At ten o'clock on May morning a procession used to start from the vicarage at Charlton-on-Otmoor, headed by two men carrying a large garland of flowers on a stick. With them went six morris dancers, a fool or " squire," who carried a bladder and a money box, and a man who played the pipe and tabour. At the end of the day, after the dancing was over, the garland was taken to the church and hung up on the rood screen in the place of the rood, where it was left till the next May Day, when it was taken down and re-dressed.^ [Plate III.]
^" Old Tom Hall of Islip was the piper for many years, but latterly Frank Cummins of Marston played the fiddle. The pro- cession and dancing has been given up since 1S57, but the garland is still dressed every May Day and put upon the screen. (From J. Botteral, baker, of Charlton, aged 81, August, 1894.)
[This practice of depositing the May garland in the church finds a parallel in the Oxford custom recorded by Aubrey : " " On May Day the young maids of every parish carry about their parish Garlands of Flowers w'='* afterwards they hang up in their Churches." An entry which I recently came across in the churchwardens' accounts of St. Michael's, Oxford, for 1596-7 (38 and 39 Eliz.), shows that the parish provided these garlands : " Item paid for hoopes for the Garlande, iiij*^."]
On May Day the Oxford sweeps still (1894) keep up a procession, which is made up of —
2. A "Lord" and "Lady," who are dressed in white and decorated with ribbons. The "Lady" carries a ladle and the " Lord " a frying-pan.
3. A fool, dressed as fantastically as possible, who carries a bladder on a string, wherewith to belabour the bystanders.
4. A fiddler.
5. A man with shovel and poker, as musical instruments. The whole of the party, except the Lady, have their faces blacked, and are decked out with ribbons and flowers.
' An illustration of the rood and garland as they appeared in 1846 occurs in the Guide to the Architectural Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Oxford, p. II. [Messrs. Parker and Son, the publishers of the Guide, kindly allow us to reproduce it as Plate III. — Ed.]
- Remaines of Gentilisme and Jtidaiame, etl. J. Britten, p. 18.