2008 Press coverage
Mighty Maypole Moves
Friday 8th August 2008
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“Strong gusts of wind did cause Barwick’s mighty Maypole to move slightly out of position, the Wetherby News can reveal. A few weeks ago we reported that some villagers were expressing concern that the Maypole, re-erected on Spring Bank Holiday Monday, appeared to be leaning slightly – not as much as the Tower of Pisa but enough to be noticed.
It is hard to believe that the pole, having been lowered into a deep socket which was then filled with several tons of earth tamped down by a volunteer using a powerful machine, could still move out of position. However, Nigel Trotter, Chairman of Barwick Maypole Trust, has confirmed that the 96ft pole, which is the biggest in the country taken down and re-erected every three years, did in fact move. He said strong gusts of wind during the two weeks immediately after the raising ceremony caused the pole to lean slightly towards the cottages at The Cross. However, remedial action was swiftly taken by members of the Trust, with help from a local farmer and his tractor.
“You will notice that the pole is now straight again,” Nigel told the Wetherby News this week. Although the village’s economy might benefit from having the ‘Leaning Maypole of Barwick’ as a visitor attraction, the Trust would rather have the pole straight, safe and secure…and villagers would no doubt agree with them!”
Friday 25th July 2008
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“Barwick’s Maypole tradition requires that a public meeting is held soon after the Maypole raising ceremony, which an estimated 3,500 people enjoyed on Spring Bank Holiday Monday. The ‘triennial public meeting,’ organised by Barwick-in-Elmet Maypole Trust, took place at the village hall on Monday evening, when this year’s event was reviewed and outline plans for the next Maypole celebration in 2011 were discussed. Surprisingly, the meeting was poorly attended; seven local residents were outnumbered by eight committee members. Perhaps this reflected the overall satisfaction felt by villagers about the way the Maypole festival was organised and run? Had the event proved disappointing the village hall would probably have been well filled by those keen to criticise. Also, although the meeting was publicised, many people may not have been aware it was taking place. “We came to congratulate you on a job well done,” said Mrs Terry Lister, whose husband Denis added: “We wanted to show our appreciation.” Nigel Trotter, chairman of the trust, said he believed the best measure of the event’s success was “the number of people smiling on the day.” During the meeting Nigel presented a framed photograph to Kath and Carl Whitfield, taken after they had finished their mammoth, 80-hour task of repainting the Maypole. The trust’s Chairman and those committee members wishing to continue maintaining the village’s Maypole tradition were unanimously re-elected. After the meeting the trust’s joint secretary, Shelly Vipond, told the Wetherby News that the Maypole festival cost around £6,000, of which £2,300 was for insurance and £1,300 for the mobile crane. However, £5,500 was collected on the day or by ‘showing the garlands’ and, after adding the £2,000 contributed by the ‘Friends of the Pole,’ all costs were covered.”
Crowds attracted to Barwick-in-Elmet Maypole ceremony
Yorkshire Evening Post
Monday 26th May 2008
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“The country’s oldest maypole in regular use is again standing tall in West Yorkshire. A crowd of thousands turned out to Barwick-in-Elmet to watch the annual maypole ceremony. The 96ft pole at The Cross, in the centre of the ancient village, is lowered and raised every three years. Monday was one of those days, and the pole was welcomed back by a special walking parade. At the front were Boston Spa schoolgirls India Wilson and Holly Hurst who, for the day, were maypole queen and maid of honour. After India was crowned queen, local schoolchidren performed a traditional maypole dance. Four stunning garlands, crafted from 1,000 pieces of fabric, were hoisted up the pole, where they will stay for the next three years. The pole has been given new red and blue stripes by wildlife artist Carl Whitfield and his wife, Kathleen.”
Tradition in pole position at Barwick
Friday 25th April 2008
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“Maypoles usually go with May Day. But not in one Yorkshire village. There’s something missing in Barwick in Elmet at the moment. Word has it some lads from Aberford could have it, or could it be those boys from Garforth? But don’t worry, this isn’t a story of rural theft or burglary. If you are a regular traveller through the village you will know that Barwick has its very own place in northern folklore for having what is considered to be the largest maypole in England. But in recent weeks it hasn’t been seen, and that’s for a very good reason. It’s that time again when the 90ft pole disappears in order to be made good for the triennial “raising of the maypole”. The stripes are being repainted, new garlands are being made and the village is preparing for another huge day out, with sightseers visiting from miles around.
The first record of a maypole in Barwick is in a poem by local writer Edward Burland in 1829 which refers to the theft of the maypole by the men of Garforth. In more recent times, the men of Aberford have been known to “steal” the maypole between “lowering” and raising days. Nigel Trotter is chairman of the Barwick in Elmet Maypole Trust and will be at the helm for the second time when the maypole is raised on Spring Bank Holiday Monday, May 26. He remembers with great fondness the days when the maypole was raised by a combination of ropes, ladders and a hundred or so villagers, but, due to health and safety measures and heavy insurance premiums the old spectacle has had to be replaced in the new millennium.
“The former Maypole Committee had done an absolutely splendid job over many years in keeping up the tradition,” he says. “The maypole was taken down on Easter Tuesday and put back up again on Spring Bank Holiday Tuesday every third year. “The whole event had been kept in exactly the same way using ropes and ladders, but unfortunately modern times crept up and health and safety requirements meant that the action itself was not viewed as being safe.” The insurance companies were very concerned and, following the cancellation of the 2002 event on health and safety grounds, there were a series of meetings to discuss what should be done, and that’s when Nigel put his cap into the ring. Now a Barwicker of a mere 42 years (so nearly a proper villager, he says), he saw a way in which tradition could be preserved.
“The traditional way was that the pole was carried down from Hall Tower Field (where the medieval motte and bailey castle once stood) by the villagers and fitted into the socket in the natural limestone in the centre of the village. “The end was put into the hole and the pole itself was then lifted into position via a combination of ladders, ropes and lots of people pulling and pushing. “Soil was also rammed in and as soon as everybody was happy they retired to the village’s three local hostelries, The Gascoigne, Black Swan and New Inn. The way in which we changed was to still have it carried down by the villagers – but use a crane to lift it up and put it in the hole. “We continue to have ropes on it to steady it and line it up to a true vertical though and there’s the compacting of the soil that takes a good half an hour to threequarters.
“We moved the raising of the maypole to 11 in the morning rather than 6.30 in the evening. The children then maypole dance in the field in the afternoon and bring the brightly coloured garlands and fasten them on to the pole. “Traditionally what happens next is that a climber, a young man who has lived in the village all of his life, shins up the pole. His first job is to unfasten the ropes. He then climbs to the top of the 90ft pole, or as far as he can get, and reaches out to spin the fox, which is both Barwick’s emblem and a weather vane.” This year’s climber is Stephen Ward, a young villager. “He’s been in training, in fact so much so that we’ve hardly seem him over the past few weeks because he’s doing nothing else but train.
Word has it he’s going around the area climbing trees and now has a small maypole at his house.” Nigel believes that more than 3,000 people attended the 2005 raising. “Other villages who also have maypoles don’t seem to command the same attention as us. Perhaps that’s because ours is one of the tallest, if not the tallest, in the county.” There are those who believe that May Day is the real day for maypole celebrations, so why is it different in Barwick? “The whole country seems to expect to be dancing around maypoles on May Day but here we do it at Whitsuntide. It’s really the rest of the country that’s out of step with Yorkshire you know.”
It’s Maypole year!
Tuesday 8th January 2008
“The triennial lowering and raising of Barwick’s ancient Maypole will again be carried out this year, thanks to volunteer members of the Barwick Maypole Trust. At 96 feet high, Barwick’s Maypole is the tallest in Britain to be lowered and raised at regular intervals. Now we are in a Maypole year members of the Trust will intensify their fundraising efforts to pay for the celebrations on Spring Bank Holiday Monday. More than 5,000 residents and visitors enjoyed the Maypole raising in 2005, held in glorious weather. The Trust has already booked a sun-filled day for this year’s event!”
Tuesday 24th July 2007
“Maypole Support: Generous villagers are already demonstrating their support for maintaining Barwick’s proud Maypole tradition by making donations to ‘Friends of the Pole,’ an initiative launched by the village’s Maypole Trust. More than £800 has so far been donated, an impressive figure in view of the fact that becoming a ‘Friend of Barwick Maypole’ costs just a fiver a year. “Not too much to ask to help ensure the survival of a tradition which has endured for hundred
Recipes Wanted: Barwick villagers are invited to provide a copy of a favourite recipe which can be added to a recipe book raising funds for the Maypole Trust. Recipes are being collected by local resident Jaki Hampshire and for just 1 you can have your favourite recipe – and your name – included. “Many local people have tried and trusted recipes which others would enjoy preparing,” says Jaki. Her book will go on sale later in the year. Recipes and donations should be sent to the Maypole Trust at the address in the previous news item.”