Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Islington Milkmaids’ garland, 2024

Posted on by royvickery |

From, it seems, about the mid 17th century until the end of the 18th century London milkmaids would dance around the streets on May Day with ‘garlands’ of greenery, flowers and borrowed silver plate on their heads, collecting money from their customers and passers-by.

This custom was revived by New Esperance Morris – ‘an inclusive women’s morris dancing team’ – in 1981.  However, the ‘revival’ differs in several respects from the original: a single garland is carried, not worn on the head, and the dancers perform a decidedly masculine form of dance, quite unlike the dances performed by their namesakes the Espérance Girls’ Club, who were taught morris by Mary Neal from about 1906 until the outbreak of the First World War, or, one assumes, the original milkmaids.

The New Esperance Morris carry  their garland and perform their dances around Islington, in London, on 1 May each year.

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