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.                                      249
at Paul's Cross, persuaded the people that this pole had been made into an idol by naming the church of St. Andrew with the addition of Under that Shaft; and so worked upon them, that in the afternoon of the same day, " after they had dined," the inhabitants with great labour raised the pole off the hooks on which it had rested thirty-two years, and each man sawing off for himself a piece equal to the length of his house, it was quickly demolished and burned.—Godwin and Britton, Churches of London, 1839 ; Brayley, Londiniana, 1829, vol. iii. p. 223 ; Hall's Chronicle, 1517.
Brayley in his Londiniana (vol. iv. p. 318) says, nearly opposite to Craven Buildings is a low public-house, bearing the sign of the Cock and Pye (a contraction for the Cock and Magpye), which two centuries ago was almost the only dwelling in the eastern part of Drury Lane, except the mansion of the Drewries. Hither the youths and maidens of the metropolis, who, in social revelry on May-day threaded the jocund dance around the maypole in the Strand, were accustomed to resort for cakes and ale and other refresh­ments.
May Fair.—This saturnalia was held by a grant of the Abbot of Westminster, " with revelry for fourteen days." It took place annually, commencing on the first of May. The locality was anciently called Brook Field, the site of which is now covered with Curzon Street, Hertford Street, and Chesterfield House. Frequent allusions to the fair are found in plays and pamphlets of Charles II.'s time, and hand-bills and advertisements of the reign of James II. and his successors are in existence.
May Fair was granted by James II., in the fourth year of his reign, to Sir John Coell and his heirs for ever, in trust for Henry Lord Dover, and his heirs for ever. Before 1704 the ground became much built upon, as we learn from the old rate-books, and in November 1708 the gentlemen of the grand jury for the county of Middlesex and the city of Westminster made presentment of the fair, in terms of abhorrence, as a " vile and riotous assembly,'' The Queen listened to a petition from the bench of justices for Middlesex, and a royal proclamation, dated April 28th, 1709, prohibiting the fair (at least as far as the amusements were concerned),
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