Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Garland Day, Lewes, 2019

Posted on by royvickery |

An information board in the Castle states that Garland Day at Lewes, East Sussex,  started in 1874.  According to Jacqueline Simpson in the 2002 edition of  her Folklore of Sussex:                                             ‘In Lewes, around 1875-85, children used to go to Castle Bank, where their garlands would be judged by a panel of ladies, and the best would be rewarded with a shilling; the children had a half holiday for the occasion.  As late as the 1920s, children went from door to door in Lewes in the old way.  In recent years the custom has been revived by the Knots of May, a women’s morris dance team, with a children’s dance competition in the grounds of Lewes Castle and a procession to Cliffe Bridge.’                   The event now takes place on the May Day bank holiday – the first Monday in May – which in 2019 was 6 May.  At about 10 a.m. morris dancers and children with garlands started assembling in the Castle’s Gun Garden.  Three morris sides: a women’s side the Knots of May, the Long Man Morris Men, and a girls’ side the Winterbourne Morris, performed while more garlands arrived.  There was no children’s dance competition.  The garlands were judged by the town’s mayor, and at 11 a.m. to dancers and the garland carriers processed down Cliffe High Street to Cliffe Precinct, where further dance displays took place, and the mayor presented prizes two prizes, one to the best group garland, and one to the best individual garland.  Morris dancing continued outside the John Harvey Tavern and the Dorset Arms until about 2 p.m.

Images:  top, winning individual garland; middle, winning group garland; lower Knots of May dancing along Cliffe High Street.

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