Remember when: May Day - In times gone by

Doris Pemberton was crowned May Queen in 1914

Doris Pemberton was crowned May Queen in 1914

First published in News

THE highly-anticipated 150th May Day is fast approaching and it is only a matter of weeks before thousands descend on Knutsford to celebrate the momentous occasion.

the run-up to the festival, The Guardian will be taking a look back at its predecessor’s coverage of another landmark in the history of Knutsford’s May Day– the Golden Jubilee Year of 1914 – a poignant year for town and country.

With the help of resident and history enthusiast Mary Gracie, we will be bringing you excerpts from century-old articles dedicated to the festival build-up and day itself.

This week, we look at where it all began and how the year of its inception was viewed by Knutsfordians in 1914:

Excerpt taken from The Guardian, Friday May 1 1914

Knutsford’s May Festival
The Jubilee Year: Brief Retrospect
By Eric Barlow

 

Knutsford today is bright and hopeful, and men, women and children – especially those who are proud to be called natives – are happy and full of eager anticipation to witness the fiftieth anniversary of the crowning of the May Queen.

We say the natives are happy. There is a marked distinction between the one who has lived all his or her life in pastoral Knutsford and one who has come into the place because his bread and butter are here. There is a particular reason for the high enthusiasm of the native as April of many weathers slips down the hill of time and May – the month of blossoms – peeps up and comes to the front, for their forbears were charged with the same enthusiasm as they, while many of their relatives have been the person of great importance in the great day’s event, having had for the day the regal honours thrust upon them.

But, after all, at such times the natives are glad of the sympathy and encouragement of the “intruders” and the two sections of the inhabitants join hands in joyfully maintaining Knutsford’s reputation as a town where pageantry is seen at its best on May 1st.

It is on record that Adam Martindale, a vicar of Rostherne, was grievously offended by the erection of a May-pole in his parish, and his wife for ever ended the May Day revels in that particular parish by cutting down the pole. Sometime after a May festival began at Arley, and it was a feature of Cheshire for many years. The Egerton Warburtons, of Arley Hall, gave the festival every encouragement until it grew so popular that crowds poured in from neighbouring towns, and so much wanton damage was done to the well-kept estate that the influence of the Egerton Warburton family was eventually withdrawn, and a few years later the Arley festival was given up.


IN THE BEGINNING
It was in 1864 that Knutsford began its May festival, and no one at that time could have dreamt of the popularity it was to rest on during succeeding years. The Misses Clowes, daughters of Mr Clowes, the then vicar, Mr Clarke, who was at that time a bank clerk, and Mr J.D. Crosfield, who was in charge of the old Parochial School, were the moving spirits. It was then a very simple affair. Though forty-nine years have slipped by, Knutsford is still the same old place. Not a big amount of progress has been made, if we except the festival.

We still have the same narrow streets, the same black-and-white and thatched roofed cottages and shops, with the tiny poky windows, the cobbled streets and passages and the spacious Heath. What indeed have passed away are the fashions. Could some of the veterans be garbed in the styles of 1864 or thereabouts we would indeed have a festival which would vividly recall the days when Knutsford was just fifty years younger than she is to-day, when the crowning of the May Queen was really a children’s festival, and when there was not a quarter of the elaborate ceremonial with which the proceedings of today are interested. The ancients of the place are not at all struck by the high ritualism which now takes place on the Heath. Here, indeed, Knutsford has actually marched with the times and made the progress which increasing popularity and wealth have demanded.

NEXT WEEK: Alterations and Improvements, Selection of the Queen, and Development of Pageantry
 

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