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HomeContentsOnline exhibitions > Homer Sykes: Once a Year: Some Traditional British Customs

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Homer Sykes 
The King on horse back. Castleton Garland Day, Castleton, Derbyshire, England 
[Country Customs] 
1972, 29 May 
Gelatin silver print 
Provided by the artist - Homer Sykes 
© Homer Sykes 
Also known as Oak Apple Day sees this annual custom takes place. During the day a garland of wild flowers shaped like a bee-hive and topped by a posy, known as the Queen is prepared. At about 6.30pm it is placed on the head and shoulders of a man wearing Stuart costume who is led around the village on horse back. A lady in similar period costume follows riding side-saddle and a group of local school children dressed in white follow behind dancing to the village band. Adults take some refreshments at each of the six pubs whilst the band plays the "garland tune" and the children dance. The procession finishes up at the church gates where the garland is hoisted to the top of the church tower where it stays for a week tied to one of the four pinnacles. The other three are decorated with oak branches. The origins are lost in the midst of time but its genesis may be based in the Green Man fertility figure. The present ceremony dates from the Restoration of King Charles II on 29 May 1660 (this area of Derbyshire was strongly royalist in the civil war.) which accounts for the Stuart costume, and the dressing of the church pinnacles with oak branches to commemorate the Kings escape from the Battle of Worcester in 1651 by hiding in an oak tree.
This photograph was included in the book by Homer Sykes "Once a Year: Some Traditional British Customs" (Gordon Faser, 1977) 
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