British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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May i.]                              may day.                                      247
that of its rival, the Winter, some years, and now, like many other remnants of antiquity, has fallen into disuse.—Train, History of the Isle of Man, 1845, vol. ii. p. 118; Waldron, Description of the Isle of Man, p. 154.
London boasted several maypoles before the days of Puri­tanism. Many parishes vied with each other in the height and adornment of their own. One famed pole stood in Basing Lane, near St. Paul's Cathedral, and was in the time of Stow kept in the hostelry called Gerard's Hall. " In the high-roofed hall of this house," says he, " sometime stood a large fir pole, which reached to the roof thereof—a pole of forty feet long and fifteen inches about, fabled to be the justing staff of Gerard the Giant." A carved wooden figure of this giant, pole in hand, stood over the gate of this old inn until March 1852, when the whole building was de­molished for city improvements.—Book of Days, vol. i. p. 576. See Every Day Book, vol. ii. p. 612.
A maypole was annually erected on May-day morning in Leadenhall Street, then called Cornhill, before the south door of the church known as that of St. Andrew the Apostle; and, in order to distinguish this church from others dedicated to the same saint, it was termed in consequence St. Andrew's-Under-Shaft * On the 1st May, 1517 (9th of Henry VIIL), a violent tumult occurred in the city, and this pole was not raised afterwards.f The inhabitants had long regarded with much jealousy the numerous foreigners who about that time took up their abode in London! and practised various trades,
* This pole, when it was fixed in the ground, was higher than the church steeple; and it is to this that Chaucer the poet refers when he says, speaking of a vain boaster, that he bears his head " as he would bear the great shaft of Cornhill."—Stow's Survey, B. ii. p. 65; Godwin and Britton, Churches of London, 1839.
t Pennant, London (5th edition, p. 587), says this shaft gave rise to the insurrection. Godwin and Britton deny this was the case.
X Hall, in his Chronicle, says these foreigners " compassed the citie rounde aboute, in Southwarke, in Westminster, Temple Barre, Holborne, Sayncte Martynes, Sayncte John's Strete, Algate, Toure Hyll, and Sainct Katherines "
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