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Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Knutsford ‘Royal’ May Day

On Saturday I finally got the chance to see the May Day festivities at Knutsford. There was a wonderful procession with all the local schoolchildren, morris men and ladies, horses and carriages, and a sedan chair. At one time Knutsford had three sedan chairs which the local ladies used to go to balls and assemblies. (Cranford fans will remember one makes an appearance in Mrs Gaskell’s novel, and was used for a very funny scene in the BBC TV series). The sedan chair which graces the Knutsford May Day procession was a present to the ladies of the town from Lady Jane Stanley of Brook House

A very pretty custom which (so far as I know – do tell me if you know of any other towns where this takes place) belongs to Knutsford alone, is that on special occasions such as weddings, the streets were cleaned and decorated with beautiful patterns of coloured sand.
The pavements were sanded when George III celebrated his Jubilee in October 1809. The yeomanry cavalry (‘a fine troop’) and infantry of the Knutsford Legion marched behind Sunday School children to the church, where they listened to an ‘excellent sermon’ followed by ‘God Save the King.’ After the service, the Legion was reviewed by its commander, Lt. Col. Sir John Fleming Leicester. A feast at local inns was followed by a ‘grand display of fireworks’ and bonfire on the Heath. The evening was rounded off with: ‘an elegant and well attended ball at the George Inn. A liberal subscription was made for the poorer inhabitants. To each man, woman and child, two pounds of prime beef were given, with a proportion of good ale.’ (John Corry.)
Photos © Sue Wilkes:
The Knutsford ‘Royal’ May Queen Saskia Pinnington, the sedan chair, an example of a coloured sand picture, and part of the procession with the Warrington Brass Band and ‘Jack in the Green’ or the ‘Green Man’.

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