Garland Day approaches in Lewes

Garland Day, Lewes. May Day celebrations at Lewes Castle
Garland Day, Lewes. May Day celebrations at Lewes Castle

Lewes is a town famous for its colourful processions, and way up there with the best of them is the tradional Garland Day.

This annual celebration will take place on Bank Holiday Monday, May 6, featuring the The Knots of May dancers with their guests Long Man Morris Men and Plumpton Black Brook Morris.

The children of Lewes and surrounding villages are invited to present garlands made of fresh flowers at the Gun Garden, Lewes Castle, at 10am.

There the Mayor of Lewes, Cllr Michael Chartier, and the Chair of Lewes District Council, Cllr Tony Nicholson, will judge the floral creations while the dancers entertain the assembled crowd.

At 11am the dancers and their musicians, children and judges will process down the High Street to the Cliffe Precinct where the winners will be announced and prizes and certificates presented. This is followed by more dancing in the precinct, and then a visit to two Lewes pubs, The John Harvey Tavern at 12.15pm and The Dorset at 1.15pm.

Sussex children have been making garlands to celebrate May Day for centuries. They used to visit big houses or stop passers-by in the street, begging “Please remember the garlands”.

In 1874 the Mayor of Lewes, Mr J. F. Verrall, created Garland Day when he presented cash prizes for the best creations to encourage a love and knowledge of wild flowers and to channel into a respectable outlet the penny-begging activities of local urchins.

In 1980 The Knots of May and Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men restarted the custom which continues to this day.