. A long rope is hung down and tied to the Garland, which is hoisted up the side of the tower and then impaled on the central pinnacle. It remains there for several days until the flowers have wilted. Formerly it was left to fall apart completely.[2]

The day concludes with maypole dancing in the Market Place and the ceremonial placing of the Queen posy on the war memorial. Then the residents of the village follow the band back through the village dancing the "Criss-Cross."

Gallery (c.1976)


Constructing the garland


The finished garland


Garland with "Queen" posy


The King in costume


Dancing outside a pub


Dancers in procession

Castleton procession

Procession approaching churchyard gates


Removing the "Queen"


Garland on St Edmund's church tower


Garland on pinnacle (castle in distance)

See also


  1. ^ a b "Derbyshire and Peak District Customs:Castleton Garland Day". Derbyshire UK. 2001. Archived from the original on 24 November 2010 – via Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b c d e Hole, Christina (1978), A Dictionary of British Folk Customs, Paladin Granada, pp. 114–115, ISBN 978-0-586-08293-5
  3. ^ a b Boyes, Georgina (1988), "Cultural Survivals Theory and Traditional Customs", Folk Life, 26: 9, doi:10.1179/043087787798239486
  4. ^ Boyes, Georgina (1993), "Dressing in the past: The role of costume as an indicator of social dynamics in the Castleton garland ceremony", in Buckland, Theresa; Wood, Juliette (eds.), Aspects of British Calendar Customs, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, pp. 105–118, ISBN 978-1850752431
  5. ^ a b Simpson, Jacqueline; Roud, Stephen (2000), A Dictionary of English Folklore, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-192-10019-1
  6. ^ Hutton, Ronald (1996), The Stations of The Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain (2001 ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 293–4, ISBN 978-0-192-85448-3

Further reading

  • Boyes, Georgina (2010), The Imagined Village: Culture, Ideology & the English Folk Revival (2nd Revised ed.), No Masters Co-Operative, ISBN 978-0-956-62270-9

External links

Castleton, Derbyshire

Castleton is a village in the High Peak district of Derbyshire, England, at the western end of the Hope Valley on the Peakshole Water, a tributary of the River Noe, between the Dark Peak to the north and the White Peak to the south. The population was 642 at the 2011 Census.


May is the fifth month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars and the third of seven months to have a length of 31 days.

May is a month of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. Therefore, May in the Southern Hemisphere is the seasonal equivalent of November in the Northern Hemisphere and vice versa. Late May typically marks the start of the summer vacation season in the United States and Canada and ends on Labor Day, the first Monday of September.

The month of May (in Latin, Maius) was named for the Greek Goddess Maia, who was identified with the Roman era goddess of fertility, Bona Dea, whose festival was held in May. Conversely, the Roman poet Ovid provides a second etymology, in which he says that the month of May is named for the maiores, Latin for "elders," and that the following month (June) is named for the iuniores, or "young people" (Fasti VI.88).

Mayovka, in the context of the late Russian Empire, was a picnic in the countryside or in a park in the early days of May, hence the name. Eventually, "mayovka" (specifically, "proletarian mayovka") came to mean an illegal celebration of May 1 by revolutionary public, typically presented as an innocent picnic.Special devotions to the Virgin Mary take place in May. See May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Eta Aquariids meteor shower appears in May. It is visible from about April 21 to about May 20 each year with peak activity on or around May 6. The Arietids shower from May 22 – July 2, and peaks on June 7. The Virginids also shower at various dates in May.

May 29

May 29 is the 149th day of the year (150th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. 216 days remain until the end of the year.

Peak District

The Peak District is an upland area in England at the southern end of the Pennines. It is mostly in northern Derbyshire, but also includes parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire. An area of great diversity, it is split into the Dark Peak, where most of the moorland is found and the geology is gritstone, and the limestone area of the White Peak.

The Peak District National Park became the first national park in the United Kingdom in 1951. With its proximity to the cities of Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent, Derby and Sheffield, and access by road and rail, it attracts millions of visitors every year.Inhabited from the Mesolithic era, evidence exits from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages. Settled by the Romans and Anglo-Saxons, the area remained largely agricultural and mining grew in importance in the medieval era. Richard Arkwright built his cotton mills at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Quarrying became important as mining declined. Tourism grew after the advent of the railways, visitors attracted by the landscape, spa towns at Buxton and Matlock Bath, Castleton's show caves, and Bakewell, the national park's only town.

Tourism remains important for its towns and villages and their varied attractions, country houses and heritage sites. Outside the towns, walking on the extensive network of public footpaths, cycle trails, rock climbing and caving are popular pursuits.

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