May Day Celebrations in Brailes, 1906

May Day Celebrations in Brailes.
Warwickshire County Record Office reference PH1035/B5193.

This photograph shows the importance of the May Day celebrations in the cultural life of this village. This was a very old custom whose origins are believed to be pagan but which was absorbed into Christian tradition. It was celebrated in villages in Warwickshire and beyond. Very elaborate arrangements of flowers, notably May garlands were a defining characteristic of the occasion, as was the young girls dressed in white with flowers in their hair and carrying bunches or baskets of flowers.

Crowning of a May Queen

Central to the occasion was dancing around a maypole as was the crowning of a May Queen. In 1906, the May Queen of Brailes was Emma Harriet Mumford who was 12 years old at the time. She later left the village to work as an assistant-cook in Shipston-on-Stour. Her mother, Harriet was the midwife in the village and she lived to be 100 years old.

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