Garland Day – Castleton.
In the small Derbyshire village of Castleton a celebration is held every year which dates back many hundreds of years. The Garland day is held on the 29th of May each year unless this date clashes with a Sunday, if that is the case the celebrations take place on the Saturday.
Initially the event was thought to celebrate some sort of fertility ritual, then over the years it has under gone a metamorphosis whereby now its is a celebration to commemorate the restoration of Charles the Second. This is the reason that the celebration takes place on Oak Apple Day and the Garland is thought to represent the Oak tree which Charles the Second hid in after the Batlle of Worcester.
From midday and throughout the afternoon of Garland Day the Garland is constructed, this takes the shape of a beehive and is constructed from wood until a frame is created, then flowers are attached to create a bell shaped appearance, this is then crowned by what is called “the Queen” which consists of a posy of finer flowers attached to the end of a stick, this is then placed down the centre of the beehive shaped Garland to create a top knot to the arrangement.
In the late afternoon the Garland King dressed in his Stuart uniform has the garland lowered over him while he is on horseback so that only his legs are showing, the weight of the Garland is between 25-27 Kg so it must be heavy and uncomfortable to carry this burden. The female Consort also dressed in Stuart period clothing also mounts her horse to accompany the Garland King they then lead a procession which includes the Castleton Silver Band along with many members of the public which proceed to visit many of the pubs along the route of the procession.
The procession is also followed by young school girls dressed in white who perform a type of Morris dance at each place the procession stops at. When the procession has completed a circuit of the town the Garland King makes his way to the churchyard gates where the posy from the top of the Garland is removed, this is later placed on top of the town’s war memorial. After this is done the King makes his way to the base of the tower of St Edmunds church where a rope has been left hanging from the top of the tower, the Garland is then hoisted to the top of the tower and placed on the central pinnacle, the other surrounding pinnacles have been decorated previously with leafy branches.
The Garland is left in place for a couple of days and is then removed from the top of the church tower, previously it was left in place until it fell apart. Garland Day ends with Morris Dancing in the market place and the ceremonial placing of the Queen’s posy on the War Memorial.
All photographs on this web page are reproduced with courtesy of Simon Garbutt.